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! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hanuman's Ramayana!

July seems to be the month of children's theatre in Bangalore! If we began the month with the play "Gumma Banda Gumma " followed by the week-long Aha! Children's theatre festival at Ranga Shankara .....this weekend saw the riveting performance of Tulika's "Hanuman ki Ramayan" in Swaang-Nautanki style by Gillo theatre repertory at four different locations in Bangalore. 

With our eight year old already having watched more plays this month than we adults watch in a year, we were  warned by our folks at home that an overdose of theatre might just be a little too much for him! That said, however, we couldn't miss this troupe whose musical rendition of Asha Nehamaiah's book "Granny's Sari" we so enjoyed a couple of years ago ( God..time flies!).  So Abhay went along with his daddy to watch the play at Suchitra film society at South Bangalore. The play was performed in the North Indian folk art form - Nautanki, where the story is performed through an eclectic mix of folk songs, dance and dialogues followed by an interactive session with the audience post the performance. Gillo demonstrated how a simple story can be transformed into an electrifying stage act with minimal props, purely on the strength of their performance , with each and every actor contributing in equal measure.  Though set as a period drama, certain contemporary themes were also blended into the narrative making it even more entertaining! For instance, it was hilarious to watch Narada, touted as mythogy's most misunderstood character, comparing himself to today's "media-wale"! :-) So whether you love the story, or the Nautanki dance drama style.... Gillo's rendition of Hanuman's Ramayan is a must watch! 

As a follow-up to the play, we read the book on which yesterday's performance is based... "Hanuman's Ramayan " by Devdutt Pattanaik and pictures by Nancy Raj. We all know about Valmiki's Ramayan but as the story goes... there appears to be another Ramayan supposedly a better one, according to Narada. Don't believe it.. Neither does Valmiki when Narada discloses the author's name to be Hanuman... the monkey.... a mere character in Valmiki's Ramayan. As Valmiki sets off to the foothills of Himalayas hoping to take a peek at the so called "better Ramayan" , he comes across an orchard full of banana trees with it's leaves scrawled on by what looked like fingernail marks. Upon close observation, the marks turned out to be " letters...words ....sentences" .... and it didn't take long for Valmiki to realise that he was indeed reading "Hanuman's Ramayan"! As Valmiki voraciously takes in the seven banana leaves containing the Ramayan...without missing a single word... he is so overcome with emotion that it falls upon only Lord's Ram's greatest devotee to save the day! Read on as this story only highlights how the mythological classic "Ramayan " lends itself to many different versions and mini-tales that is vibrantly brought out by the folk style illustrations. This is as much a story about Valmiki swallowing his pride as it is a tribute to Hanuman's devotion to Lord Rama. Indeed....a great way of getting our younger generation interested in mythology! Kudos to Gillo's talented performers for choosing stories from Indian children's publications and bringing them alive on stage! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gumma Banda gumma - Guest post by Rajaram

Over the last weekend, Abhay and I went for a play at Rangashankara and were so taken in by the play that we couldn't stop talking about it! So Divya asked me to pen down a few thoughts about the play leading up to this guest post on Onestoryaday....

What are children afraid of? They are afraid of nothing and yet are afraid of a lot of things. Is this a paradox? No.. …if we rephrase and replace “afraid” with “bother” it would probably be clearer.  Almost nothing that bothers the grown-ups bother children. But there are so many things in their little brains and their little-large world that bother them. The beautiful part  is that  none of those botherations last long.  In their world, there are friendships, fights, truce, bartering of little possessions, enemies, friends - all going through a constant change which many a times  is hard to understand for grown-ups. Why? because we are no longer children we used to be! 

The reason for my musings is a play that I watched with my son last weekend in Ranga Shankara, "Gumma Banda Gumma" written by  Surendranath and directed by  Sundar, who had acted as a child in the first production of the play 22 years ago! This history was proudly shared to us by the director of Rangashankara, Arundhati Nag. The play revolves around Putta and Munni who are siblings and Gunda, the neighborhood rough kid. These protagonists are ably supported by Putta and Munni's mother and Gunda's short tempered father who believes that beating up the boy will set everything right. The play beautifully portrays the relentless banter,  mischief and never ending questions of Putta and Munni that drives their mother up the wall, the fears of Putta about an invisible Ghost (Gumma) in the night, their conflict with the rough kid Gunda and a natural graduation of their conflict into friendship. The siblings quarrel throughout but they are always one when the mother 
confronts them. Another aspect of childhood being dealt with is that the  value of any object in a child's eye is never the same as the supposed value in the real world!  For instance, Putta trades his bicycle with Gunda for a toy gun which he is most eager to play, but for his mom’s disapproval. This leads to a conundrum that drives the play to it's climax, drags both the parents and finally unites the kids. But in all the commotion, the children still don't see bicycle as being more valuable than a toy gun!

