Sunday 30 December 2012

Y's unanswerables, and Ads'

I'm reading this book called Cinderella ate my daughter by Peggy Orenstein. I'll review the book once I'm done with it but the chapter I was reading put me in mind of some of Y's tough questions. The book says (I quote):
.....Regardless of how we dress them or decorate their rooms, when they are tiny, children do not know pink from blue. Then the whole concept of labeling kicks in - sometime between the ages of two and three, they realise that there is this thing called "boy" and this thing called "girl" and something important differentiates them. But whatever, they wonder, could that be?
......Until around age five kids don't fully realize that their own identities (and their own anatomies) are fixed. before that, as far as they are concerned, you could grow up to be either a mommy or a daddy. And they don't understand that other people's sex stays the same despite superficial changes until as late as age seven.
Moving on to some questions Y has stumped (and regaled) me with.
When I am big like you, will I still be a girl?
Is Thatha (grandfather) my husband?
When I grow up, my husband will be Anna (Ads).
My friend S has short hair. Is she a boy or a girl?
I want to pee standing up like Anna. Why can't I do it?
Why don't I have what Anna has (she is NOT talking about a toy here!)
When Anna wears a hairband, he looks so cute. Why can't he wear a frock? (Why indeed!)
Why did nobody tell me I'd have to answer such questions?!!
Of course, these are chicken-feed compared to the one I got from Ads. He scans the front-page of the newspaper every morning, I knew the question would come and I was surprised he took so long to ask me. However I was still unprepared when he asked me what "rape" was. 
Kids don't, simply don't, need to know what rape is at this age. Not boys, not girls. When I read of little girls being violated, I am filled with impotent rage. 
Note to self: It's a big bad cruel world out there. Figure out what to tell Ads if he asks you again. I've always answered his questions (even if it took me a couple of days to google and get the answer) and this issue needs to be treated with due sensitivity and caution, especially since we cannot escape the big headlines in the paper everyday. Any ideas, people?

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Empty nest

The children left with their dad for a short holiday to Chennai. I was feeling low for the last couple of hours - of course, they were super-excited! I hugged them tightly, deeply inhaled the scent of them, kissed them soundly. I went downstairs to see them off in the cab. They waved goodbye cheerfully through the windows.
Back upstairs, their slippers had been carelessly cast away on the living room floor. What would have normally got me mutter under my breath (or yell!) in annoyance now elicited a deep pang. Slowly I walked around the house, picking up a toy car here, assorted books there, some scraps of paper, clips and hairbands, dirty dishes....mechanically depositing everything in it's appointed place.
I cleaned the dining table, pulled out a fresh tablecover and adjusted it over the table, knowing it would remain pristine and unwrinked for the next 5 days. There would be no spills or splotches, no books lying on top of it, no markers staining it in big unseemly blotches. I plumped up the cushions on the sofa, knowing that they would remain in the same position for the next few days and would not be thrown on the floor while the sofa became a rocket-launcher, tractor or skyscraper!
The kids' room was a big mess. I easily resisted the urge to clean it up. I let the toys and books and crayons stay littered all over the bed, floor and table.
The rest of the house is immaculate. Beds are made, clothes hang in the closet. There are no toothpaste stains in the wash-basin. There are no stray slippers. I don't trip over random objects on the floor.
And yet the most perfect warm and welcoming room is the room which my kids have made their own. The messiest room in the house awaits its rightful inhabitants. 

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Budding author

Our geek has been writing books. The kind that were written in the old days - yes actually written -with old-fashioned pen and paper and not by banging keys on a laptop. I half-heartedly tried to get him to write on the computer. I'd passed on my old clunky HP laptop to him when I migrated to a sleeker version. He did not take to it for a variety of reasons and I let him be. Unlike most of his peers, he's not very much into tech tools and games. Plus that laptop is so lousy; half the keys are missing thanks to Y and it's battery is on it's last legs.
The books (multiple!) are all started and then discarded. The first thing Ads does is to create the following pages.
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Resources/Bibliography
  • Contents (with page numbers)
  • Glossary
  • Index
By the time he's done with all of these, he's exhausted and bored and the book remains all bones with no flesh!
We've grown sick telling him, start writing the damn book! Then do the preface and acknowledgements and so on. What do I do with this boy? On the other hand, how many 7-year olds know what a foreword and a preface is? :)
Most of the books have the authors name: Ads. Consultant: Y :) Editor: S and Publisher: Yours truly :) I told him, since I was the one supplying him with a regular and everlasting supply of A4 sheets for his books, I should be the publisher :)
I'm also thinking of buying shares in ITC's paperboard business!
Leaving you with some sample pages and a letter to Santa Claus.
Intro page to his Enclyclopaedia

Sample contents page with page nos

Part of a foreword that I wrote for his book

Letter to Santa asking mainly, for what else, an encyclopaedia!

