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!!

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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! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Centenarian amongst us!

I always remind Abhay of how lucky he is to be living close to both his  paternal and maternal grandparents. Not everyone gets to be indulged by paternal grandparents on a day-to-day basis and enjoy the 24/7 on-call homework help from his maternal grandparents like Abhay does!  (Touchwood!) In fact, our household has four generations living under the same roof.....with the oldest and the youngest almost a century apart in age!  It not only makes up for a stimulating home environment for growing kids but also enables them to understand family relationships and empathize with different levels of co-existence (at least I hope so!)

Of course, today's grandparents do make it a point to spend time and pamper their grandchildren, but how many kids get to spend time with their great-grandparents? I said in one of my earlier posts, Abhay has been more than blessed on that count and as his  great grandmother celebrates her hundredth birthday today, he can still count on her to rush to his rescue when being disciplined by his parents! Though she has been wheelchair-bound for the last nine years, and barring a few age related issues,....Abhay's "Doddajji" is active as ever. So much so, that she can even double up as another one of Abhay's nosy siblings, always trying to obstruct his defense-cricket play at home......leading to cross-generational-fights forcing Abhay's grandmother to intervene and diffuse the high decibel situation! Not to be left behind, my little one too reserves her performances exclusively for "Doddajji" only!  Much to Abhay's chagrin, his dodda-ajji also dons the role of a peacemaker during the fights between him and sister over sharing of toys or chocolates, etc!

While it is her indefatigable spirit and unparalleled zest for life that has Abhay's Dodda-ajji achieve the centenarian status, the credit greatly goes to her primary care-providers, my in-laws, particularly my mother-in-law who has had to cut back on a lot of her freedoms to take care of Doddajji!

No celebration in our household is complete without a book and I had to drive all the way to the author's place to pick up this signed copy!  Well, special occasions demand special effort and I am extremely grateful to Ms Roopa Pai, the author, who quickly responded to my urgent request and was kind enough to readily offer one of the last copies of her book! "How old is MUTTAJJI?",  a Pratham publication authored by Roopa Pai and illustrated by Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, is a perfect book for this memorable occasion and did rounds in the entire family circle!

Putti and Putta are excited to travel to Mysore to visit their mother's mother who takes care of their mother's mother's mother  on the latter's birthday! :-) As they try to figure out their great-grandmother's age, they are led into a matho-historical adventure of calculating her age on the basis of certain historic milestones that their Muttajji connects to her very own personal milestones! As they try to ferret out information on the "Grand-Maharaja-Maharani's party"  or the "Clean Trains" or "The Dam that tamed the river Kaveri" at the  local library with the help of grandpa  (and not Google......mind you!) and do the necessary math, they finally arrive at a figure which is exactly the same as our Doddajji! A wonderful story that has so many different elements packed into one - from history to maths, from local flavor and culture to family traditions, from adventure to subtle and relatable humour, aided by lively and delectable illustrations - this book is a treat in itself....and to be reading it to our own "Muttajji"  on her hundredth birthday, makes it all the more endearing!!  And thanks to this book, we too went from "old people don't have birthday cakes" to getting a big cake with pineapple icing and roses on the top!!!

On a side note, the math element in the book reminds us of Abhay's maths-professor grandmother who's birthday it is tomorrow. Not everyone has a hundred year old great-grandmother living with them and not everyone has a mathematician happy birthday to Abhay's "Doddajji" and advance wishes to Abhay's "Sannajji"!!! :-)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Not yet" ready for bed??

One of the many fall-outs of having a long gap between your two kids ( my older one and little one are almost nine years apart) is that the early parenthood phase never seem to end! Just as you get a breather from the 'feeding-nappy-changing-toilet training-putting to bed routine', you've landed yourself into an if it were a punishment for your dithering or an afterthought on the second child issue ( at least it was for me!) :-)
I had come to realise this all the more since I had been without hired help last month and it seemed as if I would wrap up one work shift during the day to get into an evening shift of toilet-training-feeding-bathing - putting my little one to bed!! Phew....!!

Of course the exhaustion aside, my husband and I did try to turn around the chores into fun times to share with our little one, with on and off success, even making us wonder if we really needed help with our two and half year old.  But that said, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't relieved when our nanny finally showed up!:-)

So the bedtime reading routine with my little one is like a shopping sale, where you can't get a discount with buying just one's always "buy two and get 30% off and buy three and get 40% off"! So you can't get off by reading just one book, it has to be either three or more! 

The last book always happens to be Tulika's bi-lingual "Not yet"  by Nandana Dev Sen and pictures by Niloufer Wadia, the Kannada translation being "Eegale Beda" that  we both relate to, with translation by Bageshree. This book beautifully illustrates the sprightly unwillingness of a little girl who is "not yet" ready for bed! As her mother (totally identify with you, woman!) goads her little one into the bedtime routine of drinking  milk-cleaning up-changing-brushing teeth,   a routine that almost seem never ending.......but the little girl is busy in her imaginary animal world where she joins with her favourite animals from flying with the birds to diving in with the whale, from tickling the giraffes to playing tag with the crocodile, from singing in chorus with the rhinos to swinging with the is nothing but an animal circus at bedtime! Finally as she wears herself out and wears her mother down, she is tucked into bed with her favourite animal blanket to keep her company. The narrative and illustrations are brilliantly woven together to bring out a charming bedtime tale for toddlers!  Finally, an Indian bedtime book that can truly rival with numerous western publications, when it comes to the bedtime business!!

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!