Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's day Special - Reignite...!

Yesterday was celebrated as Children’s day across the country, and for most kids like Abhay, it was a class-free and a uniform-free school day, with many fun activities and events organized to make them feel special, including customized cards from his class teacher. While all this is sweet and admirable on the part of the school, it is also true that the present generation of urban children is a pampered lot and seems to have everything that they want and we parents seem to be more than eager to let them have everything they want! Well, it’s not as if we were a deprived lot, but growing up in the eighties and nineties meant measured expenditure and expectations whereas today’s kids seem to have wish lists that don’t end at all! So much so that they even develop a sense of entitlement over anything and everything they set their eyes on! It is the same sense of entitlement that prompted Abhay to ask for a children’s day gift from his maternal grandma, when just a day ago she got a bagful of gifts and knick-knacks from her recent Himachal Pradesh trip! Of course, a gentle reminder of the same is all it took to make him understand, but it made me wonder if we are overdoing it as parents. In our effort to provide the best for our kids, we may run the risk of having them fail to realize that nothing comes easy.  So, just as we question the need to celebrate Mothers' day and Fathers' day……do we need a Children’s day and with our lives revolving around our children every day ....Children’s day is every other day...isn't it?? J

Every year during Children’s day, Abhay somehow manages to extract a gift out of us (read his father!). This time however, anticipating that his request may not be honoured, our nine year old cleverly hinted at a card or a handmade present. As incorrigible as parents (read father!) that we are and as crazy about scrap-booking that we are ( well..both of us!), we put together a little handcrafted piece of memory file on the lines of a scrapbook ……that is more for us to cherish this gift-greedy phase of Abhay's childhood (which we hope he will soon outgrow!)

Abhay of course was super thrilled to receive it and here’s hoping he realizes the value and sentiment behind it and understands that life is more than just gifts and treats! What better way to spend Children’s day than to begin reading “Reignite - Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future” by the former President of India, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam, whose life is a true inspiration. It is no secret that the People’s President, as he was popularly known, was extremely fond of interacting with children and the youth and this book can be called as his parting gift to children!  Of course, we have only embarked on this reading adventure as it can be a lot for young reader to take in at one go. 

Co-written with Srijan Pal Singh, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam renders a unique “insider” perspective to various cutting edge fields in science and technology like robotics, aeronautics, neurosciences, pathology and material sciences to children, should they desire to pursue the same as careers. The book not only offers exhaustive information on diverse niche career opportunities opening up in the field of science and technology, but is presented in an interesting format packed with “anecdotes, conversations, experiments, exercises and even helpful tips and inputs from leading scientists in the field and a note to parents in each section. Narrated in a style characteristic to the late former President, including an oath to be taken by aspiring palaeontologist, or neuroscientist, or pathologist, etc, the book goes on  to explain these new and developing areas to children and adults alike, without oversimplifying the same. However, the book does not just stop with enlightening the readers about science, but seeks to inspire young minds into realizing what it takes to become a scientist or pursue a passion or tirelessly work towards a goal. Whether one intends to pursue a career in science or not, this is a great book for kids and young adults to learn and reflect on the choices ahead of them, the ideals and values that will help achieve them and ignite not only their future but the future of our world! 
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Amma, tell me about Diwali!

First published on Parent Edge blog 

No matter which part of India you are in, it’s hard to ignore the festive spirit this season brings in! Whether it’s bursting crackers, or attending numerous religious or cultural events lined up in the neighbourhood temples, or the shopping frenzy and lightening Diwali sales put by all retailers, off-line or online, or enjoying the extended Dusshera-Diwali vacations with the kids, holiday cheer is everywhere!

