Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dancing on the walls!

As we approach the end of the year, we also approach the end of our vacation!:(  Like every year,  we spent our Christmas vacations at my parents' farm "Shristi" at Dharmasthala. Unlike every year though, we drove by car to Dharmasthala this year which not only allowed us to visit our extended family residing in different pockets of South Kanara, but also enabled us to carry a whole lot of luggage which wouldn't have been possible had we travelled by bus.  For instance, Abhay was thrilled to have his bicycle and cricket set loaded into the trunk!:-) Similarly, I felt relieved at not having to schedule our travel according to time-table of the KSRTC! (the inter-city public transit system at Karnataka) Anyway, as we drove up the driveway, we were delighted to be welcomed by the Warli painted wall by the entrance.  
Originally a folk art of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, the Warli style of painting has become quite popular today and is seen fashioned onto paper, cloth and even mounted as mural paintings. This striking form of traditional art is prepared on a sober mud base with just one color, i.e. white though occasionally accompanied by yellow and red dots. Replete with geometric designs, Warli art is known for its monochromatic depictions of the folk life of its people and their socio-religious customs, traditions and beliefs. Warli art found its way onto “Shristi”, courtesy my mother’s idea that was beautifully executed by a team of award winning artists from Mangalore. The essence of a Warli painting lies in its vibrant depiction of the surrounding life and sure enough the Warli art at Shristi portrays an eclectic mix of the nature,  environment and the lives and passion of the people in and around Shristi –  be it the sun shining from the East in the mornings, or the surrounding coconut and areca plantation or the day-long activities revolving around the same, or the workforce at the farm whose well being is my parents’ uppermost concern, or the maths equation that my mother has loved and taught for over three decades – the Warli wall at Shristi has it all! J
To celebrate the alluring art of Warli at Shristi, I picked out a Tulika publication at “Dancing on the walls” by Shamim Padamsee and art by Uma Krishnaswamy. The author scrawls a fictional tale on the Warli wall of fame on how the art may have originated. A little girl living in the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra named Shivri is all set to celebrate the harvest festival the next day. While her family goes to the market to buy a few things for the next day’s festival, Shivri stays back to surprise her parents by completing all the household chores. But soon Shivri is overwhelmed with all the tasks that lay ahead of her, including sweeping the courtyard, powdering the rice and plastering the walls with fresh cowdung! She wishes that she could do all her chores with a wave of hand! Suddenly Shivri sees tiny silvery creatures sliding down the big yellow moon and running up and down the river bank waving their stick-like limbs. As one of those creatures falls into the river, Shivri helps him out and strikes a conversation with him. She learns that these silvery white creatures (that are  ubiquitous characters in any Warli painting) are from the moon who sometimes come down to the earth to smell the flowers and listen to the birds sing. Since Shivri rescued one of them, they offer to help her finish her household chores. Within no time, they clean and powder the rice, sweep the courtyard and plaster the walls with a fresh coat of cowdung! Having completed all the task, they begin to dance merrily in a circle with some of them playing flute, clapping their hands and clicking their fingers, thus moving faster and faster. Just then someone came in and shouted to find out what was happening. This in turn startled the dancers who leapt up into the freshly plastered wall, one after another and were thus stuck on the wall with their spiral designs. When Shivri’s parents came home, they saw the beautiful pictures on the wall and assumed that it was Shivri who had drawn them and agreed that it was beautiful and something that they had never seen before! From that day on, the Warli people began to decorate their walls with shining white figures, dancing, singing, taking the cows to graze and other allied activities depicting their folk life. But only Shivri knew the secret of the dancing on the wall. This book is an interesting read and definitely makes a great introduction to one of the most animated and lively forms of traditional art in India. Truly, the buoyancy in the Warli art makes the canvas come alive with all the dancing not just on the wall but also reflected in the eyes and the mind of the beholder! On this note...here's wishing the dancing on everyone's walls and lives as well! :-)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Arts Tales- Down memory lane

I won an early reader version of Sleeping Beauty in my first standard for recitation. That and a Krishna Sudama story from CBT or NBT are the earliest recollection I have of books.

ACKs were for lolling on the sofa post homework ( those were pre TV days) and Champak's Chacha Chaudary helped me overcome my fear of Hindi.

Frankly , I grew up on an unbalanced diet -  an overdose of Enid Blyton peppered occasionally with some classics ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Coral Island, from Little Women to Children of the New Forest. I would read Black Beauty and imagine I owned a horse. I would read the Dairy of Anne Frank and wish I could have helped in some way. Along the line I also read some Nehru and a lot of RK Narayan.

But mostly I read Enid Blytons and would dream of lacrosse and hostels,  scones and ginger ale and sea sides and cliffs and being a clever tomboy.

The monthly copy of Target was devoured with gusto. It was the only contemporary Indian fiction that I had access to then. I frowned at Tinkle and was proud to be a Target and Children's World consumer.

My uncle was kind enough to get his only niece a National Geographic Subscription and Sportstar from my father kept the reading bug alive and my room decor transformed as well.

But looking back, if I had to pick a childhood favourite- they would be The Little Prince,  Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and Robin Cook's Fever - yes I read them all before I was twelve !!

I did not have access to as many picture books as my daughters do. And now I am making up for lost time. I love the simple tutorials offered by Eric Carle and Karadi rhymes, the lovely lilt of Julia Donaldson's stories and the Tulika stories in verse. I am moved by the multi cultural stories I read- from Biblioburro to Handa, from Babushkas in snowy lands and story blankets in African villages. I enjoy the Indianness of Tulika and Tara, Karadi and Katha. We read old picture books from the west- Mike Mulligan and Dr Seuss, which are more easily available here. We read new ones too. And may I add, I still have my first Sleeping Beauty book for my girls!

As for our current favourite-  tell me can you choose between carrot halwa and tiramisu?
Or a lovely biryani and a lovingly made pasta ?
Well, I cannot.

But does one need to choose? Just let the stories flow...enjoy the ride.

Arthi Anand is the author of the two Tulika titles- Have you seen this? and Ranganna. She created Mister Muthu for Chandamam, is  a reviewer at Saffron Tree and dabbles in story telling on weekends with Art's Tales, Catch her on Facebook or at the  blog .

