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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Travelogue- Snippets

Very quickly, where was I last week and what did I do
Gurgaon/ Delhi
Apart from work- which is besides the point, I had a fun time meeting brother, cousins etc, shopping at my favourite clothes shop, eating at Bikaner & Haldiram (uggh if that substitutes for lunch), having lovely home made food- after a long time -some one else was cooking and I was eating! Heaven!
Makes me almost go and hunt for a cook for recruiting in my home.
The number of times in the last few weeks I have wished that I had someone to make fresh food for me in the evenings particularly, makes me want to go and hire a cook.
Well, I digress. Apart from the above interesting stuff I did, I happened to visit the mad one to see her (home).
One could almost see a mental checklist hovering above my head as I ticked off all the stuff that she mentioned in the blog that I managed to see.
warli art- check
terrace with garden- check
the lovely innovative planters- check
houseguest- check
brat speak- check
beautiful beanie- check
OA- check
impeccable home- check
Apart from that she made a yummy marshmallow cake - we were supposed to eat the cake with the marshmallows and not pull them out as brat said.

So fruitful trip to Delhi- Gurgaon as I could do all that I had planned to.
The next stop was Mumbai where I stayed with a cousin- though I spent a total of 10 hours in her home- only 2 hours were spent in chatting and the rest was in sleeping and getting ready to leave for work. Aargh- but atleast we met and managed to pack a lot of gossip in the 2 hours we did talk.
I must mention the perfect cold cinnamon cappuccino and lemon grass chicken tikka that we had in aromas in Hiranandani - just perfect.

1 night and 2 days in Bangalore- missed meeting Poppy- absolutely no time but a friend did come over late in the evening and we had a fun time catching up over kababs and coffee in the hotel itself.
I had a yummy lunch in Samarkan in Ge Plaza Infantry road- the mutton chops is a must try- soft - softer than any meat I would have tasted till now- supposedly marinated for many hours before cooking in a "rogan josh" style gravy. Served with Afghani soft naans- pitta bread I think. Heavenly!

And I came back home last friday, heart full and suitcase full too with gifts of all sorts - to kids who were most excited to see me and more so for the Lion & Tiger that Mamu gifted - I was allowed to go on tour only on the condition that i would bring back a lion and a tiger, btw!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I am rushing in to give my entry for the Blogathon 2 announced by Tulika a while ago- I know I am late but please excuse- I was travelling...
Water stories from around the world is a book I am quite excited about. The subject of water and water conservation being close to my heart, I would love to take my kids through it.
The first few thoughts on water conservation was planted way back by my Dad in my mind- he would always say- paani barbaad mat karo- paani milta nahin hai.- Don't waste water, water is scarce
Frankly, that's what got me thinking- we lived in a place where water supply was rationed - once or twice a day. And therefore we would fill buckets/ drums of water and keep it well covered for using throughout the day.
My parents were very particular about water recycling.
Whether it meant collecting the waste water after clothes were washed and using them for the toilets or using water after the first rinse of the vessels/ rice/ veggies/ soaked gram for watering the plants.
Growing up, I have inculcated that habit of conserving water.
We do not own water- our children own it. Therefore I would make every effort in conserving it. And more than that, it is important that children also undertsand the importance of not wasting water.
So I tell them to empty their water bottle into the potted plants or close the taps tight when not in use- little things that go a long way because it was the little things that registered in my head a long time ago.
On one hand is conservation and on the other hand is fun
Water can also be fun- A hot summer morning, I sent the kids out in the garden in their chaddies and made the gardener hose them down while he was watering the plants!!
Swimming is another fun aspect that my kids enjoy and so this is my little prayer to the God of water...
Let there be enough water to drink and play forever - let no one be deprived of the joys of water!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Story time

Tejas- Mamma- tell me Ojas Tejas story
Me- I will tell only Tejas story
Tejas- then where will Ojas be?
Me- I don't know. Why don't you want only Tejas story
Tejas- That is the way I like it. Where will Ojas be then? (if he is not in our story)
Me- Why not Tejas story only
Tejas- because we are twins na....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mother Tongue

Tulika books announces their blogathon- Writing & Speaking the mother tongue (click link to reach there)
The question of the fortnight is
"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?"

