Saturday, January 19, 2019

Not a morning person!!

My little one has been a morning person ever since I can remember! Well.....barring a few bad days................she was pretty much pleased to open her eyes to the world around her.  So much so that no sooner did she wake up than she was ready to ride with her dad on the bike to drop her brother to the school-bus pick up. In fact, there were days when I had wished that she would sleep in a bit more so as to allow us a morning walk together in the near-by forest reserve.  I should have known better.... with two kids you lead your life by taking turns! :-)
Anyway, over the past few months, we have been having trouble getting her out of the bed in the morning. I'm not sure if it's because of the fact that our live-in nanny has now been replaced with a day-care-giver, leaving us to manage the never-ending-nightly bedtime routine and the always-on-your-toes morning routine  on our own (like all parents...I know...we were spoilt!), or the sudden cold spell in Bangalore or the change in her sleep patterns owing to the change in care givers..... our little one simply refuses to wake up!!! Frankly, I now miss our little Miss morning sunshine who used to smile as she first opened her eyes eager to see what the day has in store for her!  Not my husband said ..... 'the real world has probably dawned on her" !:-)

So I fell back on a book that showcases a similar situation so as to help us ponder over the same and find a way out. Though this book has been around for a while now, it is only now that I found it to be relatable for my little one. "No" a bilingual book by Cheryl Rao and illustrated by Samitha Gunjal  by Tulika publications is a simple and endearing tale of a little girl named Annika who simply refuses to wake up in the morning! Though her father gently goads her into getting her out of bed with all the her favourite things she will probably look forward to doing..... from wearing her new dress, new shoes with matching socks, even her butterfly clip (when for a moment she opens her eyes) and also savour her favourite breakfast dish - poori-potato baji ...... Annika simply doesn't budge and her state mirrored by her pet cat!  But then as the father finally mentions her most favourite activity, saving the best for the last........Annika along with her cat jumps  out of bed to quickly get ready - brushes her teeth and takes a bath and puts on her new dress, new shoes with matching socks and gets her butterfly clip for papa to help her with and sits down with papa for downing her favourite poori-potato bajji that papa has lovingly dished out.......(wow!)..Annika is all set to go and she and her father are off to catch a bus to Dadi's house!  Aided by suitable and playful illustrations, the  book also includes certain subtle elements to impress upon the young minds and adults alike, from gender neutral hands-on parenting and self-reliance in young children  to using public transportation, etc. Though the book is based on a simple theme, it perfectly captures the mind of a young girl and sure manages to bring a smile on your face as you find your toddler relate to Annika's morning routine in many ways........ but you can only hope to achieve the same success Annika's father!  Anyway...taking a cue from Annika’s father, we woke up Aadya in morning with a promise to visit her grandparents over the weekend....... are now on a bus to Dharmasthala !!! 

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Monday, January 14, 2019

So whats the big deal about the Vedas and Upanishads?

As we step into another year, anticipating new experiences and opportunities, making new promises or renewing old promises, readying to face new challenges and hoping to learn more and grow wiser, I couldn't have asked for a better start to the year 2019 on Onestoryaday!  Well....ever since its release late last year, Bangalorean Roopa Pai's "The Vedas and Upanishads for children" has been doing the rounds of Bookaroo and  many such events all over India....except Bangalore!!! In fact going by the author's face book posts .... I saw the book in the hands of practically everyone in India, other than the readers in Bangalore! In fact, the run up to the book release  in Bangalore had stirred up so much excitement that that we didn't need to think twice about driving past the dreaded Silk Board get to one of the most chaotic places in South Bangalore, these days - Koramangala...(thanks to all the Metro construction work.). But what relief it was to find the drive to Koramangala easy going a breeze as the author had put in her forwarded invites! Truly, it felt like all the elements of the cosmic world did come together to enable us to walk into Hippocampus on a beautiful Sunday morning at 11 AM....where the one of the most awaited books by Hachette India was all set for its Bangalore launch! 

