Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Oregonian Christmas!!

December always brings memories! Whether it's a time to reflect on the year that went by, or the wedding season or the holiday rush or simply the spirit of Christmas that takes over everyone and everything around - the last month of the year is almost always eventful! Christmas always reminds us of our short stay in the US and while it's been quite some time since we got back, this season takes me back to those days when we used to wait in line for our older one to sit on the lap of a "Mall Santa"! Now that the malls in Bangalore have caught up and seem to be sporting their own Santas... our younger one will want us to do an encore very soon!!!

So this Christmas... we took a trip down memory lane by reading a book gifted by a dear friend on her visit to India from Portland. "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon" by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, is an Oregonian take on the traditional story, showcasing the specialities and highlights of Oregon.  Narrated in the form of letters written by Damon, a young boy during his visit to his cousin Liz and her family in Oregon, this book takes you on whirl wind tour of the Beaver State -from rainforest to desert to the mountains and to the beach. Accompanied by colourful illustrations, follow Liz and Damon as they begin their journey from the "Crown point" on the Historic Columbia River Highway on a trailer that looks like a cottage on wheels. As they make many a stopovers at various "must-see" spots like Crater lake, Painted hills, Mount Bachelor, and the city of Portland, the reader is acquainted with fun and fascinating facts about the state. Having visited many of the places featured, we took Abhay on a nostalgic slide show of old photos and pictures taken during what now seems to be a different era altogether! :-) Packed with light hearted wit and humour, breezy narrative and scrapbook styled imagery,  this makes an interesting read for everyone who lives, plans to live or has lived in Oregon! On a personal note.. several years may pass or we may be several thousands of miles away, but a quick read of this book is all it takes for us to revisit those memorable Oregonian days! A memorable Christmas to everyone!:-) 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Habit of Reading

The Habit of Reading
M.V. Sundararaman
More often than not I wind up recruitment interviews with my stock question “Do you read?” or “What are you reading right now?” Over the past seven to eight years, when I must have interviewed not less than thirty to forty enthusiastic, young lawyers, the answers that I have got from candidates (whose ages range from about 23 years to about 30 years) not surprisingly range from “Hmmm…I don’t read much” or “I read occasionally, whenever I find time” or “Yes. I read online” !!. Bookshelves today, in most households that I have visited, don’t seem to favour more than a Chetan Bhagat or an Amish. Rarely do I hear anyone tell me that they reading Ruskin Bond or Rushdie or that R.K. Narayan or Saki are amongst their favourites. Most children today have not even heard of their works. Yes, that’s sadly true. We will all soon start hearing of new year resolutions. “Get fit”, “Join a gym” “start cycling”, “get married” are all the usual suspects. When did I last hear “read more” or ‘start reading” or “join a library” as someone’s resolution? I simply can’t recall.
Maugham’s view that to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life, seems to be relevant today only with a rider: the strength of the refuge that you construct for yourself depends on the strength of your reading !  I have no hesitation in saying reading has greatly enriched my life, deepened my moments of solitude and has empowered my understanding of human nature, its outstanding virtues and oddities. Books have warmly welcomed me into the world of history, wildlife, warfare, culture and several other absorbing and fascinating genres.
When anxious parents ask me “How do I inculcate the reading habit in my child?” my impulsive responses are either “Do you read?” orDo you have an atmosphere of books at home?”. If the answer is “yes”, then, I tell them that the task is not difficult at all. If the answer is “no”, well even then I tell them that the task is not difficult at all!!  Over the years, my interactions with fellow-readers, bibliophiles, parents of “reading”-children and of course early readers, have led me to discover several simple techniques to help cultivate a reading habit and more importantly enhance my reading experience. Here they are:-
·        Create a reading environment at home:- Nothing is more conducive to reading than a carefully nurtured reading-environment at home. A reasonably well-stocked shelf of varied genres of different authors suitable to your child’s age is the first-step towards creating the right setting for your child. Keeping books in locations easily accessible to the child is a definite plus;

·                   Keep a couple of books with you always:- “Always a book for the road” has been my motto. Long drives need not always be laughter and chatter. They can be interspersed with quiet moments of reading from your “carbrary”. It maybe useful to carry a book that you have discussed earlier and allow the child to explore the book on his own during the drive. Waiting at the Dentist’s could never be more interesting if you carried a book along !  

·                   Never say “no” to reading:- I have often noticed parents discouraging children from bringing/reading books at the dining table or read while on the train or while driving. There is no scientific evidence of any harm being caused to the child, his digestion, his eyesight or memory because he read while eating or while in the car. Given the acute paucity of quality time and rapid decline in reading habits, my view is, anywhere is good. Just let them read. Anywhere.

·                   Dedicate an hour or two every week to spend on reading together:- Nothing can be more fun than a family activity. If you can take pains to organise a family outing, if you can find exclusive time to pray or swim or cycle together, you can then ofcourse find time to read together. If you think reading should become your child’s priority, then please prioritize his reading time too. The Sanskrit adage “Yatha Raja, Tattha Praja” is apt here. If the child grows up in the company of books, seeing reading-parents, he will become a reading-parent himself.

·                   Book Shops, Libraries, Lit fests and Book Exhibitions:- Watch out for book fests and book Exhibitions in your city. These events are almost regulars in all metros and can be marked in calendars well in advance. These events have innumerable activities to enthuse children to read and love reading. Nothing can be more pleasurable than visiting second hand books shops. Allow the child to explore the shop at his own, easy pace and you will never return unrewarded from these tours.

·                   Actively discourage mindless TV viewing and Gaming:- Reading and Television, and now Internet and gaming, have been natural enemies. It is most normal for the child to take the path of least resistance and sacrifice reading time for a cartoon show or for a round of “Clash of Clans”. Reading with the child, reading aloud to the child, continually helping the child understand the imagery, setting and background of a book will fire his imagination and help him savour a book in the place of a TV show ;

·                   Encourage borrowing and lending of books:- Nothing can be more beneficial to a child than having access to more than his own library. Never discourage your child from lending his books. But insist that he keeps track of the books that he has lent. This will not only inculcate responsibility in the child, but it would also open the possibilities of your child borrowing from his friends.
Having said all this, I must also point out that a reading habit is ultimately a habit. It depends on us. When Stephen Covey said “We become what we repeatedly do”, he ofcourse didn’t refer to the habit of reading. But reading the right book, the right author and the right genre, in my experience, is one of the easiest habits to cultivate and nurture. Never fear having picked up a wrong book. After having read a couple of pages if you are unable to continue, toss it and go for another. There are a billion others waiting to be read. Like all other habits, a reading habit will normally start as a cobweb, and can become a rock-strong cable, with tenacity and perseverance. Just go for it !!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

These are a few of our favorite books....!

