Monday, October 29, 2012

Under the Bed!

Since the past one month, my son Abhay has regressed back into co-sleeping with us instead of sleeping all by himself in his room and I have no clue what to do!  It all began when he fell sick with a viral infection a month ago and it was just more convenient to have him in the same room so that we could periodically check his temperature. Once recovered, my six year refused to move out! No matter how many eviction notices we’ve served, he hasnt  budged!:-) No matter how much we try to glorify the idea of sleeping on one’s own bed, he just doesn’t buy it! It’s not the dark that he is afraid of but he just prefers the comfort and warmth of snuggling up to his parents at night  as opposed to lying all by himself on his big boy bed. Well, at times when we challenge him to it, he succumbs and makes an half hearted attempt to fall asleep in his room with the night light on, only to tiptoe back into our room in the dead of the night!

So in order to help him to overcome his fears, if any, I read “Under the Bed” by Paul Bright and Ben Cort, which is a story of a little boy but might as well as have been a story of your little one. A little boy is asleep all by himself on his bed under which there are few interesting and not-so-interesting things – pieces of jigsaw puzzle, purple pants, apple core and his smelly shoe. Not only that, there appears to be much more! Under the bed there are bugs, beasts nibbling crumbs, but not to worry as they seem too busy to think of the boy or your little one whom you’re reading this to. Under the bed there is also a dragon dozing, a pizza-eating alligator, a grizzly bear who can’t stop scratching himself, a strange looking creature with warts on his nose and knots on his tail or any such imaginary monster your little one complains of, but all of them seem too busy with themselves to bother the sleeping boy. But it turns out that all those creatures under the bed are suddenly scared out of their wits as they have seen something frightening on the bed! So out of the room flee the dragon, the alligator, the grizzly bear, bugs and beasts and every other imaginary monster for the frightening thing on the bed is ….. the boy  alias your little one! Abhay scoffed at kids who are petrified of the imaginary monsters under the bed and was sure not to have any lurking under his own! Pleased….I tucked him in and kissed him good night hoping he’ll stay there the entire night only to find him sleeping soundly next to me as I woke up in the morning! :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do it yourself!


While I was going over some math problems with my six year old a couple of months ago, I realized that he hadn’t fully understood the concept of addition of two digits numbers, whereas his school notebook revealed otherwise. When quizzed, he coolly replied that the answers in his notebook were copied from his friend’s. There wasn’t even a slightest hint of guilt or remorse over the same! In fact, my son didn’t even realize that it was wrong to copy answers from his friend’s notebook as opposed to attempting to solve the math problems on his own! In his own words, his friend was merely ‘helping’ him out…. and after all it wasn’t a test but only a class exercise! Of course, I tried to make him understand the value of doing your own work and that ‘copying’ from others is simply not done. But I realized that kids do not necessarily comprehend the difference between right and wrong on their own and thus cannot always be blamed for confusing the ‘unacceptable’ with the ‘acceptable’. However, it is incumbent on us parents to help them understand this crucial difference. While there exists a thin line between ‘helping’ and ‘copying’ it doesn’t take too long for the line to disappear and turn into ‘cheating’ and when that happens, it is we parents who are to be blamed!

Well, Abhay did realize his mistake and claimed to have solved the next day’s questions on his own which I hope is due to the fact that he understood that it was wrong and not merely because “Amma will get angry”! :-) Anyway, I couldn’t have found a more similar story than this one in this week’s “Young World”, the children’s supplement of “The Hindu” and so I had to read it to Abhay. “Parathas and Potatoes” is a funny story by Gayathri Krishnan with an important message for all kids. Vishay’s mother was looking at his notebooks and noticed a different handwriting in his science notebook. When asked, Vishay had no qualms explaining to his mom that the handwriting belonged to his bench-mate Vicky who offered to complete his notes for Vishay as Vishay was slow in writing down his notes from the blackboard and couldn’t catch up with the teacher. When his mom advised him that it was not right to ask his classmate to slave for him when he was expected to read and write his notes all by himself, Vishay assured his mom that Vicky was no slave but was rewarded well with Vishay sharing his snack box with Vicky. Clearly, Vishay had missed the point! So Vishay’s mom hit upon an idea. The next day during lunch, Vishay was surprised to see a brand new lunch box with a note “Dear Vishay, this is a small gift to Vicky!” Vishay assumed that his mother too wanted to thank Vicky for helping him with the notes and gave Vicky the lunch box filled parathas and potatoes.  Looking back into his lunch bag, Vishay realized that his mother had forgot to pack his own lunch! Before he could even think of asking Vicky for some of his mom’s parathas, Vicky had polished them off! Vicky offered his own lunch box of curd rice and beans but Vishay was not interested. That evening when Vishay confronted his mom, his mom shot back saying “If Vicki can do work for you, surely you can eat his lunch for him everyday……!.” and that’s when Vishay realized what his mom  had meant! The next day, Vishay turned down Vicky’s offer of completing his notes and realized that he could write fast enough if he’d put his heart and soul into it! A great story to educate your little one about hard work and doing things on his own!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dassera Greetings!

