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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Queen of Dreams

I am on a Chitra Banarjee spree. I fell in love with her writing after reading Palace of Illusions. Such lucid style and hidden in that style is deep meaning.
All her books have a common thread - I am not talking of the bengali backdrop- I am talking of the commonality that manifests in the form of dreams, power of stories or rather the power of a spoken word that takes a life of its own and within itself, carries a lesson. I love the way she says that everyone visualizes a story in a different way- sees it in their own mind through different filters. I think that is a great insight for everyday life also.
Digression alert- Just the other day the husband and I were discussing the shape of a cabinet I had in mind- I said L shaped, visualising a vertical L- tall in the corner, and short but horizontally extending to cover the width of the space. The husband argues that there is no space for an L shaped cabinet- he imagining a horizontal 2 dimensional L.
Queen of Dreams take the power of dreaming to a magical (supernatural?) level. The story is built upon the idea that a dream is a telegram from the hidden world. And I interpret the hidden world to be the future, the unknown, the yet-to-happen, because they say the mind sees that which the eye cannot or refuses to see.
After reading the book, I tried to crystallise my thoughts. I realized that whichever angle I take to my review, I am bound to miss out some shades of the story. There are so many facets to it that it is difficult to put them on the same page without giving the entire story away. So I took the most obvious route -the protagonists point of view.
Rakhi is an artist living the typical American born desi life- American by birth but having a keen interest to know about her roots. Her paintings depict India as she imagines, her chai house is Indian as per her understanding of what is India.
Rakhi's mother has an incredible gift- the power to dream the dreams of other people, dream warnings and even dream lost dreams - dreams of people long gone. She seeks out people whose dreams she has dreamt and warn them of potential hazards.
But then, that is not what the story is all about. It has deeper significances as lot of reviewers point out- relationship between mother and daughter, the daughter's quest for her identity through her mother's journals, her struggle for survival post 9/11, and on top of that her love-hate relationship with her ex-husband.
The story flits from Rakhi's thoughts to her mother's journals swiftly in an almost ethereal fashion. After her mother's death, Rakhi finds her mother's journals. The journals answer most of Rakhi's questions about her roots- those which during her lifetime, her mother was never able to speak about. They explain about her struggle with her choices. Her struggle with herself to come to terms with the fact that to keep her gift intact, she had to give up on the most precious things in life which normally a woman or a person would choose- her family. Or perhaps in her case, her gift was the most important thing in her life- over and above anything or anyone else. Or perhaps she is not the stereotypical woman for whom the family comes first?

Some questions are left unanswered much to my annoyance, leaving me behind with a feeling of loose ends- I almost scraped at the book cover to see if some pages are stuck by the way!

Crossposted at booklovers

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Staying Alone Can Be So Liberating

-You can wake up at anytime you wish
-You don't have to prove anything to anybody / set an example to the kids- so leave a book or many lying around wherever you wish, forget to keep your sandals in teh shoe rack, leave medication lying around with no danger of it being moved
-You have the whole house to yourself
-You need not really cook
-You can browse, sleep, read, go out as you wish

The kids have gone to Pondicherry and I am doing all of the above. The moment I came home to an empty house last evening, I was in a nasty temper. Just because the kids were not home. Then a neighbour suggested- enjoy, another friend wished she could send her kids off for a week somewhere ..and slowly the realization dawned that I could make it either bad or ok for me.
So it's sort of ok...I miss the tiny bodies that snuggle upto me every night. I miss their smooth skin and soft hair or their non stop chatter.
I am insanely jealous when they call up to say- we are playing.
And extremely heartened when the called up today to ask why am I not coming.
I thought they wouldn't miss me at all, as before leaving Ojas said - tum khana banao, hum aate hain- on second thoughts, clearly he would have assumed that it was just a matter of a few hours before which he would be back to me and my khana...
I spent the entire evening reading till late into the night and chatting on skype. Not even lit the gas. All leftovers microwaved.
The maid was called early today to finish the work for the day so that there are no fetters for the evening unlike yesterday when I had to rush back for her highness' arrival- which never happened by the way.
Last week I had taken a 3 day break to spend time with the kids. I am realizing as they are growing up, they are getting easier to handle. we get into an easy sort of routine with the kids keeping themselves busy during these lazy summer vacation- playing in the mud, doing activity books, getting dirty and giving themselves a bath. Probably this is what is called independence. Now if only they would learn the 2 most important things in life- to wash their backside and eat their food fully!
So the summer vacation is not turning out to be as bad as I thought it would!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hanuman Ki Ramayan

Last month Tulika publishers had hosted a blogathon on Mother tongue and i responded with this post. The results were announced and to my delight I had won myself a copy of a Tulika book Hanuman Ki Ramayan (in my Mother tongue- Hindi) to review

This book is suitable for age group 3 onwards considering the fact that the story is elaborately woven and comprises of words which a 6 year old may understand better.

