Thursday, August 30, 2012

Where is my ball?

 Most of you must be familiar with the mystery of the ever-elusive toy at home! No matter how many times you help your little one find it, it still goes missing the next minute!  No matter how many such similar looking toys your little brat has, he does not let you rest in peace until you’ve dug out this one, in particular! No matter what time of the day it is or how busy everyone is, your little nag still manages to get the whole house to hunt for his perpetually missing favorite toy! No matter how many times you’ve warned him of misplacing the toy unless he’s careful, he still approaches you with a sheepish smile when it disappears! No matter who’s to blame for its disappearance, he'll still throw “find-it-now or else...." tantrums!  Well, Abhay had his moment yesterday when his favorite smiley ball went missing …for the millionth time! Until recently, it was everywhere  – on the living room sofa, on the dining table, on the bathroom counter, on his bedside when suddenly it was gone! Out of the blue, Abhay remembered his favorite toy last evening and held the whole house to ransom, until I happen to spot it literally right under his nose....much to everyone's relief! :-) 

Co-incidentally, I found a book that I had recently picked up from 'The Sapna Book house' quite apt for our situation! 'Where is my bat" by Meera Tendolkar and illustrated by Rijutha Ghate, a Level 1 Early Reader from Pratham publications, which stands true to its level of difficulty, unlike a few other early readers from the same publisher. As the name suggests, this is about a boy who has  misplaced his cricket bat! He tries to look for it everywhere - behind the door, under the bed, on the shelf, in the attic, inside the toy box but his bat is nowhere to be found. Finally, he sees his mischievous little sister playing right outside his window with what appears to be his bat!:-) So...the next time your little one loses his toy - ask him look for it right where he is! :-)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Abhay's new world!

After a tiresome wait of over six months, we find ourselves heaving a sigh of relief that our house renovation work is finally complete! What started out as a “minor alteration” to our existing structure so as to accommodate our overseas belongings, ended up being a full-scale construction both in terms of effort as well as cost and not to forget, time! For months now, the masons, painters and carpenters seemed more like a part of our family! For months, I got used to coming back home to find everything in a state of complete disarray and everyone running short of temper! For months, we felt uprooted with all our furniture and belongings pulled out of their designated spaces in order to make way for the construction work! Now that all the workers are gone and the renovation work complete, at last, it feels as if we’ve got our home back!  Abhay too had his share of grievance with the alteration work as his room was turned into a makeshift kitchen while our actual kitchen was getting an “extreme makeover”! In the bargain, his room got an “image makeover” too. Since our soon to-be-six year old has always been fascinated with places and maps, we had the whole world spread out on one of his walls!  Now the world’s biggest challenge is to get him back into sleeping in his own world…..errr …room! J

With the whole world on his wall, I picked up an around-the-world adventure titled “Madlenka” by Peter Sis. This book starts off  describing the larger picture of where we live. In the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, on a block, in a house, in a window, in the rain, a little girl named Madlenka finds out that her tooth wiggles. Madlenka is dying to let everyone in the world know that her tooth is loose. How does she manage to do that ? She just skips down her street in New York city to meet her friend Mr. Gatson, the French baker who wisks her away to Paris, the land of Croissants and French Bread. She then approaches Mr. Singh, the newspaper man from India who takes her to the land of ancient kingdoms and the Taj mahal ( Oh..No..not again!) She scoots off to meet Mr. Ciao, the Ice cream man who greets her in quintessential Italian “Buon Giorno” and calls for a treat in the land of spaghetti, gelatos and the leaning Tower of Pisa! Around the corner, she stops by to see Mrs. Grimm from Germany who delights her with stories of Snow White and Slovenly Peter from Germany.  Madlenka is having the time of her life when she meets Mr. Eduardo, the greengrocer from Latin America. As she walks into his store selling fresh flowers, trees, fruits, it feels like she is walking in a rain forest amidst the rain, butterflies, tapirs, parrots, jaguars and snakes. She then heads to meet her African friend, Cleopatra with whom she engages in pretend play as if they are in the Saharan desert. Then she decides to tell Mrs Klam who is from South East Asia, and is soon transported into the land of dragons, samurai swords, green tea and rice. Suddenly, she realizes that she is horribly late and rushes back home to her parents who are upset with her and ask her where she had been. Madlenka tells them that she went around the world and also that she'd just lost her tooth! So a trip around the street can mean a trip around the world! Abhay loved “Madlenka” with its stunning visuals so much that he made me retain this library book until I could not renew it anymore! We also went over all the places featured in the book on his world map! So just like Madlenka…. the world is in your room Abhay…..go ahead…. explore the world!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Perfect Child!