Friday 14 December 2012

Thursday 13 December 2012

Pictures from the blue city

Pictures from our Jodhpur trip are here.

Things I learnt about my son in school

 1. His nickname in class is "Encyclopaedia". Go figure - it shouldn't be difficult :)
2. His pasta is of course very popular among classmates. There's another boy in class whose mom makes great cakes, so I have been asked to out-do her and send a cake for snack tomorrow. Apparently my chocolate chip muffins and banana bread aren't good enough :)
3. He's a lot more assertive and outgoing than I thought he would be. It was quite a surprise! I could hear his voice overriding some others while we were conducting the spelling bee, and once he started arguing with another girl and the teacher had to shush him.
4. Apparently he passes the time by cleaning the classroom floor with a ruler, and plays goofball by falling onto the floor and rolling around whenever they have no teacher supervising. YUCK!!  

The things one learns!

On another note, this is the complete list of all the birds we saw in Bharatpur :)


Tuesday 11 December 2012

Tam-Mum is out!

I volunteered to spend an hour in Ads' classroom working with the kids on their reading skills. Ads' has 3 instructions for me:
  • Don't hug me, kiss me, or otherwise embarrass me.
  • Don't talk in Tamil.
  • Don't call me kanna or chellam.
Needless to say, I scrupulously followed them :)
My obedience and diligence arose due to a recent surprise discovery. For weeks, he has been resisting my attempts to accompany him to the bus-stop. Finally I got suspicious, especially after he meekly allowed S to accompany him. Clearly, it was not an independence thing.
I nagged and nagged until finally he could take it no longer. He hissed, "Amma, you talk to me at the bus-stop in TAMIL!! You call me Chellam and Kanna and you stand close to me when I am talking to my friends!"
I knew my kids would maybe start feeling a wee bit ashamed of me some years down the line. I did NOT bargain for it to happen now :(

Birding in Bharatpur

The last weekend saw us setting off to Keoladeo National Park, previously known as the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. The little fella is now into birds, specifically Raptors. I used to think, courtesy Jurassic park, that raptors refer to dinosaurs only, which is not wholly true :) We drove straight to the bird sanctuary which was unexpectedly scenic and chock-a-bloc with birds. We didn't manage to see too many raptors but saw plenty of other birds including painted storks, herons (4 types), fowl, geese, ducks (several types) and many others whose names I've now completely forgotten. Apparently we saw 25 species - my son tells me so and I am sure he is right. Obviously, if we had hired a cycle we could have gone deeper into the jungle where we could have spotted many more species of birds, not to mention pythons and other such nasties. But it was neither practical nor advisable to do that with 2 young children in tow. So we stuck to the cycle-rickshaws that are the normal mode of transport in Bharatpur. The drivers are extremely knowledgeable about each species of bird. Mostly, they are locals who have undergone intensive training in identifying and describing the birds. Moreover, they are very helpful. Our driver even had some cool tips on how to zoom in and click better pictures :)
We spent a good 4 hours in the sanctuary. We started at 1.30 pm and by the time we finished, it was pitch dark, really cold, and the jackals had started howling deep in the forest!
The next day, our only agenda was to make a quick trip to the Taj. Being a Sunday, the entrance queue was really long and we looked on in dismay, wondering whether we would have to abandon the whole project. We ended up paying some tout 300 bucks to take us in through the South Gate. Later we realized we'd been expertly fleeced, because we could have just walked in through the South gate by paying 20 bucks apiece! Of course, a few minutes later, gazing on the stunning Taj cleared any residual annoyance at having to pay extra - 75 Rs per head seemed like a small price to pay for admiring its impeccable beauty!
It was also our first time on the Yamuna Expressway which was pretty awesome. The road was superb, the facilities at each tollgate (snacks, loos) were well-maintained and both sides of the expressway were lined with green fertile farmland as far as the eye could see. The only thing that made you realize you were in India guessed it...the quality of the driving :(
Sarson ke khet - enroute to Bharatpur
Inside the park - isn't the sky just beautiful?
The wetlands were pristine. This particular view like so many others reminded me of the many "mirror lakes" in New Zealand

