Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Aha! all the way!

It's that time of the year again... a chance to 'enthrall, entertain and educate the kids and say AHA! In Arundhathi's Nag's own words, one of Rangashankara's most "precious" theatre festivals "Aha! International theatre for children is in it's eighth year and going strong!! With troupes from all over the world, including Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom Korea and Afganisthan performed at Rangashankara this week...with shows ranging from puppet theatre to shadow plays, from symbolic and surreal to delightful gibberish …..children between ages of four and above were in for an artistic treat!

This year's takeaway  were seven AHA! characters that embrace diversity and seek to break stereotypes in society – from Raju who loves the colour pink to Pammy who loves to fix bulbs …from mini-master chef Nandu to the cricketer Lilli! The interested children got to choose one of these characters and act out /demonstrate their characteristics in their own manner and style.

While this year’s year highlight were age specifications prescribing both minimum and maximum age for the shows, as it had been increasingly felt that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to children's theatre, my only complaint is that there isn't any performance catering to very young kids.. as it only seems unfair that my younger one had to wait for two whole years to be unable to experience Aha!:-(

For the last six years…..we’ve been regular at Rangashankara’s Aha! festival and we come back each year begging for more and more…! I’m sure early exposure of theatre to children has a positive impact on their impressionable minds. In fact, I’m amazed at the how my son seemed to remember some of the performances that were staged over 3 to 4 years ago! All thanks to Rangashankara’s Aha! festival.

While my daughter may be too young to enjoy interesting performances  at Rangashankara this year, she is not too young for the interesting stories revolving around pretend and play acting …………. And there could not have been a better choice to suit the occasion than “Ari” a Tulika publication by Vaishali Shroff and illustrated by Kavitha Singh Kale. Centered around a shy and sensitive boy named Ari whose soft voice is often drowned out by the common din in the classroom. When the class teacher announces selections for the class play, Ari’s hands go up but not high enough for the teacher to notice. While Ari follows the selected children onto the auditorium to watch the rehearsals of the play ‘Lion and the Mouse”, he cant help feeling that he could be a much better job of playing the Lion than his classmate. Though a little disappointed but Ari does not lose hope and finds tremendous satisfaction in mono-acting the characters of lion and the mouse in front of a mirror at home…..only to find someone squeaking in to play the role of a mouse – who else – his mother who joins in the play-acting of the famous fable of “Lion and the Mouse” …. And after the performance, the actors finally take the much deserved bow! A beautiful rendition of a tale of childhood yearning fulfilled by a creative parent to make happy growing-up memories and that’s the Aha! spirit…isnt’ it?

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

When Mama Comes Home Tonight..!

Just when the omnipresent working mom’s guilt had begun to ease with Abhay growing independent enough not to need his mom at every juncture, its back to square one with my little one!  Though being an independent professional allows one the flexibility to combine work with certain personal responsibilities that a structured job does not make room for, that does not automatically being about a greater work-life balance. Technically, there are no ‘day-offs’ or ‘sick-days” or “paid leaves” or even “public holidays”! While being busy is a good sign for an independent professional, it can also lead on to biting off more than one can chew.... often blurring the lines between home and work…and that’s when your support structure at home truly matters.

Well, notwithstanding umpteen number of day-cares that have mushroomed on every street of the city, most working moms depend on some sort of a support structure at home, at least during the early childhood phase of their kids – be it in the form of parents, in-laws or nannies, etc. Till recently, I was in between nannies …..the uncertainty  of which, believe me,  is worse than being in between jobs! With each passing day, things turn from bad to worse, leaving you at the mercy of these maid/nanny agencies that is probably the only business not affected by any kind of recession! Of course with each passing day, the helplessness makes you doubt the wisdom of your choice of getting back to work with a young kid in tow. Finally, when you find that your prayers have been answered, there is still a sense of uncertainty over whether the new help is here stay or will she vanish into thin air …like her predecessors! So while some semblance of sanity has been restored in our household, following the appointment of a new nanny for our little one, we never know when the rug will get pulled from under our feet…once again!
Anyway, this is an age old saga of a working mom that will only end when her kids fly out of their nests (or will it??). Meanwhile we shouldn’t forget to enjoy the small pleasures of life with kids  that includes reading to them which may turn out to be more of a relaxation therapy for the mothers!

