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Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.


Life Lessons

It’s A Beautiful Day Today !

After the alarm clock had snoozed infinite times, with tugs of sleep still pulling my eyelids tightly, I struggled to see the time on my phone. 7:30am!! The alarm had been snoozing for past hour and we had 45 mins to get out of the door so that no one is late for where they need to get to.

Continue reading “It’s A Beautiful Day Today !”

Hair Clips – A Lesson In Generosity

A bunch of new hair clips and a gleeful smile on my daughter’s face is what I noticed when my mother’s house help came to work today. An extremely efficient house help and a very warm and generous person with an enormous smile on her face at all times. Geeta Aunty is what the kids call her. Every time the kids visit the grandparents, Geeta Aunty looks after them, feeds them, showers them with love and gives them small knick-knacks. The hair clips are also a gift from her to my daughter. 

iPhone Picture Captured By My Six Year Old. One of the many as she is
documenting her visit to India. 
My six year old, who is now able to comprehend much more than she did in the previous India trips, notices that Geeta Aunty works at our house to earn a living. She understands  that a lot of people live with limited money and facilities here. They work hard to make a living and put food on the table. I explain to her that Geeta Aunty works so that she can send her three young children to school. We assist her in our own ways in sending them to a good school. The kids sometimes work odd jobs, run errands for people living in the apartment complex that my parents live in. They do so to earn a bit of pocket money or money needed to buy stationery for their school perhaps. Their dad irons clothes for people in the community (a task that is very commonly done by the “presswala” as they are called in India) 

So when my daughter gets the hair clips as a gift, I can see that she sees more to them than just being hair accessories. She tells me she is touched that Geeta Aunty gave her a gift even though her own resources are so limited. She is bad at saying ‘Thank You’s’ but she surprises me by saying so. Not only does she do that, she asks Geeta Aunty to do her hair with one of the new  hair clips. 

Though it is not said aloud, I know my daughter has learnt a new lesson about generosity today. More importantly, she has learnt that “giving” is not related to how much you possess. You just need the heart to do so. 

I ask Geeta for a picture for this story. She tells me to run another story about her in the next few days and she would pose for me in a better sari. I agree. Anything to capture that loving warm smile. 

Story Credit : Piya Mukherjee 

Of Religion, Karma and Such

Credit for the painting that forms the backdrop : Manjit Singh Chatrik
Photo credit : Soumi Haldar

A conversation aboard a flight to India. A conversation between our resident author, Piya Mukherjee, and her co-passenger about perhaps the most debated subject – religion. We are not forming an opinion or advocating a choice, we are merely saying what we believe in. Religion is a personal choice. Live and let others live. 

On the second leg of a long overseas flight, I settled down into my seat exhausted and sleep deprived. Not the right time for a conversation by any means. Just then my co-passenger enquired if I was traveling alone with such young kids, how old were the kids and how I was managing all by myself. 

This by now had become a repetitive question. So I proceeded to tell one more time that it was really no big deal and that the kids were for the most part well behaved. I was informed he was traveling from LA to Delhi on a mission. 

Mission? My curiosity arose. Perhaps another crusader trying to eliminate poverty from India, I thought. I was proven wrong. The mission was to educate about a certain religion and bring awareness about its ability to heal and cleanse all from their sins. I nodded silently in disbelief. The nod was not that silent after all. 

“So you don’t believe in my mission?”, he asked. 

My response was direct and raw. Beliefs are personal. Mine did not have to be in agreement with his. I believed in the power of karma. Karma, an overused word in the western world with origins in the country that my co-passenger was traveling to. In a country that was already drowning in the number of religions, another religion would not make a difference. There were more noble causes/ missions to undertake. 

He looked startled but not closed to my strong opinion. The conversation lasted an hour. I was wide awake by then, with two kids hanging on either sides. I excused myself to continue reading “Wild”, Cheryl Strayed seemed more engaging and inspiring. 

In between the reading, the air hostess came in with a snack. The interruption resumed the conversation. This time it was my turn to listen. “This is my 5th trip to India. Last four have not been exactly successful.” 

I did not respond. I had spoken already and so had many others. Religion is something we inherit by birth or adopt out of choice. It cannot be imposed. It is time we leave that alone and focus on being goodhearted human beings regardless of our religious choices. 

Do I Really Need It??

