We

A guide on how to name your child

[Right off the bat, let me make it very clear that I’m absolutely no authority on naming your child. As with a lot of posts, and post-titles, this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek]

Do you have a baby coming? Are you having sleepless nights thinking about that ‘perfect’ name for your child? Well, your search stops here! Read on.

1. Have some very basic criteria, or boundaries, on the CANNOT-s

a. The name cannot start with some letters of the alphabet

For us it was – A, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z & K

Reasoning – We didn’t want Brinda to be the first to be called out, if they were going alphabetically (from A) or reverse alphabetically (from Z). So, why eliminate T to Y, you might ask? Because our research showed that a lot of names start with S, and then they kind of taper off. You might find some starting with T, but for the rest of the remaining letters, you’re leaving it on the sample size and chance. And leaving it on chance is not something we do!

But why K? Well, in my side of the family, only boys are named with K.

This search criteria automatically reduces the number of pages (real and virtual) that you have to go through to come up with a short-list. Oh, yeah! There will be a short list, and then a shorter list, and then finally the shortest list.

—-

b. The name cannot be more than a 2-syllable word

Reasoning – A name more than 2-syllable long is not the end of the world. Having said that, a name of 2- or 1-syllable is helluva lot easier to say out loud. More so when you read about one of our absolute SHOULD-BEs, 2.(a).

—-

c. The name, in either English, Bangla or Hindi, shouldn’t mean or sound anything slang/dirty/innuendo-ish

Reasoning – Easy enough to understand. Case in point, the name Laura.  In it self, it is a darn good name. But to a native Hindi speaker (and to Indians in general who have gone to school/college – not that schools teach that stuff, but kids pick up on stuff like that) the spelling of the word corresponds to the slang for the male genitalia. Or take for example, Dipshita. Again, a very fine (Indian) name meaning ‘enlightened lamp’, but to a native English speaker, the first thing that comes to mind …yeah, that.

 —-

d. The name could not be of anyone in the family – immediate or however distant they might be

We eliminated Heidi, as it is the name of a family member from my sister-in-law’s husband’s side of the family …yeah, we went that deep!!

—-

2. Make a list of the absolute MUST-HAVEs in the name

a. The name must be pronounced exactly the same way in both English and Bangla

Reasoning – Again, self-explanatory. More reason to stick to a 2-syllable name.

There are certain letters, or sounds, if you may, that are absent in either language and tongue.

Take, for example, the letter V. There is no corresponding letter in the Bangla alphabet. The closest is ‘bhh’ or ভ. So Vivian’s name (to a Bangla speaker who doesn’t know English) is ‘Bhhi-bhhi-an’ (ভিভিয়ান).

Or, take the letter ঝ্ (jhh). There is no corresponding letter in English. So a ঝরনা  becomes a ‘Jhhorna’ which is then (mis-)pronounced as ‘Jorna’.

—-

b. The name must mean something, preferable something good, in any language

We were not too concerned about the origin of names. We considered names from Gaelic, Nordic, Germanaic, Latin, Hebrew, Russian, Bangla, Sanskrit origin. And almost everything in between. Nothing was off-limits – only it had to mean something, and something not-bad.

—-

c. Each of the parents come up with names (and more names)

We had a shared spread-sheet online which we updated as and when we stumbled upon a fitting name, which met most, if not all, criteria. Those names were then debated on for their ‘worthiness’, and either summarily rejected or agreed to be fit to remain on the list.

—-

d. Do not share your short-listed names with family and close friends

They will have some kind of input, and you don’t want to be swayed by their  opinions and preferences. What we did do was, each of us, took our final short-list to a co-worker (who’s  more like an acquaintance) and tried their native tongue on the pronunciation of the names.

—-

So, in the end our short-list had 31 names, which met most of the above criteria. Six were ruled out due to them not meeting all the criteria. Trimmed down to a final 6, listed alphabetically.

Brinda 

Iris

Juhi

Lyla

Orna

Rhea

Brinda (বৃন্দা) means “tulsi” or the ‘basil plant’ in Sanskrit/Bangla. The English derivative meaning is ‘pure’ – derived from the fact that the basil plant is considered to be holy and pure in Indian culture.

