Josna Rege

Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category

For You, Mum

In Notes on April 8, 2018 at 9:45 pm

My mother has passed away. It was her time and it was a peaceful passing, so I must be glad. There is nothing more I can say just now, but as I did when my father died, just 18 months ago, I am sharing some of the many stories in the Tell Me Another Archives from her, about her, or inspired by her, interspersed with songs which she loved or which remind me of her.

My Grandmother

When Irish Eyes are Smiling  One of my grandmother’s favorite songs, so Mum told me (see story above). 

Chickens on the Pot

Molly Malone One of Mum’s aunts had a barrow, and we have a photograph of her and her family standing straight and proud in front of it—their livelihood. 

A Nice Bit of Spanish

Annie Laurie Mum didn’t sing this one very often, but when she did, it struck deep into your heart. 

Party Pieces

     The Old Bull and Bush

Strawberry-Picking Camp

 Killing Me Softly This song was released by Roberta Flack in 1973, just three years after we immigrated to the United States. Mum loved it, and I didn’t know why at the time. I preferred rock-‘n-roll and reggae, and thought it rather schmaltzy. Not any more. 

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw 

Hound Dog My cousin Bill remembers Mum teaching him to jive to Elvis’ Hound Dog. If this was in 1956, when it was released, Mum would have been twenty-nine, and Bill just thirteen. 

My Uncrowned Queens

  Avanti Popolo One day, some years into her Alzheimer’s, Mum mentioned that she had a song running through her head, but she couldn’t remember more than a few fleeting lines. She sang them for me, but they didn’t ring a bell, and I thought I’d heard every song she’d ever known. Furthermore, it was in another language, and one I knew she didn’t know—Italian. I went home, did some searching on the Internet, and came back with this, and the lyrics printed out for her. Mum took to the Italian like a duck to water, and soon we were roaring out this rousing workers’ march at the top of our lungs. It must have been stored away in her memory backs from her Leftist youth. What a terrific song!

Servants, or Cleaning My Own D*** House

     With a Little Bit of Luck

His Master’s Voice

     Jamaica Farewell

Learning to Swim

     Island in the Sun

British TV, Fall of ‘63

 Twist and Shout (at the Beatles’ Royal Command performance)   Read “British TV, Fall of ’63” for the back story.


 The Ash Grove Mum would say that, in secondary school, while their music teacher waxed all sentimental about this song, the students would change the words to: “My teacher has a bunion/a face like a pickled onion/a nose like a squashed tomato/ and legs like matchsticks.” In transports of delight, the teacher was oblivious to it all, “Beautiful, Class, beautiful,” she would murmur. 

Top of the Pops, 1968-69

Those Were the Days   When this song started climbing the British pop charts in 1968, it was a song the oldsters liked as well. We didn’t know then that it was a Russian romance from the 1920s. but Mum and Uncle Ted probably did. 

Two at a Time

     Loch Lomond

Simply Paying Attention

You Can Get It if You Really Want This was Mum’s favorite song from the Reggae soundtrack of the classic 1972 movie, The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff. I realize now that it probably spoke to her of the struggles of her own life: . . .”but you must try, try and try, try and try: you’ll succeed at last.”

Just Empty Your Mind

Shelter from the Storm  This was Mum’s favorite song on Bob Dylan’s 1975 Blood on the Tracks Album. She particularly liked it when he sang, “Come in,” she said “I’ll give ya” (and she, like Dylan, emphasize the ya) “shelter from the storm.”

London, My London

     Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner

London without Lily

     Old Man River

Doing It Themselves

Mera Juta Hai Japani  A hit song from the 1955 Hindi film Shree 420, starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis which  exemplified the spirit of early post-Independence India. My cousin Meena remembers Mum singing it on a trip to Ratnagiri. 1955 was the year she arrived in India for the first time, with me as a babe in arms. 

A Chip off the Old Block? If Only.



