Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ganesha's sweet tooth!

Every year during this time, we head to my native town, Dharmasthala  where we join our extended family from my dad’s side in the celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi at the family ancestral home. This has been our family tradition ever since I can remember and so it was only natural that I continued the same post marriage and now have Abhay and in the future have our little one tag along with us! Barring the three years that we were in the US, we’ve been regulars at this annual family event and given our busy lifestyles, this is often the only time we get to meet our relatives and extended family. So much so that this is something Abhay has come to look forward to every year wherein he does not remain a mute spectator to the festivities but whole-heartedly participates in some of events surrounding the celebrations like the pooja and the bhajan session that goes on till the twilight hours followed by the visarjana next morning.  It feels nostalgic to see Abhay get into a competition mode with his cousins in the singing of bhajans, taking time off to rehearse the same in advance before the ‘final show’! Can’t blame him as I guess it sort of runs in the family as I used to exhibit the same spirit during my growing up years and I see the same vying attitude still displayed by my father and his hexagenarian brothers! :-)

Though it is more than a week since the festival, Ganesh Chaturthi festivities extend a whole ten days in many parts of the country with many neighbourhoods hosting their own Ganesha events around many cities, including Bangalore..…so the celebration of “Ganesha” is far from over. So my post on Ganesha Chaturthi (a must post occasion on Onestoryaday) can hardly be deemed out of place..isn’t it?? Anyway….there’s never a wrong time for good books and for this occasion, we read “ Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth” by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes and illustrated by Sanjay Patel, an Indian American animator with Disney’s Pixar who has authored many books on the Hindu Mythology for western audience, whose retelling of Ramayana we’ve read before. Often deemed as a  hipster’s guide to Hindusim, Sanjay Patel’s books present the mythological tales in an entertaining narrative packed with tongue-in cheek humour and quirky dialogues mirroring the recent Disney flicks that we’ve come to enjoy. Aided with vibrant illustrations, the authors take the creative liberty of adding a few fun elements and amusing scenes, while retaining the overall essence of the legend. We all know the story of how Lord Ganesha broke his tusk that eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise for the great Vyasa to put down his story of Mahabharata in writing.  But did you know it was the “Super-Jumbo Jaw Breaker Laddoo” that was responsible for him landing with a broken tusk, despite being warned by his best friend, whom he fondly called Mr. Mouse? Or as Ganesha hurls his tusk at the moon in frustration, it lands on an old man who happened to be the great poet Vyasa looking for a scribe to pen Hindu Mythology’s most famous epic. With a little goading, Ganesha no longer resents his broken tusk as he realizes it’s true worth and with the able assistance of Mr. Mouse who helps Ganesha understand the “terms of agreement”, Ganesha sets out to do the formidable task….and the rest is history! We loved the authors’ contemporary presentation of an age old tale in a manner that the children are able to relate to. Of course, the graphic illustrations are the book’s piece de resistance, that are not only striking in colours and imagery but truly represent India’s rich and vibrant mythological heritage which sets this book apart from any other mythological series we’ve read before. So along with all the goodies and festive treats to satisfy your sweet tooth…bring home Ganesha’s too!! Enjoy the festive season everyone…!!:-) 
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Friday, September 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Big Brother!

I can't believe it's been nine years since we were first gifted the joy of parenthood! Yes.. It's my older one, Abhay's birthday today and ever since my dejavu experience with the birth of my little one recently, not a day goes by that I don't think of Abhay's "just born" moments. My little one being a miniature Abhay in every way, is a constant reminder  of how fleeting time is ... Nine years ago .. It was Abhay in her place who now finds himself  elevated to the position of big brother.. willy-nilly!:-) As they grow not only shed their baby fat but also their baby antics and innocence that no longer make them amenable to all the molly-coddling they had enjoyed so far. While Abhay receives a fair share of pampering from everyone at home....there are times when he feels envious when we gush over the little one's toothless grin or fuss over her baby-talk. Though he understands as much as a nine year old can, he has turned a little more sensitive, noticing every nuance of our demeanour towards him. It may be an innocent remark on his tardiness or a routine disciplinary measure... But the same now acquires a whole new dimension with the little one around. So what probably plays out in his mind is "Amma is all smiles at the baby but is always stern with me... Is this how it's going to be?" I must admit that my being away at my mom's for the last three and half months hasn't helped a bit on this front, with his weekend visits and telephone interactions turning into instruction sessions rather than free flowing conversation with Abhay (and his daddy!) Well... Parenting is  a continuous learning experience .... And I have a lot to learn in the balancing act of parenting two kids! So as my not-so-little one (anymore!) turns nine today... here's an assurance from everyone ... No matter will always be our hero! :-)

Though Abhay was no toddler before and was nearing nine, he was always our little one! But post the arrival of our second child, he suddenly seems so grown up and big! So much so... It seems as if he even may squirm at being called a kid very soon!:-) While today's Abhay's first birthday as a big brother, it is also his  first birthday without his mom at home as I am in my native town with my little one, while Abhay is with the daddy at Bangalore. So we had the daddy read "It's hard being a kid" by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos and illustrations by Marta Fabrega, though it would have been ideal if we could lay our hands on something like "It's hard being an older kid"..(May be Abhay can write it..:-)) This almost feel like a dairy jottings of a girl named Tatiana where she reflects on what it means to be a kid. Well, sometimes it's not easy being a kid... With there being so many things they are expected to do, even when they don't feel like it... Be it school, homework, clean up their rooms or brush their teeth! Tatiana feels that the kids have it tough as there are rules that follow them wherever they go... Be it at home or at school! No matter where they go... They are being watched.. at class or library or even the playground where the neighbours keep an eye on them lest they break anything! In Tatiana's opinion, the grown ups have it easy as they can do whatever they want ( if only that were true) like not eat at dinner table or being able to stay up late and are not exactly bound by rules ( Well..... Not the same rules!) and she can't wait to be a grown up! But as she ponders on, Tatiana realises that being a kid sure has its advantages... Like it's okay to be silly and how there's always a grown up to take care when something goes wrong. Finally she concludes that being a kid isn't that hard as she first thought....... And going to school and following a bunch of rules isn't that awful after all! While being little simplistic in its narrative, the illustrations are hilarious and the book has each page carry a question for the readers to think and mull over and ends with fun role-reversal  activities for kids and an advisory note to us parents attempting to impress upon the child's perspective. A great read to set the whining children into thinking about how carefree and uninhibited their lives are ... Something you probably realise after you are a grown-up!  Conveying the universal message in Tatiana's words "Instead of worrying about how hard it is to be a should just be kids and have fun"! So Abhay.... Just enjoy being a kid .... as it will be over before you know it.... Happy Birthday, my first born!! 

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!  :-)

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!