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

" We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year"! 


This Christmas carol normally sung at the end of a recital, rings in my mind every year during Christmas.  Having studied in a convent school, Christmas has always been more than just a holiday. Christmas always takes me back to school - whether it is carol singing, or crib making competition  or playing secret Santa or singing jingle bells during Santa's appearance at the end of the Christmas program, Christmas was always special. When we were in the US, the spirit of Christmas was so infectious that it had us decorate a small little Christmas tree at home. Last two years have been rather quiet except for the mandatory appearance of our in-house Santa!  
This time around however, I found several reminders of the Christmas that used to be - non-stop caroling at a church  near my place of work ( a déjà vu of school days) or the Christmas party hosted by my boss in her house ( got me nostalgic about our party for friends in Portland) or "star" mounted houses along our drive  around Mangalore area where we normally spend our winter vacation(reminding me of the Xmas decorations on Peacock lane in Portland) - all this has me enveloped in the Christmas spirit once again! Merry Christmas everyone!!   

Ever since 2011, Christmas has always meant gifts from our in-house Santa and Abhay was glad that Santa didnt disappoint him this year!:-) This year for Christmas, I read a story that was featured in this month's Highlights Champs titled "A Motel Christmas" by Marilyn Christmas and art by Phyllis Pollema Cahill. Naresh is excited to drive to his grandparents' house for Christmas Eve along with his parents but are standed mid-route due to a blizzard forcing them to make a stopover. Naresh doesn't like to spend his Christmas Eve without his grandparents but they have no choice but to check into a motel along the way. As the motel owner Mr D'souza checks them into the last available room, Naresh  notices a nice little Christmas tree put up in the lobby. He compliments Mr. D'souza on the Christmas tree, he learns that Mr. D'souza had put up the tree with the hope of celebrating Christmas with his son and his family, whose flights were cancelled due to the snow storm thus making Mr. D'souza sad. Just as Naresh and his father brought their packed food from their car, Naresh hits upon an idea - to eat in with Mr. D'souza. Soon it was not just Naresh and his family, but other guests too join in making it a special Christmas Eve not only for Mr . D'souza but also Naresh that in a way made up for not being around at his Grandparents'. Christmas is not only about meeting family and friends but also spreading cheer and making new friends along the way! Hope u enjoy the Christmas vacation with your friends and family! Happy holidays everyone! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Abhay at Samhitotsava!

Over the weekend, Abhay's school celebrated it's annual day called the Samhitotsava. Being Abhay's second annual day, he was quite excited to be a part of it. The preparations for Samhitotsava had begun months before with Abhay all geared up to act out a role in " Alice in Wonderland", a play put up by their class for the annual day, but alas his teachers had different plans for him!:( Since Abhay has been known more for his singing than his acting skills, by default, he was a part of the music troupe, and he couldn't be more disappointed! Abhay was miffed that he was being "typecast" and was capable of much more! While this brought back memories of a similar situation at my school when I had asked my mom to influence my class teacher into involving me more in class performances, I certainly wasn't going to do the same! Sorry Abhay...... you have to fight your own casting battles!  Anyway, whether he is acting or singing, I quite enjoyed watching my baby on performing on stage….with full make-up and costume!  Never mind the last minute confusion over forgetting our camera at home for which my husband tried to make up with this “consolation photo” with his phone camera! :-)


Anyway, on the occasion of Abhay’s annual day which was a talent show of sorts, I read “ The Talent Show” by Jo Hodgkinson. Four friends, lion, bear, snake and an iguana were sauntering around town, when they came across a sign “The Talent Show”  and a small red bird who’d seen it too announced that he’d like to go and win the talent show. The four friends made fun of the bird’s audacity and went about practising for the special day. They practiced day and night when they felt everything was going just about right, except that their band was missing a lead singer. So they put up another sign “Singer wanted” and auditions began. It wasn’t a surprise that the first one to audition was the little red bird whom they had ridiculed! But the bear growled that he was much too small to be a part of it all! "Singers came in from all around and yet they couldn't find the  missing sound"! Just then a tall stranger with a long coat knocked at their door who proved to be their saviour when he sang with his melodious voice, thereby making him a natural choice. When the stranger's coat fell to the ground, it turned out to be the red bird whom they had made fun of! Apologetic as they were, the bird advised that it was wrong to judge him  by his size! As they took the center stage at the show, the bird experienced stage fright when his voice would not come out right. As he wished he could fly away, the band began to play and the rhythm made him forget his fear and the little bird began to sing like never before! Finally, their band won the prize as "the judges judged on talent and not on size"! :-)  So it doesn't matter whether you sing, dance or act, you are a part of Annual day and that's that!:-) So kudos to the faculty and staff of “The Samhita Academy’ who put up such a spectacular show at Samhitotsava, though may have been a tad  too long. But that is given when putting up a show incorporating each every kid from each and every class and each and every section……as each and every kid’s got talent! Isn’t it?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A ‘stand-up’ book and a ‘stand-out’ book

Guest post by Pika Nani (author of  'Little Indians' a Tulika publication)

Congratulations to One story a day on turning three. Thanks Divya for inviting me to contribute to your wonderful blog.

As a little child, every night at bedtime I would ask my father to tell the same story – the ‘Topi story’ as I called it, better known as ‘The Cap seller and the Monkeys’ (A quick recap: A cap seller with a bundle of caps is sleeping under a tree. The tree is home to many monkeys and one by one they take away all the caps. The cap seller wakes up to find the monkeys wearing his caps. He is furious when they start imitating his actions, but it gives him an idea. He throws down his own cap and the monkeys throw their caps too. The cap seller quickly collects them all and is on his way.)
Many years later, when my father told the same story to my daughter Ananya, the first question she asked was, “What were the colours of the caps?” not surprising, considering she has been growing up surrounded by books with colourful and beautiful illustrations, that are as much a part of the story as the words (if not more).  

One such book is a ‘stand-up’ book called ‘Home’ by Nina Sabnani. This interactive book is shaped like a house with a ‘window’ and open-able panels. Each fold opens to pictures of an eclectic mix of people and animals and the many different places and ways in which they live. Ananya loves to play with the book, opening and closing the panels, reading the sentences, observing the pictures, asking questions, sometimes making up her own answers and exercising her imagination.