 After being a devout follower of this blog since its inception, I’m so happy to be a more “active” part of it! When Divya asked me to write a post, I was wondering where I should begin…With a kindergartner and pre-schooler at home, we collectively enjoy everything from the first baby/picture books to early readers. Storytime is welcome at any time of day and the best part is when the big sis gets to read to her little brother and show off her newly acquired skills!
I’d like to share a few series that are closest to our heart and books we’ve read so often that they’ve been internalized (and memorized, even by my 2.5 year old)!! The main reason behind this is that we seem to identify so closely with the characters and see a bit of ourselves in them. Some of these series have made their appearances on this blog before since they are such all-time favorites. Anyway, here are some of ours:

1.       Llama Llama misses Mama (by Anna Dewdney)
For months (years!!??), the toughest part of the mornings for me and my son has been drop off at daycare. All the tears and drama are often just for mama, but this mama (like most other mamas) melts at the sight of her little llama waving sadly to her as she leaves for work every day. Finally, thanks to this classic, my little llama has learnt that his mama needs go to work and will be back soon. The story is so simple and yet so effective in voicing a little child’s feeling of separation- my son just can’t get enough of the little llama classic!

2.       DW’s Guide to Preschool & The First Day of School (Little Critter series)
When our daughter started preschool a couple years ago, we were very anxious since she had been through the same months of separation anxiety at daycare (and we were yet to discover ‘Llama Llama misses Mama’ at the time!). Thanks to “The First Day of School” by Mercer Mayer & “DW’s Guide to Preschool” by Marc Brown, she seemed to transition so seamlessly. Both books go through the typical preschool/big school routine and the best part, is that they make it sound like so much fun!
The “First Day of School” is extra special since it was Abhay’s book (Does he remember it, Divya??).

3.       The Pigeon Series – by Mo Willems
How could I not include these much-loved and read books of ours? We’ve recently discovered 2 new ones – “The Duckling gets a Cookie” and “The Pigeon Needs a Bath”.

In the first one, the Pigeon is clearly jealous at how “easily” the duckling manages to get something he asks for, while poor pigeon is always denied his requests (whether it’s to drive the bus, or want to stay up late or better still, when he wants a puppy). I think my older one identifies a little with this feeling…Are we slightly more indulgent towards the “baby” in the family? Does he get away with more that she does?? As parents, we never make any distinctions, but I’m sure older siblings believe that their parents are tougher on them and more indulgent with the little ones...
But here is the best part…when the pigeon asks why the duckling got the cookie with the nuts, the duckling says “because I wanted to give it to you”. How generous..? Or perhaps clever? (I suspect the duckling doesn’t care much for cookies with nuts!).

While my kids would fight over cookies (and many other things), both have one thing in common. They always seem to drag their feet when it comes to taking a bath at the end of the day…much like the pigeon who’s now clearly in need of one. And when he finally consents (after much pleading/shouting), he doesn’t want to leave the tub (so much like our own 2 pigeons who can’t stop playing in the tub when they finally make it there!).

Thanks Divya, for giving me this opportunity to share our beloved books…Wishing you and this wonderful blog, many more years of reading, sharing and learning!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gita for children!

Taking a cue from my friend and fellow blogger on “intolerance and all that jazz” that she guest posted on Onestoryaday, I found a perfect book for everyone to fall back on in these chaotic times. When in doubt or confusion, it’s not uncommon for us to turn to God or religious scriptures - be it the Gita, the Bible or the Quran. As a practising Hindu brought up and now married into a traditional household, seeking solace in religious activities like Bhajan singing, or reciting religious texts have been integral part of my life.  Though Abhay is still young, we make sure he participates in some of our routine religious activities at home, in whatever way he can afford to. While I am not sure how religious or spiritual my son will be in the future, it is our duty as parents to introduce them to our roots so that they know where to find them if and when they go looking for the same!

So when I learnt about Roopa Pai’s “Gita for children”, I jumped and reserved my copy in advance. Though Bhagvad Gita is essentially known as the single most important Hindu scripture, Roopa Pai’s rendition has a universal appeal, irrespective of religion one follows. Rated as one of the top-five selling books of 2015 in the Children’s and Young adult category by Amazon, “The Gita for children” by Roopa Pai  brought out by Hachette India   promises to be a one-of- a kind retelling of the Bhagvad Gita and I must say that it sure lives up to this promise! It starts with the million dollar question like “What’s the big deal about the Bhagvad Gita?” that opens into a quiz on the Gita that might as well serve as a preface to the book. With a brief explanation of the background facts leading up to the most important conversation in Hindu mythology, like any other commentary on the Gita, this one too is divided into eighteen chapters or “yogas” in which Arjuna learns all there is to learn about the secret of good life from Krishna! Employing a rather contemporary narrative, using catchy phrases and titles, Gita for children takes the reader through each of the shlokas or verses and explains their true essence in an uncharacteristic way that the current generation is able to relate to. For instance….have you ever heard of Lord Krishna being described as a Dark Knight??!!! With each chapter featuring the progress of conversation between Arjuna and Krishna and followed by a child appropriate analysis of the life’s lessons embedded in them, the author also throws light on lesser known facts in the form of fun trivia. Not to forget, the reader is also given a glimpse into excerpts of other works from Harper Lee’s To Kill Mockingbird to Paul McCartney’s song “Ebony and Ivory” that echo the sentiments of Gita!  In all, “The Gita for children” beautifully presents the timeless epic without oversimplifying its concepts so as to serve as a wonderful guide book to children and adults alike! A must have for every library!!!

Monday, December 7, 2015

BLF 2015!

Over the weekend, we attended the fourth edition of Bangalore Literature festival, an annual literary event that Bangalore is home to. We have been regulars at the BLF ever since it began in 2012, following it all the way to Electronic city (the venue for the event during the last two years) and splitting the two-day event between Abhay (our only child then) and ourselves. This year however we weren’t sure if we could make it with a six month old in tow!  However, with the run up to the event embroiled in controversies with some authors pulling out of the event and given that it was to be held at a near-by location, it became all the more imperative that we attend and support a community funded initiative such as BLF that we so look forward to attending each year. So there we were at the Royal Orchid hotel along with our nine year old and our six month old …shuttling between ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ discussions while keeping an eye on our older one’s activities at Makkala koota. Before you brand us as ‘reckless’ for dragging an infant to crowded event like this….hold on … as we found many such parents slinging their infants, some of whom were as little as four months old! BLF 2015 saw many workshops being held for children at the Makkala Koota wing. So much so that our nine year old was the busiest of all, perhaps to make up for his absence last year, starting with Tulika’s workshop with illustrator Sowmya Menon followed by Bookalore’s puppet party and Doodle Dhamaka where he got doodling on the doodle wall about his idea of Bengaluru. Thanks to the organizers who readily accommodated the needs of an infant, our little girl seemed to enjoy herself watching so many kids and hearing so many new sounds! So BLF 2015 was indeed a big hit with our little ones and here’s begging for more next year!  

