Monday, November 1, 2021

Memories - Renewed and our Indian Jack-O'-Lantern!


I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that books also serve as memory boxes for some of us. Some books are held closer to your heart than others, either because of their literary value or because of your memories associated with them - some books may evoke memories of your own childhood, or the early childhood of your son or daughter, or reminiscent of your state or mind or your situation at the time of reading the book and pulling it out from the bookshelf affords you a chance to look back and reflect on those times. For instance, I happen to read Harper Lee’s “Go set a Watchman” soon after the birth of my daughter in the year 2015 and while the book was indeed a disappointment, a mere glance of the book’s cover takes me back to my own frame of mind and insecurities that I had harboured about whether I will ever be able to get back to work with the responsibility of two kids!   Some books are a throwback to the happy memories of the past that makes it harder to let go …. and its not unusual to be on the lookout for someone you believe is worthy of your memory box..isnt it? 😊

We were delighted to be the beneficiaries of what must have been a treasure trove of memories from my mother’s cousin who was looking to hand over a wonderful collection of books that they had enjoyed with their kids back in the eighties. So joining our already overflowing collection of books, meet the newest member of Aadya’s books shelf – the well known “The Childcraft series” and we are glad to have this set of 15 books as a companion for Aadya during her growing up years. Thank you Mr. Suresh Rao and Mrs. Nirmala  Rao for this marvellous collection!  

As Aadya dived into the series, one of the stories had me relive our good old  "Portland days” that now seem like another era!  In fact, thanks to Beverly Cleary, we also developed a renewed interest in the all-American Halloween! Though Halloween has been part of Abhay’s early childhood in the US and the same continued in Bangalore  thanks to events in the Hippocampus children’s library, Aadya has had almost no exposure to Halloween and she had no idea what she was in for or rather  we had no clue what it would entail for us as we turned the pages of Volume no.2 “Time to Read” of the Childcraft series to “The Night of Jack-O’-Lantern”. Part of the novel “Ramona and her father", this a wonderful story that introduces the curious and cheerful protagonist, Ramona Quimby whom Aadya fell in love with. Of course, Beverly Cleary’s characters of Ramona and her older sister Beezus have been popular with the American kids, particularly in the State of Oregon, the author’s home state, but its been a while since I came across any of Beverly Cleary’s stories and  Ramona’s naughty innocence, the rebellious attitude of her adolescent older sister amidst the usual ups and downs in a middle class American family made for a refreshing read. 

The story begins with Ramona’s earnest attempt to diffuse the grouchy atmosphere at home with her own brand of humour, much to everyone’s chagrin. Patience seems to be in short supply on the given day with everyone snapping at each other, but as Ramona helps bring up the giant pumpkin lying in their basement, the entire family excitedly comes together to carve the Halloween harvest, and soon each of them including their pet cat, add their own personal touch to make the wickedest Jack-O’-Lantern in the whole world! A beautiful feel good story revolving around relatable family situations, laced with subtle humour and stimulating illustrations makes for smooth and relaxing read…and has us begging for more from the world of Qimbys!

Needless to say, we have had a renewed interest in Halloween this year and Aadya’s fascination with Jack-O’-Lantern has us (read the daddy!) carve out our very own Indian Jack-O’-Lantern! Happy Halloween! 

                                                    Halloween Illuminations!

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Our Girl!


As I browse through some of my earliest blogposts almost a decade ago, I find that an oft repeated reflection on my part has always been “I wish I had a daughter” and such a longing was borne out of a desire to enjoy reading books that my pre-schooler was quick to dismiss as “girlie books”! Now that I have a daughter, we do revisit some of the books that hadn’t impressed my son then and now seem to be a big hit with my daughter, just as I had thought so! Well….not a day a goes by without feeling thankful for the pure joy of having a daughter and how blessed we’ve been with the arrival our little girl! Her indefatigable energy, perceptive and sensitized nature, generous and caring spirit have enriched our lives in so many ways that we could never imagine! As a daughter myself, I have always and still do share an extremely close relationship with my mom and without wishing to sound cliched…my mom has always been and continues to be my 'BFF' and vice-versa!  As the saying goes…God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers….as a natural corollary I can say that God made daughters so that they can be their mothers' best friends! Hoping to share the same relationship with my little girl!

On the occasion of daughter’s day,  we read a book by one Abhay’s  all-time favourite authors, the award winning Anthony Browne, whose books we would regularly borrow from the British Library almost a decade ago! “Our Girl” is quintessentially Anthony Browne in terms of narrative style, wit, visual-word interplay, pastel backdrop, water-colour style illustrations which makes it a truly perfect read for today. The books opens to a sweet little girl with a wide smile –“She’s lovely, our girl”… an goes on to celebrate “our girl” – a great goalie, brilliant swimmer, loves to draw, dress up and pretend play, alternates between quiet and loud, starts off as a busy bee and ends up as sleepy puppy, fierce as a fighter yet charms her way with her beautiful smile…..we love our girl and will always do…..a wonderful tribute to daughters everywhere!  Happy daughters day to all our girls!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The magic of music!


