Friday, May 26, 2017

Ten

Puttachi turned 10 on 23rd. Yes, TEN. Double digits.

This growing up. It is delightful and terrifying, joyous and heartbreaking -- all at the same time.

To all the readers who've been with me since the beginning of the journey with Puttachi, and those who joined along the way - thank you. I would have noted and documented whatever I did anyway, whether anybody was reading it or not. But the fact that people were enjoying it, appreciating it, and drawing strength from it -- it made my attempts even more meaningful.



Monday, May 01, 2017

Hawaii - Day 5, 6 and 7

Day 5 - We went to Pearl Harbor (Puttachi was very interested in it because she'd read an article on it) We did go inside and see the place, but unfortunately, we couldn't get a seat on the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial (just call it bad planning). Puttachi was deeply disappointed, but she and I decided to be content that we did get to go to the site. There were other museums too, which we couldn't see. Ah well, anyway. As I said, some bad planning, and some bad decisions. What is a holiday without that, eh?

Then we went snorkelling in Hanauma Bay.


All the snorkelling experiences I had heard of involved going in a boat to the middle of the ocean, and a kind of guided snorkelling experience. But this was different. The friends we'd been with had done it before, and so, based on their experience, we rented gear, and just got into the bay by ourselves. Getting used to the snorkel, and more than that, getting used to breathing through your mouth is not at all as easy as I thought. After a few mouth breaths, the body screams for a nose breath, and to tell your brain to shut up and not panic is not that easy (needs time and patience, which we didn't really have.)

So not only did it take a while to get used to it, but the breathing in and out failed me when I was in 6-foot deep water and I panicked and clung to S at the same time that Puttachi had a mini-fright and she clung to S too, and he was amazingly collected and cool in the crisis (and earned my renewed undying admiration) as he led us calmly to shallow water. That was it -- I had had enough of it (besides I can't see very clearly without glasses, and I wasn't wearing lenses and so I couldn't really appreciate whatever fish I saw.) I went out onto the beach, and then Puttachi went back in again with S and had another little fright, but came back fine. I can see how snorkelling might be a good experience, but I think I'm done with it (until next time of course, haha).

Day 6 - I had hoped to do the hike to the Albatross sanctuary (this was what I'd been hoping for, really, the most) - but heavy rain washed out the whole day. We did give it a try -- the rain stopped for a bit, and we went to the starting point of the hike, but it was a dirt track, and extremely slippery. So we just came back. And good that we did, because it rained again heavily.

The good thing was that we got to experience a real tropical thunderstorm after such a long time, after the "fake rain" (as Puttachi calls it) of California. And it was nice to curl up in a hammock and read, as Puttachi demonstrates here.


We walked a little, to the nearby Makaha beach, and the kids played in the sand. And I successfully got a picture of the gorgeous blue-green that I wanted to capture:



In the evening, we went to the beach again to play in the water -- a little beach three houses away from our house. It was like a private beach, and the waves were the best I've seen. Strong and exciting, and at the same time, it was safe.



The greatest plus point was that this remote, obscure beach that nobody knows about (except for the people who live on that little lane) is the chosen hangout for endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. There are boards on the beach asking us not to touch or go near these beautiful creatures. One turtle seemed to be basking on the beach all the time, and a couple of them swam with us, even brushing past us oh-so-casually. Truly a wild and unique encounter.
.



Day 7 - An early start, a last cup of tea on the fabulous patio overlooking the ocean, and then off to the airport.

Hawaii - Day 3 and Day 4

Day 3 - Waimea Valley. Primarily a botanical garden, this was a beautiful, soothing haven of green. It was drizzling throughout, and was a true tropical paradise. Saw many familiar trees, and many strange ones that I'd never seen before.
Was a sight for my eyes - they might not look so spectacular to those of you who live in tropical areas, but for me, starved of this thick, dense, wild kind of greenery, it was like going home.





