SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We are going to the Zoo

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Just took the children to the Kanpur Zoo.

As for them and me, just roaming around is great fun.
The maintenance of the Zoo is to write about, but I still felt some of the animals were in good health.
The pelicans, and the flamingo for one, the rhinoceros for another. The tiger looked bored, while the other animals, sambar deer and bear were looking unhealthy.
It was a hot day, yet the kids could not pull themselves away.

A kingfisher on the tree enjoying (and oblivious) to its relative freedom...

An annoyed Jackal bared its fangs at us, I dont blame him/her, I too would hate to be in a cage, though with time we get used to that too...

The Emus were plenty, wonder how they are proliferating while the others were in pairs.

The orangutan was the favourite, so was the chimp...missed it as the batteries were acting up again. (Have seriously petitioned for a better camera)

The zebras too were looking great, though we got a glimpse from afar, as they coyly peeped at us from an internal enclosure.

Sleepy, sad Zoo...
Happy energetic children
Glad for an outing Mama...

One happy family...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


well i have been tagged!
Though I have noticed it on many blogs, this is the first time I have been tagged.
So thanks Mom of V .

Well this means I reveal 7 things about myself and tag 3 more:

* I got wet in the rain one day returning from school( yes way back then..but still, this is in high school)...took a bus, removed my glasses to wipe them ( yes I wear them)...and plonked myself on a seat...only to find in my blindness I had sat on someone's puke....grosses me even today...:))

* used to be the only one who would not drink Ganne ka ras outside our college portals...

* used to drive the two wheeler (friends) on the sly...!

* keep swinging as the mood goes...

* got to get out of the house atleast once a day

* need someone to push me to get things done:((

* get a lot of kick in a room full of kids

Ok, I struggled through that...couldnt find 7 things that I wanted to reveal, that I have not already said!!

Yet I will tag 3 more, so here goes: Asha, dreamsgoon, aruna

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WSD-20th march:A day for stories..isnt every day one?!!

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March 20th: World StoryTelling Day

So did you tell a story?
Did you hear one?
Did you share one?

World Story telling Day is celebrated on March 20th to coincide with the summer/spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.
Reading a Katha or sharing a story from the Ramayan/ Bagavatham is part of our Indian Culture. This was usually done in the temples to the accompaniment of some music. Even without the music the teller's voice was of the most sonorous and lilting quality, and one could sit mesmerised for hours listening to stories that he would intersperse with jokes and local flavour.
My memories of attending such events go back to my childhood in Chennai. During the summer holidays we would be packed of from our urban Adyar home to my grandmother's house in old Mylapore near the Kapaleeswarer temple. Evenings were magical as we scampered behind her almost every day to the temple, and invariably in the evening some Katha-kalakshebam would be there to entertain us.
I dont remember much, but I do hold the magic of those times in my heart. The ambience of the temple, the chatter of ladies in sarees and malli poo
(jasmine flowers), on one side and men in pristine white dhotis on another, the fragrance of agarbathies (incense) and the magic of a story!

Even till date, these places retain their age old charm. The temples are the same, maybe with some additional colour, the agraharam and the gurukkal( the learned pundits) are the same, though they may own a cell phone and a car too! Yet what has changed is the anticipation and enthusiasm for oral story telling. No longer are these venues sought out for stories, mythology and culture.

We have been brain damaged by multi media. I am not against technology, not at all. But it isolates us from humanity, where as Oral tradition, brings the community together.
Just try a group of friends or family and share stories....see how magical the evening becomes. Savour it!

Well coming back to WSD, here is what I did:

