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Mumma’s Bindis (VIII): First Day of School

End of summer, back to school!!! As the morning broke today with the call of the alarm clock (lazy for three full months), there was
first day of school
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It takes a village to raise your kids, and it takes a global village to raise your children. Through this series, “Mumma’s Bindis”, the author shares the stories of the joys of raising two young children in a humanist culture.  The central characters of this series are Urja (nickname Momo) and Ujaan, growing up in a Midwestern college town in North America. Born from the hearts of immigrant parents, they ferry between their hyphenated identities spread across two continents. Mumma’s Bindis is the reality of children rooted to the soil they come from yet adapting every day to the dichotomies of the world they belong.  A mother recounting the bliss and dares of motherhood. This is the eighth episode of this series. 

First day of school

End of summer, back to school!!! As the morning broke today with the call of the alarm clock (lazy for three full months), there was a mad rush to fill the hot cases with pasta, chop the cherry tomatoes and the baby cucumbers, and fill the water bottles. This year’s special first-day lunch: pasta shaped like musical notes that Mumma brought from her recent trip to Mozart’s hometown! And not to forget the little note on a paper towel tucked in the lunch bag: “You are my sunshine… your lunch please, your brain cells are hungry!!”  

As they are about to walk out the door, Mumma rushes to put doi-er phonta on the two little foreheads. Ujaan fusses about the yogurt on his forehead, but Didi remains calm “don’t worry Ujaan, this is Ma’s good luck dot for the first day of school.” By the time they reach school, Ujaan’s good luck dot becomes dry and crumbly!! “Oh no, Didi, my good luck crumbs are falling off!!”

school lunchbox for urja and ujaan
The special first-day lunch- pasta shaped like musical notes.

Despite the sadness and madness associated with the end of summer, Mumma loves the Fall! The crisp autumn air, rumbling of leaves under your feet, a palette of red, orange and yellow in the treelines, students crisscrossing the campus with their backpacks, and for Urja and Ujaan the beginning of another school-year. A few inches taller than the last one, a few lost teeth for Ujaan, the start of new adventures, new learning, and new friendships in the playground. Last night, as Mumma tucked the two in bed, they made a slight change to the usual bedtime ritual. Instead of talking about “happy” and “sad” events of the day, they talked about their fondest and saddest summer memories. Urja’s choice was clear: “You and me lazing on the futon Ma, with tetuler achaar”. Ujaan was less sure, but finally settled on: “Going to Splash Universe Waterpark with you, Baba, and Didi.” And then Urja, almost like a whisper “Losing Dadu was the saddest, Ma.” Ujaan joined “Yes Ma, can’t we bring him back? Can’t you at least whatsapp him and tell him we miss him a lot?” My little angels, how I wish I could, thought Mumma!

summer memories
End of summer, back to school.

Just before falling asleep, Urja asks “Ma, how will the next year be like?” Mumma starts to say ”it will be fabulous shona…”  But then instead, she kisses her daughter on the forehead and softly whispers “Qué será, será, whatever will be, will be”. The reading light is turned off, and through the half-ajar bathroom door trickles the warm glow of a lone candle. As the bedside night lamp reflects the blue planet on the ceiling of their bedroom, Urja’s hair wet from the late-night shower spread across her pillow, her stuffed panda by one side, and Ujaan on the other, brother and sister joins Mumma in the now-drifting tune across the room: “The future’s not ours to see, qué será, será, what will be, will be….”

Glossary of terms:

Doi-er phonta: A traditional yogurt dot on the forehead to wish well when embarking on an important journey or occasion.

Tetuler achaar: Tamarind pickle.

Baba: father in Bengali.

Didi: elder sister in Bengali.

Dadu: maternal grandfather in Bengali.

Shona: Gold (literal meaning). But also used as a nickname to express love and affection for someone. 

Mousumi Banerjee is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan (USA). She lives in a world of science, trying to make sense of data to take cancer research and treatment forward. But her passion and affinity for the arts gives her sustenance and counterbalances her work as a scientist. Mousumi writes in both Bangla and English. Her work has been published in many literary magazines in USA, India, and Bangladesh, including Telegraph, BanglaLive, Keyapata, TechTouchটক, Antonym, Sahitya Café, Irabotee, Golpopath, Swinhoe Street, Batayan, Parabaas, Manush Mecca. A rare feat is her poetry “White Noise” published in the leading medical journal (Journal of the American Medical Association) that gives a humanistic face to cancer. Her collected poems Eklaghor (Room Alone) was published in Kolkata by Yaponchitra. Mousumi lives with her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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