Photo Credit : Shruti Srivastava

Our new author on the block, Shruti Srivastava, in her own words,I strongly believe that everyone is sent on earth with some purpose in life.I am grateful to many who have been significant in my journey of life. My educational background of Psychology keeps the yearning in me alive to understand human behavior and relationships, inclination towards spirituality gives me direction and painting a sense of achievement and pleasure! Chatoveracuppa real life stories inspired me to write one….and  discovered that I could do a decent job of story telling!”

Brought up in a humble yet fun filled environment, the emphasis had always been on education and values of life. I have been blessed with a great set of parents and a lovely family. We had limited options in the late seventies; but I got enormous happiness from doing or possessing simple things, unpretentious in nature.

However, like any seven year old, I too would get attracted to what my friends would have or do. There was a friend of mine who had got a special matt cloth to do some embroidery on. I was quite intrigued by the weave and finish of the fabric and immediately wanted to possess one. It was playing on my mind and I expressed my desire to my Mom to get a similar one for myself. My mother asked, “What will you do with it?” My answer was, “My friend has got one, so I too want it”. It was a reason that did not go down well with my youngest uncle, who happened to be there; causing him to ask, “Do you really need it?” I was a bit surprised by his question. He further added, “Do you want it just because your friend has it or do you find it useful and therefore it is worth getting?” He continued, “You must never indulge in something just because some other person is having/doing it.” 

I pondered over it and then asked myself, “Do I really need it?” Here, the answer was a ‘yes’; and so, my Mom got me a matty cloth the next day, taught me some basic stitches and then used it as a table-cover for a long time.

That episode was over in a jiffy, but that brief conversation with my uncle taught me a lesson that always stayed with me.  I am not sure if my uncle remembers it, but imprinted as it was on my impressionable mind, I will have this with me forever. Luckily, I am able to follow this advice with conviction and ease. In turn, it gives me immense happiness and satisfaction. Today, it holds even greater importance as the attractions and distractions in life are beyond imagination.

As a mother, it would be good to see my twelve year old daughter try and apply this lesson of life in every possible area and ask herself, “Do I really need it?” A justified and honest answer will guide her to go ahead.

Going Green – Green Represents Life

Going Green ! A simple act that we are all striving to do in our little ways. What going green means to one person we met recently, left us humbled and astounded. 

We were having car issues that morning. Our own way of going green, our electric car, had not charged through the night as much as it was expected to do. We summoned help and a person showed up shortly at our door. As he did his thing to put the car back on charge, he spoke about his own car accident from many years back. He talked about it because by then he had probably noticed the questions on our face. The curiosity about his physical appearance. He must be getting it a lot, all the time. 

So he told us about the accident when another car had hit his and his car had gone up in flames. He was caught inside. A burn victim who fought, who survived, who triumphed and sprang back to life, just like before. Only this time, he decided he would move away from his regular auto parts and car servicing business to servicing green cars. The conventional cars have a tank full of gasoline, a substance that can potentially catch fire and explode. The electric cars, though not 100% safe, are comparatively safer. 

Before this story gets lost in the debate of what is really safe, I must mention I share this story because it is unimaginable for us the pain of a burn victim, the disfigurement, the change in physical appearances, the social acceptance of it all and the long road to recovery and rehabilitation. Finding a meaning in life and finding it while being inspired by your own personal tragedy is immensely commendable. 

It is not everyday that we meet such people with extraordinary stories, courage, spirit and love for life. Every time I look at my green car now, I am always reminded of this inspiring story and going green has a different significance to it all. 

Green inspires. Green motivates. Green represents life. 

Story and Photo Credit : Vipin Kalra 

Soccer or Tennis

We have been witnessing some great tournaments recently, the Wimbledon finals and the FIFA finals this Sunday. Both tournaments had a moment of display of great sportsmanship. We watched both the games with a  9 year old sports enthusiast, a tennis and soccer player, an equal Messi and Roger Federer fan. Event with the upsets, this young sport aspirant had great lessons to learn from both games.
Wimbledon is the oldest tournament in history and took place recently. Also, the FIFA World Cup just got over. The FIFA World Cup is the biggest soccer tournament and happens once every four years. This year, my favorite team, Argentina, made it to the finals but lost against Germany because of a late goal scored by Gotze. In Wimbledon, my favorite player, Roger Federer, made it to the finals but lost to Novak Djokovic in a great five set thriller. I liked the way Federer congratulated Djokovic at the end of the match and Djokovic told Federer,“Thank you for letting me win!”
Much like the guard of honor the Germans gave the players of Argentina as they collected their medals. Great sports is about good sportsmanship. 
Somebody asked me recently, “Which is better, soccer or tennis?” I like them both equally because they are both fun and active sports. Some people say tennis is better. Some prefer soccer. For example, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two tennis greats, loved both tennis and soccer as a kid. But they realized that two sports would distract them from tennis. So they had to make a choice.They both chose tennis, so that must mean that they liked tennis better.

