Monday, August 15, 2016

The Indian Freedom movement for today's children.

It’s that time of the year again when we see the mini-tricoloured flags being sold at the traffic signals. Of course, the Indian Independence day means a lot more than hoisting or flying the Indian flag, but it sure feels good to see the saffron-green-white everywhere from mini-flags to fashion merchandise to on-screen logos. Though it seems as if we are commoditizing the Indian tri-colour, symbolizing the patriotic spirit in tangible terms in a way helps imbibe the true spirit and pride of being an Indian, at least for children. Why….., as Indians living in the US, didn’t we embrace the blue and red hues on July 4th? So, why get cynical on August 15th and instead celebrate the India we love and the India we want to love!

That said, it has been increasingly felt that the Independence day celebrations has been reduced to mere symbolism or some sort of a cultural event for kids to show off their talents on the patriotic front, which they happily forget once the day is over. What does freedom really mean for the younger generation today? Is it a case of too much freedom today or too little value for the freedom once fought hard for?



The kids today are unaware that the independence we celebrate today was won by a long and prolonged struggle against the then British establishment. So much so that I was taken aback as Abhay asked me if Bal Gangadar Tilak  was a bad person as he was jailed. Of course, one may ask the same question about the recent events that had people  imprisoned on the grounds of sedition, but that is however question for another day. As of now, I realized that there is not much he knew about the Indian freedom struggle.  So for this year’s independence day, we picked out “A Flag, a Song and a Pinch of Salt” by India’s most prolific writer of history for children, Subhandra Sen Gupta and  brought out by Puffin Publications. While this is not a book that we could finish at one go, this work of non-fiction  takes you back to the beginning of last century when the seeds of Swaraj were sown, with people from different walks of life, from lawyers, to writers, to teachers, to businessmen, all joining in the movement…. …determined to make India free. While the main architects of  “Mission Freedom” have been featured, the book also throws light on some lesser know names and events that in their own way contributed to the uprising that culminated in India’s independence over seventy years ago. Written in a simple and contemporary narrative, interspersed with interesting anecdotes and legends, this book acquaints the reader about the extraordinary lives of freedom fighters from Mahatma Gandhi to C.Rajagopalachari, from Bikaiji Cama to Birsa Munda in an engaging and non-text-bookish manner. Though meant more advanced readers aged 12 and above for independent reading, this compilation nevertheless makes for an interesting shared reading experience for children who’ve just begun to get curious about what Independence day means. Happy Independence everyone!



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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Aha! ...with Granny!

Come July and it’s time to say…Aha! …and head straight to Rangashankara! We have been regulars at the Aha! International Theatre festival for children since 2012,  making advance reservations even before the tickets arrived, planning and assigning chaperoning responsibilities well ahead in time so that all of us at home get a piece of Aha!  So much so, that my parents and in laws have often wondered who is the intended audience for the plays – children or their parents!! 



Ideally, we would like to watch all the plays ( and we have done that for a couple of years), but through the years, we’ve evolved in our choice of plays and  Abhay now prefers plays more suited to his age, with language, humour and themes he can relate to and so this year we’ve picked out plays and shows meant for children aged seven and above. In fact, my little one who is now over fourteen months old narrowly misses the eligibility to watch “Dinner at eight” presented by Headstart school of Montessori meant for children between the age group of 18 months to 36 months. Of course….left to me …I would have gone for all the plays!!!  So, waiting for my little one to grow up…I guess!! J



Yesterday we went for the screening of a Korean feature film, “The Way Home” directed by Lee-Jeong-hyang  Since it revolved around a relationship between a grandma and her grandson, Abhay was accompanied by his maternal grandma! Though the film was in Korean language, it was presented with English sub titles. Set in a remote village in Korea where a city bread spoilt kid is sent off to his grandma’s while his mother is in between jobs, the film beautifully portrays the evolution of a poignant relationship between the grandma and grandson, despite the age factor, generation gap and the urban-rural divide. Abhay and his granny thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thanks to Rangashankara, Abhay has been exposed to not only world class theatre but also brilliant movies from all over the world!




So we had to end our Rangashankara movie night with a moving story and who can be better than Ruskin Bond when it comes to insightful and charming stories on inter-generational relationships! With my last two posts also on Ruskin Bond…. it feels like a Ruskin Bond festival on Onestoryaday!  We read “A long walk with Granny” from the collection “The Room of many colours” and other stories brought out by Pensuin publications. The same story has been rejacketed as “Getting Granny’s glasses” by Puffin publications.








