Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Weekend with Ganesha!

It’s that time of the year again when RV Road or any market in Bangalore is lined with Ganesha idols of various sizes and colours… Yes….Gowri-Ganesha Chaturthi, one of the biggest festivals of Karnataka is here! Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations bring communities, neighbourhoods and families together…in a way that no other festival does…isn’t it? Besides worshipping Gowri-Ganesh idols at home, Ganesha can be found everywhere…….be it on almost every street of neighbourhood or apartment complex or one’s professional group/associations or a private Radio station, everyone has a Ganesha idol to call their own! Why? Even the Bangalore Civil Court complex boasts of Ganesha chaturthi festivities with a giant idol of Lord Ganesha …..!!! Of course…this has many knocking at our doors for collections/contributions with a promise of  “prasada” that is to follow….as if it were a bait!! :-)
Most celebrations also include cultural programs that range from music shows to story times and craft activities for kids, including making your own eco-friendly Ganesha or Ganesha made of leaves!

But whatever it is that is happening in Bangalore……we will have to give it a miss as we are off to my native village, Dharmasthala, like every year for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations or chauthi as it is referred in the South Kanara region of Karnataka. Ganesh habba followed by the weekend……is more than you can ask for to …. feast, meet and for a refreshing retreat!:-)))))  

As far as Ganesha stories go, we remembered the apple resembling Ganesha in "Apple Ganesha" from Tulika's  Little Indians by Pika Nani, a story set in Kotagarh,Himachal Pradesh,  known as the Apple heartland of India. 
But for this year's Ganesh Chaturthi, we first picked up picked up "Ganesha" in a bi-lingual format by Appu series that explains how Ganesha came to have an elephant head. Another read on Ganesha is the Amar Chitra Katha publication, "Ganesha and the Moon" that features five different stories on Ganesha. We all know why the moon earned Lord Ganesha's wrath for laughing at Ganesha, but do we know the story of Ganesha and Atmalinga, or the story of how Ganesha wrests the Chintamani from the arrogant Gana or lastly the legend of Shami and Mandar, whose fate is sealed due to a curse, the effect of which that Ganesha helps temper down. It demonstrates that if Ganesha can be touchy enough to curse the moon, he can also be benevolent and shrewd enough to avert the impending danger and save the world! Hope this Ganesh Chaturthi destroys all obstacles and brings peace and prosperity to all your lives! Happy Ganesha Chaturthi! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Freedom Run!

 As our nation turns 68 today, like many Indians, we too watched the Independence day celebrations on television and keenly listened in on our Prime Minister’s maiden I-day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, New Delhi and also followed it up by attending the flag hoisting ceremony in our community neighbourhood. Over the years, Independence day celebrations have gone beyond the traditional flag-hoisting- patriotic-singing ceremonies and the emphasis is more now on celebrating India in all its pride, history and diversity. So from Tiranga halwa at I-day buffets to I-day discounts and offers and I-day children’s story-hours, its “Happy Independence day” all the way!

I so wish we could attend the Independence day special story time organized by friend and fellow blogger Cuddles and Reads, but due a prior engagement, we had to make do with a freedom story at home!:-) While Independence day is a time to reflect on the struggles and sacrifices our forefathers who fought for India’s freedom, it is also a time reflect in other freedoms we need to fight for today. I remember the centerpiece of  Independence day celebrations at our school was always be a map of India with  question “Is India free?” Going by the same issue, today we read a story that throws light on the plight of the forgotten children of ….Khamaria in Uttar Pradesh where the children are made to work all day at the carpet looms. “Freedom Run” by Subhadra Sen Gupta and Tapas Guha  is a level 4 reader in a comic book format brought out by Pratham publications. Meant for slightly older children, this is a moving story revolving around three children Kallan, Mansoor and Gokul who are made to work at the carpet loom to pay off their parents’ debt. All of them long to be free from the drudgery of knotting carpets for Mir Ali, the loom owner at whose hands they suffer physical and emotional abuse. It is only when they meet Munna Bhai, a social worker, that they realize that it’s illegal to make children work to pay off loans. Munna Bhai even offers to take them to Sewapuri where they can study and earn by weaving at the same time. But the question is how will they get to Sewapuri?? Meanwhile Gokul’s brother Rahul tries to rescue him from the evil clutches of Mir Ali and his associates…..?? Do the children manage to escape to freedom?? Will they be free like the rest of the children?? Read on as your young reader ponders over the harsh realities of life and goes on to understand the value of freedom…which we all take for granted!!! Lets hope this Independence day brings freedom to many such children who are victims of circumstances……!!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

When the rains come!