The day started with my kids listening to Esio Trot and Fantastic Mr.Fox on Audio, downloaded from the net. For those who are not Roald Dahl fans, I must tell you, you are missing something!!
My daughter absolutely adores him. What we love about him is his sense of humour and the way he makes up the most atrocious things.
In spite of the accent I must say the twosome, couldnt get themselves away from the room, even to brush their teeth...!
That was in the morning, later in the evening I had invited a group of my children's friends. Asked them to come over and tell some stories. I started the evening by telling one of our favourites, again by Roald Dahl: Enormous Crocodile.
The reason I choose this story was for its dramatic content, and its familiarity with kids. For these children this was the first time they had come to a story telling event.
There were 12 children and after I finished my story, I asked them to share theirs. Children truly enjoy this medium.
I had restless group that day, I would only say it was because they had to sit and hear other children. I was happy to hear Panchantantra stories, not surprising as Indian children are raised on a healthy dose of them. My daughter spoke about her favourite book The Twits ( yes Dahl again!!), and my son insisted on reading out a Pooh book.
There was Androcles and the Lion, by one child, and what I loved was that he did not use the names, Androcles, the King etc, he called him the dirty man (slave)!! Obviously this was his own interpretation of the story.
Another child told the story of "Strength in Unity", and even had a story within a story, where the pigeon king teaches his flock about Unity by telling them about the 2 headed snake that ate poison to spite the other head, and as a result killed itself.
There were two more Panchatantra stories, of a Widows folly and an uncommon story I had not heard before.
It was unfortunate that there was a birthday party, so some children had to leave in a hurry, causing some breaks and pauses in our evening. Any way at the end I brought out my Puppet bag and let the kids loose. They enjoyed this thoroughly, and I am sure if I give them more time, they would come up with some original stories too...
What a great day. I enjoyed myself, and hope to make this an annual feature in my home!
Happy WSD...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Floating on water~~~~~~

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Is that enough water for Tulika?

No, that is not a belligerent tone. In fact I am a tad disappointed at this point as I have one collage less in my collection.
The Sea/Ocean

I have the rain at Kanpur, the river and its wondrous fall at Khajuraho, the river- sea (Ganges) at its serene best.
Yet I am sad I have not captured my beloved Bay of Bengal (Elliots Beach, Chennai). I have no pictures of my friend, philosopher, and guide.
Because the days spent along Her shores are those times when the only camera we used were our eyes and the only place to save it was in our memories.

But no sweat, this time when I go to Chennai, I am going to capture my memories and collage it for myself!

I have so many water stories to tell, where do I start?!!

I could start with the games from a time past.
Land, River, Ocean, Sea, Water...have you played this game? My childhood days were spent playing this on steps at school and home.

Or shall I tell you of days in the Monsoon of '84 when our house got flooded in and we could pail out water from the well (yes, we had/have one of those...still there at my parent's place), and even see fishes happily swimming to our door step. When visitors to our house thought we lived near a lake, as it got flooded every time we had heavy rains!!)

Or shall I tell you of the umpteen number of buckets I have carried from road to house, during those times of water shortage. Waiting for the tanker, counting out buckets, arguing with neighbors...commonplace for any Chennaite!!

I could also tell you how Dr. Jayalalitha made Rain Water Harvesting compulsory in Chennai Metro, and how that has improved the table water to such an extent that Chennai is thanking her as the Goddess!!

I also want to tell you that my Father-in-law throws a rupee coin into the river every time he crosses it and tells us all that it is to ensure the River is happy, the Water Gods are Happy, and so He and his family will be happy and never fall short of water!!

December 2006: Flash back to the tsunami. We were there, family et-al in our home by the sea, at Chennai....yet oblivious to its fury. We were but mute spectators to its destruction. I never imagined I would witness this in my lifetime, stories of which I had heard from my childhood...of giant waves crashing on the beach and carrying people away...

Water is such a pivot around which life revolves. Its sources and courses fascinates us, its wastage troubles us. (please listen to Anupam Mishra on TED

Rain in Kanpur, waterfall at Khajuraho, boating on the Ganges. Memories and moments that build our lives, build into our lives.

Lets leave nature alone...on a lighter note. Summer is here and all of us are waiting to jump into the swimming pool, so what if all that chlorine is going to bleach the hair and skin to paleness...

Water is there, it is for us, it is for life.
Stories are there, it is for us, it is for life.

One last note, I have to add that my daughter made a Power point today..all on her own...and the topic she chose for it was.....WATER....

tada...that says it all...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Storyteller

Devdutt Patnaik...catch his take on Story telling

Or catch his Story telling skills as he demystifies Myths..and talks about East and West perspectives...


I am further convinced that Stories and Story telling and Storytellers  rule the world!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Question of perspective?

I have been mulling over this for some time
How tolerant are we towards those who have greater difficulty grasping concepts and understanding facts?
Yes, I do mean those who We Perceive as "not as smart". 

