Monday, March 26, 2018

Exam Warriors!!

March spells the season of examinations! If you are living in South India,  particularly in Bangalore and you have school going kids, your household is probably under the influence of exam fever or has just recovered from it......either ways it means normal/causal activities around the house are suspended until the last day of the exams, or you are still clearing out the piled-up work/chores that you've pushed until after the exams!  Phew!!! I have always hated exams and now the feeling continues through my son's exams as well!! Did our parents exhibit the same paranoia that we seem to go through every time our not-so-little ones have exams or are we overdoing it....??  Imagine, there was a time when we used to exchange notes about how much each one of us has studied and now, thanks mommy whatspp groups, we now get to nervously exchange notes about how much portions each of our kids (read mommies) has covered! A not-so-pleasant dejavu feeling..right?!! And in all this.... nobody could be more causal about than our kids themselves.....who's only answer for how did the exam go is ....'easy-peasy lemon squeezy"!!!

One of the self-help exam books doing the rounds is our Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Exam Warriors" by Penguin Publications. I'm not a great fan of self help books, but this one surely got me interested. True to his quintessential style of conveying messages through one liners and on the lines of his monthly "Man ki Baat",  Prime Minister Narendra Modi delves into what an exam actually means and how to deal with it and master it without losing your mind. Well, the book does not give out any magic mantra as there is none, but it's in the understanding and internalizing everyday common sense wisdom that we are aware of but seldom take it seriously or put it to practice. Starting with comparing exams to festivals as both involve preparations to their run-ups, thereby making it celebration-worthy, the author presents simple ideas on how one's approach to exams must be - from the awareness of "how exams test only your current preparation and not you" to "not being only exam oriented but pursuing knowledge' or "developing your own style and method for your own exam' or "be wise and revise" ...where he in fact gives a blueprint for how to compose a mind map of a particular topic in syllabus (which really helped us!), or how cultivating simple exam discipline matters, and finally how to be grateful to all the people (known and unknown) who help you through this phase, from parents and teachers to even the subordinate school staff like bus  drivers, ayaahs, or the shopkeeper who sells you stationery.....(Frankly, how many of our kids think of thanking the school sub-ordinate staff?) Replete with catchy phrases ( "Don't be a worrier be a warrior", "It's cheap to cheat" , "The Present is God's greatest present, live here and now"," Aspire not to be but to do"), suitable illustrations and with colourful tear-aways including thank you cards for kids to use, the book also leaves you with a few Yogasanas and Breathing techniques to relax your way through exams!!  So exams are just one of many challenges in life......all the best!!!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Good night stories for Rebel Girls!

Much has been said about Frances McDermont's acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for best actress, being a  powerful tribute to gender equality and woman empowerment.  But apart from her thought provoking mention of  "inclusion rider" (a clause that is sought to be included in all artists' contracts promoting diversity in hiring on film sets), she thanked her husband and her son, whom she claimed to have been well raised by their feminist mothers, who value themselves, each other and those around them!

Compare this to a recent column in The Hindu by Tabish Khair where he advised women, especially from the Indian sub-continent - like mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters and aunties,  against pampering the sons in the family as the boys then end up  "with bloated egos that can burst at a mere pen prick" and make them unfit in a world of differences and with differences being inevitable in today's world..."such men can only destroy themselves or the world". Wow... scary and yet true...isn't it?? 

This International women's day, as much as it is important for us women to acknowledge and strive for our equal roles in this world, it is as important for us as mothers to ensure that our sons are on the same page as well! Of course, it's a continuous process that ought to be reflected in our outlook, opinions, actions and advice vis-a-vis our boys, so as help them imbibe the same and internalize the sense of gender equality and mindfulness about diversity.

So as a symbolic gesture this women's day,  I had Abhay do a small project  called "Rebel Women" on a few famous women who broke barriers, freed themselves from the shackles of patriarchy and challenged the stereotypes to achieve the almost impossible in a male dominated world.

This is a spin off from "Good Night stories for Rebel Girls" which was a gift for Aadya from her aunt from the US, and we are grateful for this wonderful gift! A wonderful compilation of over 100 women from all walks of life spanning the last two millenniums....from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.....who have "dissented", "stood up", "dared to question" and "climbed the mountain of life by removing stones and planting flowers"! 

 Put together by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo and illustrated by over sixty women artists, and though it will be a while before it can be a good night read for my little one, this one for sure is for keeps! Apart from the well known names like Cleopatra, Jane Austen and Mary Kom, the book  also features certain lesser known yet game changers in their own way like the Japanese Empress Jingu and her seventy year reign, or the geneticist Nettie Stevens who was a pioneer in discovering chromosomes, or Xian Zhang, the famous orchestra conductor from China, or the child-bride-turned-rapper from Afganisthan, Sonita Alizadeh!   I couldn't asked for a better book on International women's day! Although a day late, Happy women's day to all the women and women-to-be!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Colours in life!

My little one is fascinated with colours... and every object that she sees and points out to always precedes with a question "Which colour is it?" .....which is a rhetorical one as it's a question meant only for her to answer.! No sooner does she confidently identify the colour than she compliments herself on it..."Very good Aadya"! ( as if to role play her teachers!)

So it's no surprise that she appeared to have enjoyed the burst of colours at her school's Holi celebration this year. On the occasion of Holi, I was on the look-out for some books on colour and I realised what better book on colour is there than Tulika's  Ranganna by Arthi Anand Navneeth and illustrations by Kavitha Singh Kale! My little one loves elephants and also loves nail polish and to find a book that has an elephant wearing nail polish is like a double bonanza!

Of course, Ranganna is a familiar story as we have read and featured the Kannada translation of the same on Onestoryaday before. While we have revisited some of our earlier reads, the responses they evoke from my little one are however quite different from those of her brother's. For instance, Abhay was obsessed with Teddy bears and hence loved Corduroy but my little one did even give it a second glance! on the same lines, I must confess that .Abhay has never been a great fan of "Ranganna".......not sure if it was because he was too old for the book when it first released or because he couldn't really relate to the nail polish fetish .....or so on and so forth. But my little one just cant have enough of the adorable little elephant and her love for colours!!!

Ranganna, a sensitive little elephant living in Dhobi ghat seems to find pleasure in the small things in it the sound of the clothes being washed or the ensuring soap bubbles! But one thing he finds irresistible are the colours ....that are everywhere from colouful clothes that are left to dry...or the colours of women's bangles or the brightly coloured nails of Anushka and Adithi......! ( Whom Aadya fondly calls as akka!) As Ranganna expresses his wish to have his nails painted .....Anushka and Adithi are unsure as it will probably be the first for an elephant to ever wear nail polish! Not wanting to disappoint Ranganna though...they bring eighteen different bottles of nail polish..and spend an entire day painting ten nails in the front and five nails at the back myriad bright colours ...that has Ranganna dance with joy!!! daughter always demands a follow-up activity after reading this book ....and no prizes for guessing ................painting her nails with colourful nail polish! Never a fan of nail polish myself, thanks to Ranganna I have to now stock bottles of nail polish for my already fashion conscious two year old daughter!!!! May the festival of colours spread colours of joy ....happy holi everyone!