Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fourteen already??

 

Every year I begin this post with a sense of awe at the fleeting time and how it feels as if time is racing against itself to make way for this little being that came out of me to grow bigger, (almost surpassed me in height) bolder (read audacious), though  not wiser yet! As my son added another turbulent teen year to his adolescent life,  I can only hope for more patience for this tempestuous tide to ebb in its own flow…whenever that happens! Parenting teenage kids is like walking on a tightrope, a tough balancing act at that, alternating between liberal and authoritarian parenting strategies…and this indoors-bound life where he is logging into from one online class to another, owing to the pandemic isn’t helping at all!

As a  follow-up parent, while you may be in touch with the day to day life of your child, but you also run the risk of having only transaction based interactions, checking on whether his homework has been turned in, or whether he’s practiced the new krithi that’s been taught recently, or has he zeroed in on a topic to speak on his weekly gavel club, or if has he read up the Child Friendly news article forwarded to his mail and you suddenly realise at the end of the day that’s you’ve been behind his back all day to accomplish tasks but have not had a real conversation! Of course, it’s another story that despite so much follow-up, he still manages to play truant with you (story of my life right now!)

Needless to say, such interactions can turn into snapping matches especially on days when you are short of patience, escalating into acrimonious exchanges almost bringing the whole house down! It is then incumbent on the “good cop” playing parent to step in and diffuse the situation! Of course, I’m aware that it’s not an uncommon scenario, especially in households with an adolescent under the roof, and I’m sure our parents probably felt the same way and for all you know, years later, you may joke about it over a family dinner with your grown up son or daughter….but it’s far from being a laughing matter now. Well, people say  “Don’t sweat over small stuff” but its only when the stuff is behind you…that you realise it was small stuff..right?

 So Abhay’s foray into adolescence has been a true test of my endurance  and there have been times when I’m wondering if it’s just teenage trouble or the onset of early menopause…a la Kamala Das’s poem titled “Middle age)! I understand that my relationship with Abhay is going through a transition and I do need to hold back my controlling behaviour…..but it’s takes a mammoth amount of self-control not to peep into his room to check on whether he is actually logged into his online class or watching  Youtube football videos…or check for the browsing history on his system …..especially there’s a trust deficit when it comes to Abhay and devices! And of course……he still doesn’t have his own cell phone!!  I wonder if adolescent girls are much more malleable than boys during this phase…..….I will  realize in another five to six years from now! 😊

Anyway, we couldn’t let our love-hate relationship as unpredictable as the weather, cloud Abhay’s birthday celebrations, now could we? A home-bound celebration for our die-hard FC Bayern Munchen fan….creatively represented in this delicious creamy red velvet birthday  cake from bake_mon_rev which was indeed a center piece of the day! 


What a pleasant contrast it was from the previous birthday which was mostly spent in playing the perfect host to Abhay’s school friends. Celebrations during these times are a welcome change, with the focus more on ourselves rather than fussing and hovering around the guests all the time!



Anyway, with the world teeming with child prodigies and kidpreneurs, we have begun to wonder what would our perpetually playful, sensitive, self-entitled, smart-mouthing day-dreamer of a teenager do in his life!!  So on his birthday, I picked out a teasing poem from the magnificent collection of tongue-in-cheek poems titled “Tickle me, Don’t Tickle Me” by Jerry Pinto brought out by talking CUB publications.  This is a book that we bought on a bibliophilic weekend at Bangalore Lit fest last year. Well….don’t know if we will have one this year! 

An anthology specially written for children for “Turbo-loaded, Triple-Charged Children” filled with laugh-out-loud poems, reflective and contemplative poems, poems that seek to ask questions from the perspective of children….there’s even a poem about what happens to children who say that They are Going to fail Their Exams but stand first”!  A little reflection here….and a tit-bit of advice there (though Jerry Pinto will not want to call it that!) and loads and loads of ROFL moments you are guaranteed to experience with the quintessential style of Jerry Pinto with equally zany illustrations by Sunaina Coelho !  



“What do you want to be when you grow to be?” is a quirky poem that best reflects Abhay’s mindset today and here’s an excerpt …. 

(Quote)

I will drive a taxi
In Cotopaxi

I’ll cure disease
With Greatest of ease.                                                                                                           
I’ll dance with joy 
At  the Russian Bolshoi.                                                                                                   

I'll win a Grammy And say, “That’s for Mammy’ (Unquote) (Love this especially!) 

……..

