28 August, 2007

Happy Raksha Bandhan .....

The festival of Rakhi finds its essence and significance in the relationship shared between a brother and a sister. Like any other Indian festival, Raksha Bandhan is an occasion that joins families and loved ones together. The celebration of rakhi is the celebration of togetherness and love. The importance given to the sibling relationship is highlighted with the celebration of the festival of raksha bandhan.

On the day of Rakhi, brothers and sisters pray for each other's well-being and happiness. The meaning of the word Raksha Bandhan is the 'a bond of protection' as brothers pledge to protect their sisters from all harms and troubles and the sister prays for the protection of her brother from all evil.

Although Rakhi signifies the bond between a brother and a sister, it is also a symbol of warmth and compassion shared between communities as a whole. Some people tie Rakhis to neighbors and close friends signifying the special bond shared between them.

As people reach out on this day, Raksha Bandhan becomes a day that binds families in the oneness of this festival.

"The two of you are more than just acquaintances...
.... you are cut from the same fabric.
The two of you may appear to be sewn in a different pattern ....
.... but you do have a common thread that won't be broken ....
.... by people or years or distance."

"God Bless you both."

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27 August, 2007

Happy Onam !!!

!!!!!! HAPPY ONAM !!!!!!

Onam or Thiruonam originated as a joyous annual reminiscence of the golden rule of King Mahabali, a mythical king, who ruled Kerala a very long time ago. It recalls the sacrifice of the great king, his true devotion to God, his human pride and his ultimate redemption. This king once ruled over the Keralites during the Golden Age before caste existed, "when all men were equal, when no one was poor, when there was neither theft nor dread of thieves" (Maveli natu vanitum kalam... Manusharellam onnu pole ... ).

Facts and fables blend as Kerala celebrates this royal return, year after year with the festivities of Onam. Legend has it that the gods plotted against Mahabali to end his reign. For this they sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin. But before being trampled down to the netherworld, Vishnu granted the king's sole wish: To visit his land and people once every year.

A flower carpet called 'Pookalam' is laid in front of every house to welcome the advent of the vanquished king, and earthen mounds representing Mahabali and Vishnu are placed in the dung-plastered courtyards. Traditional rituals are performed followed by a lavish feast called 'Sadhya'. Onam also means new clothes for the whole family, sumptuous home-cooked delicacies on plantain leaf and the lingering aroma of the sweet Payasam.

Songs are also sung in praise of Saraswati, Ganapathy and Krishna which is considered to be very auspicious. Sadya over, on Onam day, women dance away to glory till the euphoria wanes.

Spectacular parades of caparisoned elephants, fireworks and the famous Kathakali dance are traditionally associated with Onam. It's also the season of many cultural and sport events and carnivals. All this makes Onam-time a perfect period to visit Kerala - this coastal state which is also known as "Gods Own Country".

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25 August, 2007

I'm Curious ..............

............. Very Much So !!!!

It has been more than a year since I started this blog and the list of people reading what I write has definitely increased.

The regulars, my online friends who read my blog - I know them pretty well by now :-)).

But the story does not stop there. The StatCounter installed on my blog tells me a different story. There seem to be hits from so many people that I've actually started to wonder if StatCounter has gone awry.

So if you do read my blog, regularly or otherwise, take a few seconds off and help me put a name to those numbers that the StatCounter is logging.

If you are a Ghost Reader or a Lurker, just take a couple of seconds off and stop by to say Hello.

Like I said, I am curious !!!

Indulge me, will ya ?

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22 August, 2007

Craftwork - Project Bookmarks

The last fortnight of the summer break was a very rainy one. And that was when the art and crafts materials started to come out of the closet in right earnest. We had a lot of fun creating shapes with PlayDoh one rainy afternoon.

A couple of days later, we decided to try our hand at making bookmarks at home. Since this was going to be a little too much for Abhay, I just drew shapes out for him on normal paper and handed him a pair of scissors. And asked him to cut along the lines. And promised to give him a squeezy glue tube if he promised not to go berserk on the paper with the scissors.

Now to the gist of the matter – the making of the bookmarks.

The last time we undertook a project of this kind was when we made a model rocket as part of Aparna's Space Project for school. At that time it clean slipped my mind to take pictures to document every step. This time around, we made sure the camera was within arm's reach. Result : Plenty of pictures every step of the way :-)

This was how it went.

