Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Aha! Story time

This week saw a unique theatre festival for children at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore’s well known theatre envisioned and founded by Arundhati Nag. Organized by “AHA!” Ranga Shankara’s theatre for children, this festival hosted a number of international and Indian theatre performances, story-telling sessions, painting days, puppet shows for children between the age groups of one to twelve year olds. Needless to say, I was thrilled more than Abhay…especially since Ranga Shankara is at a stone’s throw off from our house (I truly thank God and Arundhati Nag for choosing Bangalore South for her extraordinary venture!) Though ideally, I would have liked to take Abhay for all the events, but with most of the programs falling on weekdays, I had to call in for some reinforcements! I persuaded my ever-so-ready-to-help husband to drive Abhay for the story hour (with me joining in later, of course!) and book tickets and accompany him to the play “Piip and Tuut go to a concert” a Clown Act from Estonia and also take this picture of Abhay with Bangalore’s ace story-tellers Arundhati Nag and Padmavathi Rao! What did I do?....Well…I am blogging about it…am I not?!!:-)

The story hour featured two stories, the first one being a classic  by Robert Mcklosley narrated by Aarti Aney (I had featured the book on one of my earlier posts)  and the second looked like an original from Arundhati Nag herself.  Arundhati Nag regaled the young and old audience with a home grown tale of a farmer named Ganguram! Ganguram had an animal farm that housed different farm animals like cows, hens, sheep, etc. He was unhappy as he was beginning to grow bald. Worried about his hair loss, he tries to seek medical help but to no avail. One day, he realized that he could get a hair transplant from one of his farm animals! He first shaves his sheep off its wool and thereafter targets the hen, but none of these attempts yield the desired results! Finally, he catches hold of a crow demanding its feathers when the crow suggests a brilliant idea that has him pleased. What is that idea, you may ask? The idea is to be happy with whatever he has and count his positives before dwelling on the negatives! A message not just for kids….dont you think? An amazing animal story accompanied by Arundhati Nag’s animated narration was an ‘Aha! Evening’ to remember!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Abhay's magic words!

It doesn’t take a trip abroad for one to realize that Indians by and large are a little (to be politically correct!) lacking in etiquette….we have in fact always prided ourselves over being impervious to the so- called western concept of manners! But at the risk of sounding like a US-returned nostalgic (which in some ways I still am, even after almost a year after return!), I wonder if it hurts to say “Thank-you” when someone holds out the door or to say “Sorry” when you accidentally stub a fellow passenger’s toe or to wave out in appreciation as a fellow driver yields to your vehicle or to simply wait your turn at a queue in the billing counter of a grocery store or a food joint or to say “Excuse me” as you elbow yourself out of the crowd! What's surprising is that it is most often the educated and enlighted who end being the most ill-mannered of the lot!  Unfortunately, Abhay too seems to have been “indianized” when it comes to his manners! “Amma…can I please watch my channel on TV” has made way to a rude and demanding “I want my channel now” or that he needs to be reminded every single time to say “thank you” or yells when someone blocks his view of the TV instead of saying "excuse me" and getting Abhay to say sorry will in turn have you feeling sorry for yourself!

So today in attempt to have him regain his well-mannered self, I read the book "Emily's Magic Words" by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post and illustrated by Leo Landry. This is a story of Emily who can do magic with words - her magic words being the very same words Abhay has forgotten  "hello, please, thank you, good bye, sorry and excuse me"! What makes these words magic words - well, they can open doors (both literally as illustrated and figuratively); they can turn a frown into a smile or fix a minute (when you say sorry and mean it); they can help you make new friends and so Emily goads all her readers to put their magic words into use and saves the best for the last - the most magical of all words "I love you"! So I asked Abhay what were his magical words to which my crafty son replied (unaware of its in-built irony) ..."Please be patient"!:-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Going home in rain!

After a couple of false alarms, the monsoon is finally here! For me, rain and clouds are a throwback to our Portland days where it was and still is perpetually raining! But after having ‘suffered’ through Portland’s rainy weather (Sorry, if I appeared to have turned Brutus on Portland’s weather, I admit  there were times when I truly enjoyed it!) , I thought I was prepared for the Indian rainy season this time ….but how wrong I was! Though the 2012 Monsoon is a “watered down” version of the previous monsoons, one heavy downpour in a city like Bangalore disrupts everything, resulting in water logged roads, or slushy puddles on half paved roads, traffic jams, power cuts, private hires like autos refusing to take in customers, etc. God help you if you have walk on the roads soon after a heavy shower...or if you think you are better off in your vehicle ....think again. Some roads get so inundated that you car might need an oar instead of a wheel!  I’m not sure if it was no different before or it has turned from bad to worse now or maybe that I have been out of touch with getting around on a rainy day in a quintessential Indian metropolis lately, but rain is certainly no fun in Bangalore, particularly, when you are stuck outdoors! At the same time, there is nothing like watching the rain from your upper floor balcony, or cuddling up with a book when it’s pouring hard outside or coming home to the smell of freshly fried pakoras on a rainy day!

