Monday, August 26, 2013

Angry Rivers!

The rain in coastal Karnataka is a lot different from the rain in the interior regions. For one, the rains are heavy and second they are incessant …with absolutely no respite! So much so that even a hint of sunlight makes way for a flurry of activities amongst the residents only to be disappointed by pouring rain a few minutes later. Rain completely pervades your life in a way that is hard to imagine for people like us who live in the state's interior regions like Bangalore. It's not just rain, it's the damp weather, moss covered slippery roads and pathways, unscheduled power cuts, road blockades, overflowing rivers - are some of the trappings of torrential rains!  Rain dominates  work, day to day routine and activities, food, clothing, and not to mention conversations... as my mother's telephone calls  from Dharmasthala now begins and ends with ...the rains! :-)
A city dweller of course can afford to have a romantic perspective of the coastal monsoon! So when we visited my dad's farm house at Dharmasthala two weeks ago, the landscape had never seemed so flourishing green and the air so crisp and refreshing ever before! It was amazing to see all the reservoirs  full and our very own river Nethravati  flowing in full spate! So while I had picked up Ruskin Bond's "Rain in the mountains", I made sure Abhay too had the benefit of one of Ruskin Bond's children's stories ....set around the monsoon season! "The Angry River" is a story written by one of India's iconic writers of our times, Ruskin Bond. This story along with  "The Blue Umbrella" has been published in a comic book format by Amarchitra Katha publications. Being one of the few ACKs that I enjoyed reading (as I am not a fan of ACK series on  mythology), I was waiting for an opportunity to read and post the same on Onestoryaday! Originally written as "Sita and the river" and published in his short-story collection titled “Night Train at Deoli and other stories”, this is a story of Sita who lives along with her grandparents in a small island that lies in the middle of a big river. If your little one likes “The Angry River”, you may want to pick up Mr. Chippy Gangee’s rendition of the story in the audiobook of Night Train at Deoli and other stories" .  Once during the rainy season, Sita's grandmother falls ill and had to be taken to the hospital in the mainland by her grandfather, Sita is left to fend for herself at the island. Sita was a brave girl but didn't like the sound of river during this season.  Her grandfather advises her to climb onto the peepul tree if the water level rises. Soon after her grandparents leave by boat, it starts to pour and soon the river rose to her hut. Though Sita tries to salvage most of household articles by storing them in a chest,  she is heartbroken to find out that she has left behind her favorite doll Mumta. But there was no looking back, as the island was completely flooded with water and she holds on to one of the branches of the peepul tree, as it moved into the main current of the river. As she swims along the tide, Sita is rescued by a boy in a boat. What follows is a rollercoaster boat ride along with angry river until she is finally united with her grandfather. As the river retreats, Sita goes back to her island with her grandfather and realize that sometimes, the river may be angry and sometimes, it may be kind, but they will always be a part of the river and cannot live without the river. A heart-warming story about a little girl’s survival in the face of nature’s fury! A story of will-power, hope, lasting friendship and love for nature that makes a delightful monsoon read for your little one!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Catch the rain!

It has been pouring cats and dogs the whole of this week! We are well into August and the rains don’t seem to let up! The last weekend at Dharmasthala was drenched in rain and the rain seemed to follow us even when we returned to Bangalore! Well, at the risk of sounding repetitive, this weather is reminiscent of the weather in Portland where we had lived for two years ….almost two years ago! I guess the cloudy days, the damp atmosphere and the  “any-time downpour” has Bangalore switching places with any coastal city! I must say that I quite enjoy the cloudy days as the sun doesn’t seem oppressive when hidden behind the clouds, but it is better to be all rained in than being out in rain! Of course….that’s why we are boring grown-ups!

Abhay enjoyed himself in the coastal rain last weekend at Dharmasthala and for some reason insisted on filling up buckets with rainwater. A noble idea indeed as he was probably doing his own little “rain water harvesting” but I’m not sure if you would feel the same if you have to empty bucket after bucket only to have him fill the next one readied to be emptied again! J Anyway, today I read to him a book that talks about just that “Lets catch the rain” by Vinod Lal Heera Kishwar of “Let’s plant trees” fame. I happen to lay my hands on the Kannada version “Male Hididukollona” translated by S. Divakar which I found just right for Abhay’s reading level in the kannada language. Emphasizing the importance of conserving rainwater, the author calls for everyone to catch the rain wherever and in whatever way they can , from buckets and bottles, pots and pans, balloons and overturned umbrellas to wells and coconut shells, and not to forget in tanks and buildings facilitated by rain water harvesting. A simple message of water conservation and environment friendly practices conveyed through striking pencil sketch like illustrations! A nice little one for the monsoon! :-)

