22 December, 2007

Pets, Pets and More Pets !!!

Our home is fast turning into an animal farm !!!!

The saga originally began with a single goldfish in a fishbowl. And this was way back in 1996. And then we had this notion that the single little fish was feeling rather bored. So then, along came many little goldfishes. Since then, there have been many many batches of little goldfishes who have grown big in the aquarium at home.

Many months back, we brought home a little turtle from the pet shop. And this little turtle was so tiny that the kids aptly christened it Tiny Timmy. Months have flown past and since then, Timmy too has grown. Grown enough for us to shed the “Tiny” which was attached to the name Timmy. Now, it’s just Timmy.

A few weeks back, we’d been to the pet shop to get some more goldfishes for the aquarium since the existing fishes are not “little” fishes anymore. While at the pet shop, we happened to glance at the turtle pen (have I mentioned before that Vic and me have this natural penchant for attracting trouble) and found one little baby turtle prancing around merrily up and over the shells of all the other turtles there.

What can I say ??

It was love at first sight :-D And when we got back home that day, much to the delight of Appu and Abhay, a little turtle too had come home with us. This little one has been christened Tammy. I simply don’t know what it is with the siblings and their weakness for rhyming names. They seem to find rhyming names irresistible. So now we have two turtles too, for good measure.

Well, the story does not end there. The siblings seem to be hell bent on turning our home into a farmhouse of sorts !!! A week after Tammy came home, the siblings were found arguing furiously over something. I did not dare ask what it was. But then, as they normally do, both came over cribbing and complaining.

Appu : Mum – I’m just trying to explain to Abhay that it would be nice to have a cat at home.

Abhay : No !! A doggy. I want a doggy.

Appu : Abhay. Cats are soooo nice. They are so warm, so cuddly and they meow. They don’t bark.

Abhay : I like bark. I don’t like meow.

Appu : If you like bark, why don’t you sit and bark. Why do we need a dog ?

Abhay : No. I cannot bark. Only doggies bark. I don’t like meow.

In the midst of all this, no one actually noticed the horror stricken mommy who was perched on the sofa. Mommy, who was so totally unable to comprehend where this talk about getting a cat or a dog originated. Mommy, who, for once, was totally frightened into shock or shocked into fright, whichever way one looked at it.

Imagine a house with two boisterous kids and a barking dog and the meowing cat. Thank the Lord that fishes and turtles do not make noise.

If there was a spaceship planning a take off to Mars (or any other godforsaken planet, for that matter) and looking for volunteers from Earth, Mommy would certainly have jumped onto it without a second thought.

Cats and Dogs !!!! Hmmmpppffff !!!!

But despite all the heated protests and the furore and ruckus that ensued, eventually, the kids got what they wanted.

Simple as that !!!

And Mommy and Daddy managed to stay sane through it all. In fact, we still are – sane, that is !!!

How did that happen ?

Simple answer – Serendipity !!!!

We were out shopping the other day (without the siblings) and Vic happened to glance at some totally cosy looking blankets and decided to buy two blankets for the siblings. I happened to be in another section and was blissfully unaware of the blanket shopping that was going on.

And when I finally did see the blankets at the checkout counter, nestled in their individual bags, I could not help but smile – no – make that a beam :-D

Like Lawrence Block once said

Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you've found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”

If this was not serendipitous, I honestly don’t know what else to call it !!!

All those barks and meows do indeed sound like a very very distant dream right now.

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10 December, 2007

Another Mommy Blogger Airs Her Views

There’s been a lot going on in the blogosphere over the past few days. A lot of raving and ranting about mommy bloggers and how the mommies are violating their kids’ privacy by blogging about them and posting their pictures and what not. Someone even spoke of legislating against mommies writing publicly about their children and posting their own kids’ pictures on their own blogs.

Why ?

Because someone is apparently under the impression that parent bloggers are not aware of the dangers that exist or lurk – in the form of child offenders or perverts. Or better still, that such parents are aware of the dangers in the form of child offenders and yet, by their own will and volition, choose to expose their children to such dangers.

Here are my two cents .....

Everybody, just about everybody out there is aware – very much so – of the fact that the world is indeed full of perverts. And that these exist at almost every turn of life. Be it parks, be it supermarkets, be it public washrooms, be it public transportation – can one say with one hundred percent certainty that offenders or perverts don’t stalk these places ? And if the answer is in the negative, then what is a parent to do ? Stop sending children out to play in the park, stop taking children out for walks, categorically advise children not to use public washrooms, refuse to take children out to the beach in the summer, refuse to let them wear swimwear while on the beach ...... the list is endless.

My question is, where’s all this going to lead.

On the issue of kids’ privacy, where exactly does one draw the line ?

For example, when my children were babies, there have been many a times when I’ve used a diaper changing room at the airport or a diaper changing table in one of the public restrooms in a mall. Now when the need does arise – and we are talking of a baby or a toddler here – what does one do if you are not the only one in that diaper changing room or that public washroom ?

Do you go ahead and do what’s best for your baby – as in changing his/her diaper


Do you ask everyone else in the washroom to please leave because by them being around and by you changing your baby’s diaper there – you are violating your kid’s privacy


Better still – do you reason with your year old baby that he/she is going to have to stay in a poopy diaper till you get home or get to the confines of a place where you would be alone with your baby – so that the baby gets the privacy that he/she is entitled to when his/her diaper is being changed ?

Yet again, with regard to putting up the kids’ pictures on blogs – going by the above contention – a child’s picture should not, I categorically repeat, should not appear anyplace. Simply because it is dangerous. We should probably not let our kids’ pictures be taken even at social occasions because such pictures have a tendency to go into social circulation.

Looking at the other side of the same coin – how many parents would allow their - say 7 or 8 year old child and his/her friends to play for long lengths of time with the doors completely closed and for added measure, locked from the inside ?

When children are around 7 – 8 years, they are at an age when they are quite aware of themselves, of people around them. They are also capable of minor independent decisions.

Yet, how many parents would allow their 7-8 year old child and his/her friends to play behind closed doors ? If the answer to this question is in the negative, going by the above contention, does this not construe a “violation” of the very same privacy that the children are supposed to be “entitled” to ?