Some say there is no such thing as perfection, but if you chase it, you may be able to achieve excellence. While it is admirable to try and attain perfection at work or on a professional level, I wonder if it is possible or even desirable to achieve the same on the personal front. For instance, there is no ‘perfect husband’ or a ‘perfect wife’ but it lies in us to make them perfect for us! On the same lines, even though we may try to be the “perfect parent”, but who’s to judge? Striving for perfection can only add more pressure to the already stressed job of parenting! Similarly, we all know that no child is perfect and expecting your little one to be perfect in his school work or with his routine activities may be a little too much for him or her to take. So take heart, that you are a perfectly imperfect parent with a perfectly imperfect child! :-)

A book that I had picked up for Abhay is the reason for my pondering over perfection. "The Search for the Perfect child" by  Jan Fearnley is a book that had set me thinking and so I had to pick it up! This is a story about Fido Fonteyn, the coolest, cleverest, sharpest detective dog in the whole world who is now on the lookout for the perfect child. He is unfazed when people explain that there is no such a thing as a perfect child but is determined to sniff one out! He tries to understand what makes a perfect child? Some believe that a perfect child is artistic, one who is kind to animals, or one who likes to grow things; Others say that the perfect child has style;He is always happy to help out with the chores, never complains about taking bath, and has varied interests like bugs, dinosaurs, etc; The Perfect child loves to monkey around and is always polite and well spoken! As you read on and wonder just where will one find such a perfect child, Fido reveals that he has finally laid his eyes on one. Who, you may ask? Get your little one to turn to the last page, where Fido holds up a note saying “YOU”! So Abhay…just remember, no matter what you do…you will always be perfect for me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The place we call 'Home'!

I can’t believe it’s already one year since we returned to India after our brief stint in the US. Though our stay in the US was only for over three years, it was long enough to change our lifestyle, our perspective towards life, our outlook towards parenting and our understanding of what’s important in life! In short, our stay in the US changed our lives and I am thankful for it! At the same time, it also made us realize that our ultimate destination was in fact India and no matter how long we stayed in the US, this realization would continue to haunt us! We also realized that the longer we stayed, the harder it would be for us to leave! So we took a call and moved back to a place that was once our home,  not sure of whether we would be able to make it our home once again, after having spent three years in a land that changes one for good! At the risk of sounding like a US returned snob, I must say that initially, we felt disoriented doing everyday things like crossing the main road, with all kinds of vehicles headed in all kinds of directions! We missed having oatmeal for breakfast (Quaker’s oatmeal just doesn’t taste the same here!) and continue to miss Netfix and Starbucks! We kept comparing Americans with Indians and complained about how Indians lacked etiquette or basic civic sense! We found ourselves constantly converting Rupees to Dollars to see if we would’ve embarked on the same expenditure had it been the US! On a personal note, I had also forgotten how to function in a joint family set up, having spent the last three years not being answerable to any in-law! J One year's up and our life in Portland seems so distant and removed from our current set-up that it almost feels like another life….or at best a dream fading away from memory! In one year, all of three of us have not only managed to comfortably settle down in our new “old home” but tried to blend in some aspects of our American life with our life in “namma Bengaluru”! So I can safely say that, in one year…it feels like we never left! J

I guess Abhay has been the happiest with our move. Except some intermittent references to his Portland friends and Portland’s freeways (which even I miss), Abhay is home! So today, celebrating one year anniversary of our change of address, I read “Sameer’s House”  by Deepa Balsavar and Deepa Hari and illustrated by Nina Sabnani. This book can also serve as an introductory lesson on geography for your little one. This is about Sameer who lives with his family in his house located on a narrow crowded street called Saraswathi street, in a busy city called Mumbai which in turn is the capital city of the State of Maharashtra that is a part of a populous country called India. India is one of the countries in the largest continent of Asia on a planet called the Earth that rotates around the sun in the solar system that is a part of the universe. The  last page carries a few names with their addresses detailed just as Sameer’s. As for Abhay, he may not realise it now, but Abhay has come a long way from Abhay Karanth, NW Overlook Drive, Hillsboro, Oregon, USA, North America, Earth, Solar System, Universe, to Abhay Karanth, Silver Oak Street, Bangalore, Karnataka, India, Asia, Solar System, Universe!  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The story of Indian Independence!

