Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Holiday Adventure..!

September has always been an eventful month for us........but this September has been so busy that we're still trying to catch our breaths from having survived one of the most hectic months of the much so that its only in the third week of October that I have finally found time to put down a post on Onesatoraday!  
One big family wedding, one big birthday, two huge annual family religious events punctuated by my in-between-nannies phase (yet again!) along with our usual attendant responsibilities on the personal and professional front, proved to be a true test of my patience and I can't say that I came out with flying colours!
In fact, I even missed out posting on a must-post-day... my son's birthday that too I'm not sure if that's the way it will be, going forward, considering his transition into adolescence already turning tumultuous particularly with regard to our relationship, off late! If you thought early parenting was difficult, wait till your little one nears teen's as they say full-blown "complicated"! Mind's a confusing phase not only for your wannabe adolescent ..! While one moment you marvel at how grown up or mature he may seem in comprehending the ways of the world, the next moment he can rile you up with his lackadaisical attitude! Whether it's the increasing academic pressure requiring persistent 'follow up', or constant obsession with devices, or their jaded sense of entitlement towards everything in general, adolescent kids can literally drive you nuts..... and it always seems like you are the only one facing these challenges while your contemporaries have it a lot easier!
Anyway, I'm sure Abhay's and my love-hate relationship will continue through his teen years and if not anything else, it will probably yield many such posts on Onestoryaday!   While we marked the completion of his twelfth year, by acknowledging the fact that there are more than a dozen reasons to celebrate, it is also a matter of fact that there may be more than a dozen ways to handle this delicate phase of his life...........but patience is the key......and I'm hoping to work on my patience quotient ....with of course more than a dozen suggestions offered by my loving family! :-) Though it's a little too late to wish you happy birthday Abhay, here's wishing you a conflict-free, initiative-driven and  a contented thirteenth year ahead!  Let's hope your thirteen proves to be lucky for all of us!

Anyway, with Abhay's increasing irritation and my waning patience at home, it was a welcome break (for both of us!) that he chose to spend his Dassera vacations with his grandparents', resulting in the shifting of battleground from home to his grandparents' farm house "Shristi" at Dharmasthala :-) Hehe!....... Grandparents were also parents once....... (and still are!) .....right? :-)
So before he left for his grandparents', we managed to finally finish reading Shashi Deshpande's children's omnibus,  "Three Novels" a Penguin publication, which is a compilation of three of Shashi Deshpande's novels for children aged 8 and above. Incidentally, all three novels revolve around holiday adventures of kids, that too away from their parents. First published in the 1970s, from one of my all time favourite authors, each of these stories is a throwback to the times when life was simple and less equaled more. Reminiscent of   "The Famous Five" and "The Secret Seven" mystery series that we would devour voraciously back in our school days, Shashi Deshpande follows four cousins, viz. Dinu, Minu, Polly and  Ravi in their quest for something exciting during their school holidays leading to uncovering certain mysterious incidents in the big bad adult world. 

"A Summer Adventure", has the kids home alone with their maid in the seemingly quiet environs of their university quarters, recently turned unsafe owing to a string of robberies.  with a string of robberies which they try to solve. "The Hidden treasure" has the kids travel to their father's ancestral home in the village to experience the rustic rural set up, only to discover something valuable hidden from the past. "The Only Witness"  has the kids enamored with big city life in Mumbai as they  travel to their uncle's flat when they stumble upon an unusual connection to a spate of bank robberies. Having been a huge fan of the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series, The Famous Five, etc, I found the plots take a predictable turn, however the best part being the inter-play of various characters in the stories, encompassing  various elements like family ties, sibling rivalry, good humoured banter between the older and younger siblings, fostering leadership and responsibility, understanding consequences of one action and of course the thrilling experience of piecing together information to unearth the mystery all  a wholesome read for everyone...... who wish time travel to the eighties/ nineties India.....when life seemed less complicated!! So Abhay....have your own little adventure ....away from your mad momma and come back home all refreshed! Enjoy! 

