Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For a Quiet Diwali........

The biggest festival amongst Hindus, Diwali or Deepavali is here! While there is no stopping for the annual festivities, family traditions or Diwali Dhamaka sales and offers, this Diwali has seen many people vowing for a greener and cleaner Diwali. With the recent spate of fire accidents in many parts of India owing to fire crackers, an appeal has been made in public interest by various Government and non-government agencies including schools to observe a cracker free Diwali due to ensuing the air and noise pollution and solid waste generated from bursting any kind of fire crackers. Personally, while we’ve never been big fans of noise causing crackers and our Diwali evenings was restricted to lighting the relatively noiseless sparklers, flowerpots and earth twisters, but this time we tried to do away with those too! Though our eight year old, (who has always had his ear plugs on every Diwali) was not gung-ho about the idea initially, we are on Day 1 and it’s been so far so good! Believe me, it’s not just us but many kids on our street are rooting for a quieter Diwali ….may be it’s only a matter of time for the whole neighbourhood to turn our biggest festival into our biggest pro-environment endeavour! Well…think about it….. Diwali evenings are probably best meant for other ways of celebration ..…like may be revisiting the long forgotten bhajans (Abhay is wincing!) or may be catching the latest Bollywood Diwali release with friends and family…..(Abhay is nodding rigorously!)….other than causing noise and pollution! So here’s wishing everyone a cracker-free yet a dazzling Diwali!  

As much as I wanted to read “Diwali gift” by Shwetha Chopra and Shuchi Mehta, I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy just in time for my Diwali post and found the pricing of the hardback a little too steep going by Indian standards. Since we are on the topic of going green this Diwali, I am taking the liberty of sharing an inpsiring true story found in the October issue of children’s magazine, Highlights Champs, in its Goofus and Gallant section.  A Quiet Diwali" by Ashish Jain. This is a story of the 14 year old twins in Chindwada, Madhya Pradesh,… Yash and Yashika Jain who are asked to address their school on the eve of Diwali. The teenage twins describe their  life changing experience of having visited the burn ward of a local hospital during the previous Diwali and were so moved that they jointly decide to boycott crackers once and for all. From then the children have been travelling around Chindwada spreading the message of a quiet and a cracker free Diwali! Just as they finished their address, the teacher asks the students as to how many of the students  plan to celebrate Diwali without crackers …..and you can only imagine what the response was! So are you and your little one ready for a quiet Diwali??   
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mumbai magic!


With most schools closed for Dassera vacations and the ensuing long weekend has had many Bangaloreans catch the travel bug last week…..and how could we be left behind? But unlike our previous travels, we decided on a long pending visit to Mumbai that we’ve been putting off for a decade now. So it was a combination of sorts – visiting/calling on extended family and friends and exploring the commercial capital of India! While we drove in air conditioned cars trudging through the vast expanse of the city’s landscape, we also jostled with the crowd in its local trains; While we were roamed around some of the affluent neighborhoods of Bandra and Juhu and were star struck by simply being shown the houses of famous film stars,  we also enjoyed sauntering around the inner gullies of old town Mumbai and haggling with vendors and shop keepers; While we dined at an upscale restaurant in one of Mumbai’s numerous malls, we also relished the lip smacking authentic Maharashtrian cuisine – so in all savoured every slice the Mumbai magic!

While on a customised sight-seeing tour of the city, we stopped by a couple of exclusive children’s bookstores, leaving our tour guide quite perplexed!  He didn’t know what to make of us as we were done with some of the usual tourist attractions within minutes but took an hour or two at places like Kahani Tree! We first visited Spellbound which is “the place to go” for foreign authors and publications.

After having picked quite a few books, we then chanced upon Kahani Tree, housed in the office of Mumbai based publisher Vakils, Feffer and Simons, it was a like a dream come true to look up a little bookstore dedicated to children’s books brought out by independent publishers in India such as Tulika, Tara and Katha publications. It was indeed a pleasure to meet and interact with Ms. Sangeeta Bhansali, the center’s  Director, Duckbill author Parinita Shetty along with another picture book enthusiast, a mommy like me! A big thanks to Kahani tree for enriching our travel experience like never before ......  truly the most memorable Mumbai moment for us!

As I was looking for children’s books based out of Mumbai, Devaki Bhujang-Gajare from Little Reader's Nook in Mumbai had suggested a couple of books, and sure enough I found them both at Kahani tree.