Therefore I did a lot of background work before telling the kids the story - explaining them about who Valmiki is - (a Ri se Rishi) and how he wrote a story book just like the many books they read.

The story is based on the premise that a story takes a different form and spirit depending upon teh person relating it - whether through narration, enacting or other art forms- a painting ofr instance, I would say?

Valmiki finished his epic work of Ramayana and immensely satisfied and proud, he went about showing his work off to the world (like Delhi, Patna, Chennai, US, Asia, Australia .....). Everyone applauded his efforts like the Gods of rain, water, fire, wind but Narad, the dev rishi (the rishi who lives with Gods unlik Valmiki who lives with humans) was not impressed.

Because he had read a Ramayan that was far superior to what Valmiki had written- the one that was composed by Hanuman.

On hearing this, Valmiki went into a state of total denial as how could a mere monkey who was albeit strong and powerful and otherwise talented could be an accomplished writer too- and one who was considered to be far superior than him.

He travelled long distance to find Hanuman and read his version of Ramayana.

What was Valmiki's reaction to Hanuman's Ramayan?

And most important why is Hanuman's Ramayan a mystery to all of us?

I leave it to you to read and find out.

The story is written by Devdutt Pattnaik- a writer accomplished in interpretations of Indian mythology.

I loved the way he has used humour to make the mythilogical characters totally human- he has portrayed pride, insecurity, dismay, happiness, kindness, shame, admiration, devoutness- perhaps the entire range of rasas - human emotions and more in this simple and novel story.

The art work by Nancy Raj is vibrant, delightful and dynamic. For example, the route that Valmiki took as he crosses mountains to reach the abode of Hanuman is mapped in the form of tiny footsteps.

The book serves as a very witty introduction to Ramayana in my opinion.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Moral stories

So there was this rice god who gets very angry if kids do not eat food. He then asks the kids' mamma to wield a red stick (their plastic wicket) and scare the kids

Tejas- This is old story, I want new story
Mamma- what new story
Tejas- Chips God story
Ojas- Kurkure God story

So here goes- the chips God and Kurkure God are very clear that kids can have their share of chips and kurkure only at 11 am or 4 pm and that if and only if they have had all their meals properly
Next morning they wake up at 11 -ish
T- Mamma, is it 11 o clock now?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What a Fool I am

So the kids believe

At La boulengiere Ojas orders a straw(ughh)berry glaze cake and starts eagerly digging into it as soon as it comes.
Tejas ordered a chocolate cake and as soon as it came in, Ojas ki niyat badal gayee.
Ojas- pushes the plate towards me- yeh hum tumhaaare liye bole thay (I had ordered this for you)

Ojas- Dadda, caterpillar said See you later
turns to Mamma
Mamma, caterpillar said Later mein dekho
translated in Hindi for my benefit

Monday, April 19, 2010

Identify These Eating Places

Ok Answers Now
All these pictures have been clicked in eating places in Chennai.

Identify them!
Blatant Hint there- watch it closely.... Famous Chaat place
Kailash Parbat- look at the place mat

Coffee and sandwiches anyone? Look for the hint
Mocha Adyar- look at the napkin
Rooftop of a famous restaurant. I could have mentioned the cuisine but why should I???
Cascade Adyar- Chinese cuisine- we go there because they have these cars to drive around in- Ojas Tejas somehow manage to wrangle the cars from other kids and monopolise them throughout the meal
If you go here often, you will recognize the heavy looking lightweight glasses
Radisson Kabab Factory
A famous dessert place in an entrtainment venue.
Ecstacy Satyam cineplex
A very metallic smokey sort restaurant..
Copper Chimney- Metallic Smoke!!