While it’s our second cracker-free Diwali, it’s the first Diwali experience for the little one at home, which for a five month old, it would mean more than anything else noise emanating from the crackers!!  While bursting fire crackers, gorging on sweets and treats is fun, there’s more to Diwali than just the merrymaking, how do we get our children to realize the importance of the same? Here’s a delightful series that does just that and what’s more …it’s presented in a format that combines the power of story-telling with rich imagery to engage and educate our kids on Indian tradition and values.  Here comes the “Amma, tell me” series by Bhakti Mathur and illustrations by Maulshree Somani brought out by Hong Kong based Anjana publications. Comprising of a series of picture books on Indian festivals and Indian mythology for children between the age group of 3 to 9 years, these books are a great way to enlighten the kids on the stories and sentiments behind the observance and celebrations of our festivals. Besides many titles on festivals such as “Amma, tell me about Holi” or  “Amma, tell me about Ganesha” or the series on Mythology such as “Amma, tell me about Ramayan”,  this vibrantly illustrated series also presents interesting tales from the Hindu epics in a trilogy format such as the trilogy series on Krishna and Hanuman. 

For this festive season, however, we picked out “Amma, tell me about Diwali!”  which believe me, will have you and your little one feeling festive on the first reading itself!  As most titles in the series, it starts off with the little boy named Klaka excitedly waking up to a typical Diwali morning characterized by new clothes and gifts followed by the lighting of Diyas, fire crackers in the evening, and the family offering prayers to God for good fortune, prosperity and health. As the children wonder about the story behind the celebrations, whom do they approach? Amma…of course, who at bedtime regales them with stories that explain the significance of the festival of lights. While elaborating on the meaning of Diwali, Amma in the story also delves into the multiple dimensions to festivities that includes remembering Lord Rama and his triumphant return to Ayodhya on Diwali day, while also encapsulating a brief account of Ramayana.  Of course, Diwali is not only all dazzle and fun, but the children are subtly reminded of the value of honesty, hard work and dedication through the story of Goddess Lakshmi and the poor seamstress. The beauty of this book not only lies in free-flowing narrative and engagingly rhyming text, but also in the simple message that the author attempts to convey to today’s kids brought up in a consumerist world that we live in.  The colouful illustrations are not only striking, but also present an authentic setting of Diwali celebrations in a typical Indian household, and not to forget the amiable images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, particularly when Klaka is shown seated beside Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth! As this series also caters to the Western audience, each story ends with a Glossary on Hindu names and symbols, which is quite educative to the Indian audience as well. Though a little pricy as compared to some of the Indian children’s publications, “Amma, tell me” series, is a wonderful “Mythology made simple and meaningful” that is sure to capture the imagination of young minds and will have them begging for ‘Amma, tell me more’!! Enjoy the festive season and happy Diwali everyone! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Aadya is here!

Over the previous weekend, we were joined by our close family and relatives on the occasion of our little one’s naming ceremony or Namakarana as it’s traditionally referred to amongst Hindus. Thankfully in India, we still have months after birth to mull over various options in choosing a name for our little ones, unlike in the West. However, it is also true that most expectant parents in the West are well aware of their baby’s sex  as early as the second trimester, unlike in India! So they have all the time in the world to arrive at the perfect name and have it ready to be declared at the time discharge from the hospital! Well, with most Indian hospitals today offering birth packages as if they  were vacation packages, more so with an emphasis on faster discharge/ turn-out rates, a three nights – two days  hospital stay, hardly seems sufficient for even shortlisting a few names, let alone finalize one! And then …there’s always the convention of naming after family elders or the convenience of rhyming with sibling names and of course, astro-numerology where the date, number of letters and stars will all have to converge for the right name! So you wouldn’t dare to say “What’s in a name?” …now would you?

Frankly, we didn’t go through much trouble in arriving at the names of both our  children! (who will probably take us up on this when they grow up!) With my older one, I insisted upon a name that he could live up to and we all know how counter productive it turned out to be! So the responsibility of choosing a name for our younger one fell upon my husband, who in his characteristic style sought a consensus among the close family over the first name he liked and didn’t encourage any further discussions and voila!... We had the name! As if to ward off any last minute dilemma, we even had her birth certificate registered before her official naming ceremony! Of course, we preferred a name starting with the letter ‘A’ as to alliterate with Abhay’s and chose the name for its modern yet traditional tone.  Our little one is now officially named ‘AADYA’ which is a Sanskrit word derived from the name of Goddess Durga. Aadya also means the original power from which all five senses and five elements of nature originated.

