31 March, 2008



For someone at home, that’s the latest mantra.

Who else, but Mr.Exasperation.

This saga of recycling began with what had been their topic at school “A Clean World”. This topic at school was cut short rather abruptly because schools closed early for the Easter break. So the books were sent home so that the kids could finish working on their books.

While working on his book on “A Clean World”, Mommy used to be regularly peppered with questions. “What is recycling ?” “Why should you recycle ?” “What is a landfill ?” “What happens when you recycle ?” “Are there recycle bins in Laguna City ?” and so on and so forth.

Recycling was very very obviously going to be the flavor of discussion for a while. To top this, when we were watching the evening news the other day, there was a segment on how the landfills in HK are going to fill up in about 4 to 8 years time. “What means landfills are going to fill up ?” queried Abhay. And his eyes almost popped out of his head when he was told that “a landfill being full” meant that there was not going to be any place to dump all the rubbish that gets generated everyday. “Oh No. What are we going to do now ?” queried Abhay, looking distinctly uneasy. I guess he was conjuring up all kinds images inside of that head of his, which was clearly working overtime.

To top that, in the same news segment, he caught a clipping of how the streets in Naples, Italy were lined with trash bags on both sides of the road because they had nowhere to dump the rubbish and the looks of dismay and disgust on the faces of the passersby. Again the questions began – “Why are the rubbish bags on the road ?” “Why there are no sanitation workers to take the rubbish away ?” Yeah – he actually calls them sanitation workers !!! He looked rather disturbed when Mommy told him that the rubbish was piling up on the roads because the landfills were full. “I’m worrying.” came the reply.

Knowing him, he could well have been imagining trudging among big, huge bags of rubbish while walking outside or even while walking to school, holding his nose tight shut or something like that and that must have led him to wonder as to how he was going to breathe ..... his imagination just gallops.

So now all that’s stuck in his head is “R.e.c.y.c.l.e.”. Period !!!

On Saturday evening, as we headed out to Kowloon Bay to meet up with Vic, Abhay gathered up a whole load of newspapers because he wanted to put them in the recycle bin. Mommy tried telling him that he could leave it near the garbage bin on our floor and that the lady who collects trash would make sure it ends up in the recycle bin but he would have none of it. He made sure each and every newspaper that we’d carried made its way right into the recycle bin. And enjoyed every moment of it. If not anything else, this guy would well enjoy working for the Postal Department !!!

A couple of days back he was heard exclaiming “I found it” “I found it” very excitedly and I wondered what it was all about. Sure enough, a few seconds later he was found walking out of the kitchen with an empty can of Diet Pepsi that had found its way into the rubbish bin in the kitchen. “You should not put cans in the rubbish bin Mummy. They should be put in the recycle bin to be r.e.c.y.c.l.e.d.” The fact that Mommy had absolutely nothing to do with that can finding its way into the rubbish bin was not even taken into account.

Yesterday evening we were working on a project that Aparna had to take back to school today. While we tried to avoid wastage of paper, little tiny bits and strips did eventually find their way onto the floor. Since Abhay had not been working on the project with us, he conveniently deemed the whole floor “very messy”. He obliged, however, when Mommy asked him to pick up the bits of paper and throw them in the rubbish bin.
Just as he was about to head off with the wads of paper, Aparna was heard saying “ahem.... should that not be recycled ?”. So that too has been set aside and will be duly deposited in the recycle bin the next time we go downstairs.

Now near the rubbish bin in the kitchen, we also have another small box. All the little scraps of paper that need to be discarded go into that box. The same goes for empty soap bottles, shampoo bottles – there is a paper bag which has been set aside as a receptacle for these items and yet another paper bag which has been set aside for cans. And heading for the recycle bin downstairs, in all probability, is going to become a regular feature.

"Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your TV for three hours." ~ Reynolds Metal Company

Kids being kids, I honestly don’t know how long this fascination with recycling is going to last. But over a period of time, sorting out the trash and setting things aside to be put into the respective recycling bins would become more of a habit. And once a habit is formed, it is something that one would do naturally. And that is a pretty good pattern to form – not just for the kids but for us, adults too.

