Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hyderabad blues!

We just returned from our tour of the Pearl City of Hyderabad and during the last week ... we've been soaking up some Hyderabadi sunshine as well as getting soaked in the off and on rain that has been lashing the capital city of Telangana. However that did not deter us from discovering the city in our own unhurried way.... savouring each and every moment ... amidst the numerous tantrums, tussles, tardiness and toilet breaks of our kids.. ..:-) 

Starting from the best known icon of Hyderabad, the "Charminar" and the bustling old city to experiencing the grandeur of Nizam at the Chowmahal palace and it's various mahals housing some exquisite remnants of British India's most important princely State, from exploring the world famous Salar Jung museum through a guided audio tour to climbing atop the colossal Golkonda fort during the day and witnessing it's illuminated ramparts take us through a thousand years of history vide the spectacular light and sound show in the evening...we were on a roll! While squeezing in a few usual touristy hot spots like Birla mandir in pristine white or the Hussain Sagar lake with the Buddha statue in various evening hues, NTR gardens with it's noisy children's adventure rides, we also managed to stop at the lesser known Qutub Shahi tombs heritage park, browze through one it's quaint little independent bookstores, go bangle shopping at the Laad Bazaar,  sip the Hyderbadi chai and chomp on the mouth watering baked delicacies of its Karachi bakery and shop at the jaw dropping market place of Hyderabad's most recent MNC retail acquisition - IKEA... which was a throwback to our days in the US. Just as we thought we would end our trip with a big bang visit to the Ramoji Film city with it's sprawling gardens, gigantic film sets, including it's latest attraction, the Bahubali film set and it's evening carnival extravaganza, it was however destined that we stay in the city of Nawabs a little longer owing to a last minute cancellation of our flight which in fact proved to be a blessing in disguise allowing us (read me) to go on a shopping spree at Hyderabad's vibrant crafts Bazaar..... Shilparamam! In all, we came back refreshed....carrying a bagful of shopping, a potpourri of experiences and a cartload of memories!! 

No trip of ours is complete without a visit to a local independent bookstore and thanks to the recommendation of an erstwhile-Bangalorean-now-turned-Hyderabadi friend of mine, we stopped by Akshara Books while on our sight seeing tour. Nestled in a quiet part of the Jubilee hills area, Akshara books is how a bookstore should be...a charming little sanctuary of books, its set-up offering a sense of tranquility goading you to immediately curl  up with one of the books from its impressive collection. "Akshara Books" also houses a sizeable collection of children's books ranging from the board books and picture books from foreign publications to many home-grown publications like Tulika, Pratham, Katha and Karadi tales, etc. 

As I was looking out for a children's book on Hyderabad, the friendly co-owner, Ms. Kavitha guided us through the bookshelves and helped us find "Off to Telangana", a part of 'Discover India' State by State series by Sonia Mehta, brought out by Penguin Publications. Narrated from the perspective of the brother sister duo, Mishki and Pushka who set off on an adventure with Daadu Dolma discovering Telangana, with Hyderabad being its Kohinoor in the crown! A comprehensive travelogue for kids aged eight and above,  the 'Discover India' throws light on the history, geography, language and culture of the State in focus accompanied with fun facts, puzzle and games. "Off to Telanagana" turned into our ideal tour guide at Hyderabad, acquainting us with Hyderabad's magnificent mosques and tombs, palace perfections, its Telugu and Hyderabadi cuisine, Telengana's famous festivals, and many of Telangana's accomplished personalities, all presented in an engaging format replete with catchy phrases, fun and interesting games and activities for the young readers to go on their own little expedition....just like we did and thoroughly enjoyed the land of the Sunrisers!!!  

Monday, September 30, 2019

Are you a WOCOTEEN?

