Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Family Tradition!

 Pooja at the temple

Yesterday was Anantha Padmanabha Vratha, a special pooja offered to Lord Vishnu every year on the occasion of Anantha Chathurdashi. My husband’s family has been observing this Vratha (Pooja) for over four generations and it is for us to continue the tradition and pass on the same to the generation next. Of course from generation to generation, there have been a lot of changes in the way in which Anantha Vratha has been performed. With rising costs, hectic work schedules, non-availability of dependable domestic help, and not to mention parents and family elders getting no younger day by day, it has become increasingly difficult to host such events at home. So what was once a grand three-day affair attended by over a hundred guests comprising of extended family members and acquaintances, has now been modified into a pooja organized at a local temple followed by a small celebration at home in the evening  meant for only close family  and neighbours. After all, the essence of all worship lies in its spirit and devotion and not in its ostentatious display, isn’t it?  J
Pooja at home

In this year’s Ananthana Vrita, we tried to initiate Abhay into the annual family ritual which we hope he will carry forward in the future, in whatever way possible. I went looking for some child- appropriate story of the Ananthana Vratha, but couldn’t find any material on print or on the internet (maybe I should write one myself!!!).  Hence I decided to read to him Amar Chitra Katha’s “Tales of Vishnu” instead. In the Hindu mythology, Brahma being the Creator and Shiva, the Destroyer, it is up to Vishnu, considered the wisest of the Trinity to preserve the peace and order in the universe. This particular series comprises of four stories revolving around the Gentle God, – Gajendra Moksha, Bhakta Ambareesha, and the stories of Vrakasura and Rantideva.  Abhay was amused at the story of Gajendra, where a king becomes an elephant because of the curse of sage Agastya and then his fight with the crocodile which he cannot win and Lord Vishnu’s grace saves him from the mouth of the crocodile. All three stories are examples of the benevolence of Lord Vishnu who always comes to the rescue of his devotees. On the occasion of Ananthana Vratha, the Kallamundkur family seeks the Almighty’s blessings for everyone’s good health and happiness! Om shri Ananthaya Namo Namaha!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Boys are the best!

Children go through different phases of likes and dislikes during their growing up years, which are at times amusing, at times annoying, but almost all the times, quite entertaining! J  Abhay who'd once been mesmerized with girls, has now turned a mini-misogynist! “I hate girls” seems to be his new mantra and also with the other boys in his class. So much so that he insisted on a “no-girls” policy at his birthday party! I had to coax him into making concessions for the little sisters of some of his friends. When I nudge him about his mom and his grand mom being girls too, he haughtily declares that that he does not have a problem with “grown-up girls” and it is only “girls his age” whom he deems persona-non-grata! (How obliging!:) Anyway, not sure of how long will this phase  last, but  be sure to read this in your teens, Abhay…..and let’s see if you still feel the same way about girls your age!

Considering his newly developed distaste towards girls, I had to pick up “Boys are best!” by Manuela Olten, the minute my husband found it on the shelves of Hippocampus, Bangalore. A hilarious book ideal for boys who poke fun at girls and their obsession with dolls. Two young boys announce that boys are the best and girls are silly. According to them, girls spend all their time combing their dolls hair or changing their dolls’ clothes – off and on (as they watch their sister do the same!) As they snigger over how girls hold on to their teddy bear at bedtime and they almost pee in their pants at the thought of a ghost, one of the boys begins to feel nervous at mentioning of “ghosts”! Soon both are seen going to the bathroom and hopping onto their sister’s bed while at the same time borrowing her teddy for comfort, much to her amusement! Finally, the sister has a last laugh and finds boys to be silly! Needless to say, Abhay loved this book and kept repeating “Boys are best and girls are silly” and loved the part where the boys are pulling their pants off and on to demonstrate how girls change their dolls' clothes! A harmless book to have a hearty laugh over….especially if your little one is going through the  laugh-out-loud “I-hate-girls” phase! :-)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Season's Greetings!

