Sunday, August 30, 2015

Flutterfly- A Rakshabandhan Treat!

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan or Rakhi, an Indian festival celebrating the brother-sister bond and now that Abhay has a little sister... It was their first Rakhi too:-) Though his three month old sister was rather too young to even hold the Rakhi, let alone tie the same around his was more about making Abhay feel special now that he has been anointed to the status of the "big brother"! Well, there are not many occasions where you get to pamper the older sibling post the arrival of the "new small person" at home.. and so we didn't want to miss this one! From donning a new Kurta to having him choose his own Rakhi ...Abhay was basking in the limelight and even vowed to never take off the Rakhi ever... until it is replaced by a new one next year! Being a big brother certainly has it's perks and this year's Rakshabandhan was all about the indulging the brother than the sister!! Little does he realise that it is probably the other way around and will be so as the years progress as his sister is the only girl amongst the first cousins! :-)

So what was Abhay's Rakhi gift to his sister..if it's being mentioned on Onestoryaday, it has be a book! So making a debut on Onestoryaday, is a book for our little one ( whom we've not yet officially named) titled Flutterfly by Niveditha Subramaniam brought out by Tulika publications. She may be a little too young to fully enjoy the colours and contours of this word less picture book, but it's never too early to start....especially when the book is said to be for children starting 0+.... and as they say age is just a number! You may dismiss this as a blogger's gimmick... but my three month who has started to look around her surroundings with keen interest, responded quite well to the bright orange butterfly shown to be fluttering around in the book! A beautiful picture book with striking black and white pencil sketch like images juxtaposed with bright splashes of colour is sure draw the attention of young children. There's something flying around... It seems to go everywhere... Landing on dad's ear or mom's hairdo or on the family pet's nose or on the clothes hung to dry! As children are always fascinated by brightly coloured moving objects... whether it's the window blinds, or tree leaves gently swaying to the wind or the mobile on top of the cradle, all you need to do is just turn the pages of this gem of a book, and watch the those little eyes follow the 'Flutterfly' everywhere! So here's hoping that the Flutterfly takes our little one on a life-long ( hopefully!) journey with books!  :-)
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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Blue Umbrella!

Whichever part of India you reside in, ….chances are that’s it’s either raining or going to rain or just about stopped raining! Unlike the previous years, this year's monsoon has been uneven and  erratic with either too little rain in some parts or too much rain in others. While the monsoon does bring cheer to one and all and is portrayed in a rather romantic perspective in  most Indian nature writings, as a parent of young children and very young children (to which category I have been recently re-inducted) ... one can't ignore its practical implications. So whether it's the difficulty in navigating through maddening traffic on a rainy evening with young kids in tow, or re-adjusting their tennis or any sports classes upsetting an already packed  weekly schedule or being stuck indoors with hyper-active kids when you'd rather take them to a park or playground  or the rise in viral infections ( some with names you've never heard of!)  which in turn means that it's not just your little one who's taking off or the fact that clothes (read nappies!) don't seem to dry at all... the rains are just not fun anymore!:-) 

So when I stumbled upon a friend's Facebook homepage that read "Rain, Tea and a Good book" (Courtesy Reading Corner) ... I couldn't help feeling jealous! That said, there's nothing stopping you from recreating the monsoon magic vicariously.. Right? What better way to do it than pick up a story by an iconic writer whose writings on nature have enthralled children and adults alike. When it comes to writing about the hills, the trees, the rains, no one does it better than Bond! Out of his many stories, we picked out “The Blue Umbrella”, one of his most popular children’s stories in recent times that has also been made into a feature film. “The Blue Umbrella” is available as an individual novel with illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan and is also published along with his other stories in “Ruskin Bond’s Children’s Omnibus” brought out by Rupa publications. 