This would also be a good tack to use on Abhay to discontinue the use of nighttime diapers. Oh Yes !! He still needs diapers at night. When confronted by the fact that he still uses diapers, Mr. Exasperation is rather quick to point out "But I put a diaper only a night. Only Only Only at night." We'd been waiting for proper summer to begin "Operation Night Diapers Over". Now that this recycling bug has taken over, might as well capitalise on it and get it into his head that diapers are not recyclable.

As of now too, carrying a shoulder tote bag while going to the supermarket has become second nature to me. In fact, one environment friendly bag is always found in by handbag. We also recycle and reuse the glass jam bottles at home as storage containers for other masala powders and stuff.

Shoe boxes are very good for storing things – e.g we use a shoe box as a tool box, another shoe box is used for multiplugs and such stuff .....
Another thing we’ve done in a rather phased manner is switch to energy efficient bulbs – these do cost more but end of the day they consume almost 80% less power than do the regular bulbs.

We are also consciously reducing stocking up on stuff - something I used to do on a almost habitual basis. It was quite a chronic habit – one that I am trying my level best to curb. There’s however, still a long way to go.

I recently read a small write-up by Catherine Pulsifer which goes

“Most of us are familiar with recycle and reusing, but how often do we think of the third R - REDUCE?

"Reduce" is probably the most important of the three Rs because, if we reduced, it would limit the need to recycle and reuse. By reducing, we cut down on the resources that we use which results in less garbage being produced.”

So often, our wants result in impulse buying. It is amazing if you ask yourself the question, is it a need or a want before you actually buy. Many things end up being a want, not truly a need.

Reduce, or rather, the need to reduce takes us back to the basic question :
"Is it a need or a want ?"

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26 March, 2008

Evolution and Sibling Dynamics

According to The Wikipedia, in biology, evolution is the changes seen in the inherited traits of a population from one generation to the next.

Ever noticed how often people remark –
“My second child is not like my first one”. Whether it be a battle over a toy or wit or thinking on their feet, it is my first child that needs to be protected. The second one somehow manages on his/her own.”
"In competitive situations between the kids, many a times I feel that it is the elder one who needs protection from the younger one who bulldozes around the elder one despite the fact that the younger one is chronologically littler."

How often do we hear that remark ? How often do we say it ourselves ?

While the younger sibling may not be all that aggressive and “go-getting” in the outside world, when it comes to showdowns between siblings in familiar surroundings, the younger ones somehow seem to prevail. There are tiffs and fights along the way with both siblings holding their ground and getting pretty noisy at times but somewhere along the way, the elder ones seem to either get on the defensive or just walk away. And this is something I’ve noticed not just with the nutty siblings but with other siblings as well.

On the homefront, I have thought about this plenty of times. As changes in the nutty siblings become more marked, as their individual personalities begin to take hold and shape them for what they are meant to be – these differences are becoming very distinct and noticeable.

While the elder sibling is a lot more steadfast and steady in her approach, the younger sibling is quite impulsive.

While the elder sibling is very resolute and extremely tenacious about what is right and what is wrong, the younger sibling does not make it his business to try and fathom things to the depths to which his elder sister does.

While the elder sibling chastises herself whenever she makes a mistake or does something wrong, the younger sibling, at first, tries to get away with it by flashing a huge cheeky grin.

While the elder sibling believes in thinking, analyzing as to what is troubling her before she comes out in the open with her thoughts, the younger sibling believes in speaking what’s on his mind. All troubles and predicaments are meant to be aired and immediately – be it something as simple as a speck of dirt in his eye or something more complex as having a dream wherein he goes into the MTR and the door closes, leaving his family behind on the platform. Everything gets vocalized.
Delegating is a trait both siblings seem to be exhibiting rather strongly. In this department, it is more a question of who wears whom down and prevails.
Even with simple matters like getting people to listen to what they have to say - the elder sibling has a very even approach - in the sense that she knows when to give the other person time or space to think about and digest what she's just said - before she puts forth the next thought. The younger sibling bludgeons his way into his parents' thoughts. His thoughts have to be heard out. Many a times, this has resulted in him completely derailing his parents' thought processes.

I used to ponder over these so-very-apparent differences in their personalities until I came across Frank Sulloway’s theory on birth order and variations in sibling personalities. Sulloway is the author of the book "Born To Rebel" and his theory states that first-borns tend to be conforming, ambitious, academically oriented, and respectful. On the contrary, later-borns show more unconventional, flexible, almost unpredictable, and rebellious personality traits.