I have always thought of parents of adolescent children from the perspective of a poem titled "Middle age" by Kamala Das that we had in our textbooks as a part of our high school syllabus. It's only now that I realize,  as I am one myself, with my older one turning thirteen two weeks ago....that it hardly feels like middle age for me! Of course adolescence lasts for over seven to eight years and this is only the beginning!  But I'm already dreading the words as the poem goes......"Middle age is when your children are no longer your friends, but critics, stern of face and severe with their tongue......they no longer need you except for serving tea and pressing clothes..." (Yikes!!)  While Abhay is still amenable to parental authority,  traces of that "I-know-what-I'm doing” and "leave-me-alone" adolescent attitude have already set in and I can't help feeling as if the worst is yet to come!!  Growing up in Bangalore in the nineties, I remember that one of the biggest questions confronting our parents as we turned teenagers was whether to subscribe to cable TV network (popularly known as Star TV that brought home American sitcoms for the very first time)  or stick to the our good old Doordarshan, and parents skeptical of the influence of "Beverly Hills 90210" or  even home grown serials like "Banegi Apni Baat" on what they believed to be our innocent minds! Cut to almost a quarter of a century later......the challenges faced by our parents now seem trivial and even innocuous, given the paradigm shift in technological-socio-economic-cultural conditions in which we raise our kids today.  At every juncture, we are constantly faced with the question of "How much is too much"  or "When does motivation turn into pressure" or "Is this a necessity as our kid feels or an indulgence as our parents will most probably think" and the ubiquitous nagging question "Should we let go or will it be considered lackadaisical" and so on and so forth.  For instance while the age thirteen is the official entry level for an online presence, be it on Facebook, Instagram or Gmail,  my husband and I are still old school and not yet very comfortable with him having an online social life that we are not a part of....and so it goes...as Abhay puts it....he is the only thirteen year old in the world not to have a cell phone of his own....and I cant help feeling "dejavu" as I remember sulking at being the only girl in class eight who didn't yet have " Star TV" at home !!  

So as a true teenager, the center stage of this year's birthday celebration for Abhay has shifted from the usual mom-organised-cake and sandwich home parties with a few neighbourhood friends to dining  out with school friends  at a fancy restaurant .......and mom and dad required only for the cheque at the end!  So we had over six boisterous boys ride home in the school bus with Abhay, heading straight to a Wii match (again as Abhay puts it.....we are the only ones who don't own a play-station!)  and all the while huddled in his room with non-stop chatter-banter and subjecting the birthday boy to birthday bumps followed by cutting of the custom ordered cake with the icing of Abhay's favourite football club logo - FC Bayern Munchen and dinner at an unlimited all-you-can- eat pizza restaurant as a finale!

The best part for me in all this was the return gift and it goes without saying that the return gifts at Abhay's or Aadya's birthday parties have always been and will be books, books and more books! With all the boys having entered teens already, I couldn't find a better audience than anyone else for Roopa Pai's "Ready! 99 Must have skills for the World Conquering Teenager  (and Almost-Teenager)"! What's more..........their class even had the same author do a session with them for one of her other books in school recently. As the title goes, this book of non-fiction written by one of the most well known writers for children, young adults and parents alike  (one more non-fiction book of hers  is being launched somewhere in Bangalore as I write this! )  published  by Hachette India, and starts off as an Indianised and contemporized spin on the nineteenth century Robert and Agnes Baden-Powell's Scouts and Guides Movement but offers much more for the current  crop of teens to grow into  "World conquering teenagers" or as Roopa Pai cheerily puts it.. a "WOCOTEEN"!    
My first reaction to this book....was envy!!! I felt jealous of the kids today as I wish we had a book like this while growing up in the nineties. Of course we had the Scout/ Guide clubs in most schools then (unlike many schools today), but I felt as if the emphasis was more on the protocol rather than the substance of the scouts and guides philosophy!  

Anyway, packed with over 99 must-acquire life-skills for an overall development of your teenager, with focus on various aspects like personal development from the point of view of health, discipline, creative development (including pointers to pursuing a hobby that may not involve a device!) to being the family man/woman from the perspective of helping out and doing the chores  at home (including the unclog-the-sink challenge or even washing your own undies challenge!) to even bookkeeping or opening your own bank account challenge, etc, or the community awareness element from being a patriot (understanding the importance of the national anthem, national flag or the Indian currency or the explain-India to a foreigner challenge) to being an interpreter (learning a new language or build empathy challenge) or a volunteer for various kinds of community service and finally setting out for the challenges of the great outdoors! Of course the book comes with certain badges and shields at the end to be won by the WOCOTEEN wannabes on completion of all the challenges  but the focus is on the journey more than the destination and what those experiences can build your teen into and the life skills he or she acquires along the way that may shape his/her future path! It's a great book for shared reading and a joint activity for teens and parents of teens  and truly an earnest attempt to impress upon the Generation Z, certain fundamental life philosophies from self-reliance, self-control, self-assurance, motivation, empathy, leadership, and to being mindful and open-minded, all brought out in the quintessential easy-breezy-yet well researched and engaging style of Roopa Pai. Each skill-set comes with its own unique challenges or tests that can be attempted either individually or better in a group......called the WOCOTEEN squad......so  to Abhay and his friends ......are you guys in to form the WOCOTEEN squad of your own and ready to conquer the world...?? :-)

Dearest  Abhay .....enjoy your foray into your teen years  and go easy on your mommy!!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Chauthi- A family festival!

