Grab a cuppa, tell a story or listen to one.

Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.


April 2014

A Special Boy

Photo Credit : Soumi Haldar
My beautiful three and half-year old nephew is a ‘child with autism’. A phrase not unfamiliar or uncommon. One I did not expect to use for a loved one. The unknown, awfully scary world of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has hit closer to home.
Yes, little K is on the ‘spectrum’. Supposedly on the moderate side. His parents (my brother and sis in-law) knew all along something was amiss but they hoped for the best while preparing for the worst. The worst now has become their reality.
A painful reality to say the least. A reality in which they are struggling to find solutions, answers to improve or better their son’s life. Every day is a mystery. Some days are uneventful, while others give them a peek into a future that is seemingly dark and terrifying.
He doesn’t call me papa, my brother tells me on the phone. A refrain I hear often. I hear the quiver in his voice. I feel the agony in it.  That of a parent, a father longing for that special connection with his son. A connection, a simple gift we often take for granted.  A gift, my brother has been deprived of thus far.
I am told K’s sleep schedule is off. That he has speech and socialization issues. That he is a picky eater. That he is happy in his own little world. One that no one has been able to access. He is smart. Used to have a vocabulary of 500 plus words at a very young age of two. But words he keeps to himself. Words that have to be pried out of him by the speech therapist. He is happiest when he is alone, away from the outside world. One that is alien, unnerving to him.
I speak about him regularly with my kids. I want them to know how special their younger cousin is. And no matter what the future holds for him, that it is important to show our love for him. To protect him from the evils of this world. They nod understandingly. They are trying to make sense of it all in their own way, adding their own interpretations to this unexpected, unknown situation. I know they understand the gravity of it. Mama, aren’t you glad we are not childs (excuse the grammar) of autism? asked A, my 6-year-old just this afternoon as we chatted about their sweet cousin.
I cannot stress how fortunate and blessed hubby and I are. To have not one but two healthy, flourishing kids. A sniffle here, a cough there, a few days of a stomach bug are all we got to bear with. Yet, we grumble, complain, become so irritable, impatient having to be in that predicament. A temporary predicament, if we put things in perspective.
We got lucky. We got temporary. My brother and sister-in-law. They are not. They are in for the long haul. One riddled with uncertainties, some unfathomable, terrifyingly scary.
They say God gives you only what you can handle. Seriously?
To me, this phrase we use so often to rationalize, to allay our fears is nothing but C.R.A.P.
We are all tested. And let’s face it. We need to be from time to time to enable us to acquire the much-needed perspective on things. But this test, my family members are going through doesn’t really make any sense. One of life’s unexplainable tests. Along with them , there are many who are fighting this tough battle.  I cannot speak for any.
I cannot help any, including my loved ones. And I feel frustrated, angry at times. I see beautiful K and my heart breaks into countless  pieces. I feel helpless. However my helplessness, my inability to do anything pale in comparison to his parents. But they have  accepted their reality graciously, practically. Everyday is nuanced for them . They have their good days. They have their bad days. This is their life now.
He arrives in two weeks for a visit. We are excited to see him-it’s been several months. The kids are thinking about ways to make him comfortable, safe. He loves yogurt, we will take him to the yogurt place, chipped in D, my son. I am asking my brother to send me a list of items I need to have in place and in stock for him.
We are getting ready. We don’t know what to expect. But we will manage. We will sit back and follow little K’s cues. We will enjoy him. Do our best to make him comfortable, loved.
Stock the fridge with nothing but yogurt if need be. It’s the little things that matter.
After we published yesterday’s story, Sukanya Bora, an avid blogger herself, left us a heartfelt comment and a link to a story on her blog. It was about a very special boy, her nephew, who is also a child with autism. While most have been hesitant to share their story (and we can understand why), Sukanya was very forthcoming.In her own words “Autism needs awareness…and we should do our bit.”

Her story reflects on the struggles of a parent of a child with autism but also delves into how graciously they have accepted this fact about life, with the adequate amount of pragmatism that it warrants. We hope it inspires many more such parents. 

Chase Your Dream And Follow Your Heart

After completing a long professional career of over four decades in a multinational industry, I returned to my home town and own University as an Emeritus faculty member to teach post graduate studies to boys and girls on the subject of my specialization. I often used to deliver popular industry based lectures to students and faculties of various Universities and Engineering colleges during my professional tenure. I contemplated that classroom teaching on a programmed course would be equally easy. 

