Friday, May 22, 2015

Cricket fever!

A latest addition to the ever growing number of cricket aficionados is our eight yer old son Abhay! It all began with the start of the cricket season with ICC World Cup closely followed by the Indian Premiere League this year. As he was always surrounded by cricket fans ( who isn't in India?).. and his close cousins growing up to be budding cricketers themselves... this was always expected but the sudden interest this year has been a surprise or rather bemusing! So from watching every match of the season to checking the sports page of the newspaper every morning.....Abhay is totally into cricket! Of course, for his father and grandfather at's like the son/ grandson's coming of age and they can't hide their delight as the three generations of men discuss Hows and Whys of the Gentlemen's game! Yes... This also means that they have to be ready with answers to his never ending questions that range from "How old was Dhoni when we first won the World Cup in 1983?" to questions sounding like he is a team-owner "Next season ... We are going to take Bravo..... Right?" and finally to questions from a true transformer fan " If it's between Gayle and Devillers.... Who will beat whom?" Okay... so another area where boys will always be boys!! So that's why I'm badly hoping my second one to be a girl!!:-)) 

That's why when I found this book in the Hippocampus list of recommended reads for 7-9 year old kids,  I immediately picked it up! " Diary of a Cricket God" by Shamin Flint is a Puffin publication that revolves around a young boy named Marcus Atkinson whose father for some strange reason is convinced that he has a future in sports and is determined to make him a cricketer! Marcus who till recently only believed that cricket was a kind of bug and that a bat only implies a nocturnal animal... receives his first lesson in spin bowling leaving him totally perplexed as to how could one spin ( meaning turn around) and bowl at the same time! Amidst his hilarious and laugh-out-loud antics on the field, Marcus learns a thing or two about cricket...just when his coach announces that there is cricket test the next day. As he wonders whether to bring a pencil and paper for the test, the coach puts to rest his doubts by announcing that there's no way he is going to be playing, much to his relief ... only to realise that his dad is not happy with the coach's decision! So like any anxious and edgy parent who believes that whatever it is, his son should be given a chance... his dad talks to the coach into making him the 11th player! So does Marcus live up to his dad's expectations ? Read on as Marcus surprises everyone in the final over  in the run up to what could be termed as a nail-biting finish... with a little bit of help from his ever faithful friend his dog "spot"!:-) So does he have a future in cricket, after all? Hmm... The way he runs through the fielders...  has his father change his mind to believe that Rugby is probably his game!:-) A hilarious read presented in a format that is most suited to emergent readers complemented by funny illustrations is worth picking up before the end of the current cricket season! 
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Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Special day for mothers...!

Many wonder ….why do we celebrate Mother’s day?  Well….in a way every day is mother’s day….quite literally in the case of mothers of young kids as it’s tough to get by a single day without mommy around……isn’t it?? Taking a cue from a recent write-up in the Hindu, here’s acknowledging the role of fathers, especially the new age daddies who are not only hand-in-hand in parenting our little ones, but also without whom we wouldn’t be the mothers we want to be! But I feel the pressures of being a mother are a lot different from that of being a father……especially so when I am set to be a mother-to-be the second time around. Right from conception to birth and thereafter, our kids are an inextricable part of our lives in a way that fathers never are. I’ve borne my unborn child for the last eight months.......with an innate awareness that my every step or move will impact him or her in some way (even now wondering if the radiation from the laptop I’m working on will be too much for him or her) and not to mention that the same thoughts would be uppermost for many many years to come. While it is undeniably a moment to rejoice as our little bundle of joy arrives…….it is also unnerving and sometimes even terrifying. At the same time…. as mothers….we are not even allowed to have stray doubts or misgivings about what we’ve gotten ourselves into whereas the society is quite lenient with the dads in that respect. J While mother’s have to constantly battle with guilt whether they are working or stay-at-home moms….it is not even an issue with the fathers. When things go wrong….it’s the mothers who take the blame after which it is fathers’ turn. Even so…as per Indian laws, it is father who is the natural guardian of a child only to be followed by the mother! So in all….is it too much to have one day in year dedicated to mothers???