It is time to feel festive again with the onset Dassera closely followed  by Diwali! Well, what does the festival season mean? It means school vacations, less traffic on the roads (at least on festival days), festival offers and sales doled out by retailers, a host of religious, music and cultural events organized at various temples and cultural associations, a time to take some time off work or visit friends and relatives to join in their celebrations leading to a sudden increase in one’s calorie intake! J At the same time, festivals are an important part of our cultural heritage, to be celebrated, carried forward and passed on to the generation next. While our work schedules may not permit us to celebrate our festivals in the same way our parents did, yet it is important to ensure that our children don’t grow up oblivious to the true essence and the value of Navaratri or Diwali. So whether you observe the Navaratri Vrat (fast), or exhibit the Dassara dolls at home or go dance to the dandiya tunes or perform the Ayudha pooja to your car, make sure to involve your little one too!

So in an attempt to educate Abhay the significance of Dassera, we took him to "Bimba, the Art Ashram", located on DVG Road, Basavangudi that showcased the age old tradition of displaying dassera dolls during Navarathri along with a unique rendition of the story “Anjaneya” through the medium of still theatre in miniature art. So if you are around Basavanagudi, drop by Rasalok at Bimba to witness this indigenous art form transport you to a timeless era.

Navaratri is described as celebrating our connection with the “Devi” or the Goddess, be it Durga or Lakshmi, Saraswathi, (names of some of the Indian Goddesses) So today we picked up Amar Chitra Katha’s “Tales of Durga”  by Subba Rao and illustrations by Souren Roy. This book comprises three stories – “Durga – The Slayer of Mahisha, the story of “Chamundi” and “How Durga slew Shumbha” – three tales featuring the Goddess as an embodiment of Shakti or courage and power that destroys all evil and upholds justice for all. Abhay certainly seemed fascinated to hear the stories of the great Goddesses. His favorite story is that of Ambika who springs from the body of Parvathi to later create Kali from her forehead who goes on to kill the asuras Chanda and Munda and hence renamed as Chamundi. Reading Amar Chitra Katha is a certainly a pleasant throwback to my childhood that was dominated by the same series. It is also a great way to introduce our little ones to the stories from epics and mythology, and orient them towards our rich culture. Happy Dassera to everyone! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our Little House!

Over the weekend (a long weekend thanks to a State Government holiday on Monday), we made a quick getaway trip to ‘Shristi’, my father’s farm house at Dharmasthala. Abhay was in his best element hopping in and around the farm, the house, the kennel housing two of his best friends, amidst the cosseting company of his grandparents, while I got to relax and rejuvenate in our nice little house perched on a hill, surrounded by a garden full of fruit yielding trees and flower yielding plants, making it a perfect setting for reading the classic “The Little House” by  Virginia Lee Burton. Of course it was more by accident than design did my husband pick up this book from The Hippocampus, Bangalore, but I could draw so many similarities between the little house of Virgina Lee Burton and our little “Shristi”!

Awarded the Caldecott Honor, this is a beautiful story that reflects on the fall-outs of urbanization and the fast changing pace of life! If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the good old days when life was simpler and slower, this book is for you!  Once upon a time, a man built a little house way out in the country and said that this little house will never be sold for gold or silver, but will live to see his great-great-grand children’s great-great grandchildren living in her. The Little house sat on a hill and watched the countryside around her. She watched the sun rise and set each day, the moon grow from a thin new moon to a full moon and then back to new moon; She loved to experience the changing seasons and her surroundings change from spring to summer to fall and then winter.   She was happy to be in the quiet environs of the country, watch the grass turn green, buds swell on trees, apple trees burst into blossoms, children playing by the brook. But she was always curious about the city lights that shone way beyond and wondered what it would be like to live in a city. As time passed, those city lights grew closer and closer and one day the little house saw a number of horseless carriages drive by the winding country road and in came the surveyors who surveyed the line in front of the little house. Soon a steam shovel dug up a road in front of the little house – the road leading to the city! The Little house watched trucks and automobiles going back and forth to the city, with gasoline stations, roadside shops and stands mushroom along the road. Soon the surrounding countryside disappeared and gave way to residential plots, apartment complexes (the state of Bangalore today!) and those apartment and tenement buildings torn down to make way for sky rise buildings, one comprising of 25 stories and other 35 stories, built on either side of the little house. Then came the trolley cars, elevated rails and subway trains across, above and under the little house. The Little house understood that this was what it felt like to live in the city - she could not tell whether it was spring, summer, fall or winter – everything seemed the same!  City lights were too bright to see the moon and the noises were too loud to hear the birds sing. Most of all, people were moving faster and faster and didn’t have the time to stop and glance at her. Then one day, the great-great grand daughter of the man who built the little house came by and realized that it was the same house that her great grandmother grew up in and so she decided to save the little house from the wretched city! So in a grand effort that stalled traffic for hours, they jacked up the little house and put her on wheels and moved her out of the city. They drove her way out of the city to the remote country only to find a nice little hill in the middle of the field. So the great-great grand daughter found a new home for the little house, surrounded by the her beloved apple trees and daisies! The Little house rediscovers the joys of living in the country and never again, would she be curious about living in the city!  I’m not sure if Abhay understood the underlying theme, but he loved the detailed illustrations of the journey of the little house. This story in fact mirrors the journey of my parents who have chosen to go back to their roots post retirement…..making it almost picture-perfect for any vacation! Surrounded by its fig trees and hibiscus flowers, here’s hoping our little “Shristi” remains the same forever …..for our great-great grand children’s grand children to stay in! J

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The "Daddy" factor!