Going back to my own childhood, a book that ‘stands-out’ in my memory is ‘Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was the pictures of this book that had captured my imagination.
At the beginning of the book the narrator shows his drawing to grown-ups and they all think it is of a hat.

The narrator says “My drawing was not a picture of a hat.  It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained. My drawing number two looked like this:”

Once we learn to see beyond the obvious - unlimited possibilities open up..... with imagination.  As a children’s author, it’s an invaluable learning for me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tenali Rama at KathaVana!

It has become increasingly difficult to plan weekend outings for kids in Bangalore as Bangaloreans are faced with too many choices and too little time. For instance, amongst other events, this weekend saw a host of children-specific events ranging from interactive story-telling at Kutoohala to the staging of the play “The Selfish giant” at Jagriti for children aged five years and above and the three-days children’s literature festival "KathaVana" organized by the Azim Premji University at Makkala Koota. With a line up like this, it is a wonder if the parents ever get a quiet weekend for themselves!  Ideally I would have liked to go for everything,  but since we were far from such a situation, I had to prioritize, and my choice was driven by logistics and timing! Well, the drive to Jagriti seemed daunting from Bangalore South, I thought I’d rather wait for the play to be staged nearer home (at Rangashankara!.......hopefully this would serve as pointers to the people associated with the play!:-) and the story-telling event at Kutoohala scheduled for Saturday morning being personally inconvenient for me, my obvious choice was to catch the fag end of “KathaVana” at Makkala Koota! Despite the detour in route owing to the Metro construction and  parking problems at the venue, we managed to watch the performance of “Court Jester- Tales of Tenali Rama” by Bangalore Little Theatre. With innovative use of props, foot-tapping jingles in between the narrative and actors taking turns to play the role of Tenali Rama, this play was a delight to watch!  Being a regular at events like this, Abhay has begun to recognize familiar faces and approaches them with ease – be it the play’s director whom he identified as having played “"Sringeri Srinivas"” at BLF 2012 last year or Shashank Purushottam who plays our favourite character in the Kannada serial  on ETV Kannada called “Mahaparva” - the villain Vishnumurthy Chintadri! J

(With due apologies to Shashank Purushottam ...I just couldn't help                          putting up this on Onestoryaday!)

A Children’s literature festival must mean books, books and more books….so amongst the many books I picked up, I had Abhay read the bilingual Appu series on Tenali Rama titled  "Tenali Rama outwits the thieves" ....…a variation of one of the stories performed at the play. Once there was a gang of cunning thieves in Vijaynagar who decided to rob Tenali Rama’s house hoping to find some royal gifts therein. Little did they know that they were being watched by Tenali Rama who hatched a plan to outsmart the thieves. He shouted out to his wife within the hearing range of the hiding thieves asking her to put all their valuables in a big trunk and hide in the well. They are shown dropping a heavy trunk it into the well, with the thieves looking on. At midnight, when everyone appeared fast asleep, the thieves started drawing water from the well bucket by bucket until they finally pulled out the trunk only to find that the trunk full of stones. Meanwhile, Tenali Rama sent for the king's soldiers  who came in just in time to arrest the thieves. So Tenali Rama helped the police nab the notorious thieves who unknowingly helped him water his entire garden! Being a bilingual book in English and Kannada, I was hoping that Abhay reads the story in Kannada (since he is a little behind in his second language)….but I should have known better! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shrinking Sam - Review of a Gorgeous Picture Book from Barefoot Books

Guest Post by Devaki Bhujang Gajare, Founder of Little Readers' Nook
A Big Thank You to Divya for this wonderful opportunity!

I have two very specific criteria in mind when I pick children's books, be it for our Read Aloud kits, for use in our storytelling sessions or simply to read with my son - attractive pictures to capture the little ones' imagination, and an open-ended story that encourages kids to think for themselves. I loved Shrinking Sam at first sight since it fulfilled both these conditions perfectly.

Little Sam feels lost as part of a large family - mum's busy with the new baby, dad's asleep and big brother just wants to be left alone to read. Even Kimba, the dog doesn't pay him much attention. Each time he feels ignored, Sam finds himself shrinking, until he's so small, he falls right down the sink! There he meets a little girl in a similar situation and as they share stories, Sam finds himself becoming big again. 

Reading Shrinking Sam reminded me how all of us, big or small, need love and attention. I made sure I gave my son an extra long hug and kiss right after we read the story. What does it mean to be ignored? How do we feel when no one talks to us? Can people really change in size? What part of the story was real and what was fantasy? It was interesting to see my almost 4 year old grapple with such questions as we read the book. 

Often kids are unable to articulate their true feelings and end up throwing tantrums instead. I found our discussion post this story opened up a whole new way for me to explore and understand my son's feelings. A couple of days after we first read the book, I was busy with my work and not listening to what my son was saying. He came up to me and said, "Aai, I am small like Sam!" Talk about a reality check!

The icing on the cake are the illustrations by Miriam Latimer, truly a treat for the eyes, as is the case with most Barefoot Books. Go for it! Highly recommended for the 3+ age group, especially if you are dealing with tantrums or sibling issues.

Available on Flipkart, this book was chosen as part of our November Read Aloud kit.

Scarier than the ghost!

Dear Divya,

Hearty congratulations on completing 3 years of One story a day. Thought, I will write about a story which I have told Abhay few times now and he still demands for it :-) I think I have read this long back in Dinakkondu Kathe series from Dr. Anupama Niranjana or some place else and keep spicing it up for Abhay.

 There was a village adjacent to a forest. There was a city on the other side of the forest. The main source of livelihood for the villagers was to take what they grew to the city and sell it. However there were two problems. One, they had to cross the forest and it was believed that there were scary ghosts in the forest. Second, they had to pass through a check post at the city entrance where a notorious tax collector would torment them with harsh questions and demand for heavy taxes for their goods. He would pierce their sack with a sharp big needle, called "Dabbana" in Kannada. So villagers have named him "Dabbanadindorda"! (I somehow remember to have read it sounding like this). In this village there was a chap called Ranga who was poor and had nothing but a tamarind tree in front of his house. He thought he will pluck all the Tamarind from the tree and sell it in the city. Now he also has to face the two problems.