Incidentally, though Brinda was the probably the first name I came up with, Rhea was my 1st choice. Vivian was not a big fan of Brinda initially, but it slowly grew on her. We had not decided on the *final* name before we went in for the delivery, we had left it at “we’ll know when we see her”-diktat, but I think both of us knew in our hearts that Brinda was the one.

For the middle name, we had left the naming process completely up to Vivian. She worked out the various combinations of initials and the monogram, with the first, middle and last names and emerged with Rose, my mother-in-law’s first name [which does not violate code 1.(d) as we are talking about middle names here and not first names].

There you have it – a complete course on how to name your baby!

Five month old Brinda

Five month old Brinda

Categories: Demystify, We | 9 Comments

Dadu Thamma

I have never met my paternal grandparents. They had both passed away before my parents were even married. In Bangla, paternal grandfather is Thakurda and paternal grandmother is Thamma. I have heard, and still hear, fond stories about my Thamma’s fabled cooking and of my Thakurda’s strict discipline, being enforced on my father and his siblings (the baton which later passed on to my Baba on Thakurda’s untimely demise). There were black and white portrait photographs of them in our ancestral home. And that was my remembrance of them.

The moniker Thakurda being of 3 syllables and harder to say, we decided to change that to Dadu (being traditionally the maternal grandpa) when we introduced Brinda to her (this set of) grandparents. My Baba and Maa came and spent almost 8 weeks us, and left last week. It was not the first time I had bade them good-bye. I’ve been out of my parent’s house, on and off, since I was 18 years old and not seeing them for extended periods of time has been accepted by my psyche as part of being a grown up. I feel sad when I leave them, or they leave me, but that is life.

But this time it was different. The way my parents connected with Brinda, and she with them, was unlike anything I had seen, but probably hoping for! She spent hours with her Thamma, in numerous ways – being sung to, being played with, being put to sleep, sleeping on Thamma. Dadu was her go-to guy when she either having a good time or was in one of her screaming fit. He would rock her, dance with her, talk to her and make her resume her ‘normal’ smiling self. When they left, I was feeling their sadness to leave Brinda and go home, and Brinda’s missing her Dadu-Thamma. Which is totally not something you think you’d feel. The sense of loss, the heart-break of leaving behind someone you love – of a third person. You read a poignant book or watch a nuanced movie and once in a while they move you to feel for the protagonists, unrelated to you. This is was happening in real life and it was magnified thousand times.

Baba-Maa – Brinda misses you!

Brinda – Dadu-Thamma loves you so much!

Categories: Life, We | 3 Comments

Brinda Rose

So, Vivian and I have new names now – Mom and Dad; Maa and Baba.

Ok, the vital stats first:

Name (first middle): Brinda Rose (more on that in another post)

Born: June 23rd, 2012 at 7:54 pm Central time

Weight and length: 7 lb 7.2 oz (3.4 kg), 20.3″ (51.5 cm)

Brinda wasn’t due till June 28th, but she came last Saturday. Incidentally (Fate’s sadism showing through?), I was out on a bachelor party on Friday evening. Now, this fact is of grave importance. Not the bachelor party itself, but the fact that I returned home at 2 am on Saturday morning. Any new parent will attest to the lack of sleep for a few days after their baby is born. I got a head start on the sleep deprivation.

Vivian wakes me up on at 4:15 am, with the much-anticipated, but dreaded, “My water broke!”. With barely 2 hours of sleep under my eye-lids, I spring into DR (disaster recovery) mode. But she is calm. Knowing that I haven’t had enough sleep, and the potential of a full day ahead, she said to take it easy and sleep for another hour or so till her contractions start, if I can. That sleep from 4:30 am to 5:30 am made a whole lot difference.

Another nudge at 5:30 am, to let me know her contractions had begun. At 6 am, we call up our doctor and she advises to go to the hospital. By 7 we are on our way. It is 11 miles from our home to the hospital and most of it is freeway. You would assume that early on Saturday morning, I was not to be denied the opportunity to speed – I mean really speed – all the way to the hospital. But you would be wrong. The cops had picked this very day to lay out a speed trap all the way! We saw at least 3 pulled over vehicles, making me drive meekly at 60 mph.

Yet another curve ball awaits us at the hospital. More than 6 weeks ago, we had filled in the online pre-admission form for our hospital. Vivian even has an email confirmation from them, but somehow magically, none of that information was in their system when we arrived at the hospital at 7:30 am. So with Vivian cringing in pain from the contractions, they wouldn’t even hook her up to the monitoring tools before a “registration nurse” completed the registration process. !@#%. Well, on the bright side, things only got better from here on …. Or, did they?