Abhay was quite pleased to attend a Bookalore event after a long time and enjoyed the stories through puppets performed by Vijayalakshmi Nagraj, the author of many children’s books and one of whose books we decided to pick for our reading together. While Abhay is too old for   her book “Jhilmil the Butterfly”,  he is just right for her another one of her books “The Natural Wonders of India”, a publication by the Energy and Research Institute ( TERI) on nature’s bounty and beauty across the length and breadth of India. Join the twin girls Reva and Sarayu as they take your young reader on an armchair trip to the ten best natural spectacles in India. With a travel itinerary that could be anybody’s envy , from Pangong Tso, a pristine lake shared by India and Tibet at an altitude of 14,500 feet, where the twins spend their summer vacations to the salty marshlands of Rann of Kutch  and the Indroda Dinosaur and Fossil park at Gandhinagar, follow them as they explore the unique landscape and physical features, flora and fauna and the attendant conditions of living, while carrying a subtle message of environment conservation. Presented in a simple yet interesting narrative, and accompanied by vivid pictures and photographs, this book successfully manages to avoid the usual trappings of a work of non-fiction that children tend to steer clear from and sure can double up as travel book for your next vacation!! J

Intolerance and all that Jazz ! , so what's kid lit got to do with it ?

It has indeed been a tense year , the world over.

With attacks in Paris to the growing intolerance debates in India , to the latest floods in Chennai, there is a lot that the world has lost this year  - and that includes peace and tolerance !

Today , unfortunately social media is no longer a platform where you reunite with friends from school and college.

 Today we are made aware of  most national and international news through social media . There are heated arguments, debates view points  and trolls strewn all over the wall .

 Try as much as you can to keep yourself away from social media, we come back every day - only to witness more hatred and negativity ejected  around.

So what does growing intolerance , and terrorism got to do in a kid lit blog you ask?

Talking of tolerance, I chanced upon Strega nona - a story  about an aging witch and a young man , Anthony that comes to stay in her home.

Strega nona  is a friendly witch who helps her town people with their every day challenges and problems. She hires Anthony  to take care of her house and farm.  While Strega nona gives the lad complete access to her house, she warns him never to touch a pot that lies in her home.

Anthony goes about his daily routine of milking the cows and goats , washing the dishes and keeping the house clean.

However one day, by chance  , he hears her singing and on peeking, notices her standing by her pot .

As soon as she sang ....

    Bubble Bubble Pasta pot
    Boil me some pasta ,nice and hot
    I am hungry and its time to sup
    Boil enough pasta to fill me up

 he watched  the pasta pot boil and bubble and overflow with steaming hot pasta.

Curiosity gets the better of him and when she is away , he utters the same magic spell and tries his luck at the cooking  some hot pasta.

But what he didn't know was that the witch also blew 3 kisses at the pot to stop cooking more pasta.

Taking pride at his pasta magic, Anthony invites the entire village folk for a feast. But soon trouble starts to brew when the magic pot cannot stop cooking  pasta.

The entire village is flooded by the pasta spewing out of the pot and there is no stopping. Anthony tries sitting on the pot, he tries closing the pot but hard luck ! the pot continues to cook and flood the town with pasta .!

Strega Nona arrives on time to save the village from drowning in pasta

And the kind but stern witch that she was  - can you guess what punishment she gave the lad ?

She made him eat all the pasta with a fork - until he could take no more !

There you see - wasn't Strega nona the most  tolerant witch ever seen ?

In her anger , she could have brandished him with her magic spells. She could have turned him into pasta and cooked him in the pasta pot or she would have cast a spell and turned him into a lizard or a bee ! but she chose her curse carefully and ensured he had a taste of his own medicine.

What we type and post on social media in a huff ! leaves a lasting impression about us on people  who read our posts every day. After all - a pen is mightier than the sword, ain't it ?

So I hope what we choose to  SHARE and how we choose to REACT   and share on social media is sane enough for us to come back and feel proud of ,  else  who knows - one day you may have to gulp down some bitter pill  like the lad in the story .

oh boy ! I didn't intend to write something so serious as a sermon .

 The story is filled with wit and I love the illustrations as much as the story. The book is a Caldecott honor .  It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.[3]

And here's wishing One story a day , Divya and her kids many years of shared learning, reading and laughter !

Happy 2016 everyone !

Sunday, December 6, 2015

High Five!!

It’s been five years since I joined the ranks of many other moms and began blogging about my adventures in mommyhood through books on Onestoryaday! A lot has happened since then……. From relocating to India, transitioning from being a stay-at-home-mom to a working mom and now back to being a stay-at-home mom with the arrival of our second child..…life has come a full circle. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed ….it’s our daily reading adventures together. As a growing kid, Abhay has a mind of his own and is not exactly enthused by every book I pick out for him. As a growing boy, I now find him more drawn to cricket, sports and other kinesthetic driven activities and his interest in books slightly waning. Though, when it comes to independent reading he may alternate between reading obsessively to not reading at all, he always looks forward to our daily quota of shared reading together. 

While we try to religiously adhere to this bedtime activity, you can surely expect Abhay to extract those precious fifteen to twenty minutes from our winding-up routine that in turn transport us to different world altogether, amidst all the chaos at home that includes the idiot box blaring prime time news and a wailing six month old!:-)

Of course, this year has seen a big change in our household that has not only made our made lives busier but has also turned the clock backwards in as much as having to relearn the “Baby 101” basics and  experience those initial years of parenthood once again. Well…this could only be a blessing for a reading/blogging mommy like me…isn’t it??   For all those recently published board books and picture books that I wish I had come across when Abhay was little…’s a second chance for me to enjoy them with my little one! For all those girlie books that I wished I had a daughter to read to……I cant wait to read them to my little girl!! While Abhay has in a way grown out of picture books, I am waiting for his baby sister to grow into it!  Same time last year, didn’t I mention about finding an audience in addition to my existing one … it is!! So …long live Onestoryaday… I am all set to yet again relive my childhood!!

As has been the tradition  at Onestoryaday in December every year to invite readers and parents to share their favourite stories, books they read as a child and still loved by the child in them and so also the current favourites of their little ones. So here’s inviting all my readers to be a part of Onestoryaday……

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bedtime Interrupted!