The seemingly obvious conclusion that can be arrived at is that parents do take decisions on “behalf” of their children. Parents often take decisions “for” their children, bearing in mind the best interests of the child.

For instance, even now, while travelling on escalators Abhay knows that he is expected to hold an adult’s hand. We do not allow him to just hop on or hop off or jump around on the escalator. Same policy applies while getting into the MTR or getting out of the MTR. Because there is a gap between the train and the platform which is dangerous where children are concerned.

Now just because we follow these simple rules and draw the line where we do with our kids, we do not expect the rest of the world to follow suit. There may be a lot many parents who are a lot stricter than we are and a lot many other parents who might label us “overprotective”. But fact remains that we follow these simple rules, because, as of today, they work for us. Likewise, other parents too, be they a lot more lenient or a lot more strict, follow their own will because it works for them and their kids.

And while stepping into the blogging world, or even after having stepped into the blogging world as a mommy blogger or a daddy blogger, I am quite certain that each and every parent blogger has given the issue of “what to and what not to”, due consideration. I’m sure they’ve worked out the factors for and against a particular issue in deciding their “comfort levels”.

Each and every parent who blogs about their child have different levels of comfort w.r.t the privacy issue. While some parents are comfortable with putting up pictures and using real names, some parents are not. Each one to one’s own – is what I would say. Everybody is aware of the changing nature of today’s world. Everyone knows that dangers do lurk at just about every corner. Yet, one lives by one’s decisions. “Live and Let Live” is something I’ve always said. So why should it not apply to the blog world ?

Through all this, there is one thing that strikes me the most. The erosion of that subtle element called “trust”. While it is a given fact that in the world of today, values such as morals and scruples are indeed taking a backseat to the more material values, the element of trust seems to be next on the list. Very sad, but also very true.

Another issue that has been raised is how boring mommy blogs are. Are parents forcing anyone out there to come read their blogs ? Are blogging parents going out there as a brigade saying “You’d better come read my blog, or else ....” Sounds remarkably immature to me.

So then, where does the question of complaining arise ? Why whine about how there are home remedies flying about and how one is sick to the core of reading up on such remedies and how one is sick of hearing about parents exclaiming and gushing about the cuteness of their children and so on and so forth ? End of the day, fact remains that nothing is being pushed down anyone’s throat here. So if one does not like what one is reading, stop doing so. There are choices to be made – so go ahead and make yours. And once you make your choice, go in peace. Don’t moan, bleat and gripe and try and make someone else a scapegoat.

When one goes out with one’s children and an acquaintance comes up and says “Awww – your kid looks so cute” – what does one do ? Brush them off brusquely and tell them to mind their own business ?? If the answer to this question is no – then my question is – why target mommy bloggers by saying that they blog because of their incessant need to hear how cute their kids are ?

Another point that has been making the rounds is about a dilution of identity – when it comes to be called “so and so’s mommy” and not by your own name. I’d say that as long as one is confident of one’s identity and of the niche that it has carved in one’s life and as long as one is sure of what one is doing – there is absolutely no question of a dilution of identity. Your identity is what it is, is what it has always been, is what it will be. You are “you” and nothing can take that away. So linking our children’s identity to our own is by no means saying that our identity has been “taken over”. Quite the contrary. If someone were to refer to me as “Appu’s mom or Abhay’s mom” (and this does happen, for the most part), I would tend to see this as an addition to my persona rather than a dilution of my identity.

And last but not the least – Tiny Tidbits is most definitely a mommy blog.

So why then have I chosen to put up this post here ?

When my children grow up and are capable of reading this and understanding the sentiments behind this post, I’ll leave it to them to decide whether I’ve been violating their privacy all along – by writing about them, by maintaining an online journal about them and their anecdotes and by posting their pictures on this online journal.

Something tells me that they wouldn’t care less !!!

And that is what I call - Trust.

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05 December, 2007

Oh !!! The Nutty Nutty Siblings !!!

Appu gets back from school before Abhay does. Invariably, when I get Abhay back home, Appu waits for him just outside the elevator doors and the moment they see each other the lobby turns into some kind of Red Indian warfare environment. No – they don’t fight. I’m trying to paint a picture of the amount of noise and sound that is generated by the two of them. There is a lot of screeching and a whole lot of hoopla and jumping and “I’m home” and “Yaay – You’re home” flying around in the air.

Makes me wonder as to how our neighbor puts up with the all the clamor and din that these two create. But sweet lady that she is, she actually gives both the siblings a sweet smile whenever she lays her eyes on them – be it on the road, be it in the lobby – wherever.

Now this sweet neighbor of ours is totally terrified of spiders. In fact, when we were decorating for Halloween this year, we’d put up a huge paper spider as part of the decorations. I was perched rather precariously on a ladder, decorating the top of the door when a scream almost made me topple off the ladder. A cautious peek confirmed that it was our neighbor. She refused to even unlock her door and had to be escorted by one of her friends. Why ? Because there was a paper spider hanging in the lobby.

End of Detour

All the clatter and racket that the siblings create led Vic to remark the other day that in her next life our neighbor, in addition to spiders, is going to be mortally terrified of children too.

That should give one an idea about exactly how boisterous the siblings can get.

The other day, Abhay did not find Appu waiting for him near the lift door and he all but barged home screaming “aparna” “apaaaarnnaa” all the way. This is what followed

Abhay : Aparna Apaarnnaa – you know – food is over.

Aparna : (a huge question mark all over her face) Food is over ???

Abhay : Yeah. Food is over.

Aparna : Where is food over ?

Abhay : At school.

Aparna : At school ? Your school ?

Abhay : (the picture of confidence) yeah.

Aparna : Oh My God !! No food today ?

Abhay : No Aparna. No food today.

Aparna : No food in school today ?

Abhay : No. No food in school today.

Aparna : Are you hungry or something ?

Abhay : No. I not hungry.

Aparna : But no food today at school, right ??

Abhay : Yeah no food today.

Aparna : (a picture of concern) You mean you did not have a snack at school ?

Abhay : (puzzled face) I had my snack at school.

Aparna : (indignation stamped on her face) But you just said no food at school ?

Abhay : Yeah – no food. Today we have transportation.

Aparna : Transportation ???????? I know you like your cars and buses but do you eat them too ??????

