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" ! :-)