Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Mo Willems memory!

I read somewhere that old books are like old family albums….they bring back memories! I couldn’t agree more! I have always found it nostalgic to browse some of the books that I had read as a young girl – all those Nancy Drew or Hardy boys adventures or the Malory Tower series by Enid Blytons or the Jane Austen classics or the Blandings and Jeeves Series by P G Wodehouse or some of the Jeffery Archer fiction or the legal thrillers by John Grisham …..Ah! How I wish I could turn back time and relive those books once again! The old books also spark memories of the  days that were, for instance, Nancy Drew adventures has me thinking of my middle school days or John Grisham’s books take me back to my college days when I aspired to become a lawyer (though I stopped reading them once I became a lawyer!) or “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth brings back fond memories of a time immediately after my marriage when I had read it. It’s the same with some picture books that you might have read to your little one! Recently I stumbled upon one such gem at the British library that transported me back to our good old  Hillsboro library of Portland, US. I couldn’t help but pick it up to relive those memories with Abhay…..after all memories are all we have of the time gone by!  

Surprisingly Abhay had no recollection of that book, considering that he remembers many of the Mo Willems books that I used to read to him regularly. This one is titled “"Naked Mole Rat gets dressed"” by one of our all time favorite authors, Mo Willems of the Knuffle Bunnyfame.  Unfortunately not many of his books are available in India and I have them picked up through a friend or a relative visiting from the US. If somebody from Hyperion Books is reading this, please include India in your distribution network.  So today I had Abhay read another book by Mo Willems titled “Should I share my ice cream?” an Elephant and Piggie Adventure that Abhay so loves. Elephant loves ice-creams and jumps to buy one ice-cream cone for himself. Just as he is about savour his "awesome, super, sweet, tasty and yummy ice-cream", he wonders if he should share the ice cream with his best friend Piggie, who loves ice cream too. To share or not to share – that is the question that bothers Elephant to no respite! The Elephant at first tries to rationalize why it would be wrong to share an ice cream with Piggie which is of a flavor not to Piggie's liking until he gives in to his conscience and admits that the flavor of his ice cream is indeed of Piggie’s liking! Elephant then lets his devious side in as he finds no reason to share when Piggie is not around and she needn’t know at all! But being the loyal friend he is, Elephant decides to share his ice cream with his friend after all…but alas! it’s too late as the ice cream melts down and falls to the ground!  Elephant is inconsolable when Piggie walks in and cheers him up with an ice cream in hand!  And they eat happily ever after! J I have had Abhay read this book a number of times and loves the way Abhay nods to Elephant’s reasoning for not wanting to share the ice cream…..a hilarious book that helps children understand the value of sharing without being too preachy. Read “Should I share my ice cream?” to your little one over an ice cream of course!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Transformers thing!

Staying on the subject of television, my son is fascinated with the television series of Transformers that plays on Discovery kids every day. I find him so immersed in the world of the Autobots and Decepticons, that the giant robots-turned-vehicles seem to dominate his play, conversations, and not to forget even dreams!  Like any boy growing up, Abhay revels in mindless fight sequences complemented by graphic visual effects and deafening sound effects and the Transformer series offers plenty of entertainment on that front making me wish in moments like these for a daughter instead!:-) I am also beginning to now understand how boys will be boys….no matter what age  and  are naturally drawn to action figures and adventures. I am not sure of other moms, but frankly I am not a great fan of the series and just like fan clubs, I guess moms of Transformers-obsessed-sons should start a support group to empathise with each other!  While I always make an effort to evince some interest in something that my son is into, the world of Optimus Prime and Megatron and their legendry rivalry around which the story revolves is completely lost on me, considering that I have neither been enthused by science fiction nor too fond of action!  That said, there is no rule that parents should share the same interests as their kids just like the kids need not always relate to their parents’ tastes….. though we wish they would…don’t we? :-)

Despite my misgivings, I couldn’t resist picking up a book on Transformers from the Om Bookstore titled “I am Optimus Prime” from the adapted from the second movie in the series “Transformers Revenge of the Fallen” by Jennifer Frantz and illustrations by Guido Guidi, presented in an Early Reader format brought out by Harper Collins publications. Optimus Prime, the brave leader of Autobots (who are Robots in disguise) is a friend of humans. Optimus Prime who stands for the good, vows to protect the earth from a new threat called “Fallen” who seems to be even more powerful than Megatron (the bad guy in the first movie). After a fierce battle, read on about how Optimus Prime fights the evil  with the help of his friends Ironhide, Bumble bee and Sideswipe and finally rescue the earth, at least for now!  Hmmm……for now, I can only draw consolation from the fact that this may just be a phase and hope that like all the other phases, the “Transformers” phase too will soon pass and transform into something more interesting!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Too much TV?