Abhay : (with a straight face) No Aparna. Food topic is over. Now we do transportation topic.

Aparna : (realization dawns bright and clear) Ohhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Mommy was to be found rolling on the floor with tears of laughter streaming uncontrollably down her face.

The other day found both siblings furiously arguing over something.

Aparna : You want to eat that.

Abhay : Yes. Yes. I want to.

Aparna : You eat one and I eat one OK ?

Abhay : OK Aparna.

Aparna : Abhay move out of the way. Let me get it out of the fridge.

Abhay : No Aparna. First we go to the spaceship.

Aparna : (puzzled) Spaceship ?? Why do we need a spaceship. It is in the fridge – not a spaceship.

Abhay : No Aparna. Lets go. Lets go.

Aparna : (exasperation beginning to show) G.o W.h.e.r.e ????

Abhay : Into the spaceship.

Aparna : Abhay. I am going to eat this right here – on E.A.R.T.H.

Abhay : See Aparna. M.A.R.S – that is Mars. So we go to Mars in a spaceship to eat M.A.R.S.

They were arguing over MARS Bars which were in the fridge.

Aparna : (thoroughly exasperated) So Abhay tell me – if we have to eat icecreams – will we need to go to Antartica ???!!!!

Scenes like these are pretty much common nowadays.

They haggle, they argue, they fight and end of the day, fact remains that they cannot do without each other.

When Aparna had been away camping last month, she was away from home three days and two nights. Abhay was all questions. Where will she stay ? Will she stay in a tent ? Where will she eat ? Does the tent have a toilet ? Where will she brush her teeth ?

She got back from camp before he got back from school. And when he got back from school and found Appu waiting for him near the elevator, the grin on his face said it all. “Aparna ..... you come back ?” was all he could manage with a huge 100 watt grin on his face.

Mommy gave them a half hour tops. Well, we did not have to wait that long.
Ten minutes and they were haggling furiously over something.
A further ten minutes of sulking and being cross with each other.
Half hour later the walls were resounding with yells of delight and gurgles of laughter.

Such scenarios are pretty commonplace nowadays. For what seems like most of the time, they are at each others’ throats like a cat and a mouse. Yet, when either one of them is at the receiving end of something as small as a stern look or something serious as a reprimand from Mommy, the other sibling is seen jumping into the fray with something like “Mum – don’t talk to Aparna like that” or “Mom – don’t get mad at him” or the like.

Having grown up an only child, I’m now getting to experience the vast panorama of the relationship between siblings in all its colours. Right from the fights to the sulks to the tears to the smiles to the laughter to the banter to the din to the clamor to the fun to the arguments to the exasperations to the competitiveness.

And as an added bonus, they are both nutty and batty in their own ways. I came across an anonymous quote recently that applies to Appu and Abhay perfectly.

It goes something like this ....

“Sibling to sibling they will always be,
A couple of nuts off the family tree.”

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30 November, 2007

Happy Birthday Appu !!!

Has it really been eight years ?

I still so vividly remember the first time I laid my eyes on you. Despite the fact that I was way too exhausted even to sit up then, each and every single day after you made your appearance into this world, right until this day – I just need to close my eyes and that snapshot in my mind is as clear as ever. A little bald baby, tightfisted, yet one who chose to open her eyes and absorb new stimuli rather than just bawl her throat out.

Now looking back, it all seems a rushed blur – your journey in this voyage called life. These eight years have quite literally flown past. Even as individual images blur, there are some which stand out with distinct clarity. All I need to do is close my eyes and let the film reel inside my mind play.

The time you chewed on my new shoes from Marks & Spencer and the way you laughed with glee and clapped those little hands which still had folds of baby fat in them as you looked at my horrified face.

The times when you would roll over onto your tummy and refuse to turn over onto your back until and unless someone helped you to.

The way you took those first wobbly, tentative steps inside the house and that look on your face when you realized that your legs could actually walk.

The way you used to dance with total abandon (but so gracefully even then) to Falguni Pathak’s rendition of “Meri Chunar Udd Udd Jaye”.

The times when you used to wake up in the middle of the night saying “Enna Acchhu ?” (what happened ?) with tears pouring down your face.

The time when you first sat on a motorized scooter and landed on your backside as the scooter moved away without you.

The time when you started kindergarten and knocked off your glass of milk (albeit by mistake) all over your teacher’s foot. And to top that, the way you hopped all over the class saying “ouch ouch”.

Your first day at Primary School when I was a mass of quivering jelly and pounding heartbeats while you handled the whole thing with such courage and panache. A beatific smile on your face and a couple of waves of your little hand as you walked away with your teacher, taking those first steps towards independence. Those first steps of lots many more to come as time progressed.

All these and many many more are images of your life which are branded in my mind.
But honestly, never have the changes been more marked in you than what we’ve seen through the last year.

The past year has seen you evolve and change in a lot many ways. And when I look at you today, I cannot help but wonder whether this is the same child who had a completely different persona through the first six-odd years of her life.

When I see you monkeying around now, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to be so sedate earlier on.

When I see you laughing your heart out now, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to stifle her laughter and all that used to be seen on the outside was a smile or a giggle – definitely not the raucous laughter that gurgles and explodes in you now :-)

When I see you mingling with your friends, interacting with them and going out and making more friends on your own, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to totally refuse to even say Hello to another familiar face from the kindergarten.

When I see you playing pranks now, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to consider tomfoolery and high jinks totally unacceptable.

When I see the camaraderie and the rapport and of course, the affection between you and your little brother, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who initially had a tough time accepting and coming to terms with the fact that there was indeed someone else too to share her parents’ time, attention and affection.

When I see independence and confidence brimming in you now, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to hesitate and dilly dally on something as simple as buying a school hat from the school PTA shop. You once wanted me to go along with you all the way to school to buy your PE hat and now, present times see you going and buying your own uniforms from the PTA shop.

During your Primary Three year at school, during the Special Assembly, as you stood on the dais and spoke – thanking your teacher, your friends and your family for the award that you received –for the first time in your life, you caught me on the wrong foot and had me in tears in front of a whole bunch of Primary Two and Primary Three children who looked at me as if I had a hole in my head. Oh Yeah – you made me cry. Hallelujah !!! But please sweetheart, don’t make that a habit OK ??!! :-)

Now, when I look back on that Special Assembly, I cannot help but wonder if this is the same child who used to hesitate to even raise her hand in class to volunteer towards answering a question.