Going with the flow of thoughts - even with simple fights and arguments that the nutty siblings have – it makes me wonder if this is another form of the Darwinian theory at work. Yes – fights and arguments are bound to happen because siblings, albeit the fact that they share the same gene pool, do most definitely have distinctly different personalities. But my question is – are clashes a result of just differences in personalities or is this a more latent form of competition among siblings ?

Until the time the younger sibling comes along, the elder sibling has the attention of his/her parents – 100%. And it is only after the younger sibling comes into the picture that the concept of sharing ones parents’ attention comes into the picture. And this is said to be the most common cause of sibling rivalry. Initial feelings of resentment or dislike on the part of the elder sibling towards the younger one are quite common.

As they grow, these feelings of resentment iron out eventually and as the younger one grows, they bond – out of the camaraderie that is shared by two constant playmates, out of the constant communication between them, out of the sheer fact that they are woven from the same fabric. They forge a bond amongst them that is unique in that it belongs to the siblings and the siblings alone. Even parents fall outside the purview of that ring of the siblings’ affection for each other, of their solidarity of purpose and their companionship. It is a totally different kind of amity that one witnesses when one sees siblings interacting with each other.

But as they grow, does sibling rivalry disappear or does it just take on different hues ?
Is it something that diminishes as the siblings grow or does it just turn more subtle ?

Adele Faber once said

"From their struggles to establish dominance over each other, siblings become tougher and more resilient. From their endless rough-housing with each other, they develop speed and agility. From their verbal sparring they learn the difference between being clever and being hurtful. From the normal irritations of living together, they learn how to assert themselves, defend themselves, compromise. And sometimes, from their envy of each other’s special abilities they become inspired to work harder, persist and achieve."

Even between siblings in the closed confines of home, amidst all that carefree joy of children just being children, does nature instill in them that need to compete with each other, albeit at a subconscious or even an unconscious level ?

What is your take on this ? What is your opinion on this aspect of sibling dynamics ?
Penny for your thoughts.
Tell, Tell !!

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20 March, 2008

Fingerpaintings and Sketches Aplenty ....

The Nutty Siblings' interest in painting, per se, had kind of waned recently. We used to do quite a lot of PlayDoh or the cutting/gluing kind of artwork or they used to be content with drawing and coloring with crayons. Painting had definitely taken a backseat.

Couple of weeks back, Abhay got it into his head and stuck to his guns that he wanted to fingerpaint. Slowly but steadily, the elder sibling was also dying to give fingerpainting a 'go'.

One Sunday morning, Vic sat down with the kids and showed them how to fingerpaint. He painted one page while they watched and absorbed every tiny detail. And then, he left it to them to pick up the threads and let their imagination loose.

Aside of fingerpainting, it has also given rise to an interest in sketches. Now that schools are closed, there is hardly any activity (aside of the homework that they've been given via the school websites), hardly any kids go out to play and since everyone at home has been taking turns falling sick, the last few days have been rather 'low ebb'.

But over the past couple of days too, the siblings have been quite busy - sketching.

"This was the fingerpainting Vic made to teach the kids how to fingerpaint."

"Aparna's fingerpainting of the sun setting in the backdrop of a sky ablaze with colours. And those two tiny figures in black are the nutty siblings watching the sunset."

"Abhay's fingerpainting of a tornado (which happens to be another topic of current interest), black and menacing, as it whirls and twirls its way across the landscape."

"Aparna's sketch of farm animals who have been out grazing during the day, watching the sunset across the small hills."

"Abhay's sketch of a house. According to him it had been a very cloudy day but the sun bumped away some of the clouds and started to shine in the sky and then it became a very sunny day. The two little children playing in front of the house do very much seem like Aparna's handiwork."

"Aparna's sketch of how things look when one looks out of the window of the kids' bedroom. The view is that of the clubhouse lawns with small palm trees and little plants bearing red flowers fringing the borders of the lawn."

"Abhay's sketch of winding roads all complete with lane dividers and signals and vehicles, flanked by highrises on both sides." What I loved about this sketch was the way in which he's drawn a smiley on the top of the page and it somehow seems to blend right in.

"This was a sketch I found the siblings working on together, simultaneously. Aparna was working on the layout of the house, the lawns, the plane, the dog, the cat, the kids playing while Abhay was working on the sky, the clouds, the rainbow, the sun, and he also decided to draw a windsock so that the plane could land safely."

We have a whole 9-10 days of holidays to go and the pots of PlayDoh are as yet, untouched. Probably next week :-).

Since they've been able to come up with these on paper, today, I've given them four shells (the slightly largish flat variety) and some poster paint to work on. Two shells each. Just curious to see what they can come up with on a confined workspace -because their painting would have to be confined to the tops of the shells.

Again, shells are a good variation because they're more like those "write, erase and re-use" writing boards. One set of painting done, digitize the images and if they like to, they could just wash off the paint from the shells, dry the surface and work on them all over again. Also, if this "shellpainting" generates enough interest, they could generate theme after theme on shells. It could be anything - autumn or spring flowers or butterflies or starry skies or festival themes ....... The list is seemingly endless.

Will have to wait and watch how that goes.

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18 March, 2008

Women = Dumb Barbies ????

Mommy has been rather unwell – OK – make that really unwell, since Saturday. Needless to say, Mommy decided to brave the little germs out with a self-proclaimed “What is a little bunch of bacteria. Hmmpfff. I’m going to beat these little germs.” Oh !! What a miscalculated thought that turned out to be. Come Sunday, Mommy’s throat was feeling like a piece of raw meat sizzling over hot coals. Come Monday, those “little germs” sure seemed to be gaining a rather large foothold on Mommy’s throat (which had begun to feel like there were way too many cactii growing there and wreaking havoc with their thorns like a multitude of times per second).

Feeling just about as chirpy as one would feel after having sat up two nights in a row with a fever, aching joints, eyes on fire and a pincushion throat, off trudged Mommy, to the doctor, yesterday morning.

The doctor’s office, this being the infamous month of March when ailments rule the roost, was unbelievable full. Especially the little babies and the little children there – my heart went out to them. Runny noses, red faces and throats bawling out at full lungpower because that is the only way they could express their discomfort. For a few minutes, forget about my own physical discomforts, I did.

The waiting time was rather long and I’d been waiting there for about 25 minutes when I saw this rather smug, cocky looking rooster strutting in as though he owned the place. Seconds after he plonked himself on one of the sofas, out came the Blackberry and he fiddled with that for a while. Quite apparently, he could not quite figure out what to do with it. He decided to call someone and proceeded to speak at a volume that made me wonder if he had an inbuilt foghorn in his vocal chords. Barack Obama should probably consider taking him onto his team, you know. This rooster could really make it worth his while. He could do what apparently comes naturally to him – shouting a whole load of crap at the top of his voice, and ever so effortlessly.

The topic moved on to the HK Stock Markets – it was difficult not to hear this guy – he was that loud. And on he goes “Arrey just last week I put in some money in the share market aur kal ko the market went down. Anyways I knew that the market was going to fall ….” Huh !!!??? “You knew the market was going to fall and that’s why you invested in the stock market, is it ?” I thought to myself. Oh !! To be in the presence of an Einstein of this caliber is something so extraordinary. It could actually bring tears to ones eyes.

Things were beginning to get interesting. Apparently this guy wanted the person on the other end of the phone to pick up some stocks. And then this guy starts to bellow with laughter “Arrey yaar – you discuss all this with your wife ? Stock markets – you discuss them with women ? You must be out of your mind yaar. Never – I repeat – never ever involve women in matters relating to finance or business or stocks or anything like that. They just don’t have the guts for it you know. They’re just not made for stuff like that. I mean, women – chahhh – you give them stocks to handle and the market goes up just that little bit and they’d say lets sell lets sell and make what little money we can and get out of here. That’s women for you. Arrey dum nahin hoti unme (translated as women just aren’t gutsy). They’re dumb blondes.”

Ooooooooooo ………………..

