Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How and why of things!

First Appeared on  Parentedge blog

The famous children’s author John Birmingham had once said that while he was growing up, he always  wished that there would be a "National Ask your parents day" when children could ask their parents anything! In today’s age that is everyday…isn’t it?? Questions, questions, and more questions …..they never seem to stop right??  Well, why should they? Kids these days are always bursting with questions about science, society, relationships, and inscrutable ways of the adult world……so much so that their questions are amusing enough to give “PK” (a confused alien from the Bollywood movie of the same name) a run for his money! :-)

While parents today are a lot more conscious than before when it comes to encouraging kids to ask questions,  I would be lying if I said that there are times when you wish you could satiate their curious minds with simple replies/answers. But no…like everything else in parenting…there are no simple answers ….as there are no simple questions from our kids! :-)

Well… a benign opening question/statement  always has a tough follow-up question up its sleeve ( “I am firstly good at music and secondly at tennis……appa, what are the two things you do best?”) A complicated question always reeks of bad timing! (“Amma…what is Atma?” Just as we are getting ready for school!)  A persistent question is most often the one that does not lend itself to age appropriate answers…..leaving it open for dangerous or embarrassing conclusions or futuristic questions are questions that seem to make you wonder yourself ( Will India be better than US in 25 years from now?)!  So amidst all these questions shot at us….for fact-based or science based queries, all we parents can say is that “Thank God we have Google!” J

Sometime ago, I had attended a parenting workshop where we had been counseled into not answering questions at all and letting our kids figure the answers on their own so as to empower them into thinking for themselves. While it is a laudable objective, I personally believe that as parents you need to strike the right balance between how much to reveal and how much to be left for discovery. Also, I guess the key endeavour on our part as parents should not only be to help our kids develop an inquisitive mind but also equip them with the right sources to find answers.  


 One of the many such sources that may help our kids and in turn may ease the burden on us parents are a set of three books from Red Turtle, a wing of Roopa publications meant for older kids between the age group of eight to fourteen  What if the earth stopped spinning? And 24 other mysteries of Science? By Roopa Pai and illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale;  How did the Harappans say hello? And 16 other mysteries of History by Anu Kumar and illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale and finally “Do Tigers drink blood? And 13 other mysteries of nature” by Arefa Tehsin and Raza H Tehsin and illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale.

Each of these books present interesting “what if” situations that the kids often baffle the parents with! Roop Pai’s book provides a blow-by-blow account of  questions like “What if the sun suddenly disappeared?” and such other “10 Nightmarish Scenarios That You Shouldn’t Lose Sleep Over” and busting the myth behind the so called “5 scientific facts That You should stop believing” like ‘A coin falling on your head from the 100th floor of the Burj Khalifa can kill you’ and unraveling “10 Mind Numbing Mysteries That Aren’t Mysteries At All”   like “How come when I look in a mirror, I’m right side up, buy when I look in  a shiny spoon, I’m upside down?” I must say that the illustrations and the explanations are not only age appropriate but also aim to put to rest the whackiest of queries that you’ve ever heard!

Similarly, Anu Kumar travels through time and attempts to unravel  the mysteries of history also throwing in various historical theories that offer plausible explanations. Needless to say, this is informative even for parents who are skeptical about whether the great war of Mahabharata really did happen!

The book on nature dwells into the mysterious ways of nature by opening doors into the world of its inhabitants and fun facts about them. Facts such as crocodiles swallow stones to help them digest the food, or that the rabbits eat their own poop……….and many such interesting facts narrated in a manner that not only provides the necessary information but in a way that makes it an entertaining read.

While the book on science and nature  can double up as a non-fiction read for younger kids, the book on history pre-supposes a basic knowledge and background of the historical facts. .  

Though similar to the “Tell me Why” series that we grew up reading, these books offer exhaustive explanations that are couched in a language that is both engaging and enlightening……with catchy phrases and humourous titles…. learning is sure made fun. Besides, the books are truly an eye opener to us parents as we don’t have be clueless when our little one asks “Why does the koel sing?”!!! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Inspiring life of a woman.......!

This year’s women’s day in India assumes great significance in the light of some recent events, particularly the misogynist views of a rape convict made known vide a documentary film that has now become the center of controversy. While not commenting on whether or not the ensuing ban on the film is an appropriate response from the establishment, I do believe that airing such views does not tantamount to endorsing the same but only goes to highlight how primitive and regressive such thinking is …..that too in this age and day!  Though the views opined by a deranged convict do not necessarily represent that of the mainstream society in general (or at least I hope so!), the very fact that this is the mindset of certain sections or even a fringe of the society ….is shocking enough to make one shudder….particularly when it is the apparent view of an age group that is less than 35 years…meaning that it’s not only our generation but even the future generation that may be subject to such scourge! Anyway, one way to counter such thinking is to start young and by that our role as parents, particularly of young boys, seems even more momentous, as our current Prime Minister puts it. So this Women’s day, it is time to reflect on how ……as mothers….we can contribute to changing the way our boys look at girls today….and that will in turn having a bearing on the future lives of the women of tomorrow! So going with the 2015 theme for International Women’s day….calling all mothers…… “To make it happen”!!!!

Women’s day is a must-post day on Onestoryaday and I always make it a point to read a women-centric story to Abhay. In fact, this year, Abhay got to know about women’s day, through his school as they held a special event, one day before, with Dr. Malathi Holla as the Guest of Honour, a Padmashree and Arjuna Awardee for representing paraplegic sports on International Sports Tracks followed by a karate demo for urban street survival strategy. It is a pity that I couldn’t make it, with Saturday being a working day for me. So here I am trying to make up for the same by having Abhay read about an inspiring woman achiever in “A girl named Helen Keller”, a Level 3 Scholastic Early Reader by Margo Lundell and illustrated by Irene Trivas.
Ideal for early readers transitioning into chapter books, the young reader is introduced to the amazing journey of Heller Keller, who at the age of two is struck with high fever that leaves her visually and hearing impaired and leaves her parents helpless. Though her parents are not able to cope with her wild and untamed ways, her mother strongly believes that Helen is very smart but is unable to connect with her. So with the help of Alexander Graham Bell (even I didn’t know this!), they bring in Anne Sullivan, a young teacher from Boston whose painstaking efforts to help Helen feel and understand the ways of the world finally yields results, notwithstanding the reservations Helen’s parents have about her strict methods. Anne Sullivan is not only able to communicate with her but also able to get Helen to connect with the world around her! Thereafter, there is no stopping Helen as she learns to read, write, goes  to school and graduates from Radcliffe College with honours…becomes a famous writer who travelled many places, addressed and delivered lectures and met many kings, presidents and heads of State, and fervently worked towards helping different-abled people. Helen Keller is one woman who’s extraordinary life continues to bring hope and inspiration to people. So here’s celebrating such women today …happy women’s day to everyone!