Ever since I moved back home with my little one, we’re suffering through disturbed sleep every other night….not because of our six month old (touchwood!) but all thanks to our nine year old!  While Abhay had been sleeping in his own room on and off before (more off than on!), neither did we (read father) have the mind nor the energy to insist on it every single time he came cuddling up to us during bedtime. Moreover, with my absence at home, Abhay found many more champions (read grandparents) ready to take up cudgels on his behalf and thus Abhay happily abandoned his own bed for the cozy comfort of co-sleeping with his daddy!  Well…all good things must come to an end….and so did Abhay’s sojourn in our room!  Though Abhay reluctantly gave up his place for his little sister, he is still going through some adjustment issues that range from mosquitoes buzzing in his ears to Lord Voldemont (from Harry Potter) appearing in his dreams and interrupting his and in turn  our sleep!

In the light of this unexpected sleep deprivation …we had to go back to a book that we had read many moons ago… “Good night, Anokhi!” a story from Finland by Tove Appelgren, illustrated by Salla Savolainen  and translated by Arundhati Deosthale as brought out by A & A publications as a part of “Celebrating the Girl child” picture books project. Young Anokhi has a similar problem as Abhay…she cant sleep by herself at night and as she supposedly has terrible nightmares that drives her to her mother’s bed almost every other night! The similarity does not end there as co-sleeping with her parents is out of the question as her mother too has her younger siblings to take care of.  As Anokhi literally gives her parents sleepless nights, her mother tries to explain how everyone including herself needs their sleep in order to be able to function the next day. They try everything to get Anokhi to sleep through the night in her own room, but Anokhi seemed to have developed a habit of waking up in the middle of the night that only has her yawning through the day.  Left with no choice, Anokhi is given a stern warning not to leave her room……come what may! Relentless as she is, ( I guess as every kid is!) Anokhi is yet again bothered by a strange and scary dream, and she heads towards her mother’s room only to remember her mother’s warning. The next morning, Anokhi’s mother wakes up to find her older daughter asleep at her bedroom door, mumbling in her sleep that she is not to wake up Mama. Of course as any mother, Anokhi’s mother feels guilty and wonders if she has been too harsh with her daughter. Finally, Anokhi and her mother choose the middle ground and while there is no compromise on Anokhi sleeping on her own, she is allowed to wake them up should she have a terrible nightmare she can’t cope with!  This story of Anokhi is something most parents can relate to and is surely for keeps…not only for our older one but also for our little one when she is ready to move into her own bed! That’s how it should be with kids, isn’t it?  …allow them to grow independent while you’ve got their back! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's day Special - Reignite...!

Yesterday was celebrated as Children’s day across the country, and for most kids like Abhay, it was a class-free and a uniform-free school day, with many fun activities and events organized to make them feel special, including customized cards from his class teacher. While all this is sweet and admirable on the part of the school, it is also true that the present generation of urban children is a pampered lot and seems to have everything that they want and we parents seem to be more than eager to let them have everything they want! Well, it’s not as if we were a deprived lot, but growing up in the eighties and nineties meant measured expenditure and expectations whereas today’s kids seem to have wish lists that don’t end at all! So much so that they even develop a sense of entitlement over anything and everything they set their eyes on! It is the same sense of entitlement that prompted Abhay to ask for a children’s day gift from his maternal grandma, when just a day ago she got a bagful of gifts and knick-knacks from her recent Himachal Pradesh trip! Of course, a gentle reminder of the same is all it took to make him understand, but it made me wonder if we are overdoing it as parents. In our effort to provide the best for our kids, we may run the risk of having them fail to realize that nothing comes easy.  So, just as we question the need to celebrate Mothers' day and Fathers' day……do we need a Children’s day and with our lives revolving around our children every day ....Children’s day is every other day...isn't it?? J

Every year during Children’s day, Abhay somehow manages to extract a gift out of us (read his father!). This time however, anticipating that his request may not be honoured, our nine year old cleverly hinted at a card or a handmade present. As incorrigible as parents (read father!) that we are and as crazy about scrap-booking that we are ( well..both of us!), we put together a little handcrafted piece of memory file on the lines of a scrapbook ……that is more for us to cherish this gift-greedy phase of Abhay's childhood (which we hope he will soon outgrow!)

Abhay of course was super thrilled to receive it and here’s hoping he realizes the value and sentiment behind it and understands that life is more than just gifts and treats! What better way to spend Children’s day than to begin reading “Reignite - Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future” by the former President of India, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam, whose life is a true inspiration. It is no secret that the People’s President, as he was popularly known, was extremely fond of interacting with children and the youth and this book can be called as his parting gift to children!  Of course, we have only embarked on this reading adventure as it can be a lot for young reader to take in at one go. 

Co-written with Srijan Pal Singh, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam renders a unique “insider” perspective to various cutting edge fields in science and technology like robotics, aeronautics, neurosciences, pathology and material sciences to children, should they desire to pursue the same as careers. The book not only offers exhaustive information on diverse niche career opportunities opening up in the field of science and technology, but is presented in an interesting format packed with “anecdotes, conversations, experiments, exercises and even helpful tips and inputs from leading scientists in the field and a note to parents in each section. Narrated in a style characteristic to the late former President, including an oath to be taken by aspiring palaeontologist, or neuroscientist, or pathologist, etc, the book goes on  to explain these new and developing areas to children and adults alike, without oversimplifying the same. However, the book does not just stop with enlightening the readers about science, but seeks to inspire young minds into realizing what it takes to become a scientist or pursue a passion or tirelessly work towards a goal. Whether one intends to pursue a career in science or not, this is a great book for kids and young adults to learn and reflect on the choices ahead of them, the ideals and values that will help achieve them and ignite not only their future but the future of our world! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Amma, tell me about Diwali!

First published on Parent Edge blog 

No matter which part of India you are in, it’s hard to ignore the festive spirit this season brings in! Whether it’s bursting crackers, or attending numerous religious or cultural events lined up in the neighbourhood temples, or the shopping frenzy and lightening Diwali sales put by all retailers, off-line or online, or enjoying the extended Dusshera-Diwali vacations with the kids, holiday cheer is everywhere!

While it’s our second cracker-free Diwali, it’s the first Diwali experience for the little one at home, which for a five month old, it would mean more than anything else noise emanating from the crackers!!  While bursting fire crackers, gorging on sweets and treats is fun, there’s more to Diwali than just the merrymaking, how do we get our children to realize the importance of the same? Here’s a delightful series that does just that and what’s more …it’s presented in a format that combines the power of story-telling with rich imagery to engage and educate our kids on Indian tradition and values.  Here comes the “Amma, tell me” series by Bhakti Mathur and illustrations by Maulshree Somani brought out by Hong Kong based Anjana publications. Comprising of a series of picture books on Indian festivals and Indian mythology for children between the age group of 3 to 9 years, these books are a great way to enlighten the kids on the stories and sentiments behind the observance and celebrations of our festivals. Besides many titles on festivals such as “Amma, tell me about Holi” or  “Amma, tell me about Ganesha” or the series on Mythology such as “Amma, tell me about Ramayan”,  this vibrantly illustrated series also presents interesting tales from the Hindu epics in a trilogy format such as the trilogy series on Krishna and Hanuman. 