And now, as you complete eight years of life and move onto the ninth year sweetheart, I wish for you all the joy, all the laughter, all the cheer, all the wisdom that life brings along with it and all the good luck, determination, perseverance,confidence, courage and optimism that is needed to tackle life.

And as you stand at the threshold of yet another year which is sure to herald more
changes for you in life's own unique ways, I would like to quote to you the poem “Dare To” by Meiji Stuart.

Dare to...

Ask For What You Want.

Believe in Yourself.

Change Your Mind.

Do What You Love.

Enjoy Each And Every Day.

Follow Your Heart's Desire.

Give More Than You Receive.

Have a Sense of Humor.

Insist On Being Yourself.

Join In More.

Know when you are wrong and Make up.

Love and Be Loved.

Make New Friends.

Nurture Your Spirit.

Overcome Adversity.

Play More.

Question Conformity.

Reach for the Stars.

Speak Your Truth.

Take Personal Responsibility.

Understand More, Judge Less.

Volunteer Your Time.

Walk Through Fear.

X-perience The Moment.

Yearn for Grace.

be Zany.

Happy Birthday Appu and here’s to many many more !!

With All my Love Sweetheart,


Aparna's yummy birthday card filled with oodles and oodles of love from Daddy, Mummy, Tathi and Abhay

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19 November, 2007

Plenty of Giggles and Lots of Laughter ....

I had done a post a while back about how the winds of change are blowing around Aparna. The little lady is pretty much evolving – almost on a continuous basis and almost each day presents us with a new facet – sometimes a totally new facet to her personality and at times some old trait with new colors infused in it.

One thing that has been making its mark and making its presence felt is her sense of humor. Oh !! It is absolutely quacky (YES !!!!!!!!!) and so totally whacky. Many a times she manages to have us in splits ever so effortlessly.

Is this the same little girl who hardly used to smile ? Even her Primary One teacher had once remarked to me when Appu had just started Primary School that “Getting Aparna to smile really takes something very very very very funny”. Admittedly she never used to be very liberal with her smiles and the two loony bins that she has for parents used to wonder ever so often as to where those “quacky humor” genes had disappeared.

Had evolution decided that those genes could be done away with ?

Apparently not !!

With time and with her confidence growing, her sense of humor knows no bounds. She is pretty much capable of doing a stand alone comedy show. God – she’d probably give Russell Peters a run for his money. And she definitely does not use the kind of language that he does. She’s pretty child friendly !!!

She has this inimitable capacity to imitate and mime just about anyone she gets to see and interact with – say four or five times. Her favourite target is the busmother that the kids had during their Primary Three year. Now this busmother was a rather birdlike person with a scared-bird attitude. Basically she was the kind of person who always had one finger on the Emergency Button. And Panic was her middle name. And while I knew that the girls on the bus always had been very amused by their busmother and her panic antics, we were rather blissfully unaware of the many different facets that were being absorbed by some of the kids. The way she speaks, for instance or that panic stricken look on her face for absolutely no reason. And the way she mimes and mimics the erstwhile busmother is way too funny for me to even start trying to describe it in words.

And it has not stopped at that. This little lady is getting better by the day. To top things, she is invariably found walking around with a digital camera – be it indoors or outdoors. God Help Us – for we know not when and what inconsistency she is going to catch us in !!!

A burgeoning sense of humor on a budding photographer who is good at miming and imitating !!!! Now if that is not one dangerous combination – what is ???? !!!!!

Another distinct ability that is developing is one of being able to get on people’s nerves effortlessly. Oh !! She can so get one’s goat so smoothly and with such ease that it never ceases to be a source of amazement. And all that nonchalance and the casualness with irritating someone is so cloaked with wit and absurdity at times that it leaves one wondering – “Am I supposed to show my irritation first or should I just give in to the urge and laugh my heart out ?” . That’s what I call “Creating Confusion Naturally”.

Appu’s teacher too was seen remarking (when I met her last week for a Parent Teacher Meeting) that there is a definite twinkle in those eyes now almost all the time. And the shy, sweet smile that was evident in her Primary Three year has now been replaced by a rather impish, elfin grin and many a times, a very pleased and happy beam.

Spontaneous giggles, hearty guffaws and mindblowing laughter. That more than sums up the sense of humor situation with Aparna right now. She does not need any particular time or place to let the hilarity or the wit or the funny side of any situation take over. And once she gets into that mode the laughter gets enormously contagious. People around her cannot help but laugh.

Like Henry Ward Beecher once said

“A person with a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It is jolted by just about every pebble on the road.”

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12 November, 2007

Diwali - The Festival of Lights

Deepawali is a five day Hindu festival that occurs on the fifteenth day of Kartika (October/November). The word "Deepawali" means "rows of lighted lamps" or "array of lamps," and the celebration is often referred to as the "Festival of Lights" much in the same way the Jewish holiday of Hannukah is referred to as the "Festival of Lights."

Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil - and the glory of light. This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile.

During Diwali, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened to welcome Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps (diyas) are lit as a greeting to Goddess Lakshmi.

In some states, the festival begins with Dhanteras, a day set aside to worship Goddess Lakshmi. In the Indian culture, wealth, mythologically, is not viewed as a corruptive power. Rather, a wealthy person is considered to have been rewarded for good deeds of a past life.

On the second day of the festival, Kali, the goddess of Strength, is worshipped. This day also focuses on abolishing laziness and evil.

On the third day (the last day of the year in the lunar calendar), lamps are lit and shine brightly in every home. The lamp symbolizes knowledge and encourages reflection upon the purpose of each day in the festival. The goal is to remember the purpose throughout the year.

The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At this time, old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The books are worshipped in a special ceremony and the purpose is to remove anger, hate and jealousy from one's lives.

The final day of the festival, Balipratipada, is dedicated to an ancient Indian king, Bali whose humility had saved him from destruction.

As far as Diwali at The Krishnans' goes, I'll just let the pictures say the story.