Today being Indian Independence day, the day began with the hoisting the tri-coloured flag in our local community area attended by almost all the residents followed by a cultural event in the evening, the central theme being Indian Independence. Having gone through August 15th like any other day for the last three years, while we were in the US, (except some sporadic events hosted by local Indian associations over the weekend), we decided to participate this year in the Independence day celebrations  with renewed interest, partly because we were keen on introducing our little one to our glorious past. He may be young now, but it is never too early to instill some patriotism in kids. While it is intriguing to watch the I-day celebrations go the American way with Independence day sales and discounts offered by all retail giants and I-Day parties at pubs, it is also comforting to find that some things dont change, like the flag hoisting followed by the Prime Minister's speech at the Red fort telecast live on television, or people selling miniature Indian flags at signals, or  "desh-bhakti" (patriotic) songs playing non-stop on Doordarshan! :-) Anyway, since technically,  this was Abhay’s first Indian Independence day celebrations, we went all out to get him into the patriotic mood! So starting with flag hoisting in the morning, we had him participate on stage with several other kids for the famous “Eh…mere watan ke logon…” dressed as an army soldier waving out the Indian flag! Jai Hind!

Though I had expected to find many picture books on the Indian Independence that succinctly explains the story of our freedom struggle in an age appropriate manner, I was disappointed with what I found. Many of the books resembled textbooks more than illustrative picture books. One book I found worth reading and recommending is “The Story of 15th August” by Sandhya Rao and illustrated by Reginald Goveas, part of a series called Read and Colour Freedom Stories brought out by Tulika publications. This book introduces kids to a common man’s perspective on the excitement at the country having gained independence in 1947. Starting with Bala’s story, who was an eight year old girl at the stroke of the midnight hour on 15th August 1947, then goes on to Safdar’s story who witnessed Nehru famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech at the Constituent Assembly Hall, Annamma’s story of her memories of “Gandhiji”  and Dinshaw’s partition experience are some of the stories featured along with detailed line drawings that can be colored by your little one, as he learns the story of India’s Independence. Happy Independence day everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Feel-good effect of flowers!

Over the weekend, we took Abhay to the historic “Lal Bagh Flower show”, a bi-annual event at Bangalore’s most famous botanical garden, Lal Bagh. It was a trip down memory lane for me as I remember accompanying my parents to the flower show as a little girl. While it is still an annual ritual with my parents, I dropped out quite some time ago, when I grew into a jaded teenager! But I guess somewhere, I have been influenced by those visits as any given day I would prefer fresh flowers to artificial ones at home. A bunch of fresh gladiolas, tube roses, gerberas, and carnations arranged in glass vase not only brightens up your room but can also brighten up your mood! Well, hoping to instill the same taste in my son, we took him inside the glass house which is always the centre piece of the flower show.
But forget the elaborate floral decorations, Abhay felt so overwhelmed by the jostling crowds that he wasn’t even interested in the giant dinosaur made up of over 50,000 roses and instead was constantly whining about wanting to get out! To add all to this, he was being coaxed into posing for the camera at every turn! Finally, we saw him smile as he eyed the hawker selling toy guitars! So….all I can say is…better luck next time!