Anyway, I am at the final stage of my last trimester of my second pregnancy, off late I have been developing what one may call as cold feet over all that I am about to experience in the next few weeks! Yes…motherhood the second time around can be as scary as the first one! Anyhow, on the occasion of Mother’s day, we read “Cloud and Waves” a poem by the most celebrated poet of our country Rabindranath Tagore and art by Sunaina Coelho brought out by Katha publications. This is an endearing conversation between a mother and child wherein the child explains how she resists all kinds of temptations emanating from the clouds in the sky to the ocean waves to  stay back and play with her mother. For instance…as she finds the folks in the waves calling out to her to join IN for they shall sing from morning till night riding on the waves, she turns down the offer as she knows a better game than that ... and is seen saying “I will be the waves and you will be the strange shore….and I shall roll on an on and break upon your lap with laughter…” along with  the illustration beautifully depicting the little child rolling onto to her mother’s lap on their bed…just like waves rushing to shore. The poem is as much a celebration of a child’s imagination as a tribute to maternal bond with the underlying theme being  that for a little child …the mother is his or her universe! Well…it is also the other way around ..isn’t it?? Happy mother’s day to all the mommies and mommies-to-be! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Abhay .............finally takes the plunge??

Come summer and Abhay knows what to expect from his mom.....nothing better than to enrol him into swimming classes of course! For the last few years, swimming has been a mandatory summer time activity that almost always made its way on Onestoryaday! Every summer.....Abhay goes through first time jitters as he stands in line with other kids needing to be coaxed into entering  the pool and this year was no different! In fact he began worrying about it much before...during our two week vacation at my parents' farm house.....resulting in his doting grandmother pulling me up for being a pushy parent ( which I confess I am). This time however...the ordeal of having to watch him panic at the poolside didn't last too long his body seem to remember what his mind didn't! By the end of the first week...he had not only regained his confidence of staying afloat sans floaters but also didn't stop showing off his pool side exploits to everyone around! So after all.....a little push is needed to take the plunge..isn't it?? 

I found a perfect book to celebrate Abhay's first confident splash into the swimming pool.... “Radhika takes the Plunge” by Ken Spillman and illustrated by Anu Biswas is a chapter book brought out by Young Zubaan publications. The story revolves around Radhika who in her attempt to adjust to her new surroundings in Perth post their move from Delhi, is hell bent on learning/going swimming with her friend and her dad, if only her perpetually worrying mother would let her. Finally Radhika cannot believe her luck as her mother gives in, only to realize that swimming isn’t simple as she thought….as she feels jinxed by her mother’s warning her that she is nowhere close to a fish!  But amidst the peer pressure, pressure of fitting into a new environment, suffering through the ensuing embarrassment and dealing with an ever-nervous mom, read on as Radhika does learn a thing or two about coping with fear! With pictures by the high school student Anu Biswas that best illustrate the travails of a tween caught in the motions of carving out her own identity in a new place, and printed content in a running handwriting font ….this is an amusing story that most kids aged seven and above can relate to. So let your young reader take the plunge with Radhika this summer ...just like Abhay did!! :-)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Being Boys!!!!

First appeared on parentedge blog. 

Though as a generation, we have managed to challenge certain gender stereotypes, we have still not been able completely break free from the same. While as urban parents we have been a lot more encouraging towards our girls breaking into male bastions, have we been supportive of our boys in equal measure? Why! Haven't we ever poked fun at our boys as being girl-like for shedding a tear or two? Or haven't we ever goaded them into being "a man" and not a sissy? So as parents we do knowingly or unknowingly seek to perpetuate gender bias. In the same breadth, boys or men are often excused from violent or disorderly behaviour and certain sections of the society still seek to justify the archaic notion by seeking refuge under the age old saying that "Boys will be boys"! So what does it mean to be boys of this generation?

