Sunday, May 30, 2021

Aadya hits a six!

The only advantage in having a huge gap between your two kids is that as parents, you can still enjoy the endearing years of early childhood of your little one while suffering through the awkward adolescent years of your older one! You can still hold on to the innocent and tender moments with your little one  just as you try to let go of your older one asserting his own way of doing things. Just like your return from work earlier than usual is sure to be a pleasant surprise for your little one and probably an unpleasant one for your older one! 😊  Well……I’m not sure how long can we rely on this contrasting relationship between our older one and younger one, as our daughter is sure catching up with her older brother …. having turned six a couple of days back! As we were made to relive her last five years through a heart-warming video put together by the older brother…we couldn’t help wondering……..where did those six years go…really!!!

This was Aadya’s second birthday celebration during lockdown except that we switched places since the last time,  as we continue to operate  from Dharmasthala. Centred around a Disney princess and Frozen-II theme (I know… so predictably boring!), led by a birthday treasure hunt of gifts  which has now become a family tradition, albeit with many more places to hide this time, followed by a cake-cutting celebration with a few of our closest relatives living in the neighbouring farms, who were all sportive enough to participate in an outdoor super-minute game organised by the older brother turned perfect host….and this time, it was Aadya’s paternal  grandparents to join in through video call! 😊

No celebration in Shristi is complete without the farm workers joining in …. more so when it is the birthday of their most loyal follower in the literal sense, accompanying them to the plantation, entertaining them  (unknowingly) during their lunchtime and constantly buzzing around them all day! So amidst our close family and  our farm family, Aadya’s sixth birthday was truly a memorable one!  

A birthday post deserves a special book and this is by our all-time favourite author who recently celebrated his eighty seventh birthday a little earlier this month. Though  I haven’t read many stories by Ruskin Bond to my little one, she best remembers Ruskin Bond from the cover of his autobiography “Lone Fox dancing” she'd  seen me read  sometime ago. This time we read an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s writing into a picture book format in “Happy Birthday World” brought out by Red Panda publications illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy. Celebrating nature’s wonders narrated through the medium of a little girl and a boy, this book makes an earnest attempt to impress upon young minds to be mindful of the environment around them and to appreciate its various facets- from the sun that shines from dawn to dusk renewing each day as if it’s born again, the flora and fauna being nature’s gifts, shores swept by mighty seas that abound great mysteries, freezing ice on the extreme north and the south that may be a million years old but can be discovered as new. Our mother earth is full of surprises which the author likens to birthday gifts for everyone in the world who is willing to share, also stressing the importance of conserving nature for only then, would we be taken care of  here, there and everywhere - Happy Birthday World!   Happy Birthday, little one…you mean the world to us!  

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A walk in the garden!

It has been over month since we drove out of Bangalore to vacation at my parents’ farm Shristi, at Dharmasthala, and with the extension of lockdown in the State, we are now looking at getting on with our routine - school, work or probably even court work, connecting from here.  Of course, barring a few sporadic connectivity issues, we are more than thrilled to be working out of this serene eco-system that opens up to beautiful views from every window and look out. From the stunning view of Kudremukh ranges from the terrace on a clear day, to the glimpse of the colourful asters outlining our garden area from the balcony, or the panoramic landscape view of our areca plantation from the veranda, to the sight of the silvery sheet of rain soaking the surroundings, we are entreated to the nature’s spectacular imagery at every turn and corner.

What was meant to be a ten-day summer break has turned out to be an extended vacation of sorts for me and the kids, and having settled into a slow paced routine here at the farm, our treadmill-like life in Bangalore now seems like a distant memory. Except for my husband who has been working full time connecting to his virtual workspace from here, we have been off our regular routines as the kids have been on their summer vacation and I have been off duty for most part. Neither did we nor did my-in laws back in Bangalore expect to stay this long  and nor did my parents expect to have us for this long! 😊

While it’s been a dejavu for my son who spent last year’s lockdown at his most favourite place on earth, it’s been  a dream come true for my little one who had always envied her older brother’s extended stays at Shristi.  So much so that she has probably even forgotten that we have a home in Bengaluru! In fact, Aadya’s daily routine here is -  cycling around the courtyard, roaming around our farm, accompanying the cows as they are sent off grazing around our plantation, taking a stroll in the garden picking flowers, stopping just a bit to watch the butterflies hovering around the flowers,  pulling the vegetables off the vine, pausing to discover a nest perched on one of the branches, joining her brother in playing with the pet dogs, regaling the farm workers non-stop with her over-the-top stories….. and with all this she couldn’t have cared any less for her Grade one class all set to resume next week!