This is one of the few plays I was so engrossed in watching and it took me back to my childhood and reminded me of similar such conflicts I used to have with my sister. It's a must watch for all children and people who want to get nostalgic about childhood and innocence. 

Going by the tradition at Onestoryaday, there's always a book for every occasion..  and Divya picked out a book for us to read together... "The Tunnel" by one of our favourite authors,  Anthony Browne. This is an intriguing story about Jack and Rose, a brother-sister duo who were anything but alike each other. Jack loved outdoors, played football with his friends and Rose loved indoors and spent time reading and dreaming. When they were together….. they were constantly arguing and fighting, much to their mother's annoyance. Tired of their acrimonious fights, one day, she sends them out with a warning that they better be nice to each other and be back in time for lunch. So Jack and Rose wander about .. .scowling and snapping at each other until they come across what looks like a tunnel. Jack who loves exploring outdoors crawls into the tunnel while Rose waits anxiously outside. After waiting for what seems like long time, Rose reluctantly decides to follow her brother. Scared and nervous, Rose enters the dark and damp tunnel to find herself in a forest at the other end. As she walks through the deep woods, all the while thinking of wolves and demons. Beyond the forest, she sees a stone statue she recognises .... of her brother! Distraught that it's probably too late... she puts her arms around the statue and slowly her brother comes back to life! They then trace their way back home and their mother noticing their unusual silence asks them if everything's alright when the siblings give each other a knowing smile! So much is said yet so much is left to imagination….that’s Anthony Browne for you! The tunnel encounter proves that no matter how different you are or how many times you fight with your sibling, the bond you share with your sibling is special and in a way irreplaceable! As Abhay watched the play, he wondered aloud if his baby sister would grow up to be like Munni in the play! Well... may be, may not be......welcome to the life with siblings is ... trust it to be much more adventurous! J

Monday, July 6, 2015

School Stories!

A portion of this post was first published in  Parent Edge blog

With the arrival of my second child, my life seems to have been put on hold and has become home-bound for now and is all about nursing, burping, changing nappies, swaddling the baby to sleep and so on and so forth. But for the others around me…life goes on like before…school has reopened, there’s office to go to, there are routine things to take care of and so and so forth! Especially my older one (probably the first time Abhay is being referred this way) now a fourth grader, who doesn’t seem to cut me any slack at all! J Why should his baby sister’s colic evenings come in the way of letting out his frustration at having been separated from his friends at school? Who can blame his irritation at not being able to discuss his cricketing feats at school with his mom without any interruptions like before?? Frankly, while it may not seem so, I do empathize with him for having to vie with his baby sister for his mother’s attention.  Well….. school has begun and so have his routine weekly activities …that’s what matters to him the most!  I understand….but believe me, it is tough to be all ears to his who-did-what reports from school with a wailing baby at hand!

Though Abhay’s school reopened a month ago, I haven’t had much time with him as he continues to operate from our house ( thanks to my husband and my mother-in-law!) while I have been staying at my mom’s place. So while the daddy is in charge of our older one through the week, I am with our little one and we try to swap places during the weekend ( if that’s actually possible!). So its only last weekend that I got time to read a back-to-school book to help him kick start this academic year! 

Though I have read many  school stories before, this time I picked out a compilation that is more complex and layered,  titled “School Stories” by Paro Anand meant more for kids aged ten and above. Since some of the stories were beyond Abhay’s reading level, I read them out while Abhay listened on. This collection brought out by Scholastic publications sensitively portrays the  angst, confusion, trials and tribulations most adolescents face while having to grapple with various challenges in their school lives! It is interesting to note that almost all the stories are narrated in first person and this if not anything else is sure to strike a chord with the tweens and teens at home. Though the school years during high school seem tough….it is only when we are out of it do we realize that they were probably the best years of growing up! Each story by Paro Anand echoes such a sentiment ….. from the story of Pratap who almost succumbs to the temptation to cheat to Gita’s bold move of wanting to play the part of the protagonist in a play despite her stammering problem or the hilarious exchange of correspondence between parents and their son studying in a boarding school facing a cash crunch! Besides being brilliantly written all stories present a delightful inter-play of humour, reflection and reality-check for today’s youth! Though I am a little late….here’s wishing all the kids and their parents……..have a great school year ahead! J