A place en route somewhere. Hint is there. watch closely
Pit Stop - see the balloons - ECR road- nasty place though- and I have bad memories of it because Ojas dirtied his diaper there just as the burgers were being served

Theme restaurant - 3 restaurants in one location- this is a swing in the garden area
Delhi Dhabba, Malgudi et al- garden area- village concept restaurant
Watch the background closely. Identify the buffet area or name of the hotel
Main Street Residency Towers- the decor is like street of London

Friday, April 16, 2010

5 Things that disappear just when you need them

Kiran did not tag me on this one but she did tag me on something else and I have already done it before.
So I take up this interesting tag to do here as I am itching to write something that is easy to write and requires not much thinking, unlike a few book reviews which I would like to do
So those elusive 5 things
1. My thinking cap- everytime there is a ppt to do, I spend days moping over where the thinking cap has vanished. I spend hours thinking up ideas, story boards and one fine day, which is usually friday evening, I hit upon a brilliant idea and not much time to work on because as a rule, weekends, i do not take my work home!
2. My keys- alway vanish in the crevasses of my bag. If I need the cupboard keys, my fingers lock upon the house keys, if I need house keys, the only key that comes to my hands are the car keys. So I packed all keys into a bag and guess what- the bag - and mind you- not a small one- the size of a decent clutch bag, hides itself into the depths of my bag. I think I need a smaller bag.
3. The husband- everyone agrees to this one- the husband has the art to vanish from within shouting distance everytime there is an earthquake, or when the child falls ill or when I feel emotionally drained or when I need to talk/ bitch/ gossip or when I feel like going out for dinner.
4. The net connection in the husband's laptop or via airtel broadband- every single time it vanishes. The problem never happens on my laptop but the moment I even think that I should ask the husband for his laptop to brouse, my husband complains that "net is not working". This especially happens when I want to skype.
5. The maid- Always vanishes. whether in my home or any other place I go, the maid vamooses as soon as I reach there. And if one afternoon I am not at home, the maid would have come and gone moments before I had reached home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Ojas- Ojas Tejas twins, Mamma Dadda Twins, R & S twins and Ramesh - Murugan twins (the electrician and odd job boy in the building)
Tejas- No Ramesh Murugan are 3- Ramesh, Murugan and Quick Gun Murugan

Me- count till 100
O/ T- 90, 91, 92.....
Me- No
O/T- 10, 20, 30....

Tejas- with a half empty bottle of Coke- Evening big people drink (hubby had done that previous evening), and morning small people drink- tips the bottle into his open drooling mouth

Tejas- Mamma- I have eaten a cashew
Me- blabber blabber, sniffs at mouth to see what exactly he has eaten and notices a clear minty flavour coming from his mouth. where did you pick up this toffee- conjuring images of he picking up dicarded candy from outside. Bring me the candy wrapper. Show me... blabber blabber
Ojas- complains- Mamma- Tejas had taken Dadda's toffee
Tejas- No , I took from my pocket
Ojas- How many were there
Tejas- only one
Ojas- then why didn't you share it with me

Friday, April 09, 2010

Babar, Humayun, Akbar.....