September is the busiest month of the year for us. With three of our most important annual events  more or less occurring this month, life has turned hectic, in its most manic proportions. For one, Abhay birthday is in September immediately followed by Ganesh Chaturthi (the biggest festival of my father’s family) and soon to be caught up by Anantha Chaturdashi (the biggest religious event in my husband’s family). So post Abhay’s birthday, we left for Dharmasthala to attend the Ganesh Chatuthi celebrations at my dad’s ancestral house. It was also a family reunion of sorts and a time to catch up with the family elders and cousins while we also felt a sense a dejavu watching our little ones get excited over those very same things that had once held our fascination too and continued to hold…..until we grew up! Dedicating this post to all my uncles, aunts,cousins, nephews and nieces without whom chauthi would not be the same! J

Since Ganesh Chaturthi is such a big part of our culture down south, I wanted Abhay to learn the story of Ganesha. Though the Amar Chitra Katha series would have been ideal for mythological stories, I didn’t have one handy and therefore found a simple power point presentation on the internet. “"The Story of Ganesha" is short but simple account of the creation of boy from out of mud by Goddess Parvathi  and his metamorphosis into Lord Ganesha. The story also underlines the importance of Ganesha as the remover of obstacles and a symbol of success, while highlighting the significance of Ganesha’s four hands, broken tusk and large ears. Though there are numerous videos on the story of Ganesha for kids on youtube, I found this one just right as it does not overcrowd the mythological tale as too much information may be too complex for their innocent minds. So if your little one is curious about Ganesha….have him look up “The Story of Ganesha”!  Phew! Now with Abhay’s birthday and Ganesh Chaturthi done, we are two down and one more to go this weekend…...and I cant wait for  the hopefully uneventful October! :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy Sixth Birthday - Part II


Birthdays are meant to be celebrated …..especially when you’ve just turned  six! Being six has its own perks….it means you are a big boy or in league with the big kids! Being six means you are in the reckoning for most charges applicable for kids! At the same time, being six has its own share of responsibilities too… means you are on your own…at mealtime or bedtime! Being six means you let the younger kids have their turn first! Being six also means you don’t get to ask for a balloon at a birthday party! J We decided to kickstart Abhay’s transition into big-boyhood with a bang! After almost five years, we hosted his birthday party at our rooftop penthouse  (the last birthday we hosted in the same location was his first birthday!) For a moment, the sudden rain that lashed the city late Saturday afternoon threatened to wash out our rooftop party! Added to this, Abhay’s viral infection made a comeback to wish him on his birthday! ( Typical...they always have to fall to sick on important days!) But as the rain let up, kids walked in and we saw Abhay get back into his best element! What’s birthday without friends, right? So we had his close cousins and some of his friends from the neighborhood come in and bust open the star shaped piñata that was the highlight of the Abhay's birthday celebration - Part II !


So post his birthday bash, I read to him “Arthur’s Birthday” by Marc Brown, a book series turned into a much loved television programming on PBS kids (more than Abhay, I used to love watching this in the US). Arthur can’t wait for his birthday and invites his whole class over for his party. But Muffy announces that her birthday party is on the same date and time as Arthur’s putting all the classmates in a fix! As the issue of birthday party divides the class and turns into a boys vs. girls debate, Arthur and Francine take the matter into their hands. They hatch up a plan and get everyone, including Muffy to walk into Arthur’s house only to be surprised by each other’s presence. Muffy gets lured into the surprise by Arthur’s letter promising her a gift too big to carry! Muffy is thrilled to find everyone at the party and both of them have joint party with amidst all of their friends. After all, what’s a birthday party without all your friends? So here’s thanking all of Abhay’s friends who made his day yesterday....hope to see you next year too!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Sixth Birthday Abhay!


