SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

10th day of Victory!!

Navratri 2012 is over for most South Indians. After marathon golu visits and sundal packets, the glitter and glamour ends today on Vijaydasami, the 10th day of Victory. An auspicious day to begin a new learning, be it Vidyarambam, or any other creative/musical learning. 

This time, uncharacteristically my 10 days have been hectic, filled with something or the other, as varied as attending storytelling workshop on two days, to a story session at Whitefield, followed by guests over the weekend, and crazily driving my son to Gerry Martin's Farm for a nature camp, just because I felt this was long overdue for him.

My aching back and sore eyes are testimony to the hardships endured!!

But the crowning glory to festivities this year was being able to visit the Bombe Golu and Puppet show by Dhaatu at Banashankari. It is a not-for-profit, solely driven by the passion of one woman: Anupama Hoskere who creates, conceptualizes  directs and executes traditional puppet shows based on Mythology and Historical themes.
Wait...there is more, she and her team also handcraft most of the puppets and dolls, which are used in her productions and also displayed throughout basement area of her residence. 
It is an amazing collection (of 18 years!!) and retells many stories, scenes and tales from the Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Krishna Avatar (Bhagavad Gita). So many stories that I could only glance at; so many stories that left me awestruck at the depth of knowledge of the creator.(The traditional steps was also there, 15 in all!). 
Tirupathi and Vaikuntam in a corner shared space with Banaras/ Varanasi Ganges river front made from wood and there was even an irresistibly cute Ganesha's cricket team!!  
Unfortunately no photography was allowed and I can only say this is a passion to behold. If you are in Karnataka state during Navratri then surely drop by to see this stupendous commitment and dedication to traditional values and art forms.

As I have no pictures I leave you with some shots of the Mysore Palace all lit up that we captured when we last visited there. As you know Navratri celebrations were created during the Vijaynagara Period, by Krishna Deva Raya and his people, and the current version of the festivities have been refined by the Wodeyars. So today, on the 10th day, the special "Ambari Anne"(Arjuna this year) carries the howda with the Devi on it, which has been supplemented in the modern times with floats and police displays.  


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pride of place! Golu 2012

This time I have something to show off!!

Son decides to do Warli...inspired by what I was dabbling with
..... and here is what he did:

So we got it framed and there it is at the centre of Golu 2012
Doesn't it look magnificent?

Rangoli inspired by some wonderful pieces we saw on Commercial street, you can take a look at that over here 

An enlarged view of the "pride of place' painting

Do not miss the little side Golu done by daughter and son
Gandhiji celebrating Pongal at Sabarmati: conceptualised and designed by daughter
The posters were also made by daughter at different times that she chose to pin up here, which so perfectly belong to the mood and theme of our current times

Hope you enjoyed our Golu 2012 as much as we had fun, fighting, bickering, rearranging, assorting, placing, cleaning, and organising this season's Navaratri Hangama! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Play, Play, Play

"Do I really need to buy that (one more) toy?"

"Gosh, look at the cost"

"How long before he is going to ask me for another toy?"

Do these mental conversations sound familiar? I am sure every parent has gone through that phase where too much is too less and and in an enthusiastic need to encourage learning in our child we land up buying way too many toys which our children outgrow too soon as well.

Hold On

Keep that thought.

So why do we buy toys? Do they actually serve a purpose?

Let us rewind a bit, and put things in perspective. 0-5 years is the crucial development period and most learning happens around this age, and most importantly learning happens as the child pro-actively engages with the environment through outdoor and indoor playful interactions.
Children are used to playing with whatever is available to them...give them a plate and spoon and see how your toddler starts banging on it...and you don't even have to teach them. We are naturally programmed to use and invent uses for objects and things. So a plate and spoon can become a toy, and I am sure you would have noticed how even a cardboard box (and not the gift inside) becomes curiously engaging for little kids.

As the child grows toys become tools to make new friends, a tool that teaches us to share, a tool that helps in learning and a tool that aids growth and development.

