Our First Earnings

Oishi got a summer job as math tutor in a tutoring center – her dream job. After a month, when she got her first paycheck, she opened a bank account and was awarded a debit card with a Visa sign. This made her other dream come true – she will now be able to buy surprise gifts for me from Amazon for Mother’s Day.

Sure enough, a few days later a small package was left on my kitchen counter – a very pretty necklace. “Mama, I knew you wanted to buy a 16″ gold necklace for sometime now. I cannot afford gold, so I got gold color and the length is adjustable to 16″. Also, look, the stones are known as CZ. I did a lot of research on them. They look like diamonds, don’t they?” Then she emailed me a link on Cubic Zirconia. With blurry eyes, I wore the necklace. Seizing that perfect moment, she asked, “Can I please take you out to dinner? Nothing fancy. Just dhosa.” All my lectures on how she should save money seemed to have little effect then. So we went, and Oishi proudly gave her debit card and signed her first receipt at a restaurant.

Many, many years ago, my first earnings came in the form of scholarship money after I started my engineering program. Before going home for my first summer vacation, I decided to spend the money on Ma and Baba. However, the thought of giving jewelry to Ma never crossed my mind. There were so many things Ma needed to improve the quality of her life and jewelry was certainly not one of them. So I settled for a tortilla maker; it was not an electric one because those were not available then, but rather a cast iron one, which I carried home from Kolkata. “Ma, won’t this make your life a little easier? Now you can make the roti and poori much faster and won’t have to spend so much time in the hot and sultry kitchen.” Ma’s eyes beamed. “Yes, it definitely would,” Ma replied proudly.

I bought a utilitarian gift for Ma while Oishi bought a fancy gift for me. Surprisingly, both were extremely fitting with our mothers’ needs. We adjusted the form of our gifts as time and space changed. But we remained true to our primal desire of making the people we love happy.

Necklace from first paycheck
Necklace from first paycheck

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Pad-Thai again…

This Independence Day was memorable to Oishi and me not just because we saw the beautiful fireworks at Thompson park of Monroe township but also since we had a fabulous dinner with Pad-Thai in the same park (Fireworks and Pad-Thai). Kind and wonderful, Chef Phensri cooked a special veg Pad-Thai for Oishi even when she knew Oishi was the only customer asking for the vegetarian version of the dish. While Chef Phensri was cooking for Oishi, I found out that she teaches Thai cooking in Old Bridge. I got her number and enrolled in her class for an October session.

I had tried my hand at Thai cooking, specifically Pad-Thai, using YouTube and other cooking sites, only to be prove that it is probably not my forte. But when Chef Phensri cooked in front of me at the Thompson Park, it seemed easy, and I decided to give Thai cooking one last chance.

On the first Saturday of October, I and another student named, Tom, gathered around in Chef Phensri’s cozy kitchen. We cooked the famous Tom Yum Goong soup with lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chicken and veggies. The heavenly aroma made it irresistible, and we devoured it in a few minutes. Pad-Thai was the next item to be cooked. I noticed that Chef Phensri soaked the noodles in water and never boiled them. She also mixed the sauce ahead of time with the right ingredients in perfect proportions instead of pouring the sauce ingredients from the bottles while cooking. These were the two major differences from my recipe, and I thought, “Can it really make such a big difference?” It did. The end result was delicious, yet the method was simple and easy to follow. We also cooked basil chicken, chicken green curry and fried rice. I could only eat a spoonful of each recipe. But Chef Phensri, the kind woman that she is, packed my food in boxes for dinner.

Since then, I have tried all the recipes I cooked on that day including some more, and each time Oishi has said, “This is the best dinner I have ever had!” Wanting to push the envelope a little further, I decided to cook Thai food for around 40 people I have invited for Oish’s 16th birthday in December. I guess I will have to write another post with comments from my guests!

A special thanks to Chef Phensri of Fantastic-Thai.

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Thai Cooking certificate

College visit on the first day of college

Last Saturday, we woke up at 4 am and started from home towards Poughkeepsie, New York at 5:15 when the sun was still wrapped in a dark grey blanket. Our destination was Vassar College, a small liberal arts college in the midst of the Catskill mountains. Oishi, a junior, was excited about visiting colleges but anticipative about going far away from home and getting lost in big city colleges. To ease her into the process of college selection, we chose a small college not too far from home.

I thought the information session would be at 8:30 am, followed by a campus tour. But when we reached there, we found out the first tour was at 9:30 am followed by an information session at 12 pm. Since it was a very nice day, we walked around a bit and finally rolled into the admissions office, full of anticipation for the tour.

A bubbly and enthusiastic junior gave an informative tour of the campus. It was great to see Oishi taking notes and asking questions while walking. After the information session, we had lunch at the school and started towards home.

On my way back, I suddenly realized how smooth the college visit process was for the both of us and couldn’t help but compare this day with the first few days of my college life since the first time I truly visited a college (besides the admission day) was the day I started college in India. Coming from a very small town with one nameless road for public transport, when I started college in Kolkata, a behemoth compared to my hometown Hindustan Cables Limited, I was overwhelmed by the number of buses, routes and roads. Since I lived in a ladies hostel that was far away from the college, Baba showed me bus#33, a double-decker, which would take me from the college to my ladies hostel and back. He and I did a practice ride from the college to the hostel. Then he left for my hometown and I was left alone in a big city to find my way. In a couple of months, when Baba came to visit me, I told him that I have discovered three more bus routes back and forth from my college. He looked at me and said “I knew you would.”

So, last week when I told my parents that we were going to visit a college, they asked in chorus, “You have already selected her college? But she is only in 11th grade!” I said “No, Ma, I am taking her for a visit to see whether the college and its surroundings would be a good fit for her. Nothing has been selected yet.” There was a complete silence and I understood how difficult it was for them to understand the college selection process more than two decades later in a foreign country.

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My first 5K run

I am not a dog person. Actually, I am not much of a pet person. I adore them for a distance but I am considerably afraid when they come close and this is true for the most well-behaved and playful pets. To my utter embarrassment, I have screamed and ran in fear in the past when they came near me.

Couple of weeks ago, Kendra, a friend of mine, asked me whether I would be interested in a 5K / 3 mile run on May 19th for a charity. I registered, thinking, “Why not?”

When I reached the 6th Annual Hair of the Dog 5K! event location today morning around 9 am, I was stunned to see the number of dogs running for the event. I knew it was a charity for dogs in animal shelter but never imagined that dogs will be part of the running event.

In a few minutes, I found myself surrounded by dogs of all kinds – from the big, majestic Husky to the adorable, cute Pomeranian. Being well-aware of my dog fear, Kendra started to educate me with species names to allay some of my fears.

I looked at her sadly and remarked “I could have picked a different charity where the pets are not going to run with me.” It was drizzling and the weather was cold. So I thought “Do I finish what I came here for today or return home?” In the end, I decided to stay and finish what I started.

Kendra and I walked and ran alternately amid hundreds of dogs along our sides on a narrow road and finished the race in 49 minutes. I was exhausted but proud of myself. This, however, does not mean that my fear has left me for good but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Sharmistha’s Book

Before the 5K race
Before the 5K race