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

Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.


June 2014

A Conversation

We communicated with Anushree a little after the father’s day week. A vivacious fun loving young lady, a strong and independent woman and a successful fashion designer by profession. She happens to be the daughter of our storytellers Sonali and Tarun Banerji.  People who know Sonali and Tarun personally always compliment them on how well they have raised their kids, a reflection of which we have seen in many of our stories – here. This time around we asked their daughter Anushree what she thinks she has learnt from her parents. Since this was just around the father’s day week, we spoke extensively about her father, our story teller Tarun Banerji

It is always nice to meet eloquent, modest and approachable young people. A simple conversation that displays the thoughtfulness of this young lady. We loved some of the anecdotes she shared.

Chatoveracuppa  : You are doing so well for yourself at this young age. What is the most invaluable lesson in life that you learnt from your Dad ? 

One day I came back home early from my normal play time fuming with anger. My mom and dad were surprised, “Why so early, you had a fight?” dad asked looking at my red face. I told him the whole story about how I had a debate with my friend and she just wouldn’t get my point. At the end I just walked away because she was too dumb to understand my point. My dad said that was where I went wrong – while debating stay cool and never let temper get in the way.  I should never show anger when putting across a point. One gets angry only when his/her logic falls short. Once the anger conquers you, you are bound to lose. He told me a story to prove this point further:

Once there was a debate competition, and the two competitors were welcomed with fresh flower garlands. Little did they know that the garland was to judge them. As the debate started getting more and more heated one of the debaters garland started withering because of the heat generated from his body. And the other one who was calm, his garland remained fresh. Hence, the other one who was calm was declared the winner.
He taught me I could put across my point better without getting angry.  
Chatoveracuppa : Growing up, did you have a lot of fun with your Dad ? 

My dad is a humorous man. I don’t really remember him ever frowning or being sad. All my friends loved to hang out with him. He loves to tell us stories or incidents with the tiniest, funniest, craziest detail. Simple stories from when he went shopping for groceries or what happened at his work. He would narrate the story in his own style cracking us all up. We would watch the funniest and the crappiest movies together. My home has been full of laughter and music and smiles. And whenever life gets serious away from home I always try to remember there is always a scope of comic relief. You just need to be attentive to those funny details. No matter how bad a situation might be, it is up to me in what  frame of mind I should handle it.
Chatoveracuppa : Does your Dad give you any specific advice or has any particular expectations from you ? 

Now this bit about my dad is very confusing. Like all parents, my dad wants me  to succeed and reach my full potential. Whenever he sees me not giving my 100 percent and wasting my time, he tells me, “You don’t want to regret this later” , “You need to work hard to be something”. I see the hopes in his eyes, and I simply adore him like this. But, once I am motivated enough and start working hard, studying all night, he would come and say “Now go to sleep, no need to work so hard”. Or when now I tell him I am working on a Sunday in office, he’d be like “You need to relax also”. 
I guess he gets confused between the little girl he wants to pamper and the successful woman he wants me to be.

Chatoveracuppa : What is that one thing you would want to say more often to your Dad ? 

Every dad is their daughter’s hero. The one person she admires the most. And I am always awestruck of my father- My “Daddy”. And I am proud to be his daughter, and like some people say, be his shadow.

Learning Is A Continuous Process

Photo credit : Swapan Haldar 
Foreword By Piya Mukherjee: Whenever we receive a new story from Swapan Haldar, we know that there will be a valuable life lesson embedded in it. His journey of life has been so enriching that his stories are like gems coming out of a treasure box. I must mention that prior to writing for Chatoveracuppa, he has only written technical books. When we embarked upon our journey of storytelling, the story teller in him became prominent. This story like all his other stories has a climax that will say and mean something to everybody. 

If you have ever wondered how people who are in their sunset age are still so active, hardworking, modest and humble, this story is going to resonate with your thoughts. 

It was a short journey from Broken Hill to Cobar zinc mine in New South Wales, Australia. The nine seater craft took about 30 minutes. The airport was very small and was looked after by a single staff member.  He attended to the single flight in a day and otherwise the airport looked deserted. The passengers carried their own luggage from the craft. 