As soon as I lay my hands on the first copy of the coming year's  calendar, if there's one thing I almost always immediately look out for, it's to check on the Ganesh Chaturthi  in the coming year! Ganesh Chaturthi or Chowthi as we refer to in South Karnataka, has been special to me for as long as I can remember! Spread over almost a day and a half, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in my ancestral house in Dharmasthala that has been an integral part of my father's family and has now, post my marriage, come to represent a regular annual feature in my family too. 

We come from a culture where most families along with their extended kin, join in the celebration of one or more ( if not all) Hindu festivals in a year.... and those occasions are not just about performing religious rituals but rather a socio-cultural affair in the form of family Bhajans sessions, or hosting local artistes or folk culture,etc.  Be it Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri or Deepavali ( to name a few Hindu festivals), extended family celebrations of the same have a charm of their own.. While they may prove to be hectic and strenuous (especially for the hosts), no can deny that they make for some of the best family-time memories and offer unique family experiences for children that are otherwise hard to come by in today's nuclear age! 

So it gave us immense pride to see our little millennials nearly dominate the all-nighter family bhajan session, even vying with each other over singing some of the traditional family bhajans that have been passed on by our previous generation... while adding their own “bindass” style to the mix! As the festivities culminate in the immersion of our Ganesha in the Nethravathi river, we seek blessings for the coming year..... and hope to grow more, evolve better and let go a little.... until next year when we get ready to welcome Lord Ganesha in into our family home yet again!! 

We’ve been reading many books on Ganesha over the last few years on the occasion of Ganesha Chathurthi, this time I thought I’d introduce my little one to some of the Hindu deities through Sanjay Patel’s “The Little Book of Hindu deities”. While we have read Sanjay Patel’s earlier works on Hindu Mythology and his unique illustrative and narrative style through his take on Ramayana and Ganesha’s sweet tooth, this book is an all-encompassing account of Hindu Mythology beginning traditionally with Lord Ganesha, moving on to the Trinity and various manifestations of Shiva to the revered Hindu Goddesses and a birds eye view into ten avatars of Vishnu. The book also delves into the contextual background of the mythological stories from a brief introduction to the chronological periods - Satya Yuga to Kali Yuga, to the Nava Grahas or nine planets while also touching upon the various Demi Gods from Indra to Yama and Animal Gods from Naga to Surabhi, giving us a glimpse of the Hindu epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavadgita. Presented in his one-of-a kind breezy narrative that makes our deities more relatable, with modern equivalents to some of their traditional attributes, like the "Howler" Rudra, or the Kali "the Black one" or the "chunky money" Hanuman, and his various feats, all accompanied by light-hearted animation style illustrations...  Sanjay Patel's book on Hindu deities is sure a hit with the curious personified next generation millennials. Season's Greetings to everyone this festive season...celebrate the spirit of the festivals  with your kith and kin! 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ten years of Aha!

We can't have July go by without the Aha! International theatre for children at Rangashankara....now can we? On its tenth year, we literally camped at Rangashankara watching a play every day between July 14th to 20th. Thankfully, there were a couple of plays that Abhay could watch unlike last year which was exclusively for toddlers. However, there has been a increasing tendency favouring the younger lot, with most plays having minimal or no language at all or gibberish meant for very young kids, and a note of suggestion would be to include a play or a performance with dialogues impressing upon the tweens or adolescents too! Anyway, a play a day sure keeps dreariness away (so needed for our routine driven lives)........also devices away (so needed for this generation) ........and jadedness away (so needed for everyone today) ...and of course making a play a day happen for your kids on weekday evenings sure keeps you on your toes...so much so that it took me this long to recover from the hectic schedule of the Aha! week.....and it's only today that I found time to write about it!

Well.......better late than never, so here is my must-post event of the month.....and this year was all the more special as it was the tenth edition of the Aha! International theatre festival for children that has spread it creative tentacles to the likes of Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. With plays from children's theatre groups from various parts of the world including the US, UK, Germany, and Korea. etc, catering to children aged 4 and above, and performances ranging from puppetry to adapted novellas, from shadow plays, to creative inter play of mime and animation, from no language at all to the universal language of creativity and imagination, the  Rangashankara's Aha festival has come to symbolise one of the most stimulating, nuanced, inclusive and inspiringly creative events for children that Bangalore and Bangaloreans are proud to call their own!