Pretty gruesome, a listing of the no. of birds killed and guns used

Painted stork

Yamuna E-way

The Taj - sigh :)

Wednesday 5 December 2012


Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer are the cities we have visited in Rajasthan and S and I were keen to complete our tour of the state by visiting Jodhpur. Sure, there are lots of other places worth visiting in Rajasthan - we haven't done Bikaner, Ranthambore, Sekhawati, Pushkar etc. But to be very honest, I'm kind of done with the state. There's only so much royalty and architecture and heritage that one can digest and I guess I've had my fill of it. Plus keeping the various royal families, clans and dates straight in my head was not happening! I always tell friends and relatives who are planing to visit Rajasthan to try to avoid going the whole nine yards and visiting all the cities in one go. It gets extremely overwhelming and at the end of the week or 10 days, one is exhausted to say the least.
In any case, we had Jodhpur to see and a nice ITC hotels free night voucher to be used! So we went ahead and booked ourselves into one of Jodhpur's swankiest properties. The only advantage of having a travelling husband :) Jodhpur is a convenient overnight journey from Delhi. We boarded the train at 6.30 pm from Gurgaon, and reached Jodhpur at the unearthly hours of 4.45 am! It was cold...brrrr.....and the hotel pickup failed to arrive. It was not a pleasant experience haggling with the taxi-wallahs who on hearing the name of the hotel, promptly charged us at triple rates! We reached our hotel around 5.30 am and were happy to warm ourselves with some warm cocoa (for the kids) and hot chai (for the adults).
Our room was actually a suite with 2 TVs, 2 bathrooms and so on. The restaurant on the same floor had a superb view of the Balsamand lake over which the palace-hotel had been built. Hurray for private lakes that don't have boating facilities, food vendors and trash - this was my only thought. The large lake was pristine and clean, enclosed by stony hillocks and really, it could have been anywhere in the world but India; it was that clean, calm and unspoilt.
Having failed to get the kids to make up for lost sleep, we decided to set off as early as we could to see what there was to see in Jodhpur. Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada (cenotaphs of the Jodha Marwars), Umaid Bhavan palace (the part that has not been turned into a Taj Hotel) and Mandore Gardens are part of the standard itinerary. Mehrangarh Fort was quite impressive, and not just because it made for a majestic sight on a cold crisp winter's day, the golden yellow sandstone looking even warmer by sunlight and countless flags of the princely state of Marwar fluttering in the brisk breeze. It was impressive because it had good signage everywhere for visitors, clean loos, audio guides and was generally extremely well-maintained by the Trust that runs it. In addition, there was a standard guide fee to be paid at the entrance kiosk itself which was a relief as one did not have to haggle over a guide's services.
The fort also was the first place in so many years that my kids were scolded in public by someone other than family! They had been behaving in a pretty pesky manner and I am afraid both S and I have to take the blame. They were tired, sleep-deprived and then we bring them to a boring old fort! I broke several of my own cardinal rules about travelling with kids! The minimum I could have done (and in our defence, this is something we would in the normal course have done - well, we were sleep-deprived and tired as well!) was for one of us to have taken them outside the museum and entertained them while the other person walked around and listened to the guide. Since we did not do so, they were mightily scolded by another guide who said "Main tumhe choohon ke kamre mein lock kar doonga!" The white lady next to him looked shocked - probably she was wondering how to reach Child Services!
We stopped for lunch at this place which served an awesome Rajasthani thali. While the kids stuck to boring and safe paneer and naan, S and I indulged in gastronomic delights like Gatte ki sabji, Ker-sangri, Kadhi and Bajre ki roti. Bliss!
Back at the hotel, we watched the sun setting over the lake and hillocks before turning in early. It had been a long day.
We didn't do much the next day except for a fruitless trip all the way to Guda Bishnoi Lake to see migratory birds. There were more birds back at our hotel grounds! Ads was quite disappointed, as was I. But the silver lining is that we are going to Bharatpur next weekend and hopefully that will make up for lost time! Ads is super-excited at the prospect of seeing the many birds of his dreams :)

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Raising Multilingual kids - post on Mom's diaries

My latest post on Mom's diaries is here. I tried to edit and paste but there's something awry with the formatting, so just posting the link for now.
In our case, multilingual is actually trilingual :) But I think the same rules hold. I learnt a lot from my Brazilian friend in the US. She was a naturalized American and her kids spoke Brazilian Portugese, French, Spanish and English!