Revolving around a young girl named Binya and her family comprising of her mother and her brother Bijju, the story makes for an excellent armchair travelogue of the Gharwal region located at the foothills of the Himalayas transporting the reader to its lush green splendor. While taking her cows for grazing, she chances upon her a beautiful blue umbrella that has her spellbound! As she moves closer to get a good look at the umbrella, she is spotted by a group of tourists apparently to whom the umbrella belongs. Just then a woman in the group seems fascinated by Binya’s  lucky leopard claw pendant and offers anything in exchange for the pendant. No prizes for guessing what Binya asks for in return! Having bartered her pendant for the blue umbrella, Binya cant stop parading it around the entire village to everyone’s envy, including the greedy shopkeeper Ram Bharosa! Ram Bharosa is notorious for picking on poor hapless children and forcing them into parting with their prized possession under the pretext of offering sweets on credit. Ram Bharosa cant take his eyes off Binya’s umbrella and finds it unfair that a poor girl like Binya should have such a beautiful and dainty looking umbrella! So he hatches a plan to acquire it but pays a heavy price for his greed! Though all of his own making, Binya feels sorry for Ram Bharosa’s misery and she does something selfless  that not only brings in a change of heart in Ram Bharosa but also rewards them in unexpected ways! Read on as story unfolds into a beautiful tale of childhood fascination, greed, empathy and redemption!

The Blue Umbrella” has now adapted into an Amar Chitra Katha format along with another one of his stories “Angry River”. Though it makes a great read for younger kids, nothing can compare to Ruskin Bond’s brilliant narrative in the novel, detailing every nuance of Binya’s fetish, Ram Bharosa’s envy, subtly hinting at the simple and contented life of villagers and vividly describing the rain in the mountains!  So much so that even Abhay couldn’t agree more…and after a long time, we've rediscovered the joy of reading together like never before...all thanks to Ruskin Bond's  "The Blue Umbrella" ! :-) 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Girls to the Rescue!

A part of this post was first published on Parent Edge blog. 

I have always wanted a daughter and have always been envious of my friends who’d dress up their little girls and show off their pictures! Of course I could have done the same but dressing up a boy is never the same as dressing a girl! I have made known my wish even on Onestoryaday every time I’ve come across a book especially for girls. So much so that the other day, my son observed that my dream seemed to have come true with the arrival of my second child – a little girl. When I quizzed him as to what dream was he talking about …..pat came his rather sarcastic remark  “Wasn’t it your dream to have a daughter ?” (Serves me right for coming out clean with him as to my preference the first time around!) Anyway, now that I have a daughter….I find myself confronting various issues that never seemed to bother me with my son! Of course…as of now….it’s more of minor issues like  “When is the right time to pierce her ears” or “What kind of accessories to pick up or are available to go with her frock?”, or  “OMG…I’ll have to ensure towards maintenance of her hair as well when managing my hair itself is such a chore”! But this made me realize that as she grows up, I am bound to encounter or worry about many such things that I wasn’t even concerned about when it came to my son…..and this indeed made me nervous! Well…raising a girl is a different ball game …isn’t it??

Anyway, whether I expect the road ahead to be easy or difficult or just plain different from the earlier one, I guess I will always have books to come my rescue! So when Tulika came up with “Girls to the rescue” by Sowmya Rajendran and illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan . I had to pick it up. When it comes to reading to your girls…have you ever wondered  why are we still stuck with the age old fairy tales with princesses being boring and one-dimensional characters whose only role is to wait to be rescued by their Prince Charming? Given a choice, most moms would want to skip reading the fairy tales like “Sleeping beauty” or “Rapunzel”  as they perpetuate the primitive mindset wherein the ultimate destination for any girl is to find her Prince Charming!

So if you are such a parent, this is a book that offers a refreshing take on six fairy tale princesses …..who receive an “empowerment makeover”! J  Though the reading level is most suited for children aged 10 and above, the book presents excellent read aloud stories for younger children.  I will probably have to wait for over five years for me to read this to my daughter ….but who says you can’t have your boys read them too! Of course Abhay is so much a boy’s boy that he had no idea about the original princess stories. So we first read the age old fairy tales and then I had him read Tulika’s upgraded version!  I must say…he found the latter much more interesting!