The Aha! festival has always provided a platform to interesting events that prelude the play of the day,  and this year it opened with a launch of a book  titled "Yaksha" by Archana Mohan and illustrated by Adithya Sadashiv. Being a collaboration between Bookosmia and Yakshadegula, this book is a wonderful way to introduce children to Karnataka's indigenous dance form, Yakshagana, that is particularly popular in our native South Kanara district. Narrated through the perspective of the eight year old Yaksha,  who finds himself unhappy over many things, be it being new to school or his unusual name that always gets turned into "Yucky" or "Yucks" or his lack of friends or as he considers himself to be a back-bencher with no special talent thus making Yaksha suffer through a  low phase in his school life. On "Be your own superhero day" at school,  Yakhsa  is reluctant to participate as he is too jaded to believe in Super heroes. But as his father and grandmother take him through the story of his great great great great grandfather also named Yaksha who fought to perform mythological stories before the general public, through the medium of the unique dance-drama-art.  So Yaksha,  in his search of a 'super-hero"  goes on to  draw inspiration from his own family tradition that he sets out to reclaim and make it into his own. A beautiful  coming of age tale that encapsulates a melange of  themes -from a contemporary story line of a boy trying to fit in, to the past glory of a dying tradition, guided by subtle yet strong support from family and elders to finally finding your own destiny, all through  interwoven with informative aspects of one of most vibrant dance-drama forms of Karnataka.....truly makes you go "Aha!" with delight!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

First day jitters!

It was D-day for our little one going to big school with her older brother. It was the day when she would finally board the yellow school bus she’d so wished, just like her older brother. It was the day to put on “The Samhita Academy” uniform and continue to wear the same every day of the week, just like her older brother.  It was also  the day that we were dreading as it seemed near impossible to get her ready as early as her brother which is  almost two hours ahead of her usual time  the last two years!! Well... it’s finally here... with both our kids going to the same school ... and gone by 7.45 AM... we may finally get some quiet time for ourselves before our daily grind!!!:-)

While choosing the right school for the kids is a much discussed/debated topic in most households, it was quite the opposite with us. It was more of "We came, we saw and we enrolled....." with my older one who has happily continued in the same school ever since he first joined in UKG or Upper Kindergarten on our return from the US. So it was but a natural progression for his baby sister to be going to the same school, albeit a year earlier for LKG or Lower Kindergarten after two years of playschool.  While we didn't dwell too much on whether it was the right call to make when we filled out the sibling admission forms last year followed by a seemingly smooth admissions process,  it is only in the last couple of weeks that we began to get cold feet over preparing our little one for her big day and had misgivings about  whether it is too early to send our little one to a large school that is more than half-hour commute away or would it have been prudent to let her continue for another year in her close-knit Montessori school that's literally only a stone's throw away from our house. Added to this mix were several pre-occupations like work getting hectic all of a sudden, the fracture of my older one’s little finger at the start of the academic year, and my mother-in-law's backache, all of which only compounded our concern over her ability to fit in and our wherewithal to enable her to do so!  But when the D Day arrived, without much fuss,  our little one held her brother's hand and just climbed on to the school bus!   We even followed the bus into her school and hid behind other nervous parents to watch her alight at the school entrance and just as we were about capture the moment on camera ......she noticed us ... and  waved out to us  as if it were a "first day of school-red carpet",  reassuring us that she was going to be fine!! :-)

It had to be a special book to celebrate the start of our little one's journey in the yellow school bus, and I went all the way across town to "The Lightroom bookstore" to find it! Sounds too dramatic isn't it? Well, actually I managed to finish work in North Bangalore early enough to be able stop by the bookstore, that I had visited many moons ago. Browzing through the well stocked shelves of independent bookstores like "The Lightroom Bookstore" and a few other in South Bangalore, is such a joy that can't compare to the convenience of online shopping  and a friendly owner like Aasthi Mudnani and her courteous staff helping you the find the right book only completes this delightful experience!  

So we picked a few books and best liked "First day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judy Love, a part of the "Mrs. Harwell's classroom adventures series" by Charlesbridge publications. School year has just begun  and Mr. Hartwell has a tough time waking up Sarah for her first day at the new school. Just like anyone with starting trouble, Sarah refuses to budge from her bed and has to be goaded into getting ready for school, with her father gently persuading her at first and then resorting to sterner methods to get Sarah to look forward to the new experiences in her new school, dismissing all her apprehensions.  Despite all her diversion tactics from her head hurting to feeling sick, she is finally ready and packed off to the school in Mr. Hartwell's car and is welcomed by the school supervisor/principal who ushers her into her  classroom.... and the readers as well as the students  are finally introduced to Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell ..the new class teacher! :-)  We could relate to this ..... as except Aadya, everyone else from her parents, her older brother, paternal grandparents at home, maternal grandparents at a distance, and to her day-time nanny were all experiencing 'first day jitters"!Have a great school year without any jitters....my kindergartner! 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Four is Fun!!

