Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy B'day Sanna-ajji!

As I was growing up, I was always envious of other kids who had their doting grandmas live in the same town as them and who never failed to pamper them on their weekend visits. I,on the other hand never got to see my paternal grandma and my grandma on the maternal side, though hardly a doting grandparent, lived in Mangalore. Grandmas hold a unique place in a child life apart from his or her mom and Abhay is fortunate to have his grandmas, both from the maternal side and paternal side staying close to him. Today being his maternal grandma’s sixtieth birthday, what better occasion than this to celebrate what she means to him! Abhay shares a special connection with his maternal grandma whom he fondly addresses as Sanna-ajji and who never fails to engage him in matters that interest him, be it what happened in school, or what happens in his favorite television series, or what story he wants to hear! With Acchu (Abhay’s pet name given by his grandma) only too busy with his Sanna-ajji around, it is I who feel left out amidst this grandma-grandson duo!  Sanna-ajji is not your regular grandma whose conversations with her grandson revolve around food or peripheral questions on his routine, but fully involved discussions on how did M react to Abhay’s new pencil box in class today or the latest developments of who is who’s friends in Class I B of Samhita Academy! Sanna-ajji and Abhay together ponder over what should be the storyline of Abhay’s favorite television series on Nick or who’s their favorite character, etc on the same show, the discussion more resembling the 9' O Clock news hour discussion! Sanna-ajji’s stories are a lot more fun than the stories I read to him as Abhay is always the protagonist in them and it is Abhay who in every story ends up as the winner! Sanna-ajji can act funny or silly or be as indulging and at the same time, she does not shy away from disciplining Abhay when required. When it comes to sharing his surprises and excitement or disappointments or frustrations (of course, he has plenty!), the only other person,  he feels comfortable opening up to, besides his dad is his dear Sanna-ajji! As as his Sanna-ajji is due to retire the end of this month, here’s wishing her a relaxed life ahead with plenty of time to spare for her darling Acchu!

I am excited to have found a perfect book for today without much trouble (which hardly happens!) at the British Library. “The Granny who wasn’t like other grannies” by Denis Bond and illustrated by Valeria Petrone. Tim loved his granny, but sometimes he wishes his granny was like other grannies who were into sewing, knitting or reading. But Tim’s granny would join him in jumping on the trampoline or go-cart across her neighbor’s lawn or come to pick him on a motorcycle. When Tim’s friends would laughingly remark that grannies don’t ride motorcycle, Tim’s granny would laugh it off saying “this one does”! One day Tim accompanied his granny to the park when she joined the football players on the pitch and scored the winning goal. As she was cheered by fellow footballers, Tim could feel everyone’s eyes on his unconventional granny and was embarrassed. At the park fairgrounds, Tim’s granny rode the bumper-cars along with Tim and dashed against everyone making Tim cringe. Tim’s granny screamed the loudest with delight as the roller-coaster hurtled down the big dipper, climbed the monkey bars, danced around the rain and jumped puddles with the children raising the eyebrows of other grannies who thought that grannies weren’t supposed to indulge in things like that but were only supposed to stand and watch. As Tim’s granny went on to indulged in Granny sensed that something bothered Tim and when asked Tim was frank to admit that sometimes he wished she was like other grannies! So from the next day onwards, Tim did not have his granny pick him up on her motorbike, much to the disappointment of other kids who all thought Tim’s granny was cool unlike their own grannies! When Tim came home looking for his granny, he was shocked to find her sitting on a rocking chair knitting, and  as he began to talk to her, she fell asleep! Tim was disappointed as he was hoping to play with his granny in the garden and that’s when he realized that he wanted his old granny back. Tim then confides in his granny that he doesn’t want an ordinary granny but a special granny like her! Tim’s granny is overjoyed and leaps out of her rocking chair and shows him his surprise which is two pairs of roller skates for Tim and his granny to go roller skating round and round the garden! Well, Abhay’s granny may not be like other grannies, but he prefers Sanna-ajji just the way she is! Happy B’day to Sanna Ajji! :-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Childhood fascination revisited!

There is a saying that an apple does not fall too far from the tree. But does it have to fall so close to the tree either? I can’t say that we are happy to have Abhay take after us because Abhay seems to have picked up each of our quirks or foibles as opposed to those traits that we are admittedly proud of! So he has got my husband’s worrying nature and his mother’s impatience or he has inherited his father’s poor interest in food (during childhood!) coupled with my fussy attitude towards its presentation! But off late, he seems to share even some of our childhood admirations, like my childhood crush on Michael Jackson. Of course, I am still a fan of Michael Jackson’s music, but I didn’t expect my six year to turn into a Michael Jackson aficionado so early in life. Abhay is fascinated by the King of Pop and he couldn’t contain his excitement when Discovery channel aired a documentary on the occasion of 25th anniversary of his album BAD, a couple of weeks ago. I was quite amused to find my little one groove to Michael Jackson numbers like “Beat it” or “The way you make me feel” or “Dangerous” as they transport me back to my teens! But the flipside to this obsession is that there is no other music but only Michael Jackson playing on our car stereo nonstop for the last four months, and believe me this will tire even the most fervent Michael Jackson fan ever!