As Ranga walked through the forest and was passing through a big banyan tree, he starts hearing a whistling sound and someone tickling him. Ranga got scared and started asking "Who is it" and yes, you guessed it right. It was a scary Ghost. Now this is where the story stretches a bit  with me enacting a bit of this encounter and Abhay keeps laughing and asking it to be continued for more :-). Now Ranga knew one thing. The Ghosts scare you more if you show that you are scared. So he started laughing to the annoyance of the Ghost! The Ghost wanted to know why he was laughing to which Ranga said there is a bigger and scarier ghost in the city and he is more fearsome. The ghost wanted to meet this bigger and scarier ghost to find out. Ranga asks the ghost to get inside his sack for he doesn't want the bigger ghost to seem him with another ghost and get angry. The ghost agreed and they proceeded.

As Ranga entered the city check post, the "Dabbanadindorda" commanded Ranga in a booming voice to tell him what he was carrying. Ranga in a trembling voice said, it was Tamarind. As was his routine, the tax collector pierced the sack with his needle and the ghost inside was in great pain but could not scream out. This is the second stretch of the story where I find Abhay to be enjoying with me having to enact the pain of the ghost. Finally the ordeal is over with the tax collector demanding ten rupees as tax and Ranga requests that he will pay it on the way back after selling the tamarind. Once they pass the check post Ranga opens the sack near a tree and out jumps the ghost with a great relief. Smart Ranga extracts a promise from the ghost that it will never trouble him again.

So who is the scarier ghost? Of course we all are scared of the Income Tax department :-)

Happy Birthday One story a day!

How many sleeps till my Birthday ? - By Mark Sperring and Sebastian Braun

Guest Post by Vani

Somewhere around September, I had registered for real aloud kits from Little readers nook, a theme based read aloud program based out of Mumbai . Here I was , a picture book enthusiast and was curious to know what other parents were choosing and reading for their 4 year olds. The first kit was based on birthdays. 3 wonderful books arrived early October. I could not have asked for a better theme because my little munchkin had just completed his 4th year

The highlight of this kit was a book named How many sleeps till my Birthday. A little bear  named Pip wakes up every morning wondering if it was his birthday. He wakes up daddy Grizzle who is still in snooze land  A little annoyed and a lot patient is how you describe daddy Grizzle. Little does Pip know that daddy is infact secretly planning a fabulous party - what with him baking a cake at night when Pip is sleeping, to cutting logs from the forest  and secretly sending out invites to friends and blowing balloons.

On the day of the birthday, little Pip realizes that daddy has left many clues , all that lead to his party. Pip is immensely delighted seeing his friends and lots of cake and gifts

At the end of the party, daddy wonders  out aloud if he would get to sleep a little longer the next day

But what do you think happened the next morning .

Pip sneaks out of bed, lands of daddy's bed and asks : Daddy Grizzle Daddy Grizzle. How many sleeps till Christmas ???

What I loved about the book. For once here was a daddy doing the preparations and not a mommy. But the sentimental me also wondered why the mommy was missing in the story.

Repetitive words such as Daddy Grizzle Daddy Grizzle , wake up  in every 3rd page - would make a great  accomplishment for read alouds and enacting

..and the illustrations - from the annoyed daddy to the enthu cutlet little Pip early in the morning. the illustrations are so so endearing

It is December. We have put up a Xmas tree, the chill is in the air and last evening we had a shining red star put up at the balcony.

At home, our 4 year old believes Santa would fly from the sky and drop a present at our door

Just like Little Pip who is now waiting for Christmas, my little one is looking forward to presents from Santa

Families are about bonding, caring and celebrating. This book has it all.

So you know what to read for your child's  next birthday , don't you ???

**** Oh my ! in being a enthu cutlet myself in doing my first ever blog post on children's books, I have forgotten to add a line or two ****

Divya ! Its a honour to be asked to write on your blog. Many congratulations on being featured in the Hindu.

While we usually exchange gifts, here is something unique . Here's wishing you many more happy reading hours for you and your family and many hours of bonding over books.

Thank you for being an inspiration for other parents.

Thanks to Devaki  from Little Readers Nook for sending us such a wonderful read.

Monday, December 9, 2013

We turn three!


I still remember that chilly December afternoon, after having put my then four year old to nap with a picture book,  the idea of a blog on picture books struck me and Boy! did I get to work immediately! Though I had meant to mull over it for some time and bounce it off my husband who was to return home that evening after a week long tour on work, I simply couldn't contain it any longer! So I sat on the couch hunched over my laptop, signed up with blogger and voila! "Onestoryaday" was up within the next one hour, with a surprise email waiting in my husband's inbox as he landed home and in my parents' inbox as they woke up the next morning! It's been three years now.......and thanks to my readers,  Onestoryaday is still going strong! :-) While it is still literally one story a day at bedtime for Abhay,  it has turned from one blog post every day on the first year to one blog post every other day the second and one blog post every week days on its third year! :-) Well, with life getting busier day by day, it is one thing to be reading to your little one every day, but it is quite another to be blogging about it! What started as way to preserve our shared experiences of reading together has now turned into a hobby…..a passion…..a getaway from the daily humdrum of life!   Though it’s been only three years, I feel as if Onestoryaday has been a part of my life all along. What’s more…..if it’s been four or five days since my previous post…..I experience something that can probably be likened to withdrawal symptoms….making me irritable and restless until I key in a post on-the-go! So be it juggling between the due dates of three different libraries, or accessing the blogger mobile app while waiting in court or asking my husband to wait for just five minutes until I finish my post and end up making him wait for almost an hour… all this seems worthwhile with the appreciation received from my readers so far…..and hopefully may receive from Abhay in the future!:-) Thanks to all my readers for all their encouragement!

This year, Onestoryaday received a birthday gift in advance ...a special mention in the Hindu's Metroplus on the occasion of National Library Week! As it's been the tradition on Onestoryaday for the last two years, this year too I invite all my readers to be a part of Onestoryaday and share your favorite books you read as a kid or favorite books you love to read to your little one as a parent! Share them on Onestoryaday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Creating your own wonderland!