Of course, we've only just begun reading the book, so this is not a review yet in a strict sense  ( in fact, none of my posts are a review in the strictest sense but a write up about our experience reading the book!) , but the author Roopa Pai in a thought provoking session about the book, took us through what the book is about and what it seeks to deal with. Written in her characteristic style (which we saw in the Geetha for children released a three years ago)  "The Vedas and Upanishads for children" seeks to break down one of the oldest texts known to mankind into making it more comprehensible, more accessible and more relatable. While the first section deals with Vedas, delving into its history, purpose, the structure of each Veda, the construct of its hymns, and most importantly the lessons we can draw from the Vedas, all packed with fun facts, pop quizzes, and catchy phrases! The next section beginning with "So what's the big deal about the Upanishads"  opens with a broad view of the Upanishads to zeroing in on ten greatest  Upanishads from Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittriya, Aitareya, Chandogya to Brihadaranyaka, with their respective back-stories, prominent shlokas  and valuable lessons weaved into after-stories, their various interpretations and deductions these Upanishads lend themselves to, wherein lies the true value, power, beauty and wisdom of the sacred texts. Needless to say, this book is meant not only for children...though I can't help feeling jealous of today's children who have such wonderful books to draw inspiration. Brilliantly written so as to engage the readers of all ages above nine years, V and U seeks to contemporize  the ancient texts and compositions, with a narrative filled with tongue-in-cheek one-liners and punch-lines,  stories inter-twined with the Upanishadic messages (If I can say that!), empowering the reader to question, and seek out answers mindfully while trusting oneself and feeling thankful for the world around him or her! A must-have book  in your library......along with its pre-written sequel "Gita for children".:-) 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Gone Grandmother!

Suddenly...she's gone!
The most celebrated member of our household, the senior most member of our entire family and one of the few people who lived to see an entire century unfold in front of her eyes is no more. Our beloved centenarian grandmother, who's hundredth birthday we'd just celebrated earlier this year breathed her last, early this month. While we knew she had lead a  full and fruitful life always surrounded by her near and dear ones down to even the fifth generation of great-great-grandson, and death was a near eventuality, the suddenness of it all still baffles us!  It was meant to be a routine/ precautionary visit to the doctor just before our impending pre-planned travel, followed by hospitalization for administration of drips for a day or two.........little did we realize that it was time for Doddamma's rendezvous with death!

Now that the obsequies and last rites performed by her eight septuagenarian and sexagenarian children are complete, the relatives have left, and everyone has got on with their daily humdrum of life, we miss her a lot, especially in the little things that had been interwoven into our daily routine - during mealtimes we remember pulling out her silver thali along with our steel thalis  or during the daily pooja we'd fondly recall her picking up to beat the traditional 'jagante'  during the 'arathi" or how she would always wheel herself into the makeshift football play area our living room is often turned into, much to Abhay's chagrin, or the sound of her coughing that I could hear from my office that shared the same wall as her room, or when we still end up peeping into her room to wave goodbye while leaving for would certainly take a while for us to get used to living without our grand old matriarch. Thanks to the love, constant care and sacrifice  of  her primary care givers, viz. her eldest son and daughter-in-law,  our grandmother or "Doddamma" could lead a long and healthy life with such joy and enthusiasm  (even as she was wheelchair bound) that was unmatched and is truly hard to come by in  today's  technology-driven and impatient millennial world!.

Since we were travelling when our doddamma passed away and could not witness the formalities leading up to her cremation, it was hard for us post our return, to fathom  the thought that doddamma is no more! So much so that even now I almost expect doddamma to wheel herself out of the front room at the sound of pooja bell!!  As we got back, my little one roamed all around the house in search of her favourite companion, who'd keep her company in any indoor game or play the patient audience to her funny antics or join in a jagante duet during the Friday evening pooja.. .....  her dodda ajji was nowhere in sight!    