Whether or not Abhay was enthralled with the flowers at Lalbagh, I wanted to read to him about the positive effect of flowers.  Magnolias” by Malati Shah and illustrated by Amrita Kanther is about a story set in the hill town of Shimla.  Gulab, the gardener climbed up the mountain at sunrise heading towards the old house with gardens all around. He was happy and content toiling all day beneath the shade of the old magnolia tree. When it was time to leave at sunset, he remembered that his wife had asked him to bring her one of the flowers that look like the moon. So he leaves with an enormous bunch of magnolia flowers to share with everyone – one for the horsemen who gave Gulab’s child a free ride, one for a girl named Tsering and her baby Norbu who recently migrated from Tibet, one for Hari Dhabawala, who served him a glass of hot cardamom tea, one for a school girl with ribbons in her hair, one for school boy chasing the sun, one for Santosh aunty who had rescued Gulab as a child, one for the cow herder Lachchami who was following her cattle back home, one for Bilal, the fruit vendor who carried Karshmiri apples on his back; after presenting the whole town with Magnolias, does he have any left for his wife Kusum? For Kusum, he brought a seed from the Magnolia tree that he planted with great care. Soon it was spring and a little magnolia tree sprouted its first leaves. Kusum was delighted and assured her daughter that she would see magnolias by her window when she grows up…..and as she grows up and looks out of the window, she sees the brilliant blossoms of the magnolia tree! Besides the beautiful magnolias, the illustrations of life in a quaint little village on the hillside are a visual treat to the readers. On a side note, this book reminds us that it takes loads of patience and perseverance on one’s part to witness the seeds sown to see the light of the day! This message may be a little too deep for Abhay to understand, but the books on flowers was a feel-good ending to our visit to the flower show!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Come On, Rain!

I can’t believe its August already and the rains are still playing truant, at least in  South India. While the local newspapers are rife with reports of monsoon failure and the impending drought, the rest of the country is flooding with excess rains! The cumulative rainfall data this year indicates that rainfall is 20% below normal in the country and yet you can always trust the meterological department to be optimistic about its prediction of revival of monsoon! Anyway, whether the weather predictions turn out to be accurate or not, one thing is official….monsoon 2012 does not hold the same force or charm like it did  before. But that doesn’t stop the retail malls from running their Monsoon Masti discount does it?? J

With everyone from the temple managements to State governments trying to appease the Rain Gods by conducting numerous poojas (sponsored by the tax payer!), I thought I would join in the prayers too by reading “Rain Rain” by Sanjiv Jaiswal “Sanjay” and illustrated by Ajith Narayan, A level 2 Early Reader from Pratham publications, part of its “Learning to Read” series that not only makes an excellent companion for graded reading but also comes in affordable prices. For a mom who is always looking for books with indigenous themes, it is such relief to find some home-grown publications that dabble into the Level-by-Level Reading. One word of advice, however, I find that there is no uniformity in the early reading techniques used in the series.  Though ‘Rain Rain” is a Level 2 book that my five year old managed to read without much effort, I have come across some Level 1 books that are tougher in language and grammar than this book! Anyway, this a story of a rain bearing cloud that rolls along merrily in the sky. Everyone makes an appeal for the cloud to rain, the peacock promising to dance, the fish needing more water, the farmer want to sow seeds, and little Raju wanting to float paper boats! Finally, when the cloud rains a shower of shimmering drops, the peacock spreads out its wings to dance, the fish happily swims in the water filled pond, the farmer plants seeds,and Raju and his friends have a wonderful time playing in the puddles. Everyone waved good bye to the cloud that filled their heart with joy! Here’s hoping that such a cloud rolls along the sky above us too! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wanted: A Friend!

Remember those days of "Friendship bands" .....or "True Friends” and "Friends Forever" cards ....those days when your friends were be all and end all of your world!!:-) What happened to those days, certainly seems like a different era now!! Years pass  and we've grown out of an idyllic world into a world of responsibilities!!! Does “Friendship day” then mean the same even today? Well, as for me, I am neither an enthusiast nor a cynic…I am somewhere in between. While I remain skeptic as everyone from private radio stations to retailers seems to have encashed on this Hallmark sponsored day, at the same time, I feel it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge the role played by friends in our lives, presently, or in the past – our old and long-lost friends, new and current friends, work and personal friends, online only friends, tea break friends, travel and commuter friends, once-close-not-anymore, once-neighbor-now-faraway friends …..and the list can go on! Thanks to the social networking sites, we have now managed to get all of them on the same platform. And thanks to the social networking sites, we don’t have to call each of our friends separately, but post a status to say “Happy Friendship day”! Finally, thanks to days like these, we can reawaken the “adolescent young girl/boy” that we once were and in a way will always be!! To all my friends.....Happy Friendship day!