So as we unveiled the name ‘Aadya’ and shared the joy of her arrival with close family, I had to celebrate the same by a mention on Onestoryaday! No celebration on Onestoryaday is complete without reading a book for the occasion, and  our choice for this happy event is the Tulika’s First look Science series on the basic elements of nature by Anushka Kalro, Rajasee Ray, Sankhalina Nath and Shubangi Goel, developed as a classroom project with Srishti School of Art. Since the name Aadya means the original source of Panchabhootas, five elements – Akasha (Sky), Vayu (Air), Prithvi ( Earth), Agni( fire) and Jal (water), we picked out this series that features Air in “Dhooli’s Story”, Water in “Boondi’s Story”, Earth in “Gitti’s Story”, Earth’s surface in “Beeji’s Story” and Space in “Bhoomi’s Story”.

Each of these books presents a perfect introduction to young children on the science of how things first began. Narrated in a unique format, with each of the elements assuming a young character - be it Beeji, a super-seed wanting to explore the world, through which the story of the evolution of earth’s surface unfolds, or Bhoomi, one of the eight planets in the universe, through which the concept of space is brought out, or Gitti, through which we learn about the earth as we know today, or Dhooli, a tiny speck of dust who flits and floats in the air, through which your little one is enlightened about the air around us, or Boondi, the tiny droplet of water who teaches us about the water cycle! Aided with stunning pictures and illustrations, each of these stories successfully attempts to unravel the mysteries of nature by way of interesting stories that are sure to capture the imagination of young minds. So as Aadya is set to begin her journey in this world, here’s seeking the blessings of the Panchabhutas or the five elements that form the basis of our cosmic quest of this world and beyond!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Virtual Travel with Ruskin Bond!

With most schools in Bangalore closed for Dassera vacation, we are now  faced with the formidable task of managing both the kids at home from morning to night…..and life can’t get busier than this! Serves me right for earlier balking at my mommy-friends with two kids who complained of a similar mayhem when the older school-going kid has holidays! Though Abhay is too old to require constant supervision and my little one is yet to reach that stage (which she will very soon!), they are both needy in their own way! Though their worlds are poles apart and will be so in the years to come, there’s nothing worse than when their worlds collide! While my older one has warmed up to his baby sibling quite well, it is younger one who seemed to be slowly learning the ropes of surviving in this world, when it comes to being heard! So be it waking up to find herself all alone, or venting out her irritation over her brother’s  constant cuddling and kissing….she  already knows how to lodge her protest or make her presence felt!  As long as Abhay had school, there was a set routine in place with all attention being showered on the little one during the day only to have the older one reclaim it, once he returned home from school! Now that both are at home, it feels as if both of them are eating into each other’s space that  gives rise to a feeling of neither here nor there, leaving me with absolutely no space at all! J

