SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Love is not Love

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

This is Sonnet No.116, and I'm sure you know whose it is! Our own inimitable Shakespeare!
I remember reading this in school when I was in 10th standard. It has forever haunted me with its timeless thought. I never internalized the full meaning of these words back then. (I could not have!)
But now maturity, time and life has taught me how valuable, and meaningful these words are.

The love he talks about here is of course that between a man and a woman, no doubt. But if you take each couplet, you realise how we can apply to any true relationship.
A friend whom we love.
Our children,
Our Parents,
Any meaningful relationship.

Simply said; Love does not alter with time, no matter what hurdles it faces. It is a marriage of "true minds". As we understand and share and care and accept.
A loving relationship is truly a guiding star that steers us towards growth and empowerment. Passing storms may rock the boat but the love within will guide it to safety.
This feeling does not alter with passage of time, nor does it alter as rosy lips and cheeks are replaced with wrinkled brow and crow's feet.

Yet I wish to add another thought here that Shakespeare left out:
"Love alters not with his long spaces and distances"
No matter how far or physically removed we are from our loved ones in day to day life; it alters not the love we feel.

Take a look at your own meaningful relationships and if you can perceive all or some of the above, then rest assured you have loved...
...and Shakespeare is truly the King of words!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puzzling Happiness!

There is no single route to Happiness.
I believe Happiness is a tangible, achievable goal. But that cannot be had by reaching out to a single thing or person.
To me it is a sum total of many aspects of our life. Like a mosaic design we find these individual parts and place them piece by painstaking piece together and build it into the picture we desire.
So that means we need to have the larger picture in mind. If not the exact at least an idea of how we want the end to look. Again as in all things in life we have no template, no pre-formed  model which we can just use to structure our lives on.
Yet there may be some picture, some image that helps us create our own. But again what we create for ourselves is unique and fashioned by the pieces we choose.

So for now, the search for the pieces begins as we live the life we are given.

Sometimes the piece we pick up may not feel right and so that has to be discarded. Sometimes we struggle with a piece believing it to to be the right one and forcing it to fit. This struggle may lead to distortion of the picture, which leads to another manner by which we integrate things in our life, that is to percieve even the distorted piece as right after it has been in the same place for a long time.

Some times the right piece may in front of us but we fail to recognise it, probably until it is too late...too late to complete the picture. Many times we arrive at a piece unexpectedly and happily pick it up rejoicing at this gift and  at other times the gift  we recieve is thrown away as we fail to recognise it as the missing piece.

This constant search for the pieces occur over the course of our life. We sort them out, identify and decide on which pieces we require and which others we dont.

Some are wise to pick up a discarded piece and use it in their picture and some others are wise enough to discard unwanted pieces. As the pieces are not available all at the same time we also need patience and skill to accumulate these pieces.

This picture that we create is actually multi dimensional. Not only are we piecing together our own lives, we have to incorporate the pieces that belong to our spouse and our children as well.
Like the virtual images that we see spinning on an axis. So also we create for ourselves multi dimensional pieces that is our life, that revolves and rotates as we spin a nd spiral on a fulcrum.

Trying to maintain a balance, maintain our positions, we are guided through this game of life by internal and external forces. The beauty of this balance is that if any of these two forces are imbalanced then it can distort our multidimensional jigsaw.
Nothing is required to be picture perfect as long as what we perceive gives us happiness. Fitting or unfitting pieces,  this life is what we make of it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Compassion Unlimited

We meet many people in our lives, some leave their mark and some others don't.

Yesterday I met an interesting lady. I know her  and have spoken to her many times, but it happens that sometimes when yu are so bored to death (in official parties), we tend to get into converstaions to liven it up, and then suddenly a spark is fired and we connect.
This one was that day. Generally chatting, she slowly started talking about her children (what else, do mothers talk about?!), then about her life growing up in a village in rural UP.
She is from a hardcore traditional family and spoke about discrimination and prejudice against the female child, even within an educated family like hers. Not harsh ones, but subtle ones, like"girls dont do this or that", and how that made her resolve to do any thing and everything a man could do, within her abilities.
So she became the first to ride a cycle/ bike in her village. She learnt swimming.....
Mind yu she belongs to the previous generation...

She spoke about many other things, her work with an NGO, and her desire to do something for the girl child, and so her idea to join Politics!
She is just another woman like yu and me, but the lengths and efforts she has invested in these ideas, her enthusiasm is infectious to say the least.  
At present she volunteers at a nearby slum, teaching the children there.

What is unique is she belongs to a community that believes service is giving Money, Old Clothes and Sweets. Here is a person who is making a difference in her own small way, giving the most precious commodity of all...Time...and inspite of little or no appreciation for her efforts, she does it, is doing it with a smile and joy on her face....

Humanity is Wonderful, we fail to recognise and emulate such compassion.

The greatest Gift we can give/teach/leave behind for our children is...Proctive Compassion.
Putting into action what good your mouth says and your mind feels.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Source of strength

Psychology says that every one has a Locus of Control; it is that which drives them, which motivates them towards their goal. 

You can either have an Internal Locus or an External Locus. The internally tuned person looks within themselves to do things, and is motivated/ driven from within, or so the experts say, while the external folks look outward and require some element/aspect from the environment to move/ be driven. Historically, and culturally Indians emphasis that it is best to focus within and be driven from within. Literature/research too leans towards this, as people are encouraged to look for intrinsic motivators.

Yet I believe, things cannot be so easily compartmentalized.

Yes, every one needs to have intrinsic motivators. This part of the self helps oneself detach from the outcome of our act. This part helps us feel happy for ourselves, no doubt, helping us do our life’s requirement without worrying too much about the end result. Helps us enjoy the journey and not just reach the goal.
But still what are we?
We are but Humans interacting with a moving, feeling, pulsating, world of people; objects, emotions, thoughts, events, acts, and consequences.

We need extrinsic motivators…

We need an object or person, who can drive us, who help reach our potential. Denying this is to deny our very existence. Don’t we all have some thing/person that puts that fuel into us?

I call them my Source of Strength.
This Source is our motivator from whom we are able to derive our own motivations and drives. We need not be the same or even similar to that motivator, it is enough if this some one or something energises us and helps us move towards happiness or our goal.

Ultimately are we all not searching for that?

For an external person like me, I am constantly trying to find something in the environment to motivate me. I gain my strength from the people or things that surround me. I need and am fired by people who are positive, proactive and balanced. To look at solutions and not problems, who reflect and share that reflection with me! I admire and am energised by such people.

In this quest, I am constantly sending out feelers, questions and comments to various people, at various times. And when I do connect with someone or something the feeling of elation is quite incomparable.  

May their tribe increase...
There may be more than one...

Keep Looking and you will find yours...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another Special School!

                                                    A Tale with a Difference:

                                          A cosy Home away from from Home:

                Teachers, Parents,Students, an environment that always makes one feel blessed

Uthara and I on World Disabled Day, Dec 3rd, that also happens to be my birthday

Took my kids along too and did the story of "The King's Moustache" by Asha Nehmiah (CBT).
It is the funny but endearing tale of a King who is so in love with his "curly&wurly" mustache that he has every object designed in this shape. The Garden bushes, the Horses tail, and even his Royal bed!
Yet there comes a day when his moustache starts drooping, and becomes straight!. Sad and pensive, our King calls many of the helpers around the Palace to curl it up.The cook, the gardener, and the tailor!

Yet only his Rani comes to his rescue, as she tells him the only way to curl it up is to..."Smile..." and she tickles him!!

I love to tell children this story, as it is funny and at the end I can tickle them pink!
I did so to the children at this special school near my house, literally a stone's throw, where I go every Friday to tell a story. Albeit just for an hour or less, and I know that they don't understand much, yet I come away happy that at least I am able to do this. I  abide my time until when I can do this on a larger scale!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An apt tale

At moments like these when we are literally crying for help, a voice, a thought, a story brings some relief...
Here is a comment by Sharadha(no blogger profile), who left this story on my comment form, and I find it so apt to what I am going through at present.
All I can say is Thank You for sharing...

hi sowmya..
reading this post, got reminded of a story i read somewhere ( a story to a storyteller:)-)

its about how a little boy who spilled the milk went on to become a world renowned scientist.