     O Danny Boy

    Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

     Ti geli tevha rimjhim

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Gloomy Thoughts in Late Winter

In Notes on February 18, 2017 at 9:48 am

Pre-dawn (photo: Josna Rege)

Still another month to go before Spring, though goodness knows I’m not wishing time away. There doesn’t seem to be the time or the leisure for Tell Me Another these days, with so many other pressing tasks taking precedence.

Perhaps, after nearly seven years, I’m done with TMA. Perhaps, come Summer, stories will begin to present themselves again; but just now everything seems stale. Perhaps, with nearly 400 stories set down in black and white, it’s time to stop looking backward and start living life more fully again. Then if, inshallah, I live to be an old woman, there will be new stories to tell.

Just now, the springs of renewal are buried deep. But there is not the luxury of simply waiting for Spring. The Earth is under attack, and all that we hold dear. If we fail to fight for them now, those life-giving waters may never return.

Of course looking backward has value; it reminds one of what is important, what one has learned, and what one must pass on. But with that pivot point, the Vernal Equinox, approaching, it is incumbent upon me to recover the balance I once had between action and repose. It’s both too late and much too soon to rest.

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To Dad, with Love

In Notes on October 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm

My father has passed away. It is much too soon for me to write about him; I can’t find the words. But over the years he has figured in many Tell Me Another stories. Taken collectively, I think they convey something of his character, personality, and presence. Here is a hyperlinked list of these stories (with favorites in bold), interspersed with some songs Dad loved and some of mine.

To Dad, with Love

The Yogi of Beals Street

Kaun Gali Gayo Shyam

The Kurta Joke

Hai Apna Dil to Awara

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw

Dhitang Dhitang Bole

So Many Things Have Disappeared

Yeh Raatein Yeh Mausam



Jaggery Coconut, Nectar of the Gods

Mexican Home

The Bay of Biscay and the Gully Gully Man

Ichak Dana Bichak Dana 

Dolls I Have Loved (and Lost)

Aa Jao Tadapte Hain Armaan

The Long Journey

Can’t Buy Me Love

From a Railway Carriage

Lady Madonna

Greece in the 60s: Expats and Other Animals

O Ymittos

Learning to Swim

`    Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki

Cookbooks, Immigrants, and Improvisation

Mera Joota Hai Japani

Avoiding the Plague

Aaj Jyotsna Raate


Lively Up Yourself

Riding Like the Wind

Pre-dawn Adventures

Utha Utha Sakala Jana

Waste Not, Want Not

On Not Knowing the Signs

“Heuch, Heuch!” (and other family lingo)

The Silver Hairpin

What’s in a Name?

An Immigrant’s Reflections on Independence Day

The Mango Room

Across the Miles

The Taste of Home

Doing it Themselves


Slow Food from Way Back

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An Immigrant’s Alphabet, July 3rd, 2016

In Notes on July 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm
REUTERS/Neil Hall (from

REUTERS/Neil Hall (from

It’s the eve of July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, and around the world nationalism is rampant. In the U.S., presidential candidates give license to hate groups by calling for the construction of a wall at the southern border and a ban on immigration for certain groups of people. In Britain and throughout Europe, racism and xenophobia are threatening to become mainstream; the nativist “Brexit” vote on June 23rd, 2016 was a sign of the times. Meanwhile in India, not being a militant Hindu is fast becoming enough to make your national allegiance suspect.


There is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism, but nationalism is a dangerously double-edged sword, and jingoism is nothing but trouble. The anniversary of national Independence calls us to reflect upon these times, and how we may be personally, unthinkingly, contributing to the ugliness around us. Here are 27 TMA stories on my own journey as an immigrant and a child of immigrants, my multiple and shifting identities and allegiances, thoughts on borders and border crossings, reactions to racism, and reflections on nations, nationalism, and war. Why 27? Let’s see: how about one for each letter of the English alphabet and one for luck—we need it!