 Over the weekend, we took Abhay to an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s  “Alice in Wonderland” that was playing at Rangashankara. Performed by the Mumbai based theatre group Tram theatre with the aid of objects, puppetry and shadow play, this is a play not be missed and mind it,  not just for kids! Not only did the play stay true to the original elements of the classic, but in a way took the story to a whole new level with its adaptation into a modern setting that had us introspect into the way we look at our own lives! Should we surrender to the daily hum-drum of life without taking time off to enjoy the moment? Should we go about our routine totally devoid of any sense of wonder or fascination? Should we see the world with a black and white lens as opposed to a coloured one? Growing up doesn’t have to mean that we stop being imaginative or grow out of our little wonderlands that we once cherished as kids! Actually, it’s not the kids, but we adults have a lot to learn from Alice and her wonderland! :-)

Alice in wonderland was also of special interest to Abhay as his class has been rehearsing the same play for a performance in their upcoming annual school day!  So on the eve of watching the play at Rangashankara, I  picked up “Alice in the Wonderland”, an illustrated graphic novel from Om publications. Of course there are numerous publications of timeless tales such as this, but frankly this was the only one I could lay my hands on just when I needed one! Narrated in a graphic book format with vibrant and vivid illustrations, this one is sure to engross your early reader into the wondrous world of Alice following the hurrying hare into a tunnel only to land in a hall full of doors of various sizes until she is of a perfect size for the door leading up the garden full of rapid races and mad tea parties that gives her courage to challenge the queen of hearts and just as she is about to have her way, she wakes up all envigorated to find that it was one adventurous dream after all! So don’t underestimate the power of imagination and the wonders it can do to your once boring world! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Deepavali!

It is the longest long weekend here with holiday on Friday for Kannada Rajyotsava on November 1st followed by Diwali which luckily happens to fall on a weekend this year…..so four days off for most establishments!! What more could you ask for …during the biggest festival of India - Diwali or Deepavali as it’s known in the South. This year, it was Diwali sans fire crackers partly due to bereavement in the family and partly due to reluctance on the part of the kids in our family. I guess more and more kids are saying no to bursting crackers for various reasons – environment, protest against child labour, animal rights, etc. Though we had our own reasons for refraining from bursting crackers, nevertheless our Diwali celebration did have its usual trappings like tidying up the house the previous day, ushering the first day of Diwali with a traditional oil bath, lighting lamps in the evenings, family reunions and feasts! Well, whatever may be the reason, I feel there is much more to Diwali than bursting crackers! Diwali is the festival of lights and need not be the festival of noise..isn’t it?

This week’s Hindu Children’s supplement was a Diwali special and so I read the story titled " For Sparkling Diwali" by Fabiola Jacob. Akshay woke up with a start and was surprised that his neighbours had already begun bursting atom bombs when Diwali hadn't dawned yet! Akshay was keen on contributing his share with his umpteen boxes of fire crackers his dad had bought him. But before he could do that, he realised that there was something amiss today as his pup Spot hadn't woken him up. He searched all over the house, in the car park, garden but Spot was nowhere in sight! Akshay then started looking around the neighborhood by which time, the sound of crackers reached such a crescendo that he could hear his own voice and panic had set in! What if Spot could not be found and Akshay couldn't imagine life without Spot! It was dawn break but the streets looked like a war zone with all the smoke and crackers! When he made enquiries at the near by tea stall, he was pointed to the storm water drain and when bent down to look, he saw Spot wet and shivering with fright and too scared to come out! Relieved, he took Spot home and gave him a bath before getting ready for Diwali festivities. This is when a thought struck him - " what if Diwali was quiet and elegant with Diyas and sparklers minus the noise! " Diwali without noise will sure be easy on his grandpa,a heart patient who is forced to wear ear plugs during Diwali!  So notwithstanding the fact that he may be teased by the neighborhood boys, he asked for all his noise making crackers to be exchanged for sparklers instead, as he wanted Diwali to be fun and pleasurable for everyone, including Grandpa and Spot! Here's hoping that more and more people resort to celebrating an all inclusive Diwali meant for everyone! Have a happy and a safe Diwali everyone!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Going to the library!

Going to the library has been a part of our weekly routine ever since Abhay was little over two years old, while we were in the US back then. Be it attending the weekly family story time at the local library, or enrolling into the summer reading program,  or simply checking out his favorite books, going to the library was an activity Abhay was familiar with ever since he remembers! When we came back to India, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of libraries in Bangalore catering to children’s reading.  No doubt, we had our circulating libraries or the state sponsored city central libraries when growing up in India in the 90s. But if you’d wanted to look up a new release in fiction or non-fiction, your only option was to buy the book. Thankfully, things have changed now and Bangaloreans (of all ages) are spoilt for choices when it comes to reading options! So the best way to inculcate the habit of reading in your little one, is to take up a library membership and stop by the library and let your little one explore the world of books! As for us, in between my court appearances and client meetings, and my husband's commute to work,  we are always making quick stopovers at the libraries we are members of….. for our little bookworm at home!

On a side note, I am happy to share that Onestoryaday was featured in “The Hindu” on the occasion of the National Library week announced by the Indian Library Association and I thank Bhumika K and my readers for all the support.  As a belated tribute to the National Library week, I had Abhay read “Eena’s library book” a Children’s Book Trust publication by Ravina Gandhi. This is the story of Eena (who reminded us of our friend's daughter Eera!) and how she came to discover the world of books through the library. It was Saturday and Eena didn’t have to go to school and her mother asked her to accompany her to the market. Eena got ready and picked up her little shopping basket and set out to the market. On the way, the passed Mr. Ranik’s house which had a signboard saying “Doctor” which she read with some help from her mother. As they went further, Eena found that there were a few other signboards that she found difficult to read. But as she persisted, she got better at reading, much to her mother’s delight. She engrossed herself by reading  everything from the names of the grocery items to names of the buildings around the market area. Just as they were about to leave, Eena asked if they could get something to put in her basket and her mother takes her to a big building with the board that said “L-I-B-R-A-R-Y”. as they went inside, her mother introduced her to the lady at the desk and asked if Eena could borrow books from the library. As her mom filled out the application form, Eena was shown around the library and located a picture book that was apt for her reading level. Eena checked out the book with the due date stamped out and was asked to be careful with the book. Eena couldn’t wait to go home and read it. So from then on, Eena went shopping with her mother every Saturday, with her little shopping bag filled with books to be returned and borrowed from the library! So here’s hoping that the National Library week ushers in more readers like Eena!!:-)

The Big Enormous lie!

