Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hanuman's Ramayana!

July seems to be the month of children's theatre in Bangalore! If we began the month with the play "Gumma Banda Gumma " followed by the week-long Aha! Children's theatre festival at Ranga Shankara .....this weekend saw the riveting performance of Tulika's "Hanuman ki Ramayan" in Swaang-Nautanki style by Gillo theatre repertory at four different locations in Bangalore. 

With our eight year old already having watched more plays this month than we adults watch in a year, we were  warned by our folks at home that an overdose of theatre might just be a little too much for him! That said, however, we couldn't miss this troupe whose musical rendition of Asha Nehamaiah's book "Granny's Sari" we so enjoyed a couple of years ago ( God..time flies!).  So Abhay went along with his daddy to watch the play at Suchitra film society at South Bangalore. The play was performed in the North Indian folk art form - Nautanki, where the story is performed through an eclectic mix of folk songs, dance and dialogues followed by an interactive session with the audience post the performance. Gillo demonstrated how a simple story can be transformed into an electrifying stage act with minimal props, purely on the strength of their performance , with each and every actor contributing in equal measure.  Though set as a period drama, certain contemporary themes were also blended into the narrative making it even more entertaining! For instance, it was hilarious to watch Narada, touted as mythogy's most misunderstood character, comparing himself to today's "media-wale"! :-) So whether you love the story, or the Nautanki dance drama style.... Gillo's rendition of Hanuman's Ramayan is a must watch! 

As a follow-up to the play, we read the book on which yesterday's performance is based... "Hanuman's Ramayan " by Devdutt Pattanaik and pictures by Nancy Raj. We all know about Valmiki's Ramayan but as the story goes... there appears to be another Ramayan supposedly a better one, according to Narada. Don't believe it.. Neither does Valmiki when Narada discloses the author's name to be Hanuman... the monkey.... a mere character in Valmiki's Ramayan. As Valmiki sets off to the foothills of Himalayas hoping to take a peek at the so called "better Ramayan" , he comes across an orchard full of banana trees with it's leaves scrawled on by what looked like fingernail marks. Upon close observation, the marks turned out to be " letters...words ....sentences" .... and it didn't take long for Valmiki to realise that he was indeed reading "Hanuman's Ramayan"! As Valmiki voraciously takes in the seven banana leaves containing the Ramayan...without missing a single word... he is so overcome with emotion that it falls upon only Lord's Ram's greatest devotee to save the day! Read on as this story only highlights how the mythological classic "Ramayan " lends itself to many different versions and mini-tales that is vibrantly brought out by the folk style illustrations. This is as much a story about Valmiki swallowing his pride as it is a tribute to Hanuman's devotion to Lord Rama. Indeed....a great way of getting our younger generation interested in mythology! Kudos to Gillo's talented performers for choosing stories from Indian children's publications and bringing them alive on stage! 

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Gumma Banda gumma - Guest post by Rajaram

Over the last weekend, Abhay and I went for a play at Rangashankara and were so taken in by the play that we couldn't stop talking about it! So Divya asked me to pen down a few thoughts about the play leading up to this guest post on Onestoryaday....

What are children afraid of? They are afraid of nothing and yet are afraid of a lot of things. Is this a paradox? No.. …if we rephrase and replace “afraid” with “bother” it would probably be clearer.  Almost nothing that bothers the grown-ups bother children. But there are so many things in their little brains and their little-large world that bother them. The beautiful part  is that  none of those botherations last long.  In their world, there are friendships, fights, truce, bartering of little possessions, enemies, friends - all going through a constant change which many a times  is hard to understand for grown-ups. Why? because we are no longer children we used to be! 

The reason for my musings is a play that I watched with my son last weekend in Ranga Shankara, "Gumma Banda Gumma" written by  Surendranath and directed by  Sundar, who had acted as a child in the first production of the play 22 years ago! This history was proudly shared to us by the director of Rangashankara, Arundhati Nag. The play revolves around Putta and Munni who are siblings and Gunda, the neighborhood rough kid. These protagonists are ably supported by Putta and Munni's mother and Gunda's short tempered father who believes that beating up the boy will set everything right. The play beautifully portrays the relentless banter,  mischief and never ending questions of Putta and Munni that drives their mother up the wall, the fears of Putta about an invisible Ghost (Gumma) in the night, their conflict with the rough kid Gunda and a natural graduation of their conflict into friendship. The siblings quarrel throughout but they are always one when the mother 
confronts them. Another aspect of childhood being dealt with is that the  value of any object in a child's eye is never the same as the supposed value in the real world!  For instance, Putta trades his bicycle with Gunda for a toy gun which he is most eager to play, but for his mom’s disapproval. This leads to a conundrum that drives the play to it's climax, drags both the parents and finally unites the kids. But in all the commotion, the children still don't see bicycle as being more valuable than a toy gun!