Abhay has also been curious about the Michael Jackson story, about how it all began and the mystery surrounding his death and so imagine my delight as I stumbled upon “Michael Jackson at a glance"at Sapna book house! Abhay couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw what I was about to read to him! A part of "At a glance" series of knowledge books about famous personalities brought out by oyster publications. Other books in this series are on " J.K.Rowling", "Sachin Tendulkar", Barack Obama, etc. though not a full fledged biography, these books provide a brief introduction to the making of the legend and their principal acheivements, just about enough for a six year old. For instance, Abhay learnt that Michael Jackson formed a music group along with his four elder brothers called Jackson 5 in 1964 which went on to record a number of hits. Abhay now knows that Michael started his solo career with "Off the Wall" and there was no looking back ever since. I felt the series fell a tad short of "a glance" and needed some more details about the superstar singer. As far as illustrations go, I prefer actual images as opposed to the look-alike sketches. However, considering the short attention span of children for non-fiction, this is a good start.  So if you have a little MJ fan at home, treat him to "Michael Jackson at a glance"! :-)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reading in your mother tongue...!

As I checked the newsfeed on Facebook, I happen to see a newsfeed from Tulika that yesterday, February 21st was World Mother language day! This got me thinking, how important is one’s mother tongue in today’s world of inter-marriages and multiculturalism? With two or three languages being spoken in many urban households, is there one mother tongue? Does learning your spouse’s mother tongue throw up uncomfortable glances from your parents? Or even if you find a common ground in between two different languages, is it wrong to expect your little one to be well-conversant in the language you grew up speaking, while respecting your spouse’s similar expectations? Similarly, on a societal level, does holding on one’s mother tongue run risk of being branded as parochial or a regionalist? Is it wrong to break into your mother tongue with someone from the same region when in a mixed group? I for one, have a strong sense of attachment with my mother tongue Kannada and have no qualms in admitting that particularly the Kota dialect of Kannada, forms an important part of my identity. So much so, that I can proudly claim to have proselytized my husband’s family into conversing in our dialect of Kannada, at least while they interact with me or my son (since we all belong to the Kota Kannada community anyway!). With my pride in my mother tongue almost bordering on fanaticism, my son easily switches between dialects, speaking in Kota dialect with his parents and maternal grandparents and regular Kannada with his paternal grandparents. Well, I must say…he has learnt the art of balancing between his mother’s interests and the others’ quite early! "-)

In the background of World Mother Language day, I was on the look-out for a Kannada children’s book and I was surprised to find none in my personal library. So much for my love for the mother tongue, I was actually ashamed not to have picked any of bilingual series published by Tulika or Pratham publications. In fact even my recent buy of a bilingual book from Tulika was a English-Hindi version! Thankfully with the rest of my family being avid readers of Kannada literature, I picked up “Dinakondu Kathe” (One story a day) by the famous Kannada novelist Anupama Niranjan, a series which is compendium of over 365 stories for children drawn from sources all over the world. As I have mentioned earlier, title of my blog has been inspired by the “Dinakondu kathe” series that my mother used to read to me in what seems like a another era! Each book in the series is named after months of the Kannada calendar and this particular is the Ashwayuja Samputa of the “Dinakondu Kathe" series and features as many as 31 short stories on various themes and subjects, including history, “Tejpal”, or “Birbalige mosave?” (Has Birbal been cheated?) mythology “Dhruva”, Aesop’s fables “Kuruba matthu Tola” (Shepherd and the Wolf), children’s classics “Cinderella” moral stories “Mooru Amoolya Vasthugalu” (Three valuable things) etc. Abhay particularly liked “Kaage matthu Hooji” which is the famous fable of “The Crow and the Pitcher” and was excited to have me read to him in Kannada, which he studies as a second language in school. It was a trip down memory lane for me as I read some of the stories that my mom had read to me as a kid. So if your mother tongue is Kannada, this series is a great way to  introduce your little one to yours and undeniably his mother tongue too!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Abhay ....the Dreamer?