Since Aadya’s all-time favourite activity is to spend time in our front garden, picking a wide assortment of flowers for the daily pooja by her father or grandfather or for the flower vase she happily arranges with the help of  her grandmother, or looking at the ready-to-pluck veggies grown in the garden, I knew she would enjoy Niyatee Parikh Sharma’s garden series as I’d like to call it. Brought out by tota books, we can’t thank Funky Rainbow enough for introducing us to Veer’s and Ananya’s green adventures in “The Tomato Thief” and “The Tomato Flood” written by Niyatee Parikh Sharma and illustrated by Alankrita Amaya.  

The Tomato Thief  has Veer eagerly and patiently waiting for the tomatoes to ripe in the green patch in his terrace garden and just as they seem ready to be picked, they vanish leading Veer to go on a who-dun-it-expedition, making him interrogate each and every member and visitor of his household, from his naughty sister Ananya,  Baba, Shoba aunty  Ramu Kaka, his friends Shreya and Pranav, but to no avail. Veer even wonders if the aliens and their UFOs had anything to do with his missing tomatoes! Read on to find out the culprit …who also makes a surprise appearance on the sidelines of “The Tomato flood” (which was discovered by Aadya reminding me of Mo Willems’ books that always have the illustrations of characters of previous books making guest appearances in the later titles!)

In fact, we live through the likes of “The Tomato Flood” almost every other day, with our vegetable garden abundantly sprouting brinjals, okra, snake gourds, string beans and jackfruits more than we can eat, and we totally empathise with the predicament of Veer and Ananya’s mother who is forced to churn out every recipe there is in this planet with tomato as its ingredient….all thanks to Veer and Ananya’s gardening misadventures. Read this hilarious tale of how Veer and Ananya's family avert a tsumani of tomatoes from their garden! Both the books make for delightful reads and the author beautifully strings everyday occurrences into engaging light hearted stories. We love the playful yet relatable illustrations that have a sense of continuity in both the books, and definitely has us begging for more stories from Veer and Ananya’s household!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's day in lockdown 2.0

Just as we had begun to let our guard down in the assumption of a safer and pandemic-free 2021, it seems like we are back to square one again, with the onset of a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from the concerns of health and safety, every day we are confronted with doomsday-spelling local television channels, horror stories of suffering and the difficulty in finding hospital beds or shocking casualties on account of shortage of oxygen, and countless WhatsApp forwards by self-anointed gurus and life coaches on “what to do and what not to do” during what now seems like a time-warp, with a repeat of the 2020 lockdown era! Amidst all the surrounding doom and being surrounded by the constant fear of falling sick, while being confined indoors with continuous domestic responsibilities, this may hardly be a time a to celebrate Mother’s day…right? 

In fact, it didn’t occur to me until I saw our favourite Independent Book store, Funky Rainbow's FB post on the upcoming “Saturday morning live” Buzzaar with Mother’s day theme, titled “Mum’s the word”! Having moved to my parents’ farm in Dharmasthala over two weeks ago, I got to watch the weekly book recommendations revolving around mothers at the Book Buzzaar with my mother on the eve of mother’s day, and this was indeed special. As is the norm, the second half of Book Buzzaar featured a chat with Dr. Tanu Shree Singh, author, psychology professor, founder of FB group Reading Raccoons, a bibliophile who owns and supports many libraries in Faridabad and Himachal Pradesh (How we would love to visit a library in the hills!) Dr. Tanu Shree Singh drew out words of wisdom from her experience and her book “Keep calm and Mommy on” which was felt like a soothing balm on the harried and hassled minds of mothers who are trying hard to keep it together and retain their sanity especially in these troubled times, and frankly, we couldn’t have asked for a better mothers’ day present! There were a lot of takeaways from the interesting conversation between the unstoppable Vidya Mani of Funky Rainbow who is fondly known as Editoramma and Dr Tanu Shree Singh who was spoke from her professional and personal experience as a mother of two, including how it is impossible and unreal to live up to the expectation of a “supermom” and not to stress too much on excelling as parents as it is an evolving journey with its own highs and lows, laughs and cries, and the key being keeping the line of communication open. No matter what, its never too late to sit back, reset and reboot….and to mommy on..! 