Off late Abhay has been watching too much television and no amount of his grandparents’ goading or coaxing is successful in weaning him from the idiot box!  Until recently I have been priding over the fact (and thus jinxed it!) that my little one hardly watches any television at home and instead turns to his LEGOs or his crayons or books as soon as he returns home from school! Cut to the present scene – no sooner does Abhay return home than the television is turned on and remains so for the rest of the evening until I get back from work.  More so, I have serious reservations about the quality of the children’s programming in India and believe that we are years, if not decades behind our counterparts in the West. Frankly, I believe that our kids deserve much better than the animated Japanese series dubbed in English or the home-grown action heroes devoid of any depth or relevance!  If not for the music and  drawing class that he has been signed up for thrice a week, Abhay would be watching TV for over 2-3 hours straight even on weekdays until one of us shows up and turns it off, much to his annoyance!  But during school holidays, especially when I am away at work (when his absolute rule prevails at home!) he turns into a no-holds-barred- one-hundred-per-cent couch potato!

In an attempt to lure him away from the TV temptation, I read “Too much TV” a Berenstain Bears adventure by Stan and Jan Berenstain. As Brother and Sister bears  return home from school on a fine spring afternoon, they rush inside hardly saying a hello to their mother and take their cookies and milk into the living room to watch television! ( home!) Soon their papa joins them in watching the “Nutty Bear show” when mama decides to do something about too much TV in the Berenstain household. Mama bear announces the “No TV for a week” rule, much to the shock of not only Brother and Sister bear, but also Papa bear! As Papa bear goes on to support Mama bear’s dictum, little does he realize that the said ban applies to him and his sports shows too. Initially, the Berenstain household can’t seem to get by without television, and slowly but surely the kids find other things to do after school – like biking and trekking. However it isn't easy as they have to miss even the special programs and reluctantly follow their Mama as she takes them outside to watch the stars. But as they head outdoors, the bear family come under the spell of the panoramic view of the star-studded night sky which was very special than anything they’d seen on TV. Over the next few days, the bear family did  varied activities other than watching TV – going on nature walk, watching a spider spin its magnificent web, shopping with mama, but they had to keep tabs on papa who was often caught sneaking a look at a game show in an electronic store when they shopping at a country mall or tiptoed into the living room to catch a late night movie!  Before they know it, one whole week goes without TV! The bear cubs then ask mama bear as to what problem does she have with television (just like Abhay asks all the time!) to which mama bear denies having any problem with television but admits that she is against the TV habit – sitting in front of it all day like old stumps waiting for dry rot to set in! While both Brother and Sister bear vowed to watch TV the whole of the next day as the “No TV week” had ended, it turned out that the only one who did watch all day was Papa! So Abhay …there are other interesting things to do around and outside the house besides watching TV…what do you say? Are you up for a whole week without TV?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dad's the word!

With father’s day today, it’s time to show our gratitude to the daddies in our lives!  Of course, we all have our dads to thank, but what about the father of our little ones? So until our little ones are old enough to churn out something on their own, it’s upon us mommies to ensure that the daddies get their due on Father’s day just as we bask in our status as a mother on Mother’s day! I am not a great fan this hallmark sponsored day, but I see no harm in taking some time off to acknowledge the role our partners play in parenting…… if not at least for a day!  Fathers are now more actively involved in their children’s lives than their predecessors….and why not? Daddies are always the favorite, no matter what you do and so it’s time they get their hands dirty too! J I am greatly dependent on my husband without whom I’d find it hard to handle even some of daily routine activities revolving around Abhay!  So whether it’s getting my tardy six year old ready for school in the morning (while sharing a man-to-man time with him!) or initiating the bed-time protocol at night (and dozing off  in the meantime!) or waking up the middle of the night when Abhay ambles over to our room (a regular phenomenon!) or  taking him to an event or an activity on a Saturday morning (as Saturdays are working for me!) or  playing the “Good cop” when as always I am the “Bad cop” while disciplining my errant little one or when I am need of some kind of reassurance that we are doing the right thing as parents….dad’s the word!
So today I had Abhay and his dad read together “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein, a book that won the famed Caldecott Honor for the year 2011. I had this one shipped from the US through a friend sometime ago, but never had the opportunity to feature the same on Onestoryaday. The reason I chose to do so on father’s day is because I found there was a striking resemblance between how the papa-chicken and baby-chicken cuddle up in bed and how Abhay holds on to his dad  at bedtime! This is a father-child story that definitely makes a wonderful read on father’s day! It was bed time for the little red chicken and her papa is all set to read her a story but with a condition that the little one should not interrupt the story in between as she usually does to which little chicken promises to be good and not interrupt the story. And so starts papa chicken with the story of “Hansel and Gretel” who both being extremely hungry are thrilled to find a house made of candy and begin to eat up the goodies when the witch pretending to be an old woman invites them in. Just as they are about to enter the danger zone, the little red chicken jumps in interrupting the story telling Hansel and Gratel not to go in as the woman was a witch. So Hansel and Gratel did not go in and the story ended quickly. Papa chicken reminded the little red chicken of her promise not to interrupt and started to read “Little Red Riding Hood”. But the story of Red Riding Hood too met a similar end with the warning Little Red Riding Hood about not talking to strangers just as she was about to talk to the wolf! Thus the incorrigible red can’t control herself and jumps in every time the story reaches a turning point! Finally Papa chicken has had it and closes the book when little pleads with him for another story without which she cannot fall asleep. Papa then asks her to tell him a story instead. As the little chicken starts off with her story “Once upon a time…there was a little red chicken who put her papa to bed…”, her papa is fast asleep and it doesn’t take long for the little chicken to jump right in next to her dearest papa! Abhay of course enjoyed the rendition of this story by his own papa! Happy father’s day to all the dads!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Monsoon’s here!