First, some thick, glossy craft paper. We only had green craft paper left at home and since it was too rainy anyways to make a trip to the stationery shop, there were no disputes about what colour the bookmarks were going to be. Green, it was !!!!

A ruler came into play as well and we measured, marked, drew lines and cut out four strips of the green craft paper. If I remember right the size was 4.5 cm x 15 cm. And we chose to go with the basic rectangle shape since we'd never tried making bookmarks at home.

Then came into play the squeezy container of PVA glue. Nothing bonds craft paper like PVA glue. A generous helping of PVA glue and we then evened out the glue all over the strips of paper. Finally, two strips of craft paper were glued together so that both sides of the bookmarks-to-be were a nice glossy green.

Though the middle of the paper strips bonded extremely well, the edges just refused to adhere. Probably because the craft paper is generally kept rolled up and this gives the paper a natural tendency to roll in.

Something had to be done to hold the edges down else we were going to end up with rather hungry looking bookmarks with their mouths wide open.

Stickers to the rescue. These were stickers which we had bought to tape up some gift bags and we had a lot of them left. Measured the bookmark strips and measured the stickers and found that with a eeny weeny bit of space left between each sticker, we would be able to evenly spread out the stickers over the edges symmetrically.

One one of the bookmarks, the stickers were used as they were. On the other, the stickers were each cut into half and then stuck onto the edges – just so that the pattern created around the edges was different. Same stickers, different patterns along the border.

Hmmmmm…… now we were getting somewhere.

Tried to imagine how small pieces of suede (in different colours), cut out into little patterns, would look on the bookmarks and finally decided that suede would make it too bulky- which is something a bookmark should not be. So then, decided to stick to (pardon the pun) good old glitter glue.

Appu pulled out tubes of glitter glue (about 4-5 colours) from the stationery drawer and we got to work on the designs.

I was making a bookmark for Vic while Appu was making one for herself. So she decided to personalize her bookmark while I went with abstract designs.

One side got done and then we had to take a break until the designs on one side of the bookmark dried up.

The next day, we used the same glitter glue tubes to design the other side of the bookmarks as well.

Once again, the bookmarks were left to dry.

The next day, the bookmarks were almost ready. All that remained was to attach a tassel or a trimming on the fringe of the bookmark.

I had saved a couple of tassels from a wedding invitation card a while back. Those were brought into play. Also, we had colourful suede trimmings as well as golden ones that had been bought when I had once been on a stationery shopping binge. These commercial trimmings have a very thin but sturdy wire running right in the middle with suede all around – so they can just be twisted into any shape.

I had made up my mind that I was going to use one of the tassels while Appu was still vacillating. She finally decided on the golden trimming for her bookmark.

We then measured the breadth of the bookmark just to make sure that the paper punch was placed right in the centre.

Once the paper punch had done its job, all that remained was to thread the tassel on one and the golden trimming on the other bookmark and voila ………

.......... our very own homemade bookmarks. :-))

While we were busy with making these bookmarks, another thought did strike me. Many a times, there are used dresses, sarees, dupattas that are discarded. Sometimes they are too worn out to be handed out, sometimes clothes do meet with accidents resulting in tears, at times a hot iron box does its share of damage. And such clothes invariably end up in the bin.

If only a portion of the material is damaged, the rest of it could be used for such craftwork. Bookmarks are a good example. Specifically speaking, what I had in mind was material like sungadi sarees or the Gurjari/Batik materials – basically the tie-and-dye kind. Cottons, chiffons – anything. Or even Hakoba material - preferably the dark colored ones (cos it would not be possible to wash a bookmark if the cloth gets dirty and light colored ones do get grimy faster).

If any such usable material is on hand, then all that is needed is a good piece of thin cardboard and some PVA glue. The cloth material can just be glued on to the cardboard and then use a little something to spruce the bookmark up. Like tiny little beads or sequins (which too can just be glued on with PVA glue) and you’ll have a really ethnic bookmark which looks like its just walked out of a Indian Handicraft Emporium. As a added bonus, since these batik materials tend to be very colourful, there is no particular need for a tassel or a fancy trimming either.

Bookmarks are indeed delightful companions to the books we read. And bookmarks are yet to receive their due share of attention and admiration from avid bookreaders.