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

So much!

Extended family celebrations are something young children always look forward to. I guess it’s only as they grow up that they prefer staying away from them! Since both my kids haven’t reached that I want-to-be -left -alone phase as yet (thank God!) and more so, having been blessed with large extended families on both sides... social interaction with relatives has never been a problem with them (at least so far!) 

While our older one has always been comfortable interacting with his first and second cousins, cousins’ cousins, uncles and aunts, grand uncles and grand aunts, grandparents’ siblings, and grandparents’ cousins, (Phew!) ... at religious or social family gatherings or during their visits home,  (though he may not remember exactly how they may be related to us!), it was a pleasant surprise to see our little one  taking in to her extended family circle with ease and even basking in the extra attention she gets for being one of the youngest in the group.

So it was only natural that one of Aadya's all time favourite books has been  "So Much" by Trish Cooke and illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. A chance find at our  erstwhile favourite hang-out, Kutoohala, I have been waiting for the right occasion to feature this book on Onestoryaday! While we had borrowed and returned this book a multiple times at the library, under the trusted assumption that I could always borrow it again and never once did I imagine that there would be a time when this book would become altogether unavailable on account of closure of the library!  I will never forget that day in March at the library's closure sale when I tried to scourge all the sections of the library looking for this book and finally had to leave with a heavy heart, not only as I couldn't find the book but also because, I could never ever go back to Kutoohala which was more than just a library to me, it was my weekly relaxation therapy, a quiet retreat for me to escape into and a haven for books to pick as I'd imagine my toddler would enjoy! So this book "So much" (which I finally bought online) will always be special as it's a throwback to those good old days when I could stop over on the way back from work, to my little happy place of wonderful children's books!

Steering away from my ramblings, I must say that many of our reading sessions  culminate in a grand finale which almost always happens to be the reading of "So much", a book that is also a shout out to diversity and multi-culturalism. Set in a Caribbean Household with a big extended family full of loud and vivacious relatives,  "So much" is centered around a baby who is the apple of everyone's eye, just like all young kids at home. The day happens to be a special occasion as the mom and baby welcome the relatives who arrive one after another, with the doorbell going "DING DONG" announcing the arrival of all the relatives from aunty Biba, uncle Didi, nanny and gran-gran, to cousin Kay-Kay and big cousin Ross, who arrive in their characteristic styles and all of whom want to engage and pamper the baby in their own way- from wanting to squeeze the baby, to kiss the baby, to eat the baby (figuratively of course), and wrestle the baby as they love him "so much"! As the house gets a little too crowded for comfort with all the noisy relatives driving their own agenda, the final ding-dong sounds off....a moment they have all been waiting for ..... to surprise the baby's daddy on his birthday. This book is a joy to read to your little one .............vivid illustrations, this book also  offers plenty of fun read-aloud moments from guess-work to repetitive phrases for your little one to follow through and not to forget mirroring the cuddles and kisses on to your little one whom you love so much! Well....we couldn't have asked for a better book as it also happens to be the Daddy's birthday today.....which we celebrated with our extended family.............. so Happy birthday to our little one's  daddy! ­:-)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Aha! with Aadya!

July has always symbolized the Aha! International Theatre festival for children and it's almost a tradition of sorts for us to catch more than a play or two at Rangashankara! So much so that every time we are in the vicinity of one of our favourite places in J P Nagar, Abhay is always enquiring as when can he walk into the theatre and hear the "Ahahahaha Ahahahaha Ahahahaha song" play ( which is normally played as an interlude just before a feature performance at the festival). So, however busy we may be or howsoever hectic things get or how many ever homework/test assignments Abhay may have .... Aha! is not be missed!!