A cab took me to the hotel from the airport. The hotel was expensive. My daily allowance for a long stay in Sydney was meager. I could not afford to have lunch in the hotel. It was 1 PM and I was hungry.

I saw a lean and thin person, little bent due to his age, probably in his early seventies.  He was coloring the outside wall of the hotel. I approached him to enquire about any nearby eating places. He offered to drop me to a close by place on his way back home. The vehicle was full with various containers, brushes and other tools that a carpenter and painter uses. It was not comfortable to sit in the back seat of his vehicle.

I saw him working next three days on my way back from my work. I felt sorry for him for all the hard work he was doing at his age. On the last day of my visit, I was waiting for a cab to take me to the airport. I wanted to thank him. 

I told him very politely, “This country provides social security for the aged and the unemployed. Sir, would you be kind enough to tell me why you work so hard and how much you do earn for this hard work?” He listened and said, “It is OK.” I repeated the question and the reply was, “Just OK”. After some time, I asked him again, “We will never meet again and after returning to my country I want to compare the earning of a painter in my country for this work”.

He understood me and smiled. He took me to the hotel reception. There was a big painting on the wall of a twin seated craft flying in the blue sky. He asked me if I could guess who built the craft. After a pause, he said that he had assembled it when he was young and used to fly it from Sydney to this place for adventure. He continued that he was the owner of the hotel. “Then why?” I exclaimed. “I earn for my daily bread. I have a room to rest here. I have a house to stay with my family. The manager and other staff look after my properties. This is my learning from life”.

I wanted to touch his feet*; I could not, So I said ‘Be happy my friend and Good Bye. I will carry your message throughout my life’. I have been telling this incident to every batch of my postgraduate students for the last decade. I tell them, “Keep your eyes, ears and mind open, you will learn many valuable lessons in your own life”.

* Touching other’s feet is considered as a method to show respect, convey regards and gratitude in the Indian culture. 

Authored By :  Dr.Swapan Haldar.  This is a true incident from his own life. Dr.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 to have him as one of our regular storytellers. 

Book Suggestion For 9-11 Year Olds

We ran a post on Book Clubs to get the younger kids to read and shared a book review for “Divergent” earlier this week. Here are some book suggestions for the 9-11 year old’s. All reviews are written by Big Sis( the 10 yr old daughter of Bong Mom), who read these books as a part of “Battle of the Books” in her school. 
Get your kids reading this summer. Reading habits must be formed early. Chatoveracuppa will provide the platform to share book reviews and exchange information on reading related activities. Kids read. Kids Write. Kids Share. 

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
By Linda Urban

In A Crooked Kind of Perfect, 10 – year old Zoe Elias always dreams of playing the piano. Instead, her dad buys her a wheezy old organ. When she starts taking organ lessons everything isn’t turning out as she planned. Then Zoe enters the Perform-O-Rama competition and it’s full of surprises! Zoe Elias finds that things are better for her when they’re a little off perfect!

I loved A Crooked Kind of Perfect because I could relate to Zoe Elias. I am also 10 years old and I love playing the piano. Another thing that I liked was that Zoe was very optimistic. She was mad when her dad bought her the organ but she always kept her chin up. I found it lacking some suspense because the more suspense is better for me.

Because of Mr. Terrupt
By Rob Buyea

 It’s a new school year of fifth grade at Snow Hill School for the kids and their teacher. Jessica, Peter, Alexia, Jeffrey, Luke, Daniella, and Anna are all having trouble fitting in and making friends. It seems like the only one who can deal with all these kids is Mr. Terrupt, their new fifth grade teacher. He makes it fun to learn for everyone and doesn’t tolerate misbehavior from anyone. Then a snowy winter accident changes everything.

I absolutely loved this book because there was a great combo of suspense and humor. Mr. Terrupt also has a great personality and he never wants anyone to feel uncomfortable.