So would we recite as we studied Mughal History in our school until the last mughal ruler we would have read about.
Even as a lesson, the Mughal History was interesting. I have always been fascinated by them and their lives. And therefore Jodha Akbar was also interesting as a movie for me- because it carried the story of someone from the clan.
I recently read Empire of the Moghul- Raider's from the North by Alex Rutherford.
Before getting into the details of the book- I loved the cover- the cut out of the jewelled sword was so regal. May be that's the new trend in book covers- the jewelled look- it was the samefor Palace of Illusions also.
Frankly I was apprehensive about the book.I did not want to take a history lesson no matter whatever my fascination with the Empire. But I read this review at the Book Lovers and decided to trust their judgement and go ahead with it.
Right from the word go I was hooked. I knew it is going to be a slow read because I needed to get used to the names and the relationship between the characters. But that is all part of the fun in reading historical novels.
All those who have studied Mughal History in school would know that Babur was crowned king of Ferghana at the age of 13. In a text book format, part of the drama and romance is just lost. Bit not here. The author has woven the story like a Jeffery Archer drama and added grandiose together with depicting realistically what would be going on in the mind of the young Babur whose life tranforms in a snap as he is crowned King. Right from the behaviour of the attendants in the women's chamber who now treat him as their King rather than a kid coming to meet his mother and grandma.
It also puts into perspective the fact that lives of Kings were not as hunky dory and luxurious as we imagined but full of horror, tough decisions, dangers, and an ever lurking threat of conspiracy.
And more than anything else, the King had a job to do. A kingdom to expand and leave behind, trade to let flourish in his kingdom, by fair means or foul.
The story is gruesome at points- and dealt with in a very matter of fact manner- the cruel punishments, rolling of heads in the battlefield- dealt out with deliberate ease - by young Babur- all with the aim of making a statement to his followers-loyal or otherwise- to proclaim that theKing is no mere child- but a fit ruler for the kingdom- tough, talented and well versed in governence
Tough job eh!
The story flows through Babur's various conquests- of kingdoms and "begums" and there are chapters retelling all the famous warrior stories that we have read in history and in Amar chitra Katha- Rana Sanga for instance. It has shades of condescending attitude towards the one-armed warrior, but then the story is being told from Babur's angle so it is expected to be carrying that tone.
On the whole, the book is quick paced, page turner, racy and told in a very realistic way with lighthearted instances- especially when there is mention of the humourous thoughts that go on in Babur's mind as a young ruler.
I am waiting eagerly for the next instalments.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ghar Mein Summer Camp

For a while I had been racking my brains with the question of what to do with the kids during summer vacation. Summer camp was one of the ideas but the trouble of dropping and bringing them back defeats the whole purpose of having them out of the hair and also keeping them busy.
What activities to keep them occupied? So I have collected color books, small alphabets, capital letters, Hindi writing books and all but how much can children write? Not the entire day. And what about the all round learning that I have always talked about
With the neighbours in the complex, we hit upon this brilliant idea.
A teacher in the complex had mentioned that she was keen to do "summer" classes which could be extended beyond the summer for the kids in the complex.
We just grabbed at the opportunity that was present right under our noses and assembled in her house to motivate her into starting soon.
So now, we have a full fledged summer camp happening in our on complex where she teaches them shlokas, rhymes, reads out stories and does activities. Parents have geared up and given their kid's story books to be read out for the session.
My neighbour and I are taking care of the activity part. We download activity sheets relevant to the story- coloring pages, join the dots, circle words, match the following and other easy and exciting stuff. We have told her to only do crayon and (color) pencil activity and do as little cutting and sticking activities because then we will require more people to assist.
We are also planning to teach them some play acting of the stories or dancing and then do a stage show in the complex at the end of the summer.
Other ideas in the pipeline is to get the older girls to teach them some dancing a few days a week and possibly get a lady in the complex who sings well and request her to teach some bhajan singing also as we progress. Lets see how this goes. I am pretty excited about the whole thing as so far it has been good.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Tejas bites Mamma.
Mamma smacks and shouts at Tejas and stops talking to him.

After a while Tejas is trying to get a piece of twig from Ojas.
Ojas says- first say sorry to Mamma.
(for a twig -yes he will do it)
Tejas- in his quietest voice- torry
Ojas - No
Tejas- louder- torry
Ojas- No
Tejas- still louder Torry (even though it sounded sorry to my ears and therefore I was wondering why Ojas is not accepting the apology)
Ojas- say Sorry not Torry
Mamma-Aha moment and while I was at it
Ojas-and Mamma, you also shout kiya and maara (slapped) so say sorry to Tejas!
(All this for a piece of twig- Tejas in trying to get it, Ojas in trying to keep it with him- IMHO even though I would like to think that my son was championing my cause)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Lizard's Tale err Tail

Got this book from Karadi tales- The Lizard's Tale- narrated by Vidya Balan- comes with a book and a CD. I loved the story- while I dp find lizards ugggh but the story lizard is cute and bhola bhala. The book is alost like a painting vivid drawings and depictions and the story is paced well- good for kids of 4 plus age.
In time perhaps they will learn to turn the page as the narration goes on. And probably I could substitute y reading of bedtime tales with karadi tales narrations! Incidentally we also enjoy the Karadi tales on TV!
Now coming to the story- this explains the concept of lizards regenerating their tail. This tiny lizard loses its tail and goes from one friend to another trying ot buy a new tail. Will anyone sell him their tail/ Let's find out (ah, well, I already gave the answer!)