But I soon realized that regular classroom teaching and popular guest lectures are extremely different. In a classroom I have to address 20-30 young boys and girls, ages between 19 and 21. Every word I deliver, every sentence I complete, my eye and body language are keenly observed by 40 to 60 curious eyes. Any slip in any area you invite uncomfortable state of affairs. It took me a couple of years in becoming comfortable in my new role.

I usually like to share my long experience with my students and tell them to be regular in class, attentive and participative so that they can learn well and perform their best in the examination. But during this process I come across a unique, un-con vincible and surprising student.
I noticed that this particular student was not attending a single theory and practical class throughout the session. I learnt that the student was working as a primary school teacher in his remote village. But he kept contact with his class mates and probably know what was being taught.  He  also managed to appear in the post graduate final year exams and to my complete surprise he scored the highest marks in both theory and practical.
The next surprise occurred when he topped the selection list in the campus interviews. He came to me thereafter as a mark of respect and to take my advice. His passion was to teach primary class students in his remote village just like his father, uncle and brother. He had to decide between his passion and taking up a job with a MNC.
I advised him, “Teaching primary school students in the remote village is a noble cause in life. But think of a scorching summer noon in front of the University road, 10 to 15 years from now, a luxury car stops next to you, the dark window glass slides down, a cool breeze soothes  your face and the person in the driving seat says,” Hello”. He is none other than your classmate of this PG class. If you think you will not repent at that moment, be sure, and then please feel free to continue teaching the school children.”  
He made his decision. He has changed two multinational companies by now, has kept frequent contact with me to share his achievement, happiness and sorrow. May God bless all my students and make them stay in the right path to give them happiness in life.
We think the author’s advise to his student was not about achieving the materialistic things in life. It is about seeking the bigger things in life, things that give you prosperity, happiness and content. The bigger things also create a gateway to support all the passions and dreams in life.
This story has been provided by Dr. Swapan Haldar, a professor at Presidency University and Calcutta University and author of many books on Mining and Geology. He is also a passionate story teller and believes in sharing his life experiences. We are honored that he shared this story with us. An important  life lesson for all of us, to implement in our life and to teach our children. 

When Ignorance Is Not A Bliss

I am part of a Facebook group where I first heard about Chatoveracuppa. I have been very interested in some of the stories. One day someone posted a link for Light It Up Blue and asked if anyone had a story to share about Autism. I wanted to share my sister’s story because I do not want others to go through what we went through. I do not know how to write well so please excuse me. But I am sure my story will touch you.
We are two sisters. I am very close to my elder sister. She is married and has a four year old child. She is a very beautiful child.  When she was born everyone was very happy in the family. But my sister felt something was wrong. Everyone told her she was thinking that way because she had become a mom for the first time. When my niece was two months old, she did not smile and look at any one. My sister got worried. But everyone again said the same thing to her. By the time my niece was 1 year old she was not doing many things like other babies. My sister was worried about the milestones. The doctors said everything was fine. Everyone in the family kept saying everything was fine.
But they were lying to my sister. They spoke when she was not around that the baby had something wrong. A lot of pujas(worship) were done. Priest came to bless the child. They said no black in the house and everything was thrown out. My sister started fasting for 3 days a week. She walked barefoot with her husband to a shani (Hindu God)temple every Saturday. This kept on going for 6 months but no change happened in the child. At that time I was in a far away hostel so I came to know about all this over the phone only. Then I got a job in my home town. When I returned my sister cried a lot and told me everything. I felt very angry because if there is a problem we need to see specialist and not priest. In India whenever there is a problem with a child we start thinking the child is cursed, handicapped, some say mental problem. Everyone talks about future and what will happen. But for future, we need to do something today.
I convinced my sister and her husband to leave all fear and worry about people and get medical help. After lot of tests, therapies my niece was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 year, 3 month age. Autism has a very wide range /spectrum. She has autism that affects her speech, social skills and some of her motor skills. I thought my sister will be very sad with the diagnosis. But she thanked me and said now she did not have to listen to anybody and follow anything superstitious. For last two years, my sister and her husband have concentrated on my niece’s therapies, exercises, diet and her treatment. My niece is 4 year old now and can eat on her own and do many small things, talks words that we understand, loves to play in the park and with blocks and water. She does not like strangers or crowd or lot of people, loud noises and bright light. She is very affectionate to people in the family who love her.
Our family has still not accepted her. They keep pressurizing my sister to have another “normal” child. My sister says she has a normal child. Some blame her for my niece. But autism is not genetic. No doctors could tell us the exact reason of what causes it. There is not one cure. You have to try many medications, many therapies but if you love the child and work hard with your child, the child will be able to do anything.
I am writing today so that people stop all superstitions, stop blaming the mother always and learn more about autism. It is not a mental problem; no one should call it that. There are very small, beautiful cute little kids who have autism. You cannot even tell by looking at them. It is not a curse. You can help the child with medical help, therapies and accepting the child.
I hope my story will help some other mother like my sister to ignore everyone and do the right thing for their child. Don’t be shy. There is nothing wrong if your child has autism. If all of us start thinking openly, it will be easy for the kids with autism and their parents.