Yesterday was a special day for me as my little one (not-so-little-one-anymore!) just turned six! It felt like déjà vu seeing Abhay go to school dressed in colored clothes with chocolates to distribute amongst his classmates and teachers! Abhay couldn’t contain his excitement the previous night and had no issues with waking up at the crack of dawn! I feel birthdays are always meant to be celebrated, no matter how old one gets! Whereas my husband grew up believing that birthdays are a low-key affair. So imagine my shock on my first birthday after marriage!!:-) Well….we’ve now come a long way and have since evolved from our once steadfastly held opinions! J So though we have a birthday celebration planned this weekend with friends, nevertheless we tried to make yesterday special with only close family around. What’s a birthday without a cake……right? With his birthday cake ordered for the party on Saturday, I tried my hand at baking cupcakes and managed to frost them to suit his taste buds! (for which I took baking lessons last weekend!). So amidst all the goodies and sweet treats dished out by his mom, his maternal and paternal grandmas, Abhay blew his “No.6” birthday candle and so went on Part-1 of Abhay’s  birthday celebration! Happy Birthday Abhay! J

I had to read him a birthday book and what better book than “Dr. Seuss Happy Birthday to you” ! Since I could not lay my hands on the hard bound book, I downloaded the app from Oceanhouse media. A great book to read on your little one’s birthday and tell him about the way a birthday is celebrated in Katroo, a fictitious place like many of the characters and places in Dr. Suess books. Awakened by the birthday bird, the birthday star is flown out of town on a smorgasboard’s back, with birthday horns sounding their special birthday horn,  and offered an all-you-can-eat-breakfast that is only a beginning to a day-long feast that the birthday boy or girl is treated to …when in Katroo. Catch your little one laugh as you read to him “Today you are you, that is true-er than true. There is no one alive who is you-re than you!” or the hilarious “If you’d never been born, what would you be? You might be a fish or a toad in tree, you might be a door knob!
Or three baked potatoes! You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes.
Or worse than all that... why, you might be a WASN’T!
A Wasn't has no fun at all. No, he doesn't. A Wasn't just isn't.
He just isn't present.
But you... you ARE YOU! And now, isn't that pleasant!
!” J
A great book, however a tad too long that captures the thrill of celebrating a birthday with all the pomp and splendor that made me want to go back to being a kid! Well….we just hope Abhay had fun too just like the kid in Katroo! J

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Atta-Galata Story time!

Over the weekend, we went to a unique story time hosted by Pratham publications at Atta-Galatta, Koramangala, Bangalore. Usually a story hour is followed by a craft activity for kids, but this one had a theatre based activity both before and after the story time. Inspired by the book slated to be the centerpiece of the session, the story tellers, Padmaja Nagarur and Madhu Shukle had the audience, comprising of kids and their parents introduce themselves with an action that was to be reciprocated by the whole group. So Abhay did his signature “chamak challo” hand movement as he introduced himselfJ  Soon were asked to play a one of kind game of “statue or freeze” so as to make different shapes with one’s body! Abhay found himself fully warmed up for the interactive story time that followed and was surprisingly an active participant at the session. He seemed to enjoy making different shapes with the satin tapes that the kids had been given as an after story-time activity. Hmmm!……I’m hoping it had nothing to do with our promise to buy his birthday gift later that day :-)

The storybook featured was “Susheela Kolams” by Sridala Swami and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, a Level 1 Early Reader by Pratham publications. This is a story of Susheela who learn to draw rangolis, called Kolams in Tamil Nadu from her mother. On the auspicious festival of Pongal, she was allowed to make one Kolam all by herself when she discovered that she loved to draw Kolams. She drew them everywhere – on the outer walls of her house, on the sides of tall buildings, on trains and even on kites that people flew across the sky! Susheela became so famous for her kolams that the Indian Air Force Pilots asked her to help them make a kolam in the sky. Susheela was thrilled to explain how to dip, dive and turn their planes to make saffron-green-white kolams in the sky! Susheela gets inspired to take her kolams to another level, she tries to imagine kolams in between the twinkling stars in the night sky. A nice little book to tell your creative little one that truly sky is the limit!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Matter of Choice!

