Friday, May 30, 2014

Hobbies and Collections!

I need not elaborate on why it is important for one to pursue hobbies. Be it reading, music, sports, photography, art and crafts - everyone needs something to turn to during their leisure time (if there's such a thing as that!) or something to take their mind off the daily humdrum of life! Off late people have been seen taking up hobbies as seriously as their mainstream line of work, often juggling between the two and reserving weekends for pursuing their passion that may eventually turn into their calling! Hobbies are not only the best stress-busters but can also be great motivators.  As parents, it's never too early to get our kids interested in what may help them develop a holistic perspective towards life.  Of course, we may enroll our kids into dance, music, art, or sports, but how many of us do so for the pure joy of it, or simply to enable them to appreciate finer aspects of life, without any performance pressure?? Hmm... that's a tough one! Isn't it?:-)  

Speaking of hobbies, today's book (that seems like it almost belongs to another era) should have been featured on “Onestoryaday” a tad earlier, probably at the start of summer vacations. “Flowers and I” a National Book Trust India publication by Manorama Jafa and illustrations by Jaya Rastogi Wheaton and Sudhir Kasliwal is as much a book about collection hobbies as it is about flowers. Not very often you find a book that has an old world charm to it and yet doesn’t fail to enthuse the generation Z. Not very often you find a book that presents everyday nature and objects in such a charming manner! Not very often you’d land yourself a gem of a book brought out by a homegrown publication with almost zero marketing strategy!   Not very long ago, I had found a book from the very same publishers randomly picked out at a small town book fair and this is another  book from that pile! As soon as I read the title, I knew just who had to read this one to Abhay!
Someone who could very well be writing her own "Flowers and I", perhaps !!:-)
Well, inspired from the book, Abhay's grandma has even lent her own shell collection .....
 The story goes like this .......Taking a cue from his friends who are into collecting stamps, feathers, shells and coins, Ravi decides to collect ….flowers! (In a way breaking the gender stereotype of associating flowers only with girls!) So Ravi goes about collecting different kinds of flowers from different sources, the unique ones beautifully illustrated for the reader to feast on.
Ravi leaves no stone unturned to further his collection and even gets pulled up by the Maali (gardener) of the neighbouring garden who later relents when told of Ravi’s hobby. Ravi first presses each of the flowers in between the pages of his dad’s dictionary and later mounts them onto an album with appropriate captions in place.  One day all the hobbyists decide to come out with each of their collections – Mohan brings out his stamps from all over the world, Rita displays her colourful feathers,  Sohan shows off his shells of different shapes and sizes, Zeenat cashes in her coins, old and new At last its Ravi’s turn to present his grand collection – seen in five albums of neatly pressed flowers in all their hues and splendour! Taking a cue from Ravi, everyone then decides to preserve their collection in albums that are in turn exhibited in Sohan’s showcase making it their very own little museum!  With each of children’s collections depicted in a real-life like photographic images, this book is sure capture the minds of little ones while throwing in a few hobby ideas too!  



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wrestling the world!

Children especially boys love to fancy themselves as super–heroes ….. tough, all powerful and invincible! No wonder ….super hero movies are such a big hit with the kids! Well, the recent super hero flicks sure seem to be intended only for kids! J   Similarly most children’s programming on super heroes lay emphasis on muscular strength and physical prowess as the only means to defeat the enemies. You cant help but squirm when you see your little one delight in Chota Bheem’s (Indian children's programming) purported victory in a wrestling duel with his adversary. I guess as they grow up… you can only hope they factor in other traits that make an all-round super-hero ….after all actual heroes are made of sterner stuff than just physical strength! Isn’t it??