What better way to end this post than with this delightful little poem that I found on the internet once.


O little bookmark
slim and slight
between the pages
closed up tight.

When at last
I douse my light
you guard my place
all through the night.

No matter where
that place may be
I know you'll keep it
just for me.

Then in the morn
your squarish head
admist the book
above my bed.

O little bookmark
slim and slight
working, working
through the night.

~ Duncan Ball

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18 August, 2007

The summer holidays have indeed zipped past !!!

The past week or so has seen me strangely listless. Even as I went about my chores, went out to finish off the shopping – this feeling of something weighing me down seemed to be pervading my senses. There was also this strange apathy of sorts, even when it came to my writing or penning down posts. Writing seemed to appear too tiresome. An ennui of a kind. Try as I might, I could not put my finger on what was making me drag my feet – I was totally clueless. But the existence of tedium, a pall of total lethargy and indolence was undeniable.

It sunk in when I started to gather all of Appu’s school stuff to wash, dry and iron the other day. Her PE bag, her painting smock, her school bag – everything that would need to be ready when school starts. And that was when it hit me. I was so not looking forward to the schools reopening. And this is a rather new feeling for me too. Normally, by the time the summer break draws to a close, I would be looking forward to it. But not this time around.

Not that this summer break has been peaceful all the time. The kids have had their share of tiffs, fights over seemingly insignificant stuff and they’ve had their good times too. There have been plenty of times when I’ve felt the need to walk on the ceiling or a great many times when I’ve felt the need to dunk my head in a bucket of water to keep me sane. And again, there have been loads of fun times too – whether were doing craftwork, or playing UNO or just reading together or working on cracking the contents of a new CD-ROM together ......

All in all, it was, in many ways, an idyllic break – a time span that, when encapsulated in its entirety, albeit within one’s heart and mind, would always be treasured. And somehow there is this mad mad need, this totally insane, frenzied desire to seize these moments and store them. To accumulate and create a stockpile of memories.

And I told Aparna as much. That I was not really looking forward to the schools reopening cos I was going to miss having both of them in and around home all day long.

The banter, the fights, the tiffs, the laughter, the sullen faces, the giggles, the sulks, the absolute screams and screeches of delight, the muted sound of tears and sobs.

The mad rush of feet all around the house, the thumps which accompany a fall, the Yeeaaaysss when something is accomplished and the High Fives that follow.

Sounds of the fracas and brawls that I’ve now learnt to associate with territorial issues and possessiveness when it comes to books and the PC, the sweet silence of peace when the very same objects are shared.

Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun. ~ Mignon McLaughlin

The giggles and whispers of co-conspirators which accompany a plot being hatched, the “You’re mean” “Oh You are so mean” flying around in absolute abandon when a little something goes awry with the delicate balance of a subtle equation between the two elements, at times three ;-). If friends are around too, more the merrier.

The boisterous and riotous times which accompany the siblings being hosed down together in the bathtub and the resultant swimming pool that the bathroom turns into.

Small vehicles being left on the carpet or the floor (the result of a hurried tidying up effort after play) which have pretty often served the purpose of a mini skateboard for the chronologically elder humans in the house.

Beds, minutes after being made, turning into a rumpled mass of bedsheets – the result of quite some boisterous rolling around the bed and at times rolling right off it (this is invariably accompanied by a huge thud, after which the bagpipes begin to play). Many a times this involved their friends too, if they had come over.

The many “arty and crafty” endeavors, the attempts to create something out of seemingly nothing. For the most part, we used to end up with disasters but it was such wholesome fun. There used to be cut bits of paper around the room which used to necessitate the use of the vacuum cleaner a second, sometimes even a third time on the same day, bits and parts of the floor messed up with little eeny weeny bits of Play Doh – these formed part of the collateral damage. But what more than made up for these were the giggles, the gluey sticky hands and fingers, PlayDoh under the nails and the chuckles that used to emanate from the fun they were having. And the covert smiles and a sense of achievement when a “project” was completed. And then there were also those short spans of total and earnest concentration when they were riveted on the project on hand, giving it their all.

These and much much more like these are what I’m going to miss terribly once the schools reopen. But then again, schools are pretty much a reality and a very necessary one at that.