How different are the written and spoken forms of your first language?
My first language is Hindi and according to me written vs spoken Hindi does not pose much of a problem if the language spoken is the shuddh hindi. Having lived in Bihar, we had our own way of speaking, for example the princely hum instead of main used for 1st person which changes the entire sentence. But once our grammar lessons were in place in school, I was quite comfortable writing hindi in its formal glory, the shift from the format I would talk normally waswas not a difficult task. Therefore like lot of people think in Hindi and speak in English- such was not the case with me- I wouldn't think in spoken Hindi and write in formal Hindi- the thinking while writing was always seamless and flowing. I honestly do not know whether lack of practice with the written hindi word will pose a problem to me if I need or want to write now- because, language, like anything else needs to be spoken to be kept alive. So I better buck up my act before Ojas & Tejas get old enough to start asking me difficult grammar questions.

The beauty of language is that it picks up nuances from other languages or dialects as it goes along- kaahe instead of kyon (why), tarkari borrowed from Bengali instead of subzi (vegetable curry), chatti for chappal (slippers). These words blend into our normal conversation and we are unaware of how easily we have slipped into using it until someday someone points it out or we sit up and think- how did this word get into my lingo? We shake ourselves and shift to the more modern version- and therefore the kaahe became kyon one fine day- formal modern speak.

Another important aspect is the way certain words can sound or convey- sometimes they become non-translateable. Words are living breathing objects with feelings- they are concepts- a single word is an idea on its own- and they have immense power- power to take a life of their own once spoken or written
I sincerely feel that there is no word that conveys everything that khasta stands for in English or certain words, especially potty speak sounds so bad or revolting in Hindi that I personally prefer using the English word- the butt being another such word- the intensity of the word is evident when you use the correct hindi word- I have never really heard anyone use that word in spoken hindi.

Another aspect is official communications- I still need a translator to translate business/ commerce speak into Hindi- I was not bad in my school days but lack of practice has made me seriously lag behind in Business Hindi.

So coming back to the question- broadly I do not find written formal Hindi different from spoken Hindi- especially if you look at the grammatically correct Hindi spoken in the Hindi belt. Business language is a problem for me but fiction/ literature is not.

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?

For a regular book, the formal form would be idea because that is more universal. The idea of a children's book is instructive and educative apart from being of entertainment value. So I would prefer that a formal tone is taken as far as language and grammar is concerned. And it also makes the interpretation clear.
However if the tale has a regional flavour, the story could use the regional word with a translation separately explaining the origin and meaning and a photo accompanying to make it clearer. As I said, language assimilates- it seamlessly blends words from various origins into itself - so the more the merrier.
So therefore, while the local Biharis especially the ones who live near Bengal border say kal for nal (tap), but kal means yesterday or tomorrow in the formal Hindi language- I wouldn't want the word to be placed randomly in a normal Hindi book. But in a book with a regional flavour- it could be interesting to have the regional word.

The bilingual books or the regional translations of Tulika are very commendable contributions towards keeping the local dialect/ language alive and helping a particular language in assimilating words from other languages
Tinkle, Champak, Amar Chitra Katha played a very important part in my early development of language apart form being my reason for being well versed with Indian stories/ myths/ epics.
As far as written Hindi is concerned- whenever I buy books- I buy comparable numbers of books in english, hindi & tamil so that the children develop their language- this is something I learnt from my Mom- we used to buy Hindi & english editions alternate months.
Regarding spoken language- we are clear that if we want kids to learn all 3 languages- we need to be strict with ourselves- so my family & I speak to them in Hindi, my husband speaks to them in english & my husband's family speak in Tamil- and my kids- I am proud to say - can seamlessly shift among the 3 languages depending upon the audience.

Feasty Meaty Weekend err- even the weekday

We went to the Rampur festival at Taj Coromandal. The spices like yellow chilly, nutmeg, garam masalas, coconut, cashew and pista are what broadly make up the Rampuri cuisine.
We had yummy meats - chicken in tamarind gravy was interesting, apart from the usual cold cuts.
They served us the yummiest garam garam roti that I have ever tasted in my life- the dough was mixed in boiled milk, which lots of ghee, sugar and fennel and bits of pista... you could almost taste the boiled condensed milk in that.
The odd yet nice-ish dessert for payaaz ka kheer. And we were sorry we missed the mirchi ka halwa
The dessert spread included a richy darkest of dark and sweet chocolate mousse which was most noteworthy and tasteworthy.