We have been enjoying  reading this recently released book that seeks to break the stereotypes about boys and their so called man’s world! "Being Boys " edited by Deepa Nayar and Radhika Menon brought out Tulika publications is one compilation that promises to be off the beaten path with contributors from various walks of life from famous authors and journalists to professors and social workers.  Though supposed to be for children aged ten plus, some of the works in the compilation make ideal read-aloud stories for children aged six and above, and many others serve as a guide for pre-teens and teens during their stressful phase of adolescence. This is a collection of coming of age stories, autobiographical anecdotes, essays, inspirational non fiction write-ups, poems, diary jottings, speech excerpts, etc featuring mainly young boys as protagonists from different backgrounds, different time periods, and grappling with different issues in life- issues of identity, poverty, ambition,courage, passion,  perseverance,  peer pressure, being bullied and being the bully, an understanding of fair and unfair, and a realization of what truly matters in life. What's unique about this compilation is that all the works touch upon the sensitive side of boyhood and seek to confront issues that most often get pushed under the carpet as being unmanly. Whether it's how to ward off jokes about his long hair as a young Sikh boy in "Rinku's hair " by Amandeep Sandhu, or Swami's fear of darkness unexpectedly making him a hero in R K Narayan's "Hero", or choosing the so called girlie interests or fitting into womanly roles in Ranjit Lal's "General Apron Strings" and Samar Harlankar's "Focke-Wulfs and Fish Curry" or the hilarious account of the pimple ridden        truths of growing up in Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran's "Destroy, Boy", or a real life story of how an ace footballer tackled bullying in N Sudarshan's "Man-up- It's Football" or delving into the mind of a bully in Jerry Pinto's "Kerrrrah-tuck" or the story of transformation of Chandashoka (Ashoka the fierce) into Ashoka, the Beloved of Gods in Devika Cariapa's "The ugly boy" or Vikram Seth's riveting speech on the occasion of "Founder's day" addressing the boys of Doon school and many such stories throw light on what it truly means to be boys and what actually happens when boy meets world! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cherry Tree

Like every summer, Abhay spends the first half of his summer holidays at my parents' farm "Shristi" at Dharmasthala. This time however, much to his chagrin ... his mother has joined him that too for the full length of his stay ... which has invariably come in the way of the no-holds-barred- grandparental pampering that he used to enjoy during his stay here earlier!:-)) So much so that I have also been accused of acting like his jealous older sibling vying for my parents' attention! :-)

Anyway, my parents' Arecanut farm is adorned with a colourful flower garden bordering the house, a vegetable garden full of seasonal veggies like red pumpkins, okra, long beans and greens, and a fruit orchard .. bearing many fruits like the fig, chiku, pineapple, banana, guava..with it's star attraction being the jam fruit tree! With almost all it's branches sprouting the juicy "Jamnerele", as it's known in the local language, our tree offers a fun summer- time activity especially for kids and believe me, no visitor leaves Shristi without embarking on a fruit picking adventure, plucking the white and pink fruits off its branches and filling their baskets with as many as they can reach!:-) And to think that we used to pay for this sort of fruit picking activity in the US now sounds unreal! 

Dedicating this post to the painstaking efforts of my parents in creating what has become our nature summer retreat .. we read Ruskin Bond's "The Cherry Tree" which was originally a part of his short story collection titled " The Night Train at Deoli and other stories", now has been converted into this little book for young readers by Puffin publications. I needn't say any more about Ruskin Bond's narrative that turn a simple story into a magical and a moving tale with an old world charm to it but the Cherry tree brings about an amazing intermingling of nature's various elements  with the transitioning human world! 

The story traces six year old Rakesh's joint venture with his retired forest ranger grandpa of growing a Cherry tree in their back yard in lower Himalayan region that starts with Rakesh casually planting a Cherry seedling, only to be pleasantly surprised to find small twig with a leaf sticking out of the stony ground next spring. As Rakesh excitedly begins to nurture it with the aid of his grandpa, the little twig grows into a small tree, braving all odds ranging from a hungry goat, a woman grass cutter to a caterpillar. Finally as he celebrates his ninth birthday along with his friends around the tree, the Cherry tree gifts him with its first pink blossoms followed by the season's first fruit! Read on as during the next few seasons, as Rakesh grows taller, and his grandpa grows older, how amongst all the greenery of the hills, their day-to-day life revolves around the most special tree amongst all - the Cherry tree. Beautifully brought alive by its vivid illustrations by Manoj A Menon "The Cherry tree" is a must read for any young reader to understand how  life can be do much enriched by one's natural surroundings- just as how we enjoy the beauty of our farm "Shristi"!