I do so hope and pray that they enjoy the coming year at school and overcome handicaps that the past year has posed. I do so hope and pray that the rough edges get smoothened out and facilitate the path towards a process where gaining knowledge, making friends, learning go hand in hand with happiness, contentment and fun.

And needless to say, let the next holidays roll in real real fast – at express speed.

Putting things very simply, like Henny Youngman once said

"What is a home without the children ? Quiet."

Yes. Once the schools reopen, home is going to be a very quiet place indeed.

And like Erma Bombeck had once said, such silence can be absolutely deafening.

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16 August, 2007

The Mommy Series - Part I

Hey Mommies - listen up !! You know you are a Mommy when ........

You automatically double-knot everything you tie.

You find yourself humming the Barney song as you do the dishes.

You hear a baby cry in the grocery store, and you start to gently sway back and forth, back and forth. However, your children are at school!

You actually start to like the smell of strained carrots mixed with applesauce.

You weep through the scene in Dumbo when his mom is taken away, not to mention what Bambi does to you.

You get soooo into crafts you contemplate writing a book called 101 Fun Crafts to do with Dryer Lint and Eggshells.

You spend a half hour searching for your sunglasses only to have your teenager say, "Mom, why don't you wear the ones you pushed up on your head?"

You are out for a nice romantic meal with your husband, enjoying some real adult conversation, when suddenly you realize that you've reached over and started to cut up his steak!

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13 August, 2007

Getting Creative with PlayDoh - Part I

For the most part, the whole of last week was a washout - literally. The skies had opened up and we even had a typhoon visit us on Friday. For those of you wondering whether I am talking about the situation within the house - rest assured - I am not !! This is a very real and actual weather report.

So, with these two busybees cooped up inside the house, something needed to be done.

Voila !!!

Mommy recollected that she had about 4-5 pots of PlayDoh stashed away - precisely for days like these. It is fairly commonplace to hear of people saving for a rainy day but to save pots of PlayDoh for a rainy day ???? !!!!

And after the success we had with the desi version of PlayDough, here's what we came up with using commercial PlayDoh.

"A flower nice and bright, quite unlike the weather outside"

"A clown quite like the two little clowns inside the house"

"A caterpillar - of course !!! Can anything, anything at all be fun without insects around. And see, it smiles too"

"Ah - Metamorphosis !!! Look what the caterpillar morphed into."

"Two monkeys and a bunch of bananas. What a combo."

"Crazy skies and pouring rain.
Sail away, we want to play again"
And for the rain to sail away, we made a sailboat.

And as we sat together and the two of them continued to churn out more ways and means to give vent to and create new things with a few small mounds of dough, I could not help but marvel at the seemingly endless amount of energy that exists in children.

There was quite a bit of disorder, especially when they did not know what to do with a particular bit of dough or ideas got stuck along the way. But, all in all, amidst all that disorder and all that mess which is an integral accompaniment of mounds of PlayDoh and the resultant disarray - there was a noticeable harmony too.

As Arthur Koestler once said

"Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."

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10 August, 2007

To arbitrate or not to .........

Ever since their school summer break began and both were at home full time, Appu and Abhay were found bickering and squabbling with each other pretty much regularly. The best part is that they could get into a tiff over seemingly nothing. Something as small as an eraser could set it off.

No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behaviour, and I'm not talking about the kids. ~ Bill Cosby

And invariably, Mommy used to have to arbitrate. This went on for a few days and Mommy realised that this constant business of arbitration and mediation would be enough to provide that final push beyond the realms of sanity and make Mommy foray into the as-yet-unexplored orb of insanity.

So, in order to preserve a semblance of sanity, Mommy stepped out of the arbitrator’s shoes. Said she was no longer going to sort out their petty tiffs. If they got into a petty tiff over seemingly nothing just because they thought there was someone around to sort it out – well they were sadly mistaken – cos from now on they would have to do the “sorting out” themselves. The arbitrator was going to step in only when the situation was serious enough.

It is not difficult to picture the situation without a mediator around. That total mayhem, chaos, anarchy, bedlam would reign supreme was an understatement, if ever there was any. The kids yelling at each other, grabbing things from each other, toys and stuffed toys alike flying all over the house like unguided missiles without any specified destination codes, war cries resounding in the household ..... near perfect depiction that !!!

But guess what ?????