(Quote) I’ll be a watch-maker
Or a lone census-taker
I’ll be a cake baker
Or a verdant lawn-raker

I don’t know yet what I want to do
But whatever I do, what’s it to you?    (They love to say that ..dont they?)
I’ll have you know I’m only ten (Unquote) (or fourteen)
…………..
(Quote)Whatever I’ll be, Let me tell you chappy, 
I plan to be ext-urr-emely happy,

Whatever I will be, 
I will be me.   

(Unquote)

So Abhay…..whatever you want to be….just plan to be extremely happy with who you are and what you do! Here’s wishing you fourteen more adventures this fourteenth year!           A small request however….. go a little easy on your amma! 😊                                                                 

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Working holiday at Shristi

 


Raindrops are falling on my head….” has been the song we’ve been singing for the last ten days as we’ve been enjoying the rainy weather at Shristi, my parent’s farm house in Dharmasthala in South Kanara. With most of our world moving into an online format allowing us to remotely connect to work, school and even attending court hearing through video conference, all from our picturesque plantation farm! While incessant rains can be a tad depressing during these times in our confined city home, but the overcast skies, pitter-patter of rains alternating between a light drizzle to heavy showers, rain soaked lush greenery, the smell of moist earth, experienced from atop our farm house overlooking our plantation farm is truly magical! While the day is dominated by the rhythm of the rain, it’s one noisy party of crickets, praying mantis, dragon flies and frogs at night! With my parents more than thrilled to host us, little did they realise how we would transform their quiet rural setting into an online-hub, taking over every part of the house for our online activities – from online daily school, online Model United Nations meet during the weekend, and online music class for my ninth-grader, work as usual with teams/webex meetings for my IT professional husband, once-a-week online school and online little gym class for my reluctant pre-schooler, and work related phone calls and court hearing through video conference for me, along with our laptops, files, books, internet accessories and all the attendant clutter…..its a full house indeed and we can’t thank my parents enough for putting up with the madness of it all! 


 But amidst our online lives, we would best remember this time for our walks in the rain, hopping across the creeks in our farm that are running full to the brim this season, playing family ludo in the evening, playing with our pets, feeding the cows, watching web-based family dramas with my parents, reading at the portico, and gorging on the delicious and wholesome home cooked meals dished out by my mom, all in the backdrop of the monsoon magic at Shristi!




While Abhay had spent close to two months with his grandparents at Shristi during the initial lockdown phase in March and April, Aadya hardly got to spend time with her maternal grandparents. Well, she more than made up for it this time - demanded to be pushed on the swing by her grandpa, loved painting on the stones and chasing butterflies in the garden with her grandma, basked in her grandpa’s pampering with chocolates, looked forward to being read to by her grandma and in return entertained her grandma with her own stories!  



To celebrate the nature’s bounty at Shristi, I looked up a Pratham story on storyweaver.org, that was read to Aadya by her Sanna-ajji, “Chunu and Munu: Let’s sing and dance for nature” a Level 2 Reader by Shantdas Manadhar and Shilpi Pradhan and illustrated by Abin Shreshta, and translated by Alice Berger, part of the Chunu Munu series revolving around two little girls who go on many an adventures. Chunu and Munu are fascinated by all the flora and fauna in their surroundings, – from the joyful jumping of the goat-kid to flowers in full bloom, from the colourful butterflies during the day to the shimmering fire flies in the night and they imagine themselves to be butterflies hovering around flowers or jumping around like the goat kid or flying high above the mountains  like a bird and decide to sing a song celebrating everyone and everything that touches our lives – from parents-friends-teachers-village-country to air-rain-flowers thus singing a hurrah for nature! Though a little simplistic, it is the sheer energy and enthusiasm of Chunu Munu that makes it worth reading to your little one and introduce her to nature’s beauty that surrounds us. All thanks to the painstaking efforts of my parents, our plantation farm is a heavenly rejuvenating retreat from the cloistered life of a city dweller!


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Our Happy Place!


Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference to your world. It may be a beautiful rendition of your favourite song that’s playing on the radio or FB live program, or a serendipitous occurring, or managing to catch a premiere of the new season of your favourite show, or a hobby you’ve resumed after years of lassitude, or a flip-kart buy arriving earlier than expected, or chancing upon a book that you have been longing to read, or finding a book that your little one is sure to love and watching her expression as you read it…… its these priceless moments that make your day and lift your spirits enough to carry you through the mundane transactional daily life!