Anyway, last night I read a book titled “Going Home in the Rain” by Nancy Strickland and illustrated by Jigma Lodey which might as well as have been my story everyday as I return home from work on a rainy evening, as Abhay always rides home comfortably in a school bus. This is a story of an eight year old girl named Tshering Yangzom who lives in the mountainous region of Bhutan and has to cross three rivers to get to her school every day, which they enjoy on except when it rains, when the water level rises. Tshering crosses the river along with her three close friends, Pema, Sonam and Tashi. One day it began raining heavily and Tshering was worried that rivers may swell making it impossible for Tshering and her friends to cross them. She confides in her teacher who lets the entire gang leave early and not only that, she asks the school cook Maymay to help them cross the river. What follows is a wild white water adventure across three rivers with Maymay carrying the girls across the first, all of them riding a horse across the second and building a makeshift bridge to cross the third river and not to forget Tshering quick thinking that finally gets them home safely. The next day is a clear day and as Tshering reaches school, the whole school is abuzz with her act of bravery that had save the “rainy” day! Here’s hoping your experience of going home in the rain will not be as “extreme” as Tshering’s ….enjoy the monsoon everyone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No More Pencils!

School year has begun in full swing with homework and project work being doled out every other day. So Abhay’s school bag is now loaded with all his textbooks, his student diary, a homework book and his pencil box and gone are those days when all he carried was a dairy and a homework book – Ah! The travails of a STD 1 student! So just before he goes to school each day, I try to make sure he has everything in place, but for all my efforts, Abhay simply couldn’t care less! Every day my unrelenting five year old comes home with a missing pencil or eraser or pencil sharpener and has no clue as to how could he lost a brand new pencil that I had placed in his box just that morning! In other words, the kids these days are a pampered lot and have everything offered to them on a platter……so they hardly value them! Abhay for instance does not experience even an iota of guilt for having been careless and instead feels entitled to a new pencil, as a matter of right! I know…it’s just a pencil…..but there is no harm in inculcating these values early… tomorrow, it will be more than just a pencil!

In attempt to teach my son to respect and value his belongings, I read to him “For want of a pencil” a story by Rajalaxmi K Iyer that appeared on last week’s “Young World” a weekly children’s supplement of “The Hindu”. The author goes back in time to her school days when she lived in a joint family controlled by her paternal grandmother. The little girl was excited to be in class IV which meant that she would have to start writing in a notebook. The only hitch was that she didn’t possess a pencil yet. When she voiced her concern to her mother, her mother assured her that she will be provided with whatever was needed to start Class IV. As the school reopening date was nearing, the little girl was expecting her parents to buy her a new pencil but instead she was asked to manage with an old pencil that was only one inch long! So she hatched a plan and threw out her old pencil in the hope that her parents would have no other choice but to buy a new pencil. But she was wrong as her strict grandma rummaged through her uncle’s old stationery to unearth yet another inch-long pencil as a punishment for the girl’s carelessness. As her quarterly exams were approaching, the school teacher required all students to bring good pencils and erasers which was promptly conveyed to her parents. Finally, as her mother empathized with her and persuaded her father to buy her a new pencil. Just as she excitedly stretched her hand towards the brand new violet colored pencil, her grandma snatched it away from her only to cut the pencil into two and sharpens only one half of the pencil, as her grandma felt that the girl might careless once again, while her father watched helplessly! So all little Rajalaxmi wanted was a new pencil, while that was one thing she had eluded her! But finally, she gets her wish and her father buys her a new pencil, behind her grandma’s back! So …the next time your little one loses a pencil or a crayon in school……tell him/her about the story of the one-inch pencil! J

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Abhay's book of 'big' fears!