Let’s see. With 3 attempts to find a vein for IV, 2 separate attempts to administer the epidural (with 3  pokes in the 1st try), a Second Stage labor lasting an hour and half, Vivian experiencing 3rd degree tear – yeah, all was well!

Seriously, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Overall our hospital stay was pleasant with the doctors and nurses, especially the nurses, making every effort to help out whenever we needed, and at times, even when we didn’t know we needed help. We also got to see the Spain-France quarterfinal while we were waiting for labor to progress! And everything could have been so much worse. No complaints.

Oh, and did I mention I cried when I first saw her? Oh yeah, because I didn’t. I haven’t cried in public since I was probably 12 years old.

How very clichéd it would be of me to proclaim my love for my daughter! Very, so what?  I love you Brinda! Probably more than anything else in this world.

Happy Us

Mother and daughter

View from the postpartum hospital room

Important skin-to-skin session with Dad

Gorgeous ladies!

Prin-Brin

Happy Feet

Categories: Life, Loves, We | 6 Comments

Thanksgiving in Duluth

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Duluth,MN with Vivian’s parents and brother. The day after Thanksgiving we went down to the lake shore to see the Bentleyville lights. It was chilling – the weather, not the lights!

I haven’t said this aloud (ever), but I’m thankful for all that is there in my life.  Every single one of them – people, memories, achievements, even things. I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.

Here are some photographs from that weekend. All taken with my new (bought used, but new to me) Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8, a veritable beast!

[Click on the first one and you’ll be able to see them as a slideshow.]

Categories: Loves, We | Leave a comment

Kitchen CounterTop

When we bought our home, the kitchen was probably the primary reason we were sold. Both my wife and I like to cook, and often at the same time. Our kitchen is airy and big enough for more than 2 people to work in it at any given time. The counters are spacious and offer ample space for cutting, cooking, just hanging around or mountains of mails and other junk to pile up. Many a party has been held over the kitchen counters.

One aspect of the counters that I didn’t quite like was its plain vanilla-ness. Literally and figuratively. It was laminate, some shade of off-white and though it didn’t look bad at all, I always thought it deserved better. I had obviously mentioned this to Vivian but we had both agreed that it would take some time for us to get around to this project as a) It’s not really something that’s important b) It’s a little more than your average DIY project (it is a LOT more) and the costs associated can become prohibitive

This May, I brought this up and we kinda said, “Oh well, it’s been almost 3 years, and we can afford it …so why not?” And the ball was set rolling.

Like a fellow blogger mentioned about ‘researching’, when we set our eyes on something, we go to the very bottom of it! After couple of weeks of online research, we hit the physical world – that is, stores to go around and actually look and feel the materials. Also to get quotes. By this time we had decided to go with quartz, but had not quite made up our minds as to which brand or product to go with. We got quotes from 9 different places! In one of the stores we went, we were introduced to Cambria. They are manufacturers of engineered stone (the natural material quartz mixed with resins and pigment to obtain a granite like look and feel, with greater strength) based out of Le Seur, Minnesota. A tactile visit is necessary to see and feel the difference between Cambria’s product and other manufacturer of engineered stone, like Silestone, Ceasarstone, HanStone and others. They are a class apart. So are their prices! But we fell in love with Cambria and wouldn’t settle for anything else.

The next step was to cull down from our list of quotes, to the stores that offer Cambria quartz. That automatically brought it down to 5. Finally we had short listed 2 stores. Both had a rating of A on Angie’s list. Eventually we decided to go with the one located in our city, a 10 minute drive from our home. The owner is the worker/engineer/salesperson, unlike other places where a sales person show you around, an engineer does the actual drawings, someone else gives you the estimate and a 3rd party actually installs it. Not to mention the ancillary jobs of plumbing, tearing out the existing top and disposing off stuff. His was a one-stop-shop, where the estimates covered everything AND was not a moving target.

Now we had to select a pattern. We had looked in the store and had almost finalized a pattern, which had a blueish tinge (we both are partial to blue). On the advice of this guy, we came home with 12″ x 12″ slabs of 4 different sample pattern. Once we had ‘lived’ with these patterns for a weekend, we did a volte-face and selected this pattern called Windermere. Finally, our new tops were installed last Friday!