After that, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Touristy place, but they've done it up well. And you can really spend days here if you are so inclined. You can experience a sample of the culture of different Polynesian islands (Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and so on) in each little village. There are popular shows by talented young people (many of who study in the university on the island). There are cuisines you can taste, dances you can learn, traditional games you can play, canoes you can ride, traditional crafts you can learn, things you can buy - and many more touristy things to do.
Only one picture from here for you - since most of the pictures have us in them. :) Do click on the link above for a good idea of the place.



Day 4 - I really, really wanted to go to this Albatross sanctuary very near where we lived, but we'd booked a Dolphin encounter at Sea Life in the afternoon, and we knew we wouldn't have enough time to finish the hike to the sanctuary and reach Sea Life in time, and so we just went to Sea Life directly.

There was an aviary where we could feed birds, and at one point, there were 5 birds sitting on me, eating out of my hand (literally) and trying to peck at my hat, looking for, perhaps some soft straw to line their non-existent nests with?

And then we went and saw the dolphin show (which made me bawl very publicly -- full of tears and snot -- to see those wonderful animals forced to jump and show off for us stupid humans.) Yet, I was hypocritical enough to go to the Dolphin Encounter to see the dolphin from up close and pose for photographs. Can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to get close to a dolphin and touch it -- those lovely eyes, and that smiling-like mouth --  how can you not fall in love with those creatures?

Right after the show, we went to a beach right across (Sherwood I think it was called) and wallowed in the water for hours, before going back home.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Hawaii - Day 1 and Day 2

Day 1 - This was a very long day. We left California in an early morning flight, and were in Honolulu before noon local time. We checked into the home we'd rented, and in the evening, went to check out the local beaches. We swam in the nearby Makaha beach. The others went beach hopping, but I went back to the house to rest -- I had a bad  headache. I just sat looking at the ocean and listening to the sounds and felt so much better.



Day 2 - Hiked up Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone. It was a hot day and it wasn't a very easy hike.
Diamond Head (Le'Ahi)

Views from the top:


Honolulu


That evening, we went into the sea again. Okay, not me. I am strictly not a big fan of the sand. I love the sea. LOVE it. But wet sand - I can do without. So I just took some pictures. But this was the last time I avoided the sea. Let's just say I love the waves too much.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Moods of the Ocean

Here are a series of photos of the same two chairs at the vacation home that we had rented in Hawaii, taken at different times of the day, and different weathers.








Hawaii



More than 20 years ago, I read Hawaii by James Michener and was taken with the story and history of the place, and I immediately knew that someday I would just have to visit the place.

Last week, during spring break, we did go. Yes, it was beautiful. But to tell you the truth, it was a slight let down. Let me explain. Yes, it is really beautiful, and all that it is touted to be. It is just that I had imagined this place of wonder, a paradise, an exotic escape - something that had to be seen and experienced. But in reality, it is a combination of Kerala/coastal Karnataka/Western Ghats/Goa. Once again, don't get me wrong - these are beautiful places and among my most favourite places in the world, places that I love to keep going back to. But my point is that Hawaii was not so different!

There are differences, of course. For instance, when the sun is out, the blue of the Hawaiian Pacific is such a light, ethereal colour that I can't stop looking it. Almost as good as the deep rich blue of the Pacific in California that I love so much.

Everything else brought back memories of India. The weather, for instance. You, yes you, who are standing right now in the balcony at 10 o clock at night with only a thin half-sleeved t-shirt on, you are very, very lucky. Even on the hottest days here in the Bay Area, I can't go out at night with a thin t-shirt, because the night invariably gets cold. And even if the night is warm, I have to carry a jacket with me because you never know when the night's mood will change!

Back to Hawaii - the flora was so familiar. I exclaimed at the profusion of coconut trees, mango trees, the plumeria (the place is full of blooming, fragrant plumeria!) and a host of other familiar trees which I greeted like they were old friends.


We went to the island Oahu - which would  not have been our first choice, but we were going with someone who had already been to Big Island and Maui.

Anyway, now that I have gotten all that out of the way, I'll put up some posts in the next couple of days about what we did, and of course, more pictures of the ocean!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The history of Lalbagh's trees - article in BLink

If you've walked at Lalbagh, you've seen, no, experienced those gorgeous trees. But if you're like me, I bet you wouldn't have realized that many of those trees are from across the world, and some are extremely rare. And many of them have a story behind them, and there's rich history in every corner of Lalbagh. I wrote about some of that history in this week's BLink.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Getting your child to speak to you about her day

"How was school today?"