Saturday Night was dutifully spent at GRT Grand hogging a huge buffet. Yummy chicken preparations- tandoori, lollypops, shawrama, prawn curry, mutton curry, biriyani... and offcourse to round it off- my favourite dahibada which I never miss- no matter what.
Hot gulabjamuns were served on popular request from our table and the entire dessert spread was almost gone by the time we reached the counter. Yet I had lots of chamcham and a rasgulla dipped in mango pulp and a yummy orange icecream combined with mango icecream

What turned our experience sour towards the end was that they charged us Rs 450 for one child.
I went up to the host and pointed out the mistake- he said we charge for kids above 5 years- and indicated in our case he has charged for 1 kid only. I pointed out that the kids are not even 4.5 years old. He said we normally charge for kids. By this time I was losing my cool yet managed to say- since when- to my surprise they say- always and I am very sure I dodn't dream that they do not charge for kids as I have been visiting this place since the last 4 years.
They said we cannot reverse the charges but I pressed on- asked them to call the manager as even if they cannot reverse the charges I would like to make a point about this. After a while the server came back to us saying the manager is not available but we will reverse the charges anyway.
Probably the honeymoon of buffets is getting over for us!! Especially since my kids are such poor eaters.
Sunday afternoon was a mutton biriyani lunch at a Muslim wedding.
We reached at 1 pm and were waiting for our host in the reception hall.
Ojas got impatient and said- why is the biriyani not coming and Tejas was chanting- I want fish I want fish
(that's another matter that I was chanting I want chicken 65)
But then the host threw cold water to my sizzling chicken 65 plans saying there is no chicken 65 in the menu plan.
Anyway, we finally made our way to the lunch area where our host very kindly had sent his relative to hold seats for us and another neighbour family- who incidentally are blessed like us with twins too!
So the 8 of us did the "bismillah" with leaf-full of mutton biriyani- we did not even touch the brinjal curry
Our host who knew exactly what we wanted to eat stood nearby and made his younger relatives serve us multiple servings of mutton only from the biriyani!!
Yummy!!! I think that was the best meal we had if I compare all three meals!- Satisfaction guaranteed!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tamil Padam

is a laugh riot- Go watch it.
But with someone who is a tamil movie buff if you do not spea tamil.
The husband was nice enough to get a dvd home and pause and explain the context.
It is a total spoof of an aggregate of Tamil movies but can apply to Hindi movies too!
- when the kid says - grandma when will I grow up- she advices him to ride a cycle and he will grow up
-how the hero does not die when shot in the head- because he is wearing bulletproof jacket! (too much)
-how the hero traces his lost family- by singing the family song which incidentally the parents are also singing
It is funny even for people who don't understand the context but a total riot for people who catch the context in time!
I am still laughing FYI!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Props that enliven a story

Busy Busy Grand Ant is a story of an Ant who travels across continents and returns to quiz the readers on where she has been. She drops heavy hints regarding the flora/ fauna /geography of the place in verse form and we are to guess which place she is referring to. And offcourse, like all Tulika books, this tale has a twist- how does this grand ant travel to so many different locations?
I used a very appropriate prop while reading this book- I used a globe and pointed out the places as we read through and it was fun actually being able to visualize each continent as we read through.
My principle for any story telling - be it relating a simple story to kids or be it making a corporate presentation is use all 5 senses as much as possible. As far as possible I try it in my work because my presentations are individual stories in their own way and so also do I try to accomodate all senses in a simple story.
1. My favourite prop is illustrating the story as we go using a pencil and paper or a magnetic board or a slate
2. Another one is the voice prop- using different voices for different characters.
3. I use my hands a lot in a conversation and so it is natural that I use them in story reading sessions also- I use hands & mudras to depict objects so that the next time I just use those depictions without telling the word- the kids will tell the word out as I enact it.
4. Using people as props- personifying the story using self/ kids / family members- this one is favourite of my husband and the kids also enjoy it a lot
5. The school teachers use hand puppets/ doll to enliven a story - I use their toys
6. Since their school started addition and subtraction- we have a great time using books or sauce pouches or playing cards to prop our addition/ subtraction exercises.
7. Learning props- Illustrated sight words encourage total involvement by the child- I draw a scene using bold big lines- like- rainy day, caterpillar to butterfly, water cycle, food chain etc and help them to label the objects and colour them, form a story and then display them in their room- the words and images register better that way in their mind
8. Song props- singing out a story in a familiar tune or breaking into a song using any word in the story
9. Language as a prop- wherever possible I use multilingal words or synonyms and maybe break between the story to pick up another book where the same word has been used, to reinforce the idea
10. A prop that I would like to explore would be smell and taste- when time and inclination permits I want to use them during the story as props as to me smell and taste are memories that penetrate and imprint deeper- as Proust suggests- a simple smell can trigger pages and pages of olfactive flashback!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Me? Creative?

