Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring Break Itinerary

This spring break, I saw something I'd wanted to see for decades - the Grand Canyon. Along with it, we saw some other canyons too - it was a pretty efficient itinerary, though it was more touristy than hiker-friendly. Yet, this is all the time we had this time around, so no regrets.

Anyway, for anybody interested in doing this tour, here's our itinerary.

Day 1

- Flew from San Jose to Las Vegas
- Rented car at the airport, drove from Las Vegas to vacation rental at Glendale, Utah. On the way, we passed through Zion National Park.

Day 2

- Drove to Bryce Canyon. Did a hike, drove back to Glendale. (To eat - Ruby's Inn is great)

Day 3

- Drove to Zion. Did a hike, drove back to Glendale (Food - lots of options in Springdale.)

Day 4

- Checked out of vacation rental, drove to Page, Arizona.
- Took the Upper Antelope Canyon tour (Tickets have to be booked weeks in advance.).
- Also took the Antelope Canyon Boat tour.
- Drove to vacation rental at Williams, AZ

Day 5

- Drove to Grand Canyon, and back to Williams. (RP's Stage Stop in Tusayan - great sandwiches)

Day 6

- Saw the sunrise at GC
- Checked out of the rental, drove to LV
- Stopped at Hoover dam on the way
- Flew from Las Vegas back to San Jose

So that was it.

Most of these places need more time to really soak it up and enjoy it. But this was pretty good too if your intention is to see them all.

Plus the landscapes of Utah are stunning, so driving is not monotonous.

Stay tuned for details and pictures.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Up close and personal with the bay

One of the nicest things about chaperoning on your child's field trip is that you get to learn cool new things.

Yesterday, I went with my daughter's class on a research vessel on the SF Bay, and the kids got to learn about the ecology and life of the bay. They used fancy-schmancy equipment to fish and touch and observe the creatures they caught, they touched and explored the benthos (the organisms that live in the bottom layer of a body of water), they observed plankton under a microscope (blew my mind), and measured the temperature and salinity of water of the bay.

Until now, the bay for me was just a patch of water near which we live. After yesterday, I see the bay as a living, pulsating, precious, delicate universe!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Music and memories

The problem with having a blog for ages is that you forget whether you've written about something or not. I guess it is similar to old people (and some young people too) repeating stories and anecdotes over and over as if they've never narrated it before.

Well, in blog years (12 I think) my blog is as old as can be, and so my blog is going to take advantage of its extreme age and repeat itself and you youngsters can nod indulgently and forgive it. Ok? Ok.

I am listening to Sonu Nigam's Deewana album (don't ask why) and it immediately took me back 19 or 20 years to college, when we went on a field trip to, among other places, Darjeeling. So our jeep driver Jojo played this on his stereo when ferrying us up and down. I loved those songs and that, combined with the vistas and the hills and the valleys, it created a very pretty picture in my head.

So, whenever I listen to Deewana, I just don't hear the songs. I see hills, and valleys. I feel the emotions (friendship and independence and excitement) and the resultant effect on my mind and body is much greater than for somebody who just listens to the album for just its musical worth.

And what surprises me is that even after 20 years, that feeling hasn't faded.

A related story: After I got back home, I begged my friend (who said she had the Deewana cassette at home) to lend it to me.

She kept forgetting, and I kept asking every day.

Finally, on my birthday, I asked her again. "I really really want to listen to it again. Did you bring it today at least?"

She said, "Sort of."

I said, "What kind of an answer is that?"

She said, "Please wait."

"It's my birthday," I whined.

In a few minutes, my other friends landed up, and all three of them ceremoniously gave me my birthday present. A neatly wrapped Deewana cassette.

I wore out the tape in a decade. Right now, YouTube is doing the honours.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Have you got your copy yet?

Have you got your copy of Manya Learns to Roar yet?



Here's what people are saying about it.

"... a delightful story that entertains, engages, and will hopefully impact many young readers."

"I hope schools can introduce such books in their curriculum at a very young age to encourage being empathetic to people who are not like them."

"The book is so wonderfully written and illustrated with a powerful message - for all ages. "

"Manya is a brilliant portrayal of the turmoils of a ten year old. ... a gripping story that is inspirational to children and a handbook for parents and teachers."

" ... an absolutely important read."

You can find the book 
- At local bookstores
- Autographed copies are available at Funky Rainbow
- On Amazon
- On Flipkart
- On Babanbaby



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writing Workshop for Children

I'm conducting a free 2-hr workshop for children - designed to recognize good writing, so that children can learn to use it in their writing, and recognize why they like the books they read.
Ages: 8-14
Date: 5th August, Saturday
Time: 2:30 to 4:30 pm.
Entry Free
Venue: Aakruti Books, 3rd block Rajajinagar, Bangalore
Email: guruve@gmail.com for confirmation, or you can confirm on the event page below
https://www.facebook.com/events/211287759401133/

Friday, July 28, 2017

Published in Huffington Post!