After almost nine years of being "Abhay's mom", it certainly took a while for me to get used to being identified as "Aadya's mom'! Even after four years, it still takes a tad longer to respond to "Are you Aadya's mom?"  With a huge age gap between kids, the younger one is always ...well... the little one, and not to be reckoned for a good many things - be it choice of music in the car, or choice of cuisine while eating out, or even choice of a movie we plan on watching....... it's almost always the choice of our Mr.know-it-all Big brother which takes precedence....and the younger one almost always just goes with it.... either because she is easy going  or that she adores her older brother  and wants to follow on his ever step ....at least that's how it is in our household!!  It's not until her fourth birthday (which was a couple of days ago) that it hit us....that our younger one is not so little anymore and is slowly acquiring her own persona and surely a force to reckon with! It's amazing to see these little extensions of yourself, grow out of the same cocoon into very different personalities - with distinct temperaments, tastes and of course.... quirks!  Just as her fourth birthday was approaching, she had already a dress in mind .....something on the lines of "Fancy Nancy's" over-the-top-frilly frocks, announced that her birthday cake would be a pink flavoured one and was even clear on the guest list!  Wow! Aadya has already shown early signs of turning into a birthdayzilla!!

So we got together two of her same-age cousins  for a creative artsy and crafty outing at "Tug Bug children's center" followed by cutting of cake and dinner with the extended family.

Ever wondered if we make way too much of the fifth birthday when turning four is just as big? Tulika's   "Four" is just the answer to it! "Four" by Poile Sen Gupta and illustrated by Greystroke was first written for the fourth birthday of the traveling children's bookshop and my favourites, Funky Rainbow.   Ela cant contain her excitement as she is turning four and is let into the significance of the number four - from four limbs of animals to four eyes of her bespectacled grandma, from a thumb and four fingers to four wheels of her car and finally to the four cardinal directions!!  Not only did my four year enjoy the book, she was all for "North-South-East-West" all day long!! Simple yet superbly funny...... this book shares an instant connect with four year olds waiting in wings for the world to give them their due!  We loved the funky illustrations, especially of  the contemporary looking grandma! Having read this on her fourth birthday, Aadya felt as if the book had been specially written for her.....and the fact the book had been signed  by author for Aadya made it extra special! Four is sure fun.....Enjoy your fourth year ahead ..my not-so-little-one!  

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Aadya's day out at the beach!

Summers are always a throwback to one’s school days!  Though we adults aren’t as lucky as our kids to enjoy a summer break for a  whole month or two  (unless you are in the teaching profession),  the sweltering heat, twilight evenings, school holidays, the mango season, ice cream outings….. All of which ushers in a lazy feeling goading you to .........maybe take it easy this season …..unwind and chill out with kids and family. With schools closed, and a consequent respite from the morning rush and evening homework, I can't help if some of my son’s holiday fever rubs off on me too. Though we didn’t plan for a major trip this summer….we combined a couple of family events at our native town with a small beach vacation at the coast with a final stop (as always) at my parents’ farm house Shristi, Dharmasthala.  

The highlight of our trip was our stay at Sai Vishram Beach resort at Baindur, Udupi District. A quiet little property on the shores of Someshwara Beach which promises a back-to-nature (sea in this case) experience, free from devices ( no TV nor phone) albeit with all the modern comforts, and a delicious vegetarian spread. The almost-private beach as its center piece, the resort offers a host of beach related activities during the day and sunset evenings with chai and literally ‘bajji on the beach”!  We enjoyed the calm and pristine surroundings of this Sattvik resort, made even more homely by the ever-smiling staff and not to forget the Sai Baba temple in the midst of the refreshingly beautiful sea facing greenery that made for a memorable summer getaway for all us!

Though our little one has been to a beach before, this was her real  full fledged beach experience and we were quite surprised that she shared no inhibitions (like her brother earlier did!) with any of the beach activities, whether it a motor boat cruise, to jet skis, or riding on the waves lashing on to the shore with the help of a life guard or simply floating in the middle of the Arabian sea, or making sand castles….our little adventurist was game for it all!  

To complete her beach experience, we read a couple of books on the beach. I had picked up   "Keya's day at the Beach" a Level 2 Pratham reader by Radha Rangarajan and illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. Keya excitedly  peeks out of her burrow in the sand to be looking out at the sea. As she accompanies her mother to the beach, she spots many of her kind who have all come out for their feed of the day at the shore. As she marches on with her mother, grabbing whatever treats she can find in the sand, her mother introduces her to many of her species kind from the robust-soldier crab, to the eye-popping ghost crab, from the big-claw-fiddler crab to the crab-eating moon crab. Alas! just as she nears the sea, it is time to head back to the burrow. But Keya has enjoyed a day out at the sea and can't wait for the next day to march into the beach again! This is a-one-of-a-kind fiction-non-fiction book anthropomorphizing crabs which does make an interesting read with vivid illustrations for curious little minds.
But for my little one to fondly remember her fantastic beach experience at Sai Vishram Beach resort , I had to fall back on another anthropomorphic series - "Peppa at the Beach" , a Peppa Pig adventure, revolving around their beach outing with the Kangaroo family. My little one could very well relate to the excitement of the approaching waves, riding on the waves and being carried by the waves into the shore..... just like how she attempted to do with the help of a life guard at the beach.  Just as Daddy pig is caught off guard with a giant wave that picks him up and carries him into the share, my little one was knocked down by quite a few big waves hitting the shore and no sooner did she wipe the saline water off her face than she was ready for more! So just like Keya and Peppa, our little one loves the  beach! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We are the Readers!!

