Monday, July 28, 2008

The One Movie

Lots of things happening.... and I am scrambling for time to blog.... all those thoughts in my head are not finding an outlet and that is driving me crazy!

Meanwhile, here is something I always wanted to ask you all...

If somebody told you that you are allowed to watch just one more movie in your life. Just one. Which movie would you suggest to that person?

If somebody told you that he/she is allowed to watch just one more movie in his/her life. Just one. Which movie would you recommend to that person?

I have many favourites... but right now, I can confidently say - "The Shawshank Redemption". For the pure thrill, ecstasy, agony, excitement, horror, pity, revulsion, exhilaration, disbelief, joy - and for the superb ending.

Which is your One Favourite Movie? Do let me know. Any language is okay. You can take it up as a tag, or leave your choice in the comments section.

I am waiting!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Teddy Bears

Puttachi has five Teddy Bears. The four smaller ones are gifts and hand-me-downs. We bought the big one for her because she saw it at a shop and hugged it and didn't let it go. This was about 3-4 months ago.

Shortly after the big Teddy Bear came home, she would pretend to pat it to sleep just like I pat her to sleep. Around this time, I introduced her to a book from the Disney Babies book series, "Baby Mickey's Toys". Basically, Baby Mickey has lots of toys and one of the toys is a Teddy Bear. So at the end of the little book, Baby Mickey hugs his Teddy Bear. Whenever I read this to Puttachi, I would hug her and show her how, and then give her one of her Teddy Bears to hug.

It must have started then. This craze for Teddy Bears. She has been particularly attached to her Teddy Bears, but from the past couple of weeks, her craze has reached dizzying heights. She dreams of Teddy Bears. She spots Teddy Bears everywhere. In shops, on roads. Even the car-driving bear in the Airwick ad... and videos of herself with teddy bears.... She even spotted a tiny Teddy Bear on a cracker packet in a supermarket, and she screamed "Teddy Teddy!" for the whole place to hear, and would have ripped the packet open if I hadn't physically carried her away.

A few mornings ago, she woke up early and was in a very sleepy state - too sleepy to wake up, but not sleepy enough to go back to sleep, so she was cranky and was crying. All I did was say, "Puttachi, where is Teddy?" And her eyes cleared up, her face brightened, and she was fully awake in five seconds.

When previously, she would look at pictures in books, now, all she does is look for Teddy Bears in books.

Sample this.

Me: Look, Puttachi, Zebra! Giraffe!
Puttachi: *looks, turns a few pages, spots a Teddy Bear*
Puttachi: Teddy! Teddy!
Me: Yes, Teddy. Now look at this... Park! What is this? A tree!
Puttachi: Teddy? Teddy?
Me: Yes Teddy is in the other page. Now look at this. So many flowers! Red flower, pink flower...
Puttachi: Teddy? Teddy?
Me: Ok, you finished seeing Teddy, now look at this...
Puttachi: Teddy! Teddy! Teddy?
Me: Ok ok, let's see Teddy one more time.. there you go..
Puttachi: TEDDDYYY!
Me: Yes, now look, what is this? A chimpanzee!
Puttachi: Teddy? Teddy?
... and so on.

And it so happens, that many, many of her books have Teddy Bears in them. So her favourite pastime now is to sit on the bed, ask me to take out one book after another, and then she opens the pages laboriously with her tiny fingers and looks for "Teddy". She now knows which book has Teddy Bears, and which doesn't, and she also knows which book has multiple instances of Teddy Bears. The other day, she took out a book saying, "Teddy Teddy!", and I tried to tell her that this book doesn't have a Teddy Bear, but she shouted and protested and took the book, and turned it around to show me. The back cover had small pictures of the other books in the series, and one of the books had on it - a miniscule 5 mm Teddy bear. Phew!

She also recently realized that the bear in her animal book is the same as a Teddy Bear. The moment she made that connection is worth remembering. She went still for a moment, then her eyes sparkled, and with tremendous excitement, she pointed to the bear and said, "Teddy!"

She drove me crazy yesterday. She placed all her books around me, sat on my lap, and said, "TeddyTeddyTeddyTeddyTeddy.." at the rate of about 70 times per minute, for about twenty minutes and looked at every Teddy in every book repeatdly until I actually cupped my hand on her mouth, dragged her away and distracted her with something completely different.

Don't be surprised if you shortly find me chanting "TeddyTeddyTeddyTeddy..." - there is a high probability that I might go completely insane.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


On Sunday night, we had been to a Gujarati and Rajasthani Special Dinner Buffet at a restaurant. Needless to say, I ate till I was fit to burst and enjoyed every mouthful.