He was then a five-year-old. As he was trying to remove a vessel of milk from
the refrigerator he lost his grip on the vessel and it fell, spilling its contents
all over the kitchen floor - a veritable sea of milk!

When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful
mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in
the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?” Indeed, he did.

After a few minutes his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a
towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?” He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk.

His mother then said, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big vessel of milk with two tiny hands. Let's go out in the backyard and fill the vessel with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The little boy learned that if he grasped the vessel by balancing the weight in both the hands than over-burdening
one of the hands, he could carry it without dropping it.

The now renowned scientist, when only five learned that he needn't be afraid of making mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just
opportunities for learning something new, which, after all, is what scientific experiments or life are all about. Even if the experiment 'doesn't work', we usually learn something valuable from it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Questions for myself

What are we afraid of?
Afraid that we may not be giving our best to our children
Afraid that we are not helping them realise their potential.
Afraid that they will not make the right choices
Afraid they will commit the same mistakes that we did
Afraid that we may be judged as inadequate parents

What is fear that we use subtly and sometimes so blatantly?
Isn't this the fear that raised us?
Why pass it on to our future?
Why make our children a reflection of ourselves?
Can they never make mistakes? Should we never make mistakes?
Why teach righteousness, when nothing is black and white, and everything is in shades of gray?

Why this anger?
Where does it come from?
Who is it directed against?

What is education if it cannot make a person self confident?
Isn't education a system of comparison?
Are we teaching/learning life skills?
What use is this redundant education?

Where is this pursuit taking us if we cannot live this moment in happiness?
What is this happiness?
Is it a thing, a person, a job, a commitment, a fulfillment?

Am I defined by what I do now, or what I leave behind?

What am I?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simple pleasure..finding the right one

A friend of mine in 5th standard wants a story for her story telling competition. What I enjoy about the school is all these extra activities that are conducted for the children. Read that as Story telling specifically, which is an integral part of the inter house competitions. Both Hindi and English story telling competitions are held from first to fifth.
It did not take me long to select a story for my friend, and here is a link to the story I chose for her. Scroll down for "The Faithful friend".
Click here

This was a time when the child's character stands out so well in my mind that the process of selecting was quite easy. Affectionate, very fond of animals and friends, so this story is ideal for her.
It is the story of a parrot that does not want to leave its injured friend , a Tree. Finally it rejoices when its love and concern is rewarded by an angel who gives back life to the tree.

Cathy Spagnoli, from whose site I took the story is a veteran story teller. What is interesting is her link to Tamilnadu and Chennai in particular as her story telling travel brought her there, and she finally married a Tamilian! She tells a lot of Asian tales, and is seen as a pioneer of English Storytelling in Asia.

The pleasure of finding the right story and telling it to people, to be able to convey the feelings and thought behind the story and how it touched me...that is pure joy in itself.

My friend has to still tell the story. She loved it, but I have to wait to find out the reaction of the judges...

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Take on Story telling

Story telling is different from Drama or solo/mono is an interactive process where the audience is asked to move with the Teller, imagine with the Teller, and experience with the Teller.
There are many others qualified to give an insight on these differences, but I speak from my thoughts/heart.
For those who enjoy performing arts this is a very genteel art to pursue. I call it that because, there is no right or wrong way to do Stories.
The only way is to connect with your audience. To share with them a thought, a feeling, an experience.
With younger children it is important to have a story line, as they need a plot, an organized thought process, which they themselves may not have in their thoughts.
While with an audience that gets older, you don't need an organized plot. You need to spark imaginations,and even give them an opportunity to make their own endings, extract their own conclusions.
Yet there are some Learnings that I have gained from my own meager experiences in story telling:
a) Don't tell till you are sure about the acoustics. Problems with the mike or the sound system is the first step to not connecting with your audience...and it's not worth having a bad feeling at the end of the session, when you know it's not you but the technical part that has slipped
b) For smaller and cosier groups, go in for an enclosed space, especially when there is no mike and you have to rely on voice,
c) Eye contact and smile...connect with your audience, move with them, include them, share yourself with them,
d) Have no inhibitions! A teller who is comfortable is loved the most.
e) Believe there is no right or wrong in this, it is a process of Sharing, and the most wonderful aspect of the telling,
f) Choose your story well, age, interest and environment plays a crucial role in this
g) If the environment is not conducive to the telling, you cannot connect with the audience...
h) Brief the hosts. Puppet shows require greater involvement from adults to keep the audience from getting up and trying to see behind the screen(!) (Happened to me). So you need an adult to keep the kids from peeping behind!
i) Puppet shows and Story telling are very different, and people usually expect a puppet show when you say Story telling, so make that very Clear!
j) Telling a story, visualizing a story for an audience is different from Reading a Story! The Teller needs to recreate the story, add her own imagination, thoughts and feelings, and improvise the story with out taking away from the story. I would even say this, the Teller has every right to make additions and deletions, in order to convey her message, her thought to the audience.
k) While as you Read a story, it is only right for the Teller to convey exactly what the writer has expressed in words.
l) So Story telling is an improvisation, an adaptation of a plot, a manner of sharing creative verbal imagery!

The end product may be very different from what you shared with a different audience, at another time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lucknow Tales


We were at the Bada Imambara at Lucknow.
Amazing building and amazing people behind the building. Why would some one want to build such a majestic structure? Add to that the Bul Bulaiya, that is the maze which runs through the walls and pillars, and runs through 3 levels. The guide tells us there are 1000 ways within the maze,but only 1 way is the right one to get us out of it!
It appears that man will do anything for posterity and this is definitely an example of that. You and I can enjoy the quirks of the moneyed class as they leave behind monuments and minarets for future generations to explore and savor.
This building brings to my mind the innumerable photos of SRK's palatial house Mannat floating around the cyber world. Then there is even our own favorite batsman's new pad...with foyer designed like the interior of a conch shell!! It's true, google around and you will find it.
And what about Ambani tower?
..what about it...mmm....surely that is one monument waiting to be converted to a museum when their owner's are no more...

Kids enjoyed the Bul Bullaiya a lot, and finally the guide made my son act as the guide to find out the correct route. Of course we got lost and he had to help us out!
My Mom shares my fascination for such adventures through lands and landmarks. It was great fun, 3 generations exploring that fantastic space, each one carrying away different thoughts and feelings.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Telling with Lewis Carroll

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

A favorite poem of mine you can read the technical details in wikipedia. Another site which has exclusive Carroll poems, called, is also great to catch up on Lewis.
But having read this poem, you cannot come away admiring Carroll and his writing skills. The appeal is so universal and timeless.
I am especially fond of stories within poems. This is a great example of that genre.
Children can work out different voices for the characters. Lots can be done with this poem!

Have your 8/9/10 year old read it out, enact it..its great!
Its also fun to find out what children feel about betrayal, and cheating. Make it humorous, don't get serious.
You will be surprised how serious topics if dealt with humour connects with children much faster than if we are all tight about it!

Jabberwocky (click) is another poem I love to read out to children. This has many nonsense word, or words that Lewis just made up by combining other words. It is tough to get the roots words and fun to explore with children. The suitable age to do this with them is 9 years and above.
You could also make up your own words and add meaning to them. Try it and tell me how it went!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love letter

Ok, Here is a no frills, no hype Love Letter. Wondering who is sending me this in my old age? Who else but my son!!
He has got into this card making phase and made one for his Sister, with so many of the "Love you's" on it.. I did not recover from the shock for almost half an hour!! Subsequently when I pouted that I had no Love you's from him (he He), he landed up making this one for me.
Don't ask me what a Vatapi is ..he just made it up, and doesnt know the meaning too...hahah...