Continuing on the trouble with/of Abhay’s, my my last post on the said subject got me into trouble instead, with gag orders being issued by my family over my tendency to open up a little too much on Onestoryaday!:) Anyway, almost all parents have come across a situation where they’ve caught their kids lying or being dishonest with them. Needless to say, such behavior has to be tackled with appropriate measures, disciplinary or advisory given the seriousness of the situation. Without going into details, let me say that we’d encountered a similar problem recently. Initially brushed aside as innocent, we soon realized that laxity leads to more lying! So we decided to take it seriously and go to the root of the matter. Children lie to escape from accountability or in other words punishment. But the solution does not only lie in making the environment more permissive but also in periodic reinforcements of value based principles of truth and honesty. They need to realize that whether they are held accountable or not, lying will get them nowhere! After all, you may escape from consequences but not your conscience…isn’t it?
I understand that these values cannot be imbibed in a one-off incident but achieved only by consistent reinforcement of the same. As a start, I picked up "A Big Fat Enormous Lie" by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrated by David McPhail. A little boy lies to his father that he isnt the one to finish the jar of cookies (our problem is quite the opposite!). He knows that he should have told the truth but also knows that the truth would have upset his parents! So he lies and now he is stuck with his lie. His guilt of having lied grows into a green monster that only gets bigger and bigger! No matter how much he ignores, begs, pleads or hides from the monster, it doesn't go away! Finally as he overcomes his fear and admits the truth to his parents, the monster is seen shrinking in size until it eventually disappears into thin air, leaving the boy to wonder if it has left to bother another little liar half way around the world! So Abhay beware, the next time you toss chapattis from your lunchbox into the dustbin and claim to have finished them yourself, you may just be hounded by the big fat enormous monster! 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Celebrating Children's day!

Although children’s day according to the United Nations is celebrated on November 20th    here in India, children’s day falls today, November 14th, commemorating the birth anniversary of our first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru fondly known to children as “Chacha Nehru”.  I remember how eagerly we used to wait for this day as it meant a school day sans uniforms and classes! Children’s day once again assumes significance as our kids experience the same excitement in their schools!  Children’s day is celebrated in many different ways – with schools organizing fun events for their students, the state machinery announcing various welfare schemes for the benefit of children, Google dedicating a doodle on children’s day, offices celebrating the children’s day spirit by allowing its workforce to come dressed as children, various social networking apps calling for display of one’s childhood photos, and some public-spirited individuals distributing gifts for children at local Anganwadis, etc. So you may want to relive your childhood moments today, or pamper your little one a little more today  or do something special for the children in your neighbourhood…..don’t forget to celebrate the child in you …..who never grows up and whom you should never let go! Happy Children’s day to everyone!

I wasn’t planning on keying in a post on children’s day today, but so touched I was by a story that appeared in this week’s “Young World”, children’s supplement of “The Hindu” that I decided to share it on Onestoryaday. The story titled “"Time to celebrate"” by Srikala Ganapathy is about a class VII student named Madhu who recently moves to town and is new to her school. Madhu feels lost in the new set-up and seems to lose interest in her school activities. Though a bright student, her grades come down drastically inviting her teachers’ ire and criticisms, creating a huge dent in her self confidence. A new class teacher Ms. Veena, is appointed to Madhu’s class. Ms. Veena notices Madhu looking dull and lacking enthusiasm. As she probes further, she notices that Madhu has a beautiful voice and asks her to sing for her. Madhu delights her teacher with her rendition of “Vaishnava Janato” and earns her teacher’s appreciation. Madhu then confides in Ms. Veena that she loves music but her parents are too busy to enroll her in a new music class after moving to town. Ms Veena finds that Madhu is good at singing and that she deserves to feel good about herself, and thus decides to help her out. During children’s day celebrations the next day, Ms Veena put up Madhu’s name in the program list and asked Madhu to come prepared. At the program, when Madhu is called to the stage, her classmates and other teachers wonder whether Madhu really knows how to sing but all their doubts vanish as Madhu begins singing. Madhu gets a standing ovation and she feelst like a champion, thanks to Ms. Veena’s understanding that children’s day is not just for merry –making but celebrating each child’s sense of self-worth and individuality! With the same realization, wishing all our little ones…a happy children’s day! J

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Abhay in trouble!

Abhay has been getting into trouble quite often in school this year! Well, until recently, we always believed that our seven year old was a docile kid at class. But a wake- up call came in the form of our last PTM meeting a few weeks back when we had to face the reality of Abhay's short attention span in class (particularly math class!), or his constant conflicts with his "gang" of boys in class! Always known as Miss Goody two-shoes in school, I can't believe that my son has earned the infamous reputation of being the trouble maker in class! We always knew that he is someone who is by nature easily distracted, but I guess we never knew his naughty side, especially when in a group! Off late Abhay has also been complaining of being troubled by his friends-turned foes or foes-turned friends. While we know that it isn't something to fret over too much (not yet!), we are also aware that it doesn't take long for something naughty to turn into something nasty and hence raised a concern with the school authorities.  While we can work on his concentration skills, there is only so much we can do when it comes to conflict management as he needs to be able to resolve his issues on his own. After all, we can’t lives their lives for them, now can we? We hope that the school will be able to help us on this front. Meanwhile ….there is no escape for Abhay from maths or his maths teacher (who reminds me of my own Maths teacher!)…..and no escape for me from the next PTM for which I have my fingers crossed already!:-)

Today I had Abhay read about a boy who is always getting into some trouble or the other – the Nipper Mcfee series an Early Reader series by Rose Impey and illustrated by Melanie Williamson. Today he is "In trouble with Growler Grimes", a teacher at school. Nipper as usual oversleeps due to which he is late for school. As he dashes off to school, he is tormented by his traditional rivals, the rats who land him in trouble with his school teacher, Mr. Grimes. Nipper tries to plead with Growler Grimes that it is not his fault, but since it’s his third time in trouble this week, Growler Grimes is sure to dole out his punishment that is much worse than the cane or the slipper. So for the rest of day, Nipper is asked to sit in the baby class, serve lunch to the teachers and spend all afternoon in a sewing class. Everybody, including Nipper thought that he would die out of shame. But Nipper put his sewing experience to good use and got back at his tormentors and sends them packing! Nipper thus learned that even a sewing  lesson could be useful! So Abhay……all experiences, good or bad including conflict with friends, or run-ins with teachers, or adverse remarks at parent teacher meetings are learning experiences in the long run...you may even have a good laugh over it! :-)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reading in Kannada!