What strikes me as unbelievable, even to myself, is that being such an avid food lover, and a person who is always looking to taste new things, I had never had a complete Gujarati meal, ever. Dhokla, yes, Gujarati snacks, oh yes of course. But a Gujarati meal? Never. So this was something new to me, and I loved the taste, especially the sweetness in all the dishes.

I have heard people say disapprovingly about Gujarati food - "Oh, but everything is sweet!" Well, everything is not sweet, as in completely sugary, but the dishes do have a distinctly sweet element in them. I can understand if people do not like it, but I, personally, quite enjoyed it.

Actually I have heard people complain about sweetness in food quite a bit. A Delhi friend of mine, working in Pune for a while, complained to me that the chicken preparations in Pune are sweet. I have heard people shake their heads disapprovingly about Bengali food and say that they add sugar to everything. I don't know about the chicken of Pune, but I have eaten Bengali food a number of times in my friend's place, and I have enjoyed it every time.

But what surprised me, was when someone, a few years ago, complained to me that Karnataka food is sweet.
"Sweet?" I said, "I don't think so."
"But you add jaggery to everything!"
"Ah, of course, but that is just a tinge of sweetness!"
"But it is sweet!"

Ah well, I guess what is normal for me is sweet for this person! And then I observed the food that my mom makes. Yes, that slight element of sweetness - is it there, is it not there... that mild. But it makes so much difference! I remember once when my mom was away and I made the huLi, and I tasted it to find that it was not satisfactory. When my mom came back, I said, "Amma, I have forgotten something! Not the tamarind, the salt is okay, the khaara is okay, but something is missing!" Mom tasted a bit of it and said, "Bella!" (Jaggery). I quickly added a teeny tiny piece of jaggery to the huLi, mixed it and tasted it, and lo, it was perfect! The sweetness is so mild that you cannot really make out its presence, but it does make a difference.

A good friend of mine, let us call her K, was my hostelmate when I was doing my post-grad in Tamilnadu. She married a man who worked in Bangalore, and came to live here. In one of her conversations, she told me, "Shruthi, you people add jaggery to everything!"
This conversation was old now, for me.
"Yeah", I said wearily, "just a little."
"But it is definitely sweet. I don't like it, really. There is no point going out to restaurants in Bangalore, I'd rather cook at home!"
In the same situation, I know people who would have said, "Baaaah! How can you eat such food?" But K is a decent and sensible sort, so she said, "Shruthi, how could you manage eating the food in Tamilnadu?"
"I had no choice! You can cook at home, but I couldn't do that, I had to eat in the mess!" I said.
Then I decided to be more gracious. "Oh, perhaps adjusting to no sweetness in your food is easier than adjusting to sweetness in your food, who knows?" I said.

Well, something that I don't even notice in my food, is such a deterrent for someone else!

BUT. Stating that "Kannadigas add something sweet to everything" will be a false statement. Even though S~ and I are both Kannadigas, and from comparatively similar families, our food is quite different. My mom-in-law doesn't add jaggery to any dish. It took me a very long time to pinpoint what the difference was. As always, we tend to find most comforting what we are basically used to, and so I still prefer that imperceptible tinge of sweetness in my food.

Food habits - fascinating, aren't they?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Park and the People

The Neighbourhood Park is one of the central themes in Puttachi's life. It is a very well-developed park, one of the many in our area, but this stands out for its beautiful landscaping and unique design. It is not too big a park, just the right size, I would say. And it is the closest to our home, and so Puttachi gets to go to this park every day.

There was a time when we would carry her in the sling and walk around the park. Then came the era when we would half carry, half hold her hand as she attempted to take unsteady steps. Then we watched her carefully as she took steps on her own. And now? Now we run after her as she sprints towards the children's play area in the park. Yes. Yesterday's little baby now plays on the swing, goes on three types of merry-go-rounds, and slides down the slides.

Puttachi is an extremely friendly child. Her walk in the park is interspersed with "Hi"s and "Hello"s and hand-waving and smiling at random people. All strangers. She has a special liking for couples who huddle together on the benches. New couples, veteran couples, happy couples, quarelling couples - our girl has to stop and talk to every one of them. And she invariably leaves smiles behind.

Her walk is also interrupted by her squatting suddenly to look at an ant, or a fruit, or an oddly-shaped leaf, or even a smudge on the walking path. Only dragging her away serves to break her concentration.

