A New Bucket List

By Shyama Parui

“101 Things to Do Before You Die", “The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small", “1000 Places to See"… etc. These titles screamed at me when I typed “coffee table books" in the search field of a popular online retailer. My quest to immerse myself in stunning photographs was foiled and instead I was faced with thoughts on mortality and the finite nature of time. Perhaps that was not so bad. It compelled me to make plans to actually visit the places captured on those glossy pages.

Tucked in our back pocket is the bucket list that is often forgotten leading to the familiar feeling of lament when there is so much to do, yet so little time. We crave more hours in a day, more weeks in a year and our urgency to grab those precious seconds has escalated. Prolonged introspection has nudged me to revise my bucket list previously driven by wanderlust, the assumption of longevity and an illusion of safety. It is almost cliché to say that COVID 19 has made us acutely aware of life's unpredictable turns and combined with my reluctant acceptance of middle age, I have consciously altered my vantage point. It is not lost on me that I have much to be grateful for. The privilege to have the opportunity to even draft a collection of future desires at the tail end of a deadly pandemic is a boon.

My appreciation for the people instrumental in helping me check things off on my current list has grown ten-fold. The little girl in Mumbai who wanted to fly, remembers being overjoyed by her first experience as a passenger on a plane. It sounded way more exciting than waving at planes that flew over. Along the way, her goals to learn how to swim and drive her own car were achieved. And then her teen years sowed the seeds of globetrotting. During the late 80's and early 90's, travel shows on Doordarshan were rare and scenic locations in Bollywood movies often inspired people's destination choices if they were yearning for haseen vadiyan (lovely outdoors) and khula aasman (open skies).

One of the shows that did encourage my generation to gain a more immersive cultural experience on trips, was “Surabhi". Renuka Shahane and Siddharth Kak's series about unique cultural traditions from different corners of India was fascinating. Even though the Tourism Department's campaign of Incredible India was arguably successful and tempting, my family of small business owners found it hard to take frequent or long vacations. One of my mother's biggest regrets is missing pilgrimages. For that very reason, my husband and I vowed to raise travel in its priority.

On the flip side, I was glad to discard some potential misadventures. For instance, I always wanted to learn how to make mochar dalna – a Bengali favorite. Mocha, not to be mistaken for coffee, is the word for banana blossom in Bengali and it is plucked out from the large purple bud, cleaned, and chopped. A woefully lengthy process resulting in a taste that is not quite proportionate to the effort. So, witnessing its preparation was satisfactory to me. My short-lived desire to eat unusual foods vanished after I tried escargot. Squids, worms, and insects stayed in the inedible category. And I have no intention of conquering my fears even though the movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, made a strong and entertaining case for it with three handsome actors. You may ask why, but rules or explanation defeat the purpose. As you chronicle your life's sojourn, these bucket list items are the lookout points you stop by. They are not critical to reaching your destination, but they invigorate you along the way, bringing me back to “My New & Improved Bucket List."

• Around the world in more than 80 days – the idea is to gallivant and enjoy the journey making beautiful memories.

• Take one or a few trips down memory lane with my children. They may groan and complain while I have them try vada-pav (popular Indian street food), visit the gorgeous, 150-year-old campus of St. Xavier's College and wander through Howrah, my parent's hometown in West Bengal. Nevertheless, I am confident that they will thank me for it… at some point in their lives.

• My last travel related goal is to embark on at least one trip as a solivagant otherwise known as a solitary wanderer.

• Write a book, which seems simple, but is not an easy task.

• Chase my impossible dream because, woh zindagi hi kya jisme koi na mumkin sapna hi na ho? (Roughly translated as, every life should have an impossible dream).

• And most importantly, fill the bucket with drops of joy by pledging to make everyday matter. Play board games, listen to your kids laugh, do something special for your spouse, even if he chews loudly or she frowns too often.


Shyama Parui is a long time North Carolina resident and an ardent writer. You can reach her at: shyamashree_parui@hotmail.com