Children are not appreciated enough..we can find fault so easily (include me as the Primary Culprit of that), but appreciating their efforts and thoughts, we are stingy with that ... for thought ...Yes??

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What should I write about?

Got this new widget on the left hand check it out and leave your suggestions...
It is taken from the skribit check it out too
My interests range from storytelling, stories, and life's lessons...!!
So do leave your suggestions and I will do my best.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Amazing Storyteller

Story teller: Carmen Agra Deedy, tells a personal story with her own twists and turns. The cuban accent, the flow of words, the humour and the message at the end, truly takes us through a voyage of thoughts and imagination.
She tells us a simple story of her Nonagenarian mother, taking the car out on the sly, and making her a part of this mayhem!!
She holds the audience in her grip. Weaving such a vivid picture and with such humour. To Tell a story with so many nuances is really a skill!
I felt the words have been delivered slightly fast, but then so are we Indians accused of talking too fast!

Story telling and stories...
Any one who is fascinated by both must see this..she is amazing...

There are many such Tellers even in our own families. True they may not tell so precisely or with such coherence, yet Story telling is in born in most Humans.

Grandmothers are known for their storytelling skill. Ask any one they will tell you that having a grandmother at home is such a boon, as Story telling duties can be promptly handed over to them!
Myths and Legends, Folktales and Riddles, grandmothers seem to have acquired a stache of such valuable information over the years!!
My grandmother too was one such story teller, and we used to look forward to cuddling up next to her at night and listen to her stories. We would throw our legs on top of her,(quite), well proportioned tummy and rest our cheeks on her shoulder as she would start the session with some prayers, and then follow it up with a story. Usually half way through she would doze off(hahah!!),and we would have to prod or nudge her to continue!
At other times she would go off at a tangent, mixing up stories as she was actually half asleep!! We would happily scold her, tell her she had the story all wrong and correct her...
I remember many riddles and jokes that she used to crack during these times, and of course the stories. They were the regular ones, from Krishna Avatar or Ramayana or Mahabharatha..yet what remains with me now is the magic that was created as we cuddled close to her and listened to her voice as it pleasantly vibrated through us.

There is nothing as beautiful as Oral Story telling tradition, people nowadays don't realise that it is one of the most meaningful ways to connect with children...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Get me There

Travel is by itself an amazing way to connect with yourself and the world that you live in. Any one who travels and loves that feel of packed bags and constant move will understand what I say. Traveling in India is by no means easy. It is easier nowadays, yet one never knows what to expect. Bookings have to be done much ahead of time, availability, comfort, route so many factors to be looked into depending on where we want to travel, and how far.
I love driving around. Don’t be mislead, I don’t do much highway driving, not so comfortable with those high speeds. I would rather have my husband drive me around (that’s the ideal situation as he drives superbly!), but a driver from the local travels will do too!!
If we travel by our own vehicle, then we are better off, especially when it is done with kids…the breaks can be taken as and when they, or we wish. Driving around in your own car seeing places is the ideal way to travel!

We have done some interesting travel by road, even carrying my daughter’s potty chair along with us on some trips. An additional member to my family having arrived, we found it inconvenient for all 3 of us to sit at the back, while daddy drove us. So that is when we were given a brilliant idea to level out the back seat and to throw in cushions and blankets at the back. Provided entertainment as well (some books and games) and the kids had their own play area to move in as much as they wanted. Definitely making our trips super smooth and easy!

We had friends who carried a little stove and provisions too! Traveling from Bangalore to Jorhat (in Assam) they could make breakfast along the way, stopping at convenient locations. I am sure that would have tasted far better than any thing they would have bought.
I met an interesting person the other day who tells me that he has traveled almost 75% of India, all by road, and he has not hit the age of 30! What a useful life he has led!! (Don’t ask me how he got the time off from work for all this…mmm…he has probably spent a lot of time away from work than on it!!).
All this, and add to that the wonderful world that flashes by as you drive through the veins and arteries of our lovely country. What more can one ask for?

The “dadak dadak” sound, the rattle and the wheeze as it pulls into the station. The various sounds inside the railway station; the ring of the announcements, the vendors calling their wares, the hustle and the bustle, makes me nostalgic, as I relive the many journeys I have taken. Traveling by train is another great way to see the earth we inhabit.

As a child I remember how eagerly I used to look forward to our trip to Bombay. My Aunt’s house was there, and those journeys are etched in my mind. We traveled for 2 days, carrying enough food to feed an army, chatting and making friends with strangers, openly talking and sharing details of our life with no inhibitions, and no care or concern. Just the joy of moving!!

As a teenager and later in college, a lot of my travel was done by train. Magical times that cannot be experienced at any other time in life. Traveling with friends is a wonderful way to learn about yourself, and other people. Situations and events, needs and challenges of traveling, brings out the best or the worst in humans. Children who have the opportunity to travel from a young age have a definite advantage over others.

Then we come to Air travel. It has never impressed me. Of course as a child I have dreamt of “flying”, but once there was/is greater opportunity to travel this way, I believe I can only see it as convenient, but not at all appealing in terms of experience. It is necessary, especially when we have small children and want to reach our destination as fast as possible. Yet I really don’t like the cramped spaces (the toilets for sure), and the lack of scenery. That’s the earth tone in me speaking!
I like the lounge areas though, as I unashamedly stare at fellow travelers, wondering why they are going, wherever they are?!! The transit lounge is the best place to engage in such activities, and I usually find myself a corner where I can have a good view of people boarding and arriving, so that I can make up my imaginative stories of them!

I could do the same at railway stations, but the difference, at railway stations is the sheer pace at which things happen. There is no time to sit and stare at people, unless you have arrived very early (which rarely may be the case)! Usually I am panting and puffing to the assigned platform, worried that I should have got the date right, the time right, packed all essentials, and not left any of my kids at home!
So reporting for departure an hour earlier while traveling by air, ensures that atleast I can enjoy gazing at the crowd!!

I have not traveled any other way. But, if you add all the moving around that I have done by Bicycle, then you can call me a much traveled traveler, though the destinations may not be as varied!

Yet all I can say on a final note... all I ask as a passionate traveler is this...
Give me a brilliant destination of historic value, that’s all I ask: That’s all!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Viva la India!

I feel happy that my daughter is part of a schooling experience that really exposes her to different communities and cultures. I may have many other cribs about the school, but The Kendriya Vidyalaya schools have one thing that they offer children, an exposure to India and the essence of living in a cultural Pongal Pot(Pongal is a kind of Khichidi, or a rice and Dal mixture)!!
They have inspection days, basically days when the children yet again don't study but prepare cultural shows and programs. Don't harangue me, but sometimes I think they do nothing else, so that is my crib!
I cribbed about getting her dressed up yet again, just to stand there for the arrival of the chief guest.Yet she loves this, so ok, but please dont agree to every get up the teacher assigns to you, I told her. "Mean" you may think, but I have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise I will be stretching my creative abilities.
She had to go as a Maharashtrian girl. So some running around and I got her dressed up. She really looked good!. Cutie that she is !
I am not finished as yet. The point of this blog is what happened when she greeted the Chief Guest. It turned out he is a Maharashtrian, and he spoke to her in Marathi!!
...She is a smart Tamil cookie!! She managed to answer him; in English though.

Yet I wondered how she understood what he asked, and she says thats because she has a couple of Marathi friends, who keep talking in Marathi!!...
Wow, I thought, where else will my kid get such an exposure?
Viva la India!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Daughter and Mom time

Don't berate me on the quality of the pictures, but I just wanted to capture what my daughter and I landed up making after I saw these lovely Yarn Paintings. Yarn Paintings are part of North American Culture or so I am told. These were actually illustrations for a story "The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer" reviewed in Saffron Tree, as a part of their on going Book Review Festival.
You can follow this link to see that story review, and many here
It is extremely simple and my daughter who is the creative one, really loved the idea. All you need is some yarn, wool in different shades and gum, paper. If you twirl the yarn around into concentric circles, it really looks good. I guess art is all about doing and experiencing.
She could not complete it and Sunday morning, she was at it without even brushing her teeth!!
The one above is hers, and the one below is mine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For the Love of Blogging

I love this world of blogging.
I want to personally kiss and hug every person who I have read and identified with. (Or show them any other permissible form of affection!). I can see so many of my passions mirrored in others, so many thoughts that are similar, and so many life situations that are same.
It energizes me to see such thoughts and ideas bouncing back and forth within this electronic media, connecting people, connecting lives, connecting visions and dreams.