Before:

During:

After:

Some things to keep in mind when going for such a project:

– This is not a DIY project. At all

– Go around to the actual shops and stores and see/feel the stuff. Ask lots of questions

– Avoid the big-box stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s and go in for smaller, specialized stores

– Cambria offers a financing plan with 0% interest for 6 to 12 months. Not all Cambria dealers are offered this. The guy we went with, did not have this.

– Get an estimate which covers:

* total square footage (not just your countertop dimensions, but the actual slabs of stones required to make the tops) and backsplash

* kind of edge profile you want

* fabrication process – the stone cut-out job

* installation

* plumbing (unhooking and reconnect)

* tear away the old countertop and hauling away and disposing all the old stuff

* the sink (you need a undermount sink)

* faucet [wasn’t included in the quote]

Here are some useful links:

Good place to start

Why quartz?

Different types of quartz

Cambria

HanStone

Silestone

Ceasarstone

Angie’s list

Categories: Home, We | 1 Comment

16-step process to make a killing in 2 hours

Last weekend in Vegas, I started with $50 and ended up with $320. That’s a profit of 540%, for just 2 hours of work. Thought I’d share my strategy for all to reap benefit. These are the step by step details that you need to follow to make it happen. Ekdum 100% guarantee. But each of these steps are very important. So, here you go …

1. Have friend in India who is going to come to the US, and visiting Las Vegas

2. Have him and his wife persuade you (and wife) to go meet them in Vegas

3. Buy tickets for flights, book hotel and rent car through Priceline (the more you bundle, the better deal you get)

*4. Fly out to Vegas

5. Drive to Grand Canyon West rim – to get your luck from the spirits. Preferably rent a SUV; we rented a compact car and there is a 14 miles stretch of unpaved, gravelly road where it feels the small car will fall apart. Then again, why mess up the good luck charm?

6. Come back to Vegas

7. Make sure rest of friends and the wife are tucked in respective rooms, sleeping. Undertake the mission alone.

*8. Go to the casino

*9. Take out money from the ATM, at an exorbitant fee (I have a checking account which refunds all fees but this fact is not really important to this flow)

10. Select a Texas Hold ‘Em table where the dealer is waiting for you

*11. Explain to dealer that this is your first time (now this IS very important – has to be your first time, cannot cheat on this). The dealer will, in almost every case, be very helpful

*12. Start with $40

13. Play as long as you can play with those $40

*14. When the time comes you have to place a bet but you’ve run out of chips, take out 10 more dollars and say that’s all you have. The dealer, more often than not, will place the other $10 required to place the bet. (Obviously if you lose, you HAVE to give that $10 back, but important thing to remember is that you aren’t going to)

*15. Start winning. Deal after deal. Even on some deals you don’t have any idea why you won (because it is happening so quickly, not because you don’t understand the game. Now be very careful – you gotta have some understanding of the game)

*16. Play for 2 hours. Leave. I mean, seriously, LEAVE. (At some point during the 2 hours you will be making close to 1000% profit, but still leave at the end of 2 hours)

* Absolutely essential steps.

Couple of photographs from our trip. If you’re interested, more here.

A busy 2 weeks. Last one was in Vegas, the 4th of July one will be in the Outer Banks, NC.

Categories: Demystify, Life, We | 5 Comments

An 80 degree change in weather

Eighty degree Fahrenheit. Within a day. And now since we all know, thanks to my post, that equates to approximately 26 degrees Celsius, we can get along further in the post.

This temperature range was between Kolkata and Minneapolis. We left Kolkata last Friday, where it was an extremely comfortable 70 degree F and landed in frigid Minneapolis on Saturday, where that same night the mercury plunged to -10 deg F, without windchill. A nice stinging welcome.

We were in India from the 2nd weekend of January, for 2 weeks. Two very fulfilling, noisy, satisfying and hectic weeks.

Some anecdotes and general observations from our trip:

# Our inter-continental flight was through Lufthansa, but Minneapolis-Chicago was through United. United charged us second-baggage-fee of $35 each, for both of our second baggage! Which was incredible as Lufthansa allows 2 baggage for each individual and the tickets were booked through Lufthansa, who should have had some arrangement with United for international passengers. Brilliant start.