One such mood lifter, happiness dispenser and my very own great escape is a nice little Indie book store, a travelling book store called “Funky Rainbow”! It is a bookstore whose presence is ubiquitously found in many public events in Bangalore related to books and children’s literature. A book store that never fails to excite you in terms of their vast collection and some like CBT and NBT books that feel like they've been  retrieved from your very own childhood memory. A bookstore run by book lovers who are always full of recommendations from the latest children’s publications in India. A bookstore that will give you a shopaholic’s guilt as you can never stop at buying just one book! The travelling bookstore that makes the long wait at my children’s PTM bearable and no matter how well they fare at school, I can always take solace in being  able to lay my hands on a few good books in the end (for them!).  An indie bookstore we are so glad to have, in South Bangalore!    I always look forward to visiting the bookstore and have felt a childlike excitement as we  approach the entrance of Nandi Garden, J P Nagar.

Funky Rainbow and its team have spared no efforts to popularise reading and books amongst children and parents alike. Right from organising author visits at school and book release events during pre-covid days, to Lockdown quizzes,  pre-paid book vouchers and Saturday morning live Book Buzaars on Facebook during Covid times,  Funky Rainbow and their team have been trail blazers in adapting to the changed circumstances. Here’s wishing Funky Rainbow and its team of trio a very happy seventh birthday and wishing many more to come!


Today we read “The Happy Place”, a Ramya story, a part of the Ramya and Ramu series brought out by Ms Moochie publications as a part of the Little Book Lovers’ reading series, of course another one recommended and picked up from “The Funky Rainbow”. Its obvious that Ramya stories have been quite popular with my little one and we’ve followed the precocious little Ramya as she took up the cricket bat, donned the Santa costume for her fancy dress at school and other such adventures. Today we learn about her Happy place… and how she works hard at building and turning it around from the dump that it was, enduring all the jeers from her school mates and braving natural and man-made challenges,   and day by day she watches it grow and delights in the fruit of her labour to form a pleasant surprise for her loving granny. Narrated in a limerick-like style by Samatha K and pictures by Chetan Sharma, this is a lovely read for young children, and an earnest attempt to impress upon them the pleasures of every-day creative initiatives in order to find your own little happy place! Funky Rainbow is surely one such happy place of our entire family....and as Abhay puts it.."Its the Best book store one can dream of having in one's town"! 


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

5-power!


I’m growing bigger…my birthday is coming!” is how my little one shoots back at her brother when teased about being a baby! While we can’t believe how time has flown ever since she arrived five years ago, our little princess (I know it’s a cliched term but she loves it and sure acts like one!) has grown bolder, naughtier and definitely more assertive in her sibling skirmishes with her older brother! The eight-year age gap hardly matters as she regularly spars with her older brother in their territorial wars, so much so that we are left bemused (and a little nervous) at how confident she is about her own ability to take on her big brother! That said, she can turn into a baby the next moment, wanting to be fed and cuddled to sleep like one, when one of her parents walks in!  While she is definitely a lot more independent than Abhay was at her age, open to trying out on her own and excited to experiment with new experiences, Aadya however still latches on to certain activities that strictly qualifies as being only for babies, like being fed dinner or refusing to go to bed on her own and its more to do with wanting to be around her mommy or daddy all the time than about her own capability  …….and our 24/7 presence at home owing to the lock-down has certainly not helped the situation!  Aadya turned five last week and no doubt she has gotten bigger, but she can no longer hold on to “my birthday is coming” anymore…..for at least while now and will have to think of another way to smart mouth her brother! 😊





Since her birthday falls during the school vacation, we always lament over how she never gets to celebrate the day feeling special at school and this year we had decided to have her don her birthday special dress on the school reopening day in the first week of June. Alas!…. It turns out that it’s not just Aadya but many are to miss celebrating their birthdays in school this year!






Anyway, it was very much a birthday in Covid-19 times,  with a home celebration amidst the members of only our household with her maternal grandparents joining in through a video-call, and  splash of pink and a smattering of a few princess cut outs available at home, home-made savouries, and a “princess/doll cake” custom baked by “Bake_mon_reve ” run by a pastry chef who is also a relative followed by the customary birthday treasure hunt organised by her “Anna” and the piece de resistance being his part-hand-sketched-part-printed birthday card for his sister making it even mores special!  







While we revisited an old book, "Its Hard to Be Five" by Jamie Lee Curtis  and Laura Cornell, that I had read to the big brother on his fifth birthday back in 2011, it didn’t enthuse her much and I’m not sure if it’s a ‘girl thing’ not to be impressed by a whiny five year old boy annoyed about turning five…but when I happened to stumble upon this wonderful online story at “Storyweaver – Pratham books” ..I knew I had found the perfect book for Aadya’s fifth birthday! In fact, “With you, Ma” by Adith A K and illustrated by Amalendu Kaushik is too good to be true! I must say Pratham publications have been pioneers, in so far as stories that deal with simple growing-up quirks of children. No matter how usual or unusual is your child's tendency, ..there's bound to be a Pratham book about it and I'm always amazed at how they manage to put out such good content at such an affordable price! 