"Come out into the Universe of Light. Everything in the Universe is yours, stretch out your arms and embrace it with love." ~ Swami Vivekananda

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07 November, 2007

That time of the year ..... called Halloween !!!

I know this post comes a little late. It is well over a week since Halloween but as the saying goes “better late than never”.

Though Halloween, nowadays, is associated more with costumes and Jack-o-Lanterns and treats – like every other festival, this one too has its history.

There are concerns expressed about Halloween – in that children tend to overdose on candies, in that Halloween is a prime example of commercialization, in that Halloween involves expense over outfits that kind of become the “wear only once” kind, in that Halloween involves a whole bunch of kids going from door to door asking for treats, in that while the kids are out “trick or treating” they generate a “hell of a lot” of noise and many many more.

I am of the opinion that it is not just Halloween - just about every festival is associated with sweets of some kind or the other. While we may gobble up sweets loaded with sugar and cholesterol in celebration of many other festivals, why bring up the "candy" issue and single out Halloween ?

Yet again, coming to the issue of commercialization - yes - it does make its presence felt - especially during festive seasons. But then again, hard fact remains that it is here to stay. Festivals can be celebrated in the festive spirit without falling prey to mindless ads and promotions. It is upto us to decide where to draw the line.

On the issues of associating candy with Halloween and the one time outfit buying and going trick or treating – I so agree with what Dotmom has to say. She airs her point of view – a very balanced point of view. Read Dotmom’s point of view here. And I do agree with what she says.

By far, the most far fetched one is where one gets to hear that Halloween is not part of the Indian “culture”. There are many proponents to the theory that Halloween is not part of the Indian culture and therefrom arises the premise that "since it is not part of our culture there is no need for us to take part in the festivities associated with Halloween".

On the point of view of Halloween not being part of the Indian culture – I have just this to say. Why bring cross cultural and regional differences into the picture when the children are at an age when they are not aware that such things exist. Why put ideas into their heads ? Especially ideas which stress more on the differences rather than the unity factor. Ideas which pay more heed to instilling the need to recognise the fact that no two cultures are the same instead of looking for parallels or similarities in two different cultures.

Instead of harping on how Halloween is not part of our culture why not focus on what we can teach our children through Halloween. Even if they are not at an age when they can be told and taught the history or how Halloween originated, this is a very good way for them to learn the concept of “giving”. They do realize that “giving” a treat to other trick or treaters is just as much fun as going and “getting or taking” a treat themselves.

Why not treat this as an opportunity to teach children about the many different festivals that abound and are celebrated in the many different countries all around the world. Teach them to respect different cultures and imbibe the spirit of the festival.

We do normally decorate our home with “Pookalams” for Onam, with Diyas for Diwali, with a little Christmas tree, tassels and stockings on the windows for Christmas. So this year around, we decorated our lobby for Halloween too. The kids were absolutely thrilled to bits.

This time around, there were 80 odd children going trick or treating in our apartment complex. And it was amazing to watch the camaraderie amongst them. There were many instances wherein the elder children would shield the younger ones in the elevators – because the elevators used to be packed to capacity. There were plenty of instances when the older children dug into their treat bags or baskets and gave away a treat or two to the younger children. They “shared” out of their own free will. There were no parents harping at them to do that. It was spontaneous and those were among many other lovely little gestures that touched my heart.

"Clothes make a statement ; Costumes tell a story." ~ Mason Cooley

Aparna had not quite made up her mind on her costume. I did suggest Abu (as in Alladin’s little friend – in which case, like I mentioned to Aparna, she would not even need a costume) but she didn’t buy it. In the midst of all that confusion we found a basic fabric costume at home (pantaloons with an attached top) that looked like it could well be turned into a Princess Jasmine costume. And that was what happened. A little bit of hemming and velcroing around the costume. A bit of work on the collar and then with the glueing on of plenty of moon and star shaped confetti in different colours – we did well and truly have a nice version of the Princess Jasmine costume. Some nice long costume jewellery earrings and some body tattoo stickers and Princess Jasmine was ready.

We only hoped – rather fervently – that this Princess Jasmine would circumnavigate her way around without her glasses. No one was quite keen on the idea of Princess Jasmine biting the dust or Princess Jasmine stumbling on some wee wedge of a cobblestone and ending up in one of the rather abundant huge flower pots that line our apartment complex. Pccchhhh !!! No such excitement. What a disappointment !!! ??

Abhay wanted to be a vampire. Tried his level best to look scary as he said it but ended up looking like a very cute and innocent looking vampire. Forget about sinking his fangs into some nubile beauty – this little vampire would not even swat a mosquito. Some vampire that huh ??? !!! And as has become a ritual of sorts with him, he was down with a throat infection and was on his third day of antibiotics. So we had a rather tired looking little vampire going trick or treating.

Abhay, however, had another round of Trick or Treating at his kindergarten on Halloween Day. He was a vampire again – this time a fresher looking and much better feeling vampire whose fangs were dripping blood. Abhay’s teacher at school had requested all the parents to send in empty icecream cartons to school so that the cartons could be turned into little pumpkin baskets. And the baskets were so very cute and absolutely lovely. That was a gem of an idea on her part.

And the excitement that the children generated was so incredibly palpable and indeed very contagious. So contagious was the spirit of Halloween that Yours Truly actually showed her true colors.

Yours Truly tried her level best to look the part but quite apparently the children (including toddlers) insisted on calling out “Aunteeee Aunteeee” with huge grins on their faces and their chubby little hands waving out like little windshield wipers. So Yours Truly attempting a take on a witch’s role turned into a comedy of sorts. Yeah OK – whatever makes the kids happy ! Right ??

Vic also had a gala time donning a scary facemask and “entertaining” all the kids who showed up at our doorstep for “trick or treat”. So the kids ended up getting “tricked” first and then “treated”. Judging from their reactions, a treat after being tricked was apparently far more enjoyable :-)

All in all, Halloween was a lot of fun this year. It was utterly enjoyable getting the costumes ready, getting all the face paint ready and finally getting all the stuff onto both the siblings.

At the end of it all, when we asked Appu and Abhay whether they had a nice time this Halloween, this was what we got.

The looks on their faces, I guess, says the story quite well !!!

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05 November, 2007

The Sunday that was ............ yesterday !!!