"One book, two eyes and one light....that's all you need....and within no time...you have read over a hundred pages!' This is what Abhay happened to say about his interest in reading when asked to speak recently at his Youth Leadership summer workshop conducted under the auspices of Toastmasters International. Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't impressed at his bibliophile-style account of reading a favourite book while being a tad surprised too. Is Abhay  a voracious reader...No!  Does he pick up any book and begin to read.....not really! When asked to choose between a book and a device (not Kindle)...would he choose a book? I'm not sure but my guess is  that it would first be the device and then the book.
While Abhay has always enjoyed being read to, he has not always been enthused by every book I pick out for him to read!  Fair enough....he has his own favourite authors and genres ...like we all do. While he may jump at a novel by Michael Morpurgo and even manage to read it at one go, he may trudge though another book and even abandon it mid-way! It may be an award winning author or a Newberry medal book, but if the theme doesn't impress our big little man, he will not get past even the first chapter!  But as a parent it is my job to gently goad him to trying out new authors and works.....while learning to let go when he does not take to what I deem is good literature (which is very hard and easier said than done! ) If not anything else, that's another reason for me to continue reading to him from my curated buys, while letting him dive into the world of his own favourite works! Whatever said and done......... if books (or ebooks) even figure as one of the interests or hobbies for today's device obsessed generation to turn to, we can consider it as a job well done...for parents!

Books have been a integral part of our lives and our house-hold has books falling out of every corner rack....from books that we couldn't resist picking up at a book fair, books we bought for authors to sign on at lit fests, self-help books that we aspired to read only to be pushed to the last, multiple books that we've been currently reading depending on our moods, books we've read many times over and hold a sentimental attachment to, books that plan to pass on to our kids, children's books that our older one has grown out of (or we think so until we find him to pouring over them on some random jobless afternoon) and we hope our younger one soon grows into.... (but considering her independent streak......that may never happen!) Books ..books and more books! 

Our summer reads! 

With the World Book day yesterday,  I put my phone on silent and spent an entire evening reading to my younger one who is equally find of books and exchanged reading status updates with my older one who is spending a part of his summer vacations at his grandparents' at Dharmasthala. Soon it began it rain outside and I turned some music on.....as Abhay put it.....it was just one book (at a time)......two pair of eyes....one light......and we were transported to another world!  

Amongst the many books we read, I picked up "A Book is a Bee" a Tulika Publication by Lavanya Karthik and pictures by Ruchi Shah. Though we've had this book for quite some time now, its only now that I felt that Aadya was ready for it. True to the its title, this book lets you into all that a book can be and has to offer.....from being likened to a bee buzzing in your head to growing like a tree with branches that leads you to places all over the world, from being compared to a ship that lets you sail into far away waters waving with words to looming large like a rain cloud that showers stories! A book can play the role of your best friend and soothe you like a warm blanket and even offer a lip smacking feast!  A nice little book about the fascinating world of books with equally fascinatingly illustrations to get your little one hooked on to! Read on.....become a reader and you'll know what we are talking about!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Like a girl!

"Balance for better" is this year's theme for International women's day. A balanced and an inclusive environment especially in terms of gender is truly the way forward. As highlighted by Shelley Zalis on Forbes , 'When you add more women to any equation, there's a return on equality'.  Seeing more and more women at the boardroom, courtroom, legislature, cockpit, stadium, studio or on the front-lines is certainly not only a measure of progress of the society but also encourages many others to take a leap and a recognition and  celebration the same is the sheer essence of International women's day.