Earlier this month we had  posted “Light It Up Blue“. We also sent requests on forums for parents dealing with autism in children to share their stories with us. Stories that would help another parent open up and talk about autism, their struggles and inspirations. We did not hear any until this morning, when this story landed in our Inbox. Please take a minute to read it. There is still so much of ignorance and alienation in the society that it will surprise you. A lot needs to be done to break out of it. 1 in 68 is just a number. Acceptance is a gesture not a number. 

As per the request of the storyteller, we will respect her privacy and publish this anonymous. Only if there was more support in the family and within the society, she may have written this under her real name. That itself tells you how much more needs to be done.

Are you a Bibliophile ?


Photo Credit : Soumi Haldar For Chatoveracuppa

After a fortnight of constant hammering, electric saw working at eardrum shattering levels, two grinning carpenters who forever reeked of cheap tobacco, and endless arguments with one of them about the finishing, it is done. Our book corner is ready. The elder one put his arm around my shoulder (he loves to do that now that he is my height) and said, ‘I think I’ll have just two empty shelves once I am done organising all books. Don’t worry, ma. We’ll soon fill those up too, won’t we?’

Sigh. Yes we would. We are in love – we swoon to the smell of the book, run our fingers over the page to feel the illustrations, listen to each other go on and on about the ones we loved reading, talk about them to every willing (or unwilling) ear, and are forever wide eyed when we enter a bookstore.

We are addicted. And as a service to mankind we decided to list, as objectively as possible, the symptoms of this addiction which so far has seen no cure. You know you are hopelessly addicted to books if:
  1. You get the excerpts from various books for a writer’s workshop, and you spend the next hour ordering all of them online.
  2. You always have books in your shopping carts across different online shops, waiting for you to finally break,  and reconcile with that grand total at the bottom, and click on the order button. That, at most takes 12 hours.
  3. To make matters worse, the websites keep sending you mailers listing the ‘books you might love.’ They are mostly right about your choices, resulting in more books in that online shopping cart.
  4. The bookshop owner lights up the moment he sees you.
  5. You can never return from a bookstore empty handed, although the book you were originally looking for is still unavailable.
  6. Your friends know from your tone over the phone, if at all you take the call, that you are buried in the pages, and are either chasing a beast, or are about to be murdered.
  7. After reading a great book, you frantically look for people you can recommend it to, or shriek with, while bouncing around.
  8. You have more member/discount cards of bookstores than you have credit cards.
  9. No book ever seems expensive though at the end of the month you end up wondering where your hard earned money went.
  10. You never have enough bookshelves.
  11. When someone mentions a great book, you either jot it down if you are smart, or if you are like me, you sheepishly mail or call that person the next day for the names again.
  12. You realise that the telephone company has disconnected your internet due to non-payment only when you try to log on to buy more books.
Prognosis : Bleak. Very Bleak.

Note: If you have observed one or more symptoms in yourself, do not panic. Just design that reading corner, grab a bean bag, pick a book and surrender. Resistance is futile and cure unknown.

We know many of our readers are book lovers and voracious readers. We are sure you will love reading this piece written by Dr. Tanu Shree Singh and has previously been posted on her blog. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology and has a very interesting perspective on bringing up children and is a book lover herself. We are thankful to her for being so gracious in allowing us to share her post here again. 


