Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For a Quiet Diwali........

The biggest festival amongst Hindus, Diwali or Deepavali is here! While there is no stopping for the annual festivities, family traditions or Diwali Dhamaka sales and offers, this Diwali has seen many people vowing for a greener and cleaner Diwali. With the recent spate of fire accidents in many parts of India owing to fire crackers, an appeal has been made in public interest by various Government and non-government agencies including schools to observe a cracker free Diwali due to ensuing the air and noise pollution and solid waste generated from bursting any kind of fire crackers. Personally, while we’ve never been big fans of noise causing crackers and our Diwali evenings was restricted to lighting the relatively noiseless sparklers, flowerpots and earth twisters, but this time we tried to do away with those too! Though our eight year old, (who has always had his ear plugs on every Diwali) was not gung-ho about the idea initially, we are on Day 1 and it’s been so far so good! Believe me, it’s not just us but many kids on our street are rooting for a quieter Diwali ….may be it’s only a matter of time for the whole neighbourhood to turn our biggest festival into our biggest pro-environment endeavour! Well…think about it….. Diwali evenings are probably best meant for other ways of celebration ..…like may be revisiting the long forgotten bhajans (Abhay is wincing!) or may be catching the latest Bollywood Diwali release with friends and family…..(Abhay is nodding rigorously!)….other than causing noise and pollution! So here’s wishing everyone a cracker-free yet a dazzling Diwali!  

As much as I wanted to read “Diwali gift” by Shwetha Chopra and Shuchi Mehta, I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy just in time for my Diwali post and found the pricing of the hardback a little too steep going by Indian standards. Since we are on the topic of going green this Diwali, I am taking the liberty of sharing an inpsiring true story found in the October issue of children’s magazine, Highlights Champs, in its Goofus and Gallant section.  A Quiet Diwali" by Ashish Jain. This is a story of the 14 year old twins in Chindwada, Madhya Pradesh,… Yash and Yashika Jain who are asked to address their school on the eve of Diwali. The teenage twins describe their  life changing experience of having visited the burn ward of a local hospital during the previous Diwali and were so moved that they jointly decide to boycott crackers once and for all. From then the children have been travelling around Chindwada spreading the message of a quiet and a cracker free Diwali! Just as they finished their address, the teacher asks the students as to how many of the students  plan to celebrate Diwali without crackers …..and you can only imagine what the response was! So are you and your little one ready for a quiet Diwali??   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mumbai magic!


With most schools closed for Dassera vacations and the ensuing long weekend has had many Bangaloreans catch the travel bug last week…..and how could we be left behind? But unlike our previous travels, we decided on a long pending visit to Mumbai that we’ve been putting off for a decade now. So it was a combination of sorts – visiting/calling on extended family and friends and exploring the commercial capital of India! While we drove in air conditioned cars trudging through the vast expanse of the city’s landscape, we also jostled with the crowd in its local trains; While we were roamed around some of the affluent neighborhoods of Bandra and Juhu and were star struck by simply being shown the houses of famous film stars,  we also enjoyed sauntering around the inner gullies of old town Mumbai and haggling with vendors and shop keepers; While we dined at an upscale restaurant in one of Mumbai’s numerous malls, we also relished the lip smacking authentic Maharashtrian cuisine – so in all savoured every slice the Mumbai magic!

While on a customised sight-seeing tour of the city, we stopped by a couple of exclusive children’s bookstores, leaving our tour guide quite perplexed!  He didn’t know what to make of us as we were done with some of the usual tourist attractions within minutes but took an hour or two at places like Kahani Tree! We first visited Spellbound which is “the place to go” for foreign authors and publications.

After having picked quite a few books, we then chanced upon Kahani Tree, housed in the office of Mumbai based publisher Vakils, Feffer and Simons, it was a like a dream come true to look up a little bookstore dedicated to children’s books brought out by independent publishers in India such as Tulika, Tara and Katha publications. It was indeed a pleasure to meet and interact with Ms. Sangeeta Bhansali, the center’s  Director, Duckbill author Parinita Shetty along with another picture book enthusiast, a mommy like me! A big thanks to Kahani tree for enriching our travel experience like never before ......  truly the most memorable Mumbai moment for us!

As I was looking for children’s books based out of Mumbai, Devaki Bhujang-Gajare from Little Reader's Nook in Mumbai had suggested a couple of books, and sure enough I found them both at Kahani tree.

 Miss Muglee goes to Mumbai” by Saker Mistri and Shaheen Mistri and illustrated by Sirajul Khan and Sheetal Shah brought out by Vakils Feffer and Simons is a part of the series of adventure stories about Muglee, a lonely crocodile and her friends. Muglee feels down and low over her lack of friends and envies other animals for she feels nobody loves the reptile race as a pet, when the friendly frog, Faisal suggests that they travel to Mumbai city. Faisal seeks to introduce Muglee to a charming kitty who has friends who are great fun and will play with everyone! So Muglee excitedly packs her belongings which include her facial cream, toothpaste and ghagras that may just impress a Bollywood movie star! As they reach Mumbai city, Muglee and Faisal find themselves overwhelmed with its skyscrapers and crowded streets and sluggish traffic, while managing to squeeze into a local bus, when they finally meet the charming Kitty at Kitty chowk! So does Muglee manage to make friends under the auspices of Kitty and her associates …read on to find out and go Yezookee jimpee jumpee joh with Muglee and her escapades! With playful collage/cut paper illustrations, Miss Muglee’s stories are sure to appeal to younger children and are ideal for read aloud story times too!

Another book Abhay seemed to devour is “366 words in Mumbai” by Mirabelle D’Cunha and illustrated and designed by Suhita Mitra, brought out by Fun OK publications, as a part of knowledge based series on India’s cities, like our own Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi. This book takes the young reader through the history, culture, festivals, dominant seasons and various landmarks of Mumbai in a “look and find” format that adds to up learning 366 words on the city! This book doubles up as a comprehensive tour guide for kids presented and narrated by little Mumbaikars Neel and Sivana. Since we had this book  on our sight-seeing expedition, Abhay was able to live through some of the Mumbai experiences as and when he read about them – live and in action! Aided with colouful illustrations, this book also features a child friendly map and fun facts and statistics about the city that never sleeps! A must have if you are planning a trip to Mumbai!