The princesses in this book have a mind of their own, think for themselves and not only dare to dream big but also make their own destiny without waiting for someone else to step in. With the touch of realism, a pinch of quirkiness, a dash of satire and topped with humour, these stories make for a fresh and healthy palate as opposed to the stale diet of Disney princess stories. While the basic plot of each of the fairy tales remains the same, the difference lies in the narrative, factual and situational details and of course the ending which is way better than “happily-ever-after’! Who wouldn’t want to read about what happens to “Rapunzel” who imitates her astronaut mother and dares her barber-father into going against the “tradition” or find out about who the real wolf is,  in the complex and layered “Red Riding Hood” or further learn about the princess who willingly becomes a “Sleeping beauty” or get inspired by no-longer-kitchen bound “Cinderella” who takes charge of her own life and gets her sisters to ‘share’  the house work or laugh along with the rebellious princess when the frog meets its destiny after being kissed by her or empathise with “Snow White” whose mother worries that she may not find a suitable groom due to her (hold your breadth) her extra-ordinary fairness! all of them meet their respective Prince Charming….yes ..but don’t expect wedding bells …but simply enjoy the moment! So enjoy reading "Girls to the Rescue" with your little girls! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hanuman's Ramayana!

July seems to be the month of children's theatre in Bangalore! If we began the month with the play "Gumma Banda Gumma " followed by the week-long Aha! Children's theatre festival at Ranga Shankara .....this weekend saw the riveting performance of Tulika's "Hanuman ki Ramayan" in Swaang-Nautanki style by Gillo theatre repertory at four different locations in Bangalore. 

With our eight year old already having watched more plays this month than we adults watch in a year, we were  warned by our folks at home that an overdose of theatre might just be a little too much for him! That said, however, we couldn't miss this troupe whose musical rendition of Asha Nehamaiah's book "Granny's Sari" we so enjoyed a couple of years ago ( God..time flies!).  So Abhay went along with his daddy to watch the play at Suchitra film society at South Bangalore. The play was performed in the North Indian folk art form - Nautanki, where the story is performed through an eclectic mix of folk songs, dance and dialogues followed by an interactive session with the audience post the performance. Gillo demonstrated how a simple story can be transformed into an electrifying stage act with minimal props, purely on the strength of their performance , with each and every actor contributing in equal measure.  Though set as a period drama, certain contemporary themes were also blended into the narrative making it even more entertaining! For instance, it was hilarious to watch Narada, touted as mythogy's most misunderstood character, comparing himself to today's "media-wale"! :-) So whether you love the story, or the Nautanki dance drama style.... Gillo's rendition of Hanuman's Ramayan is a must watch! 

As a follow-up to the play, we read the book on which yesterday's performance is based... "Hanuman's Ramayan " by Devdutt Pattanaik and pictures by Nancy Raj. We all know about Valmiki's Ramayan but as the story goes... there appears to be another Ramayan supposedly a better one, according to Narada. Don't believe it.. Neither does Valmiki when Narada discloses the author's name to be Hanuman... the monkey.... a mere character in Valmiki's Ramayan. As Valmiki sets off to the foothills of Himalayas hoping to take a peek at the so called "better Ramayan" , he comes across an orchard full of banana trees with it's leaves scrawled on by what looked like fingernail marks. Upon close observation, the marks turned out to be " letters...words ....sentences" .... and it didn't take long for Valmiki to realise that he was indeed reading "Hanuman's Ramayan"! As Valmiki voraciously takes in the seven banana leaves containing the Ramayan...without missing a single word... he is so overcome with emotion that it falls upon only Lord's Ram's greatest devotee to save the day! Read on as this story only highlights how the mythological classic "Ramayan " lends itself to many different versions and mini-tales that is vibrantly brought out by the folk style illustrations. This is as much a story about Valmiki swallowing his pride as it is a tribute to Hanuman's devotion to Lord Rama. Indeed....a great way of getting our younger generation interested in mythology! Kudos to Gillo's talented performers for choosing stories from Indian children's publications and bringing them alive on stage! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gumma Banda gumma - Guest post by Rajaram

Over the last weekend, Abhay and I went for a play at Rangashankara and were so taken in by the play that we couldn't stop talking about it! So Divya asked me to pen down a few thoughts about the play leading up to this guest post on Onestoryaday....