 Miss Muglee goes to Mumbai” by Saker Mistri and Shaheen Mistri and illustrated by Sirajul Khan and Sheetal Shah brought out by Vakils Feffer and Simons is a part of the series of adventure stories about Muglee, a lonely crocodile and her friends. Muglee feels down and low over her lack of friends and envies other animals for she feels nobody loves the reptile race as a pet, when the friendly frog, Faisal suggests that they travel to Mumbai city. Faisal seeks to introduce Muglee to a charming kitty who has friends who are great fun and will play with everyone! So Muglee excitedly packs her belongings which include her facial cream, toothpaste and ghagras that may just impress a Bollywood movie star! As they reach Mumbai city, Muglee and Faisal find themselves overwhelmed with its skyscrapers and crowded streets and sluggish traffic, while managing to squeeze into a local bus, when they finally meet the charming Kitty at Kitty chowk! So does Muglee manage to make friends under the auspices of Kitty and her associates …read on to find out and go Yezookee jimpee jumpee joh with Muglee and her escapades! With playful collage/cut paper illustrations, Miss Muglee’s stories are sure to appeal to younger children and are ideal for read aloud story times too!

Another book Abhay seemed to devour is “366 words in Mumbai” by Mirabelle D’Cunha and illustrated and designed by Suhita Mitra, brought out by Fun OK publications, as a part of knowledge based series on India’s cities, like our own Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi. This book takes the young reader through the history, culture, festivals, dominant seasons and various landmarks of Mumbai in a “look and find” format that adds to up learning 366 words on the city! This book doubles up as a comprehensive tour guide for kids presented and narrated by little Mumbaikars Neel and Sivana. Since we had this book  on our sight-seeing expedition, Abhay was able to live through some of the Mumbai experiences as and when he read about them – live and in action! Aided with colouful illustrations, this book also features a child friendly map and fun facts and statistics about the city that never sleeps! A must have if you are planning a trip to Mumbai!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We the children of India.....

Over the weekend, we attended the third edition of Bangalore Literature Festival held at Crowne Plaza, Electronic city. Unlike the previous   years, we didn't have Abhay accompany us this time as there were no children's events on Day 3, the only day we could find time attend! Though we wished we could take Abhay too, we didn't mind not having to carry home made food for the picky eater or not having to find ways of engaging him amidst a serious discussion/ session with Arun Shourie or not having to run to the restrooms every other hour !:-))) 
However, I still came back with the book to read to Abhay. Though I was aware of this book and had seen it in bookstores and libraries before, I always thought Abhay needs to be a little older to be able  fully comprehend the essence of it. But it was only when Justice Leila Seth mentioned that children as young as seven were able to understand the basic tenets, like equality and freedom enshrined in the Constitution of India, that I picked up for tonight's read. Of course, this is not a book your young reader can finish in one sitting and requires an explanation here and there. 
When I read, "We the children of India" by retired Justice Leila Seth, the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India, whom I had the privilege to meet at the BLF 2014,  I was plain jealous! I wish this book was written when I was in school, considering I had set my heart on law very early! The book starts off with a basic introduction to the National book of India called the Constitution, throwing light on the circumstances under which the Constituent Assembly sought to adopt the same. With the aid of suitable examples and colourful illustrations featuring children, Justice Leila Seth, explains the meaning and effect of each of the principles -Sovereign, socialist, secular, Democratic Republic, and constitutional guarantees like Justice, Liberty, Equality and fraternity, in a succinct and an age appropriate manner! We the children of India also has everything a young reader needs to know about workings of the Indian democratic system and the rights of its people, including our little ones! Characteristically, the former high court judge has saved the best for last - she draws up a preamble for the children of India with a message of love, respect and hope!!! A must read for all the children of India!!! However, don't be surprised if your young reader quotes this book to challenge the constitutionality of your house rules!!!!:-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Petu and gang!!!

Bangalore has been host to a multitude of activities revolving around children’s literature…so much so that parents are left with little time for themselves!:-) Every weekend has some storytelling event, book launch, book-reading sessions for kids, with some of them conducted by friends and picture book enthusiasts like me! For instance, this weekend, the Story-telling event (conducted by friend and fellow blogger Cuddles and Reads) at Atta Galata on the occasion of International literacy day is in competition with children’s events at the Bangalore Literature festival or the event related to Tulika’s “Minu and her hair” at Kutoohala rivals with same in the evening at the Lightroom Bookstore! Added to it…there are many such events at the numerous children’s libraries and learning centers that have sprouted in every corner of Namma Bengaluru! With such a large spread…..who can blame us parents for choosing such inclusive events over “adults only” programs! J

Anyway, a few weeks back, I received an alert from the Bookalore team regarding their next monthly event … be held in surprise of surprises…J P nagar!!!! ( I cant believe that I found time to write about it only now …when we are already approaching the October event!) I was particularly keen on attending this time as it featured Arundhati Venkatesh’s early reader series “Petu Pumpkin” as we had missed some of her earlier events. But alas…..mommy proposes and work (in my case the Court) disposes!!! As I was stuck in Court that day, Abhay’s daddy did the needful!:-) Though Abhay seemed a little distracted at the event, given that some of the boys seemed to form their own secret society within the audience , he had insisted on buying both the books “Petu Pumpkin  Tiffin thief” and Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles”. Of course we bought much more than that and also received a special prize from the Funky Rainbow, their travelling bookstore for having bought ten books!!!!