For this festive season, however, we picked out “Amma, tell me about Diwali!”  which believe me, will have you and your little one feeling festive on the first reading itself!  As most titles in the series, it starts off with the little boy named Klaka excitedly waking up to a typical Diwali morning characterized by new clothes and gifts followed by the lighting of Diyas, fire crackers in the evening, and the family offering prayers to God for good fortune, prosperity and health. As the children wonder about the story behind the celebrations, whom do they approach? Amma…of course, who at bedtime regales them with stories that explain the significance of the festival of lights. While elaborating on the meaning of Diwali, Amma in the story also delves into the multiple dimensions to festivities that includes remembering Lord Rama and his triumphant return to Ayodhya on Diwali day, while also encapsulating a brief account of Ramayana.  Of course, Diwali is not only all dazzle and fun, but the children are subtly reminded of the value of honesty, hard work and dedication through the story of Goddess Lakshmi and the poor seamstress. The beauty of this book not only lies in free-flowing narrative and engagingly rhyming text, but also in the simple message that the author attempts to convey to today’s kids brought up in a consumerist world that we live in.  The colouful illustrations are not only striking, but also present an authentic setting of Diwali celebrations in a typical Indian household, and not to forget the amiable images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, particularly when Klaka is shown seated beside Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth! As this series also caters to the Western audience, each story ends with a Glossary on Hindu names and symbols, which is quite educative to the Indian audience as well. Though a little pricy as compared to some of the Indian children’s publications, “Amma, tell me” series, is a wonderful “Mythology made simple and meaningful” that is sure to capture the imagination of young minds and will have them begging for ‘Amma, tell me more’!! Enjoy the festive season and happy Diwali everyone! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Aadya is here!

Over the previous weekend, we were joined by our close family and relatives on the occasion of our little one’s naming ceremony or Namakarana as it’s traditionally referred to amongst Hindus. Thankfully in India, we still have months after birth to mull over various options in choosing a name for our little ones, unlike in the West. However, it is also true that most expectant parents in the West are well aware of their baby’s sex  as early as the second trimester, unlike in India! So they have all the time in the world to arrive at the perfect name and have it ready to be declared at the time discharge from the hospital! Well, with most Indian hospitals today offering birth packages as if they  were vacation packages, more so with an emphasis on faster discharge/ turn-out rates, a three nights – two days  hospital stay, hardly seems sufficient for even shortlisting a few names, let alone finalize one! And then …there’s always the convention of naming after family elders or the convenience of rhyming with sibling names and of course, astro-numerology where the date, number of letters and stars will all have to converge for the right name! So you wouldn’t dare to say “What’s in a name?” …now would you?

Frankly, we didn’t go through much trouble in arriving at the names of both our  children! (who will probably take us up on this when they grow up!) With my older one, I insisted upon a name that he could live up to and we all know how counter productive it turned out to be! So the responsibility of choosing a name for our younger one fell upon my husband, who in his characteristic style sought a consensus among the close family over the first name he liked and didn’t encourage any further discussions and voila!... We had the name! As if to ward off any last minute dilemma, we even had her birth certificate registered before her official naming ceremony! Of course, we preferred a name starting with the letter ‘A’ as to alliterate with Abhay’s and chose the name for its modern yet traditional tone.  Our little one is now officially named ‘AADYA’ which is a Sanskrit word derived from the name of Goddess Durga. Aadya also means the original power from which all five senses and five elements of nature originated.

So as we unveiled the name ‘Aadya’ and shared the joy of her arrival with close family, I had to celebrate the same by a mention on Onestoryaday! No celebration on Onestoryaday is complete without reading a book for the occasion, and  our choice for this happy event is the Tulika’s First look Science series on the basic elements of nature by Anushka Kalro, Rajasee Ray, Sankhalina Nath and Shubangi Goel, developed as a classroom project with Srishti School of Art. Since the name Aadya means the original source of Panchabhootas, five elements – Akasha (Sky), Vayu (Air), Prithvi ( Earth), Agni( fire) and Jal (water), we picked out this series that features Air in “Dhooli’s Story”, Water in “Boondi’s Story”, Earth in “Gitti’s Story”, Earth’s surface in “Beeji’s Story” and Space in “Bhoomi’s Story”.

Each of these books presents a perfect introduction to young children on the science of how things first began. Narrated in a unique format, with each of the elements assuming a young character - be it Beeji, a super-seed wanting to explore the world, through which the story of the evolution of earth’s surface unfolds, or Bhoomi, one of the eight planets in the universe, through which the concept of space is brought out, or Gitti, through which we learn about the earth as we know today, or Dhooli, a tiny speck of dust who flits and floats in the air, through which your little one is enlightened about the air around us, or Boondi, the tiny droplet of water who teaches us about the water cycle! Aided with stunning pictures and illustrations, each of these stories successfully attempts to unravel the mysteries of nature by way of interesting stories that are sure to capture the imagination of young minds. So as Aadya is set to begin her journey in this world, here’s seeking the blessings of the Panchabhutas or the five elements that form the basis of our cosmic quest of this world and beyond!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Virtual Travel with Ruskin Bond!

With most schools in Bangalore closed for Dassera vacation, we are now  faced with the formidable task of managing both the kids at home from morning to night…..and life can’t get busier than this! Serves me right for earlier balking at my mommy-friends with two kids who complained of a similar mayhem when the older school-going kid has holidays! Though Abhay is too old to require constant supervision and my little one is yet to reach that stage (which she will very soon!), they are both needy in their own way! Though their worlds are poles apart and will be so in the years to come, there’s nothing worse than when their worlds collide! While my older one has warmed up to his baby sibling quite well, it is younger one who seemed to be slowly learning the ropes of surviving in this world, when it comes to being heard! So be it waking up to find herself all alone, or venting out her irritation over her brother’s  constant cuddling and kissing….she  already knows how to lodge her protest or make her presence felt!  As long as Abhay had school, there was a set routine in place with all attention being showered on the little one during the day only to have the older one reclaim it, once he returned home from school! Now that both are at home, it feels as if both of them are eating into each other’s space that  gives rise to a feeling of neither here nor there, leaving me with absolutely no space at all! J