Music has always been an integral part of our lives and while being ardent followers of Carnatic music, we as a family have been enjoying a wide range of Indian music – from Carnatic and Hindustani music to devotional bhajans, from Kannada Sugama Sangeetha to ghazals and film music, besides tuning in to a few popular genres of western music from time to time. While there’s some music playing on  one of our devices at all times, it is mostly Carnatic music that dominates our household. So much so,  it’s a family joke that our house might as well be branded as the “FM Amruthavarshini house” , with Indian classical music reverberating from every corner of our house as the FM 100.1 (The Indian classical music channel  of All India Radio Bangalore) plays on the multiple radios tuned in - on the ground floor at the kitchen, on the first floor in one of our rooms, and at the terrace balcony on the second floor…..All thanks to my renewed obsession with Carnatic music! Anybody visiting our home or calling in between 6 Am to 9.30 Am in the mornings and between 6PM and 11 PM in the evenings is sure to be treated to some brilliant music in the background, and any such conversation in person or over phone is forced to compete with Sudha Raghunathan’s rendition of “Raaga Sudharasa” or Bombay Jayasri’sKrishna nee begane baaro”! (I know it’s not fair but I just cannot bring myself to turn off the radio when FM Amruthavarshini  is on)  Since Abhay has been training for Carnatic vocal for some time now,  I have resumed my own training after a long hiatus, and my little one a recent newbie in Carnatic music, our dinner table conversations often tend to be paused (Mind you, it’s never an interruption!) over identifying a raaga or noticing the structure of the “Kalpanaswaras” playing on the radio! Well, that’s when my exasperated husband asks if Yesudas’s rendition “Vataapi Ganapathim” needs to be a part of the discussion on our plans for the next day! 😊

So when the previous  week’s Saturday Buzzar of Funky Rainbow brought up this book on the occasion of World music day earlier last week, I knew I had to lay my hands on this one and sure enough this book has been the raagam-tanam-pallavi of this week’s reads! If my little one loves the book, it’s becomes a family favourite almost immediately with everyone being asked to read to her – from parents and maternal grandparents to her older brother and this book has indeed appealed to everyone who has read  to Aadya. Inspired from the early years of Annapurna Devi, the famous sitar player and daughter of Allaudin Khan, the royal court musician at the court of Maharaja of Maihar in Madhya Pradesh, “The Magic in My Fingers” a Karadi tales publication by Nandita da cunha (a pianist herself) and illustrations by  Nayantara Sundrenath and Kanimozhi A ,  is an endearing tale that is as much a story of sisterly love as it is about the discovery of an innate talent heralding an illustrious musical journey.

Aayan is once again late for his music practice, much to Baba’s chagrin. Before Baba loses his patience at his truant son, his younger sister Roohi steps in to search for Aayan who seems to be more interest in pots and pans than the practice of Sitar. Roohi cant afford to have Aayan upset Baba which would then ruin her chances of a new kite that Baba had promised to buy from the market. But Roohi’s chances of making her father proud of her as she plans to win the kite-flying competition with the new kite, diminish by the minute as Baba heads out looking for his errant son, with a cane in hand. So Roohi hits upon a brilliant but highly risky idea to distract her Baba and soon to her delight and to the shock of her father, she discovers the magic in her fingers, and that indeed makes her father swell with pride! Aided by wonderfully striking illustrations, we love this book as its works on so many levels- from the very relatable reluctance to music practice (I deal with it every day!) to the wonder of a prodigious talent, from the intuitive understanding of a sister of her brother's mind  to the discovery of one’s true potential and of course the exhilarating power of music! A must buy for any music loving family!


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Aadya hits a six!

The only advantage in having a huge gap between your two kids is that as parents, you can still enjoy the endearing years of early childhood of your little one while suffering through the awkward adolescent years of your older one! You can still hold on to the innocent and tender moments with your little one  just as you try to let go of your older one asserting his own way of doing things. Just like your return from work earlier than usual is sure to be a pleasant surprise for your little one and probably an unpleasant one for your older one! 😊  Well……I’m not sure how long can we rely on this contrasting relationship between our older one and younger one, as our daughter is sure catching up with her older brother …. having turned six a couple of days back! As we were made to relive her last five years through a heart-warming video put together by the older brother…we couldn’t help wondering……..where did those six years go…really!!!

This was Aadya’s second birthday celebration during lockdown except that we switched places since the last time,  as we continue to operate  from Dharmasthala. Centred around a Disney princess and Frozen-II theme (I know… so predictably boring!), led by a birthday treasure hunt of gifts  which has now become a family tradition, albeit with many more places to hide this time, followed by a cake-cutting celebration with a few of our closest relatives living in the neighbouring farms, who were all sportive enough to participate in an outdoor super-minute game organised by the older brother turned perfect host….and this time, it was Aadya’s paternal  grandparents to join in through video call! 😊

No celebration in Shristi is complete without the farm workers joining in …. more so when it is the birthday of their most loyal follower in the literal sense, accompanying them to the plantation, entertaining them  (unknowingly) during their lunchtime and constantly buzzing around them all day! So amidst our close family and  our farm family, Aadya’s sixth birthday was truly a memorable one!  