It’s that time of the year again when your handbag feels a little heavier than usual, thanks to the umbrella you'd better carry, or when you can simply blame the weather for all your street food cravings or those multiple cups of chai at work, or  when you can expect your little one to catch a cold every other day or thankfully bid goodbye (at least temporarily!) to all your water woes and brace yourself for some more traffic woes!  Well, after playing truant last year, monsoon has hit the South and is expected to be near normal this time around. Monsoon always gets me nostalgic of my stay in Portland which is known for its cloudy days accompanied by incessant rain most part of the year. Monsoon is also reminiscent of the good old school days back in the 80s when school children could be seen leaving the school with their colourful raincoats and rain-caps. I remember donning my pink raincoat to keep me dry on those rainy evenings as I walked or took the BTS (public transport) bus home! Somehow, I haven’t witnessed a similar sight in the recent years during monsoon and I am not sure if it’s because it doesn’t rain enough for a raincoat or the raincoat isn’t enough for today’s children!  J

Welcoming this year’s monsoon, I had Abhay read “Peacocks and Pakoras” by Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry and pictures by Priya Kuriyan, part of the Rituchakra series on seasons brought out last year by Pratham publications. The young protagonist of the Rituchakra series,  Meenu returns to welcome monsoon after a long hot summer! Meenu loves everything the Varsha Ritu (monsoon in Sanskrit) has to offer - the dark clouds with an occasional thunder (an unusually brave kid!), the cool rainy breeze, the smell of the wet earth, the dancing peacocks (she must live in the countryside or in a zoo!)  and the singing cuckoo (this one is definitely a possibility in a city, but may become a rarity  soon enough!), Shobha aunty’s kajari ( folk songs sung during the rain), getting wet in the rain while returning home from school (no wonder I don’t see the raincoats!), vibrant green foliage, and the smell of the pakoras being fried in the kitchen and the fact that she does not have to water her mango plant anymore (something I can identify with!) Of all the books in the Rituchakra series, we enjoyed “Peacocks and Pakoras” the best…and it is probably because monsoon, for various reasons, is the one of the most celebrated seasons of India! Enjoy the rain… everyone!   

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Evening with the Storywallah!

 Bangalore has a lot to offer when it comes to activities for kids so much so that I am always faced with an overload of options as the weekend approaches! Once you have kids, they  take the priority in everything including your weekends and your weekends are no longer exclusively yours to go clubbing/partying or just laze around doing nothing!  While the end of week holiday is the only time to unwind after a hectic week at work, weekend is also the only day-out-with-parents for the kids! So as far as possible, on most weekends, we’ve tried to set aside some time to take Abhay for some activity or event in the city. But with the city spread out like never before, many of the activities/events often entail long traffic-ridden commute in as much as the weekend is gone before you know it!