Anyway, if there’s one thing that the new arrival has taken a toll on, it is with regard to travel and this is probably the first time that we’ve not been able to go on a trip during Abhay’s vacations. Of course Abhay is not thrilled at the idea of being home bound as he will have nothing to show off to his classmates, all of whom, according to him, have made grand travel plans during the Dassera break!    (Talk about peer pressure!) If we don’t act soon, Abhay has even threatened to squeeze himself into his grandparents’ travel plans to Himachal hills in November! Anyway, even we cannot join my parents, we can certainly vicariously visit the high altitude destinations by reading ….Ruskin Bond of course. We picked out his first children’s novel  titled “The Hidden Pool”, ideal for younger and middle level readers. Like any Ruskin Bond story, the story set in ten small chapters literally transports you to the land of beautiful mountain slopes, deep and hidden valleys. This is the story of Laurie who moves to a hill town along with his parents as his father is posted to India on work for two years. As he forges friendship with unlikeliest of people, given his English upbringing, Laurie finds himself drawn to the local people and their customs.Read on as Laurie narrates as to how his friends Anil and Kamal take him on many a memorable adventures from beetle races to midnight dips at the valley’s pristine pools, tedious treks to the Pindari glacier and their run-in with so called Abominable snow woman! Before he realizes, the two years fly past and Laurie finds that the town and the people have grown on him and saying goodbye is tougher than he thought!   More than the interesting events that take place during Laurie’s stay in the hill-town,  it’s Ruskin Bond’s vivid descriptions of the picturesque hills, simplicity of the people, uninhibited childhood experiences, lasting friendships between young boys of diverse backgrounds! A must read for everyone who loves Ruskin Bond’s writings! Why…Abhay doesn’t it feel as if we’ve traveled to a whole new world during these vacations....…thanks to Ruskin Bond ?? J

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The actual new arrival!

It’s been over four months since the arrival of our little one and after enjoying all the pampering and post delivery care at my mother’s place, I am now back at home! Mom’s house is truly the best…no matter how old you are and especially at a time like this…when you need all the help you can get! If not for keeping up with the infant schedule, the last four months almost felt like a vacation of sorts, all thanks to my super agile multi tasking mom! Not to mention, she almost ended up with knee joint strain owing to all the stress and it’s probably her turn now to take a vacation! J During my stay at my mom’s, Abhay continued to be at home with his daddy and paternal grandparents and here’s a word of thanks going out to them as well.  So except his weekend visits to my mom’s place, Abhay’s daily routine remained the same and the arrival of the little one hadn’t wrecked his life…...yet!!!  Well….in so many ways, Abhay continued to be the king of the house …and ended up being cosseted even more by his paternal grandma, lest he may miss his mommy ( which he didn’t…..of course!!!) So it’s only now that the arrival of a “new little person” has begun to impact his life!

I must say that it’s been so far so good and Abhay has taken quite well to the new member of our household. While he is excited to return home from school to his baby sister, I am not sure if he feels the same about the return of the stricter parent! J Anyway, to mark the arrival of his baby sister, we read the short story “A new Arrival” from  R.K.Narayan’s cult classic Malgudi Schooldays brought out by Puffin Classics, which is a slightly abridged version of the original “Swami and Friends” first published in 1935. Any gem of a story of Swami and his friends conjures up the nostalgic images of the 80’s Television series based on R K Narayan’s stories, but reading the same has a charm of its own! Though the stories are set in pre-independence era when the environment was a lot different from that surrounding the kids today, Swami’s world, his apprehensions, his ever changing dynamics with friends, his attitude at home, his run-ins with his teachers, are not very different from what kids go through today. Except for a few elaborations on the conditions that prevailed then and references that are principally of British origin  ( as opposed to American references that the kids today are more familiar with),  R.K.Narayan’s stories are truly timeless and will never fail to delight the generations to come! In this story, “The New Arrival” Swami misses his mother who has been in confinement for over two days resulting in the birth of his baby brother, the news of which he received without much enthusiasm, especially when the new arrival has ushered in some changes like mother’s absence in the kitchen or the presence of a lady doctor at home who behaves as if the house belonged to her!  Anyway since he had his granny for reassuring company, he couldn’t be bothered more! As he laid his eyes on the little one, he couldn't help but laugh at this “funny looking creature” with its eyes shut, folded hands on his chest, plump pair of small hands and a face red like a chilly! As he imitated the same to his friend at school next day, his friend cautioned him saying that “these things” grow up soon and before you know it….they hardly bear resemblance to their baby features!!! So Abhay….beware! Your baby sister may seem like a  benign ‘living’ teddy bear now,  quietly tolerating all the kisses that you almost smother her with…but not for long! J

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ganesha's sweet tooth!

Every year during this time, we head to my native town, Dharmasthala  where we join our extended family from my dad’s side in the celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi at the family ancestral home. This has been our family tradition ever since I can remember and so it was only natural that I continued the same post marriage and now have Abhay and in the future have our little one tag along with us! Barring the three years that we were in the US, we’ve been regulars at this annual family event and given our busy lifestyles, this is often the only time we get to meet our relatives and extended family. So much so that this is something Abhay has come to look forward to every year wherein he does not remain a mute spectator to the festivities but whole-heartedly participates in some of events surrounding the celebrations like the pooja and the bhajan session that goes on till the twilight hours followed by the visarjana next morning.  It feels nostalgic to see Abhay get into a competition mode with his cousins in the singing of bhajans, taking time off to rehearse the same in advance before the ‘final show’! Can’t blame him as I guess it sort of runs in the family as I used to exhibit the same spirit during my growing up years and I see the same vying attitude still displayed by my father and his hexagenarian brothers! :-)

Though it is more than a week since the festival, Ganesh Chaturthi festivities extend a whole ten days in many parts of the country with many neighbourhoods hosting their own Ganesha events around many cities, including Bangalore..…so the celebration of “Ganesha” is far from over. So my post on Ganesha Chaturthi (a must post occasion on Onestoryaday) can hardly be deemed out of place..isn’t it?? Anyway….there’s never a wrong time for good books and for this occasion, we read “ Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth” by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes and illustrated by Sanjay Patel, an Indian American animator with Disney’s Pixar who has authored many books on the Hindu Mythology for western audience, whose retelling of Ramayana we’ve read before. Often deemed as a  hipster’s guide to Hindusim, Sanjay Patel’s books present the mythological tales in an entertaining narrative packed with tongue-in cheek humour and quirky dialogues mirroring the recent Disney flicks that we’ve come to enjoy. Aided with vibrant illustrations, the authors take the creative liberty of adding a few fun elements and amusing scenes, while retaining the overall essence of the legend. We all know the story of how Lord Ganesha broke his tusk that eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise for the great Vyasa to put down his story of Mahabharata in writing.  But did you know it was the “Super-Jumbo Jaw Breaker Laddoo” that was responsible for him landing with a broken tusk, despite being warned by his best friend, whom he fondly called Mr. Mouse? Or as Ganesha hurls his tusk at the moon in frustration, it lands on an old man who happened to be the great poet Vyasa looking for a scribe to pen Hindu Mythology’s most famous epic. With a little goading, Ganesha no longer resents his broken tusk as he realizes it’s true worth and with the able assistance of Mr. Mouse who helps Ganesha understand the “terms of agreement”, Ganesha sets out to do the formidable task….and the rest is history! We loved the authors’ contemporary presentation of an age old tale in a manner that the children are able to relate to. Of course, the graphic illustrations are the book’s piece de resistance, that are not only striking in colours and imagery but truly represent India’s rich and vibrant mythological heritage which sets this book apart from any other mythological series we’ve read before. So along with all the goodies and festive treats to satisfy your sweet tooth…bring home Ganesha’s too!! Enjoy the festive season everyone…!!:-) 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Big Brother!