Its also true that we end up empathising with our mothers a lot more than before after having becomes moms ourselves. There may have been times during my own turbulent teen years, (which I swear, was nothing compared to what I am going through now with my teenage son) when I’d sworn never to follow my mom on certain irritant aspects of her parenting approach, only to realise that I have unknowingly turned into my mom on those very aspects! So no matter how old you are…..moms always get to say with glee “I told you so!” 😊 

This year’s mother’s day has been special in the sense that I have been able to spend quality time with her in her unhurried world of nature walks, gardening, reading, online shopping, chanting of shlokas in the evening and of course dishing out delicious ‘oota from our thota” not only for our brood but also for our large farm family (including our farm workers!) Thank you amma for having us over!
On the occasion of Mother’s day, amongst various recommendations from Funky Rainbow, we read “A Saree for Ammi” a Tulika publication by Mamta Nainy and pictures by Sandhya Prabhat. As always, Tulika brings wonderfully nuanced stories from various corners of India showcasing the unique cultural milieu of the place and it people brought out in the story and its characters. This vibrantly illustrated Tulika story comes from a family of weavers in Kota, Rajasthan. Narrated in first person, a little girl watches her mother weave the most beautiful sarees and sell them in the local haat (marketplace) but never don any of them and decides to find out why. The innocent little girl that she is, she is left puzzled with her mother’s reply “If we keep sarees, how will we eat?” So she persuades her sister Sadaf to help her gift their Ammi a sari which had taken Ammi almost a month to weave. From breaking open their gullaks (piggy-banks) to doing odd jobs for Amina Khala, read on as the siblings embark on their heart-warming adventure to fund their special gesture for their loving Ammi! A touching tribute to a child’s love for their hard working mother, beautifully complemented by the illustrations that bring alive the bright hues and designs of the handloom weaves, and vividly portray the environment, community life and culture of the traditional weaving community life in Rajasthan ...... making it a delightful read on Mother’s day! Happy Mother’s day to all the mothers!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Red Shoes!

As I browse through some of my earliest blogposts almost a decade ago, I find that an oft repeated reflection on my part has always been “I wish I had a daughter” and such a longing was borne out of a desire to enjoy reading books that my pre-schooler was quick to dismiss as “girlie books”! Be it the Fancy Nancy series, or the Knuffle Bunny (which I though admit my son enjoyed too!), or books with little girls as protagonists fascinated with what is ordinarily termed as girl-specific choices, I found myself yearning for a daughter to read to! Now that I have a daughter, while we enjoy reading the very same stories that Abhay was not so enthusiastic about, I haven’t been able to chronicle our experiences on Onestoryaday as often as I wanted to. Of course, there are other trappings of having a daughter which I didn’t foresee, some of which can prove to be expensive affairs along with the way! (Of course, boys too have their own fetishes that aren’t exactly easy on the pocket!) For instance, our little five-year old fashionista already has the most number of footwear in our house; Our little style icon is too fastidious about how her clothing, the choice of colours, matching accessories, hairstyles, etc; Our little fashion expert is also the first one to compliment someone on their outfit, or their hairstyle, or a striking accessory! She has even complimented our maid on the colour of her sari! 😊
So as I was browsing through the shelves of Sankar’s bookstore at Rangashankara recently, I knew I had found a likely favourite in “Red Shoes- A dazzling journey” by Karen English and illustrated by Ebony Glenn. Malika is fascinated by the dazzling red shoes she sees perched on the pedestal on the shop display and tries to get her nana to buy them for her to As they return home, Nana unwraps the surprise and Malika cant take her eyes off the red shoes nestled amidst the tissue paper. From then on….red shoes become highlight of every one of Malika’s outing….at her aunt’s wedding or Nana’s Christmas party or playdate with her best friend Kiesha….Mallika goes click-clack-clack all the way in her red shoes, which is witness to many of her mischiefs, fights and her growing up experiences, including Malika’s desperate attempts to fit into her favourite red shoes that sadly now seem small for her….prompting nana to give them away to be resold at a Resale-Thrift store. As she bids farewell to what has been a significant part of her growing up, she can’t help but wonder a few days later as to where her red shoes are………read on to find out the dazzling journey of the red shoes in spreading joy and good cheer amongst the little girls who don them! Narrated in simple text and partly in verse format, and illustrations beautifully enhancing the reading experience, this book can take you back to your prized possessions of your childhood too! Needless to say…Aadya loved it and has already petitioned for red shoes to be added to her ever growing collection! I remember many years ago, before having graduated to being parents, we were flabbergasted at seeing a newly furnished walk-in wardrobe exclusively for shoes that our older cousin had got done for his teenage daughters and we swore never to fall for something like that, if at all we had a daughter! Now…. we are already thinking of something like that ….and our daughter is not even a teenager! 😊