Does this rooster even have an idea about the number of women who are finance professionals ?(or for that matter - in the many different fields that exist today - be it marketing, be it sales, be it accounting, be it medicine, be it journalism, be it the armed forces .... the list is endless) Oh – for all you know – the banker who could be handling his account or his investment portfolio (if he knows the meaning of that term) could be a woman, after all. And if it is one with an excellent track record, is he going to say “what are you doing working in the finance sector, babe ?” or is he just going to thanks his stars (and his banker, of course) for the multiples in which his account is growing.

A few weeks back, while travelling back home in the bus, there were these two guys who were talking about a lot of things – right from why they thought Hilary Clinton should not even run for Presidency because a woman President was something they thought was unthinkable – something they thought did not bode well for the future ..... Then the discussion moved on to how women journalists are treated much more favorably as compared to their male counterparts in that women journalists are not sent off to areas where there is a riot or a war going on while men go out there on the war front to file in their reports.
What kind of misguided notions these are ?
Quite apparently, these guys had their own trading businesses and both were emphatically of the opinion that women should be kept as far away from the business as possible. “They are far better off going to the beauty salon and having their kitty parties” said one. To which the other replied “What else can they do anyways ?”. The underlying sentiment was very clear.

I definitely don’t mean to say that all men think this way. Most definitely not. Just because one keeps coming across a strata of the male population which happens to think this way does not mean that all men think that way. So the general question that comes to my mind is “Why Generalise when it comes to women ?”

I, for one, have never been a hardcore feminist but the fact remains that to see people totally discounting females as “good for nothing other than talking shop and attending kitty parties” and to classify women as “Dumb Barbies or Dumb Blondes” is totally out of line.

Females are still discriminated against in almost all parts of the world – be it open or latent. Female foeticide is quite common in many countries even today. In China, there are numerous instances of newborn female babies being wrapped up or trundled into garbage bags and left to die in garbage cans. There are numerous instances of newborn babies being put to death immediately after they’re born – just because they carry the XX chromosome and not the more widely sought after and glorified XY chromosome.

Many a times, for the same task performed, women are paid far less and reap fewer benefits from their work than do their male counterparts. Like The Late Dr. Charlotte Whitton (who was the first woman mayor of Ottawa) put it so well when she said “Whatever women do they must do it twice as well as men to be thought half as good …”.

It has always been said that education is the key, is the tool that can help break this attitude of gender discrimination. I remember reading an article which said educated women are essential to ending Gender Bias. But has education really gone a long way in breaking this mould ? These guys who were heard equating women with Dumb Barbies are also educated. What then, brings about such attitudes ?

I would say that there is more to it that just school and college education. Some values are instilled by culture and society and more importantly, by the immediate family when children are in their formative years.

The Indian society, for example, is a paternalistic one – except in a few states like Kerala where the society is maternalistic. In many families mothers do not insist that the boys in the family even do something as simple as take their plates or cups or bowls away and put them for washing, after a meal. Eventually it becomes a habit and the boys just don’t deem it necessary to do their share of these simple chores.

A lot many people are of the opinion that girls should be neat and prim and proper while it is perfectly alright for boys to go around making a mess of the house, trashing stuff and most importantly, being expected not to clean up after the mess they create. “Boys will be boys” is the excuse that is oft proferred. But this kind of an excuse just does not cut it. These are the kind of attitudes that lay the foundation for something more far reaching in the future. When children grow up with a distinct idea of “girl’s work” or “boy’s work” and when that distinction is made and reinforced right from early childhood, these core values do, to a great extent, entrench themselves in the psyche of the child. And breaking out of that mould requires that much more of an effort on the part of the child later on in life.

Again, I’m not saying that it is impossible for guys to break out of the mould in which they have been brought up. It very much is. I, for one, don’t have to look very far. Vic is very broadminded and not because he was brought up that way. The family’s outlook was extremely traditional during his childhood years too. But eventually, as he grew up his attitudes became a lot more open and broadminded in his quest to find his own equation. So it definitely happens if men are prepared to go those extra miles in breaking out of stereotypes established by family and society, especially paternalistic societies.
But again, with a ready made comfort zone offered by a society which fully endorses gender stereotypes, men might just about choose to rest on their laurels of being "a man" rather than put in all that extra effort in seeking an equal relationship.

Overall, I guess a very good option is not to set a “gender mould” – in terms of “this is what girls do and only girls do” and “these are things only boys do” – so to speak. If kids grow up in an environment that does not reinforce gender stereotypes, it would make it easier for the kids to explore possibilities or avenues which they would not know existed had gender stereotypes been enforced at full blast.

