Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cloud tea to the rescue...??

Bangalore has been experiencing change in weather conditions owing to the on-and- off monsoon this year. We all know what a weather change heralds for a household with kids..... don’t we? Abhay has been down with throat infection and has been at home the whole of last week that in turn had our schedules turned upside down!! Of course, kids choose to fall sick during the only week you can't work from home (as was the case with my husband) or have Court work every single day of the week ( as was the case with me!) We do have Abhay’s paternal grandparents at home ... so why are we complaining... ?? Simply because no one can get Abhay to have his medicines except his mom and dad!!! If there's one thing at which his maternal grandparents (who are otherwise quite persistent) have conceded defeat, it is in the task of getting Abhay to gulp down the anti-biotic, in whatever form! Of course, not that we are Subject matter experts..... but as parents, we have no one to pass the buck over to!! So by hook or crook, by threat or bribery, by fair means or foul, we had to ensure the pink liquid's passage into his tummy and also see to its retention! Even during exams, I hadn't been  as tensed as I was while handing over 4 ml of antibiotic syrup to Abhay and waiting with bated breadth for our not-so-little one to sip the same bit by bit over the following one hour as rushing him into a "bottoms up" will only yield in him throwing up in the same breadth!:-) So mid way, along with a course of antibiotics and paracetamol,  you can imagine how despondent the situation got when the Doctor also prescribed an additional cough syrup!!!! I almost wished that I hadn't gone the doctor for a follow-up check-up and instead should have let him cough his way to recovery!:-)

Reading is one of the best things you can do to cheer your little one on a sick day..or days.  I was looking for books on coaxing my little one into taking medicines without a fuss, but couldn't find one. So we first read a Charlie and Lola 's "I am really ever so not well" by Lauren Child. Lola is down with cold and flu and  Charlie reluctantly tries to cheer her up while waiting for his friend Marv's phone call  to go a football match with him. Finally when the phone calll does come, Charlie discovers that he has caught his sister's cold, making him feel "so not well" too! 
We read another book that has a young girl trying hard to save her mother as she falls ill.  "Cloud tea Monkeys"  - Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham and illustrated by Alan Marks is a book I have been wanting to read ever since we participated in friend and fellow blogger Bubbleink's picture book treasure hunt

This is the story of Shenaz whose mother works for a tea plantation in the hills. Shenaz accompanies her mother to the plantation everyday where her mother picks tea leaves along with other tea workers under the hawk eyed supervision of the Overseer. Shenaz sits in her usual  place, where endless rows of tea bushes appear broken by a jumble of rocks out of which a tree stands and spills shadow onto the ground. She is not alone but enjoys the company of a herd of monkeys headed by their lead monkey Rajah who all form an integral part of her daily routine at the plantation. One day, Shenaz wakes up to find her mother ill and not able work anymore. Shenaz then decides to work at the plantation in her place and drags the basket that is bigger than her onto the path leading up to the plantation. As she accompanies her aunt Shami, she is terrified of the Overseer who ridicules Shenaz and kicks her basket. Shenaz drags her empty basket to her usual spot and pours her heart out to Rajah when suddenly all the adult monkeys pull her basket and climb up the mountain moving high up almost into the clouds. As she wakes up from her nap,  she is surprised to see her basket full of tea leaves that are the colours of emeralds with tiny droplets of due sprinkled on them making the basket seem full of green light and give out a rich sweet perfume. When Shenaz brings the basket to  the Overseer's station, she finds a purple shaded chair tent - and out steps the Royal tea taster who's wrapped in a silver coat and a blue turban, with a white moustache and a nose shaped like an eagle's beak. He  visits the farm to scout for the best tea for the Empress. The tea taster is unimpressed with all baskets in the farm, but he is amazed to see what Shenaz has to offer ...cloud tea that is so hard to find and pick as it grows so high up in the mountains that its almost near the clouds.  Does Shenaz manage to impress the Royal tea taster ? Does Shenaz help her mother get well? Read on as you learn in the end that there are only three people in the world who drink cloud tea. One of them is a small woman called the Empress of all the Known World and Bits that have not been discovered yet and the other two are retired tea picker and her daughter who live in village at the foot of the mountain whose top is lost in clouds. We loved the mystery and setting of a faraway land and the perceptive  portrayal of the helplessness of young girl trying to take on adult-like responsibilities which she handles in a child-like manner and courage! Brilliantly written and illustrated, this book is truly a master piece and a must read for young  readers! If not the antibiotic.....at least Abhay took in cloud tea.....  most eagerly and wanted more of it! :-) 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Aha! ........Yakshagana!