# The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was probably the worst flight I’ve ever had
i. No personal entertainment center (small screen) for each passenger. There were 2 CRT (!!) monitors, one in each aisle and people had to crane their neck to see what was going on, which didn’t amount to much as the screens were so old that the colours were all distorted. 7 and half hours of drudgery.
ii. The air conditioning was extremely feeble, bordering on malfunctioning, at least in the section we were sitting. At various points, we were actually sweating! It took 3 complaints from me, to 3 different stewardesses, to finally have a modicum of comfortability in our seats.

# Vivian got lost! For about half an hour. She did not have a cell phone on her and was with a 10-year old child – but to her credit she didn’t panic. She knew her knight in shining armour (me) would soon come looking for her. What really happened was: A group of us went to Botanical Garden – a huge park – in Howrah, close to Kolkata. Inside the Garden premises, Star, my 10-year old cousin, wanted to have a ride on a cycle-rickshaw. So we put Vivian and her on one and told the driver to meet us at the “gate”. The rest of us then took another route back. As it turned out, there were 2 gates. We arrived at the main gate, but the cycle-rickshaw had taken them to the other gate and dropped them outside the Garden premises. Since neither Vivian nor Star speaks Bangla, they couldn’t converse with the driver and they didn’t have their tickets on them to re-enter the Garden. Initially we waited for the cycle-rickshaw to come by but then realized the predicament with 2 gates and I took the shuttle to the other gate. Everyone safe.

# Kolkata and Mumbai airport sucked. Big time. My gauge of judging an airport is based on a simple criterion: how restrooms are maintained. Bangalore airport, on the other hand, was snazzy.

# My love for fish rages on unabated. Eating them, that is. [Caution: The links for the fishes may contain graphic images. Do NOT click them if you don’t like the concept of eating fish] Let’s see, at one single sitting, I had eelish, pabda, parshe and tangra.

# A 100 rupees ($2.25 apprx.) can still take you places – literally and figuratively – in Kolkata. Not so much the case in Mumbai and Bangalore.

# The Immigration and Customs, both while flying in to India and flying back to the US, were extremely smooth, bordering on the unreal. Is this a trend that’s catching on or were we just plain lucky, until the law of averages catches up with us next time?

Some photographs.

Cycle-rickshaw ride

Cycle-rickshaw ride

Mosquito net

Mosquito net

Team Das - My dad and Vivian teaming up to kill mosquitos

Team Das - My dad and Vivian teaming up to kill mosquitos

Drowning sun - off Marine Drive

Drowning sun - off Marine Drive

Marine Drive

'Queen's necklace'

Categories: Life, We | 5 Comments

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans

Not quite as Mr. Lennon had put it, but pretty darn close. I would like to believe that where I am today is based solely on choices, decisions and their consequences and practical responses to external stimuli, but chance occurrings have had their day-in-the-sun, in my life. Case in point: How I met my wife.

I have no business of ending up in Minnesota. I mean, if someone would have asked me where I saw myself in 10 years – when I was 16 (after 10th grade), when I was 18 (12th grade) or 22 (completed engineering) [various ‘life-changing decision points’ of someone coming from the Indian middle class] – ‘settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota’ wouldn’t even be in the list of things I could have thought. Heck, I couldn’t place Minnesota on a map till 2004. Not that I have anything against Minneapolis. To the contrary, it is probably one of the best cities to settle in (and raise a family -> future). It is not too big like New York or Chicago/not too small, relatively crime free, one of the best level of lifestyle for the buck. In fact, for the last 3 years, 3 different suburbs of Minneapolis has been ‘selected’ as the “Best Places to Live” in by CNNMoney – 2010, 2009, 2008. The only ‘negative’ is the snow and cold. To me that has not been a problem, and this argument goes down the drain when you consider that the New England region and entire mid-West has similar weather.

So how did I end up here? Continue reading

Categories: We | 13 Comments

Durga Pujo


Being in the US, the 5 days of Pujo are generally sandwiched into the weekend. Here, it is being held from Oct 15 to 17. Vivian and I are going to be there today. We will be attending Vivian’s Bangla class from 10 to 11 and then going to the Pujo directly. She has already picked her outfit for the day, while I, with only 2 options, am still to decide on my attire.

Categories: Culture, We | 4 Comments

%d bloggers like this: