Sunday, December 31, 2017

Zoo time in December!

Like many, we are on our annual year end vacation and like every year, we are at my parents' farm "Shristi" at Dharmasthala for a combined celebration of new year's eve and my father's birthday!

Like every year, this year too we managed to squeeze in a visit to the nearest city, Mangaluru, with a mandatory stop at one of its beaches and another one at the local zoo, which has in a way become a tradition of our annual December vacation. 

While it’s important to discover the new and explore the hitherto unchartered experiences, I feel it is also reassuring to slip into familiar patterns or revisit known experiences at regular intervals so as to understand the value of what we have and how we have evolved! 

Anyway, for my little one, the highlight of this trip has been receiving her mother’s undivided attention. With courts on vacation, and the office shut and no clients to disturb, I guess I almost made up for my near absence during the previous weeks, on account of work. As we are at an end of our vacation, and are soon to get back on the work mode, I now feel weaning her off would be the first challenge of the new year!!!! 

Anyway, another memorable feature of this trip for my little one has been a visit to the Pilikula Biological park near Mangaluru. While this is not the first time we have visited the park, it is the first time that my toddler took notice of the animals she saw in the zoo. A truly well maintained zoo, with a great variety of animals that can be viewed within a short distance range (with the hippo treating us to a spectacle of 180 degrees wide open mouth and tigers allowing for the closest view ever!)  and a battery operated vehicle to take the visitors around, Pilikula Biological park is a must visit spot in Mangaluru. 

As a follow up to the visit to Pilikula Biological park, we read Tulika's latest offering for toddlers " Im going to the zoo" by Narendra Jain and illustrated by Alakrita Amaya and the Kannada translated by Nayana Kashyap, which makes a delightful read for young children. With age guideline mentioned as two and above,  it didn't take long for this book be the new favourite of my little one.  Narrated in first person by a little girl on her trip the zoo as she saunters around the animal shelters, wide eyed with fascination at the long trunk of the elephant, ferocious growl of the lion or the sky high neck of the giraffe, or the green-blue colours of the parrots,  or the water-borne giant hippo  or grass eating one horned wonder of a rhino... there's no reason for not to love the zoo!!! Simple verses accompanied by colourful and playful yet realistic illustrations, this book is a must have for the toddler library! advertised by Tulika " Tots like it lots" 

So as we look back on the year that has gone by and reassess our lives, and look forward to the coming year, here's to the pleasantly familiar and excitingly new in 2018.... a very happy new year everyone! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Aadya goes to playgroup!

I wouldn’t say that parenting a second child is easier than the first time around but you are certainly a lot more laid back the second time around, given the many ‘been there and done that’ instances that you come across as your little one grows through the usual milestones. What had earlier caused a storm in the household would hardly cause a flutter now; What appeared to be a mountain earlier is not even mole hill now; Similarly, the things that you fussed over your older one, don’t appear to fuss-worthy with your little one;  Of course, there may be many first-time issues with your younger one that you’ve never encountered before,  but wizened up over your parenting years, you know that you gotta do what you gotta  to do and there is no point in stressing too much over it… ultimately “The Kids are all Right”!!!

On the flipside though, you can also run the risk of taking some things a little too lightly as there is always a thin line between nonchalance and neglect. I suddenly realized that while Abhay’s first days of school were a big event, I don’t even remember Aadya’s first day of  her play-school.  It was only when we went for  Aadya’s  first school event, that it struck me that though it’s been close to six months since my little one started playschool, I don’t even have a post on the same on Onestoryaday

So to make up for all this lassitude and as its better late than never,  we revisited a book that we had read as she started school in June, one more gem from Kutoohala, “Goat goes to Playgroup” by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharatt, Perfect for toddlers starting pre-school/playgroup, this book is centered around the mischievous little goat who joins his other animal friends in the school playgroup. The character of the goat is mirrored on that naughty little kid in the class, who never seems to sit in the designated place during circle time, or mixes and messes up the water colours while painting, tries out dangerous stunts in the play ground and has accidents everywhere ( My little one is in this phase now!) 

A lovely book for the little ones, with playful illustrations to identify with and laugh over and simple one-liner verses to read and repeat, a perfect play-group book. My little one…you may be growing up sooner than we can keep up……but going down the same path the second time over makes it much more enjoyable and memorable than the first time! As you begin a new chapter in your life........enjoy the school days…those golden rule days!!  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Utopia in Uttarakhand!!

We are on our annual Bharat Darshan tour, this time around the Northern State of Uttarakhand. Beginning from the banks of River Ganga at Haridwar and Hrishikesh to travelling up the winding roads to Mussoorie followed by a wildlife Safari at Jim Corbett national park and now for one last run-in with the clouds on the Gagar hill ranges at Nainital!

When traveling, it's hard to strike the right balance between engaging in hectic sight seeing expedition and indulging oneself with a relaxing holiday. When you've travelled so far from home (and the package costing you a pretty penny) might as well make the most of it.. and get your money's worth... while at the same time.. it's a vacation,after all.. and you should be allowed to put your feet up and get some R & R... isn't it? 
Well.... this has been a constant tussle through out our trip. But the key is to focus on the hits rather than the misses ( which I confess ... have always had trouble doing!) as for all you know.. the main take-aways from any trip are the experiences, memories and pictures of the highs and not the lows... and with time..the so called "lows" evoke just as much nostalgia as the highs!!! 

The highlight of this trip ( at least for me) has been visiting the Queen of hills - Mussoorie, which felt like a pilgrimage of sorts for a Ruskin Bond fan like me. Though we couldn't get to meet our favourite author, we did get to catch a glimpse of the hills with its mighty deodars, pine and walnut trees growing therefrom, the doon valley view, umpteen little streams lining the meandering roads and the myriad wild flower blossoms that always seem to find a place in his stories and his writings indeed do complete justice to the beautiful landscape that was before us, (of course, only if you ignore the touristy trappings like tourist vehicles mindlessly blaring their horns, garbage lying uncollected and tin sheds and hutments that have mushroomed at every nook and corner of Mussoorie that only seeks diminish its rich natural beauty). But thanks to our visit, we can now very well  relate to " Lal Tibba", Camel Back Road", "Wynberg-Allen school"  and many such places Ruskin Bond refers to in his stories.

We also got to visit the iconic Cambridge Book Depot and leave a note for our favourite author. The Cambridge Book Depot that was established in the year...... and located at Mall Road, Mussoorie, houses amongst others, a complete collection of all of Ruskin Bond's titles and is also the place where Ruskin Bond meets his fans every Saturday .....(Alas! He was not available this Saturday)

But curiosity got the better of me, we did make a trip to get a view of "Ivy Cottage" from the outside only to find a small little house perched high up, with a breathtaking view from its windows.... So excited was I that my husband had to literally hold me back from climbing up to his narrow staircase leading to his entrance and knock at his door!!

No worries.... as I guess like any author, or an artistic/creative personality, Ruskin Bond too is wary of letting strangers ( even fans) invade into his privacy, and is best met through his writings... and with this understanding, we did a Ruskin Bond special during our journey... each of us with a Ruskin Bond in hand!!!

"Roads to Mussoorie" was my companion as we drove from Hrishikesh to Dehradun and then up to the mountain ranges leading up to Ruskin Bond's "paradise regained"! A compilation of stories old and new revolving around his surroundings, all throwing light on historical, naturalist and societal perspective of Mussoorie then and now. A must read for anyone planning on a visit to Mussoorie.

 Amongst the other titles,  our favourite family read aloud was "Tigers for dinner - Tall tales by Jim Corbett's Khansama", most appropriate as we  visited Jim Corbett National park. 
A collection of about six spine chilling stories  about the various encounters with tigers, leopards, king cobras and other dangerous creatures during the tenure of Mehmoud as Jim Corbett's Khansama..... all narrated from his perspective.. and presented in a quintessentially Ruskin Bond style.  As Mehmoud dishes out his famous Kofta curry to lamb chops to quenching the summer heat with his succulent mango milkshakes, he regals little Ruskin Bond with interesting tales revolving around the jungle expeditions of the famous Jim Corbett and party, adding his own spice and masala to them! Packed with adventure, suspense and subtle humour, and aptly illustrated by Sunaina Coelho, reading this book almost makes up for not sighting any tigers during your jungle Safari!!!:-)))

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Abhay-anna!

I guess this is the first time that Abhay has had to write an exam on his birthday and so there was nothing “Happy” about the first half of his birthday and this may not be the last time he would have an exam on his birthday as the month of September has always been the mid-term exam season for as long as I can remember….and that he has now come to encounter this in class six. Well…..what can I say…. Welcome to the real world buddy….. as no matter what …you gotta work when you gotta work!
Anyway, kids these days have a lot of expectations from their parents to make their birthdays special and  celebrating birthdays with cake and a few gifts followed by a quiet family dinner does not exactly quality as “special” anymore…all that’s given anyway! It almost feels like you’re trying to impress your boss when he says “Hmm…I wonder what else is cooking up for my birthday…”!!Phew!

Of course….each of us had our own way making Abhay’s eleventh birthday extra special…from home made delicacies dished out by his paternal grandma to the gifts ordered off the internet (as if on Abhay’s birthday registry) on behalf of his maternal grandparents, from  the old-school style of gifting a watch by his grandpa to the host of knick-knacks and gifts bought by his father and to the new-generation  dedication on a local FM station on the radio by his mom…from numerous whatsapp messages (and still counting) on our various family and friends’ groups  to the babbled “Happy Birthday Abhay-anna” from his baby sister…. We all chipped in to make the whole day better than all the individual specials put together…..after all the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts and  I sincerely hope that Abhay grows up to understand the same!!

In keeping with the recently devised  birthday tradition (that began only over three years ago and I don’t know how long we can keep it up as he grows older!) we had a birthday treasure hunt of eleven gifts symbolizing each year of his life, with the first clue handed over by his sister!  So celebrating her brothers birthday, we read about a baby leopard’s “Hide and Seek Birthday Treat” by Linda Jennings and Joanne Partis. Brightly coloured and narrated in rhyming verses, this book (another gem from Kutoohala)  is a sure delight to read aloud to a toddler who will sure be excited to go on a breezy “I Spy” adventure  of various animals of jungle who all missing on the leopard on the day of his birthday!  As the baby leopard goes looking for his friends from zebra to lion, from snake to crocodile and is almost disappointed to find none present for his birthday only to realize that they were all in the hiding for a reason…. To throw the baby leopard a surprise birthday party!! Despite nursing a viral infection, our  little one couldn’t be more excited on her big brother’s birthday……Happy Birthday to Abhay-anna! J

Monday, August 28, 2017

The feast of Ganesha Chaturthi!

Every year around the time of July and August, as I drive down some of the city’s roads like R V Road along VV Puram, I see rows and rows Gowri-Ganesha idols lined up …and my heart swells with a warm feeling that that Chowthi is here!  There are a few annual rituals that we look forward to and Ganesh Chaturthi has always been one such family event that we make it a point to join in the celebrations at my father’s ancestral home in Dharmasthala. In fact, the run up to Chowthi is even more exciting …… as we plan our trip, book our tickets or get ready to drive down and  connect with other cousins and extend family as who may attend and who else may give it a miss. As the day nears and we pack our bags and are all set to catch the overnight bus to Dharmasthala only to realize that the whole of Bangalore has landed at the Kempegowda bus stand intending to travel to their respective hometowns for the festival….. literally making it a nightmare to get out of Bangalore! J

Anyway, the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi as a family fosters a community feeling and helps to continue the family tradition and pass on the legacy to the future generations. It is delightful to see the next generation participate in the event will full rigour and enthusiasm and the new members involve themselves without any inhibitions and this only strengthens the family ties and relations…which is after all the true spirit of celebration of festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi.

Every year during Ganesh Chaturthi, we read a book or two about Lord Ganesha and other mythological stories, and this year I picked up a Puffin publication “Lord Ganesha’s feast of laughter” by Meera Uberoi. As much as I would have liked to read Ganesha’s stories to my little one, I felt that it would be appropriate for us wait a year or two for introduction of mythology to my two year old. So we settled for a chapter book from our favourite library “Kutoohala” pegged mainly for kids over eight years to read on their own, however can serve as read-aloud for kids above five years. This book is a compilation of over twenty three well-known and not-so-well known tales of Ganesha “dug up from ancient texts”, delivered in a breezy narrative so as to engage young children. In fact, I found that the language got a little too contemporary in some places (especially with the usage of words like idiot and moron) so as to get today’s kids to relate to the perspective and mindset of the mythological characters, however without diluting the underlying message therein. From the famous tales of Ganesha winning the race around the world, how he stopped Ravana from becoming all powerful and how Ganesha came to be known as “Remover of all obstacles”, the book moves to lesser known stories about how Lord Ganesha about how Ganesha is creator of the instrument of tabla and was responsible for the birth of river Kaveri, etc. The collection also includes stories a few ordinary people who attained immortality by their devotion to Lord Ganesha and the grace of Lord Ganesha, that always has a touch of shrewdness, humour and unmatched brilliance.  Season’s greetings to everyone this festive season! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Brother!