8years back, I remember raising my baby in isolated misery. Now I look at all the forums and blogs on babies and child rearing and amaze at the kind of information that is available for every one to see and share and learn from.
For all those who may ask whether I could not have accessed all this 8 years back. I don’t know. We had a computer and I remember my husband using it…but I kind of used to relegate it to his domain and never ventured too close. I really don’t know if internet was all that friendly, even 8 years back. Blogging, I think did not exist.
Any query was answered by the resident Paati, or Aunt, and you know where that would lead us to…Old is Gold and all that came later is pure Mould…!!
Dr. Spock gave some antiquated advice and what with cleaning poo and pee, and milking oneself like a cow, it felt like there really was no one who could understand.
Now I find so many women have shared similar times like mine and who went through similar difficulties. (Please find the rewind button for me, I wish to do everything again, aka, with a more informed outlook!)

Books are my other passion, and I am in Seventh Heaven. I amaze at the number of people who also share my love, and who are doing such creative and wonderful things with it (I read up about all the writers who contribute to this great blog called Saffron Tree).
I have told my husband a zillion times that any person who introduces me to a great book is my friend for life! I don’t forget them or the books they suggest.
My book shelf is an eclectic mix of philosophy, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s authors. Throw in some classics, from my “classic phase” during college, some picturesque cyclopedias, and many, many slim fit books from CBT. I don’t even throw away the textbooks, kept my English readers and collection of poems too!!
My inheritance!! Heirlooms to be passed on! (God knows whether the inheritors, my daughter/son, will praise me or curse me for this)

Story telling and Travel: any and every passion of mine has been written about and is being written about. I feel like Charlie with the Golden Ticket in my hand, and with a click of a button I can transport myself into any land, to savor the flavors of Interest and Passion.

I thought I was just MRK (Married and Raising Kids), but having unearthed my interest in writing and also finding conveniently anonymous readers who I don't have to actually know.
It gives me immense pleasure to be a part of the online writing world, where any one is a great writer, everyone has something to say, and it is our prerogative to be read!!
(I am just another Blogger, trying to leave some of my bits and bytes on this electronic terrain for others to relish!!)
Happy Blogging

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here is the Ganges


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Here is the Ganges. Serene, and peaceful, she is the narrowest here. I believe she is only 20 metres deep here. This place is called Bithoor, about 30Km from where we live in Kanapur. It has one of 3 temples to Lord Brahma on it's shores. If you expect a beautiful temple, it is disappointment time. There is a small shrine which says, Brahmesvar that's all.
It is dirty in parts, more muddy than dirt. I would say it is much cleaner than what I expected. A lot of effort is being put into keeping the Ganges clean especially in these parts. There is one organisation called "ecofriends" here, that is doing a lot of work on the Ganges.
There is not much to see, but one can do some boating here. We got into one. It is fairly a medium sized one and we did a peaceful turn of the Ganges. My husband was asking for the Mae vests..(hahah..Traveling abroad does that to you!!)

It was quite thrilling for me to see the river, as I imagined the many Kings and Sages who had touched this river. It is the river of our Myths. It made me feel minute in the wake of it's immortality.
It also connects Kanpur to many other cities and we sat wondering how many different people and things would have gone up and down this river. So many colours and hues would have used this river... for so many different purposes...

Near this Ghat is a shrine to the Sai Baba, a beautiful temple, similar to the shrine in Shirdi. We paid homage, took the prasad, and returned back to Kanpur.
A simple peaceful day, well spent. My husband too had a good break.

A New beginning

He stared at the ocean with unseeing eyes. There was no other place to come, but here. No where else would he be able to synchronize with the roar that he felt within his heart. They beat in tandem.
The waters beat relentlessly against an indefinite shore, while his heart beat within unable to break free. So many thoughts and feelings confined within his mind begged for release but he refused them that relief. He held back the tears, the feelings, the emotions.

How many times had he come here with her? How many times had he run circles around her on this very same sand? Sometimes tickling her with his humor, bringing a smile to her face (Oh, how he loved to see her smile), and sometimes irritating her with his incessant words and queries.
She never let him out of her sight. Yet her control was not blatant, just a little subtle, as she constantly challenged him and his immature view of the world. They had a bond that not many shared, nor could understand. A relationship soaked in many hues and chiseled by many facets.
The understanding and the bond was inborn, not taught, and he had always felt that a part of her was in him. A part that taught him to respect and acknowledge. A part that taught him equality, a part that helped him see reality, a part that would make him what he was meant to be.
He could feel the emptiness within him, an ache, a slow tearing of the soul. He stood at the threshold of adulthood, and so desired to have her with him. To see him grow into the man that she had wanted him to be, the man she had created and nurtured.

Is any one prepared for death, when it wishes to enter your doors too soon, or too suddenly? What about those who are left behind?

He stared vacantly at the twilit horizon, and tried to merge his soul with the waters. The waters apparently silent but seething within. Eddies and currents that one cannot make out, dancing to distant strings distant powers. He felt the same powers acting in his life, the same seethe within and the apparent calm outside.

He had seen the slow decline, felt the pain of disease in her. The cruel treatment’s disfigurement and the agony of knowing life was a declining plane. The impact on her was not less than on him. As he learnt to handle his own feelings and present a brave shoulder to her. She had to accept this final blow and yet face it with equanimity, at least for his sake.

When death happens suddenly, then we cannot comprehend the loss, it takes a while to understand, a long while to reconcile. While death that comes after a slow and agonizing waiting period is like dousing water over burnt skin. The relief is immediate; we are relieved that our loved one is free from pain. Yet like burnt skin, the scar remains forever, etched in the heart and mind, a constant reminder of the suffering that one witnessed and experienced.

Unable to share his thoughts and unwilling to let go of his cascading emotions, he had sought the ocean to unburden himself. Just staring at the inky black sky he could feel his own insignificance and minuteness. He could literally feel the unseen powers helping him sort out his turbulent insides. He felt the unknown touch. A strange calm descended over him. He felt lighter. He knew what he had to do.
As one life disappears another appears to take its place. So also he felt his insides calm down of their own accord. He could hear her voice gently reminding him of the greater struggles ahead of him, and the challenges he still had to face. To make a life that would be meaningful to him and to others. He knew she would want him to fight through this turmoil, to succeed and not make her a cause for his failure. This thought eddied through his mind and he allowed himself to hear her voice. The tears started.

Any end is just a window to a new beginning.

He now willed himself to make a new beginning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dedicated to A Soul

People inspire me to write more than things/objects. I am that way. The events and circumstances, personality and thought processes that go into making an individual fascinates me. Their history, their lifestyle, their individual preferences,problem solving abilities...
There are some people I revere, am in awe of. Some are my closest confidants. Some I keep my distance and then there are some others, who I would like to emulate, just try to be like them, but something basic called "my personality" comes in the way!

I talk with one person in mind specifically, it was this person's birthday today. Not being a computer geek, she will not know I write about her, nor am I going to tell her. Please don't think I am going to belittle her, in fact today I am doing the opposite, I want to take time to describe her to all of you, and make you the judge.

These are souls,(I cannot call them human beings because they have transcended to a greater level) who touch every one with their spirit. Positive, cheerful, never a negative word or thought.They go through life accepting and living in the moment. Atleast thats how they come across, I guess even if they have negative thoughts, they channelize it to something positive...