A few weeks back, I wrote about our sojourn to The Peak and the refreshing walk around The Peak Trail. This weekend too, the siblings had quite obviously conspired and decided that they wanted to visit their winged and feathered friends at Kowloon Park. A visit to Kowloon Park is always refreshing and relaxing. It invariably ends with both siblings perched on one of the innumerable ledges in the park eating ice-creams, the gentle yet strong breeze ruffling their hair and at the same time refreshing and rejuvenating them, recharging their physical batteries for them to expend all that energy before heading home. And this has become a comfortable ritual. With ice-cream moustaches on them both, they would generally be busy pointing at something or the other in the Park and chattering nineteen to a dozen about the leaves/flowers/fishes.

This weekend however, a bit of furniture shopping was in order. So the entire troupe headed towards the gigantic Ikea showroom instead of Kowloon Park.

The siblings did not mind the change in plans because right next to the Ikea showroom is a huge pond filled with fishes and turtles. Fishes swimming lazily around, twirling and disturbing the stillness of the pond draw children like magnets to the pool. At any given point of time, atleast fifteen to twenty children around the pool would be an extremely safe estimate. And then of course, the turtles. There’s a profusion of turtles in the pond. While some would be busy stretching their limbs, most of the turtles would be out of water, perched on the rocks sunning themselves. There is one turtle in particular which has been christened “The Bully”. All “The Bully” seems to do is dive under the water looking for some unsuspecting turtle floating in the water enjoying its siesta. Once it finds its mark, it heads slowly but surely towards that turtle, snaps its jaws shut (a la Jaws) on the other turtle’s leg and pulls it underwater and holds it there while the victim thrashes around in utter panic. This detailed description speaks volumes – about the amount of time we’ve spent near the pond :-)!!!!

Yesterday the turtles had another bully to contend with. There was a old grandma sitting near the edge of the pool. The water must have been quite cool as most of the turtles were making a beeline for the many rocks that abound the pond. They just settle on the rock and sun themselves. But this Grandma ensured that they did not stay on the rock very long. Every time a turtle sunned its shell dry on the rock, this grandma would scoop water in her palms and throw it on the poor turtles. I honestly don’t know how long the turtles suffered this aggravation yesterday.

On we went, towards Ikea. By this time Abhay had suddenly started looking around for a Pizza Parlour. The rather fickle tastebuds (which are prone to change at a moment’s notice) had decided that the flavor of the moment was “pizza”. He wanted to stop at the “pizza shop” on our way back from Ikea.

Anyways, on to Ikea it was. Once there, both siblings were delighted at the appearance of a igloo in the Children’s Section. It was nothing more than a plastic tent shaped in a semi-circle of sorts with iceblock-like patterns on it. But it was quite obviously a hit with almost all the children in Ikea that evening. There were giggles of delight, little hands clapping to a rhythm of their own and eyes as wide as saucers – staring at the igloo in complete and unmitigated wonder.

Vic in the meanwhile, had armed himself with a measuring tape and a notepad and pencil - all the implements necessary for ensuring that the new piece of furniture would fit in where it was supposed to.

Aparna was fascinated with some new bunk beds that had made their way into the Kids’ Section and was seen pondering over the safety of bunk beds which did not seem to have much of a barrier on the sides. Thank Goodness she did not choose to physically try the bunk bed out – especially the “falling off the bed” part – just to see if it was actually a hazard or not.

A wardrobe caught her attention next and she went off to investigate that. She was seen coming back with a proclamation that it was way too small. “Half of the clothes in my wardrobe would not fit into that one” she said – giving mommy the opportunity she had been waiting for all day. “Just goes to show that you have one outfit too many” exclaimed mommy with a huge grin. The humor quite apparently was lost on Aparna who chose not to look very enamored with mommy’s sense of humor. Hmmm ....... you win some, you lose some !!

Abhay was having a field day in the store. For him, it was the perfect situation – of sorts. Enough room to monkey around without having to bother about getting lost. The bothersome part about making sure that he did not “get lost” inside the huge confines of the showroom was his daddy and mommy’s responsibility, you see. I mean, what are parents for – if they cannot even accomplish little feats such as these.

Mom and Dad’s version however is that letting Abhay loose in a huge, yawning showroom as Ikea is akin to letting a small mouse run loose inside a huge maze and then running after it to ensure that the little mouse does not hurt itself in some way or does not lose its way in the process of exploring the maze. It was absolutely astounding and miraculous that Mommy and Daddy walked out of Ikea with their sanity intact – most of it atleast. While letting Abhay loose in places like Ikea or the HK Science Museum or the HK Space Museum, Mommy and Daddy do allow for the depletion and depreciation of their mental resources to a certain extent – always !!! In fact, Daddy and Mommy are seriously contemplating sticking a GPS chip on Abhay – in an effort to make the “keeping track of him” part ever so slightly easier on them.

Aparna took to researching the plant section and later moved on to the candle section. She appeared quite taken in and fascinated with the aroma candles in all their different hues and fragrances. Daddy and Mommy have always been huge fans of candles and candlelight. At every given opportunity they have been seen lighting candles all over the house and turning all the electrical lights off. They sincerely believe that there is something magical, something so very enchanting about the subdued hues of candlelight. About the muted shadows that candlelight brings about. About the aroma of wax melting and the wicks burning. There is something about candlelight that is so very soft and dreamlike.

Abhay was busy trying to figure out how each piece of furniture worked. And of course, he was more than full of questions. He tried out about every chair in Ikea yesterday – which in itself is no meager feat. And I quite loved the fact that not once did he have to be reminded that he was not supposed to put his feet up on the cushions. He was utmost careful not to do that and I found that little gesture very thoughtful for his age. Each and every sofa was tried out and was pronounced “good” or “not good”. One sofa, in particular, meshed itself into the little guy’s heart. He was seen relaxing on it with his hands above his head, his little body totally relaxed with a soft smile and an almost dreamy expression in his eyes. I totally felt like kicking myself for not having carried the camera. And so thoroughly efficient and organized that I am, as I tried taking a picture with my phone, a message flashed across on the screen saying “memory full”. And that moment of Abhay lounging on the sofa, which I so desperately wanted to capture and bind into a picture, was lost.