With Aha! International theatre for children festival on at Rangashankara until the 20th of this month, the highlight for us this year is most definitely the Yakshagana performance of "Jatayu Moksha" put up children from Udupi’s Yakshagana Kendra.
Yakshagana is folk theatre that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume and stage techniques with a unique style and form native to coastal Karnataka. Though I’ve been brought up in Bangalore, I have grown up watching and listening to Yakshagana performances during the annual Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in our native village or during our numerous holiday visits. With most Yakshagana performances based on stories from Hindu mythology, a Yakshagana performance typically begins during the twilight hours and extends through the night! The performance consists of a storyteller, called the Bhagavatha who narrates the story by singing as the actors dance to the music, perform the dialogues, there being ample scope for improvisation and on-the spot philosophical debates within the framework of the plot and the mythological character being played. Accompanied by his grandparents, who are true Yakshagana aficionados, this was the first time Abhay was watching young artists don the spectacular costumes and setting the stage on fire with their traditional yakshagana dance steps and spins while beautifully displaying the fierceness, gallantry and maturity of the adult characters they were portraying. We are indeed grateful to AHA children’s theatre for bringing our little one closer to our roots!!J


Ideally I would have liked to read a book on Yakshagana that explains the art form in an age appropriate manner, but since I couldn’t find such a book, I had to settle for a  story closer to the plot of yesterday’s  performance “Jatayu Moksha”.  As a prelude to the show, I had picked up “Divine Beings’ by Amar Chitra publications,  a mini-omnibus on non-human mythological characters like Jatayu, Nandi, Airavata, Shyama and Sabala, etc.
We read the story of the magnificent vulture, named Jatayu scripted by Mimi Chacko and illustrated by Arijit Dutta Chowdary. Not many of us were aware (at least I wasn’t!)  that Jatayu was the son of Aruna, the Sun- God’s charioteer, Garuda’s nephew and Sampati’s brother. Not only that, Jatayu’s benevolence saved Dasharatha’s life and thereafter went on help his son Rama too. Most of us are aware of the story of Jatayu’s valiant efforts to rescue Sita from the evil clutches of Ravana and his resultant injury that moved Rama into performing his last rites with full honours… bringing in water from seven sacred rivers so that Jatayu’s soul is granted salvation. But to have the young troupe bring life to this famous story from Ramayana through the indigenous art form of Yakshagana was truly an unforgettable experience!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

AHA! ...once again!

The Aha! International  theatre for children festival is back at Rangashankara between the 10th and 20th of July! Like last year…the festival boasts of an impressive line-up of children’s plays by theatre groups from India and all over the world, including a plays for toddlers and a film show for older kids. Like last year…....we checked the festival schedule and had our tickets booked as soon as the bookings opened. Like last year, we’re taking turns to accompany Abhay for five of the eight plays being staged this year. So if Abhay’s daddy took him for “The Little Blue Planet” yesterday, it was my turn to take him for “Heroes Weroes” today…. And his grandparents have chipped in to take him for the Yakshagana performance tomorrow….and so on! Unlike last year though…this year  Abhay’s school too has come forward has planned a class field trip for one of the plays during the coming week……thus saving us from readjusting our schedule for one weekday at least! Phew!! J

Today’s performance is “Heroes Werose” by Theateact, Mumbai. This is a hilarious physical comedy that seeks to question the idea of a super hero solving all our problems. Abhay was completely taken in by the super hero histrionics, lighting effects and couldn’t stop laughing at the supposed dialogues…a mix of English and Gibberish! If ever happen get a chance…don’t miss the play Heroes Werose!

As a follow-up to the play, we read “Eric! ..the hero?” by Chris Wormwell. This is the story of Eric who seemed to be no good at anything and was called many names  like Twit, Dummy, Dunce and Dope! Eric thus felt miserable and he ran away. As he grew tired, he began wandering in the forest… when he heard a shout from a woodcutter who came rushing out of the woods screaming that a huge monster has come down from the mountains and suddenly hordes of people  were seen fleeing across the fields towards the king’s castle. As Eric turned and ran with them, they felt enormous footsteps of the Monster approach when he heard someone shouting – “Where’s a hero when you need one”…to which someone else shouted back that any hero would need to be a twit to fight someone as huge as the said monster and others added in that he’d have to be a Nitwit or a dummy or a dunce or a dope! This made Eric think since he was considered to be all of that….he may as well be a hero and wondered if that’s what he’s good at??!!! Does Eric become a hero, after all? Read on as everyone in the castle, including his mother watch as Eric takes on the monster who in turn happens to be wallowing in self-doubt himself! We all are our own heroes….isn’t it??