I can't believe it's been nine years since we were first gifted the joy of parenthood! Yes.. It's my older one, Abhay's birthday today and ever since my dejavu experience with the birth of my little one recently, not a day goes by that I don't think of Abhay's "just born" moments. My little one being a miniature Abhay in every way, is a constant reminder  of how fleeting time is ... Nine years ago .. It was Abhay in her place who now finds himself  elevated to the position of big brother.. willy-nilly!:-) As they grow not only shed their baby fat but also their baby antics and innocence that no longer make them amenable to all the molly-coddling they had enjoyed so far. While Abhay receives a fair share of pampering from everyone at home....there are times when he feels envious when we gush over the little one's toothless grin or fuss over her baby-talk. Though he understands as much as a nine year old can, he has turned a little more sensitive, noticing every nuance of our demeanour towards him. It may be an innocent remark on his tardiness or a routine disciplinary measure... But the same now acquires a whole new dimension with the little one around. So what probably plays out in his mind is "Amma is all smiles at the baby but is always stern with me... Is this how it's going to be?" I must admit that my being away at my mom's for the last three and half months hasn't helped a bit on this front, with his weekend visits and telephone interactions turning into instruction sessions rather than free flowing conversation with Abhay (and his daddy!) Well... Parenting is  a continuous learning experience .... And I have a lot to learn in the balancing act of parenting two kids! So as my not-so-little one (anymore!) turns nine today... here's an assurance from everyone ... No matter will always be our hero! :-)

Though Abhay was no toddler before and was nearing nine, he was always our little one! But post the arrival of our second child, he suddenly seems so grown up and big! So much so... It seems as if he even may squirm at being called a kid very soon!:-) While today's Abhay's first birthday as a big brother, it is also his  first birthday without his mom at home as I am in my native town with my little one, while Abhay is with the daddy at Bangalore. So we had the daddy read "It's hard being a kid" by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos and illustrations by Marta Fabrega, though it would have been ideal if we could lay our hands on something like "It's hard being an older kid"..(May be Abhay can write it..:-)) This almost feel like a dairy jottings of a girl named Tatiana where she reflects on what it means to be a kid. Well, sometimes it's not easy being a kid... With there being so many things they are expected to do, even when they don't feel like it... Be it school, homework, clean up their rooms or brush their teeth! Tatiana feels that the kids have it tough as there are rules that follow them wherever they go... Be it at home or at school! No matter where they go... They are being watched.. at class or library or even the playground where the neighbours keep an eye on them lest they break anything! In Tatiana's opinion, the grown ups have it easy as they can do whatever they want ( if only that were true) like not eat at dinner table or being able to stay up late and are not exactly bound by rules ( Well..... Not the same rules!) and she can't wait to be a grown up! But as she ponders on, Tatiana realises that being a kid sure has its advantages... Like it's okay to be silly and how there's always a grown up to take care when something goes wrong. Finally she concludes that being a kid isn't that hard as she first thought....... And going to school and following a bunch of rules isn't that awful after all! While being little simplistic in its narrative, the illustrations are hilarious and the book has each page carry a question for the readers to think and mull over and ends with fun role-reversal  activities for kids and an advisory note to us parents attempting to impress upon the child's perspective. A great read to set the whining children into thinking about how carefree and uninhibited their lives are ... Something you probably realise after you are a grown-up!  Conveying the universal message in Tatiana's words "Instead of worrying about how hard it is to be a should just be kids and have fun"! So Abhay.... Just enjoy being a kid .... as it will be over before you know it.... Happy Birthday, my first born!! 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Flutterfly- A Rakshabandhan Treat!

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan or Rakhi, an Indian festival celebrating the brother-sister bond and now that Abhay has a little sister... It was their first Rakhi too:-) Though his three month old sister was rather too young to even hold the Rakhi, let alone tie the same around his was more about making Abhay feel special now that he has been anointed to the status of the "big brother"! Well, there are not many occasions where you get to pamper the older sibling post the arrival of the "new small person" at home.. and so we didn't want to miss this one! From donning a new Kurta to having him choose his own Rakhi ...Abhay was basking in the limelight and even vowed to never take off the Rakhi ever... until it is replaced by a new one next year! Being a big brother certainly has it's perks and this year's Rakshabandhan was all about the indulging the brother than the sister!! Little does he realise that it is probably the other way around and will be so as the years progress as his sister is the only girl amongst the first cousins! :-)

So what was Abhay's Rakhi gift to his sister..if it's being mentioned on Onestoryaday, it has be a book! So making a debut on Onestoryaday, is a book for our little one ( whom we've not yet officially named) titled Flutterfly by Niveditha Subramaniam brought out by Tulika publications. She may be a little too young to fully enjoy the colours and contours of this word less picture book, but it's never too early to start....especially when the book is said to be for children starting 0+.... and as they say age is just a number! You may dismiss this as a blogger's gimmick... but my three month who has started to look around her surroundings with keen interest, responded quite well to the bright orange butterfly shown to be fluttering around in the book! A beautiful picture book with striking black and white pencil sketch like images juxtaposed with bright splashes of colour is sure draw the attention of young children. There's something flying around... It seems to go everywhere... Landing on dad's ear or mom's hairdo or on the family pet's nose or on the clothes hung to dry! As children are always fascinated by brightly coloured moving objects... whether it's the window blinds, or tree leaves gently swaying to the wind or the mobile on top of the cradle, all you need to do is just turn the pages of this gem of a book, and watch the those little eyes follow the 'Flutterfly' everywhere! So here's hoping that the Flutterfly takes our little one on a life-long ( hopefully!) journey with books!  :-)

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Blue Umbrella!