A birthday post deserves a special book and this is by our all-time favourite author who recently celebrated his eighty seventh birthday a little earlier this month. Though  I haven’t read many stories by Ruskin Bond to my little one, she best remembers Ruskin Bond from the cover of his autobiography “Lone Fox dancing” she'd  seen me read  sometime ago. This time we read an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s writing into a picture book format in “Happy Birthday World” brought out by Red Panda publications illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy. Celebrating nature’s wonders narrated through the medium of a little girl and a boy, this book makes an earnest attempt to impress upon young minds to be mindful of the environment around them and to appreciate its various facets- from the sun that shines from dawn to dusk renewing each day as if it’s born again, the flora and fauna being nature’s gifts, shores swept by mighty seas that abound great mysteries, freezing ice on the extreme north and the south that may be a million years old but can be discovered as new. Our mother earth is full of surprises which the author likens to birthday gifts for everyone in the world who is willing to share, also stressing the importance of conserving nature for only then, would we be taken care of  here, there and everywhere - Happy Birthday World!   Happy Birthday, little one…you mean the world to us!  

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A walk in the garden!

It has been over month since we drove out of Bangalore to vacation at my parents’ farm Shristi, at Dharmasthala, and with the extension of lockdown in the State, we are now looking at getting on with our routine - school, work or probably even court work, connecting from here.  Of course, barring a few sporadic connectivity issues, we are more than thrilled to be working out of this serene eco-system that opens up to beautiful views from every window and look out. From the stunning view of Kudremukh ranges from the terrace on a clear day, to the glimpse of the colourful asters outlining our garden area from the balcony, or the panoramic landscape view of our areca plantation from the veranda, to the sight of the silvery sheet of rain soaking the surroundings, we are entreated to the nature’s spectacular imagery at every turn and corner.

What was meant to be a ten-day summer break has turned out to be an extended vacation of sorts for me and the kids, and having settled into a slow paced routine here at the farm, our treadmill-like life in Bangalore now seems like a distant memory. Except for my husband who has been working full time connecting to his virtual workspace from here, we have been off our regular routines as the kids have been on their summer vacation and I have been off duty for most part. Neither did we nor did my-in laws back in Bangalore expect to stay this long  and nor did my parents expect to have us for this long! 😊

While it’s been a dejavu for my son who spent last year’s lockdown at his most favourite place on earth, it’s been  a dream come true for my little one who had always envied her older brother’s extended stays at Shristi.  So much so that she has probably even forgotten that we have a home in Bengaluru! In fact, Aadya’s daily routine here is -  cycling around the courtyard, roaming around our farm, accompanying the cows as they are sent off grazing around our plantation, taking a stroll in the garden picking flowers, stopping just a bit to watch the butterflies hovering around the flowers,  pulling the vegetables off the vine, pausing to discover a nest perched on one of the branches, joining her brother in playing with the pet dogs, regaling the farm workers non-stop with her over-the-top stories….. and with all this she couldn’t have cared any less for her Grade one class all set to resume next week!

Since Aadya’s all-time favourite activity is to spend time in our front garden, picking a wide assortment of flowers for the daily pooja by her father or grandfather or for the flower vase she happily arranges with the help of  her grandmother, or looking at the ready-to-pluck veggies grown in the garden, I knew she would enjoy Niyatee Parikh Sharma’s garden series as I’d like to call it. Brought out by tota books, we can’t thank Funky Rainbow enough for introducing us to Veer’s and Ananya’s green adventures in “The Tomato Thief” and “The Tomato Flood” written by Niyatee Parikh Sharma and illustrated by Alankrita Amaya.  

The Tomato Thief  has Veer eagerly and patiently waiting for the tomatoes to ripe in the green patch in his terrace garden and just as they seem ready to be picked, they vanish leading Veer to go on a who-dun-it-expedition, making him interrogate each and every member and visitor of his household, from his naughty sister Ananya,  Baba, Shoba aunty  Ramu Kaka, his friends Shreya and Pranav, but to no avail. Veer even wonders if the aliens and their UFOs had anything to do with his missing tomatoes! Read on to find out the culprit …who also makes a surprise appearance on the sidelines of “The Tomato flood” (which was discovered by Aadya reminding me of Mo Willems’ books that always have the illustrations of characters of previous books making guest appearances in the later titles!)

In fact, we live through the likes of “The Tomato Flood” almost every other day, with our vegetable garden abundantly sprouting brinjals, okra, snake gourds, string beans and jackfruits more than we can eat, and we totally empathise with the predicament of Veer and Ananya’s mother who is forced to churn out every recipe there is in this planet with tomato as its ingredient….all thanks to Veer and Ananya’s gardening misadventures. Read this hilarious tale of how Veer and Ananya's family avert a tsumani of tomatoes from their garden! Both the books make for delightful reads and the author beautifully strings everyday occurrences into engaging light hearted stories. We love the playful yet relatable illustrations that have a sense of continuity in both the books, and definitely has us begging for more stories from Veer and Ananya’s household!