Soccer and tennis are both active, fun, competitive, and awesome sports. I am a fan of both of them. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but I believe that tennis is equally important. So I think that you can’t compare these two amazing sports with each other.
I think will grow up to be a soccer playing tennis pro!

Postive Parenting

When a child makes a mistake, what do you usually do ? The common answers will be – talk to them about it, reprimand them about it, tell them what is right to and talk to them about owning their mistakes. Vaibhav Tiwari, the storyteller of this story remembers how his father did it a little differently and how that made a big difference in his life. 
If you are wondering why we bring such stories to you time and again. It is to remember the most valuable people in our life – our parents and to remember that life lessons are usually taught in the daily works of life. Each day a parent spends with a child is valuable and precious. It is spent towards making able human beings.

Every son remembers his father all his life, I am no exception. I lost my father in 2010 but he continues to live with me. I learnt almost all my life lessons from my father – Papa. Sometimes he taught these lessons with words and sometimes no words were necessary.

Let me share two such instances.

I was probably 6 years old. I went shopping with Papa to a near-by market. By the time we finished shopping, it was about 2 pm. Papa was late and he had to go somewhere else directly from the market. He told me he would get me a rickshaw and I needed to travel home alone in a rickshaw. I was scared and the fear was written all over my face. As I boarded the rickshaw, Papa put his hand on my head, smiled and said “If you can conquer your fears, you can conquer the world”. I nodded. Those words stayed with me not only during my first solo 6-minute rickshaw ride but also through my whole life. I have worked and lived in many countries and every time I found myself in a challenging and unfamiliar environment, I have drawn strength from those words. 

I am the youngest in my family. As a kid, I rarely got a chance to go to the market alone to buy anything. My elder brother was always be a step ahead. One Sunday morning, when I was in first grade and aged 7, I insisted I would run the errands. My father explained that I was too young to handle money and might lose it. But I was adamant. So, he relented and gave me a Rupees 2 note(bill) and asked me to go and buy a ‘paan’ (beetle leaf) for him. I was delighted. I winked at my brother and set-off for the paan-shop. Once I reached the shop and ordered the ‘paan’, I realized I had ACTUALLY dropped that the money somewhere! Panic! I did not know what to do.

I walked back home empty-handed but could not muster courage to enter the house. So, I sat down outside on our neighbor’s stairs hoping for a miracle. After about 15 minutes, my brother came looking for me and found me on the stairs. I shared my sad story with him. He was horrified and narrated my ‘crime’ to Papa. He came out, smiled and gave me a Rupees 20 note (bill) and gestured to go again to buy the ‘paan’. He did not say a word. This time there were no mistakes and the ‘paan’ was delivered along with the exact change. Lesson learnt. No words exchanged. Needless to say, I have never dropped money since.

A poet, actor, adventurer and strategy wonk,and now a storyteller at chatoveracuppa that is our author for today Vaibhav Tiwari.

Let It Go !

Stories happen every day and there is a storyteller in each one of us. You sometimes just need a patient ear to listen in. In what seemed like an over exhausting week, I met a story teller and heard a story that touched my heart. A story that I will share with you today.

It had been a long day. All I really wanted to do that evening was take the flight back home and cuddle up with the kids for the night. Neither Khaled Hosseini nor the cup of Joe could keep me interested till the boarding began. So I did what I love to do. I watched the people around me.

Right next to me sat  a lady intently reading something on her kindle with two young men constantly hovering over her. One brought her coffee while the other helped her find something on her Kindle, the three of them chatting every now and then. The lady and I exchanged glances and before we knew we got talking. The young men were the lady’s sons, she introduced. The men took off for a stroll and we resumed chatting.
They seem to be very caring about you.

I think I raised them well.

You sure did. I wonder how mine will turn out to be.

Love them. Love as much as you can. Keep loving them no matter what. And let them be. Or perhaps let it go. (She laughed it away)

Advice from a stranger, it may seem. But something told me the conversation was going to take an interesting turn. So I told the lady about my blog and asked if I could write about our conversation. And that’s when she opened her heart like a true storyteller. She did not allow me to picture her but a picture of her narration will stay with me forever.