Not very often do you come across a book that you can so well relate to, that it almost feels like to have been written only for you! “When Mama Comes Home Tonight” by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jane Dyer is one such book that is a must-read for every mom, (especially working moms) to a young child! So much so that even the illustrator dedicates the book “To all mothers who come home tired at the end of the day….”! This book assumes a reassuring tone for all the kids waiting for their mamas to return home. With a beautiful narrative, the author vividly captures the daily routine of a mother once she is back at home…and how everything she does, involves her little one .. ..from hugging her little one tight to feeding her dinner and dancing with her down the hall, from engaging in quiet play to looking out of the window for stars and moon in the night, from mending the little one’s clothing while fixing her own and taking some time off for a cup of tea while letting her little one have a sip or two, from getting her into a bedtime routine of bathing her…reading to her and finally putting her to sleep with her soft lullabies in the company of her soft toys…mamma stays on till the end!  

Even the soft and tender water colour-like illustrations of the mother-child duo seem so real and familiar that it may as well be straight from one of our households. Personally, the illustration of the thumb-sucking-curly-haired little girl makes the book seem like a customized picture for me and my little one! Though based on a simple theme, its sublime presentation enhanced by soothing illustrations make a comforting read for all mothers and their little ones alike!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Daddy Bear!

Call it a blogger’s block or blame the proverbial mistress that the practice of law is likened to, in the saying “Law is a jealous mistress” (or should it be the master in my case?), but this no doubt has been my longest break so far on Onestoryaday. It is only recently when my younger one turned two ( I know time flies..!) that I realized that while I had chronicled our read-aloud experiences with my older one…….…there are hardly any posts on my reading experiences with my little one…and that especially when she literally  jumps with joy when I pull out a book for us to read together.  More so, it wouldn’t seem fair when she grows up to discover that Onestoryaday was all about her older brother! So pre-empting any mis-interpretations that may arise in the future over the  digital dominance of her older brother on Onestoryaday, I better start making amends ….ahead of time before I’m accused of any favourtism!!

While I had made grand plans of resurrecting my blog on Mother’s day……by the time I got around to executing the same …. It was Father’s day!! Though it is tough to find a book that makes an ideal read for both my kids who are almost nine years apart….. nevertheless I had the daddy and the kids all huddled together with a couple of picture books on the occasion of Father’s day. Amidst the jaded expression of my older one and the distracted attention of my little one, we managed to read a bear themed picture book which my little one was excited about.....  “Me and My Dad”  by Alison Ritchie and illustrations by Alison Edgson which is a trip down memory lane for us….as we had read a similar book to Abhay back when he was four years old!  Reading “Me and My Mum” by the same author-illustrator team made Abhay wonder why there isn't any reference to the dad in the book….and we now answer this question six years later!

My little one kept on blurting out "Teddy bear" as the book beautifully illustrates the wonderful times that the father-baby bear share through out  the day......right from being woken by dad with tickle and a kiss to exploring the world on a piggy back ride…from keeping safe from storm to dancing in the rain…from swimming in the stream to sleeping under the stars…dads are such fun to be with…..both my kids will vouch for that for sure! :-) Happy Fathers day to all the daddies! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A fluttering favourite!

Some say that second time parenting is a breeze as there will be “been there done that” moments all the way, while others say that raising a second child can be twice as tough. Hmm….I feel it’s a bit of both…there are definitely a few “dejavu” experiences that you can bank on to guide you through tricky situations when compared to rookie parents but it’s also true that you are dealing with an entirely different subject-matter who just happened to be related to your first born  as a sibling…so that’s makes it a whole new experience, plus there's always the sibling protocol you have to be conscious of…at all times…that only gets more challenging as the younger one gets older and starts to demand the lion’s share of the parental time … and when that happens, your only hope is that the older one reaches adolescence and becomes too jaded to even care! J

When it comes to books, my younger one has been introduced to them at a much earlier age, when compared to my older one, and to my delight, she couldn’t have been any more fascinated than she is with the pictures and imagery, any more thrilled with turning the pages of a board book and any more eager as I sit down to read her favorite book!  Thanks to Kutoohala, that houses a curated collection of some of the best children’s books both home grown and imported, my younger one is literally spoilt for choices when it comes to books for toddlers. Thanks to Kutoohala, I don’t have to wait for relatives or friends travelling from the US or UK to revisit the books that I had read to my son while in the US. Thanks to Kutoohala, our love affair with Bangalore’s children’s libraries continues to grow…! J