Oh and by the way, coming back to "Mr. Cocky looking Rooster with a built in Foghorn", the funny thing is this – despite all his “not so very complimentary” opinions about women, the doctor whom he had come in to consult yesterday is very much a lady.

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11 March, 2008

All in a day's reading .......

Last week, as I was just about finishing off with my workouts, Abhay went fishing in the library bag (I mean the bag that I normally carry to the library and get the books in. The nutty siblings have named it the library bag and now it gets used only for that purpose – not for shopping of any kind). He took a while and came out and plonked next to me with a huge beam on his face. He has quite grown to love this “book reading” time.

“I got a Winnie the Pooh book”, he said.

“Okey Dokey. What’s the title of the book ?” I asked him.

The little brows furrowed in concentration, the little index finger slid across the large black words on the front of the book and he began to read “P.o.o.h’s H.a.l.l.o.w.e.e.n P.u.m.p.k.i.n”.

Onto the first page – he first gave the pictures on the page a good look, committing the details in the picture to memory and then moved on to the words. And began to read “One spring day …..” and abruptly the flow of words stopped. I looked up from the book to see a pair of black eyes with large question marks in them, staring into my face. “Somebody make a mistake” he said.

“Why ? What happened ?” I asked.

“See – the book’s name is Pooh’s Halloween Pumpkin and here it says Spring. But Halloween is not in spring Mummy – Halloween is in autumn. So somebody make mistake.”

It took me a while to get the point across that it was not a mistake, before which I did steal a quick glance at the last page of the book just to make sure that there was indeed a pumpkin there – else I was headed for serious trouble. Sure enough, there was a huge grinning Jack-O-Lantern on the last page. Phew !!

“As we read the story, we will know why they’ve mentioned spring on the first page Abhay” I said.

With a rather dubious look, he continued reading, stopping only when a word was too complicated for him to figure out. And since he’s onto reading the Level 2 books now, there are a few words that prove too tricky for him to figure out by himself.

Those brows which had been knitted together in a frown eventually eased out as he read out the first page aloud and realized that it was indeed spring time because the pumpkin seeds were just being planted.

We continued and while well into the 7th page where Rabbit had just handed a pumpkin seed to Pooh because Pooh wanted to grow a pumpkin too. One could hear the mental brakes slamming and screeching and the vocal vehicle grinding to a halt as the wheels in his head began to spin – rather furiously.

“Can we grow a pumpkin too ?” he asked.

“It takes a large patch of soil to grow a pumpkin Abhay” I explained.

“But we growed capsicum.” he said.

“Yes, but pumpkin grows on a vine” I said.

“What’s a vine ?” he asked

“It is a creeper.” I said and then proceeded to draw out a plant and a creeper for him on plain paper so that he could differentiate between the two.

Those brows were still furrowed and out of the blue he says

“But we can go down to the garden in Laguna City and plant some pumpkin seeds.”

“Only the gardener does gardening there Abhay. Not everybody goes and plants whatever they want to.” I said.

Those brows dug in further, the eyes scrunched up a little as he collected his thoughts and tried to come up with a plausible solution to his problem of where to grow a pumpkin.

Suddenly, the little eyes lit up and he said “I know Mummy. I know what to do”.

“Tell me” I said, indulging him because watching his logic evolve is quite a lovely process and pretty entertaining, at that.

“We can go down to the garden dressed like gardener uncle and then we can plant pumpkin seeds. Then nobody can know.”

I could not resist giving him a huge bear hug with an equally huge smile to match because he was so animated about the whole thing. And this was something that even I would not have imagined coming from him – “We can dress up as gardener uncle”.

Finally he bought the idea of trying to plant a pumpkin seed in a rather large pot of soil right at home itself. Yeah – why ever not ? If we could grow red peppers then there’s no real harm in giving pumpkins a go too. Hmmm … next project !!

We went on reading our little book and all was well until we reached page 18 of the book where Owl tells Pooh that what he is growing is a cucumber and not a pumpkin.

“But how can a cucumber come out from a pumpkin seed ?” queried Abhay.