Rene Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” which in the context of ambition has been adapted to “I dream, therefore I am”! I had read that aside the dreams that occur at night, children begin to dream early, and unlike adults there are no limits to their dreams. While as parents we have the responsibility to equip them with the skills and resources to fuel those dreams into reality, it is also important to ensure that their dreams are to some extent tempered by realism, especially as they grow up. Similarly, day dreaming is fine so long as it doesn’t disrupt one’s routine activities. Off late I’ve caught Abhay daydreaming or pre-occupied and this is especially when asked to do something he dislikes, like eating or getting ready for school. He is a perpetual dreamer at the dining table, be it morning, noon or at night. So much so that we have to shake him out of his reverie and remind him to chew the food that has been shoved into his mouth!
So today we read “Willy, the Dreamer” by Anthony Browne from the British Library. Abhay loved his illustrations in the  earlier book that we had read.  In fact, this particular book was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal for excellence in illustration. This is a story of Willy, an anthropomorphic monkey loves to dream. He lays on the couch and pictures himself in different roles. Sometimes Willy dreams that he is a filmstar (shown in an ensemble cast of monkeys) or a singer ( in Elvis Presley style), a sumo wrestler ( Willy is shown to be nervously taking on a giant gorilla) or a ballet dancer, or a painter or an wildlife explorer (Willy is shown exploring humans in a jungle!), or a famour writer ( Willy is shown to be signing books) or a Scuba diver. Sometimes Willy has incredible dreams too, he dreams that he cannot run but that he can fly. He's dreams that he is a giant or tiny as a bug  or that he is a beggar or a king. Sometimes Willy dreams that he is a strange landscape (a banana world!) or all at sea (Willy's version of Life of Pi) or of fierce monsters (that look very much like him!) or of super heroes (which is a very flattering description of Willy!) Sometimes Willy dreams of the past (when he was a baby) or of the future ( Willy imagines to be a dad of two kids)…..Willy thus dreams on! So when I asked Abhay what does he dream about, he told me about his latest dream and that is to imagine himself as Tintin! (Tintin being his new-found fascination) Of course we can’t deny them their right to dream, but I can’t afford to have him day dream when the outcome of his dream is that our little Tintin comes home from school without having eaten his lunch! :-)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Say cheese.....!

Yesterday was Abhay’s class photo-op at school and I couldn’t help but get nostalgic about our class photos back when we were in school! Standing on a four level set up assembled with our class benches and desks, we were a giggly bunch of girls posing for a photo every year and every time I happen to catch a glimpse of any of my class photos, they never fail to bring back memories of those carefree days! Class photos that appear frozen in time are an important facet of a student life as they foster a sense of belongingness and loyalty towards one's Alma Mater. So despite a mild fever and cold, Abhay was sent to school nevertheless as we don’t want him to wonder whyhe  wasn’t  in his Class I photo when someone uploads the same on Facebook twenty years later!

So today I looked up the youtube version of “Say Cheese”, part of the Charlie and Lola series by Lauren Child, since the library book had already been taken, as always…just when you need it! Lola is excited about getting her first school photo taken. But Charlie is skeptical about whether Lola could remain  a whole day without getting dirt on her shirt, or hair all tousled or shoes muddy like she did for other vacation photos. But Lola seems determined to prove her brother wrong and tries to demonstrate that she too can stay tidy and clean for the school photo and say cheese! So Lola she may wear her best outfit for the D-day, but cant resist splashing the innumerable puddles on the way to school and finger painting all over her dress, and finally her brother figures out a way to make her picture a special one despite all the mess and that saves the day! So here’s hoping Abhay put on his best smile when it was time for him to say cheese! When asked if he did  ….Abhay replied that no one in India says "cheese"! J

Friday, February 1, 2013

Geetha-atte's parting gifts!

 Ever since our beloved aunt Geetha-atte passed away during the third week of January, we were in mourning for a period of 12 days that culminated in a ceremony performed yesterday when the entire family said their final goodbyes to her departed soul.  Life goes on...people move on….. times change…while what remains are memories! So as we try to get on with our normal day-to-day routine, there will still be some things that bring her back to life, in our minds – be it her water bottle that mysteriously finds its way into our kitchen reminding us how she never failed to remind us to have it filled every night, or while savouring her favorite sweet/dessert, or remembering her bold and cheeky comments that she  so was famous or infamous for or stumbling upon "Sankara TV", her favorite channel on television – all of those being Geetha-atte’s parting gifts.

Ever since her demise, I have been on the look-out for children’s books on bereavement and ordered this off flipkart which arrived just as we returned home after performing her last rites as if to mark the end of her time with us. “Badger’s parting gifts” by Susan Varley is a beautiful story about the loss of a friend and coming to terms with it. Badger, a much loved friend of all the animals in woodland was so old that he knew he would soon die. As Badger goes down the long tunnel (which is how dying is shown), his friends, Mole, Frog, Fox and the Rabbit are overwhelmed by the loss as Badger was always there when they needed him. As the winter sets in, the whole woodland is covered in snow as if to signify the sorrow all the animals felt over Badger’s death. As spring drew near, each of his friends remembers Badger for what he had taught them. Mole recalls how Badger introduced him to paper cutting; Frog fondly remembers how Badger guided him into becoming an excellent skater he is today; Fox is grateful to Badger for learning to knot a tie and Mrs. Rabbit owes her delicious gingerbread recipe to Badger! As the last of the snow melts, so does the animal’s sadness which make them also remember other stories about Badger that bring smile on their faces.  Finally, on a warm sunny day, Mole walks to hillside where he last met Badger and thanks him for his parting gifts believing that Badger would hear him….and Badger somehow did! Abhay then asked me if Geetha-atte can hear us even after she is dead to which I didn’t respond immediately as I honestly don’t know the answer myself. But one thing is for sure….Geetha-atte may have gone down the long tunnel, but her memories are always etched in our minds and hearts!