With the near revival of monsoon…….everyone from the farming community to stock brokers are upbeat about the possibility of normal monsoon this year. At the same time, many areas that have received heavy rainfall recently are on a flood or disaster alert!  I just can’t get enough of the cloudy days and rainy evenings ….not to mention the crispness in the air and the near- nippy nights that seem like a teaser for this year’s winter!  Why…we even made a last minute change and extended our stay at our farm house in South Kanara,  a few weeks ago just to experience the monsoon magic of the coastal rain! Well….the trade off ... was lots of pending homework when we got back!:-(((  

As a part of the monsoon special…… we read "When the rains come" by Tom Pow and Malika Favre, a tale set in Malawi, in South East Africa. This book is as they say "A Story within a story" and the beauty lies in how the story within seamlessly  continues through various interludes....very similar to  how it sometimes happens at home…right?. The story starts off with an African lady, by name Beatrice dropping off  her children, twins Oscar and Jennifer and baby Grace off at Grandmother Rose's house as she is going away on work. The children slowly settle in with Grandmother Rose who regals them with her favorite story of the tortoise who brought forth water when the whole land was parched owing to a great drought.

Once upon a time, grandma begins ... There was a great drought and all animals are weak and thirsty ... when the least important of all animals, the tortoise suggests that if they animals stamp on the earth, water will flow! Though most animals are skeptical, for lack of better ideas,  decide to try out his idea. The lion steps in first and stamped and stamped hard on earth, but not a spot of dampness appears! Branding it a silly idea, the lion gives up.

Just as grandma was about to go on, she notices that Oscar and Jennifer appear to even more tired than the lion as they had fallen fast asleep! :-))) During the day, the children go about their routine that includes queuing up with other children of the village for their share of the porridge and helping grandma to sell her vegetables in the market and having fun along the way. At night...once again it’s time for grandma to continue the episode of "The Tortoise and the Drought"…....picking up from where she had left before.

 Grandma thus resumes ……The lion is followed by the elephant  and then the giraffe both of whom kick up dust and nothing else! Finally the tortoise  who is the closest to the ground notices the dampness rising from the a spring of water deep within the earth and steps forward to try out his own idea, as other animals ridicule further.

But just as the plot thickens, the twins are seen dozing off in an "anti-climax" of sorts!:-) Soon the days pass by, the twins and baby Grace are getting stronger and seem to be learning new things, thanks to informal training by one of the dancers of the village by name Promise! The hot dry months finally yield to the rains.....and when the rains come....grandma Rose believes its time for the Tortoise and the Drought story to end!

So at night...grandma continues.....

"Tortoise lifts his scaly little foot and stamps on earth. Though not a sound was made and not a speck of dust raised but from dry earth, there comes a tongue of water licking its way through the dust...."

So everyone agrees that the least and lowest can turn out to be cleverest.....!!! So grandma goes on to conclude that because of what tortoise had done, he was made the king! As Jennifer wonders aloud if the tortoise made a good king.........grandma sensing  another story in the offing...........says "that is another story ' !!:-) 

 The story of the tortoise and the drought becomes their favourite rain story too. Soon their mother Beatrice is home and all of them join in getting the leaking roof repaired so that it rains only outside! Safe and warm inside.....Oscar and Jennifer can’t wait to tell their mother their favourite story......and baby Grace too gurgles in delight! At the end...the story switches to the story within ...and in a way provides an answer to Jennifer question about Tortoise's tenure as the king!  An African folk-tale beautifully inter-wined with the story of survival, community spirit and hope…in all  making this a must read for young readers. The rains have indeed come……!!! J

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Friends for life!

When Google plus asks you add people and categorize them into different circles, the “circle of friends” has probably most number of members…right?? That’s because people you bond with in many cases may outnumber the people you have been bonded with!:-) Friendships can blossom from various places and circumstances….. for instance being in the same place at the same time over a considerable period of time. I had read about life-long friendships between people who travel by the same local train, who share everything from their lunch boxes to life stories, but have never visited each other’s homes!  So one may have friends touching upon every facet of one’s life, current and past… from school-bus friends to morning walk or gym buddies you meet  only for a short time in the morning to colleagues and chai buddies at office, from kitty party friends to weekly music /tennis classes mommy friends, from blogger friends online to community comrades offline, friends from a bygone era now with  renewed ties thanks to Facebook and Whatsapp, family friends who mean more than extended family…..truly friends make your life richer, happier and  much more fulfilling …….and this is a day to wish them all a Happy friendship day!

While we all have been blessed with company of good friends in our lives, here’s hoping our little ones too enjoy the company of friends….at every juncture of their lives. What a better way to celebrate friendship day than to read about two friends who despite their differences and oddities and best of friends! “My Friend is sad” an Elephant and Piggie Adventure by Mo Willems, is a book we received from my blogger friends at the picture book exchange initiated by friend and fellow blogger Bubbleink. Gerald, the Elephant is feeling low and Piggie in her attempt to cheer him up tries many things from putting on a cowboy costume to dressing up like a robot  only to realize that all the while Gerald was unhappy as he wanted to enjoy the sight of a cowboy, clown and a robot with his best friend Piggie! A nice little story that conveys a simple message that most growing kids can relate to - it’s no fun when your best friend’s not around!!! Isn’t it??