I leave you with two songs—both from the same album by The Grateful Dead— that together pretty much sum up my feelings on nations and nationalism. U.S. Blues is an ironic comment on flag-waving nationalism and Ship of Fools—well, that speaks for itself. George Orwell once said that Britain was like a family (and a dysfunctional one at that) “with the wrong members in control”; sadly, the same can be said for most of the nation-states in this uneven world.

Are You Black or White?

Balancing My Three Halves

Censorship at Bedtime

Common Sense

Cookbooks, Immigrants, and Improvisation


European Border Crossings

The Highlanders

The Hundred-Foot Journey After Charlie Hebdo

An Immigrant’s Reflections on Independence Day

It’s Only Temporary

Jai Jagat

Land Where Our Fathers Died

Lessons from a Historian

The Nation

No, It’s Not Political Correctness

On Not Knowing the Signs



Racist Bracist

The Silver Hairpin





What’s Wrong with “Oriental”?


The Yogi of Beals Street

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Reflecting on the April Challenge

In blogs and blogging, Notes, writing on May 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]I made my way through the month of April in a kind of blur, and somehow managed to complete my fourth annual A-to-Z Challenge. Because April was going to be a particularly  busy and difficult month for me, I knew that this time I needed to keep the entries brief and upbeat, without being Pollyannaish. I needed to remember the small, simple joys and pleasures of everyday life. The list wasn’t very well-planned or coherent. About  half of the entries were on subjects that I had come up with in advance, in a quick brainstorming session when I first decided on the theme, while the rest were thought of as I went along.

I wasn’t able to visit and comment on many other blogs regularly or consistently, and still haven’t got around to responding to the fellow-bloggers and other readers who generously posted comments. If I haven’t yet responded to one or more of your comments, I promise that I will do, eventually. As soon as I had pressed Publish on my entry for Z, my workaday life took me back over with a vengeance, and I’m still in its grip.

I wasn’t able to seek out and follow many new blogs, in large part because I didn’t have the time, and to a lesser degree because, I think, the Challenge has got so huge that it is tedious to scroll down the long list and find new, simpatico blogs and bloggers. As a result, many of the people who “Liked” my posts and left comments regularly were bloggers with whom I already keep up and correspond, some of whom I had met in previous years of the Challenge. These included Finding Eliza, Aotearoa Seasons, Modhukori, My Ordinary Moments, Wangiwriter’s Blog, Calmgrove, Nina Grandiose’s Blog, and galeriaredelius. But there were some new discoveries, blogs and bloggers whom I visited and who visited me in turn. These included (and forgive me if I leave out one or two inadvertently): To Wonder at Beauty, Chez Shea, PunarjanmamThe Life of Ordinary Me, Islam on my Mind, Enchanted Forests, The Widow Badass Blog, The Shameful Sheep, Weekends in Maine, The Incoherent Ramblings of a Moose, and Laughing Tree Space. It was a delight to receive a comment from Arlee Bird, the founder of the A-to-Z Challenge, who blogs at Tossing It Out. And as always, I treasure the visits and sustaining comments from friends and family: Hayat, Jaya, Sartaz, Lesley, Jude, Norah, Sarah, and Asghar.

Did the writing bring me joy? I think so, at least momentarily, for the time I was actually caught up in it. Did it bring you joy, or at least a smile to your face from time to time? Do let me know if there were particular posts that moved you.

Thanks to the hard-working organizers of this annual blogging binge, and here’s my A-Z list for 2016, hyperlinked for your convenience.

Bringing Me Joy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016

The Pursuit of Happiness



Chillies and China




The Guardian



Jai Jagat!