Among the Hidden
By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Luke has never been to school, had a party, been over to a friend’s house, or even had a friend. This is all because he’s an illegal third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s spent his entire life in hiding and now that there’s going to be a development right next door he’s not even allowed to go outside. Once all his new neighbors move in, he sees a girls face in the window. Finally, he’s met another illegal third child. Jen is willing to risk it all for freedom but Luke just wants to play it safe. This book was very suspenseful, a bit scary, and I found it very sad. All the same, I enjoyed it very much. I found it sad to hear about how Luke had to live and scary with all their close encounters.

A Long Way From Chicago
By Richard Peck Joey

Dowdel and his younger sister, Mary Alice Dowdel are not happy to be leaving the city of Chicago to go visit their grandma in her sleepy old country town in Illinois. Then they learned that Grandma was as abnormal as people can get. Grandma takes Mary Alice and Joey on illegal fishing trips and uses her shotgun to threaten people.Joey and Mary Alice are now eager to go down to that sleepy old town! What will Grandma do next? I loved this book because it’s hilarious with all of Grandmas wild actions!

A chapter from my teaching journey – Time to turn a new leaf

Venant sitting in my office with his published research paper open on my desktop.

It was spring of 2011, when I started teaching my second batch of students, the introductory biotechnology course at the community college in Baltimore. This batch of students was not as enthusiastic as my first batch. As a teacher, I love interacting with students, so when the students are quite, I still teach but it’s less fun. 

The only student in this batch who talked, and talked a lot was Venant. He surely talked on behalf of all students. He had a lot of questions some general, some specific. He had comments and in nutshell he had a lot going on in his mind. He would even say sorry I keep asking a lot of questions, which I reassured him was quite ok. I was kind of new at teaching and he was kind of new in biotechnology so we might have been nervous yet excited in our own ways. The semester passed, he did well, I had a new batch, and things moved. 

Being an adjunct, I did not have much chance to follow up with my earlier batch of students. So I met him just by chance in a training workshop, which I was helping conduct and there he was as a student assistant. I asked him how he was doing and he said “terrible”, he had not gained much confidence in lab work and the big question in his mind was “Can I do it” and “Is biotech for me”. 

I think it’s important to mention here that Venant was associated with a number of careers including journalism, films and more. Clearly he was here for love of science and now it was not working out for him. I just despised, to see this young man who has changed several careers questioning himself yet again. I told him just one thing, I think I have the solution to your problems and you just have to trust me on that.

Fast forward a year later, I was working full time in the college and Venant was back in my class for two weeks in a brainstorming workshop in cold winter of January of 2012. He was the same guy, with lots of questions but with a big question mark about himself. He had tough time paying bills and nothing seemed too sure. When we did the workshop, I made sure from my end that I let him know how capable he was and how he did not recognize his own talents and how with practice on lab work he would be just very good. At the end of workshop, there was a change. I told him lets move from “Can I do it” to “I can do it”. He sort of agreed to it. 

I soon placed Venant in a lab for an internship though despite all apprehensions and within a few days to his surprise, his supervisor planned to hire him. The confidence, the pay and the job got it all together back for him. One day Venant came to me and said” I have a problem”. I said to him “Now, what ?”. He told me he had got admission in a bachelor’s program in Medical Research and Technology at the University of Maryland Baltimore and he also had another offer of a research lab tech job and a potential scholarship at another university. I said to him these are good problems to have, when you get the option to pick what you want to do and we laughed about it.

Now 3 years later, Venant is about to graduate from his bachelors program to become a Medical Laboratory Scientist. He has finished his job after years of success and has a research paper with his name as first author. I think he found his passion, I think he found a respect for himself as a coveted alumini of our program, I think he found a way to believe in himself and to say to himself, I can cross all the hurdles and I can build a career for myself that I dreamed from my passion for Science. I think as a teacher he made me feel proud, proud of his questions, his journey and his future as well.

The picture above was taken once while Venant was in my office. He is aware that I am sharing his story with the world. We hope this story is an inspiration to many other students and also a motivation for many teachers around the globe.

Story Credit: Amrita Madabushi. Or rather Dr. Amrita Madabushi is one of our regular storytellers. She is also a teacher, an assistant professor at Baltimore City Community college. She has been passionate about science and teaching science all her life. This story reflects her love for science, teaching and story telling all at once. 