Though I only write about the pictures books on Onestoryaday, the excitement with which Abhay took to Petu’s tales, like no other “Hole books” ….surely deserved a post on Onestoryaday! In fact he devoured both the books within a couple of days and they even kept him from boredom during our annual family pooja!

Petu Pumpkin series is something Abhay could instantly could relate to, considering it revolves around a boy named Pushkin, fondly called Petu pumpkin studying in Class three. However there are times I wonder why as my son is hardly a foodie that Petu is so famous or infamous for! 
The first book "Petu Pumpkin Tiffin thief" starts off with a new academic year in school where Petu pumpkin is found prowling other’s tiffin boxes prompting the others in the class to start a secret society and the second book “Petu Pumpkin Tooth troubles” has Petu trying everything from pulling out his tooth to writing to tooth fairy requesting for a football to fit in and be accepted into the “Gap club” while helping them challenge the fourth standard foot ball team! It makes a hilarious read …and not just for kids….believe me I couldn’t put down the book either…! Besides being appropriate for the reading level of children between the age group of 6 to 9 years, the stories are very well written and the  author beautifully captures the mind of the big little boys in transition! Whether it’s the easily relatable characters and class room situations, intra and inter class politics that younger readers can identify with or the funny limericks that run through the narrative  - a must read for all young and emergent readers….. “petu” or not! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to our little Zagazoo!

While kids’ birthdays are occasions to celebrate, they are also a time to reflect on the years that simply flew past ……. a reminder of how fast they grow up…...grow out of and grow into new phases!  Like….I can’t believe that my little one turned eight years old yesterday! Whoa!! Eight signals transition into the big league! Eight year olds are more self-assured (that means don’t look up to you for everything!) …think more critically (which means you cant get away with with vague explanations on sticky issues!) and move into independent reading, given the upper limit for most picture books being eight. Wait a minute…. …does it mean he has grown out of Onestoryaday….?? Err…..I haven’t!!!! J
Abhay’s eight birthday was a rather low-key affair compared to his previous celebrations with the highlight being  a special treasure of hunt for eight clues leading up to nine gifts (as he will be stepping into his ninth year!) followed by cake cutting and a restaurant dinner with close family and cousins!
As we look up the check list for milestones on turning eight and compare how our not-so-little one fairs thereon, we find ourselves wondering whether the present phase is better than the previous one…if not worst! J
So on the occasion of Abhay’s eighth birthday, we read one of our Quentin Blake favourites  Zagazoo”, a book that speaks to parents as well as their little ones! It begins like any love story between two likeminded people, George and Bella who spend time together doing many things, including making model aeroplanes or eating strawberry and vanilla ice creams when all of sudden, they receive a parcel that contains a pretty pink creature resembling a baby with a name tag “Zagazoo”. Needless to say, they were delighted and though Zagazoo wasn’t perfect, he had a happy smile that made up for all the imperfections! Then one day Zagazoo turned into a huge baby vulture with a terrifying screech that was even worse at night! Just when George and Bella were wondering how to cope, they discovered that Zagazoo had turned into a baby elephant that knocked over furniture, pulled the tablecloth off the table and ate anything that could lay his trunk on! Before they knew it, George and Bella were baffled to see that Zagazoo change into various forms  thereafter - a mud loving Warthog, a bad tempered dragon, a bat, and then a hairy creature they couldn’t quite understand and what’s more … was getting bigger, hairier and stranger! George and Bella found themselves wishing to turn back time into the “Elephant” or the “Warthog” phase instead! Read on as Bella and George’s hair turns grey with worry as to what will happen to them or how will Zagazoo turn out…as Quentin Blake entertains you with his hilarious yet realistic take on different stages of childhood and growing up! Its only when your Zagazoo turns into a bad tempered dragon when you realize that the warthog was better - a story of all the parents...I guess!  So….bring home  the “Zagazoo” to your little Zagazoo and let him decide whether he’s a warthog or a bad tempered dragon! J For now.....Happy Birthday my little Zagazoo.....!!