Lemons and Limes



the Outdoors

Pre-dawn Raga


Real Country


Thrift Stores




Xýpna / Ξύπνα

Young People


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Bringing Me Joy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016 Theme Reveal

In Notes on March 22, 2016 at 10:35 am

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

This will be my fourth year participating in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Unlike last time, when all my entries were focused on graphic design, letterpress printing, and typography, my 2016 theme will be much looser and more personally idiosyncratic: creatures and things great or small, concrete or abstract, cerebral or sentimental, animal, vegetable, or mineral, that bring me joy. Because April is a cruel month even without the daily Challenge, and this year it’s shaping up to be worse than ever, I will try to keep the entries short—always a challenge in itself for me, since I do tend to go on. So I’m in with some trepidation this year, and can only trust that, as it has in the past, the Challenge will increase the sum total of my joy. I hope that Tell Me Another will likewise bring a bit more spring into your step.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

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Taking a break: bear with me

In Notes on November 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Much as I love writing Tell Me Another, I’ve decided to take a break from it for a while. Many other tasks are pressing themselves forward ever more insistently, and writing a new story on my blog, being the most enjoyable, ends up being the default selection on my To Do list, trumping (oh no, terrible word choice, given the current array of U.S. Presidential candidates) more urgent items. If TMA weren’t an option, would I turn to these other items more readily? Perhaps I’ll let you know when I find out. Wish me luck!

Thank you, dear readers, for our virtual community. Our conversations have been very important to me these past nearly-six years. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season. Until we meet again, let the storytelling continue!  J

P.S. In case you’re a new reader, I thought I’d leave you with a selection of my current personal favorites:

Lively Up Yourself

Hidden Places

His Master’s Voice

My Grandmother

Grandpa Victor and the Story of the Tomatoes

From a Railway Carriage

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw

The Mango Room


Getting Out of Silver City

October Rains

Feasting or Fasting?

My Uncrowned Queens

Paharganj, January 1984


Slow: Salamander Crossing

Personal Space, Indian-Style

I once was lost (and wish I still were)

The Taste of Home

That Funny Accent

The Yogi of Beals Street

Get Me to the Church on Time

Just Empty your Mind

Watching the River Flow

In the Bleak Midwinter

Con Men, Card Sharks, and Playing a Different Game

Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

The Magic of Found Objects

The Iliad at Bedtime

¡Viva La Literatura!

Darn It!

No, It’s Not Political Incorrectness

Doing it Themselves

Correspondences and Convergence (“Chicks Can’t Dig!”)

Krishna’s Butterball

All the World’s a Stage

Against the Grain



Reflections on my third A-to-Z Challenge

In Notes on May 3, 2015 at 9:05 am
Click to read more reflections

Click to read more reflections

Well, I just managed to get all the way through to ‘Z’ in time, although I fell behind along the way and seemed to be scrambling to catch up all month. Thank goodness for Sundays, when there was time to write an extra post and visit other people’s blogs.

I’m afraid that I didn’t discover as many new blogs this year as I did in my first two years in the A-to-Z Challenge, mostly because I was perennially behind on my own posts. I did take the advice of the co-hosts and visit blogs near mine on the dauntingly long list. Otherwise I scrolled down, clicking on names that intrigued me or somehow struck a chord. Some of them didn’t seem to have A-to-Z posts on them and a few were clearly commercial. Perhaps more of these blogs could have been eliminated, along with those who never got past the first couple of letters of the alphabet. As the Challenge gets bigger, besides being stricter about eliminating inappropriate or non-participating blogs, it might be helpful to come up with a new system of organization that makes it easier to find like-minded blogs.

This is by no means a criticism of the organizers, who were more diligent than ever this year. Three times over the month, when I was flagging and becoming discouraged, I had a visit from a co-host cheering me on with a few words of appreciation. Thank you for your hard work—your visits certainly helped me get through to Z, as did those of a few supportive fellow-bloggers.

Although I discovered only a few new blogs, I’m happy to have found them. These were: modhukori, The View from the Top of the Ladder, Wanna Buy a Duck, Islam On My Mind, Jenn Lost in Chaos, and Kiwi with an orange flavour.

