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!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Year of the weeds - hopefully!


Today being  “World book day”, we realise the value and importance of books and reading all the more in testing times like these…. Isn't it? Books not only afford a great escape from all the surrounding stress but also seek to provide answers to our quest of the known and sometimes the unknown too. The present lock down is a lot more tolerable because… well as they say “we are the readers”…. and alternating between my own reading and reading many a picture books to my little one and reading online a YA novel to my son who is away at my parents’ farm “Shrishti” in Dharmasthala, is what keeps me going for the whole day!  I began blogging to share my reading adventures with my then four year old son who has gone on to develop his own taste and declared his independence long back in choosing his own genres of books and authors, without any interference from me. While I find it hard not to raise an eyebrow over his obsession with the Michael Morpurgo books or the Alex Rider-like series, I realised his rather unadventurous attitude towards new series or new authors can be a blessing in disguise…. as moms of teenagers are always looking  for an opening into their world……and what a better way to gain an entry than embark on a joint adventure with your teen into the world of books!


While he plunges into his favourite books and buries himself in it day and night, he does need a little prodding when it comes to trying something new. So that’s when I check in and we both fly away to distant lands only to be pulled back my little one who is waiting for me with her picture book! 😊 Anyway, what was planned to be a ten day break before his starting the bridge course at school turned out to be an extended vacation for Abhay at his grandparents’ place and of course he isn’t complaining! With everything turned online owing to the lock down scenario, why not read a book online I thought…and over the last ten days, every night between 9.30 and 10 pm ….Abhay and I would be transported to Deogan and Balangir in western Odisha - the setting of “Year of the Weeds” by Siddarth Sarma, a Young Adult (YA) novel brought out by Duckbill Publications. “Year of the weeds” could not have come to us at a better time when we are most likely to lose hope in the situation, the system, and most of all ourselves in overcoming what has now come a human catastrophe. “Year of the weeds” in so many ways restores our faith in the system, brings about so much positive vibes and makes for a truly uplifting read this season. Set in a tribal village of Deogan inhabited by the Gond tribes, the story takes the reader through their simple, poor yet contented life built around their Gods and a belief system that holds the neighbouring Devi hill as sacred which is sought to be threatened by the discovery of bauxite beneath the hill, the mining of which will result in not only the displacement of the Gonds but erosion of all that they hold on to. Amidst all this, is the protagonist, a young tribal boy named Korok who’s passion for gardening and tending to his employer's garden touches upon every aspect of his understanding of life and the workings of the adult world and his curious take on the mainstream world.  To borrow from Abhay’s own blurb/write up about the book “Year of the weeds is a fabulous novel that opened up my mind to a great extent and gave me a lot many things to think about…..how the characters had simple qualities yet were layered in subtle ways” As we went from chapter to chapter, reading over a chapter and a half each night connecting over the internet or the telephone, Abhay hung on to each and every word that I read and tried to visualise the setting and imagined the characters from the seemingly simpleton Korok to the empathetic city-kid, Anchita, from the resigned village headman Mahji to the local activist Jadob master, from the feudal-minded, self-proclaimed king of Deogan, the Superintendent of Police Patnaik to the apathetic establishment man, District Collector Behera, along with guest appearances by the politicians and Maoists. Needless to say, my urban-teenage-device-driven-city slicker was continually intrigued with the part-humourous, part-philosophical narrative of the events unfolding leading up to a coup-like ending. A brilliantly written socio-political drama that makes for a thoroughly engaging read while also impressing upon the future adults about the  system, its weeds and how to have the weeds defeat one another! Here's hoping that this year be the year of weeding out all that the ills the system!  

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What shall I wear?