One such book that took me straight to Portland, where we spent a good part of Abhay’s toddlerhood is “Flutter by, Butterfly” by Petr Horacek, that has been drawn from his vibrantly illustrated “Butterfly Butterfly” which was one of the first books we read together when Abhay was a toddler. While “Butterfly Butterfly” is a very colourful  picture book, with a simple story line that follows little Lucy in the garden,  as she encounters many of nature’s garden splendours in her quest for the most beautiful of all – the butterfly, “Flutter by Butterfly” is a board book that takes off from the butterfly to focus on all these chance encounters from 'Busy Buzzing Bee', to 'Wriggly Wiggly worm', all presented in colourful cut-away pages to culminate in the grand finale of the crunching munching caterpillar! With vividly rich illustrations,  and alliterating phrases that can make for a great read-aloud, this is my little one’s current favourite which is a mini-version of my older one’s one-time favourite book…. So I’m not just reliving my own childhood, in a way, I’m reliving Abhay’s early childhood too! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Resplendent Rajasthan!

After a hiatus of almost two years following the birth of our little one, we have embarked on our annual Bharat Darshan tour with extended family around the Desert State of Rajasthan. As we travel from Pink city to Desert city, from Golden city to Blue city, enthralled by the majestic forts, earthen landscape, scintillating musical and folk art performances and the vibrant Rajasthani culture, this trip around Rajasthan seems to have everything -travel by flight, long road trips, train journeys, rugged and rustic experiences like desert safari and a taste of royal splendour at the numerous palaces and heritage properties - in all a wholesome experience of everything that is quintessentially Rajasthani! 

This  trip also seems like we've truly come of age in the balancing act of travelling with now two kids and all it's trappings. From carrying an additional check-in baggage to the omni present "baby bag", from waking up at the crack of dawn, not to catch the sun rise but to cook the day's to-go meal for the little one in a travel size rice cooker or lugging an umbrella stroller hoping to wheel the little one around, only to realise that the fort has stairs at every turn, jumping into the swimming pool or utilising other such amenities of the hotel with the older one when all  you want to do is curl up on that very fancy and comfortable looking couch with a book- Travelling with kids is more like business trip for parents as you always have to prepare for what may happen next! Amidst all the ensuing chaos, if you still manage to catch a glimpse of the fantastic desert sunset ...taste the delectable local mawa katchoris, or get a good bargain on the day's shopping spoils and have your kids enjoy the folk art performances/puppet shows,  you've got a winner...Let's reserve the museums and galleries for another time ....probably when the kids grow up or grow out of our nests!!!!

We are at an unenviable phase in our parenting adventure! While our little one is supposed to be high maintenance, given her age, she makes herself comfortable anywhere, provided her basic needs are taken care of!  Whereas our older one who is at an ideal age for travel, hence supposedly low maintenance, has instead proven to be quite demanding! Almost ten years apart, our older one and our little one couldn't be any more diverse in terms of their tastes,quirks, and mood-swings!! Of course, it immensely helps to be travelling with the extended family of parents and relatives, as your little beasts can be unleashed on them as well...and thanks to them, we could enjoy our morning walks minus the kids or go on zip lining adventures, but just as you begin to breathe a little ....your little one is promptly handed back with a soiled diaper!!:-)) 

Through out the State of Rajasthan, the camel is a ubiquitous presence. From camel rides to camel skin merchandise and camel prints on arts and handicrafts, the ship of the desert best represents the state, at least from a tourist point of view!:-)

As always, we look for something to read when we travel, so imagine my delight when I found a new release from Tulika publications that's set in Rajasthan! Replete with illustrations draped in vibrant hues and colours that present an authentic Rajasthani setting, this book is a visual treat in itself!  "When Bholu came back" by Kavitha Punniyamurthi and pictures by Niloufer Wadia revolves around a camel named Bholu and his  owner Beni Ram. Finding no use for a camel as a means of transport in modern day Rajasthan, Beni Ram tries to sell off his beloved Bholu, only to have the camel return back to him as he refuses to go to his new master. Just as Beni Ram and Bholu spend the night in the desert pondering  over how to find work in a time when village carts are preferred over camels, hordes of tourists arrive in jeeps with banner "Taparia camel safari". As the travellers get ready to climb onto the camels for a ride around the sand dunes, a little girl and her mother are left out as the safari team falls short of one camel .......and no prizes for guessing who got roped in to take the little girl on the most exciting ride across the golden sands...!!! So meet the newest camel on the "Taparia Camel Safari".....Beni Ram's Bholu!  Who knows may be we rode on him at the Desert Safari near Jaisalmer a couple of days ago!:-)))