While many aspects of our life or lifestyle are a matter of choice, many such are not! Freedom of choice depends on various factors like age, sex, society and culture, and the times we live in, etc. What has become a matter of choice today, was probably not, a few years ago; Or what is not matter of choice for my five year old now, may become one (at least so hopes Abhay!)  Or as you move into a different phase of life, like marriage or parenthood, you realize that what was earlier a choice has now turned into compulsion! Or what seems like a choice actually turns out to be illusory or rather no choice at all! The reason for my rambling on choice is that Abhay recently asked me as to why we can’t choose certain things – like one’s parents or the question of being vegetarian, for instance. Well, unfortunately my dear, you don’t have a choice on the former and as far as the latter, you can exercise your choice once you grow up! Suddenly I realized that I don’t have a choice but to accept the fact that these questions are only going to get tougher! J

While he may not be able to choose most things in his life right now, it doesn’t harm to think about the future and vicariously decide on his choices, right away! A couple of days after he asked me about his choices in life, I found  You Choose” by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart at the Youth section at the British library. This is a colorful book full of interesting and vivid illustrations on almost everything under the sun for your little one to choose for his life ahead!  I must say it is a good book to choose if your little one is intrigued by the illustrations of everyday things around him! So starting from where would he want to live? On the seaside, a rainforest, desert, snow mountains, or a city with its high rise buildings! He’d have complete freedom to choose a friend who could be a pirate, a caveman, may be the king and the queen, or a vampire or a  beautiful ballerina! What kind of a home would he want to live in? An Apartment, a Victorian style house, a castle, a spaceship, a windmill or an igloo? What would be his choice for travel? By way of a rocket, a hot air balloon, a race car, a bullet train or Santa’s sledge? When he got hungry, what would he eat? Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwich, Spaghetti, pancakes or good old jelly and ice cream ( With pictures of only junk food …..why wouldn’t they?) What would he want  wear or what kind of shoes or a hat would he choose? ( This is always the bone of contention between Abhay and me!)  What kind of a job he’d like to do? Become a scuba diver, a magician, or a Rockstar, or a clown or a fireman? What would he do for fun? Skiing , bungee jumping, gardening or ball room dancing? Faced with such exhausting number of choices, anyone is bound to get tired and so finally your little one is asked to choose where he wants to sleep? On a king size bed, a bunk bed, a simple sleeping bag or a bassinet? Ask your little one to choose quick so that you can choose the words you’ve been dying to say out loud, Phew! “Goodnight”! J




Monday, September 3, 2012

Come September .....


Come September and in most parts of the Western world, it means the end of summer and the beginning of Fall or Autumn, a season I miss the most after having moved back to India. Come September and it means the start of the festival season in India, something I used to miss the most while living in the US!  J While I loved the fall colors in all its hues, I wished I could be India to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi the way it was meant to be! Now that I can attend the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in my native town, I miss the short but beautiful drives around the city of Hillsboro along its trees with the leaves changing color from bright green to deep reds, golden or brown!  I guess it’s a  rule of human nature to miss most what you don’t have and gloss over what you actually have!! Well… this case…..I can say that the leaves are redder on the other side! J

I had read many books on the fall foliage in Autumn when in US and I wasn’t expecting to lay my hands on any such book on the season of Autumn. I must say that I am constantly surprised by what I find in Bangalore’s book shops! JKheer on a Full Moon Night” by Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudary, illustrated by Priya Kuriyan a Level 2 Early Reader that is a part of the Rituchakra series on the cycle of season brought out by Pratham publications.  The rains have stopped but winter is not here yet. A little girl wonders what season it is, when her grandma tells her about autumn, the season full of festivals. A season to hang the thoranam made of mango leaves on the front door. A season of celebrations that begins with a full moon night called Sharat Poornima when kheer is prepared , followed by Onam famous for its Rangoli made of flowers, then Dasara that ushers in mid-term vacations for most schools, finally culminating with the festival of lights, Deepavali. The little girl takes the reader through the above festivals and the way they are observed across the country.  Accompanied by colourful illustrations, this book is a good introduction for your little one to the festivities and goodies to look forward to, this season!  Enjoy your kheer this autumn everyone!