Nani (granny) needed a new pair of glasses but was reluctant to get them as she had to travel all the way to Mussoorie to get to the eye hospital. ( With Abhay’s own grandma’s legendry reluctance to get her annual eye check up…this story couldn’t have been more appropriate) So as Nani tries to make do with her old glasses that are badly scratched with spots all over, it is up to her doting grandson who agrees to accompany her on their two day tedious journey to Mussoorie to meet the eye doctor. Just as Mani wonders how to get by the first mile, which comprises of a long walk to Nain Market to catch the only bus to Mussoorie, Nani chides “I may be going blind but there’s nothing wrong with my legs”!  And so Nani and Mani set off on what turns out to be a rollercoaster ride along the foothills of Himalayas, with incessant rains and landslides aplenty. Though it is Mani who’s tasked with the responsibility of taking care his septuagenarian Nani, it is Nani who could give a well trained scout some stiff competition, when it comes to readiness and preparedness to brave any emergency, from carrying all essentials to being ready for a ten mile stiff climb when the bus breaks down! When Nani  finally gets her new pair of glasses…..she cant stop gazing out of the window on their way back as every turn and bend opens up new vistas for her! Nani’s child-like enthusiasm along with Mani’s mature sensibilities make for a  great story……and Ruskin Bond’s tender and vivid narrative packed with subtle yet tongue-in-cheek humour enhances the experience to a totally different level!  What an apt ending to an Aha! evening! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

School days...school days...those golden rule days!!!!

The month of June signals the start of a new academic year in most parts of India.  New academic year brings with it new friends, rivals, teachers and challenges (not necessarily in the same order!). As my nine year old steps into grade five, I can’t believe that he is already into middle school (or is it considered middle school from the sixth grade…I’m confused!)! With school work, home work/studies, assessment and grading system getting tougher with each passing year….it’s time  to pull up one’s socks and get serious……and mind you….it’s not just the child but also his or her parents who now need to be all the more involved in school work and studies. Plus there’s always growing up pangs with each phase of growing up throwing up new issues and quirks to handle and deal with……there’s never a moment in parenting, now…..is there?? J


Going to fifth grade also means transition into tween years and the way time flies …what do you know…within a year or two, he’ll be stepping into the dreaded adolescence! J Anyway…we always pick a book for the start of the new academic year and this time we’ve been reading two books  and both are connected through our current favourite author, Ruskin Bond…..of course! The first  “Whistling School boy and other stories of school life” written by Ruskin Bond which I have just featured in my previous post and another “The Puffin Book of classic school stories”, a compilation edited by Ruskin Bond. Isn’t it such a treat not only to be reading your favourite author but reading the favourite stories of your favourite author!?? 


This compilation comprises of excerpts from famous works from David Copperfield,   Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Jane Eyre that revolve around school adventures or misadventures of the protagonists, extracts from acclaimed school story classics like “Tom Brown’s School days” by Thomas Hughes and E.R.Braithwaite’s “To Sir with Love” to home grown school stories from R.K.Narayan’s immortal Swami and his friends and boarding school escapades of Rusty by Ruskin Bond. While most of the stories are set in the previous century, it’s amazing to see how these stories continue to appeal to the school goers today…a hundred years later. Still a work in progress in so far as our reading is concerned, these stories beautifully capture the various aspects of school life…friendships, resistance to authority, formation of secret clubs and societies, impressing fellow classmates and probably even teachers, rivalries and fights, examinations and competitions…..all those golden moments of care free school days! Though the language and narrative of some of the works may be a little challenging for a nine year old to read on his own, these time enduring school stories make for fantastic family story times…not just for a nine year old! Well….as Ruskin Bond mentions in his foreword that the purpose of this anthology is justified if any of these extracts make the reader pick up some of the classics from where they are taken…..these stories not only make you want to go back to reading those classics…but also in a way go back to school!! Have a great academic year ahead everyone!! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Letter to my father!