I must be if Sue awarded it to me

Thanks Sue- I am thrilled!
Since this is an award for being creative, I am creating my own rules for doing the tag
So as per my low standards- what are the most creative stuff I have done?
1. A poem I wrote for a cousin of mine way back in class 5
2. My essays and short stories in class IX & X were applauded consistently by my English teacher and it was a huge deal for me because she had very very high standards- someone remarked when they saw a "good" in my notebook- getting a good from Mrs T is very very rare.
3. Among my official presentations- my recent one done totally in verse, my trend presentation blended into the history of the product, my presentations using story aproach like navrasa, 5 senses etc- I think I do a decent job of giving a story to creations
4. Using props to tell my kids stories- like the globe for telling a story which talked of various countries, or drawing the story as I narrate it, using their toys/ books/ sauce pouches which they are obsessed with- to teach them addition, division subtraction- really- to me it is a big deal because I have been book-ish most of the time and trying to change that for the kids is a huge step for me
5. Conceptualising my in house magazine
6. Revamping my garden and making my terrariums

I tag
The Mad Momma- need I say why?
ArtNavy- too many to list out here- it will be like I am doing the tag meant for her in my blog
Phoenixritu for her unbeatable wisecracks
Rohini for the awesome baby shower ideas of her - if she becomes I party planner- I am so asking for discounts for predicting that
DotMom for her awesome cakes- I would have listed my baking recipes also as creative in the list above but I am not that shameless

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adding More Colours to Life

Colours touch our lives in various forms and my idea was to explore them with Ojas & Tejas.

We started with the simple bilingual book Rangoli from Tulika which vividly describes the simplest form of home decoration. I do not make rangolis or alpanas on a regular basis. Infact only last year I made my first attempt to make a flower rangoli on Diwali. But the kids got a general idea of what a rangoli is. It was reinforced this year on Holi when we made a rangoli using simple chalk to outline a pattern and abeer to fill in the colours.
Infact way back in college we used the rock salt and colors to make large, bold patterns for our college functions.
So back to the book- it describes various medium for making rangoli, the various names for this form of decor and different places where it manifests itself as we train our eyes to look for the familiar patterns that are sort of built as we go. So now the kids are demanding that I get a sticker rangoli for the home, as mentioned in the book. The next book we picked up was Colour Colour Kamini. (which the kids often mispronounce as Kamina btw). An interesting tale from the Bahadur stable... which explains the concept of camoflague in chameleons. Kids enjoy the book because the visual details are extremely vivid and therefore it is very easy for them to read along as I point out the colours and corresponding words. We like the picture of Kapila aunty - she looks hilarious. Black and white are colours too. I picked up Dancing on the walls because of my own fascination with Warli art! And the fact that I have a frame with a Warli-ish border- so that it becomes easy to explain the kids about this form of art. Extremely simple slice of life book which is based on the ever present wish of a child to see a smile or hear a word of appreciation from their parents. A whimsical tale of how Warli art might have been born! I simply love these type of tales that enables you to make a flight of fancy - maybe as the kids grow we could make it into a game- How do you think "item 1 " was born? or Why do you think God made "item 2"?

This is a book which is a little more difficult for the kids for now but conceptually vibrant and familiar - explains various mediums used for colouring - chalk, colour pencils, and even organic dyes. I wish they would have expanded on the organic dyes bit but I guess it was left to the imagination
I also saw the book- The boy who loved colours which is worth exploring. I am kicking myself for not picking it up in a moment of indescretion and rationalization! In posterity, it does sound more interesting and relevant than Sabari's colours for the kids now!
pic courtsey- Tulika books

Friday, March 05, 2010

Wise Cracks

Dadda- Whom do you like like, Mamma or Dadda?
Ojas- I look like Ojas

Mamma-while sleeping- Tell me what does Mamma do for you?
Tejas- Mamma makes me ready in the morning, takes me to school, reads for me, and fixes the curtain for me
Mamma takes the hint and gets up to "fix" the curtain so that the annoying stream of light coming from the window does not hit on Tejas' face

Who lives in XYZ apartments?