My little one has been a mini-fashionista ever since she learned to utter the word “Adalla” (“not that” in Kannada) and from then on, she would pretty much veto anything and everything I would pick out for her to wear and choose her own outfit for the day! It had been a formidable task to get her to wear her Montessori school uniform on the only two days of a five day week that required the students to don their uniform and just imagine what a mammoth effort it took for us to get her accustomed to wearing the school uniform “every single day” in her current school! “What shall I wear now” dominates her mind space and conversation with her nanny as she gets off her school bus in the afternoon and on most days, she greets me in the evening as I return home from work with “Amma, what shall I wear at bedtime today?” She would insist on a change of clothes even when accompanying me to the next door Kirana store for milk, or as she heads to my office (which is a portion of the ground floor of my house) or pillion rides the scooter with her dad to drop her brother to his bus pick-up point down our street! No matter what the book is about, it is always “what the girl is wearing” or “what sort of footwear has she worn” or “what kind of hairstyle is she sporting” that first draws her attention and trust me….she couldn’t be bothered about the boys at all! (At least for now!). Running short of ideas to engage her during the lock-down situation, we’ve given her a free rein to pull out whatever she likes from her wardrobe –  from traditional Indian wear to fancy party wear, from her various fancy dress-like outfits bought during our travels to her earlier school day costumes …. our little style icon isn’t complaining about being “All dressed up but nowhere to go! 😊



So I have always wanted to lay my hands on Pratham’s “What shall I wear” by Natasha Sharma but as you have would have it with many Pratham books , it was out of stock in most places I inquired. (Of course most Pratham books are available online on storyweaver, but it is not the same thing as cuddling with your little one at bedtime with her favourite book or when she pulls out the book during her alone-time and pours over her favourite character!)   So imagine my delight when I came across “Snack time Story time” hosted by Natasha Sharma based on her books on Facebook last week which also featured  “What shall I wear” a Level 2 reader by Pratham Publications authored by Natasha Sharma and illustrated by Tanvi Bhat. Its wonderful when the author introduces the book as he or she always lets in a snippet or two on the author’s story behind the story and it turns out that Natasha  Sharma was inspired by her then six year old daughter’s love for clothes that lead to the book and we also got to see how her not-so-little-fashionista took the same forward to now designing her own clothes! Anyway, the book is about a little girl who is in a predicament that most of us often find ourselves in …none of her clothes feel right!  Sometimes it’s the discomfort of the shirt buttons, or the pant being too tight, or choli not fitting or the lehenga being too long, so on and so forth driving the little girl  to the wardrobe of her mother and brother with no luck! Read on to find a do-it-yourself-creative solution arrived by the little girl in tweaking her wardrobe a little with an intelligent mix and match….and voila!… she has a new outfit! Now ….isn’t that true for all of us too!  A laugh-out read  for our fastidious little divas who have us on our wit's end  in trying to fulfill their fashion demands!   Just as we were about to log on to Youtube for another story telling session …....…Aadya stopped me to ask “Amma what shall I wear for the story-time?” !!!:-)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

It's storytelling festival out here!



As we head towards the final week of the 21-days lock down on account of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, hoping against hope that it will slow down the infection spread, we find that “Zoom”, “BOTIM”, “Microsoft Team” along with good old “Skype” are the new buzzwords that seemed to have revolutionized the way we look at group interactions. From virtual courts and e-filings to online meetings, from online classes to online assignments, from online live story-times to online live music concerts, technology has enabled us to soldier on as far as its possible in these testing times. With an explosion of live programs on Facebook,  you find out yourself online all the time - just as you catch your favourite musician in a Facebook live “unplugged performance”, it seems to overlap with the live interactive session with the much-sought after nutrition cum fitness expert, or as you manage to get your little one to watch one of the author-hosted story sessions live on Facebook, you can’t help but leave to her device(s) and switch to another for a once-in-a-lifetime story time read out by Ruskin Bond himself !   Even in times of quarantine, I can’t believe we are still being haunted by that “Fear of missing out” (FOMO) feeling!!

Needless to say, all this is only a momentary respite from the restlessness and the fear of uncertainty, the general gloom over the impending catastrophe and the accompanying sadness in seeing so much suffering and loss of lives and livelihood all around us. That said, it’s also important to stay positive and ensure your family, particularly the kids are in good spirits as they are our unsung heroes after all, literally imprisoned for no fault of theirs and not knowing why (as with the younger ones). While many schools have embarked on online learning formats for the older kids, engaging younger kids is still a challenge. So apart from the juggling with working from home full-time or part-time, household chores , cooking and cleaning, in our case, we are called upon to choose the best of my little one’s several drawings of “Rapunzel” or get summoned to taste her pretend “poha” or “pakoda” from her pretend kitchen!  