Providing... we allow the child that kind of learning/ playing space away from TV/ Computer time. A child playing with a toy is using innumerable neural pathways, that are not activated if he is 'playing' on the computer or watching TV. This message is my heartfelt 'shout out' to parents, TV and computer time has to be restricted and play in all and any form to be encouraged if children are to survive to live an emotionally and socially stable future.

So when Anupma from Learning, called me and asked me to blog about the importance of play and of course spread the word about her venture (an online Toy library- that also provides Free Home delivery); I was happy to oblige as it is a topic that is close to my heart.

Going back to where I started, after a point, buying toys becomes painful. So a toy library is a great way to invest your money, but reap benefits long term. I browsed through the website and almost all your queries are answered there, and as I can see, it is a growing collection, so I am sure you can put in your requests too. The concept of Reuse and Recycle is driving them and they also sanitize and clean the toys after every use.

Some interesting toys are available for rent with them, I liked the Magnetic dress up set and the Touch and Explore Learning globe. Many are branded toys that we usually think twice about buying.

My personal recommendation is that they should also have an Indian Toy section, Wooden toys and board games.

Quoting Abraham Maslow, the famed psychologist who says, "Almost all creativity involves purposeful play", and going a step further on that quote I add that "purposeful play leads to inventions"!

So encourage that little inventor in your home... play, play ,play!!!

( check out: Learning

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 2 at YOKE- More stories and puppet making

The day dawned pretty early, not withstanding the late night (we stayed up to watch the Garuda Sevai- a procession through the streets where the main Vigraham /idol is carried on a beautifully flower adorned Garuda all around the streets. My son thought the idol would actually be carried on the back of a real bird!! Alas the lack of knowledge of a city bred agnostic family! Though I have seen and participated in such late night jaunts by the Lord through the bylanes of Mylapore, for my son it was a brand new experience. Yet in a blink of an eye, the dancing boys, chanting Vadiyars and tall, muscular bearers passed by and we returned to our room; a memory to be stored), we got ready and made a quick visit to the Courtrallam Falls, along with another friend and the NalaBagam (server of divine food!)of our stay.


 The meaning behind a name and taking ownership and how we live up to our names formed the first part of the second session. I had goose pimples just doing this with the kids, as they discovered hidden truths and new perspectives through our simple name analysis. Giving every one a heightened sense of self worth.

My daughter's story of a Chinese boy and his honesty (which she told in Tamil, for the first time!) was followed by a story of Bhasmasuran and Mohini that I had chosen specially for this group. I then walked them through a simple Problem Identification/ Problem Solving model for Decision Making and I know the older group were keenly following and absorbing what I said.

Yet again the Puppet and Craft making was a hit, as I had brought along all material to make a Bhasmasuran envelop puppet and a simple spoon puppet Mohini.
The day wound down quickly as we bid goodbye with a heavy heart.
Divya wanted to know where I get my ideas from, while the most poignant moment was to hear Mani ask "When are you coming back?"

As I follow my heart, listening to the moment calling to me...I know I don't have an answer...but I know for sure if his heart calls me hard enough and if I allow myself to follow my heart then I will be back with the children of Kodaganallur, showing them the path that stories help us take.

Thank you dear YOKE children and adults...and don't forget to follow your heart (you already are).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 1 at YOKE- Elephant Story and Puppet making

This is where I had been

An onslaught of pictures follow; so beware...!

I created a simple screen for a butterfly puppet dance 

Followed by my friend and cohort, who always introduces the day's story and doings to the kids  

Then I had kids write out their names and one quality in them they thought was most true

This activity was a way to get children to become more self aware and also take some pride in who they are 

So they wrote it out on triangular sheets of paper and we mad a Thoranam that we hung across the room

Busy, busy, hands and mind, working on their little special note

Followed by a story called Little Vinayak, about an elephant with a trunk toooo long

Paper envelop puppets to make and show 

We also made an Origami mouse

Then wound up the day with an Elephant and Mouse story, that children made up on the spot!