Abhay too fondly remembers his friendly territorial fights with dodda-ajji as he set out play indoors or how he would coax her into listening to him practice his music lessons or how dodda-ajji would always come to his rescue when being disciplined by his parents! Ever since he remembers, Dodda-ajji has always been a big part of his life at home, and now that's she's gone... he too misses her. So I had picked out a wonderful book that throws light on bereavement, especially from the perspective of young children, "Gone Grandmother", a Tulika publication by Chatura Rao and Krishna Bala Shenoi. Nina's grandmother went away before she could say  goodbye. Though the next day and the day after appeared to be the terms of her surroundings, her school and her friends, it felt  different.... ...... as her Nani didn't come back and it was as if she'd disappeared into thin air. When she quizzes her mother as to where has nani gone, her mother replies "to the stars". Just as she tries to figure out as to whether her nani has really gone to the stars or God's home or has in turn become a part of the air we breathe or the soil below, she fondly remembers her times with nani - the general knowledge book that she'd read with her, or listen to Vividh Bharathi with nani while jumping the skipping rope, or recalls some endearing moments exclusive to the grandchild-grandmother bond. She finally realizes that she may never see her nani in her plump-cuddly shape again..... but can find her  nani  shining down at her as the brightest star in the sky! A poignantly narrated  tale that beautifully captures the child's grief and dilemma over the loss of a loved one and how she comes to terms with the same. Abhay liked the author's philosophical take on death of aged grandparents and was touched by the book. Though my little one is too young to understand what happened, or too young to fully grasp dodda-ajji's absence  and may be just too young to probably remember as she grows up, her times with dodda-ajji...... but as of now, her answer to the question"Where is dodda-ajji?" seems to be "Dodda-ajji is with God"!  Rest in peace...dear doddamma! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Taj Mahal experience!

If Delhi symbolises a fast paced metropolis, Agra is a city/town that is not in any hurry! Mainly centered around the Taj Mahal, Agra being a mandatory stop for most International tourists touring India, chances are that every second person you bump into is masquerading as a tourist guide. While tourist guides help, I feel it is best to take an audio tour as and when provided by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as most tourist guides, especially the ones catering to Indian tourists lack necessary knowledge and only seek to rush through the visit in order to take you shopping at a place that offers them commission! 

Taj Mahal is best seen at sun rise, when it is relatively less crowded and the crimson hues are faintly reflected in the white. Luckily we were put up close to the Taj Mahal so as to enable multiple visits to the monument and thus enjoyed a wholesome experience of the splendour and beauty of the Taj Mahal. As you walk past the security check, through the red sandstone gateway, and catch the first glimpse of the white marbled edifice... for a brief moment you stand mesmerised and transported into another world... until you are shaken out of your reverie... by the thronging crowds, the tour guide with his broken English and questionable knowledge and the haggling photographers all trying to get their day’s worth from what you had hoped to be one of life’s memorable experiences......and not to mention.. screaming and squabbling kids!
It’s only after we went again the next morning at sunrise without any attachments of tour guide, photographers and kids,  did we get to soak in the sublime beauty of the Taj Mahal! 😊

Anyway, though our Taj Mahal experience with the kids would rank lower than that of our experience sans the kids in terms of our best travel memories,  the overall tour around Mughal era architecture like Taj Mahal, or the light and sound at Agra fort, or the Panch Mahal of Fatehpur Sikri did impress upon Abhay the majesty  and scale of the Mughal era. He did enjoy the Taj Mahal visit and though his memory of this visit may get hazier as the years go by, nevertheless the glorious sight of the most famous monument of India will always be etched in his mind like it was for me, ever since I had first seen Taj Mahal with my parents during less crowded and much simpler times! 

Who knows... decades later as Abhay travels to Agra to show his kids the Taj Mahal...he may laugh over how irritated his mother was or how cranky his little sister was during his previous visit as a twelve year old! 