“Father’s” through a mother’s, a wife’s and a woman’s eyes. Nandita Hazra shares today her perspective on how she sees different men play the role of a father and what it really means to them. A mother’s view on fathers. 

This story would have been apt for the Father’s Day week. But it was written on the night of Father’s Day and prompted by an event during that day. Read the story to find more. 

Strict, loving, protective, sometimes forgetful, but most of the time dependable – thats what fathers mean to me. 

When my grandson on a rare occasion is uncontrollable – a “look” from his father does the job, and when his daughter’s arm needed physiotherapy after a healed fracture, when she was a very little girl, it was only he who could do it against all protests from her. And when the children show their prowess at the “spelling bee” and other school programs, he is always there to encourage and enjoy and you can see they are his pride.

Once I woke up in the middle of the night to see my husband busy with a pile of answer papers – what on earth was he doing? My daughter, a professor of chemistry, had to correct and submit them the next day. So there he was, staying up through the night, providing moral support! A father for all seasons.

On Father’s Day I beheld another beautiful sight. We were visiting one of our friends over that weekend. I witnessed that a little toddler was crying away and no one could soothe him. Then suddenly as soon as he saw his father, he was all full of glee and with his too little hands up in the air, his face radiant, he jumped into his father’s arms – a perfect picture of joy and happiness.

Nandita Hazra, the newest of our story tellers, is a master in her art. Her life experiences through several years of parenting and grandparenting, traveling around the globe and meeting a diverse set of people, enables her stories to be always enriching, sometimes nostalgic and never biased. 


A magnolia pod can be looked at just a flower. Or you could look at it as metaphor or a treasure. Barbara Stanifer, chooses to look at it as the latter. As in all her stories, Barbara looks at little things in life, values them and delves into the deeper aspect that usually get ignored. The ladies at Chatoveracuppa fell in love with this story, perhaps because we could relate to it in our own way. Hope you find a relation too. 

I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Ralphs, I couldn’t tear myself away from the tail end of an interview on npr.  Looking down and listening intently, my magnolia pod caught my eye.  It’s been nestled in my console for about a month now.  I love magnolias they have a nostalgic tie to the tree that brought me shade and beauty and daydreaming every summer in my Grandma’s backyard.  They are stunning you can’t pass one by without noticing, elegant and graceful, yet strong and enduring.  Their petals seem to be made of industrial fibers, sprouting out from a nutty, meaty center.  They call to you like arms of a prima ballerina gently whispering for you to come closer and you imagine that if they ever got a hold of you they’d capture you in an embrace that felt like a cocoon of quiet and grace, you’d float weightless, secure and understood.  These elements encompass how I’d like to be viewed as a woman. 
And then the flower gives way to the pod, which is equally beautiful in the way each season after spring has it’s own beauty.  More interesting…  It’s just a woody thing with a tuft of yellowy fuzz, spirals of brown that look like martian antennae and a “trunk” that looks like it came from the closet of a cougar – all leopard print.  I love this pod for all these things it represents, for who gifted it to me and maybe for the metaphor about aging I’ve attached to it. 

I am no longer in the spring of my life; I’m no longer a dewy shiny thing in body or mind.  But maybe there’s still something interesting about me, something still worth displaying or keeping as a traveling companion in the warm console of a car.  Dust me off every now and then and let me remind you of our history, of your history.  Appreciate the strength of my being that let me survive each transition and make it this far.  Use me to sow the beginnings of another generation of thought or love or action.  Collect me and consider me a treasure.  

This is how this little magnolia pod came to live in my car, as I was leaving my sister’s house, my three year old nephew called out “Barb, do you want a treasure?”  Nothing could have filled me with more joy!  A gift from this little human I love so much and a gift that I so genuinely enjoy at that.  That kid is something, I’m sure I am projecting – but he is truly in tune with people’s inner workings even at three.  I swear the look in his eye as he handed it to me was that he understood all that I did about the specialness of magnolia pods.

Story and Photo Credit : Barbara Stanifer. 

How Divergent Are You?