While Abhay has been a regular at Rangashankara, I was waiting for my little one  to grow up a bit to experience the Aha! magic and was highly disappointed (and had mentioned so) that last year's Aha! festival did not feature any plays for toddlers (as it did the year before when my little one was only just born). So imagine my delight when I discovered this year's edition Aha! international festival of theatre for children to be an exclusive theatre fest for toddlers!

Well, though I'd like believe that my note of disappointment on last year's post on Aha! festival (and as such it was an but an echo of the long standing demand for more quality programs for very young children),  had anything to do it, this year's Aha! festival is a creative product  of a Theatre workshop for very young children at Katkatha, New Delhi conducted by Barbara Kolling in December 2017.

So this year we skipped our naps and packed our baby bag (we still carry those around!) and off we went to "Rangshankra" ( as my little one puts it). As if mommy's enthusiasm was not enough, her school too jumped into the theatre band wagon all the way to Aha! festival as they gathered all their noisy toddlers into one of the featured plays. 

All the plays sought to introduce the little ones into subtle .shades, shapes, sounds, colours and joys of life as they see it..... just as Arundhathi' Nag put it and to rephrase  Children don't need rapid movements or loud and exaggerated sounds.....a quiet soft movement or subtly nuanced presentation is enough to make them sit up and notice. It may be a spider shaped woolen thread hanging from the clothing line in 'Ool" or the exploring how seemingly mundane objects from everyday life and transform into something striking in "Paper Fantasy" or varied colours created out of an assortment of plastic and refraction of light in "Plasticity"  or an endearing hide and seek play between two characters squeaking "Pattichae" (caught you!) in "Chidiya Udd"..... children did seem fascinated! I'm not sure how much of what they see actually sinks in or how much of what is put up is comprehended.....but the shared experience of watching some of best toddlers' theater live and laughing with your little one sitting on your lap is sure to be one of your most memorable moments in the fleeting early years of his or her childhood! As I see my little one waking up from her usual nap and saying "Rangshnkarage hoguva? (Shall we go to Rangashankara?)... I know that she is asking for more and more of such marvels!

While many of our Rangashankara or Aha! moments have made their way into Onestoryaday, all of them have been related to Abhay. This one is special as it's my little one's first Rangashankara experience and that's why I had to put it down even though it's been more than two weeks since the Toddler Theatre festival!  Anyway, the only person disappointed this year with the Toddlers' theatre festival was the eleven year old older brother!:-(

So on the occasion my little one's initiation to theatre at Rangashankara, we re-read one of her favourite board books introducing various sounds  a child might encounter in his or her surroundings....."Cheep Cheep", a Tulika offering for the very young, with pictures by Sowmya Menon. What are the sounds that your little one is fascinated by? Is the sound of "Koo-koo" of Koel or the "cheep cheep" of the sparrow or the "teep-teep-teep" of the water dripping, or cat going surr surr while drinking milk, or the neighbors singing "Sa Re Ga Ma"? ( or the older brother in our case) .........sounds are everywhere, from natural to man made and to machine made.  Inspired from a Marathi rhyme, this book is vivid yet simple and aided with suitable illustrations, and is almost like a cue for taking the concept forward in guessing other sounds subtle and loud, with your little one, from 'tick-tick-tick of the wall clock, "whistle" of the pressure cooker  or man seller greens shouting "soppu" on the road .... the of world of sounds never fails to fascinate our little ones!  Here's to more such lovely outings with your toddler!!! 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Abhay's Upanayana

Even since I began my blogging journey in 2010, "Onestoryaday: Reliving childhood" has been an integral part of my life. What began as my little DIY project on the wonderful books I read to my then four year old, grew into a creative outlet for me to escape into, a sounding board for my parental musings, and unknowingly became a treasure trove of Abhay's childhood memories! So it's only natural for Onestorayday to be a part of many of Abhay's milestones in his growing-up  years and was thus became one of the highlights during his Upanayana-Brahmopadesha ceremony that we performed a couple of weeks ago.  