This is one of the few plays I was so engrossed in watching and it took me back to my childhood and reminded me of similar such conflicts I used to have with my sister. It's a must watch for all children and people who want to get nostalgic about childhood and innocence. 

Going by the tradition at Onestoryaday, there's always a book for every occasion..  and Divya picked out a book for us to read together... "The Tunnel" by one of our favourite authors,  Anthony Browne. This is an intriguing story about Jack and Rose, a brother-sister duo who were anything but alike each other. Jack loved outdoors, played football with his friends and Rose loved indoors and spent time reading and dreaming. When they were together….. they were constantly arguing and fighting, much to their mother's annoyance. Tired of their acrimonious fights, one day, she sends them out with a warning that they better be nice to each other and be back in time for lunch. So Jack and Rose wander about .. .scowling and snapping at each other until they come across what looks like a tunnel. Jack who loves exploring outdoors crawls into the tunnel while Rose waits anxiously outside. After waiting for what seems like long time, Rose reluctantly decides to follow her brother. Scared and nervous, Rose enters the dark and damp tunnel to find herself in a forest at the other end. As she walks through the deep woods, all the while thinking of wolves and demons. Beyond the forest, she sees a stone statue she recognises .... of her brother! Distraught that it's probably too late... she puts her arms around the statue and slowly her brother comes back to life! They then trace their way back home and their mother noticing their unusual silence asks them if everything's alright when the siblings give each other a knowing smile! So much is said yet so much is left to imagination….that’s Anthony Browne for you! The tunnel encounter proves that no matter how different you are or how many times you fight with your sibling, the bond you share with your sibling is special and in a way irreplaceable! As Abhay watched the play, he wondered aloud if his baby sister would grow up to be like Munni in the play! Well... may be, may not be......welcome to the life with siblings is ... trust it to be much more adventurous! J

Monday, July 6, 2015

School Stories!

A portion of this post was first published in  Parent Edge blog

With the arrival of my second child, my life seems to have been put on hold and has become home-bound for now and is all about nursing, burping, changing nappies, swaddling the baby to sleep and so on and so forth. But for the others around me…life goes on like before…school has reopened, there’s office to go to, there are routine things to take care of and so and so forth! Especially my older one (probably the first time Abhay is being referred this way) now a fourth grader, who doesn’t seem to cut me any slack at all! J Why should his baby sister’s colic evenings come in the way of letting out his frustration at having been separated from his friends at school? Who can blame his irritation at not being able to discuss his cricketing feats at school with his mom without any interruptions like before?? Frankly, while it may not seem so, I do empathize with him for having to vie with his baby sister for his mother’s attention.  Well….. school has begun and so have his routine weekly activities …that’s what matters to him the most!  I understand….but believe me, it is tough to be all ears to his who-did-what reports from school with a wailing baby at hand!

Though Abhay’s school reopened a month ago, I haven’t had much time with him as he continues to operate from our house ( thanks to my husband and my mother-in-law!) while I have been staying at my mom’s place. So while the daddy is in charge of our older one through the week, I am with our little one and we try to swap places during the weekend ( if that’s actually possible!). So its only last weekend that I got time to read a back-to-school book to help him kick start this academic year! 

Though I have read many  school stories before, this time I picked out a compilation that is more complex and layered,  titled “School Stories” by Paro Anand meant more for kids aged ten and above. Since some of the stories were beyond Abhay’s reading level, I read them out while Abhay listened on. This collection brought out by Scholastic publications sensitively portrays the  angst, confusion, trials and tribulations most adolescents face while having to grapple with various challenges in their school lives! It is interesting to note that almost all the stories are narrated in first person and this if not anything else is sure to strike a chord with the tweens and teens at home. Though the school years during high school seem tough….it is only when we are out of it do we realize that they were probably the best years of growing up! Each story by Paro Anand echoes such a sentiment ….. from the story of Pratap who almost succumbs to the temptation to cheat to Gita’s bold move of wanting to play the part of the protagonist in a play despite her stammering problem or the hilarious exchange of correspondence between parents and their son studying in a boarding school facing a cash crunch! Besides being brilliantly written all stories present a delightful inter-play of humour, reflection and reality-check for today’s youth! Though I am a little late….here’s wishing all the kids and their parents……..have a great school year ahead! J

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day out with dad!