Speaking of balance on an individual level.....for every woman of this millennium, achieving the right balance has been a constant challenge. We are on a tightrope......on a perpetual balancing act... switching between our different identities, working around our varied schedules, managing expectations from multiple quarters - professional-societal-maternal-domestic and not to forget our own expectations from ourselves.... Oh! the different hats we wear!  Of course, like everyone and everything else, we have our goods days and bad days. There are times when things seems to be working reasonably well, even to a level of being textbook-perfect., and there are times when things couldn't be worse off....or when one role seems to overshadow the other .....at least for the time being.....and we feel guilty and with it, the need to justify ourselves.  But especially on those days..... we need to cut ourselves some slack....and not feel solely responsible for the things going wrong... ..and key is to go with the flow.....do you what got to do...and give it your best shot! As Julia Child had said "No matter what happens...in the kitchen  (sic)  (but you can take it as life in general) ...never apologize"

Women's day is also about supporting the individual freedom of choice and how as a society we ought respect a girl's choice to live life on her own terms, whether its choice of a career or a life partner or simply how she chooses to dress.... it's her choice and thus will be her responsibility to deal with it!  Anyway, I always try to read something woman-centric on Women's day, and this time I was delighted to find many books revolving around women. We had picked up "Like a Girl - Real stories for Tough kids" by Aparna Jain by Context, Westland Publications, at the Bangalore Lit fest last year when Abhay being one of the few boys to get the author to autograph the book for him as signed as "Change the world #Like a girl...."  

As true as that, the book presents the inspiring stories of fifty six women who pioneered their way through the so called male bastions with sheer grit and determination and  sought to change the world and thus making way for more to follow. From Sultan Razia to Dipa Karmakar, follow the stories of these  women who broke stereotypes and didn't hesitate to take the road less traveled to reach great heights. While there are many famous names that we've all heard , the book also features lesser known but no less adventurous women who rose from ordinary circumstances to make an extraordinary impact - like Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla who took on the multi-national Union Carbide factory through their NGO 'Chingari' or the environmentalist Sunita Narain who lead the campaign in Delhi for vehicles to switch their engines from diesel to compressed natural gas or the writer Bama who took on the caste divide in her village and wrote about it that not only won her recognition but also empowered many other Dalit girls. A great book about great women.......and for anyone comparing "being shy or to cry......like a girl..." this book is a great way to show them to change the world ....like a girl! Happy women's day !!  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Happy Birthday my ninja nani!

Amma writes all these blogs about me and my sister.  Now it is I, Abhay Karanth,  expressing my thoughts on Onestoryaday. It is my  grandmother's birthday today! I always make cards for all of my family members' birthdays but this time I've decided to key in a guest post on Amma's blog as my grandmother is on a travel trip to Gujarat!   

What do grandmothers mean to us? To me, my grandmother is happiness, laughter, maths, football and fun!  My grandmother makes jokes when you least expect it and makes everyone laugh. I always practice Maths with my grandmother as she is a retired Maths professor and I don't forget to go brag about it at school, even to my teachers! 

One of my favourite TV shows is a show called "Young Sheldon" and I can relate to Sheldon's relationship with his grandmother whom he calls Meemaw. Meemaw is just like my grandmother except that my grandmother is more caring. Meemaw has a pet name for Sheldon and calls him 'Moonpie' and my grandmother calls me 'Acchu'. Meemaw means a lot to Sheldon and so does my grandma  to me!

As every post on amma's blog has a book a to go with, I read "Ninja Nani" by Lavanya Karthik.   Deepu is an ordinary boy and loves watching the TV show Ninja Dragon. But his grandmother is always sitting on the couch and watching her cooking shows. What can Deepu do? Snatch the remote! But while fighting for the remote, his nani goes bananas and turns into a ninja warrior and does all the moves that a Ninja  does! Well, will Deepu survive this crazy evening as nani uses her recently acquired ninja powers to catch the burglars in the park? Read on to find out.  I love the fact that Ninja nani is extremely funny and always cracking jokes but when it comes to her grandson, she is extremely protective....just like my grandma. I would give this book a 4.5 stars out of 5. 

I know my grandmother is going to read this so I would like to wish her a very happy birthday and this day comes once in a year and she should enjoy it. I would like to end by thanking every single grandmother in the world for always being there for your grand kids! Happy birthday to my Ninja nani. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Angry "A"s!

What makes you angry? When your clients dodge paying up after extracting all the work from you? Or when you feel your entire weekend being devoured by your kids leaving absolutely no 'me-time'?  Or when your little sister is a ubiquitous presence at home, staking claim to all of your parents' attention? Or when you are not allowed to snack on your favourite junk food (which happens to be right before dinner time!)........ these are a few reasons that makes us go all red and hot! Off late, both our 'A's (as we fondly refer to our kids both whose names begin with the first alphabet) have been experiencing certain anger issues in their own way........if one is transitioning from tween years to teens.... the other is moving from thunderous threes to fussy fours!! While we dialed in  for "Toddler 911 techniques" for the latter, for the former we decided to introspect and look within and like most children's issues....it's no surprise that this too stems from the parents! While anger is a natural feeling when things don't go as expected, it's how we choose to react and express our anger that has a direct bearing on how our kids let their steam out! We yell and they yell, we abuse and they abuse, we curse and .........well.....they'll think cursing is cool!
Of course, avoiding all kinds of outbursts or shouting-matches is easier said than done, and it's convenient to let it slip a few times and blame it on children themselves or rationalize the same as parental authority! But seriously...who are we kidding? They are as we are and they will turn out as we have turned out. As the saying goes ....children are great imitators...so give them something great to imitate!