We find ourselves in an unenviable position of being caught in between two entirely different phases of growing up! Abhay’s near transition into tween years juxtaposed with our little one’s transition into toddlerhood makes for a trying test in parenting. While we do manage to sail through on some days…there are many occasions when we falter and fumble and that’s when the co-parental support assumes great importance. No matter how hands-on a parent you might be, it’s certainly tough to single-handedly manage everything on your own, without the support of your partner-in-crime! Today’s age and lifestyle has blurred the lines between what was typically considered a mother’s role or a father’s role, and the roles now seem interchangeable, depending upon time and convenience. The credit largely goes to the new generation dads who’ve stepped up and are not just actively involved but rather thoroughly enjoy their parenting responsibilities. Daddies are always special…..no matter how late they turn up from work ……they always get a giant grin from the kids….be it a one year old or a ten year old!

Well…parenting is a journey and no journey is fun without a companion! So father’s day or mother’s day is also about acknowledging the vital role played by our spouses  in this journey. So as we embark on this amazing experience together … we start out as rookies, gain experience along the way and then probably turn pro, especially the second time around! J




So over the father’s day weekend a couple of days ago, we revisited a passage that is a touching ode  to a father-son relationship beautifully expressed in the form of a letter in “Letter to my father”, being an excerpt from his recent compilation “Whistling Schoolboy and other stories of school life” by Ruskin Bond brought out by Red Turtle wing of Rupa publications. Considering that schools have begun in most parts of the country, this collection of stories revolving around school life makes for an ideal read this season. “Letter to my father” feels like a continuing monologue of a son recounting his everyday experiences, reflections and thoughts to his father. No one would have guessed that the father to whom the letter is addressed has been long gone as the letter is written in a conversational style that only goes to show the undying love between father and child. Written in first person as a young adult, Ruskin Bond fondly remembers the precious time he spent with his father as a nine year old, as if it were yesterday. Though this also brings back unpleasant memories of his father passing away and that he misses his father even though his father has been gone for over four decades …. ….the letter however does not strike a sorrowful note but is instead a celebration of the special bond that the Bonds share! J  With a breezy narrative that alternates between witty and wise, insightful musings that are quintessentially Ruskin Bond, this poignant tribute to his father is sure to bring a lump in your throat! For instance, he wonders what if he happens to meet his dad, would his dad look the same and further will he still be a small boy or an old man? Classic Ruskin Bond..isn't it??:-)
Belated wishes to all the daddies on Father’s day!! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hey....its a year!

I can’t believe it’s already a year since my little one was born! It feels like yesterday since I stepped out of the hospital with the little one in my arms wrapped in a  pink blanket, unsure of how I’ll be able to manage, now that I had officially become a proud (and nervous) mother of two! It only feels like yesterday that I had to relearn the baby 101 basics that I had unlearned over the past eight years. It was only yesterday when a dear friend had advised that if you survive the first year…you’ll be OK!  One year is up and although things are still a little topsy turvy at home….it feels much more settled,  with a set routine (that changes almost every day)  ….well ….as settled as it can be with a toddler, a nine year old  and a ninety nine year old at home!J

Though we weren’t keen on celebrating our little girl’s first birthday, it was her big brother who made a good case in point on why we shouldn’t think twice about celebrating our little one’s birthday when we made a gala event out of her brother’s first birthday! ( How selfishly generous!) So it was more for the older brother than for anyone else that we had a birthday party for his little sister! So it was all about the big brother in his little sister’s birthday party! And so it was mainly the big brother and his friends who enjoyed at the little sister’s birthday! What did the little sister do…she did everything but enjoy the party!:-)


On her first birthday, we picked out a book that has become  quite a  hit with her, off late. So much so that she follows it up with a “B” as soon as I show her the book! Frankly, this book was a random selection from Abhay’s library and I certainly did not intend on introducing ABC so early in her childhood. But this Tulika publication was the only one I could lay my hands on, on one cranky evening! “Hey That’s an A” by Jerry Pinto and illustrated by Sayan Mukerjee was a book that I originally picked out for Abhay but it turned out that Abhay was too old for it. Now that I pulled out the same for my little one, it turns out that she is too young for it!:-)



More than an alphabet book, this is a one-of-a-kind representation of the written word, packed with puns and tongue-in-cheek humour that is sure to entertain and appeal to every reader. We love the little references to funny names and terms that in a way mirror the baby pet names that we call out to our little one with. Though stated to be meant for children aged 3 +,  my little one jumps with joy as I read out these funny verses.  
 “Hey, that's  an A”… is a robust ABC book that not only offers a phonetic perspective to the alphabet but also explains the technique in writing the same, which hopefully will help us in the near future……and going by today's schooling standards…it is not too far away!:-) Happy Birthday…my little one…enjoy every little thing before things get serious! J