The blogs I visited and commented on the most regularly were ones I first discovered through my first or second A-to-Z Challenge and who participated again this year, Finding Eliza, Wangiwriter’s Blog, and aliceinbloggingland, all of which I follow year-round.

Then there were the visits from bloggers whom I met through the last Challenge but who didn’t participate in it this year: calmgrove, galeriaredelius, and undercovermole. I missed their participation but appreciated and enjoyed their “likes” and comments. I’m sorry that I didn’t always have time to write back to people who were kind enough to post a comment. I hope to get back to at least some of them belatedly, now that I have a bit more time.

Finally, thanks to TMA’s regular readers, who cheered me on through the alphabet and suggested topics for the letters that had me stumped. I’m glad I participated for a third year, and that the idea of A Printer’s Alphabet came to me, since it allowed me to write about things I love, not only letterpress printing and typography, books and independent publishers, but the inexhaustible subject of language itself.

Here’s a hyperlinked list of the whole month’s entries:

Back in the Challenge Again: A Printer’s Alphabet

304. Against the Grain (G)

305. Bed (G)

306. Composition

307. Deadline

308. Ems, Ens, and Endpapers

309. Folding, Flying, Bleeding, Pieing. . .

310. Godine

311. The Hogarth Press

312. Impression/Imposition (Kiss or Bite?)

313. Job Printers

314. Kern(ing)

315. Ligatures

316. Of Matrices, Magazines, and Melting Pots

317. The Nick

318. Out of Sorts

319. (Mind your) p’s and q’s

320. Quoin that Phrase

321. Recto

322. Stereotyping

323. Tympan and Times Roman

324. Upper Case (and lower case)

325. Verso

326. Whetstone Press

327. x-Height

328. Yellow Journalism

329. Zapf, Zubaan, Zinc-etching, Zzzzz . . .

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

Back in the Challenge Again: A Printer’s Alphabet

In Notes on March 31, 2015 at 9:34 pm

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0This is to let Tell Me Another’s regular readers know that, for the third year running, I’ve gone and signed up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, which involves writing a daily blog post throughout the month of April that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet in turn. It remains to be seen whether I’ll manage to finish, but I just couldn’t resist.

This time I’ve chosen the language of typography and printing, particularly letterpress printing, for my theme, which I shall follow loosely, and depart from when I feel like it. I’m no expert on the subject, but did work for a small publishing company in my teens and early twenties, and then shared in the running of an even smaller letterpress printing business for several years in my mid-to-late twenties. Ever since, I’ve appreciated typography, graphic design, and the feel of books printed on high-quality paper, and enjoyed using the specialized lingo of the trade. Although the experiences in this period of my life were formative ones for me, I’ve hardly mentioned them in Tell Me Another to date (with two exceptions, Gas-Station Shirts and Turning Towards the Light).

A whole new era—arguably, the modern era itself—began with the invention of movable type, so it is no wonder that hundreds of words, phrases, and idioms associated with printing have entered the language. Every day of the Challenge I’ll choose one or more of these to match the relevant letter of the alphabet. When time is short I may post just the term with a  definition, and on particularly hectic days an illustration may have to suffice. I dare bet that many book-loving readers will know more about printing and typography than I do, so your comments, additions, and anecdotes will be especially welcome.

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

For International Women’s Day

In Notes on March 8, 2015 at 11:36 am


Happy International Women’s Day! Here is a bouquet of a dozen stories from the TMA archives, honoring women in my life and beyond.

My Grandmother

St. Catherine’s and Miss Tutte

Sisters, Pick Up Your Sisters

My Uncrowned Queens

Correspondences and Convergence (“Chicks Can’t Dig!”)


Remembering Mrs. Metzger

Rest In Peace, Doris Lessing

A Chip Off the Old Block? If Only.

Welcome Home

Gauri Deshpande: A Distinctive Voice

London Without Lily

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