Anyway, if there’s one thing that the new arrival has taken a toll on, it is with regard to travel and this is probably the first time that we’ve not been able to go on a trip during Abhay’s vacations. Of course Abhay is not thrilled at the idea of being home bound as he will have nothing to show off to his classmates, all of whom, according to him, have made grand travel plans during the Dassera break!    (Talk about peer pressure!) If we don’t act soon, Abhay has even threatened to squeeze himself into his grandparents’ travel plans to Himachal hills in November! Anyway, even we cannot join my parents, we can certainly vicariously visit the high altitude destinations by reading ….Ruskin Bond of course. We picked out his first children’s novel  titled “The Hidden Pool”, ideal for younger and middle level readers. Like any Ruskin Bond story, the story set in ten small chapters literally transports you to the land of beautiful mountain slopes, deep and hidden valleys. This is the story of Laurie who moves to a hill town along with his parents as his father is posted to India on work for two years. As he forges friendship with unlikeliest of people, given his English upbringing, Laurie finds himself drawn to the local people and their customs.Read on as Laurie narrates as to how his friends Anil and Kamal take him on many a memorable adventures from beetle races to midnight dips at the valley’s pristine pools, tedious treks to the Pindari glacier and their run-in with so called Abominable snow woman! Before he realizes, the two years fly past and Laurie finds that the town and the people have grown on him and saying goodbye is tougher than he thought!   More than the interesting events that take place during Laurie’s stay in the hill-town,  it’s Ruskin Bond’s vivid descriptions of the picturesque hills, simplicity of the people, uninhibited childhood experiences, lasting friendships between young boys of diverse backgrounds! A must read for everyone who loves Ruskin Bond’s writings! Why…Abhay doesn’t it feel as if we’ve traveled to a whole new world during these vacations....…thanks to Ruskin Bond ?? J

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The actual new arrival!

It’s been over four months since the arrival of our little one and after enjoying all the pampering and post delivery care at my mother’s place, I am now back at home! Mom’s house is truly the best…no matter how old you are and especially at a time like this…when you need all the help you can get! If not for keeping up with the infant schedule, the last four months almost felt like a vacation of sorts, all thanks to my super agile multi tasking mom! Not to mention, she almost ended up with knee joint strain owing to all the stress and it’s probably her turn now to take a vacation! J During my stay at my mom’s, Abhay continued to be at home with his daddy and paternal grandparents and here’s a word of thanks going out to them as well.  So except his weekend visits to my mom’s place, Abhay’s daily routine remained the same and the arrival of the little one hadn’t wrecked his life…...yet!!!  Well….in so many ways, Abhay continued to be the king of the house …and ended up being cosseted even more by his paternal grandma, lest he may miss his mommy ( which he didn’t…..of course!!!) So it’s only now that the arrival of a “new little person” has begun to impact his life!

I must say that it’s been so far so good and Abhay has taken quite well to the new member of our household. While he is excited to return home from school to his baby sister, I am not sure if he feels the same about the return of the stricter parent! J Anyway, to mark the arrival of his baby sister, we read the short story “A new Arrival” from  R.K.Narayan’s cult classic Malgudi Schooldays brought out by Puffin Classics, which is a slightly abridged version of the original “Swami and Friends” first published in 1935. Any gem of a story of Swami and his friends conjures up the nostalgic images of the 80’s Television series based on R K Narayan’s stories, but reading the same has a charm of its own! Though the stories are set in pre-independence era when the environment was a lot different from that surrounding the kids today, Swami’s world, his apprehensions, his ever changing dynamics with friends, his attitude at home, his run-ins with his teachers, are not very different from what kids go through today. Except for a few elaborations on the conditions that prevailed then and references that are principally of British origin  ( as opposed to American references that the kids today are more familiar with),  R.K.Narayan’s stories are truly timeless and will never fail to delight the generations to come! In this story, “The New Arrival” Swami misses his mother who has been in confinement for over two days resulting in the birth of his baby brother, the news of which he received without much enthusiasm, especially when the new arrival has ushered in some changes like mother’s absence in the kitchen or the presence of a lady doctor at home who behaves as if the house belonged to her!  Anyway since he had his granny for reassuring company, he couldn’t be bothered more! As he laid his eyes on the little one, he couldn't help but laugh at this “funny looking creature” with its eyes shut, folded hands on his chest, plump pair of small hands and a face red like a chilly! As he imitated the same to his friend at school next day, his friend cautioned him saying that “these things” grow up soon and before you know it….they hardly bear resemblance to their baby features!!! So Abhay….beware! Your baby sister may seem like a  benign ‘living’ teddy bear now,  quietly tolerating all the kisses that you almost smother her with…but not for long! J