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Once there was a raindrop!

After a couple of false alarms, the southwest monsoon has finally hit  some parts of India, including Bangalore! Despite being a watered down version of last year's monsoon, wet and rainy evenings  unmistakably mark the beginning of the rainy season, as opposed to some magazines, including a few children's publications would have you believe that we are heading into summer......simply because the West is at the peak of its summer!!  Seriously....aren't we Americanized enough already....must out seasons follow suit too?? Sure.....the international schools in India follow the American Baccalaureate system with their summer holidays coinciding with the summer break in the American schools......but they are still located in India.....right?? It is true that some parts of India are yet to experience  monsoon, but that doesn't mean  the whole nation has moved into a temperate zone and the cover feature  in a June-July supplement of a popular women's magazine should be "Hot new ideas for summer" !  As much as the  editors of the said magazine may want to belong to a different weather zone.....they better be "umbrella ready" when they visit Namma Bengaluru!!!  :-)

I almost did not have any book ready for our monsoon read.....and so chose to reserve this book at the British Library over three weeks ago. But by the time the book arrived.... not only did the monsoon intensify...but also I had a couple more books to read during this year's rainy season! To start with, we read "Once there was a raindrop" by Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon, a part of the Nature's Miracles series. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as Abhay had read "Forms of Water" at school as a part of his EVS (Environmental Science) This is a nice little book simplifying the concept of the water cycle to kids and throwing light on  what happens to a raindrop once its falls on the ground.   Though a work of non-fiction, the author beautifully explains the concept with the aid of cheerful illustrations of children shown jumping into puddles, getting soaked in rain or going up a ropeway mirroring the water vapour rising high into the sky! So the raindrop that falls on your little one has a long way to go.....into the underground drain, then into stream and finally flows into the sea. That's not all, as the sun warms the surface of the sea, the warmer water turns into water vapour, which rises into the air and as it travels higher and higher, water vapour cools down to turn into tiny droplets of water accumulated in a cloud only to fall back on earth as raindrops again! So as you read on.....you realize that every drop of water is recycled, over and over again by Mother Nature. It's time we do too...isn't it?? A nice little book that has rain on every page...just ls we hope to have rain ...every day!!!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Over the last weekend, we went for a performance of Frank L Baum'sThe Wizard of Oz” staged by the students of Bangalore School of Speech and Drama. (BSSD) Though we’ve been to a number of children’s plays mostly at Rangashankara, or some at Jagriti and Chowdiah memorial hall, most shows have been performed by professional theatre artists or productions by well known theatre groups. This is the first time we watched a performance put up by a group of talented children from BSSD aged five and above ……and what a grand show it was! Abhay sat enthralled through-out the performance which  resembled a Broadway musical….with the live performances by kids…err actors, spectacular lighting and sound effects and amazing dance choreography that’ll put even the most popular television dance reality shows to shame!  Like Dr. Zulfia Shaikh, the Founder-Director of Bangalore School of Speech and Drama says ….we all know the story of Wizard of Oz, but to recreate the magic of Frank L Baum’s American classic on stage with kids/actors like our little ones and put up such a magnificent show  ….is truly a laudable initiative! Kudos to the staff and students of Bangalore School of Speech and Drama!

It can be anyone’s guess that the story of the day on Onestoryaday is of course Frank L Baum's “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. Although I would have preferred to read a picture book or a Junior fiction version of the story,  but what I could lay my hands on …….just in time before the play was a graphic novel by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young brought out by Marvel Publications.
The Eisner Award winning author teams up with artist Skottie Young to present an imaginative rendition of the Wizard of Oz that includes certain lesser known sub-plots of the American fantasy adventure. The narrative is featured in a graphic novel format that will surely have your young reader sit in rapt attention! The creative artwork speaks volumes about the turn of events while unraveling the mysteries of the land of Oz. We particularly loved the portrayal of the flash back moments of Tin Woodman, Winged Monkeys or the Great Oz himself!!!! Though a tad long, this is a great introduction to graphic novels for young readers. However a note of caution to parents who plan on making this a bedtime read for it can turn into a daily night-time soap opera on print like it has in our household…..

The reading of Frank L Baum’s “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young     
Timings: Daily from 9.30 PM  to 10 PM 
Venue: Abhay’s bed             
Dates – 24.06.2014 to 04.07.2014 (hopefully!)
Enjoy your journey into the World of Oz!!! :-)