What are children afraid of? They are afraid of nothing and yet are afraid of a lot of things. Is this a paradox? No.. …if we rephrase and replace “afraid” with “bother” it would probably be clearer.  Almost nothing that bothers the grown-ups bother children. But there are so many things in their little brains and their little-large world that bother them. The beautiful part  is that  none of those botherations last long.  In their world, there are friendships, fights, truce, bartering of little possessions, enemies, friends - all going through a constant change which many a times  is hard to understand for grown-ups. Why? because we are no longer children we used to be! 

The reason for my musings is a play that I watched with my son last weekend in Ranga Shankara, "Gumma Banda Gumma" written by  Surendranath and directed by  Sundar, who had acted as a child in the first production of the play 22 years ago! This history was proudly shared to us by the director of Rangashankara, Arundhati Nag. The play revolves around Putta and Munni who are siblings and Gunda, the neighborhood rough kid. These protagonists are ably supported by Putta and Munni's mother and Gunda's short tempered father who believes that beating up the boy will set everything right. The play beautifully portrays the relentless banter,  mischief and never ending questions of Putta and Munni that drives their mother up the wall, the fears of Putta about an invisible Ghost (Gumma) in the night, their conflict with the rough kid Gunda and a natural graduation of their conflict into friendship. The siblings quarrel throughout but they are always one when the mother 
confronts them. Another aspect of childhood being dealt with is that the  value of any object in a child's eye is never the same as the supposed value in the real world!  For instance, Putta trades his bicycle with Gunda for a toy gun which he is most eager to play, but for his mom’s disapproval. This leads to a conundrum that drives the play to it's climax, drags both the parents and finally unites the kids. But in all the commotion, the children still don't see bicycle as being more valuable than a toy gun!

This is one of the few plays I was so engrossed in watching and it took me back to my childhood and reminded me of similar such conflicts I used to have with my sister. It's a must watch for all children and people who want to get nostalgic about childhood and innocence. 

Going by the tradition at Onestoryaday, there's always a book for every occasion..  and Divya picked out a book for us to read together... "The Tunnel" by one of our favourite authors,  Anthony Browne. This is an intriguing story about Jack and Rose, a brother-sister duo who were anything but alike each other. Jack loved outdoors, played football with his friends and Rose loved indoors and spent time reading and dreaming. When they were together….. they were constantly arguing and fighting, much to their mother's annoyance. Tired of their acrimonious fights, one day, she sends them out with a warning that they better be nice to each other and be back in time for lunch. So Jack and Rose wander about .. .scowling and snapping at each other until they come across what looks like a tunnel. Jack who loves exploring outdoors crawls into the tunnel while Rose waits anxiously outside. After waiting for what seems like long time, Rose reluctantly decides to follow her brother. Scared and nervous, Rose enters the dark and damp tunnel to find herself in a forest at the other end. As she walks through the deep woods, all the while thinking of wolves and demons. Beyond the forest, she sees a stone statue she recognises .... of her brother! Distraught that it's probably too late... she puts her arms around the statue and slowly her brother comes back to life! They then trace their way back home and their mother noticing their unusual silence asks them if everything's alright when the siblings give each other a knowing smile! So much is said yet so much is left to imagination….that’s Anthony Browne for you! The tunnel encounter proves that no matter how different you are or how many times you fight with your sibling, the bond you share with your sibling is special and in a way irreplaceable! As Abhay watched the play, he wondered aloud if his baby sister would grow up to be like Munni in the play! Well... may be, may not be......welcome to the life with siblings is ... trust it to be much more adventurous! J