Abhay's upanayana would most certainly rank as a major milestone for him as well as for us, as his parents and in many ways symbolizes his transition from childhood to early youth or "Brahmacharya" phase, as its traditionally known. Also known as the "Indian Bat Mitzwa" Upanayana celebrates the coming of age for a young boy from the cosseted company of his parents into a path of strict discipline and learning.

While it may be easy to question the relevance and practicality of certain Hindu samskaras like Upanayana, in today's age and times, there is no denying the fact that these cultural elements are what makes us unique and as practicing Hindus, it is incumbent on us to understand and derive their true essence and find ways and means to adapt the same into present circumstances. 

Performing Sandhya-vandana twice a day is a spiritual activity that allows the Bramhmachari to have his own "one-on-one" with the Almighty, a time to calm and ease the restless mind into focusing all his senses into chanting for the well-being of nature, one's mind, body and soul. Needless to say, for today's high pressured, distracted and device-obsessed young minds,  a spiritual activity like Sandhyavandana  may be their only solace!

While marking the momentous role of the father in passing the knowledge of Brahmopadesha to his young son, the Upanayana ceremony also incorporates many small and beautiful rituals that allows the mother to reflect on how her little one is not so little anymore and is ready to embark on the path of learning and take on the world!   I thoroughly enjoyed planning, organizing (along with the rest of the family) hosting and participating  in Abhay's Upanayana ceremony. So much so that I wish I could do the same for my daughter!! :-)  

Well, no event of ours is complete without return gifts, and no prizes for guessing  the return gifts for children  - books of course! We picked out Pratham publications for all children between the age groups  one to fourteen and as always I was the most excited one distributing books to the kids!   

Another event planned around Abhay's Brahmopadesham Upanayana ceremony was the release of a small compilation of some of my select blogposts on "Onestoryaday" through a book titled "Onestoryaday Reliving childhood". Since most of my blogposts revolve around my reading adventures with Abhay and Abhay's  growing up quirks, we hit upon an idea that there could not be better place or time than Abhay's Upanayana ceremony, to bring about a small compendium of some of our memorable reading experiences! Of course, an idea can remain just an idea if not for the people behind its execution.   I thank my husband, my kindred spirit, in as much as it's his blog as its mine, who managed to find time amidst his overloaded work schedule to structure a 600-post-blog into a readable book format. My good friend Deepa Balakrishnan, who promptly and generously agreed to write a beautiful foreword that captures the very sentiment behind the blog Onestoryaday. My parents, my biggest cheerleaders, for their constant support, encouragement and whole-hearted involvement  in sponsoring the publication of the book "Onestoryaday Reliving childhood".  Manjushri Printers, Ujjire, for their professional work and service in printing the books in no time. Last but not the least, my faithful readers who take the trouble of clicking on the link or regularly look up and like my posts and leave comments/words of encouragement...would not have come this far ...without you all !! Thank you!

Anyway, seeing Abhay wear the Janivara or the sacred thread, don the traditional attire, applying the traditional Bhasma or holy ash, chant the Gayathri Mantra and perform Sandhyavandana, I can't help but notice that our little boy is all grown up! On this occasion, I found  a book that offers an everyday perspective on Hinduism. "A little book for The Hindu Child" by Dr. Shyamala Vatsa seeks to simplify Hindu concepts to a level that children can comprehend. As we began reading the book, it is interesting to note that the author traverses through Hindu religious philosophy via certain basic questions on religion (Why do you need religion?), Hindusim (What is Hindusim?) God ( What is your relationship with God?) mind (What are our minds made up o?), soul (what is soul?), goal (How can you reach your goal?) and destination in life ( How do you decide what is right and what is not?), etc and attempts to relate the same to the present context in an age appropriate manner.  The book is a work in progress for us, as we've decided to go one chapter a day so as to dwell,  soak in and mull on each chapter a day so as to understand what it means to be a Hindu. So all the best to Abhay on his path to taking up Sandhyavandana and the Smartha tradition.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Simply Bhutan!!!