Never name your little one after something you want him to grow into because he’ll most probably turn into the opposite! I was hell bent on naming my son Abhay (meaning one who is fearless) even when it was not my husband’s first choice, only to realize a few years later that he is anything but fearless.  I know ….it’s probably too early to tell (which means…there is still hope!), but he doesn’t seem to outgrow any of his age old phobias, the evidence of which are my previous posts on some of them! Abhay still covers his ears when the pressure cooker whistle goes off (which will only get worse with our enclosed kitchen being redone into an open kitchen!), or when he suspects the approaching taxi/bus has a screeching horn (which is almost every other Indica or an Omini passing by) or still screams at the sight of a common fly or mosquito buzzing around (I have given up on this one!). Sigh!…..on hindsight, I should have simply named him after a God or a deity! J

Once again, I tried to tackle his phobias with a book. “Little Mouse’s Big Book of fears” by Emily Gravett is a mouse’s account of all his phobias. Stylishly illustrated, this is a smart and a witty tale of a mouse afflicted with panophobia (fear of everything!) He is scared of creepy crawlies like spiders, gets edgy around sharp knives, worries about what’s under the bed, is alarmed by loud noises ( Abhay has company!) scared of getting lost, hates being alone or in the dark, nervous around dogs, petrified of cats, practically fears even his shadow until the little mouse comes across a lady with musophobia, meaning, fear of rats! A unique picture book with unconventional die cut pages and aesthetically placed embellishments that are sure to interest readers of all ages. I know Abhay is not going to be thrilled reading about his "phobia" posts  when he grows up. So here's hoping that Abhay conquers his phobias before there are any more posts published on them on Onestoryaday! J

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Sweetest Mango!

Come summer and it’s time to savor the king of fruits – the mango! While mango has never been my favorite when growing up, I ended up missing this tropical fruit the most in the last three years that we spent in the US.  So it wasn’t a surprise that when the makeshift mango bazaars sprung up at every corner of the city, we were amongst the first ones to line up. But what was a surprise that our five year old absolutely refused to bite into whatever variety of mango we brought home! Abhay has always been picky about fruits, but turning down the king of fruits almost feels blasphemous, particularly when we hail from a place that is famous its numerous sweet and sour preparations from the most celebrated fruit of India! So imagine my delight when I came across a Tulika Publication titled “The Sweetest Mango” but by the time I could lay my hands on the said book, it was nearing the end of Mango season! J

 Though I managed to read the book before the season’s last mangoes, I really wish that the mainstream bookstores would carry Tulika publications as and when they release. “The Sweetest Mango” by Malavika Shetty and pictures by Ajanta Guhathakurta, is a story based out of a small village in South Kanara district of Karnataka, and being a South Kanarite myself, I loved the references to the vernacular expressions of “Ganji”(rice porridge), “Dodda” (grandmother), and “aata” (a yakshagana perforamce).  The story begins with the author describing Suma’s love for mangoes and how her mouth waters at the thought of the pickles her grandmother would make out of raw, green and crunchy mangoes or curries her mother would prepare out of sweet ripened mangoes. But her most favorite summer activity is to climb up the mango trees around her house with her best friend Jyothi and pluck the firm, plump mangoes and bite into them while the juice drips through their fingers as they suck on the squishy fruit. Suma and Jyothi are neighbors in a village full of mango and coconut trees and this year it seems as if there are more mangoes than ever before. Suma and Jyothi loved guessing the number of mangoes on each tree as they walked to school every day. One day Suma, perched high on a mango tree spots a large round mango the variety commonly known as ‘mundappa’. Since it is still raw, she decides to wait till it ripenes into the round and juicy fruit it is  meant to be. As Suma makes great plans of plucking the fruit after a few days, she leaves out Jyothi from the plan as she desires the fruit all for herself. Every day, Suma keeps a close eye on the Mundappa and hopes that she would get it before anyone else could. So eager was Suma to savor the fruit, that she begins to see her mundappa in the ball the school children played on the school ground, or in the color of her ajja’s mundu (a cloth worn by men around their waist) or at the sunset! So when the D-day finally arrives, Suma is shocked to discover that her mango that was almost ripe a day ago, is now gone! Suma is inconsolable as she suspects the monkeys to have targeted her cherished mundappa before her! Just as Suma tries to reconcile to her fate, her friend Jyothi arrives with a surprise. Read on as the story ends with a valuable lesson for your little one brought out in a most subtle and sensitive manner complemented by the vibrant and colorful illustrations. A must read for anyone who loves mangoes and intends to get anyone to love mangoes! Did I manage to get my five year old sample at least one of them – that’s another story ….probably meant for another post! J

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What do you want to be?