When they realised that petty tiffs would have to be sorted out amongst themselves and more importantly, by themselves – things are apparently being viewed differently.

When they listen to songs, the earphones are actually being shared.

While on the PC, they actually take turns.

The other day, they were busy painting suncatchers and they had five tubes of colourful glue to share and – wonder of wonders – not one complaint about one snatching the glue from the other or anything of that kind.

And these are the suncatchers they painted. Appu chose to colour the sailboat and Abhay colored the butterfly.

And the suncatchers are now resting on the window.

This turn of events now has Mommy sincerely wondering as to why the brainwave of shedding the arbitrator's shoes did not cross her her mind much earlier.

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01 August, 2007

The Saga of the Chanaa Song ....

It came out of the blue a couple of weeks back.

"I want Chanaa song" said Abhay.

"What was that Abhay ?" asked Mommy

"I want the Chanaa song" came the reply

"Oh God !! Here we go." thought Mommy, to herself.

Especially after the "Mummy is the pig" comment from Abhay, Mommy, at times, is rather confused when it comes to deciding whether to take his queries and comments at face value or whether to dig deeper.

Now when we were in Bombay last, Abhay used to freak out on the Chanaa that is available in every nook and corner there. Especially at my parents' place, there is always a bottle that is kept filled with Chanaa (Roasted Gram) and another filled with Roasted Peanuts.

And whenever we were at my parents' place, invariably, among the first things he would ask for was Chanaa (if the bottle was not right royally handed to him without him even asking for it, that is).

So assuming that the word “song” was just a “red herring addendum” to the word “chanaa”, I went ahead and asked him if he wanted peanuts. And prided myself on the fact that I had baked a whole new batch of masala peanuts just the previous day. For once, I would not have to say “Oh Masala Peanuts – I’ll bake some for you – OK sweetheart ?” Just this once, I thought to myself, he got the timing right. On other occasions, he has this uncanny knack of asking for something just as the levels of that particular something hit rock bottom in its storage container.
So, this time around, I was beaming – feeling pretty pleased. Not that it lasted long.

“I don’t want peanuts. I don’t want masssala peanuts” he said

“I want to listen the Chanaa song” with a rather indignant and piqued look on his face.

"Grown ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), The Little Prince, 1943

I mean, it is not very difficult to imagine what must have been going through his head. Here he was, asking for a song and then there was his Mommy, who, being the brightest tool in the box there is, offering him peanuts – that too Masala Peanuts.

“Awright – here goes” said Mommy and launched off into the song

“Chanaa Chor Garam Baabu Main Laaya Mazedaar….”

One look at his sufficiently mortified and horrified little face brought the current rendition of Mommy’s infamous musical repertoire to a rather screeching halt !!!

Brows furrowed and that famous index finger pointing at me, a little voice managed to squeak “What’s that ?”. I presume he meant the song which I had been croaking out.

“OK OK – tell me where this song is ?” said Mommy, having not the faintest of ideas as to which song he was referring to.

“Chanaa song on Mummy’s phone” came the reply.

“Ah Haaaa. OK – now we are getting somewhere.” thought Mommy.

And fortunately, Mommy does not have too many songs uploaded into her cell phone.

Thank the Lord for small mercies !!

Whilst wading through the collection of songs on Mommy’s cell phone, when one particular tune started, the little face brightened immeasurably and with that famous index finger pointing towards nothing in particular, he exclaimed with quite obvious delight “That’s it.”

The song the great one had been clamoring for was none other than “Chaand Sifarish” from the movie “Fanaa”.

Why Chanaa song ?

My guess is that he remembered a part of the movie’s name. Whenever we watch a movie he always makes it a point to ask for the name. Probably, he did not remember either the name of the movie or the name of the song in full. Quite possibly, that was what led to this whole mish mash.

Boo wrote about decoding what our children mean when they say something or ask for something and so did Kodi’s Mom. Quite apparently, this saga just does not end at toddlerhood !!!

Do we want it to ?

I, for one, would say NO. It just makes mundane things that much more thought provoking, giving parents a much needed (apparently) mental workout.

Like Clay.P.Bedford once said

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day, but if you can teach him/her to learn by creating curiosity, he/she will continue the learning process for as long as he/she lives”.

Don’t you get the serious feeling that this is precisely what our children are doing to us ?

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