 Robert Frost once said that a father is always a republican towards his son and his mother is always a democrat! I’m not sure of the context in which these words were spoken but it sure seems relevant, considering the recent presidential debate between President Obama and the republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (which has us nostalgic of Obama’s win back in 2008 when we were in the US). Anyway, my point being that fathers tend to be more laissez faire than mothers making them the favorite with kids… household being no exception. Between the two of us, I find myself being the over-enthusiastic (occasionally breathing-down-the-neck types) over-protective and over-reactive parent! (I seriously can’t help it!) My husband gets away with being his usual nonchalant self and ends up doing a better job than me, at the least in the eyes of our son! It feels like we moms do all the research and ground work whereas dads just present the thesis! They can’t deny that it is we moms who make the dads look good! For instance, it was I who had noticed that Abhay needed a new pencil box and asked his dad to drive him to a nearby toy store on the pretext of getting the training wheels of his cycle fixed and surprise him with the new buy! Well…. He did as he was told and became the “best dad in the whole world”! Hello!…. who’s idea was it? So from next time on….I’m implementing my ideas myself!

In fact, I even pick the appropriate books for the father-son duo and one such book Abhay loved is “My Dad” by Anthony Browne, awarded the Children’s Laureate for the year 2009. In fact, this one is normally read by Abhay’s dad but last night I decided to step into the daddy’s shoes for one last time before I return it back to the library. All about hero-worship of the daddy, this book starts with a  little boy introducing his dad as he says “He’s all right, my dad”! Then he starts off describing how his dad isn’t afraid of anything, even the big bad wolf and that he can jump right over the moon, and walk on a tightrope! (Now this is a little over the top…don’t you thinkJ ) He likens his dad’s appetite to a horse (I agree with this one!), his strength to a gorilla, his state of mind to a happy hippo and then comes the daddy’s physical attributes and extraordinary talents with his dad being a wise as an owl (the illustration showing the  daddy literally transforming into an owl) and of course like most dads, his dad too makes him laugh a lot( making funny faces) Finally, he concludes that he loves his dad and he is thrilled to know that his daddy loves him too and will always do! Well, Abhay’s daddy always gets a big hug at the end of the book...…so can I get one too??:-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Picture Gandhi!

What does Gandhi Jayanthi mean to a six year old?  It probably means a school holiday on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the bespectacled man on a 500 rupees note! What does Gandhi Jayanthi mean to an adult Indian? Frankly, all it meant was a welcome mid-week break from work….and of course Gandhi-Jayanthi related articles run on the Newspapers’ Editorial or Magazine supplements. For instance, yesterday’s Metroplus of 'The Hindu' carried a feature titled “Mahatma on the move” that highlights the numerous ways in which references to Gandhiji makes way into our day-to-day lives. Be it on Television (even on popular American sitcoms like Scrubs or How I met my mother) or in Films and theatre, or in terms of literature, either by Gandhi or on Gandhi or the recent Gandhian style of protests and finally with Khadi now making a fashion statement – Gandhi is everywhere! At the same time here’s hoping that Gandhian principles too travel from the textbooks to museums to touch our lives the same way!

Abhay may be a little too young for Gandhian way of life but he is old enough to learn about Gandhi and his way of life! So in an attempt to introduce him to Gandhi, I was looking for some age appropriate material on Gandhi. Trust this week’s ‘Young World’ to do a cover story on Gandhi! “Gandhiji – An inspiration” teaches the kids on the philosophy and values of the Mahatma, while inviting older kids (mostly high school students) to write about what inspired them to follow Gandhi. Another interesting book on Gandhi is “Picture Gandhi”, Tulika publication by Sandhya Rao, a book on the life and works of Gandhi through some rarely seen pictures. Starting with the quintessential, “One upon a time, there lived a boy named …Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi…” this book is a revelation not just for kids! This picture book (literally, so)  takes the readers, young and old, to all the different places and people on whom the father of the nation has left an indelible mark! Besides, the important events, this book also throws some light on the lesser known facets of Gandhi’s personality with the help of call outs and colorful embellishments while at the same time not trivializing his life that was a message for everyone! Not sure how much of this book went in, but this is sure worth a repeat-read, as Abhay grows older. “Picture Gandhi” is a must-read for young India, and hopefully not just on October, the second!