As of now it doesn’t harm to let them dream on……gloat over their imaginary super hero status ….ready to take on the world!!! So with that intention in mind I had a relative in the US pick up “Nino Wrestles the World” by Yuyi Morales on their annual visit to India. Frankly, this makes a great Spanish language read-aloud and at first I wasn’t sure if Abhay would appreciate its Hispanic lingo. But I guess boys everywhere are the same…….no matter which part of the world they live in! Little Nino imagines himself to be the world’s greatest wrestler  and what’s more he is successfully overpowers the meanest, slimiest and creepiest of all his contenders with panache!  Presented in a WWE style wrestling match between Nino and his challengers, read on as Nino tackles the mummy from Guanajuanto city, hard, rock-headed warrior from an ancient civilization, Mexican female ghost with terrifying echoes and an extra terrestrial in a flying saucer with his varied strategies matching their respective “Lucha” styles (traditional Mexican wrestling)!! But as Nino vanquishes all his opponents, there’s till someone whom he just can’t defeat – his baby sisters who wake up from their afternoon nap to pounce on him! So he makes his best move ever - “If you cant defeat them….. join them!” Abhay loved the story but couldn’t fully comprehend its Hispanic setting and Spanish expressions and neither could I! J However, thanks to the brief notes found on the book cover, readers are provided with a peek into Latino folklore as this book doubles up as an introduction to multi linguisitic and multicultural sensibilities! Illustrations pictured in a comic book fashion, sound effects brought out (‘Zzzwap’, ‘Slish’, ‘Pachatas’ ) in decorative fonts and bright colours true to its authentic Mexican setting, no wonder this book is a recipient of the Pura Belpre award, presented to a book that best portrays Latino culture. Nino’s adventures are after all ………every boy’s super-boy dream!!   

Monday, May 19, 2014

Abhay goes swimming ............again!

I cant help the dejavu feeling, when it comes to Abhay’s ‘swimming class’ phobia! After years of prodding (Gosh! I make it sound like he’s over 30 years old…but it does feel like forever!)….he now enjoys himself in the swimming pool… provided it is minus the perceived rigours of a swimming class and instructions of a swim coach!!!! So the minute there’s talk about enrolling him into summer swimming classes, he goes from from an acquaphile to an acquaphobic……from a fish in water to a fish out of water!!! It’s probably his sixth swimming class in three years……..with a forced hiatus last year owing to non-access to swimming pool along with certain logistics issues (which we promptly justified as not wanting to push our then six year old into something he doesn’t want to join!). To be fair, he does get more comfortable during the course of a three week class. So much so that towards the end, he acts as if he was born to swim (our very own Ripley’s Believe it or not)! But once there’s a gap …… it all goes back to square one! Well… one cant have first time jitters forever…can one??

We’ve read many books on swimming and fear thereof, it seemed quite pointless to down that tide again….but a random Google search yielded a link of a hilarious book that simply deserved a mention on Onestoryaday! “Clem Always could” by Sarah Watts is a wonderful book on guiding your little one to try out new things, even if it seems scary the first time! Little Clem could do a lot of things – make bat-ball out of anything as he always loved sport, could dress himself as he always had style, could jump, run faster than waves, do a puzzle, make friend and so on so forth. But if there was one thing that Clem couldn’t get himself to do was swimming. So when his mom took him to the swimming pool, Clem just wasn’t keen. None of mom’s usual strategies like reasoning out, bribery, pleading, physical force, seemed to work. So Clem’s mom let Clem do what Abhay’s mom finds it hard to do – just sit by, watch and leave! :-) At home, as Clem goes about his usual routine of finishing up his drink or using the toilet, mom tried to explain to Clem that he in fact had to learn to do many such things…to which Clem shot back saying that he always knew how to drink or use the toilet! Mom persists on and reminds Clem of the time he had to learn to brush or bathe or write but Clem feels that he could always do those things. Pointing out how Clem is to learn many new things as he grows up, mom takes him to the swimming pool the following week. But Clem is adamant and thinks of  everything from invisible sharks and crocodiles to laughing bystanders to prevent him from getting into the pool! Finally Clem meets his friend Grace who jumps into the swimming pool without a fuss when Clem is emboldened to follow suit. What happens thereafter is something I’m hoping to see happen with Abhay too!! Once Clem's in………….it feels like he always could!! A great book to help your little one cope with the first-time jitters …..every time!!:-)

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Mother's Day is round the corner and I have written enough extolling the pivotal role a mother plays in her child's life and the various hats she dons along the way!! Well, considering that my little one is currently in a "Mad at mommy" phase, let's look at why moms can be annoying at times!! Despite both mom and dad being equally involved in parenting today, by and large, moms are the ones who tend to be more hands-on, all-knowing and most definitely a step ahead of their partners in their parental thinking! After all, it's not for nothing that they put their careers on hold or rather take up more flexible options for the family! So it's no secret that mommies end up being the sous chef, principal dietician, first aid expert and logistics planner, time and activity schedulers ( running the risk of over scheduling) and the most intuitive mind-readers!  So also , mommies tend be the follow-up parent bordering on turning into a nag (in my case being a full-fledged nag), the edgier parent ( a fall out of too much follow-up), the parent who knows you better than yourself, the parent least likely to be prevailed upon and most likely to find it hard to let go! Oops...... I've turned out exactly like my mom!! Of course, as I grew up, I am thankful for the very same qualities that I had once found most annoying! Well, I just hope our little ones understand too!! Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies of the world!!!