Anyway, in keeping with the Covid-19 times, we went online too, and found this gem of a  book online at storyweaver.org.in.  My little one always relates to the girl in the book and what are the odds that the little girl in this book is named Aadya too?! Little Aadya is almost like an extended attachment to her mother and neither lets her mother out of sight nor wants to venture anywhere without her ma (I’m sailing in the same boat too!) On a trip to Majuli, where she is seen literally clinging to her mom through-out the flight-train-ferry journey, Aadya is introduced to another girl her age, Kim-Kim and her young sister. Though hesitant at first, Aadya enjoys playing with her new friend Kim Kim, and soon she is off to tiny little adventures with Kim Kim and her friends, playing in the rain, splashing water by the river and picking and munching on bugories….all on her own without having her mother tag along and this experience pushes Aadya to take baby steps towards the path of self-reliance, much to her mother’s delight!  A great book to nudge your little one into doing things independently!   So here’s wishing more 5-power to my just-turned-five year old who no matter what and much to her chagrin, will always be the baby of our family! 😊




Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's day in lock down!


If there’s anyone on the domestic front who is by far the worst affected by the lock down, it is the mom – be it stay-at-home or part-time/full-time professional – all are in fact working moms! With “stay home stay safe” being the ubiquitous mantra these days….home has turned into a workplace, day-care, summer camp, online-classroom, binge-watching-entertainment centre,  throwback-mythological-drama-driven-holy space, a 24/7 eatery all rolled into one – and who’s still responsible for keeping it together? “Amma..amma” is the constant chatter I hear from my soon to-be-five year old as I try to write this in between finishing up some pending drafts of petitions to be filed as soon as regular courts reopen at the end of the lock down (whenever that is!) As we try to grapple with household chores, cooking, tending to young kids, (with a little help from our spouses of course) while working full time/part time at our third party jobs (at jobs when working from home is possible), blurring the lines that separate work from home thus robbing us of our distinct identities, all of which now seem to merge into one – of that of a lock down mommy!  Personally, motherhood is certainly a joy to take on, but it is also true that motherhood isn’t all of me and I am pretty sure that I don’t want it to be! But I am also a little hesitant to admit it, as our culture elevates mothers to a Goddess-like stature, being the ultimate destination for an Indian woman.  Frankly, I don’t want to be a goddess!  I am only human and I want my own share of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ days as a mommy without having to feel especially guilty about the “bad’ days! On this mother’s day, apart from all the admiration and appreciation for the maternal bond, I wish we could be more tolerant and non-judgemental about the mommy-meltdowns too!

Apart from being moms, most of us women have our own little happy places untouched by our mommy-selves that we cherish – be it work or a certain me-time at home, or a class we enrol into, or a hobby or an activity we take up, or catching up with our own buddies or a yester-year serial /video/book/ dress we watch, read or wear just to feel if “that little girl’ is still in us…don’t we? Now suddenly, we find that the lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended (albeit temporarily) everything and our own happy place seems to have been invaded by our all-pervading identity of being a “mom”!  I’m not sure if its only me or  is there anyone else who feels the same, if you do, please give a shout-out so that I know I’m not the only weird one! 😊


As I spend the first few hours of mother’s day with my mom at her farm Shristi at Dharmasthala where we travelled to on a two-way inter-district pass in order to pick up our son, Abhay who in his own words has had “the best summer ever” away from home, I now dread having to manage two kids for the rest of the lockdown! For mother’s day in advance, we picked an old favourite (from one of my own happy places Kutoohala) “I love my baby Because…..” a picture book by Paulina Simons and illustrated by Cassia Thomas,  which almost serves as a reminder for us moms as to why we are who we are! This delightfully endearing book beautifully describes the everyday adventures in mommy-hood, the light hearted humour depicted in the illustrations that are quite the opposite of the narration and a realistic portrayal of how things actually pan out when you involve young kids!  It is probably the mommy’s wishful thinking as she says “I Love by baby because ..she dresses herself. She feeds herself breakfast ..”… and as you can imagine, the little girl is shown doing her own version of  “dressing herself and eating breakfast”! The whole day goes by as the little girl “helps’ mommy with the household chores in her own way (Seriously, the mommy in the book is too good to be true!) and despite all the exhaustion, the mother can only feel unending love and warmth as she cuddles her daughter close at bedtime and ends up falling asleep herself! Feels familiar…doesn’t it? Happy mother’s day to all mommies!