SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

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!
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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!!)