While some wait for a miracles to happen, some just make it happen. Today we share with you an inspiring story of a girl with Cerebral Palsy who recently ran the Disney Princess Weekend Marathon. The social media world calls her the”Most awesome kid in the world” Kudos ! to the young girl Sarah.

Yes, another example of how a kid can do anything if the parent believes in the child. A parent never gives up. Read it for yourself and find out more. Read the blog to find their amazing journey so far.

How many friends do you have?

How many friends did you have as a kid? The answer depends on whether you were an extrovert or introvert. I was most definitely an introvert. At any point in my childhood I usually had one or two close friends and my friends and I were always suspicious of the other kids at school who moved in packs. We sneered at the jocks and cheerleaders and other generally extroverted types who went to parties and seemed far cooler than us. But I had no desire to be like those other kids. While this society looks down on introverts, I was happy to be somewhat of a loner and outsider. 

Now that I have my own kids I see it all differently. While my husband and I were both pretty introverted as kids we both have extroverted siblings which must be why my son is so extroverted. He was born with an intense need to be surrounded by other people. He had a hard time doing anything alone whether it was sleeping through the night or watching a tv show. We would walk down the street together when he was a toddler and he would tug at my hand if he spotted another kid across the street anxious to meet them. I’d have to hide my shyness and make an effort to be friendly. He’s changed a bit now that he’s older and he doesn’t go up to total strangers like he did as a little kid, but his essential core is the same and I love that he has a big group of friends he plays with every day. 

My daughter, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of my son and I worry about her more. There was a time when my kids were little and they spotted a stranger across the street. My 4 year old daughter looked at the stranger and said, “I’m afraid of that person” and my 6 year old son turned to her dumbfounded and said, “Why would you be afraid of another person?!” But the great thing about my daughter is that she loves to be alone which can be really handy for a parent who doesn’t want to spend every second of every day entertaining young children. Now as a 7 year old she’ll squirrel away in her room and I’ll often find her sitting on her bed reading a book. She’s been known to quietly get on youtube to try and learn Russian or find some spells to turn herself into a mermaid. At one point we  had numerous little notebooks lying around the house filled with various mermaid spells she had copied off the internet. 

But while I know that my daughter is an introvert, I worry when she comes home from school and tells me that she sat by herself at lunch or that she can only think of two friends to invite to her birthday. One little girl she knows can be a bit of a bully to her and I think sometimes she endures the bullying because she is her only good friend. 

Knowing that this society values the qualities of the extrovert much more than those of the introvert I worry about my daughter making her way in the world. The good thing is that I think these personality traits are ultimately very malleable —- I don’t think of myself being as withdrawn as I was as a child. I want my daughter to grow and make more friends as much as I want my son to be able to sit in a quiet place and read a book by himself in his room alone. 

This story has been contributed by one of our regular contributor’s to chatoveracuppa. She is a mother of two and lives in California. 

One Order Of Burger And One Order Of Compassion, Please !

This story is being shared for the #1000 speak, 1000 voices for compassion initiative. This story is based on a real life experience of the author who lives in India. 

Compassion, care, kindness all seem to be second nature to us. But that is not always true. Very recently I witness something which will tell you why.

It was a hot summer evening. I was shopping for groceries at a nearby mall. After shopping, I felt thirsty and went into a nearby McDonald’s to have a snack and some ice tea. While waiting for my order to be delivered, I kept myself busy by watching the people sitting around me. 

McDonald has been present in the Indian market only for the last few years and there is always a frenzy for eating at MCD, as it is referred to here. I noticed an elderly couple really enjoying their chicken burgers. McDonald’s usually is full of young people here. So my instant thought on seeing the elderly couple was that when they were young, McDonald’s did not exist in India and that they might have read about it in foreign magazines or seen on TV Channels. And now at a post retirement age, they get to enjoy burgers, fries and shakes.

As I settled myself with my ice tea…looking around again, I noticed in a corner table, there was a lady sitting with her two little granddaughters and her daughter / daughter-in-law(I presume). The little girls were busy eating burgers but I was really curious to see two other little girls standing behind their chairs. By their clothes and demeanor it appeared that they were the maid of the children. Yes, the girls who were themselves probably only a few years older than the other kids had been employed to look after the younger kids.

