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… 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 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!