Perhaps my most-shared article of all time - and I've got some tremendous, loving feedback on this. So pleased I could write this.

My Journey as a Person Who Stammers

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Preorder now! - Manya Learns to Roar

As my India trip progresses, I'm whirled here and there by events and visits and meetings, breakfasts, lunches, dinners -- and amidst all that, this exciting event which, honestly, needs all the space in my mind to process and digest.

Here's the latest - you can now preorder Manya Learns to Roar!

What it is about:

Manya badly, badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film and she knows all the lines. She's sure she'll be a superb Shere Khan.

But not everyone thinks so. Her classmate Rajat is always making fun of her stammer. Her English teacher thinks its risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree. 

The more anxious Manya gets, the worse her stammer becomes. Will Manya lose her dream role? Can she overcome her fears and learn to roar?

This book was a winner in the Children First writing competition, organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts and Duckbill Books

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pictures and experiences - Sunday storytelling at Cubbon Park

Lush green surroundings. Fresh, cool breeze. An energetic, bubbling crowd.

What more could I ask for? I had a lovely time narrating the story of Avani and the Pea Plant this Sunday.

It was an event organized by The Hindu, among many other events - to celebrate Cycle Day. I was there on behalf of Pratham Books.

So many people turned out to cheer me on and support me - ex-classmates, ex-colleagues, childhood friends, blogger friends, my parents of course - it was lovely!

Here are some pictures until I can find some words to describe how it felt! Or perhaps I should just let the pictures do the talking for me.






Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sunday Storytelling at Cubbon Park

Please do attend!

http://blog.prathambooks.org/2017/06/sunday-storytelling-at-cubbon-park.html

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cover Reveal!

Coming Soon!

My latest book Manya Learns to Roar, published by Duckbill Books, in the Children First series. Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan.




Bangalore's weather

The thing about the weather in Bangalore/Mysore is that the weather is a non-issue.

You just don't think of it. You don't need to fight it. It is not constantly on your mind. You don't have to allocate any mental resources into planning your outfit, your footwear, your activities based on the weather. You can wear whatever you are in the mood for. It is not like you sit down to do something but half your brain is telling you that you are too hot or too cold, or your extremities need some covering up or airing.

You can just be.

The fact you don't have to think about Bangalore's weather is the most attractive thing about it.

The only reason that I'm (ironically) spending so much time thinking about Bangalore's weather is that I'm here after two years, and looking at it with new eyes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Photo essay - bench love

I have long been an admirer of benches, and photograph them often. I keep uploading some photographs of benches on a Facebook album. (you can follow my public posts here (https://www.facebook.com/shruthi.rao.writes)

I was asked to do a photo-essay on benches by CafĂ© Dissensus - and here it is!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Avani and the Pea Plant on SoundCloud

Sometimes it pays to indulge your ego and google the names of your books. Look what I found!



The story has been read out (so well!) by RJ Siri of Radio Mirchi (Mirchi RJ Siri), and the information on the site says that this is a part of Lend Your Voice campaign, supported by Paani Foundation.

Don't know anything else about it. If anybody has an idea about this campaign, how and why they chose these stories, etc., please let me know!

The story of my glasses

In Hawaii, I wore my glasses when I went into the sea. (I'd forgotten to take them off.) We were in waist-high water. A particularly large wave took me by surprise, and I went under. I could feel my glasses being pulled away from my face. I flailed around for my glasses, but no luck. By the time the water receded a little - in just two seconds - a thousand thoughts had flitted through my head.

"My glasses are gone. How stupid of me. Have to manage with lenses for the rest ...of the vacation. Can I get temp glasses anywhere close by? Too small a place. Will take time. How stupid of me. How'll I manage? What'll I do? How stupid of me. First order of things the moment I get back is to rush to an optometrist. Which one? The one I went to last time didn't have a good selection. How stupid of me." And so on.


As I turned to S to tell him what happened, I felt something stick-like under my foot. "Watch out, another big wave!" said S, but I just pressed the object into the sand with my foot, held onto S, and plunged in. I picked up the object and came up just as the second wave washed over us. When the wave receded, I looked at the object - and yes, my glasses. Intact!

I couldn't believe that the ocean gave my glasses back to me.

Three weeks later, I was playing basketball with Puttachi. And the glasses fell, and broke. The irony, I tell you.

I've got new glasses now.

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.



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