Once Vic had shortlisted the pieces of furniture, Aparna had the dubious distinction of taking over the mantle from Mommy to make sure that Abhay did not lose himself in that maze.

Whilst furniture gazing, furtive glances thrown the siblings’ way indicated that they were trying to figure out why some keys were missing from a keyboard on one of the tables. It was a dummy keyboard, of course. But mean parents that we are, we chose not to tell them that. So till the time we made up our minds on the piece of furniture we wanted to buy, the little cats were busy chasing their own tails.

While Vic waited at the checkout counter, Mommy marched off both the siblings to the café. Aparna opted for a hot dog while Abhay opted for caramel popcorn. Thus ended the evening, with us cabbing it home after the hotdog and the popcorn were deemed consumed.

The thought struck us well after we got back home. The kids had forgotten all about the Pizza and so had we. Anyways, all’s well that ends well !!

Lesson of the day : The camera is most certainly not an object to be forgotten – even if it is just a trip to Ikea and back !!!

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25 October, 2007

Navratri - Celebrations and then some ...

Like every other festival that is celebrated, Navratri too is very rich in meaning. This nine-day festival is celebrated in a unique manner. A different form of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each different day. On the first three days, the Goddess Durga (Goddess of Valour) is venerated. The next three days are spent in the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth). and the last three days are a celebration of the Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Learning and Arts).

Through childhood – for me – Navratri was a time when we decked in our Pattu Pavadais and all the little girly accessories. It was a time when outdoor playtime was relegated in favour of visiting all the Mamis who had “golu” at their homes. It was a time when, to be very honest, more than the “golus”, what ruled the roost was the neivedyams or prasadams in each mami’s house.

It was also a time of excitement and sheer joy. Of looking forward to something. The unpacking of the Golu stand, the golu dolls and trying to imagine and then decide as to what that year’s theme would be. Then to go shopping for the necessary stationery and “create” to one’s hearts content.

We used to have “golu” at home too. While my mom used to be totally steeped in tradition, for me it was an opportunity to unleash my imagination and try and get a little artistic. I still remember with distinct clarity about how I used to look forward to Navratri because that gave me a legitimate reason to paint clay pottery. Especially the broad pottery in which my mom would be growing the Paligai.

Pali means row of trees and this ritual symbolically refers to planting of trees by for the upkeep and happiness of the family. In modern days, this consists of sowing germinated seeds of nine kinds (navadhanyam) of pre-soaked cereals in a mud pot.

It also meant countless possibilities with regard to the Golu stand. There were years when the Golu stand was decorated like a chariot too – complete with wheels made out of thermocole and coloured and painted till they dazzled.

The only part that used to sober us up a bit then was the possibility of facing the ever increasing multitude of mamis. Mamis who were all resplendent in their kancheevaram silks and jewellery and bling blings on their ears and nose. Mamis, who, with their eye for detail, would have put hawks to shame. Mamis who would scrutinize each and every girl they came across and file her away mentally for future reference. Mamis, who took it upon themselves to act as catalysts to non existent marriage proposals. Mamis, who considered it their birthright to bully girls into displaying their prowess (or the lack of it, in my case) in the musical arena.

Out here in HK too, Navratri is one of the festivals which sees the Indian Community here at its active best. The Gujarati Mandal is seen organizing Garba and Dandiya. The Mamis are seen visiting each others’ houses for Vettalai Pakku. We had quite a few Mamis over for Vettalai Pakku and on many a days Yours Truly was one of the mamis visiting other Mamis for Vettalai Pakku.

Aparna made sure that her wardrobe was an ever changing one – what with many of the salwar kameezes and lehengas and chaniya cholis and pattu pavadais and the huge collection of bangles in just about all available colours being put to very good use.

Abhay has already started to look at Nabratri (that’s how he pronounces it – now to add to his already existing accent he seems to use a very Bengali twist while saying Nabratri) as a “girls’ festival”. The minute he saw either me or Aparna in our Indian costumes – pat would come the question “You going for Vettalai Pakku ?”

Confusion arose when he asked mommy “What is Vettalai ?” and mommy told him “Vettalai is a leaf”. And the poor little guy pointed out to the various potted plants that we have at home and said “There are leaves at home. See (with that famous index finger pointed at the plants). See. So many leaves.” Knowing him, he might well have been questioning the sanity of the girls on their quest of the “Vettalai leaf”.

Navaratri is a festival that is celebrated throughout India – in virtually every state people worship the Goddess, people worship Shakti during these nine days. The Raas Garba, is again a dance which is performed essentially by women. Among the South Indian community too, the tradition of exchanging Vettalai Pakku is again a ladies forte. Navratri, essentially, celebrates the universal feminine force in the Universe – Shakti.

Through it all, however, one thing does keep niggling at the back of my mind. In the very same country which worships the Goddess reverently over a span of nine days, there still abound plenty of instances of female foeticide, of female infanticide. The horrors of dowry deaths still rear their ugly head way too often. Females are still looked down upon in many parts of the country. How does one correlate these facts ? What is the cultural parallel that one could possibly draw ?

Somethings, sometimes just remain questions. The answers are ever elusive. This, I guess, is one of them.

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23 October, 2007

Off the Cuff !!! .........

......... That's how this got penned down. Totally out of the blue. Read on ......

The whole project was rather simple. At first glance. It was almost a routine project.

“It’s just a matter of getting all ten of them to cooperate”. “Things can’t get any simpler” thought the Project Manager.

“OK. All of you, listen up.” "Alright. That's enough insubordination. Now listen to me" screamed the Project Manager, knowing within the heart of hearts that noncompliance was the order of the day.

The ten merrily carried on concentrating – totally absorbed, focused and engaged in their own whims.

“Gather around. Time to get to work.”

A note of desperation and futility was fast creeping into his voice.

No response. The ten in question were flailing around wildly – each one doing their own thing. There was no synchronization, no organisation and absolutely no question of harmony.

“Each one to one’s own” said all ten together.

The Project Manager’s frustration was quite evident. The project in question had to be completed within the deadline. If not, there sure was going to be hell to pay. And he certainly did not want to be at the receiving end of the volley that was sure to be aimed at him.

He had to get these ten together to finish off the project. Somehow, anyhow ……

He just had to.