While reading a novel titled "Balancing Act" by Meera Godbole-Krishnamurthy ( a must read for any mom torn between her kids and her career), I was fascinated by an abbreviation used to denote a common question - WDYWTB  that expands to "What do you want to be?" Of course, this is a question all of us have encountered when growing up, at times excited and at times harassed by the same question. But if you think that this is a question reserved only for kids, think again! Haven't you faced this question at various junctures in your so called "grown-up" life? Not sure of others, but I have had to constantly evaluate the choices I've made in the context of WDYWTB! Anyway, now that I am a mom, I like to play around with this question off and on with my soon to be six year old, if not for anything else, at least as a great source of entertainment. Abhay for one loves picturing himself in different roles - as a bus operator, a pilot or a lawyer (I not lying, he did once say he wants to grow up to be a lawyer!) or simply a daddy! Off late, thanks to his obssession with Hindi Movies, he has taken a particular liking to a character of a cop in a recent block buster movie. Ever since we watched the movie on TV, he has been obssessing over the role of its lead actor (Ajay Devgan) as a police officer and insists on posing like one for each and every photograph. So right now, Abhay's answer to WDYWTB is Singham!

It is interesting to note that we identify ourselves more in terms of profession/job we intend to take up rather than a dominant quality that defines us. Frankly, this is something I realized when I read “I want to be” a little Princess story by Tony Ross. When I picked up this book from the British Library, I thought it would be something on the lines of the kind of profession or a calling the little princess might choose when she grows up. But it was much deeper!  The little princess feels that its time to grow up and wonders what she should be. When she asks her mother, the Queen, what is the best way to be, her mother points out that she should be kind, like her father. When she turns to her father, the King, her father in turn asks her to be loving, like her mother. She then approaches the palace staff engaged in various kinds of jobs – the royal cook who considers the best way to be is to stay clean, the General’s choice is to be brave, the Admiral’s pick is to be good at swimming, the Prime Minister’s advice is to be clever and the Doctor places being healthy above everything else. With so many choices, the little princess is confused! She finally turns to her maid who asks the most important question of all – “What do you want to be?” to which the little princess tired being the littlest in the literal sense, says most of all  she wants to be ‘TALL”! But her even more little brother looks up at his big sister and points out that she is already tall! J Both of us loved this book and Abhay wanted me to read the ending again and again. Of course, I had to ask him WDYWTB – to which he said he wants to be an actor! J

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A new release from an old favorite!

For the last two weeks, my life has been turned upside down by a host of routine-altering events both at home and at work. Our house has been under renovation for the last four months now and it is still nowhere near completion! It has now got to a point where none of us seem to remember why we even embarked on it, in the first place. So with our ground floor pulled apart, the aged and the ailing packed off to a relative’s house, Abhay sent off to my parents’, (which explains my absence from onestoryaday!), I along with my husband and my in-laws are all huddled into a three room portion of our first floor that serves as a living, dining and cooking area - so the four of us are literally breathing down each other’s necks! Of course, the fact that it has become unusually hectic at work only adds to all this sudden race against time! So in all this ….cuddling up to my little one (who is now hardly at home as he spends most of his weekday evenings at my parents’) with a book to read takes a hit!

But somehow today being Sunday and the carpenters, painters and construction workers being given a day off, I managed to find some time to read to my little one  specially because I stumbled upon a picture book by Peter Horacek whose ‘"Butterfly Butterfly" was the one of the first picture books I had read to Abhay almost three years ago in Portland….which seems like another world now! This one is titled “Elephant”, a story about a little boy and his imaginary friend, the Elephant. Narrated in first person, it begins with the  boy asking his grandpa to play football with him but his grandpa appears to be too busy and the same with grandma who is also busy in the kitchen. So he summons his imaginary friend, the Elephant who according to the boy is never busy to play football in the garden. Of course, it is the Elephant who is to blame for messing up the flower beds, or breaking grandma’s vase in the hallway, or splashing water in the bathroom floor, or for knocking over the orange juice! When grandma and grandpa don’t believe him, the boy is upset and darts off to his room. As he sits alone in his room, Elephant comes to cheer him up and plays with him all day. At night, the Elephant  takes him on a jungle safari to see a tiger until it is morning when grandpa walks in to his room offering to play football. As the boy wonders how did he get to bed, his grandpa too takes the name of the Elephant letting the boy believe that as he was tired last night, the Elephant carries him to bed! A delightful book to read with your little one whose imagination knows no bounds!

......On a side note, I'd like to make a mention that I now blog on momdairies and here is a link to one of my recent posts