Simple, they don't have over annoying ambitions/goals or thoughts. They seem to infuse their spirit into the world around them. People automatically open and speak to them. Their simplicity and ability to listen, being in-born and not learnt. (Right from the garden sweeper, to the Commanding officer, who made it a point to wish her first thing on this morning, have been touched by that inner warmth that she radiates.)

These are people who don't have fancy degrees, but loads of common sense and practical living. Somehow when they speak or do things it seems right and things fall into the proper perspective.

Is it the mind-fullness that is talked about? Are these people the mindful ones?

They live the moment, they enjoy the act of doing now, they have no other thought or preoccupation.

When a person retains his/her simplicity and is able to live the moment aware of his/her own limitations.
A person who has confidence in their own capabilities, without being confounded by past mistakes or regrets of what could have been or should have been.
A person who is spontaneous in their gratitude, who gives without a moments hesitation.
A person who automatically looks at the solution and not the problem.
What do you call them...

A soul

When we find such a soul, we need to hold their personalities in our minds, to use and emulate at opportune times. Some may not see the point in this. But I tell you as a person who is on this endless search for the self, it makes me wonder whether I am not in search of a false identity.

Is that other job going to make me a better person?
Would marrying some one else have made me more successful?
Or living in another city given me better opportunities?
What if I had done something else?
Why could I have not had little more intelligence/confidence?

These questions are worth asking providing, they lead us onto the path of happiness...and not despair...

Intelligence does contribute to better choice making, but more I look around me, I find that mindful living is the key behind happiness.

Finding happiness in even the smallest activity, doing that minute thing with our complete self, be it washing dishes or preparing for a big helps to be here and now...

Friday, October 9, 2009

burning bridges

It’s about burning bridges. I don’t want to bore one and all about my past, my history, but I have this chronic problem that I land up burning bridges…
Please don’t think I am some naxalite…
The bridge I talk about is the one we create when we pass from one phase in our lives into the next. I can very clearly de-mark things into neat categories. Every category has a bridge linking it to the next stage, and these are the bridges I am talking about.

Bridges are great as it marks a mental spot where and when we make a paradigm shift in many ways. A shift in perspective or a shift in maturity, a physical move in terms of space, or a mental move in terms of feelings/thoughts/insights.
I like bridges. For me these bridges, that I can so clearly visualize, were gigantic in terms of dimension and depth. I look back and literally see how I changed and altered at every such bridge…
But the people who I met and who were such integral parts of every phase are no longer any part of me. That is what I mean by burning bridges.
Inseparable friends who don’t figure in my life in any way today. In each phase I made some very close friends, but once I crossed the bridge I was/am unable to keep in touch with them. (Is it only me or does it happens to people?)
These were valuable people and I only wish that I had kept in touch, taken that extra effort, maintained my balance.
It is true that through the internet and with communication as it is now, where we don’t have to rely only on telephones/snail mails, connectivity and communication are much better. I am back in touch with the same people that I so missed in life. Yet the time that I lost not keeping in touch with them will always rankle. I feel I had isolated myself into a cocoon and now only emerge out to view the world. To see how the world has changed while I have not!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why things happen the way they do??

I am really bugged and irritated. Why is it that whenever I expect something I am disappointed?
I believe He gives every one a fair share of negatives and positives. In that I have been given an overdose of tolerance and patience.How I detest being known as the patient one( though this status did change moderately post marriage), that aspect of me (impatience) was reserved for my family to see. So for the general public, I was still the "Patient one".
Can I get it exchanged? Please tell me where I can borrow and internalise some intolerance and kick ass attitude...
I want to scream and shout and yell and hit. Why should I bear stoic face and say that it doesn't matter and there must be a logical valid reason, why? why???
Ok that feels better...
The feeling for all this came from this:
I volunteered to do a puppet show, for the Ladies Club, as it was Navarathri time and I have this nice story on Mahishasuramardhini. So far so good. As the date of the show neared, I fell ill and did not feel upto doing the show, which required some practice with another person. Well, before that I must say that the script had to be translated into Hindi, but I found a willing and capable person for that, who was also willing to give the voice over for that.
We practiced for just 2 days. And I had to get my puppets online too..They were stick puppets and what with our moving and transfer, some puppets were quite damaged and I had to make new ones. Some other puppets I found would be too small for the large stage on which the show was to be done, so I had to enlarge the puppets. Quite a bit of work, but pleasurable, and not too time consuming I must say..

The rehearsal went well and with minor hitches, when the power went off , the Show on the final day also went off very well. Everyone appreciated the uniqueness of the programme...I was elated and floating...after all I tell children, and even when adults enjoy it, it makes one feel great....

The problem is when I went to get the photos, so that I could blog about it...

I couldn't believe that the cameraman had not taken even one snap of the show...??!!
My folly was not having someone take snaps with my camera, I just assumed as this was a show in the unit, I would be able to take the snaps from them.
Why? What Happened? Did the cameraman have a fainting spell and fall down flat when my programme was on, only to recover immediately after and take snaps of every person alive there?? Was he so bored/uninterested/disgusted/apathetic to my show, he could not take pictures of it? What the h*** happened?
I was and am furious.
The feelings that swell from inside me is inexplicable. I may be over reacting. I do and I will, I don't care.
But is this fair?...

The worst feeling in life is when you go with expectation, and it is totally annihilated in a moments turn of events. That is the worst feeling.

I know I rationalized it, calmed myself down, talked to myself, told my husband to give the camera guy a piece of his mind( he is from Hubby's unit).
Yet...a disappointment will be a disappointment..and I feel cheated, after all I wanted a few measly snaps to feel good for myself, and why am I being denied that?...
Sometimes I feel most things happen this way with me...

I know I am feeling sorry for myself, please bear with me...after all where else can I pour my heart out...and indulge myself in a little bit of misery. I can only do it in words, cos my public image demands I be patient and tolerant and mature about such things...

I will get down to the end of this mystery of "The photos that were not taken"...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Did you ask for RamLila?

Dear Anu,
Your comment on my blog is very valid. What about Ramlila?..Yes Tell me about it!!
Here is my sad story.
When I called over the ladies for Manjal-Kumkum, they mentioned the Ramlila to me. That it takes place near our quarters and pretty close to where I live actually.
So I thought I would get to see Ramlila, in all its splendour right at my door step. But, woe is me, this is what happened…
1) Another friend on another day informed me that the Ramlila was cancelled as there was fear of terrorism around these parts. ( Being a part of the defence services, all our units are soft targets, so this news though disappointing, was not new to me)
2) Then hubby comes and tells me it is on...Yipee I thought, all agog and ready to tell him to get seats reserved for us (privileges, privileges!!...Again thanks to hubby’s job profile!! Hehe!)
3) Here comes the best part. Hubby then with a spuriously sad face tells me that we cannot go, as it was expected that a crowd of 90,000 would be assembled on the grounds, and all officers and families were to desist from participating….tell me to beat that. I accepted defeat.

So even if I wanted to see my first Ramlila, and actually witness the arrow being shot and the Ravan falling down in flames. It was not to be so this time. Maybe next time…

But I did sneak into the grounds on Dasami morning and got 2 snaps of the effigies. Ram and Ravan…
All over Kanpur one could see such dolls, made from bamboo sticks and covered with paper Mache. They come in many shapes and sizes, and depending on the skill of the sculptor, they look decent to grotesque!
As a storyteller, and amateur puppeteer, I find them fascinating. Lots can be done if I could learn to make such life size puppets….mmmm, that gets me thinking. Actually I tell better than I can make, so I guess I will leave the making to more skilled hands( I could buy some of this I guess) and work on my telling skills!!
So that brings me to the end of my sad story and that’s why I can’t tell you much about the Ramlila. Last but not the least, I have to tell all that on that day my camera too had decided to pack up (no batteries), so I could get a few frugal snaps only , and if you would like to know, there was a huge crowd on the maidan for the Ramlila, and we couldn’t even step out of the gate!!