Over the last weekend however, we took Abhay to an event closer home which proved to be just as entertaining for us adults as it was for kids! “An evening with storywallahs” at “Atta Galatta” located in Koramangala. It was an evening where an enchanting storyteller, Ameen Haque transported the kids into a world far different from their own, a world before the man walked on it, the story of how the crow earned its name or how the rooster forgot to cry "cocka-doodle-doo"! Abhay liked both the stories that were performed and enjoyed interacting with the storywallah while repeating the one liners after him as he beautifully dramatized the story without any props or puppets. Courtesy the Storywallah, “The Story of the most beautiful bird” is a story of the sun who refused to come out as it was bored with its daily humdrum causing many plants and animals to suffer. So a meeting was called out by all the animals and birds wherein it was decided to send a bird out to the sun to convince to do his daily job. But the question was, who should be sent? Should it be the nightingale, the kingfisher or the peacock? All of them refuse for the fear of getting burnt while nearing the sun, saying “Na baba na …” (which all the kids repeated!). Finally, a bird with rainbow coloured feathers takes up the mammoth responsibility of conferring with the sun for the sake of all living beings. Does the rainbow bird succeed? What becomes of it? How do we know  this bird now? Listen on as the storywallah will enthrall you every second Saturday at Atta Galatta!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Back to school!

It’s the last day of summer vacation for Abhay and tomorrow he is all set to begin his new academic year in Class II. While I am quite relieved that Abhay will get back to his school routine, I am also empathetic towards his “last day blues”, something we all went through and probably in many ways still go through! J I confess I am also a little uneasy about getting back to the grind!  In a way, summer vacation was a break from those mad mornings, from homework and project assignments, from coming up with innovative lunch box ideas, from the strict bedtime protocols and all those trappings of having school going kids! So it’s not just the kids, but an end of vacation for parents too! Though I must say that Abhay has been putting up a rather brave face about resuming school after two and half months of summer fun….but tomorrow, we’ll know if it’s for real! :-) 

In order to prep him up for the first day tomorrow, I read “"First day of school"” by Nandini Nayar, a story I remembered reading in the Quick read section of Young World last year. Vidya wasn’t really looking forward to her school reopening the next day and her amma sensing the same narrated a story about her own first day at school several  years back. Amma admitted to bunking the first day of school one year, much to Vidya’s delight making her wonder if she could do the same! However, little did she know that it wasn’t such a great idea as  amma’s second day of school was in fact her first day, and it was a pronounced one at that as by then her classmates at school already knew what was happening and who their seat partner is going to be or how their class teacher was! That’s when amma decided that she would never miss her first day of school ever! In Amma’s words “trying to escape from scary things never works as the scary things only bigger, stronger and scarier!” A simple yet powerful message not just for kids….don't you think? Anyway, wishing everyone a fruitful and fulfilling school year ahead! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Mango party!

Yesterday we had been to Rangashankara’s famous “Mango party” which is a one of a kind event held every year dedicated to the most awaited fruit of summer!  An open and free event that has each one bringing one kilo mangoes of any variety into the mango pool with a chance to sample as many a variety as one can! Since it was our first time at the mango party, we weren’t sure what to expect. But once we walked in with three kilos of the “Mallika” variety of mangoes, it didn’t take us long to join in with the rest, including the who’s who of Bangalore’s theatre fraternity in this gala celebration of sharing and savouring the king of fruits! Abhay though loves mangoes insists on relishing this fruit the so called civilized way – cut, sliced and served in a plate/bowl with a spoon or a fork! So when he found that he was supposed to scoop the pulp off its skin and work around the seed without the aid of a fork, he didn’t indulge as much as we thought he would! But when Arundhati Nag herself volunteered to show how to devour a mango peeled like banana, he did oblige but just enough to take a picture!

Well …..last year he wasn’t even ready to taste a mango, this year he wasn’t ready to taste any fruit other than the mango…..probably next year he will be ready to devour a mango like there’s no tomorrow…which is what we did at this year’s Mango Party! Abhay was fascinated to see different varieties of mangoes displayed and was particularly on the look-out for the Mundappa variety that was featured in Malvika Shetty’s “"The Sweetest mango"”.  The Mango Party at Rangashankara invited people to share some of their mango stories and ran a contest for the ten best “mango stories” On the occasion of the Mango party; I was look out for a mango story myself for Onestoryaday and remembered the most famous mythological story on the mango. The story of a Race between Ganesha and Kartikeya for a magical mango that couldn’t be shared! Sage Narada devises a ploy to find out the most intelligent of the true brothers and offers a special mango to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. On realizing that this fruit cannot be shared, they turn down the offer. Meanwhile Ganesh and Karthikeya stake claim to the fruit and a contest ensues between the two brothers for the mango! The contest is to go around the world thrice and the winner would walk away with the mango. Karthikeya wasted no time and embarked on his flight around the world on his divine vehicle the peacock. The contest taken in its literal sense made it almost impossible for the pot-bellied Ganesh to win, but being the Lord of Success that he was, Ganesha chose to go around his parents who meant the whole world to him and landed with the prized mango in his hands! One of Abhay’s favourite Ganesha stories, this one was also about one of his favourite fruits! Enjoy the rest of the mango season everyone!