Now,  Abhay may be able to remember his visit to the Taj Mahal, but what about his three old sister who will in most probabilities have no recollection of the same? Simple... you read a book about it! What are the chances that you plan a visit to a historic monument with your three year old and there’s a wonderful children’s book revolving around the very same place and that too for very young children! Tulika’s “Pooni at the Taj Mahal” by Manjula Padmanabhan is just what I wanted and a book that we carried along during our trip. More like a sequel to “Where’s that Cat?” by the same author where a little girl, Minnie can’t let go of her pet cat, Pooni who seems to have wandered away. Similarly, during Minnie’s trip to the Taj Mahal with her parents, she carries her pet hidden in her back pack. But just they enter the Taj Mahal, Minnie finds her bag empty and the reader is given a peek into where Pooni runs off. Minnie is inconsolable and despite assurances by her parents to find Pooni as soon as they finish the tour, she remains desolate and disinterested with the exquisite marble carvings! Just like all kids... she couldn’t be least bothered about what engages the adults!! So what happens to Pooni..? Does Minnie finally reunite with Poonie? Read on to find a charming little story to enthrall your little one on a tour like this! Beautiful illustrations that present an authentic setting of the Taj Mahal area, realistic portrayal of flustered parents, annoyed tour guide and the tantrums that kids love to throw in crowded public places just when you wish them to leave you to enjoy the surroundings!! Since we had read this book as a prelude to our Taj Mahal visit, our little Minnie was also on the look out for Pooni at the Taj Mahal!! 😊

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

When in Delhi....

We are in the capital city of Delhi as a part of the almost-golden-triangle tour of Delhi and Agra minus Jaipur. Our travel is however slightly marred by a family bereavement that didn’t allow for a last minute cancellation owing to which we had to go ahead with the trip anyways. Despite such downers, including the reported high pollution levels this season, the massive metropolis of Delhi being the seat of Government of India, with its majestic Mughal-era monuments, vibrant cultural mix, it’s bustling shopping centres,  chockablock traffic ridden roads and the loud and couldn’t care less attitude of Delhi-ites didn’t cease to fascinate us, particularly Abhay who was in awe with the historical monuments such as the Qutub Minar and the imposing Red Fort.  Our mornings began with a walk in Delhi’s “Jantar Mantar “ which to our great fortune was located just opposite our hotel and followed by touring around the usual must-see-spots of the capital, like the  India Gate, Lotus temple, Qutub Minar, Red fort, Jumma Masjid, which also felt like a trip down memory lane for me as I distinctly remembered tagging along with my parents as a nine year old visiting these very places! Of course, if Appu ghar was the highlight of my Delhi trip back in the eighties... “Madame Tussaud’s Wax museum” seems to be the current favourite, especially Abhay’s favourite where he got to pose next to his favourite football stars! 

Of course, balancing the diverse inter-generational interests is always a challenge in any travel. While you may be interested in catching the light and sound show at a historic monument, your twelve year old may want to hit the pool in the hotel, or you wish you could listen intently to the tourist guide’s take on a particular historical aspect of Red fort interiors, but it’s a hard ask when you have to watch over your little one following the squirrels in the lawn 😊

Anyway, since the raison detre of the Delhi-Agra trip was Abhay’s history syllabus this year that dealt with Delhi Sultanate and Mughal history, we picked up “When in Delhi” a Katha publication by Mamta Nainy and art by Jayanto. A one of a kind travel book for the young, and narrated through the perspective of Ruchi or Fifee, short for Fidgety Feet, as she likes to call herself and her pet friend Lattoo, this book seeks to introduce what Delhi is, was and best represents while giving the reader a brief introduction to some of Delhi’s well known tourist sites, with a dash of history and fun facts and essential information as to timings, how to get there and the nearest metro station. Accompanied by comic style illustrations of what really goes on amidst many of the attractions, this book beautifully captures the diversity of Delhi and can certainly serve as a children’s home grown lonely planet guide to Delhi. Don’t forget to pick up your copy... when in Delhi!!!