Smile ...Stay are in the kingdom of happiness” was a sign that welcomed us as we alighted from  Druk Air chartered by Makemytrip flying directly from Bengaluru to Paro, Bhutan. The land locked mountainous terrain of Bhutan, with its breathtakingly beautiful wide open valleys, fickle weather, pristinely perennial streams flowing down the Alpine slopes alongside the highways leading up to the myriad Buddhist monasteries at every round and bend, inhabited by the simple, spiritual and ever smiling Bhutanese people... is nothing short of a heavenly retreat for the leisurely, mountain loving, Ruskin Bond aficionados like my family!!! 

Bhutan with its picturesque Dzongs, vibrant arts and culture, and its unconventional approach towards sustainability and development presents a unique and interesting travel experience!! One can’t compare Bhutan to any other  commercially popular tourist destination, especially with its high value and low impact policy on tourism. Bhutan is only for the discerning tourist who loves to soak in the local culture, take in the Buddhist spirituality, enjoy the altitude changing landscape, and mingle with smiling and soft spoken, national dress attired local population, and take a cue from the small yet orderly no-traffic-signal establishment!

As we began the tour from Paro to Thimphu and then from Punakha back to Paro , what struck us is the unified effort of the Bhutanese in implementing and internalizing the national policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) encapsulating good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture and environmental conservation as four pillars of GNH. Whether it is their Vajrayana school of Buddhist ideology symbolizing the union of wisdom and compassion, or their love and respect for their  king seen in the umpteen posters and slogans in praise of the People's king along with his family, or strictly adhering to their national dress of Kira for women  and Gho for men, or following the Bhutanese architectural style in each and every structure that comes up or the friendly tour guide and driver who was more than willing to open up on life and times in Bhutan.......... we came back thoroughly enchanted with the land of Druk!!

As we made several stop-overs for shopping at the Crafts Bazaar in Thimpu, local handicrafts vendors at the Tiger nest base, or the quaint souvenir shops at Paro, my best souvenir has always been local children's literature! 

Amongst many, we picked up a book that best represents Bhutanese culture and philosophy. "Heavenly Birds" is a book written by Pema Gyaltshen , a popular children's writer who has authored many children's books in Bhutan and the pictures by Chandra S Subba

This story revolves around one of the most awaited migratory birds of Bhutan, the black necked cranes that fly into Bhutan, particularly Phobjikha from Tibet during the winter months.  So fascinated are they with the birds, that the Black Cranes are much revered and their migration into Bhutan is  celebrated with the farmers waiting for the arrival of the black cranes to sow their winter wheat. So much so that people of Phobjikha have opted to create cable free skies for the black necked cranes!
In this story that doubles up as children's non fiction on some interesting facts about black neck cranes, it can be seen how the man-animal-aviary symbiosis is such an intricate part of the Bhutanese culture.. "Thrung Thrung Thrung......" as the pleasing sound signals the arrival of black neck cranes from Tibet into the Phobjika valley at the start of winter, it also means it is time for the locals to plant their winter wheat. As they spend their winter basking in the picturesque Phobjika valley boasting of two main rivers, the Bue chhu and Phag Chhu rivers, (representing the snake and the boar respectively) and the famous Buddhist shrine Gantay Lhakhang, the locals celebrate their migration into the valley until February when it's time for them to fly back to Tibet. The book also recounts a legend of an old crane named Samdhen that is unable to make the journey to Tibet and a few craned decided to  fly to Tibet to get some salt for Samdhen. As he lay motionless in the middle of the field, he was noticed by a group of people who poured some water on the crane and with the additional aid of salt from Tibet, Samdhen was saved. In appreciation for the help from humans, the cranes formed a circle to perform their last dance and while flying out of Phobjika, they circle three times above the holy Gantay Lhakhang.  Aided with suitable illustrations, this is a story that beautifully highlights humans living in harmony with nature, which is the very essence of Bhutanese culture.