Father's Day is meant not only to thank our own fathers but also to acknowledge the role of the fathers of our little ones! Though I have always been more than fair in giving dads their due on Onestoryaday, its not until now that I realised what it means for your children to have a "hands on" dad as opposed to mainly a "911" dad!      Right from changing diapers to understanding every nuance of their kids' actions and behaviour, today's dads are hand in hand with moms in every aspect of raising kids! While hands on daddies are a blessing for the mommies ... they are a joy for the kids! There's nothing like having both your parents wholly involved in your life... Be it homework, school, play, career and life choices or taking care of your kids....Just like I have my dad to thank for putting my little one to sleep as I write this blog:-) 


Ever since the birth of my second child, I have hardly had any time for Abhay, my older one and as he was in wanting of some serious pampering... What better occasion than this to have father and son spend time together! So Abhay and his daddy participated in a science workshop organised by Abhay's school as a "Father's Day " special program followed by a "boys only" outing all day long! So while it was the Father's Day weekend... It was the son getting pampered! So no wonder today's book is "My Dad, my Hero" by Ethan Long. A hilarious take on how a young boy feels about his dad. While conceding that his dad is not a super hero as he is seen stumbling over his building blocks, clumsily falling off while painting the walls, or fumbling with his razor and hurting himself and many such not-so-admirable things ...  in short a complete anti-thesis to a super hero figure. But there's one thing that he loves about his dad and that is the fact that he spends a lot of time with his son and ultimately according to the little boy .. that's what makes him his hero!! Rightly put, we may want to do all sorts of things  for our kids, but all they want us to do is to spend time with them. A nice little picture book with laugh out loud illustrations that makes an apt Father's Day read! Happy Father's Day to all the daddies! 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Meet Abhay's sister!

Our second bundle of joy arrived a couple of weeks ago and our little family now seems complete with the arrival of a baby girl!   In a way .. all babies look alike... and for now Abhay's sister looks exactly like a miniature Abhay when he was just born!  Though the whole experience felt like "dejavu" .....the initial few days post delivery are just as perplexing as they were the first time around. More so.... when everyone including yourself expects to understand why something is happening ... as if having had a baby before makes you an expert on babies! Invariably you can't help comparing and complaining that "this was not the case the first time.... or "this didn't happen with my first born"!  Abhay too seems to be curious to know if he was doing the same things as his sister seem to be doing... and any reported difference is taken as a compliment! :-) Anyway, despite the initial disappointment at his unfulfilled wish for a brother, Abhay now can't keep his hands off his baby sister.... wanting to hold her, hug her... and kiss her in what he terms as an affectionate  way... the prospect of which can be annoying at times! Abhay is comfortable being addressed as the big brother and is in a way relieved to find out that his baby sister is hardly a threat he'd reckon she'll be.... as all she does is ( in his words) "crying...nursing...sleeping...":-)

On the occasion of arrival of his baby sister, we had Abhay read "Neha, my sister" a NBT publication by Madhu B Joshi and illustration by Partha Sengupta. Preethy wakes up to learn that her mother is in hospital and it is her father who helps her get ready for school. In school, she worries about her mother's health when her teacher, Suman Ma'am assures her that her mother is alright and is in the hospital as she is due to deliver a baby. In fact her friend Salil joins in and confirms that his mother too came home from the hospital with a baby brother at which Minu complained that the same thing did not happen when her granny was admitted in the hospital! As she is picked up by her father from school... she is overjoyed to know that her mother has given birth to a baby girl and she can't wait to see her baby sister. As they visit the hospital in the evening, Pretty is smitten by her baby sister's small pink face, tiny black face and her toothless smile! So do her friends when they meet her a week later as Preethy's mom and sister are brought home. As days pass, Preethy beautifully takes over the role of a 'didi' (elder sister) and helps out her mother in taking care of her baby sister Neha. As her didi swings her in her cradle, accompanied with a soft Neha is seen slowly falling asleep with a serene smile on her face! Though a little basic in terms of text and illustrations, this book makes an ideal read for welcoming a new baby in the household. Of course... I only wish that in reality... things are as hunky-dory as they appear in the book!:-)