"Mother's Day" being a must-post-day on Onestoryaday, guess which book we read today? In association with friend and fellow blogger, Bubbleink writes, I am participating in the treasure hunt of blogs as a part of Mother's Day week on Bubbleink.

 Here are the clues- This is a book by one of our favourite authors most of whose books we've read and loved on Onestoryaday.

The recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Medal, this UK author has also been awarded the Children's laureate!

This book on moms is very similar in format and style to his other two books, one of which is on the counterpart! 

The book is in a way a tribute to motherhood and a celebration of her multi tasking abilities! The humour lies in how the child perceives the different roles she plays! It starts with the all pervading description of mom being nice ....... a fantastic cook, a brilliant juggler,a great painter ( shown standing in front of the mirror applying make-up), the strongest woman in the world (carrying umpteen  grocery bags)! While mom can sing like an angel, she can roar like a lion too and while is soft as a kitten, she can be tough as a Rhino! The brilliant illustrations convey their own story as  mom's beauty is likened to that of a butterfly, the colours of which metamorphoses into an armchair in turn symbolising the comfort of a mom's embrace!!! There is an acknowledgement of her sacrifice as she chooses to be a mom when she can be anyone she wants! The book ends with an expression of love that will always be the dominant factor between mommy and forever little one!!! Cheers to motherhood!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Great Birdywood games!

During our stay at Vythri resort, we were treated to some of the best kept secrets of a tropical rainforest! We watched the forest come alive with all it's attendant sounds, through different weather spells, from summer heat to pre-monsoon showers! The forests surrounding the Wyanad region are home to a number of birds, including the Great Indian Hornbill, which is even the State bird of Kerala. Through out the day, it felt sublime to have calls and tweets of various birds and insects playing like a background score, in a way adding to the calm around and within! We only had to listen to the change in climate and it was amazing to hear the birds and insects play weathermen signaling the onset of the impending thunderstorm and rain….may be our meteorologists need to learn a thing or two from them!:-)


It was in this setting that we chose to read Tulika's "The Great Birdywood Games" by Shamim Padamsee and picturesby Soumya Menon. The jungle was awaiting birds from all over the world to participate in the Great Birdywood games! With the rainbow as it's emblem, the Great Birdywood games is declared open by the famous movie director, the peacock, Mor Khan, amidst the applause of flapping wings,cheeping, chirping and twittering beaks! Various species of birds compete with each other in events ranging from diving to sprinting and finally the grand finale to determine the fastest flierin the world, with the horned owl playing judge! With the sporting event resembling international games such as Olympics or Commonwealth games, the author offers a bird's eye view into its highlights, while skillfully combining both fiction and non fiction. Who wouldn't be eager see the record breaking performance in diving by the Penguin, the rivalry between Road-runner and Ostrich, and the flying contest heat up between Racing Pigeon and Swift, amidst the falcon facing disqualification! :-)) The Great Birdywood games would not be the same but for its playful yet authentic illustrations of our feathered friends. Ideal for children aged five and above, The Great Birdywood games presents the fascinating world of birds in a new and interesting light! Not only would your little one learn about the different species of birds in the world and their unique ways, but he is sure to ask for a replay of the Great Birdywood games!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Trees of Summer!

Trees are in full summer bloom. Many parts of Bangalore appear all the more vibrant, thanks to the colouful lining of trees in bloom!! 