"Fine."

"What did you do?"

"Nothing."

Does that sound familiar? Exasperating, no? But how do you get kids to talk about their day?

Some time back, I read a list of questions that you could ask kids so that they open up to you about school. The questions in that link is a good start, but you can evolve what works best for you, depending on your child's age and interests.

I juggle questions, mix them up, ask some more than I do others, but here is an example of some of the questions I ask Puttachi:

- So what made you laugh today?

- Did you see anybody do something kind today?

- Tell me what the worst moment was for you today.

- Did you feel scared?

- Did anybody bother you today?

- Did you help anybody today?

- Did anybody help you today with something?

- Was the teacher happy or upset with anybody from your class today?

- Did anything make you angry/annoyed today?

- Did anything make you happy today?

- What was the best part of your day?

- If you could change one thing about today, what would it be?

Btw one question that ALWAYS gives me an enthusiastic response is this:
"Did anybody get hurt at school?"  Because somebody always falls down or hurts themselves during play break, and children are utterly fascinated by bruises and scratches and falls.

And when children open up about something, you can follow up on it the next day. For instance, if the child has told you yesterday, "Mr. M spoke sharply to D because he was disrupting the class." Today you can ask, "Was D better-behaved during class today?"

These questions are also a good way to reinforce kind behaviour. For instance, when Puttachi tells me, "G was crying today." I ask her, "Did you try to find out why, or did you say or do anything to her to make her feel better?"  That way, Puttachi knows what is expected of her.

Another thing is, when she starts speaking about her day/emotions/feelings, I try not to interrupt her for any reason. I allow her to retain the flow, though sometimes it is tempting to stop and correct her pronunciation or language, etc.

I'd be interested to know if you've tried something that works for you,



Monday, April 10, 2017

Carmina Burana live

Had a new, very beautiful experience last Friday.

Ever since we arrived here, I've been thinking I should attend a western classical music concert in San Francisco. But honestly I never got around to do anything about it. But when a friend told me that the SF Symphony is performing Carmina Burana, I knew the time had finally come.

My love for Carmina Burana began sometime in my childhood when I knew it as the "Old Spice ad music". I can see some of you nodding - if you need a memory nudge, here it is. That bit is called "O Fortuna." It has been used in many movies too, overused, in fact, as I have heard.

Anyway, I play it often on Youtube, and S and Puttachi also developed a liking for it. I have vaguely wondered how it would be to listen to it live. And now I know, because, this Friday, that is just what we did.

And it was goosebumps-inducing indeed. I'd never been to a concert hall before, and both experiences combined -- it was beautiful. I don't claim to "understand" western classical music though I try. I just enjoy it, though.

Also, since it was a choral event, the 99 singers performed several choral pieces. Varnatt by Stenhammer for instance. Andres Hillsborg's Mouyayoum was weird but fascinating. Puttachi particularly was amazed by it, how they produced all those effects without a single instrument. Puttachi fell asleep mid-way through the one-hour Carmina Burana and later claimed that it was because it was so beautiful that she fell asleep, but yet, I'm glad she got this experience too and appreciated it in her own way.








Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 31 - What I learnt after 30 days of blogging continuously

It wasn't easy, blogging for 30 days continuously. I look at my posts from 7-8 years ago and I'm amazed at how chatty I was. I also note a downward slope in blogging as my published writing took off. I find that I'm increasingly reserved on my blog now. On some days this last month I had to struggle for something to write about. It is not like things aren't happening - they are, and sometimes at breakneck speed. I just don't feel like noting it all down on my blog. Perhaps I've just changed.