Her younger son had fought in the Iraq war. He was very young when he had chosen to do so. A decision of his own. Only a soldier’s mother can tell you what it feels to know that your child may not come back home. I heard her choke even while she narrated. Her son was supposed to go to a law school that year. Instead he had opted for the army. That was her first example of the “let them be” mantra. Your love should support  your children’s choices and not prove to be a hindrance.

The “let it go” she said was more important. Let it go from your heart that your children would always be around you, do what you had thought or planned for them to do. That is such a deep rooted feeling inside every parent that it is extremely challenging to let it go. To let that feeling go. Sometimes that feeling becomes an obstacle in loving your own children.

You know why I am going to Seattle today?


To meet my elder son’s partner. To tell you the truth, I did not approve of his choice and decision at first. But then I reminded myself I had to let it go. I told myself his decisions should not change my love for him. And look today I am just going up there and we are just going to be one happy family.

I guess you are saying love your children no matter what and they will always love you back. And sometimes love means letting somethings go.

Yes you will know better as yours grow older. (She said with a beautiful smile.)

It was soon time for me to board. As I got up to board, the lady asked me if I was really going to write about our conversation. I promised her I would. That is what the intent of this blog is. Hear the voice of every story teller. Hear every story that is being told. Every story has a little something to say.

My daughter came to the airport to pick me up later that night. As we drove home, I heard her sing “Let it go. Let it go.” from the movie Frozen. I was reminded of my rendezvous with the storyteller who had given a new meaning to that phrase.
This story has been written by Piya Mukherjee, a mom, a blogger, a people-watcher and the other half of chatoveracuppa. This story is based on a real life conversation she had with another mom and amazing storyteller.

My grandma’s house

As part of our childhood memories series, is a story by Barbara Stanifer, as she reminiscences about the idyllic summers she spent with her grandmother. “A grandmother is a little bit parent, little bit teacher and a little bit best friend”. Grandmother, grandma, nana, or as I called mine, ‘dida’, by whatever name you call her, is a synonym for love, comfort, peace and the best food ever!
When I sat down to think about my favorite childhood memories, there was no question I would write about the summers I spent with my grandmother in Oklahoma.  To this day at the first sign of warm weather, every fiber of my being wants to make a pilgrimage back to the red clay dirt of that tiny town.  But when I started to write I wasn’t exactly sure WHY those were my best memories, what was it that pulled at my heartstrings even now in middle age? Everything in and around my grandmother’s house was a universe that felt so unique to my ordinary life, the landscape, the smells, the people were all different and I think mostly, it was calm and quiet.  I was free to be completely me.  With a great deal of patience and never a critical word my grandmother taught me things, she seemed to understand me in a way that others didn’t.  I learned to bake bread and do needlepoint and the absolute fine art of “visiting”, something cultivated by her generation or in the Midwest / South I’m not sure, but a skill that I relish when I recognize it in this fast paced, all digital world.
I was four the first time I went to visit my grandmother by myself and I went every summer after that until I was 23.  Nothing ever changed, every couch, chair, wall hanging was a living time capsule for all the years I was there.  For a gal whose family moved often and suffered times of great tumult, there was such unbelievable comfort in that sameness, in the static traditions that encompassed every visit.  We’d sit down first thing with a cold glass of sun tea, ice cubes tinkling softly against the glass, paper towel wrapped around the outside to catch the condensation and look through her box of tintypes.  She’d tell me stories of our ancestors that in retrospect I believe were all untrue!  “We are related to Chief Quanah Parker leader of the Apache tribe…” she’d say.  His picture was in that box and I do have a broad face and large nose but… 
She never denied my request for the first meal to be a BLT and fried okra, with the L, the T and the okra coming straight from her garden, there is something so transcendent about a homegrown tomato.  In the evenings I’d sit outside in a blue canvas chair next to the magnolia tree and contemplate life while my grandmother watered.  Fireflies choreographed their fairy dance to the cicada’s low slung, eerie song and it was pure magic to me – each and every time.  I would fall asleep to the sounds of my grandmother laughing softly at Johnny Carson, dreaming about what adventurous traditions would come the next day, decorating gingerbread men in the heat of summer, going to her beautiful gold domed church dressed in a hat and gloves, playing with her typewriter and my dad’s erector set from when he was young, visiting with Mrs. Babs next door who would always read me a book or tell me a story…  It was a magical place for me not because it was in any way grand, but because it was an amalgam of adventure, traditions and calm.  A perfect blend that matched the odd and quiet rhythm of my soul.

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