Last week began with Rakhi, the Indian festival celebrating the brother-sister bond, which has acquired greater significance in our household, since the arrival of Abhay’s little sister. While the last two years had been a one-sided affair with the little sister too young to even comprehend what was happening, Rakhi was celebrated more for Abhay to accept the fact that he is now a big brother. This year, however, with the little sister already looking up to her ‘anna’ for many a things at home, and the concept of Rakhi also reinforced by the celebration in her playschool, it felt as if ‘Rakshbandhan” has truly arrived and will always be a special day in the lives of Abhay and his baby sister.

Of course, with Abhay too young  (or should I say too self centered?) to pick out a gift for his sister on his own, it was our job to fill the gap…well at least until he grows old and mature enough to understand that Rakhi is not all about “the brother”! But I must say that the transition of Abhay from being an only child to a big brother has been more or less smooth, with an occasional hiccups, quite expected of a young boy that we often forget that he is, after all! Well done ...big brother!! 

Image result for my brother anthony browne

On the occasion of Rakhi, we read what the little sister loves to call the book “Anna-book”Anthony Browne’sMy Brother ”. Narrated in first person from the perspective of a little brother who almost worships his big brother, who believes that his big brother is capable of everything – from climbing walls to flying, from standing up to bullies to containing monsters, from being a rockstar-like singer to grooving like Elvis Presley, from being avid reader to a talented artist, big brother is sure a cool cat (at least sometimes!) and you can almost feel the little brother wanting to emulate him as as he considers himself to be as cool as his big brother! Narrated  by way of simple one liners that come alive with brilliant illustrations archetypal of Anthony Browne’s books…this book makes for a splendid Rakhi read!!  Belated wishes to all the brother-sister duos on the occasion of the Rakhi season! :-) 

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Aha! all the way!

It's that time of the year again... a chance to 'enthrall, entertain and educate the kids and say AHA! In Arundhathi's Nag's own words, one of Rangashankara's most "precious" theatre festivals "Aha! International theatre for children is in it's eighth year and going strong!! With troupes from all over the world, including Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom Korea and Afganisthan performed at Rangashankara this week...with shows ranging from puppet theatre to shadow plays, from symbolic and surreal to delightful gibberish …..children between ages of four and above were in for an artistic treat!

This year's takeaway  were seven AHA! characters that embrace diversity and seek to break stereotypes in society – from Raju who loves the colour pink to Pammy who loves to fix bulbs …from mini-master chef Nandu to the cricketer Lilli! The interested children got to choose one of these characters and act out /demonstrate their characteristics in their own manner and style.

While this year’s year highlight were age specifications prescribing both minimum and maximum age for the shows, as it had been increasingly felt that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to children's theatre, my only complaint is that there isn't any performance catering to very young kids.. as it only seems unfair that my younger one had to wait for two whole years to be unable to experience Aha!:-(

For the last six years…..we’ve been regular at Rangashankara’s Aha! festival and we come back each year begging for more and more…! I’m sure early exposure of theatre to children has a positive impact on their impressionable minds. In fact, I’m amazed at the how my son seemed to remember some of the performances that were staged over 3 to 4 years ago! All thanks to Rangashankara’s Aha! festival.

While my daughter may be too young to enjoy interesting performances  at Rangashankara this year, she is not too young for the interesting stories revolving around pretend and play acting …………. And there could not have been a better choice to suit the occasion than “Ari” a Tulika publication by Vaishali Shroff and illustrated by Kavitha Singh Kale. Centered around a shy and sensitive boy named Ari whose soft voice is often drowned out by the common din in the classroom. When the class teacher announces selections for the class play, Ari’s hands go up but not high enough for the teacher to notice. While Ari follows the selected children onto the auditorium to watch the rehearsals of the play ‘Lion and the Mouse”, he cant help feeling that he could be a much better job of playing the Lion than his classmate. Though a little disappointed but Ari does not lose hope and finds tremendous satisfaction in mono-acting the characters of lion and the mouse in front of a mirror at home…..only to find someone squeaking in to play the role of a mouse – who else – his mother who joins in the play-acting of the famous fable of “Lion and the Mouse” …. And after the performance, the actors finally take the much deserved bow! A beautiful rendition of a tale of childhood yearning fulfilled by a creative parent to make happy growing-up memories and that’s the Aha! spirit…isnt’ it?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

When Mama Comes Home Tonight..!

Just when the omnipresent working mom’s guilt had begun to ease with Abhay growing independent enough not to need his mom at every juncture, its back to square one with my little one!  Though being an independent professional allows one the flexibility to combine work with certain personal responsibilities that a structured job does not make room for, that does not automatically being about a greater work-life balance. Technically, there are no ‘day-offs’ or ‘sick-days” or “paid leaves” or even “public holidays”! While being busy is a good sign for an independent professional, it can also lead on to biting off more than one can chew.... often blurring the lines between home and work…and that’s when your support structure at home truly matters.