Today is "Kannada Rajyotsava", a day to commemorate the formation of our state on the basis of the Kannada language in the year 1956 that was rechristened as Karnataka in 1973. Though I am a proud Kannadiga well versed with the spoken language, I confess I am not very proficient with the written word!:-(  The other day when my husband, (the in-house Kannada expert) worked late, it was a challenge for me to get Abhay's Kannada homework done! What was merely an inconvenience soon became a catastrophe when my husband had to travel on work for a couple of days right when Abhay had his Kannada test! Well, I could barely manage to read the Kannada newspaper, let alone coaching someone in Kannada, that too as CBSE II  language!  But the funny thing is that  amongst my colleagues at work....I am considered the best at deciphering Kannada documents!:-) Anyway, this got me thinking that if this is the language standard of people like me who are supposedly localities, what about others who’ve recently made Bangalore their home? Of course, one can’t expect everyone to be familiar with the Kannada script, but is it too much to expect an earnest attempt to speak the local language or at least accurately pronounce the kannada names or place? I have known so many people who’ve probably lived their whole lives in one place without knowing an iota of its local language!  What’s the false prestige in anglicizing the vernacular language when you can make the extra effort to  get a French or German word "right"!! So here's to all the people in Karnataka......Kannada Rajyostavada Shubhashayagalu!  

Today being Kannada Rajyotsava, we read a story in Kannada, but I was also on the lookout for a Kannada picture book that Abhay could read with assistance.  The Kannada version of “Ranganna” by Arthi Anand Navneet, illustrated by Kavitha Singh Kale and translated by S. Divakar was perfect for his reading level in Kannada. An endearing tale  of an elephant named Ranganna who lives in Dhobighat. Ranganna loves to look at the colours around him – whether it’s the colourful clothes left to dry, or the colourful flowers being sold near the temple, or the vibrant shades of the saris, dupattas or bangles or the rainbow painted across the sky or the nail polish worn by his little friends, Anushka and Adithi! So enamored he is with their nail polish colours, that one day he makes an unusual wish – to have each of his toe nails painted with different colours. Amused, Anushka and Adithi take an entire day to complete the elephantine task of painting Ranganna’s nails with eighteen different bottles of nail polish…..and Ranganna couldn’t have been happier……and well, who said elephants can’t dance?!:-) Complemented by vibrant illustrations and available in eight local languages, Ranganna  makes a delightful  read…especially for younger ones! 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Abhay's Halloween in India!

  After a gap of two years, Halloween has once again figured in our calendar of events in October, thanks to Hippocampus library. The Hippocampus center’s much awaited annual event is its Halloween party that is open to children of ages between five and thirteen. This is when the whole library is transformed into a Halloween house of horrors with Jack O’ Lanterns spewing out macaroni and cheese, creepy spider-webs hanging from the ceiling, bats flying out of doors and  of course fun-filled activities and games for kids! Having missed the Halloween party at Hippocampus the last two years due to certain prior commitments, we were keen on Abhay attending this one. Though Halloween is all about spooking it up and wearing scary masks, I guess the main highlight of Halloween for kids is going around the neighborhood “trick or treating” for candies, candies and more candies. Though we had Abhay go trick-or treating to his grand-parents’ place in 2011 (owing to our US returned fever!) and  some mommy groups organizing “trick-or treat” events this year ……trust me …it’s nothing like the real thing …just like how Diwali  never felt like Diwali in the US! J

Abhay didn’t seem to remember going “Trick-or treating” with his friends in Portland, so we scanned through some of our old Halloween photographs taken during our US years albeit with a hint of nostalgia as we watched out little Dalmatian turn into Tigger and finally a Pirate Prince!
I found a hilarious book simply titled "Halloween" written by Jerry Seinfeld (Yes…from the famous American Sitcom “Seinfeld”) and illustrated by James Bennett. A must-read for any Seinfeld fan, this is the master comedian’s comic take on Halloween and what it means to kids. Seen through the eyes of a young boy (who looks like young Seinfeld himself!), he finds it  unbelievable that there is one day in a year when everyone you know is giving out candies! Of course, he is ready to do whatever it takes to have people give out candies! Slowly, he gets sucked into the other trappings of Halloween, including zeroing on the Superman Halloween costume from the store, as opposed to home-improvised costumes, only to find that the mask suffocating him and the superman suit looking like superman pajamas! But he soon finds out that it doesn’t matter as his mom makes him wear his winter coat over the costume anyway (Abhay smiles his knowing smile…….as I was even more brutal as I made him wear his money cap too!) According to Seinfeld Junior, kids mean business when they go trick-or-treating, with no time for small talk, no appetite for home-made treats and the best of all “you hit the bag, they hit the road”!  Having consumed the basketful of candies, he wakes up feeling like superman…..that makes him  conclude that when you are a kid, you don’t need a costume….you are  superman! Well, no one can enjoy as unabashedly as our little supermen…isn’t it? So here’s wishing all the supermen a very Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Different Perpectives!

Each of us has our own point of view of the world around us and our perspectives in turn are shaped by our environment and experiences. Well, we all know one man’s dream can be another’s nightmare. Similarly one man’s spectacle can be another’s man damp squib! For instance, on a tour of famous tourist destinations, you may want to visit certain lesser known places which other fellow travelers may deem “not worth visiting”. Or if you are not of a religious bent of mind, you may dispense with visiting even the most famous shrines that others would not even dream of missing!  It is all about one's perspective, isn’t it? For instance, on our tour of Ajanta and Ellora last week, we were discouraged from stopping by Cave No.29 at Ellora or the moat at Daulatabad fort as supposedly they weren't extraordinary enough to deserve a visit. Well, we were glad that we didn't pay any heed to the suggestion as we would have missed the spectacular water falls "Sita ki Nahani" flowing by Cave No.29 and the fascinating water defense strategies employed by erstwhile dynasties that ruled the fort. After all, whether the glass is half full or half empty depends on the way you look at it, isn’t it?