Yours truly

Monday, September 28, 2009


Sunday was a day to relax, the next day being Dasami was an off day for my husband. So I could be rest assured he would be more relaxed. Translate that as: I become hyper! I have to plan an outing, can't loose this opportunity, and there is much to see in Kanpur. It is the place where the 1857 mutiny happened and it is quite historic.

Yet the place we decided to go, read that as I decided to go, was the JK temple, also the Radhakrishna Temple in the city centre. Built by the JK Singhania's of the Tyre fame. The pictures looked quite beautiful, and since these are auspicious days, I thought starting off our sightseeing sprees with a temple is a good idea!!

Its a long drive from the airforce station, at Chakeri, off course in India it is not the distance that is actually relevant, but the traffic. I knew we were heading to the city on a Sunday and and on an extended weekend. I anticipated traffic, and we got it. Loads of it...
Here in Kanpur there are 3 ways of reacting to traffic lights:
1) Don't look at it,ignore that thing which is flashing on it's pedestal, just follow the guy on the bike/car in front of yu...
2) Move when the light turns red...
3) Traffic lights/vehicles are to be treated as non existent... Drivers, even those with heavy Safari/Tata Sumo's weave through any given space , squeeze through, regardless of whether they are heading into oncoming traffic. Their only aim is to get to the destination...(god knows, it's sheer luck that people actually reach places this way in one piece)

Since we did not know the actually location and were going by the map, it was slow and a painful process. More for hubby than me, I just gave him moral and verbal support, and kept the kids down!
It's not easy, there were hardly any directions to reach such a famous place and we had to constantly stop and ask.
Yet once we reached the temple, I realised it was not too complicated a route, and I guess people take this location so much for granted, there are no signboards for it. (Typical don't you think?)
The temple looms large over the rest of the buildings and its grandeur is a sure eye catcher.We saw the temple, prayed and returned. As we were walking back, it was my daughter who showed us, how the reflection of the building was mirrored on the artificial lake in front of it.

Then, the beauty of the place struck me. Yes, staring into the depths of that water, seeing the temple reflected there it was mesmerizing.
Dark star studded skies, a majestic structure, and beauty in reflection.
We stood there in front of the temple soaking in the beauty.

I thanked my daughter for showing me something I would have just passed by, and I thanked her for being so aware. It is this awareness that I lack and this trip made me reflect on it. So many times in my life, I have just not been observant enough and later regretted my inability to live that moment. We pass through so many incidents, events, moments, and we don't give a thought about it.

The monument was so symbolic of this reflection that I lacked. I came away thoughtful and aware.
On a physical aspect, the temple reflected in the water is awesome to behold, as we stare in to the depths, it feels like we are actually moving through Space, the infinite universe.
Is that why this form of construction was adopted by the Mughals?
Though I have not seen the Taj Mahal, hubby tells me one can get the same feel when we see that beauty in stone reflected in the water.

On a spiritual plane, I felt the reflection was urging me to reflect on my own action and thoughts. How often I have gone through life without giving any heed to what the moment was telling me, without listening to the inner voice. Fear and inhibitions cloud one's ability to reflect. The clarity of the water in which the building was mirrored was showing me how important it is for a person to reflect, to have clarity in thought,and to follow one's thoughts with congruent actions....

An ordinary temple visit became an important lesson in life for me...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Dance and Dandia...


I dragged my husband and kids to the Navrathri celebrations organised by the Gujarathi Association of our Air Force Station . It always happens that when we are in our own state, the enthusiasm and the mindset is automatic. Yet to recreate the same feel in another state, where one needs to firstly look around for like minded people, get them to participate and show the same interest is tough.
I could see that when we went to this event.
Any one who has lived in Gujarat, will know that all 9 days of Navrathri, Garbha and Dandia is danced with fervor and dedication by young and old alike.

Garba is danced in a circle by clapping our hands and moving to a swaying rhythm. It is a very graceful and beautiful dance form, and when we see a large group moving in such unison. I tell you it makes me get goose pimples...silly me! But this is the India I adore. People of all communities living and enjoying the moment!!

Dandia is danced by partners, holding sticks in both hands. The simple pattern would be to strike your own sticks once, then your partner's twice, and then ours again, followed by shifting/moving places to our partner's side while she moves to our side. Simple. Yes! Very! But as the song increases it's tempo, the entire group must move as one, without missing beats or the rhythm and most important is not to beat up your partner or smash her hands while striking the sticks!! Looks easy, but it is tough in terms of coordination and accuracy.

Yesterday we reached the ground around 9.30pm, and some boys were dancing already. Graceful, they looked slightly incongruous, wearing pants and shirt for the occasion, and the organizers made couple of announcements that everyone had to come in Hindustani clothes from the next day...For a start, that itself was slightly sad...but I guess it was so hot and humid, that no one felt like dressing up.
But it would actually make sense for boys to wear a light Kurta/Pyjama in this weather, of course girls would wilt in that heat if they were properly decked up.

It doesn't matter, it is the spirit that is important. And there was plenty of that!

Coming back to the event, small children and teenagers were there in plenty, to learn and to dance. I say to learn, because the organisers were gathering the dancers and instructing them how to move, the counts and the steps. The whole group, was shown a demo, by some handsome young boys, then made to follow the beat and then finally the music switched on, for all to move with the rhythm. So, that meant there were many first timers there, and the association was taking special efforts to teach and infuse the spirit in them. I totally liked it.

What I liked is that there many people from other communities too trying their hand at Dandia. I definitely spotted some Bengalis, Malayalis, and UP'ites in the group.

Cultural Integrity is what we Indians have and we must use these opportunities to weave a bond and nurture the pride we have for our nation.
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Some more light thrown on Golu and its history...yipee

I am excited!
I found one reference, for the small write up I had given about Golu having made it's beginning during the reign of the Vijaynagar Kings (Krishnadevaraya).

click here
There is one paragraph in between if you have the patience to read. The 4th para to be precise. It tells that this custom started during the Vijaynagar period, and there is a reference to Golu dolls in Saraswathi Mahal Library ( Tanjavur)

Yipee...I feel happy to have found it.
Yet I know I read a longer bit somewhere else...I am still searching for this...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Display of another kind! My resident peacock...


(Click on picture for enlarged view)

I had to show you this guy who has made our garden his favourite haunt. He saunters into our front garden from time to time, and I am sure it is to peck at the juicy earthworms that abound in ours. He actually lives across the street on that person's terrace in fact. I have tried many times to capture him on camera...But it is only now that I was successful. Every time I would take out my camera he would scoot coyly away into the foliage nearby and I would be left bereft and cheated.
Finally, finally this day I managed to quietly take snaps of him as he walked through the garden, and perched himself on the off white Magnolia tree( yes that is the flower, if I am correct!)
He is an elegant guy, and gives one awooo sound when he enters my garden, so I know he is there.Yet the moment I open the door to the garden, which makes the most awful sound as it creaks on its hinges, he beats a hasty retreat, and that's why I had difficulty till now. I realised my mistake, and this time opened the door a gently as I could...and though I did not get his open plummage, I am thrilled to bits about the photos...
Our own Resident many can boast of that??!...Yes he is the same guy who used to distract us by doing his flashy dance show on the terrace opposite as my two left for school..he is the same guy...

It's a natural display of sorts don't you think?

Within the house I have displayed dolls and man made things, and here in the garden is Nature showcasing one of her most beautiful creations on earth. I was always skeptical that a peacock is overrated in it's beauty. The reason for this is as I have only seen sad peacocks in cages, most of their plumage not having the sheen and lustre that you see in a free one.

They shed their feathers during the rainy season, and we managed to pick up two of them. They are gorgeous specimens, every feather is so complete in its beauty. The colour is deep and glowing, and the texture soft and smooth... What can I say? I never thought I would ever be sharing the same space as a peacock in my life!!
On a final note, I spied his Missus(or girlfriend),sauntering around our backyard yesterday..I am sure He has planned his rendevous with her, therabouts...
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Golu 2009 sequel: The completed version...and some on!