I was so perturbed to see that and the hungry look in their eyes really made me sick in my stomach. They had not been offered any food. The other ladies appeared to be educated but when I looked at them again I just found them to be nasty and without any compassion. Why had they brought those little girls inside the restaurant? Only to humiliate them? Or were they simply happy to play ignorant? I strongly felt like going and asking them but restrained myself.

I now wish that I did not. I thought that it was their personal matter and did not intervene. But it was a perfect example of LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Those of you who live outside of India or have never visited India, it is a fairly common sight here to witness young children being employed for jobs, even as baby sitters. If that is disturbing enough, eating under the nose of such children and not offering them a morsel of food is plain cruel. 

Looking back I think I should have done something about it. So I write this post for this blog today, so that the readers of this blog do not ignore kindness and compassion towards others, more so towards the needy, the poor and the KIDS. Help people around you, in the smallest way that you can. 

If I could go back in time, I would buy burgers, fries and shakes for those little girls, give it them and watch their smiles as they ate that food. It’s the least I could have done. 

This story has been contributed by Sonali Banerjee who also shared “Treasuring Love” with us. We had shared a similar story “The Help” before. This story will make you think if humanity and compassion is slowly becoming a bit extinct.

I Am Sorry


It’s a small word. But when really meant, it can melt the stoniest of hearts. It’s also a word that’s often thrown around carelessly, devaluing it and it’s intent. It’s also one of the toughest words to say. But why so?

Apology requires acceptance of our fault, intentional or otherwise. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It requires being logical, understanding the other person’s perspective, assume the possibility of the worst( we being wrong!) and then having enough guts to take up the responsibility.

I recall an incident from my childhood. I was around 8 or 9 years old then. The week of our story , I happened to be the ‘Monitor’ (a person appointed by the teachers to ‘manage’ the other kids) of my class. That day after returning home , I realized I hadn’t seen my Monitor badge for a while. After searching a lot I concluded to have lost it. Now losing the badge meant informing parents and in turn getting scolded as I would need to pay Rs 5/- as penalty charges. So in order to avoid it all, I requested my Thamma ( Paternal Grandma) to please give me the Rs 5/- and hide this from my parents.

What my Thamma did next surprised me. Here goes the conversation that left me surprised.

Thamma: I will give you the money, but why do you want to hide it from your parents ?

I: If I tell them, I will get scolded !

T: Why will they do that?

I: Because I ‘lost’ the badge Thamma!

T: Why do you think you lost it?

I: I probably kept it somewhere and now I don’t remember where. Or someone stole it:( 
T: Well you can’t do much if someone steals it but u can keep it carefully at a safe place, correct?

I: Yes Thamma .

T: But this time your mistake was about being negligent. And if your parents scold you for that, accept it like you just did, and apologize. And try to be more careful in future. But don’t be scared of making mistakes or accepting them. Just plan to rectify them going forward.

A scolding or hiding would probably have put me on a defensive mode, or worse, led to stealth. I am glad I was encouraged in the right direction in a positive way.

As I see it, an apology is best accompanied by forgiveness, specially if the person is really at fault, as Dumbledore says , ‘People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong , than for being right!’ 😉

Today’s story has been authored by one of our very regular reader, an avid blogger herself. She shares with us an important life lesson imparted by her grandmother very early in her life. Forgiveness from others is as important as the courage to accept our mistakes. 

Earth Day !

Few easy things we suggest that everyone can do without it being too laborious. Remember, every little gesture makes a difference  – 

1. Plant a tree or even a small plant. Watch the flowers bloom. Watch nature smile. 

2. Walk, bike and share a ride (even Canoe) to work, school or anywhere you can.

3. Save wildlife. Donate generously. 

4. For you next vacation visit a national park. Help parks from closing.

5. Unplug the gadgets, phones and tablets. Nature is best enjoyed through naked eyes.

6. Conserve water. Every drop counts. Close the faucet while brushing 🙂

7. Turn off the lights. Find solace in the darkness of the night.  

April 22 is Earth Day – Like always we are doing our bit to encourage you to do your bit. We urge you to please do your bit. Together, let’s make this world a better place to live.  

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