Tejas- Watchman

And meanwhile I have a news to share-

the sons are reading while on the potty- one supplies one by one and the other reads upto 10 books in a single visit.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Stage is a Cake Walk Now

With bated breath I watched the performances one after the another. I saw kids hosting their well rehearsed lines, tiny guys doing all their steps to perfection -most of them not missing the beat or a step except a few preschoolers who preferred chasing bubbles on the stage.
I wondered how Ojas & Teja swould fare when their turn on stage came.
The teacher had given an encuraging report that they are doing very well during the rehersals.
I needn't have worried
Their group came on stage ared with Guitars and their Bob the Builder attire- t shirt, jeans overalls, shoes, caps.
They put their guitar down, did a few hand movements, picked their guitars, danced, sat down with their guitars... complicated I tell you - but they did not falter. I could not make up my mind whom to focus on- Tejas who was at the centre, his patent grin evident from far away, totally dancing for himself or Ojas who was making eye contact with the audience with half a smile on his face.
At one point Ojas' cap dropped and he bent over to pick it up but made it up by doing his steps in double speed to catch up with the rest and I noticed how at one point all kids had stood up but both Ojas & Tejas were still sitting with their guitars for a split second! Do their minds work similarly?
I am proud of my babies really and I am ashamed at doubting whether they would do well on stage at all! Love you babies! You make Mamma & Dadda proud

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How Was Your Holi?

Mine had all the ingredients that make up a fun filled day.
We started on Sunday itself as Monday was to be kept free for other things
Starting with a flower shaped rangoli made from abeer with the kids joining in especially after reading the book "rangoli" (pics cannot be uploaded- long story)
I made delicacies (if I am permitted to call them so) - malpua, daal filled parathas, mutton chukka masala (my version)
On the Holi day we wore new clothes, went to watch My Name is Khan and came back just in time to get ourselves drenched in the wet holi game the kids were playing- mind it- voluntarily! Madness no?
We bought colourful pichkaris and a bucket of colored water and hence suitably armed went to join the kids playing. I had to do a lot of preparatory work with the kids to ensure they dont wail when someone colors them. They were extremely enthu about the concept as they thought it was something to do with painting. I showed them the news and a few odd coloured people on the road to tell them what Holi "coloring" means but since they had their artillery (the pichkaris) hey were prepared to face the music errr art!
We oiled ourselves, wore the dirtiest possible clothes and bravely walked out to seek our 5 minutes of pleasure as the evening was getting cooler and I was not in a mood to risk anything for the sake of fun yet wanted them to start experiencing the concept of throwing colored water on each other for the sake of understanding our tradition (errr doesn't it sound good enough from a reasoning point of view?)
So being a 4 pair of 4 year olds accompanied by their Mamma has its advantages- Kids take permission before drenching you and then they dont mind being drenched with pichkari by you since its doesn't matter- they are already drenched and plus they are not competing with you. In that 5-7 minutes the kids emptied their half filled bucket, got someone to refill it for them, fought with Mamma who attempted to help them fill pichkaris and aim at others, bitched about another girl who poured a mug full of water on them and generally created a ruckus when someone borrowed their pichkari and bucket.
We quickly came home to a hot bath and a longing of wanting to play more and sat down to watch chota bheem which incidentally had an episode on Holi running so it reinforced the concept that I was so desperate to teach them!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Takdir the Tiger Cub

Single line texts and large wildlife photographs convey a simple story of Takdir the tiger cub who lives with his sisters and Mamma in Bandhavgarh National Park. Follow Takdir as he wanders off into the forest and meets new friends in the jungle.
The book is conceptualized by wildlife biologist & photographers therefore the pictures are - well - real!
The book is bilingual- I picked up English- Tamil.
And err. Save the Tiger only 1440 left - we do not know if Takdir is one of them or not
pic courtsey- Tulika books website