So here is the completed version of my Golu. The rangoli, is done, I have lit the lamps for all to see. and the park/zoo is also there!!
I know there are grander shows out there, but with my creative limitations, I have endeavored to do my bit!

My daughter Uthara helped out with the park and zoo....I am sure she would have enjoyed being Chennai, where the enthusiasm is much higher and variety much larger. Some time in future when we settle down south I hope she is able to soak in the festive air of Navrathri in the South.

Here in Kanpur, within the airforce the last 3 days are significant, starting from Ashtami, then Navami, then Dasami. All three days are marked by pooja and cultural shows. I am looking forward to my first authentic Gharba with the Gujarati Association...and also plan to visit the Bengali Pandaal.
I have seen Durga Pooja by the Bengalis, it so happens that the area where my family lives in Chennai, has a very active and vibrant Bengali community and we have visited and even danced in their functions some Navrathri. They take their pooja and their culture very seriously!!

I must say this is one talented community. Especially here in our Airforce Unit, most of the enthusiastic participants for cultural shows are the Bengalis! Every one of them has some passion/interest. Be it playing the Tabla, Dancing or Singing the Rabrindra Sangeet, for sure the ones who come forward with enthu are from this community!
No comparison, and I play the part of the reluctant participant many a time, but South Indians, especially Tamilians I find are not so forthcoming, they would rather sit at home sipping their hot filter coffee than sweat it out on stage. As a community we don't do things together, we prefer privacy and keep ourselves aloof from public displays!! (if you have different views/experiences, please tell me).

I am primarily talking with my defense experiences in mind, as I am most aware of how this community interacts. As the air force has quite a representation from all parts of the country and I have been a keen observer of this phenomenon. I do feel we are reluctant to take center stage as a community, we prefer the audience mode.
Yet some of the most talented Singers/Dancers will be found amongst Tamilians, for most of us as children, have trod the well worn path to music /dance teachers, as diligently as we used to go to school.

Maybe we lack in confidence as a community. I have seen 2 significant aspects that influence this thought process. We are under confident about our looks, and our communication. The darkness of our skin, keeps us away from a predominantly "Fair- philic" society. This again is not a prejudice, but a conditioning. The over sensitive Tamilian would rather keep away from this, rather than assert and fight for a place amongst their fairer brethren. It has to do with a basic nature and a historical tendency towards peace and non-controversy.
Though the Tamilians grasp of language is extremely quick and fast, again we lack n confidence and feel shy over our "accent". I find over here, that even if we know and speak Hindi, there is a basic reluctance to express oneself, as we are very conscious of how it sounds!. So we shut up and sit down!
I guess we need to develop some Kick ass, Bindass attitude to get out of such mind sets...
Tell me your thoughts...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why the Dolls?

I want to know why we keep the Golu/Kolu. That got me searching on the net. I got access to many many blogs, sites which talk about the process of keeping Golu, a custom followed by the Tam Brahms( Tamil Brahmins, who come from the Southern state of Tamilnadu in India), and some communities in Andhra Pradesh.
But what is the story behind the Kolu?

Still fruitless my explorations, I chanced upon a nice website, giving some information on Kolu Steps
Click here
Here they tell us how the different steps are arranged and their significance.Yet why do we keep this ?
Well here goes the story behind the steps and the dolls.I remember reading this story a long time back, I am not able to find the link now. But I know I read it from some authentic source. If anyone knows/has validation for this story please let me know!

Why The Dolls?
During the reign of Krishnadevaraya, which was considered a golden age for South India, the people of his kingdom, so adored and worshiped him that they wanted to feel his presence in their house. As every one could not invite the King to their homes, they hit upon the novel idea of making dolls representing the King and Queen they adored, and placing them on pedestals. As human forms are generally not worshiped in isolation, they were placed in the ranks of the Gods. Idols were placed alongside the king and queen, and they were given the exulted status.

In most Kolu's you will see the Marapachi Dolls, made of wood and adorned with kingly clothes,or dressed as the bride and groom. A special fact to observe is that these dolls are placed on the top most step, along side the Kalasam, which represents the Amman or the Devi Goddess.

More thoughts will flow on the Kolu theme as and when they come...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Golu times 2009


So here is our teeny weeny Golu in Kanpur...have not done much in terms of theme, Uthara and I still discussing it!
Posted by Picasa

We have entered the most auspicious season for most Indians, be it Hindu or Muslim. Navrathri as we say in South or Nawrathra in the North, marks the period before Dussehra.
South Indians keep Golu, or the doll festival, usually followed by the Brahmin Community.
North Indians observe fast. I must say they do impress me with their will power. My neighbour starts the 9 day fast "NirJal", meaning she goes for 24 hours without even water. I cant manage a fast for even one evening. (Gave that too up when I started having severe gastric problems!!)
I for one enjoying keeping the Golu, and of course the socializing.This time as we are all convalescing post viral fever, I have not done much preparations. Still we have couple of days to finish the Golu.
Come and see my pictures, nothing elaborate...

Here is a link to a post from the same time last year, you may like to read up the story of see the link click here

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Following up... on What/How/Where of Locating Books for Children

At the beginning I wish to make myself clear…
All opinions/views/ideas/suggestions expressed here are purely my own!! This is a personal blog, and my intention is to share information that is of interest to me, and hope that it could be of some use/interest to my viewers…
Having made my disclaimer loud and clear, I will now move on…!!

I realize that many are interested in books, and those working/ living with kids can have no other preoccupation!!
So here is a compilation of publishers and the kind of books that is available in the market for children. I have combined foreign publishers and Indian ones. Many foreign publishers have entered the Indian market. So depending on your pocket, you can pick and choose what suits you.
I found 3 publishing websites, with comprehensive lists of publishers. They are a western compilation, but as I said, there is no harm in knowing…
Enter these portals and look for children’s publisher’s and the list is there for you to browse through!

Here is my list:
1) Amar Chitra Katha: Who doesn’t know these? The comics for the masses.Started by Mr.Anant Pai of the Tinkle books fame; Informative and colourful, extensive variety. (My only suggestion is that small children do not like the graphic mythological stories, so avoid telling them about death and sacrifice till they are about 5 years. If you do tell them, focus on positive values, rather than the negatives, which is such a part and parcel of these myths.)
Their online portal is excellent, with many stories and games.

2) Karadi tales: My children grew listening to their audio books. Karadi, has now started their online e-audiobooks as well. I prefer audio story books to the video media, the reason being that primarily stories and storytelling must spark imagination in children and listening skills encourage creativity.

3) Madhuban publishers: As far as Indian publishers are considered, they have come out with many series. Tread with care. Some books are not upto the mark in terms of content and presentation.

4) Navneet publishers: Most parents will be familiar with this name. Their collection of activity books/colouring books etc are a plenty. As far as quality is concerned, I give them full marks. Yet I caution storybook lovers to give their collection a good look before buying them.

5) Oxford Publications: Been in India for a long time. I prefer their Reading Readiness series. (Thats because I learnt from them!!). Their Kitty and Rover series for early child reading, which comes now in a new and bright edition, is great to start children on reading. A trusted name, so pick them up, whatever titles you get.

6) Scholastic: A brand name now. Franklin and Clifford are published through them. Schools are in partnership with Scholastic, and invariably my daughter wants a book, every time, from the sales counter they set up in her school.They are also one of the co-sponsors for the Singapore Storytelling Festival, if anyone has a chance to visit, participate in that, don't miss it, for yourself/kids..and do tell me how it went!

7) CBT: Children's Book Trust, still publishing stories by Indian Authors. My favourite. Go in for the individual stories, don't buy collection of stories.

8) NBP: Nehru Bal Pusthakalaya is an offshoot of the NBT, or the National Book Trust. Again these books have Indian authors, simple, unassuming stories. Simple stories like Rupa the Elephant and Munia finds Gold are from them.I love them. I wish NBT would also come up with Story telling fests like the Singapore Book Council, I wonder why no one has thought of this?....