Yesterday we spoke about encouraging young children to read. Today, we share with you the book review of the extremely popular book Divergent by Veronica Roth. The movie based on the book also set the cash register ringing. We hope this review is helpful to the middle school book lovers. 

Divergent, Veronica Roth

Book Review By A Twelve Year Old 

Divergent is an amazing dystopian novel, I was captivated from the first line. I read it in four hours straight, not willing to put it down for a second. It is a very fun and interesting book that tells the incredible story of Tris Prior, as she makes her way through her chosen faction, Dauntless. There, she meets her instructor, Four, who helps her and others get through all the three stages of initiation. Along the way, Tris has to deal with bullies, a new lifestyle, deaths, and she has to learn how to handle her divergence. Join Tris on an action packed adventure full of life, love, and a little bit if laughter! With great anticipation, I saw the movie adaptation when it came out in March of 2014 with my friend and it was AWESOME! If you want to read more about it, you can visit

Book Club

Bored ! This is what we hear children saying a lot during the summer holidays. We say boredom triggers creativity. In our effort to keep children occupied yet make it all fun for them, we will run a series of posts on activities some kids are doing during the holidays. This is of course outside of a summer camp. These are ideas that can be done at home with little help and structure from the parents.
A book club is a great way of encouraging children to read. Get together a small group of children who love to read and also those who do not love it as much. Pick a book for all of them to read before the book club meet. During the book club meet up, discuss the book with them, ask them to talk about the book (you will hear some very interesting perspectives) and organize a few fun activities related to the theme or subject of the book.
Book club is not something to be done during the summers only. But with no homework and more time available during the holidays, it makes it the perfect time to surround children with interesting reads.
One such book club that I take my children to is for the younger children and run voluntarily by moms. We read and discussed “The Lorax” by Dr.Seuss in our most recent session. We spoke about pollution, recycling, clean air and water. In doing so, we did not forget the moral of the story. Avoid Greed. To our surprise, most children at six years of age could define greed and distinguish between “needs” and “wants”.
Once all the discussions were done, we let the children color the cover page of the book (The Lorax) as if they were the designers. Some very colorful results came out of that.

We followed it with doing some crosswords puzzles, find the words and other fun activities. Sessions are concluded with the assignment of the next book for the next session. We meet once in a week. You can choose a frequency that works for you. All this  was done in about 90 minutes of time, followed by 30 minutes of snack time. I mention this because it is not too much of effort to host and conduct the book club meet. 

Another great idea is to ask children to maintain  a reading log. Each book read gives them a point.  Have a snowball fight during the book club session. Snowballs are just balls made of crumpled paper. Each child gets the same number of snowballs as the number of books read, thus the points on the reading log. The more you read, the more snowballs you get.
Set some rules.  Let them have fun. And make sure they clean up afterwards.
So, a book club is one of our ideas to help encourage young kids to read this summer, keep them away from the television and the iPAD. Help them not feel bored.

100 Days Of Storytelling

Storytellers coming together over a cuppa had been a thing we wanted to do always. That is exactly what we did this morning. Some of us, the storytellers, got together in a virtual meeting room and had a conversation. A real conversation.  Though just a few of us, it was not bad for the first time.

One thing common to all of us is our passion for story telling. Together we have so far collaborated, told and shared 99 stories. The 100th story had to be about us and that collaboration. Like all other milestones, for the 100th day we celebrated the story tellers.

Today, together we acknowledged that some of us were meant to be writers while some are natural story tellers. We discovered that many stories that we felt were trivial, meant a lot to others. We discussed about how we would work together on the next 100 stories. We realized we had to be less hesitant about sharing the not so happy stories. We agreed we had to reach out to people around us and find new stories.

We are grateful to our readers, to all the people who follow our blog and await for a new story each day. We are thankful to everyone who send us a word of appreciation or few words of constructive criticism. We are even more thankful to folks who graciously share our stories with the world. 

Stories are meant to be shared and not to be confined. Be a part of our story telling journey, share a story. Come chat with us over a cuppa. Like we always say – Stories inspire, stories touch hearts, stories help you retrospect, stories bring back memories and if not anything they most often make you smile.

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