Are there stupid people or only stupid questions?

I dont believe either exists.

Any one with children will know that they can ask a zillion questions, each one logically/illogically connected to the previous one. Yet from their perspective and  from their grasp of reality they have every right to ask
and clarify. My daughter is an eternal questioner, and some of her questions defeat my cognition. The only answer I give her at these times is that "I am not a walking/talking Encyclopedia"( that reminds me this summer I plan to get her onto some serious Googling for her answers besides the many encyclopedias she keeps reading!)

Questions are a way of learning/ exploring/ understanding.

What if an adult asks questions?

I find asking questions and saying that you dont know is perceived as a lack of intelligence. Even as adults asking questions is such a healthy way to get a grasp of the situation. However obvious the answer may be, when we voice/vocalise the question, I am surprised how often that in itself gives me the answers. Yet as we grow older and wiser we stop asking questions, slowly we lose that sense of curiosity and interest that children have and which we easily destroy in the name of maturity and growth.   

For me maturity and growth is all about asking more creative and diverse questions. It is not about having all the answers.

Going by Gardner's theory of Intelligences, every person operates best from his level of intelligence. So I am high on  Lingusitic and Interpersonal  skills (that means I can jam you to boredom and enjoy every minute of it, and expect that you will too!!). Yet my logical-analytical skills are pathetic, to say the least. So that means I am "duh" when it comes to finance, fixing things and problem solving!

Yet we dont give credit to such differences. Humans and especially in our culture, we value logical analytical skills/ Interpersonal skills very highly and cannot associate success with any other field or vocation. By that I mean either one should be brilliant in the IQ department, or know how to market themselves!

Although times are changing, I believe the dichotomy and the divide is deepening. On one side we have Intolerance and Impatience spreading its talons into people, as we strive to be smarter, be better, know more, and gain more. Trying to bury our ignorance in one up-man ship and in the name of success.

While we have another set of people who gather those around them in their quest for learning and discovery. Like a wind that carries the seed for dispersal, they carry us along and disperse us in the sea of knowledge. These people truly etch their names in the sands of time.

As I write this I think of all those people who I personally know and who operate in this manner. I salute them.

Sharing Knowledge, respecting and valuing Equality without a thought or consideration to your status/ sex/ abilities/ intelligence. Is this an Utopian thought?

It may be, but once we start operating from this thought process, then humankind can only have 2 classes: the Good and the Bad, The Haves and the Have Nots.

With this it will be easier to bridge the gap and work towards equality.
With this there is no question of stupidity in the question or stupidity in the person, only a question of perspective.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Language anyone?

How different are the written and spoken forms of your first language? If you want children to become familiar with their first language, which form would you look for in children's books - formal or informal? Why?
"Uh OH " is my first reaction. 
I am the last person to even comment on mother tongue/first language. But then I read the second question and I embraced the word "familiar". Oh yes, thats something I want, can do for my kids!
Ok, let me rewind a bit, not a lot, but enough to give you a background before I venture into how I see children picking up language through books.
I have learnt English, Hindi, Tamil, French and Sanskrit!! And I loved every bit of it.
Hindi was tough. Growing up in suburban Chennai, where all the Hindi one heard was confined to the four walls of a classroom and your Hindi teacher, who had this innovative technique of fining us 50p for every non-Hindi word/sentence spoken in class, ( which converted into a term end Party!!).  Yet I believed I had a good grasp of the language, till I traveled up North and realised how pathetically inadequate I was( well thats another story...)  
French in High school was brilliant, which we basically took up to score more marks(!!). Yet I thoroughly enjoyed learning, speaking and understanding that language. More credit to the teacher, who was this soft spoken "Mesdames" who helped us through traductions  and "conjugaison de verbes" .
Sanskrit in college...what can I say? There was leeway here as one could write the paper in English, with apt quotes from passages. And quote I did in galore!!( Upama Kalidasasya ?!)
Ahhh....yet coming to my first language/mother tongue, Tamil; a shamefaced soul stands before you. Speaking a corrupted version of this beautiful language, I have never delved into its literary folds. I cannot as my reading is confined to "kooti paddikkarathu", which roughly translates into 'reading by putting together(the sounds)'.