“Maybe Owl just made a mistake. We’ll know as we read on” I said

“But Owls cannot make mistake” said Abhay “because mummy is a owl”.

"If the owl does not know then the owl must say to Pooh that I don't know. Owl must say that I'll find out the correct answer for you." said the Wise One.

That’s some Vote of Confidence and a huge standard to live up to !!

“Then mummy – you are not a owl anymore. No more, OK ?” said the little guy. Quite apparently, Owls had been downgraded, atleast for the time being.

We went on with reading our little book and on Page 23 we stopped again – this time because Eeyore was staring at a green little ball that had grown on the vine that had grown from the pumpkin seed that Pooh had planted.

“That looks like a tomato Mummy – not a pumpkin” said Abhay.

That did deserve an explanation and I launched off into one – about how the colour too changes as the vegetable grows and what have you. I told him that was the case even with tomatoes – they are green when they are little and change colour as they ripen.

Satisfied with the explanation, we carried on with reading the book and from then on there were no more stops.

After having read the book fully, he went over the gist of the whole story again with a few prompts and nudges from me – basically to see if he had got the story thread.

He had.

Aside of that, he also went on to give me a full length explanation about how a plant starts from a seed.
“First you plant the seed.
Then must water the plant everyday.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – all the days. But only little water – not too much. If you put too much water then the plant will not come out.
Then a plant come out of the seed.
Then the plant also want sunlight and also water so that they can grow.
Then flower comed on the plant.
Then from flower, vegetable growed.
First the vegetable be small and then the vegetable will grow big.
Taaa Daaaaaaaa”

Not bad at all. It had been a good one hour plus of one-on-one time and out of a very simple, mild book – much knowledge had been gleaned.

I simply cannot think of a better way to end this post than by quoting Esther Meynell who once said

"Books, to the reading child, are so much more than just books. They are dreams and knowledge, they are a future."

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05 March, 2008

Sense and Sensibility ......

........... is something Aparna seems to have been born with.

Ever since the time those thought processes started to settle down into forming concrete ideas and she got vocal enough to communicate her thoughts effectively, this has been one thing about her that’s always stood out. Her ability to think out a situation sensibly, analyse it logically and come to a conclusion prudently. Both Vic and me have always felt that she’s been and still is way ahead of her chronological age in terms of mental maturity.

Where during early childhood, she was an extremely serious child, now those quacky humor genes are advertising their presence. But with strangers, till she assesses them and deems them safe enough to exhibit her true self, she remains a shy kid. A kid who opens her shell just enough to see and deliberate as to whether she can throw her shell fully open and emerge out of it with all her different shades blazing.

Peers too have had their influence on her and the little girl who was never ever enamored by Barbie dolls through her childhood now is very much into reading “fairy books”. She’s quite taken in by all those winged, dainty, pretty pixies and imps and “The Rainbow Fairies” series of books rank among her current favorite reads. Having never been a flippant child, things like angel fairy dust or swishing stars out of magic wands bring out a huge grin on that little face now.

Despite all this, that strong sense of “making sense” of whatever she does or plans on doing, still manifests itself deeply. Beneath all those impish grins and laughter which rumbles from deep within her heart, beneath all those humor genes manifesting themselves and springing into action, those wheels in her head are always cranking and turning – questioning, seeking logical answers to any given situation. Her thoughts constantly flow like molten lava beneath a dormant volcano.
The quest is always on.

Recently too, there were two or three incidents that made their mark and had that stamp of “Logic Aparna Style” stamped all over them.

The other day, while watching the Evening News on TV, Abhay went hyper and started to hop all around the living room. He heard on the news that the Ngong Ping Cable Car system (whose operations had been suspended because a cable car crashed during a test ride) was up and running again. He was making grand plans of going on a cable car ride. Vic mentioned to Abhay that we could go on the cable car once summer began. Aparna, in the meanwhile, was just observing and was totally non committal even when Vic asked her if the idea of a cable car ride sounded good to her. She kind of left us wondering about her total lack of enthusiasm about the whole deal. We thought it was probably because she was worried that the cable car might come crashing down again or probably because she was worried that there might be some glitch in the system (to her credit, there indeed have been plenty of such glitches which have left people suspended and literally hanging in mid air till the glitch was sorted out) which might leave us suspended in mid air over a valley. Surprisingly, it was neither of the above. She told us why she was not too hot about the idea in a very calm, collected manner. It was because she was worried that she would end up throwing up time and again while on the cable car ride because of the altitude and because of the fact that she does indeed have trouble with air sickness. “Happens quite often on the plane so what is to say it will not happen on the cable car ride ?” was her query. “Atleast in the plane, there are toilets where I can clean up. How about the cable car where there are many people travelling in such a small space and no toilets to clean up in if something like that were to happen ?” she said.