The Project Manager tried to group them into two clusters of five each. One cluster would work while the other cluster rested and then the other cluster would work while the first one rested.

“Alright. You five – get going on this one” said he.

This ploy did work a bit, for the five atleast started, albeit slowly, on the job. It was very slow going because for every bit of the job that got done, a tiny bit of it got undone.

“Collateral Damage” thought the Project Manager. “Can’t be helped.” He reasoned.

Time seemed to fly past and the project was more than halfway through. The first five worked and then the second five.

He was just beginning to see shades of light at the end of the tunnel when suddenly ...

............ without any warning, the door flew open and in walked both the Bosses.

“Uh Oh” thought the Project Manager to himself, growing shades paler by the second.

“There’s going to be trouble. Big Trouble”.

The only thing he could do was brace himself.

All ten of his workmen seemed to shrink and curl up out of sheer fear – because they knew only too well how disastrous the consequences of an uncompleted project could be.

There was a moment of utter silence. Deafening silence. The lull before the storm.

“What have you been doing ?” yelled Mom and Dad, almost unanimously.

“Why have you spilt all my beads on the floor ?” yelled Mom, fuming and almost incoherent.

“And who do you think is going to clean all this up ?” she shrieked.

The Project Manager, all of three years old, looked up.

Words failed him.

“If only all ten of my fingers had listened to me, obeyed my instructions at the same time” he thought to himself.

“If only …….”

[This was penned down about a month back. Since it is not going to be serving the purpose for which it was originally intended, I decided to post it here. This way, when Appu and Abhay are old enough to read this on their own, they can spend quite a bit of time comparing notes and looking back on the times they'd found themselves in the "Project Manager's" shoes :-) - with a very evil "Boss" to contend with, of course :-)]

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18 October, 2007

A Rendezvous with Mother Nature

Hongkong has been at its polluted worst over the past few months. Pollution levels have hit a new high and many a bulletins advising people with tendency towards asthma or related breathing disorders to stay at home and not venture out are being seen issued.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977

The skyline that Hongkong was and is famous for, nowadays is, for the most part, seen shrouded in a dense thicket of fog. Normally clear outlines are extremely fuzzy. Almost as though the skyline is enveloped in cotton balls.

As is normally the case, weekends mean outings for both the kids. Needless to say, we, as parents, play the role of chaperones. And we do see a lot of conspiracy between both Appu and Abhay when it comes to pre-deciding where they want to go on a weekend. Over the past few weeks both have been hankering at us stating that a visit to the Victoria Peak is long overdue.

So on Sunday last, we did make our way towards Victoria Peak. The way I say this – it kind of makes it seem as though we had a choice in this issue. Truth be told, we didn’t. Not unless we wanted to risk serious damage to the existent amount of grey cells, which, atleast in my case, seem to be following the Theory of Diminishing Marginal Utility.

As we made our way to The Peak, pollution was making its presence felt. But once we reached the Peak, the weather was just purrrfect. The kids thought they could jig around within the airconditioned confines of The Peak Mall but little did they know that they were in for a surprise. Their parents had something else in store for them.

The Victoria Peak has a lovely road trail about 4 kms long. It is as good as walking a full circle around the Peak. The trail ends where it started. A perfect circle – all around the mountain.

So last Sunday the kids got a taste of what it feels like to be on top of the world –quite literally. And the flora and fauna that we feasted our eyes upon needs to be seen to be believed.

[Many thanks to Vic for endorsing the use of pictures snapped up by him, in this post.]

Despite the fact that we are now well into autumn, we found lots of fresh new leaves on the plants and trees and plenty of budding shoots.

Steep rising hill on one side and a steep fall on the other. Moss covered hillstones on one side of the pathway and a dense thicket of woodlands on the other. The vista from the top of The Peak was absolutely breathtaking – as always. And the air – pure, clear and cool and refreshing.

And aside of the time we visited Vic’s uncle’s farm in Kerala when we traveled to India last, this is about the closest that the kids have come to actually communing with nature.

To their amazement, they discovered that spiders do actually spin webs. And to add to the marvel, they saw firsthand that a teeny weeny spider could weave a web large enough to cover the entire circumference of a plant.

Much to their wonder, they realised that moss is slimy. So far, the only inputs as far as moss was concerned, had been visual. That it is green or at times yellowish green. But to touch moss, to feel it and to have the brain compute and coordinate the sense of vision and touch w.r.t moss was indeed a novel experience for them.

They realised, much to their amazement, what some berries originally look like on the plants on which they grow. Berries, which are later processed, dried, salted commercially and which later end up on plates as food.

They saw, for the first time, fully grown bamboo trees. Lush green and lithe as springs, yet strong and wiry.

They saw and realised that fern too is beautiful in its own rich diversity.

They saw the setting sun at far closer quarters than they normally do. A fiery orb of fire cushioned all around by frothy foamy cottony white clouds.

Nature can be so visually creative and delightful. A little splash of colour transforms the whole panorama into a different canvas. There were a few signs of autumn too. Leaves turning red on some trees while some trees were already barren with the leaves having fallen out. Yet, in the midst of autumn, mother nature gave strong credence to the cycle of life – what with little buds growing on the shoots of the barren trees.

A sense of calm pervaded the atmosphere. That lulling silence of being surrounded by Mother Nature herself. The ever soothing, all calming, wonderfully peaceful and ever relaxing feel of being far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, of being surrounded by the lush flora and fauna. The reassuring, serene greens of the vegetations dotted by occasional splashes of vibrant colours. The hum of the omnipresent insect world among all that greenery, the chirping of the nesting birds. The intermittent sound of water trickling along the hillside alternating with the reverberation of a strong stream of water gushing its way down the knoll, creating a path of its own, for itself.

The trail sure was tiring for the kids, but a good kind of tired. Abhay needed to be carried around for a while when he claimed that his legs were “hurting big”. For a while – for he was back on his feet after that. The kids also had a nice time calling out “hellos” and “byes” to all the doggies which were walking on the trail with their guardians. For that matter, I guess, Appu and Abhay have not seen as many dogs on the same day ever.

All in all, it was a lovely day, a day of relaxation and most importantly of respite from the mad rush of city life, albeit for a few hours.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

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