Here they are waiting for their turn....

I also did a small puppet show in between, ably assisted by my son. Simple panchatantra stories of the Lion and the Mouse, followed by Crocodile and the Monkey. A sample fare for kids to get used to the idea of puppetry and voice modulation.

In my opinion children enjoyed making the simple puppets, but when they had to perform we saw many shy and recalcitrant ones. This gradually changed as well. Initially what started as mere imitation of a story presented by my daughter (a great little story of a mouse which is not friendly with an elephant, but then the elephant helps the little mouse at the time of need, to end happily with their friendship), slowly started evolving in front of us, as some chose to change the ending, while others changed the problem encountered.
My favorite was an original story (as he chose to tell a different story from the others) where the Elephant God Ganesha chooses the mouse Mooshika as his vehicle.

Even as the day ended, I could see the little turtles emerging from their shells, creating some really sweet, simple stories on their own. 

Play and play acting is a part of every child's life, in their games, in their mannerisms, in their speech. Very simply when we tweek their curiosity and spark their imagination, rest assured they are going to drown us in the creative output that will follow.  

The first day was without an agenda, a space for sharing stories and props, but I had a different plan for the older group (11 - 18 years) check out my next post


Friday, October 5, 2012

Trip to Kodaganallur-YOKE Society: 29th / 30th Sept

How can I refuse a very tempting offer?
An opportunity to tell stories, breathe in some wonderful village air and an open invitation to bring the kids along...
I grabbed it with both hands!!

An opportunity to share my passion for stories, books and and storytelling with children in a remote village near Tirunelveli came to me through a friend.
Please drop into this website to see what a single woman and her passion has created

The busy Tirunelveli junction was conspicuously clean compared to the bedlam and dirt that one encounters in large city stations. To my son's delight we were received by our 'driver', who had come in an extra large (I mention this, as I had a huge suitcase and bag and they were packed neatly and comfortably into it!)  auto rickshaw (a share auto-as it is called in Chennai)  to ferry us to the village of Kodaganallur. I kept my eyes pealed trying to soak in as much as I could, but the heat was soporific and lulled us all into a sleepy limbo. The auto jogged and jolted over a dirt track, entered a street and halted in front of a house. I could see a quaint Iyengar (the U namam on the temple facade leaving no doubts in my mind that this was an Agraharam) at the end of the street and something inside me smiled with a sense of belonging.

My friend popped out of her house, a hug and a beaming welcome followed and it felt as if I knew her for ages, but actually this was the first time I was meeting her in person!  

Here is a view from the guest house we stayed in: look carefully you can see the temple

"The Tamirai Barani River washes its walls on its Eastern side!!"
(aka Pied Piper of Hamelin!)

A Picnic!! Yep we crossed the river that evening and joined the children and staff of Yoke Society on the other side of the River!

Climbing sand bunds across one of the canals dug up for channeling water 

Climbing a huge Banyan tree


Playing Kabbadi!

Snack Time : Mysore Pack and Mixture washed down with 7-Up!

What a grand way to initiate my kids into village life!
I assure you my son took to it like fish to water...
Wanted to go swimming in the river and so he did with a gang the next day; but I am jumping the gun...

What I saw, was cohesion, a camaraderie, a spirited community created by Chitra (and her husband). Within this space of ownership and togetherness they hope to create a model for sustainable living. Village communities are rich and diverse cauldrons of talent and here I see their potential being nurtured by this couple with a passion that is infectious. Yet sustaining interest and keeping energies high, motivating youngsters, throwing challenges, having a common vision, these are all daunting tasks in their hand, but they are doing a tremendous job.
Empower a woman and so empower a family. 
Empower the Youth and so empower a Community/ Village

I look forward to a looong relationship with this powerful community and as for what I did (besides having a good time)...wait and watch for the next post...

(Pleased do share your thoughts and leave your comments on the comment page and do drop by YOKE whenever you can...I can vouch for their hospitality!)