Similarly, as we drove past the Bangalore-Mysore road to Wyanad, we were mesmerised by the beauty of Jacaranda, Tabebuia and of course the crimson coloured Mayflower or the Gulmohar in full bloom! We may gush over the fall colours in Western countries but what about the summer blossoms in our own backyard? Even the flower garden at our farm Shristi, Dharmasthala (where we are currently on an extended vacation!) is sporting summer hues in style!:-) 
Anyway, with recent initiatives like the tree festival called Neralu celebrating Bangalore's trees, hopefully people will be able to appreciate and conserve the city's natural and aesthetic beauty. While  growing up, my parents would take me on morning strolls to survey the blooming summer trees in and around Bangalore South and the annual tree survey was something I would look forward to every summer! Of course, back in those days, we didn't have Facebook to share our captures for our friends to like and enjoy! :-)) 

If our previous read was about a contest between birds, our today's read is about a contest between trees! "The Summer Tree Contest" a National Book Trust publication by Radha M Khambadkone is one of those rare finds that one randomly picks up at a small town book fair only to be pleasantly surprised by what a delightful read it proves to be! It's summer and the forest is buzzing with excitement for there was to be a contest called ' The summer tree contest' where the tree to prove that it loves the sun the most would win a prize! Over fifteen trees from Palas to Nili Gulmohar, from Champa, the temple tree to Amaltas, the Laburnum, from the Indian Neem to Copper pod, the South American import, from Cassia to Gulmohar step forward to describe what the sun means to each of them. As each contestant delivers it's opening statement, the reader is not only acquainted with the tree's features and uses but is also entreated to the colourful illustrations of the trees' foliage and the flower.  With some rare and lesser varieties featured, the book that can also double up as an early reader, makes a mini treatise of sorts on the trees in the Indian forests. Well, I am not sure how much of this information actually sank in, but reading a story woven around summer blooms on a lazy summer afternoon, during our summer vacation makes a great summertime activity!! Finally, guess who wins the contest????    

Enchanting Vythri!

We are at the Vythri resort nestled in the picturesque hill district of Wyanad located in the North Western region of God’s own country, Kerala. Our summer travels are typically R & R (Relax and Rejuvenate) getaways where we avoid hectic sightseeing expeditions and instead let our hair down and unwind .... and there couldnt be a better place than the Vythri resort! The Vythri resort spread across 150 acres of lush green rain forest is located at almost 3000 feet above sea level, and offers a perfect summer escape in its true sense. The rustic tribal themed resort has been designed to fit into its natural landscape, where you not only feel completely cut off from the hustle-bustle of a city but also settle down to experience the stillness of nature while witnessing a live "rain forest cafe" to  soak in the   sounds and the smell of a tropical rainforest, along with most of the modern comforts provided for the urban travellers. Frankly, I was skeptical as to how Abhay would survive without TV for five days,   but its day 3 and we're going strong! Well, who needs the idiot box when our activities span from braving the leech bites during nature walks to dipping into the swimming pool naturally canopied by the majestic trees, from hiking upto the tea plantation nearby and doing local sight seeing around Wyanad area to exploring the rainforest flora and fauna while criss-crossing its famous hanging bridge  ......and of course nothing to beat sitting in the patio curled up with a book, as you hear the sound of the natural stream gurgling past the cottage!:-)

The Vythri resort houses many rare species of plant and animal life, including the tiger tree and the endangered giant Malabar squirrel. With name boards hung on as many as over twenty to thirty trees and still counting, this place is treat for a nature lover and a budding nature lover!

Hoping to turn  my seven year old into a tree lover, we read " The Coral Tree" a Tulika publication by Mamata Pandya and photographs by Pankaj Gorana. Having seen the Indian Coral tree along with other trees here at the Vythri resort, this was an apt holiday read for us.
 Narrated in first person, a woman is seen gazing at the coral tree that stands outside her window like an old faithful friend! The author goes on to trace the growth and transition of the coral tree through the year - shedding its leaves during winter,  blossoming orange flowers in February to thereafter to full bloom so as to have climbers, insects, rat snakes, langurs, and birds from the Black Drongo to the bat stake claim for a part of the coral tree. Aided by keen nature photography of the tree in its various avatars and the numerous forms of life it's home to, this book also provides interesting facts and tidbits about the coral tree and its uses. The final page allows your little one make his or her own tree diary and ferret out information on the same - which will be Abhay's DIY  project for day 4!:-)))    Overall its an well written work of non fiction to introduce your little one to .... so that he appreciates the vibrancy of  nature as vibrantly depicted in " The Coral Tree " and as we experienced at the Vythri resort!