There's another reason that I think is the main culprit. The lack of response and interaction on the blog. After the advent of Facebook, I prefer saying things on FB, because of the engagement levels there. I get responses, I get to converse, exchange ideas . . . In the heydays of blogging, it was like that even here. Just open one of my old posts and see the deluge of comments out there. At that time, there was a kind of motivation. Now, I feel I am speaking to a void. I know some readers are still there somewhere, but I know that posting comments is a pain. Why, even I don't post comments on blogs I read. It is so much more easier on FB, even though I keep reminding myself that for me, FB and the blog have totally different purposes. FB is to network, and the blog is to record. And yet . . .

I have some more travel posts pending, but I myself got tired of those. So I'll take a break and then post them.

Meanwhile, I've decided not to subject myself to this enforced blogging for a while at least!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 30 - The Missions of California

An integral part of the history of California is its network of missions. Spanish missionaries stablished them in the later part of the 18th century. The Native Americans were absorbed into the missions and put to work there. Many cities in California have these missions, and during our travels, we've seen several of them - and they all look both simple and grand at the same time. The adobe structure is unique to all these mission buildings. There is one comparatively small mission in Fremont itself - Mission San Jose.

4th grade history textbooks speak in detail about these missions, their ultimate secularization, and their effects on the lives and culture of Native Americans. Students are also allocated a mission each, and they have to do a report and a slideshow on their mission, and study in detail the history of that mission. Puttachi was allocated Mission San Antonia de Padua and she did a decent job of reporting about it, finding pictures for the slideshow.

And it was as part of this education that the children were taken to Mission San Juan Bautista (named after St John the Baptist) on Wednesday.

Some pictures taken from a phone, so please excuse the quality.

Mission San Juan Bautista.
The statue of St John the Baptist, his arms raised in prayer or rapture

But from afar, he looks as if he is picking fruit from a tree (acc to one of the children in my charge)

The Plaza Hotel - rooms for travellers cost $2.50 at a time when most people earned less than a dollar a month. A very fancy place, with stables, a saloon, a card room and comfortable rooms. But privies outside!

But even the privies at the back were fancy - 2 storied! There was a separate walkway that connected the living rooms on the right, above, to a storeyed privy on the left (behind the trees) so that women and children could go there directly without having to face the horrors of passing by the card room in the ground floor

The altar at the church

The pug mark of a mountain line - it came in when the tiles were being set.

The church was supposedly one of the larger and grander among missions.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 29 - A lesson from a child

I volunteer in Puttachi's class once a week to help with some filing. I go when class is on, and I quietly finish my work and leave, and so don't interact much with the students. I usually don't pay much attention to the papers I'm filing, which are mostly classwork sheets of the students. But sometimes, some papers stand out for one reason or another.

This year, one student's work stood out for its sloppy writing, incomplete work, and missing sheets, so the name of the student stuck in my head.

When I was chaperoning for the field trip yesterday, all the kids were out and about, and one boy (who wasn't in my group) came to me suddenly and said shyly, "Thank you, Puttachi's mom."  I smiled and said, "For what?"

"For coming in every week to help with the filing."

"Thank you," I said. "That's so sweet of you. What's your name?"

And yes, it was the same child.

He was the only one in the whole class who thought to acknowledge me. In my eyes, he's a winner already.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 28 - Chaperoning

I went as a chaperone today on Puttachi's field trip to Mission San Juan Bautista. The kids in fourth grade are learning about the missions, how they affected Native Americans, and so on, connected with the history of California, and this field trip is a part of that education.

I was in charge of 6 kids, and once we got to the mission on the school district bus, we were essentially left alone to do as we pleased - 1 chaperone with 6 kids. I dare you to try minding six opinionated nine-and-ten-year-olds with completely different personalities, who each want to do their own thing.

In my group, I had:

2 Hermione-types, who wanted to see everything and do everything, and read all the boards down to the last full stop. They wanted to follow the written guide to the T and find everything mentioned in the guide, and IN THE SAME ORDER. (Full Disclosure - one of the Hermiones is Puttachi.)

1 boy who stated quite flatly that he was on the field trip just because he had heard that there was a Rock Shop (that sold rocks) and an Ice-Cream shop and he wanted to buy stuff.