Anyway, thanks to all the live story sessions on social networking platforms, we have been revisiting some of our earlier favorites, like Princess Easy Pleasy of which a sequel has been brought out by the author, Natasha Sharma in keeping with “constant boredom” that all our princes and princesses face in these quarantined times. In fact, in so many ways, these online story-times are better than the in-person activities, as hopefully the attention stays on the story-teller and what he or she has to say and does not wander off to the colour of the hairband worn by girl in front! :-)


With a Storytelling festival going on, we read the or Tulika’s “The Jungle Storytelling Festival” by Janaki Sabesh and pictures by Debosmita Mazumdar. This is a unique ‘Stories within a story” book that lets the kids  string together well known stories through wordless illustrations. All the animals lead by the squirrel get together for the story telling festival that flags off with the lion and the mouse story narrated by the King of the jungle himself followed by the monkey who engages everyone with his story of outwitting the crocodile greedy for the monkey’s heart and the tortoise narrating his world famous race with the hare. At the end of the first day of the festival, the Ostrich is seen looking on eagerly wondering if he could share his story too. But all the other animals brush him aside given his stammering problem. Just as he retreats to a corner expressing his sorrow in a song, Mouse Mamma hears him and is surprised to find him singing without stammering….and that is enough to give Ostoo an opening and an underdog-like success in the storytelling festival the next day. Aided with soft yet striking illustrations, this book is a brilliant interactive inter-play of age-old fables outlined by a contemporary story line so as to impress upon young minds with today’s ideals of diversity and inclusivity. Whether the lock down is extended further or not, cheer yourself and your little one with the storytelling festivals online. 


Sunday, March 29, 2020

A time for a book for you and your Puchku!


Man is a Social Animal” was the first lesson we learnt in sociology and though I have been a student of sociology earlier, it is only now that I realise the value of it. With the entire country on a lock-down/home quarantine situation owing to the advent of the devastating effects of Covid-19 virus spread, we are now faced with a unique and never-seen-before challenge of “Social distancing”! Right from the boy who drops off the daily newspaper and milk to the maid who cleans up, the help/nanny who takes care of your little one, from the Ola/Uber/Metro that gets you to work to the co-workers and other employees at work, from restaurants/eateries we frequent to the shops/market for groceries, from the various hobby classes we enroll into, to fitness/swimming activities we partake in, from the visit to the salon or socialising with friends and family, our day-to-day lives are so inter-twined with the other social animals!! To press the pause button on all of the above and isolate oneself is a not an easy task, to say the least but being unsure of how long to put off human interaction , so as to effectively control the spread of the virus is what causes real alarm. As of now it is Day 6 of the Central Government ordered 21-day lock down in India and one can only hope that we are successful in our attempt to flatten the curve!


With an overload of messages on the print and social media on finding the silver lining in this lock-down situation, and on how it can be an opportunity to reconnect with your inner-self and family, revive your long forgotten interests, and relearn the ways and means of a simple life of the days of yore, I decided to get back to blogging after a long hiatus and my absence is thanks to without an excuse - sloppy time management (though I would love to call it a writer’s block!). No doubt reading to my kids is still a stress buster, I’m all the more delighted at the unhurried pace at which I can now do so as we have suddenly landed ourselves with more than enough time to kill. Ever since I heard the title, I wanted to herd myself into getting hold of the book only to learn that it was out of print! On one of my recent visits to our favourite bookstore “The Funky Rainbow” (when a visit to the bookstore was still an acceptable social activity), I was pleasantly surprised to have finally found this gem of a book. “A Book for PUCHKU” a Level-3 Pratham publication by Deepanjana Pal and illustrated by Rajiv Eipe makes a wonderful read aloud story about a little girl who just loves reading. In fact, all Puchku does all day is read, read and read and so much so that she has finished reading all the books at home, and all the books she can reach for in her library until she discovers the top most rack of a cupboard that has stocked many a books that she hasn’t yet laid her curious eyes on!   So little Puchku along with her friend Dodla make an acrobatic attempt to reach for the books that she thinks seem to be at the reach of only a giraffe…..until the simplest solution presents itself in the form of a very-tall-eager-to-help librarian!  Thrilled to no bounds, Puchku however has no time to thank the librarian who helped her find the books she hadn’t yet read, as Puchku is already lost in them! A simple story with playful illustrations and an earnest attempt to sow the seeds of reading in young children, this curly-haired-two-pony-tailed-book-loving little girl was indeed an instant hit with our little Puchku!! So as the advisory goes…. “Stay home and stay safe”…. and cuddle up with your little Puchku with a book!