Whichever part of India you reside in, ….chances are that’s it’s either raining or going to rain or just about stopped raining! Unlike the previous years, this year's monsoon has been uneven and  erratic with either too little rain in some parts or too much rain in others. While the monsoon does bring cheer to one and all and is portrayed in a rather romantic perspective in  most Indian nature writings, as a parent of young children and very young children (to which category I have been recently re-inducted) ... one can't ignore its practical implications. So whether it's the difficulty in navigating through maddening traffic on a rainy evening with young kids in tow, or re-adjusting their tennis or any sports classes upsetting an already packed  weekly schedule or being stuck indoors with hyper-active kids when you'd rather take them to a park or playground  or the rise in viral infections ( some with names you've never heard of!)  which in turn means that it's not just your little one who's taking off or the fact that clothes (read nappies!) don't seem to dry at all... the rains are just not fun anymore!:-) 

So when I stumbled upon a friend's Facebook homepage that read "Rain, Tea and a Good book" (Courtesy Reading Corner) ... I couldn't help feeling jealous! That said, there's nothing stopping you from recreating the monsoon magic vicariously.. Right? What better way to do it than pick up a story by an iconic writer whose writings on nature have enthralled children and adults alike. When it comes to writing about the hills, the trees, the rains, no one does it better than Bond! Out of his many stories, we picked out “The Blue Umbrella”, one of his most popular children’s stories in recent times that has also been made into a feature film. “The Blue Umbrella” is available as an individual novel with illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan and is also published along with his other stories in “Ruskin Bond’s Children’s Omnibus” brought out by Rupa publications. 

Revolving around a young girl named Binya and her family comprising of her mother and her brother Bijju, the story makes for an excellent armchair travelogue of the Gharwal region located at the foothills of the Himalayas transporting the reader to its lush green splendor. While taking her cows for grazing, she chances upon her a beautiful blue umbrella that has her spellbound! As she moves closer to get a good look at the umbrella, she is spotted by a group of tourists apparently to whom the umbrella belongs. Just then a woman in the group seems fascinated by Binya’s  lucky leopard claw pendant and offers anything in exchange for the pendant. No prizes for guessing what Binya asks for in return! Having bartered her pendant for the blue umbrella, Binya cant stop parading it around the entire village to everyone’s envy, including the greedy shopkeeper Ram Bharosa! Ram Bharosa is notorious for picking on poor hapless children and forcing them into parting with their prized possession under the pretext of offering sweets on credit. Ram Bharosa cant take his eyes off Binya’s umbrella and finds it unfair that a poor girl like Binya should have such a beautiful and dainty looking umbrella! So he hatches a plan to acquire it but pays a heavy price for his greed! Though all of his own making, Binya feels sorry for Ram Bharosa’s misery and she does something selfless  that not only brings in a change of heart in Ram Bharosa but also rewards them in unexpected ways! Read on as story unfolds into a beautiful tale of childhood fascination, greed, empathy and redemption!

The Blue Umbrella” has now adapted into an Amar Chitra Katha format along with another one of his stories “Angry River”. Though it makes a great read for younger kids, nothing can compare to Ruskin Bond’s brilliant narrative in the novel, detailing every nuance of Binya’s fetish, Ram Bharosa’s envy, subtly hinting at the simple and contented life of villagers and vividly describing the rain in the mountains!  So much so that even Abhay couldn’t agree more…and after a long time, we've rediscovered the joy of reading together like never before...all thanks to Ruskin Bond's  "The Blue Umbrella" ! :-) 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Girls to the Rescue!

A part of this post was first published on Parent Edge blog. 

I have always wanted a daughter and have always been envious of my friends who’d dress up their little girls and show off their pictures! Of course I could have done the same but dressing up a boy is never the same as dressing a girl! I have made known my wish even on Onestoryaday every time I’ve come across a book especially for girls. So much so that the other day, my son observed that my dream seemed to have come true with the arrival of my second child – a little girl. When I quizzed him as to what dream was he talking about …..pat came his rather sarcastic remark  “Wasn’t it your dream to have a daughter ?” (Serves me right for coming out clean with him as to my preference the first time around!) Anyway, now that I have a daughter….I find myself confronting various issues that never seemed to bother me with my son! Of course…as of now….it’s more of minor issues like  “When is the right time to pierce her ears” or “What kind of accessories to pick up or are available to go with her frock?”, or  “OMG…I’ll have to ensure towards maintenance of her hair as well when managing my hair itself is such a chore”! But this made me realize that as she grows up, I am bound to encounter or worry about many such things that I wasn’t even concerned about when it came to my son…..and this indeed made me nervous! Well…raising a girl is a different ball game …isn’t it??

Anyway, whether I expect the road ahead to be easy or difficult or just plain different from the earlier one, I guess I will always have books to come my rescue! So when Tulika came up with “Girls to the rescue” by Sowmya Rajendran and illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan . I had to pick it up. When it comes to reading to your girls…have you ever wondered  why are we still stuck with the age old fairy tales with princesses being boring and one-dimensional characters whose only role is to wait to be rescued by their Prince Charming? Given a choice, most moms would want to skip reading the fairy tales like “Sleeping beauty” or “Rapunzel”  as they perpetuate the primitive mindset wherein the ultimate destination for any girl is to find her Prince Charming!

So if you are such a parent, this is a book that offers a refreshing take on six fairy tale princesses …..who receive an “empowerment makeover”! J  Though the reading level is most suited for children aged 10 and above, the book presents excellent read aloud stories for younger children.  I will probably have to wait for over five years for me to read this to my daughter ….but who says you can’t have your boys read them too! Of course Abhay is so much a boy’s boy that he had no idea about the original princess stories. So we first read the age old fairy tales and then I had him read Tulika’s upgraded version!  I must say…he found the latter much more interesting!

The princesses in this book have a mind of their own, think for themselves and not only dare to dream big but also make their own destiny without waiting for someone else to step in. With the touch of realism, a pinch of quirkiness, a dash of satire and topped with humour, these stories make for a fresh and healthy palate as opposed to the stale diet of Disney princess stories. While the basic plot of each of the fairy tales remains the same, the difference lies in the narrative, factual and situational details and of course the ending which is way better than “happily-ever-after’! Who wouldn’t want to read about what happens to “Rapunzel” who imitates her astronaut mother and dares her barber-father into going against the “tradition” or find out about who the real wolf is,  in the complex and layered “Red Riding Hood” or further learn about the princess who willingly becomes a “Sleeping beauty” or get inspired by no-longer-kitchen bound “Cinderella” who takes charge of her own life and gets her sisters to ‘share’  the house work or laugh along with the rebellious princess when the frog meets its destiny after being kissed by her or empathise with “Snow White” whose mother worries that she may not find a suitable groom due to her (hold your breadth) her extra-ordinary fairness! all of them meet their respective Prince Charming….yes ..but don’t expect wedding bells …but simply enjoy the moment! So enjoy reading "Girls to the Rescue" with your little girls!