1 girl who doesn't know English, but I didn't need language to know that she complained bitterly and constantly to the other girl (who understood her) about me. Finally I demanded to know what it was all about, and it turned out that she wanted to go to the Rock Shop too while I was taking them around the mission and telling them about (horrors!) history. This girl cheered up immediately the moment we went to the Rock Shop and remained pleasant thereafter (even when I spoke about history - after all, she didn't understand a word.)

1 girl, the one who understood the girl above, who also declared that she was here for the Ice-cream shop and nothing else. (Btw, it was just an ordinary ice-cream shop.)

And finally, 1 boy - who lost 5 of his 10 dollars of shopping money within ten minutes of arriving, and so, after that, was grumpy throughout, insisting on retracing his steps all along to find the $5 note (all of us had to go with him because the group had to stay together, and no, he didn't find it) The rest of the time, he lagged behind, disappearing suddenly by wandering off into a sidelane or into another room in a museum - generally giving me several heart attacks and causing some severe greying of my hair. He also took ages to finish his lunch (after which he was marginally more cheerful) and spent 20 minutes in the bathroom after that (with all of us waiting outside, because, well, you know, we have to stay together) - and then finally, complaining to me hotly about the 2 Hermione-types because they were taking too long to read about history in the museum ("What is so interesting?")

So to manage the desires and wants of these six, I was pulled in six different directions, and it is a wonder that we did manage to see what we could. And no, we didn't go to the ice-cream shop, and hence I earned the unending wrath of two of the aforementioned.

But yes, chaperoning is so enlightening, and so much fun, that although each time after being a chaperone, I say, "Never again!" I end up doing it all over again!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 27 - Editing

I've written before about my inner editor who wants to edit all my words even before they are on the page. After I started editing professionally, the inner editor became annoyingly omnipresent, but after a while, she settled down into her niche in a part of my brain. Though she does show up from time to time, I am more successful in silencing her for a while, until I'm ready to summon her up.

About editing itself - there's something beautiful about getting a piece of prose to its final, presentable form. With each writer, the challenges are different. And the more I edit, the better I become at recognizing what needs to be done with a certain piece of text.

Also, there are different levels of editing. Some manuscripts need heavy editing, where I need to shake up entire passages and put them in a different form. Some need lighter editing, and some just need a once-over. But each one is difficult in its own way, and I change font styles and sizes during each round of edit to ensure that I've missed nothing. It is tiring, but fulfilling.

Besides, it is a lovely feeling when clients have good things to say about you. Quick link to my testimonial page here!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 26 - Yosemite

I finally got to go to the famous Yosemite National Park late last year, with my family, my sister's family, and my aunt's family (who were visiting from the UK)


The impressive El Capitan


Half Dome

Sentinel Dome, which we climbed

The final stretch of Sentinel Dome. This was unique because I did this with a toe splint and special footwear that I had been wearing, to correct an issue with my foot.

This is the Tunnel View. You can see all the major rocks from here - among others, El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Dome
Panoramic View of Half Dome. In this picture, you can see how the glaciers have carved out a path (and given that dome its unique look) over the years.
This is as seen from the deck at our vacation rental in Groveland.
Puttachi enjoying her early morning solitude



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 25 - The Colours of the Callery Pear

Here in the US, I don't get to enjoy one of my favourite sights of spring - the honge mara (pongamia) bursting with new and tender fluttering leaves of the loveliest green imaginable.

So I find new favourites to gladden my heart.

Spring here is heralded by the arrival of the yellow wildflowers (you can see a pic in this post) and the first blooming trees - case in point, the Callery pear/Bradford pear. The pretty white flowers are a sight to see. (Not so pleasing to the nose though - they're really stinky.)


The nice thing about these trees that they are really pretty in the fall too. In California, fall colours aren't much to speak of, but thanks to these trees and some maples, we do get to see some flames of gold here and there.

Here are some pictures I took in the fall:




 
And here are the ones I took this spring.





The petals sometime cover the ground and look like powder snow. The wind sweeps them up into little piles on the sides of the pavement, and then it looks even more like snow.
Yes, I haven't taken any pics in the summer (with green leaves) or in the winter (bare branches) - next time, perhaps.
- -