So where does that leave my kids? Do I want them to learn, get familiar? 

Yes on all accounts. 
The impact of this is felt by me more than any one else. My son was fluent in Tamil till he entered play school, when he switched to English, there again we were delighted with his diction and fluency, till we  moved to Kanpur and now we are amazed at his vocabulary in Hindi!

I want my children to learn languages. It is not so much the first language as in Any language. The first step is to hear the language being spoken. Formal nuances can be presented informally.

Audio-Visual is the way to go. Well illustrated books, supplemented with Audio feedback will definitely speed up learning, and not to miss out on sustaining their interest and  firing their imagination. 

When the children Hear what they See...through songs/rhymes/patterns which is enhanced by the visuals and graphics in the book, the beauty of the language is highlighted and what other better way is there?!

A series of books taking the child through a journey of words and visuals, using audio books,  is how I see language weaving its magic in children.

Click on link below to view the source of my inspiration for this blogpost...
Tulika Books

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mughal gardens!

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Here is a montage ( for a change!), of a friends garden.

February and March is spring time her in the North and the entire station is blossoming.   I confess my garden too has some Dahlias, some meagre Pansies and Zinnias.  But after seeing this garden I don't want to spoil the visual treat for you all by showing a comparatively arid garden (mine), as against this veritable Mughal Gardens!

My friend's husband is a passionate botanist/plant lover/plant grower. He lovingly explained to us how he plans the different colours that go into the garden, the height variations and the manner in which one bed of flowers should offset the next set in terms of contrast and height!
So he had beautiful light hued sweet peas followed by a bed of Lady's lace, intermingled with some pink paper (real) flowers.
The children were awed by the "poisonous" plant at the entrance, which my daughter had to capture. (It is the solitary pot on the wall with the label!)
For once I took my camera ( without inhibitions!!), and took some amateur pics for myself. I have  a lot to work on in terms of getting the light and focus correct.

Garden stories abounded.

It is real hard work, and the Passionate Gardner has done this without the help of a full time gardner! Hats Off!!
 I always appreciate hard work and effort.....On top of that We got to enjoy the fruits of His labours!
I am pretty lazy in this area, and just listening to the PG's tales of toil and trouble, I was inspired enough to start watering my garden (at least!).
Well the Icing on the cake was the yum food we also had.

Visual and Oral treat.....why can't all Sundays end as well?!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

All Izz Well....EI in action!!

This story has been doing the rounds around the virtual space. you may have heard it or seen it. It talks about a dad leaving for work and just as he is having breakfast, his daughter accidently spills coffee on him...
He is upset, he scolds her, she bursts into tears, and misses her he has to drop her, and then reaching his workplace which is some distance from home, he finds he has forgotten to carry his file for the day....

Sounds familiar?

Wait, it doesn't end there.

Now we imagine or recreate the story with a different story line

What if the dad does this:
Gently tells his daughter to be more careful, wipes the mess, puts her on the bus, quickly changes, picks up his file, leaves for work and reaches on time...

Well that's Emotional Intelligence at work for you.
In my last post I had mentioned that I wished I had done many things differently. Well this is it. I wish I had reacted differently to different things at different points of time.

The key points to EI is a personal awareness. Knowing oneself and our emotions. Acknowledging what angers us, what makes us happy and what makes us sad....then using this information to React appropriately to the situation. 
Understanding how to communicate what we feel to others, learning to understand others feelings. 
Taking ownership for our thoughts and actions. Managing anger/ Stress.

That is EI in a nutshell.

We teach so many concepts to children, so much of redundant information/facts is thrust on them. Yet here is something every child should be taught from as young as you can catch them. (Easier to do this with one's own kid for starters, and then move to others).

In the second scene, the dad chose not to react negatively...and it did a whole lot of positive to him. So also we can teach our children to choose a positive response, to reject what is negative and so avoid a whole lot of frustration and vicious loop of mis placed anger.

That implies that we
* Identify our feelings
* Acknowledge and Verbalise them as soon as possible,
* Understand how we are going to react to what caused it in the first place.

There is a lot more to this and I will write as it comes to me...

But here important lesson is to learn to smile and say....
This too shall Pass....All Izzz well!
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