Speaking of different points of view, today I read a story that is narrated in four different voices. “Voices in the park” by Anthony Browne is essentially the same incident played out and seen by four different pairs of eyes    and conveyed in four different voices. In fact, this is the one book of Anthony Browne’s that I couldn’t lay my hands on for a very long time! As soon as my husband stumbled upon it at the Hippocampus library, he immediately wanted it checked out! Since the first page was torn, the librarian assuming that we may want a book with pages intact, asked us to pick another picture book instead. Little did she know how long I have been looking for this one! Torn or intact….we were taking “Voices in the park” home! :)
Though each voice recounts the same incident in the park, notice the subtle differences in each narration. Anyway, the author takes us to the first voice which is of a fashionable woman who takes her pedigree Labrador named Victoria and her son Charles for a walk in the park. When they arrive at the park, the woman lets Victoria off the leash and is rather  annoyed  to find a scruffy mongrel appear from nowhere and trying to befriend or rather bother Victoria. The woman is disgusted that the horrible mongrel is  chasing Victoria everywhere, despite being shooed away,  (though it appears that it is other way around). She then instructs her son Charles to sit on the bench that has a man reading a newspaper seated on the far corner. But Charles is nowhere in sight! Scared that the park may be a dangerous place for a young boy, she calls out his name a number of times.  She is alarmed to find Charles talking to someone whom she thinks is a rough looking child. Ordering Charles to come back at once, she heads back home with Charles and Victoria. The reader finds the mother's point of view in stark contrast to her son Charles's whose voice is featured as the third voice. Charles finds the scruffy mongrel rather friendly and is envious of Victoria having found a friend in the park, making Charles wish he'd have a friend too. Just then, he hears the voice of a girl sitting next to newspaper reading man on the bench. This is the same girl whom his mother found rough looking! Charles learns the girl's name is Smudge and they both go around in the park, going down the slide, going up the trees, etc when his mom tracks him down and takes him home! Needless to say, Charles is sad to leave and wonders if he'll find Smudge the next time!The second voice is of the man who was on the park bench along with Charles and his mother. Wanting to get some fresh air, he decides to take his daughter Smudge (the same rough-looking child), and his dog Albert ( the same horrible mongrel) to the park. A visit to the park proves refreshing and his upbeat mood is also reflected in the lively surroundings that had earlier seemed dull and sad on his way to the park! The fourth voice is of Smudge, the care free girl who at first finds Charles wimpy but later enjoys his company. As she recounts her happy-go-lucky adventure in the park, you cant help but notice the same story that reveals itself in different hues and nuances, when narrated from different perspectives. So it may be the same story, but your experience can never be the same as mine!  A great story  to introduce your little one to the differences in perceptions, to which my little one said  "just like how you find shopping at BIBA shop (a clothing store) interesting and I find it boring!" :-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our Deccan expedition!

We are in Central India on a sight seeing tour of world heritage monuments of Ajanta and Ellora followed by a pilgrimage to Shirdi. As we visited the rock cut caves of Ellora and Ajanta, we were spellbound by the massive ancient architecture created using only instruments like hammer and chisel! While Buddist caves at Ajanta are carved out of a crescent shaped mountain ridge by the waghora river, with some of them dating back to 2nd century BC, the caves at Ellora are located mostly by the foothills, and belong to three different religious faiths : Buddist, Hindu and Jain that date from 5th to 11th century. While Ajanta caves are characterised by their beautiful paintings and tempra artwork, Ellora caves are best known for their intricate sculpture panels! Besides the architectural splendour, we were also amazed by the clean , well organised and pollution free set up at Ajanta caves that are comparable to the amenities at any tourist destination in the West! Okay... now for the most important part, how do you enthuse a seven year old to enjoy and appreciate something that may be a little beyond him? Well, you need to make an attempt with the aid of child appropriate content but don't expect a 100% success rate!:)

My attempt of course was through books and this one was indeed was an eye-opener for me as until now, I had no clue that the caves at Ellora are the legacy of the Rashtakutas, one the many dynasties that ruled over Karnataka. Amar Chitra katha's "Ellora caves" is as much a story of the glory of the Rashtrakutas as it is about an interesting tale around the carving of the Kailash temple caves at Ellora. Cut straight to the story of the making of one of the most important  Hindu caves of Ellora, the Kailash temple cave. On vacation at the hills of Ellora with his Queen, the Rashtrakuta king Krishna recalls that the erstwhile king Dantidurga had expressed a desire to build a temple of Lord Kailagnath in the Ellora hills. So the queen takes a vow that she will not touch a morsel of food until she sees the kalasha of the temple of Lord Kailasanath, much to the king's concern as temples cannot be built in days. King Krishna then summons the best sculptor in land named Kokkas, who promises to complete the temple in sixteen months with the help of 7000 craftsmen. When he learns of the queen's vow, he devises a plan. He identifies a single giant rock that will be carved out into a temple starting from the top with the kalasha and then working down therefrom. After fulfilling the vow of the queen, Kokkas sets his 7000 men to work to carve out what is now known as a must-not-miss Cave no. 16 called Kailas! Being an ardent fan of ACK comics, Abhay listened in rapt attention on the first night of our trip at Hotel Kailash, Ellora. Not sure how much of this he could relate to when we actually visited the caves, but he loved the story! Kids may not be able comprehend everything they see on trips like these, but you can't deny that even a little exposure to different experiences is  sure to make an impression on their young minds. We are aware that Abhay may not be able to take in everything he sees, but when he best remembers Ajanta caves for the sleeping Buddha sculpture, Ellora for the sculpture of Shiva's Rudraavatara and the friends he made at the hotel, best remembers our road travels for the giant effigy of Ravana and the Shirdi temple for the three-hours long wait that  was arduous even for adults, let alone kids -  we know that our Central India tour is completely not lost on our little one!