9) Sesame Street: Growing Up Books from Sesame Street, are great reads, and I don't have to tell you, the story line is great. clear simple pictures, and familiar characters, all make these books well loved.

10) Disney books: On similar lines to Sesame, Disney publications brings out all their cartoons in print form, enjoyable any day. Who doesn't like their visuals. So pick up Snow white, Hunch Back of Notre Dame, and Hiawatha from Disney, if you find them.

11) Sterling Press /ECP: Some of their publications are the Bubbles series, simple and about a monkey who does his bit of mischief. very young children will love these.

12) Random House: Little Witch reading series from them is good stuff. I personally like such themes, which tells children how to be different....and still be liked!

13) Egmont: Lot of these books can be found in the market, they have brought the Noddy series in easy to read fonts and layouts. Though I like the easy to read versions, I somehow prefer the older hard bound versions...old fogey that I am!

14) DK publishers: They have some good encyclopaedia's and books. Assured quality for sure.

15) Lady bird Series: Been there for a long time. Primary readers are good.

16) Penguin publishers: Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond, for older children.
There are some more publishers, suggested by dear friends: Leo, Appu and Chandra publishers.

17) Pratham Books: Now they have an interesting website. Check it out. Their prerogative is to bring books to the rural children. Tulika publications is part of this initiative. Why Why Girl by Mahaswetha Devi, was one of their first releases...

The bottom line to all this, is that there are excellent books available nowadays, but while selecting books for children here are some things to look for

a) Age group:
Goes without saying, younger children want pictures, touchy/feely books, audio books. Put them, onto colourful primary readers.
Transition groups would still like pictures, but look for story line, and I find this group likes humour. So look for funny and tickly books!!
The older group could go for Adventure/Mystery/Magic/Science Fiction. Let them experiment and read what they like. Give them variety so that they are not stuck to one genre, if thats possible! Children can be clannish sometimes...difficult to convince. Keep trying.
(One trick is to read the books they enjoy so much, share thoughts on the same, so that they see us, as adults liking their taste, and then they learn to appreciate the books we choose for them)

b) Story Line: Try to identify what genre your child really enjoys. Humour, Mythology, Animals, Adventure, Mystery ....usually the Primary Story teller's interest will reflect in your children's choice of books! But as they see different books let them show you what they like.

3) Page Layout: Font, pictures, grammar/language are aspects to look for. Visual appeal of the book is so important when choosing a book.

Finally I wish to tell you it actually doesn't matter if you do pick out a lousy book, that too can be a process of learning with kids as you can discuss why or what makes you dislike the book!

Keep reading, and enjoy the time well spent with your children. It is a heady feeling (at least for me) to have children sitting near me/on me while I tell/read a story and they Listen with wide eyes/open mouth...
(Just once try stopping at some crucial point and watch them, as they jump at you to continue....sweet heaven!!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The What/How/Where of locating Children's Books!!

Have you read a tasteless book? Have you seen one?
No, I don’t mean the books that are meant to be trashy and have only one running theme through them. I don’t mean those…
My blood boils when I see a book which is meant for the discerning audience, but is fit for the kabadiwallah. They are disguised as books for children and come in many tasteless shapes, colors, fonts and themes.
This new trend of bringing mythological characters in their primitive childhood form and cavorting them around our gullible and impressionable children is most irritating.
As they devour characters like Chota Bheem and Chota Birbal on screen, this is further supplemented by books which come with names like “Chota B and the Smelly Mountain Rakshas!!”
Have you read such books…??
I may seem like a snob, but excuse me, isn’t the minimum requirement for a story, especially children’s story; a Story Line??!!

Then there are some books, which hide behind titles that have been around for a thousand years. Like the Arabian Night Stories, Bedtime Stories, etc. There are original books available no doubt, but if you are not careful, then cheap imitations can land up in your bookshelf. Again, I writhe in agony when I read such tasteless stories, and come away thinking, the people who actually print these books must be perverts.
There is no language/grammar in these books, no story and when you come to the end, it leaves you wondering…“what is the point?”
Now if you are wondering, if I am such a connoisseur of books then why I buy them?
I don’t.
A couple of such books that have landed on my children’s bookshelf were actually given by the school!! This made me wonder whether they sent the illiterate peon to buy it. I am sure that was the case…

Children want variety. Even if they like to go back and read the same story, or hear the same story, they still would like different stories every day. So that is a tall order for the “Primary Storyteller!”
Initially children love to hear the story, but by and by they want pictures, and with multi media playing such an important role in enhancing multi sensorial learning, oral storytellers have to become very creative...

What To Buy?
Western story books, for those who can afford them in hard bound, are a plenty in all bookshops. Not only classics, but the little ones can now enjoy many books from Scholastic like Clifford, and Thomas the Steam Engine (to mention a bare minimum).
Enid Blyton’s Noddy series is, you know, an all time favorite! I enjoy reading and telling stories from the Bernstein Bear series. They are immensely enjoyable; the content very child specific and relevant, usually dealing with difficulties, challenges, or fun that a 5year old faces (though here the brother and sister duo are bears!).
You also have Dora books, Blue’s Clues, Dragon Tales, and racks and racks of such colorful, entertaining and enjoyable books. An interesting point here is that as a storyteller, I used to get requests to include one story from these books in order to “attract” clientèle at libraries!!
Yet, as far as story content is concerned I vote for Indian authors and children’s books published by CBT, which is the Children’s Book Trust, and NBT or the National Book Trust. Some amazingly creative stories and ideas!
NBT holds annual short story competitions and the winners get their stories published with the art work and credits. Asha Nehemiah is quite a winner, and her stories are simple, funny and very readable.
The advantages in picking up these books are plenty; they are affordable, especially when one requires a collection to choose from, depending on the age, mood and interest of your audience. I say go for these books, any day!
Tulika publications too have some very creative books on their shelf, but a trifle on the expensive side. But if you are looking at gifts for your favorite niece/nephew, then these books are definitely worth it.

Books with audio cassettes were my children’s favorite while growing up but very young children love the feel and touch books available in big shops nowadays. My advice would be to buy these hard bound books, use them and then keep them in circulation by passing them onto loved ones and their kids. This way you will be free from the guilt of having spent so much on books that were hardly used for more than a year (children graduate very fast!).

What not to Buy?
Never buy books that say “Collection of Short Stories”, unless you have personally read the authors’ other works. Ruskin Bond is fine, so is Roald Dahl, but unfortunately some such collections that I have picked up are not up to the mark.

Where and When to Buy?
(Providing you want to buy and are not already members of libraries, so you want to skip this part …!)
Buying books for kids is an art. Just as the intrepid shopoholic waits for the month end/year end sale, so also the bibliophile needs to keep a hawk’s eye for the ubiquitous book sale.
Book shops have clearance sales…grab them! Look out especially for the crates of children’s books, which are usually kept, at the entrance/ the far end of the room. Most of these piles, have loads and loads of books that would otherwise be way too expensive.

Book fairs are fantastic places to get great deals on books. Some stalls have used books shipped from other countries but which are still in excellent condition and affordable. I usually grab a minimum of 10 of these!!

Second hand book shops are good. But one must look carefully through the books for damage. Sometimes we can be mislead by the hard bound cover, the pages inside may be old and yellowing, and so you land up possessing a book on its death bed!

Nowadays push carts full of pirated books are available. Avoid them if possible. Sometimes when you are desperate for a book, especially if you are traveling by train and need some sustenance for the journey, then you can pick up an Adiga or Arundhathi in their pirated version, but otherwise avoid it at all costs. It is a sad business, I say! If required you can actually pick up a Tinkle from these chaps and while away your journey time…

I may have digressed here and there, sometimes talking about children’s books, sometimes adults, but you see books are my passion next to Storytelling, and the two are inexorably intertwined. I will continue my ramblings on finding books and stories in my next edition, with inputs on how to look for stories on the internet….