While I have been blessed with good friends all my life, Abhay has not been so lucky, especially after his move back to India. If there is one thing Abhay probably misses the most about Portland, it must be his friends! Though he has friends in school, he not been successful at forging friendship with anyone near home, partly due to the fact there are no kids of his age in our area. ( one of downsides to living in an independent house as opposed to an apartment) So as I was browsing for books at a children’s book fair at RangaShankara, I found “Wanted: A Friend”, I was instantly ready to be charmed by this Lenny and Tweek Adventure by Klaus Baumgart brought out by Pratham publications. A level 2 in Pratham’s Learning to read series, this was originally published in German and translated in English by Braumhaus Verlag. Lenny who lives in his Caravan truck finds one day that there is something missing. As he thinks hard, he realizes that he is lonely and wants a friend, with whom he can have fun. So he decides to pin up a note on a tree that says “Wanted:A Friend, Contact Lenny, if you are one”! Lenny waits for a response but receives nil. As he makes his way to the tree to make sure that the note was still pinned to it, he trips over something that looked like a tiny little caravan. It turned out to be the house of a bug named Tweek, who apologizes for being in the way. Tweek then attempts to befriend Lenny but Lenny curtly refuses to engage in any kind of friendly chatter. Lenny explains that he does not have the time as he has to wait for a friend at home. Tweek offers to wait with him. Friendship blossoms between the reluctant Lenny and inquisitive Tweek who cant stop asking questions to which Lenny does not have answers –  Do you know what a friend looks like? When is this friend coming? So Tweek suggests that they could play together while they wait for this “elusive” friend! So they end up playing hide and seek, flying aeroplanes, treasure hunt, diving into pool and gazing at the clouds, watching the sunset. As it grows dark, Tweek decides to head home and wishes Lenny good luck in his quest for a friend. As Tweek leaves, Lenny suddenly feels alone again and soon he realizes that the friend he was waiting all along for was none other than Tweek! An endearing tale of friendship makes an apt read on the occasion of Friendship Day! So here is me saying on behalf of Abhay– "Wanted: A Friend for Abhay - Contact Onestoryaday if you are one! :-)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Abhay's new found fascination!

Ever since we watched a documentary on “Titanic” on the Discovery channel couple of months ago, Abhay has been fascinated with the unsinkable ship that sank a hundred years ago. Delighted as we were at his new-found interest, we were sure it would wane in a couple of weeks. Nevertheless we indulged him with more newspaper and internet articles and pictures on the Titanic. But little did we know that we were seeing only the tip of the iceberg! His interest not only grew day by day but heightened when he watched James Cameron's take on the most famous maritime tragedy. Thereafter, every story he narrated revolved around the Titanic, every lego play was about putting together a ship named Titanic and every drawing he sketched was his version of the Titanic! With his current obsession reaching such mountaenous proportions, I had to match the same with a book, isnt it? So I picked out “The Titanic Lost and Found” by Judy Donnelly and illustrated by Keith Kohler, part of the Step into Reading series with a Level 4 and had my husband read it at bedtime. Not only was Abhay excited, but I'm afraid was a little too excited to go to bed!

This early reader doubles up as a basic chapter book with four chapters tracing the first voyage of the wonder ship from England to America and ending with the discovery of its ruins, years later by Robert Ballard. The story describes how it all began on April 10th 1912 when the biggest and the safest ship set sail across the Atlantic ocean with over 2227 people on board. Four days later on April 14th tragedy struck when Titanic hit an iceberg on the icy waters off the coast of Canada. What followed was a desperate attempt to save as many people as the crew could, with women and children rushed to the limited number of lifeboats, while others hope for some miracle. (Abhay couldn’t understand why all the daddies got left out!) The illustrations vividly capture the scene when one end of the ship slides into the ocean while the other end swings straight up! Finally out of over 2000 people on board, only 705 passengers make it to New York. The story doesn’t end there but goes on to educate the readers of the new laws enacted to avoid such accidents, and the miraculous discovery of the remains of the unsinkable ship deep in the ocean floor. So if you have Titanic fanatic at home, have him read this easy non-fiction but at the same time, I must warn you reading this book at night can be harmful to yours and your little one's bed-time routine!