Those two questions made a huge amount of sense and the lack of enthusiasm and the doubts that she harbored seemed so very valid.

Another incident took place yesterday. This week is a Book Week at their school. Today, the children had the option of dressing up as their favorite book character. A whole group of girls in Aparna’s class, after having deliberated the issue, had decided to dress up as fairies. Each one a different fairy from the range of The Rainbow Fairies. Originally, Aparna had chosen to be Nina Ballerina but this had to be scrapped because she would have had to dress up in a sleeveless frock. Given the cold weather conditions and the fact that she’d been unwell over the last week and early this week (she’s still on antibiotics), a sleeveless frock seemed quite inappropriate.

I broached the idea of her dressing up as one of the other fairies who wear a trouser and a top. That way she could wear her thermals under the top and could stay warm. I knew this explanation would appeal to her common sense and sure enough it did.

On Monday, both me and Aparna were looking through the whole list of the Rainbow Fairies in an attempt to find one that was dressed in trousers and a top. We found three of them and she went off to hunt in her wardrobe and finally decided on Izzy the Indigo Fairy. On Monday evening, when she got back from school, she was in an absolutely excited and totally tickled pink about something. I wondered what it was but did not press her for an explanation because I knew the excitement would build up to an extent where she would, by herself, come and tell me about it. And she did, a while later.

Apparently, one of her friends had suggested to all the girls that they could carry small fancy pouches when they came to school dressed as fairies. Each pouch would contain talcum powder and whenever they came across a whole group of kids they could all take a handful of talcum powder and toss it at the other group of kids and tell them that it was “angel fairy dust”. She was quite agog about the idea.

Yesterday, I was working on the top she was to wear to school today. Because the top was a plain blue, I was trying to use a bit of glitter glue on it and some sequins on her denim jeans to give the whole thing a “fairyish” look. And she was looking at the cute little white pouch that she’d set aside for the talcum powder thingy and suddenly the brows furrowed, the lips pursed and the wheels in her head began to spin at a furious pace. It was probably at that moment, as I looked at her, that I knew that the whole talcum powder idea was just about to be tossed out of the window and sure enough, after a few minutes, there it was. “Are people allergic to talcum powder ?” she asked. “I mean – not all the people, but does it happen that people may be allergic to talcum powder or baby powder?” she asked. I told her that I’d not heard of people being allergic to talcum powder or baby powder per se but that in some people it does set off bouts of chain sneezing. Talc powder or baby powder being so fine, it does irritate the nasal passages in some people and sets them sneezing. “Oh !! Then I’m not carrying any in my pouch” she said. “If we go about throwing talcum powder on people and suppose – just suppose OK mummy – suppose someone starts to sneeze and goes on sneezing – gee I don’t want to do that to anyone.”
So end of the day, or rather the beginning of the day, this morning, the little Indigo Fairy went off to school with wings and a wand – and no talcum powder. :-)

I was quite touched by the fact that consideration for others was indeed among her priorities. At this age, to be able to think and consider as to how your actions might affect the people around you is, I think a good enough start.
Instead of jumping into the pool headfirst without checking if the pool is indeed deep enough - to weigh a situation and to think about the pros and cons before committing oneself to anything is a pretty good habit to cultivate. That way, things like impulsiveness or rash decisions are minimized.
And she pretty much amazes us by the depth to which she thinks about things that may, on the surface, appear so trivial.

She did show her shades of humility last year at the Celebration Assembly at school. Consideration for others is something that is taking a strong hold now. And level headedness, like I mentioned earlier, seems innate in her.

Vic casually mentioned to me the other day that there have been situations recently when Aparna sometimes makes more sense than both, me and Vic put together.

Like Anne Frank once said

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."

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