Well, notwithstanding umpteen number of day-cares that have mushroomed on every street of the city, most working moms depend on some sort of a support structure at home, at least during the early childhood phase of their kids – be it in the form of parents, in-laws or nannies, etc. Till recently, I was in between nannies …..the uncertainty  of which, believe me,  is worse than being in between jobs! With each passing day, things turn from bad to worse, leaving you at the mercy of these maid/nanny agencies that is probably the only business not affected by any kind of recession! Of course with each passing day, the helplessness makes you doubt the wisdom of your choice of getting back to work with a young kid in tow. Finally, when you find that your prayers have been answered, there is still a sense of uncertainty over whether the new help is here stay or will she vanish into thin air …like her predecessors! So while some semblance of sanity has been restored in our household, following the appointment of a new nanny for our little one, we never know when the rug will get pulled from under our feet…once again!
Anyway, this is an age old saga of a working mom that will only end when her kids fly out of their nests (or will it??). Meanwhile we shouldn’t forget to enjoy the small pleasures of life with kids  that includes reading to them which may turn out to be more of a relaxation therapy for the mothers!

Not very often do you come across a book that you can so well relate to, that it almost feels like to have been written only for you! “When Mama Comes Home Tonight” by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jane Dyer is one such book that is a must-read for every mom, (especially working moms) to a young child! So much so that even the illustrator dedicates the book “To all mothers who come home tired at the end of the day….”! This book assumes a reassuring tone for all the kids waiting for their mamas to return home. With a beautiful narrative, the author vividly captures the daily routine of a mother once she is back at home…and how everything she does, involves her little one .. ..from hugging her little one tight to feeding her dinner and dancing with her down the hall, from engaging in quiet play to looking out of the window for stars and moon in the night, from mending the little one’s clothing while fixing her own and taking some time off for a cup of tea while letting her little one have a sip or two, from getting her into a bedtime routine of bathing her…reading to her and finally putting her to sleep with her soft lullabies in the company of her soft toys…mamma stays on till the end!  

Even the soft and tender water colour-like illustrations of the mother-child duo seem so real and familiar that it may as well be straight from one of our households. Personally, the illustration of the thumb-sucking-curly-haired little girl makes the book seem like a customized picture for me and my little one! Though based on a simple theme, its sublime presentation enhanced by soothing illustrations make a comforting read for all mothers and their little ones alike!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Daddy Bear!

Call it a blogger’s block or blame the proverbial mistress that the practice of law is likened to, in the saying “Law is a jealous mistress” (or should it be the master in my case?), but this no doubt has been my longest break so far on Onestoryaday. It is only recently when my younger one turned two ( I know time flies..!) that I realized that while I had chronicled our read-aloud experiences with my older one…….…there are hardly any posts on my reading experiences with my little one…and that especially when she literally  jumps with joy when I pull out a book for us to read together.  More so, it wouldn’t seem fair when she grows up to discover that Onestoryaday was all about her older brother! So pre-empting any mis-interpretations that may arise in the future over the  digital dominance of her older brother on Onestoryaday, I better start making amends ….ahead of time before I’m accused of any favourtism!!

While I had made grand plans of resurrecting my blog on Mother’s day……by the time I got around to executing the same …. It was Father’s day!! Though it is tough to find a book that makes an ideal read for both my kids who are almost nine years apart….. nevertheless I had the daddy and the kids all huddled together with a couple of picture books on the occasion of Father’s day. Amidst the jaded expression of my older one and the distracted attention of my little one, we managed to read a bear themed picture book which my little one was excited about.....  “Me and My Dad”  by Alison Ritchie and illustrations by Alison Edgson which is a trip down memory lane for us….as we had read a similar book to Abhay back when he was four years old!  Reading “Me and My Mum” by the same author-illustrator team made Abhay wonder why there isn't any reference to the dad in the book….and we now answer this question six years later!

My little one kept on blurting out "Teddy bear" as the book beautifully illustrates the wonderful times that the father-baby bear share through out  the day......right from being woken by dad with tickle and a kiss to exploring the world on a piggy back ride…from keeping safe from storm to dancing in the rain…from swimming in the stream to sleeping under the stars…dads are such fun to be with…..both my kids will vouch for that for sure! :-) Happy Fathers day to all the daddies!