As we all learn to deal with our own anger management issues, I discovered an insightful little children's book on the same subject by Pratham publications titled "Angry Akku" by Vinayak Verma. Recently awarded the Hindu Young-World Good Books award for the Best Picture book: Story category, this book is based on a theme that transcends all age groups and makes a delightful read for one and all.  Even the name of the little girl reminds me of Kannada author Vaidehi's story of a strong willed woman named "Akku" with her own anger management and mental health issues that was even adapted into theater and later a movie. I wonder if the author drew inspiration from the same....!

Anyway, as little Akku is picked up from school by her father, he notices that Akku is not her usual perky self but is upset over something. Nothing seem to cheer her up...if the sun flowers on the way are "too yellow", the monkeys on the roof of her house are "Chee!" Nothing that appa has to offer softens her mood..... and though she refuses to down a glass of buttermilk or crunch into the crispy vadas.... on second thoughts  she polishes off the plate in no time!  Despite being in an unenviable situation, I envy the father's ability to stay patient and adopt a therapeutic  approach to letting Akku's anger subside! Why is Akku angry or most importantly, does Akku finally cool down?  Read on to find Akku's  annoyance melting away as she turns from Angry Akku to Artist Akku!  Aided by vibrant and imaginative illustrations,  and endearingly relatable portrayal of its protagonists, this book is truly one of the best picture books in recent times! Even on a personal level Angry Akku is a big hit at home as I see my little one imitating Akku in one of her own angry avatars and my older one trying out the ten best things suggested when he feels angry like Akku and  our lives are all about juggling between them as we learn to deal with our own angry-Akku-moods!    

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Not a morning person!!

My little one has been a morning person ever since I can remember! Well.....barring a few bad days................she was pretty much pleased to open her eyes to the world around her.  So much so that no sooner did she wake up than she was ready to ride with her dad on the bike to drop her brother to the school-bus pick up. In fact, there were days when I had wished that she would sleep in a bit more so as to allow us a morning walk together in the near-by forest reserve.  I should have known better.... with two kids you lead your life by taking turns! :-)
Anyway, over the past few months, we have been having trouble getting her out of the bed in the morning. I'm not sure if it's because of the fact that our live-in nanny has now been replaced with a day-care-giver, leaving us to manage the never-ending-nightly bedtime routine and the always-on-your-toes morning routine  on our own (like all parents...I know...we were spoilt!), or the sudden cold spell in Bangalore or the change in her sleep patterns owing to the change in care givers..... our little one simply refuses to wake up!!! Frankly, I now miss our little Miss morning sunshine who used to smile as she first opened her eyes eager to see what the day has in store for her!  Not anymore......well....as my husband said ..... 'the real world has probably dawned on her" !:-)

So I fell back on a book that showcases a similar situation so as to help us ponder over the same and find a way out. Though this book has been around for a while now, it is only now that I found it to be relatable for my little one. "No" a bilingual book by Cheryl Rao and illustrated by Samitha Gunjal  by Tulika publications is a simple and endearing tale of a little girl named Annika who simply refuses to wake up in the morning! Though her father gently goads her into getting her out of bed with all the her favourite things she will probably look forward to doing..... from wearing her new dress, new shoes with matching socks, even her butterfly clip (when for a moment she opens her eyes) and also savour her favourite breakfast dish - poori-potato baji ...... Annika simply doesn't budge and her state mirrored by her pet cat!  But then as the father finally mentions her most favourite activity, saving the best for the last........Annika along with her cat jumps  out of bed to quickly get ready - brushes her teeth and takes a bath and puts on her new dress, new shoes with matching socks and gets her butterfly clip for papa to help her with and sits down with papa for downing her favourite poori-potato bajji that papa has lovingly dished out.......(wow!)..Annika is all set to go and she and her father are off to catch a bus to Dadi's house!  Aided by suitable and playful illustrations, the  book also includes certain subtle elements to impress upon the young minds and adults alike, from gender neutral hands-on parenting and self-reliance in young children  to using public transportation, etc. Though the book is based on a simple theme, it perfectly captures the mind of a young girl and sure manages to bring a smile on your face as you find your toddler relate to Annika's morning routine in many ways........ but you can only hope to achieve the same success Annika's father!  Anyway...taking a cue from Annika’s father, we woke up Aadya in morning with a promise to visit her grandparents over the weekend....... are now on a bus to Dharmasthala !!!