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I haven’t waited for any weekend as eagerly as I have for the coming long weekend!  Well, it is an understatement to say “hectic’, but this week has been crazy both at work and on the personal front. Now before I can heave a sigh of relief as the week draws to a close two days early, thanks to Id-ul-Fitr and a second Saturday, it turns out that it may be a working looooong weekend, after all as I have to trudge  through a few legal documents while vacationing in my father’s farm house!:-(  Anyway, another reason I felt over-worked this week is because of my mother-in-laws’ absence at home, making me in charge of the household (read kitchen) responsibilities! This got me thinking about the importance of an all-encompassing domestic support for a working woman today in order to maintain sanity, and this is apart from the housemaid or the help who comes in for a couple of hours for household cleaning and allied chores.  With today’s working woman out of the house for most part of the day, either because of extended working hours or long commute, it’s no secret that we need help for not only child-care, but also cooking and cleaning up thereafter because if I have to fix “Abhay’s favorite panner subzi” for dinner after a long grueling day at court followed by client meetings, it will be like jumping from frying pan to fire! J So we look to support or rather outsource the domestic responsibilities to our parents, in-laws or a full-time hired help. Well, I am grateful to my mother-in-law without whose support my life would have been a mad rush like it has been the whole of this week! Of course, with husbands helping around, it is no longer the “woman’s” sole responsibility, but it is still not the woman who asks “what’s for dinner”, right?:-)

In my hubby’s defense, however, I must say that as I write this post just before leaving to “Shristi”, my father’s farmhouse at Dharmasthala for the long weekend….it is my husband who is winding up the kitchen! J Anyway, I guess as mothers of little boys, it is for us to see to it that gender stereotypes are not perpetuated on the domestic front. Though Abhay has noticed his father help out at the kitchen, its time he starts helping out too. I found a nice little book titled “Piggybook” by Anthony Browne that probably will help me on that count. This one just like other books by Anthony Browne, challenges commonly held beliefs with though-provoking yet comic illustrations. The Piggot family comprising of the mother, father and two boys are a nice little family who live in a nice house, with nice garden and a nice garage. Mrs Piggot does all the household chores from cooking, cleaning, serving, laundry to ironing while having a full-time job on hand. Mr Piggot and the Piggot boys simply order her around and take her for granted. One fine day Mrs. Piggot who has had enough, leaves a note that to her husband and sons that says saying “you are pigs” and walks out. Mr Piggot and the Piggot boys return to an empty house and are annoyed that they have cook and clean themselves. They find it hard to get by without Mrs. Piggot and are seen turning as dirty as pigs for real! Mrs. Piggot then returns, much to relief of the “pigs” but her return is subject to certain conditions - that the boys make their own bed, dad learns to wash the dishes and all of them helped with the cooking and all of them realized that they enjoyed it, after all! So the other day, I asked Abhay to lay the table for dinner, which he no doubt, set out to do willingly but sought to overdo it so much that I regretted asking him!!:-) So if you think you are little ones may be growing into little “pigs” at home……bring home the “Piggybook”!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

One and only!

I am an only child and was one of the very few only children in my class at school. People would ask me if I didn’t miss having a sibling and frankly I didn’t! Though one could argue that I had no frame of reference or an idea what life would have been had there been a sibling, I don’t remember ever having pestered my mother for a sibling (Correct me if I am wrong….amma!) Anyway, I was an only child at a time when “single children” were an aberration!  Today there are a lot more parents making that choice! Well, Abhay is an only child…(at least so far!) and I find the whole world offering me unsolicited advice on why he can’t do without a sibling! One, two or more children, that is a decision best left for the parents themselves. Of course, there have been a few occasions when Abhay has wondered why he doesn’t have a brother or a sister like some of his friends, and that is but natural. But that doesn’t mean I am to explain myself to everybody right from nosy acquaintances to my maid as to why Abhay is the only child!  In so far as how they turn out as adults, rest assured that they are as self-involved, sociable, flexible or inflexible as anybody else with siblings. It’s not just research, but also experience ….hey! I turned out fine, now didn’t I? J

Well, jokes apart, while it may be true that single children do not enjoy the company of a sibling when growing up, it is also true that single children grow up a lot more independent and comfortable being all by themselves basking in their solitude, which may not always be the case with children growing up with siblings. So when I found this book recommended by the Hillsboro children’s book newsletter (Yes……I still subscribe to it!), I had this one sent in by a relative returning from the US. “One of a kind’ by Ariel S. Winter and illustrated by David Hitch is a hilarious take on the “single child misgivings” that one might have. Of course, this book does poke fun at twins…just as the “onlies” might find themselves in the spot for being sibling-free! This is a story of Lysander Singleton, who as the surname suggests is the only  “only child” in Twin Oaks Elementary, a school full of twins. No matter how hard Lysander tried, he couldn’t fit in with everyone else who had a twin studying in the same class, sitting at the same desk and Lysander being the only one sitting alone at his desk! But when it was time for the annual Twindividuaton competition, a day-long event meant to encourage individuality, Lysander finally had his chance. First all the twins were separated and were given non-matching uniforms. With no sibling to be individuated from, Lysander expected to be left out but he soon discovers that he is much in demand. At each round, the twins separated from their siblings struggled to perform solo…be it at a choral performance, or at creative writing on “what makes you unique from any other person, including siblings" or the Isolated Ice cream enquiry where the children each choose from forty-five ice cream flavours without the benefit of a sibling consultation (very funny!)   or the one-man relay, whereas Lysander had no trouble at all! In fact Lysander was used to carry a tune on his own, tackled the written essay with finesse and even chose his “Monkey Butter Chocolate chip” in a record setting 15 seconds! When the scores tallied, no prizes for guessing who the winner was! Lysander was the proud winner of the “Simondon-Stiegler” cup, the individual award for individuality and realized that he was after all, proud to be the only “only child” in Twin Oaks Elementary! So here's to Abhay and every other single child…sibling or no sibling….be proud of your own unique self and remember you will always be “one of a kind” for your parents! J