There are many, many children in the park too. Puttachi delights in talking to them. She carries on a conversation with every child, whether they want it or not. Some of them respond in kind, some get alarmed at Puttachi's advances, and hide their faces in their mothers' dress. There are different kinds of parents too. Some of them stop to talk, and we exchange data like ages, number of teeth, and latest activities of our children, and there are some garrulous types, after fifteen minutes of talking to whom, I will be privy to details like how long the labour was, and why the child wears Huggies and not Pampers.

Then there are also parents who look like they have just swallowed a spider, and who drag their child away while s/he is attempting to make conversation with Putachi. I don't understand these types, but well, to each his own.

And there are these over-friendly adults, who come right at Puttachi, and without any warning or by-your-leaves, snatch her up and start cuddling her or covering her face with kisses. The poor thing gets shocked and uncomfortable and bawls. People!

And then there was this 2.5 year old boy who came to Puttachi and started patting her cheeks. His parents told him, "Cute baby, allva? Give her an Umma." The boy dutifully bent down, and before we could even react, gave Puttachi a big wet sloppy kiss... on her LIPS! The parents looked at us proudly as if their son had bestowed a huge honour on us, but the moment their backs were turned, S~ took out his handkerchief and wiped Puttachi's mouth clean :D

Then there was this chubby little white child, about a year older to Puttachi, who skipped and hopped her way towards Puttachi. "Say hello", I prompted Puttachi, but she was busy scrutinizing the child's blonde hair. Meanwhile the child's mother came up from behind her and said, "Say Namaste!" And that left us feeling slightly embarassed. "Hello", as opposed to "Namaste"! I went home and taught Puttachi Namaste that day.

Elderly men and women are particularly friendly with Puttachi. The grandmothers smile and nod appreciatively while asking about her age, and express delight at what a quick child she is, and tell their friends, other grandmothers.. "The kids these days....." Grandfathers, on the other hand, are silent admirers, they just reach out with a walking stick while Puttachi stares in fascination at their mufflered heads. One old grandfather gives Puttachi something each time he meets her. The first time, it was a few coins, and yesterday, it was a mint, which I immediately confiscated.

Puttachi loves the park. And she gets to go twice every day. Once in the morning, and once in the evening. When she wakes up in the morning, I feed her a little something, after which my father-in-law takes her to this same park for the better part of an hour. After she gets back, she promptly comes to me, says "Bow Bow!" and "Kaaka", implying that she saw a dog and a crow at a park, which, in all probability, she wouldn't have. But well, that is the routine. And then I feed her a second, heartier breakfast.

Well, this morning visit to the park has ensured that she has a set of morning friends too. Sometimes these morning friends meet us in the evening visit to the parkand talk to us. Just yesterday, a man who was passing by, jogging, stopped and said, "Puttachi! Fancy seeing you in the evening too! Oh you are her parents" He gushed on. and this kid looks up and bats her eyelashes at him, while I am still reeling with shock at a stranger calling my baby by her name. Then this man told us, "She comes to the park every morning with her grandfather. She is very popular in the park, you know!" "No, I don't know! Are you talking about my baby?" screamed my brain, while outwardly, I was smiling and nodding. My 1 year old daughter already has a life of her own, of which I am not a part! :)

One thing about life with a baby - there is not a single dull moment!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On Reality Shows

I am sure you have heard about Shinjini, the 16-year old girl who was criticized for her performance in a dance reality show, driving her into depression. She has now lost her voice, and the movement in her limbs, and is under treatment in NIMHANS, Bangalore. Her parents blame the jury of the show, and are angry that the media is pointing fingers at them. Who is responsible? Well, I say that everybody is responsible. The parents, the jury, the makers of the show, the channel, and all of us too, the audience who watch and applaud these shows.

It was cute, I admit it, when the first reality show with children was aired. We watched transfixed, marveling at the immense talent of these kids. The TRPs soared, the other channels caught on, and now you have a proliferation of reality shows in all channels, all languages, all kinds (dance/music/talent/you-name-it).

As I hardly watch television, I am not too familiar with national shows. But I get fleeting glimpses of the Kannada reality shows when my mom-in-law watches television. Admittedly, the kids are super-talented, and it is a pleasure to hear a few of them sing. But to put them through all that stress, the competition, is it really fair on them?

I have seen how those innocent faces crunch up with tension when the results are being announced, I see how some of them break down when they are eliminated, I can see the tears and disappointment in the parents' eyes, I can see some parents who get up and start fighting, and then I can see embarrassment on the child's face... really, is all this necessary?

Do they want to bring out talent? Let them have shows, just shows, not competitions.. but of course, the TRPs will drop you see..... I know people who watched the elimination rounds of Indian Idol and American Idol just to see how rude the judges were to the participants. So, obviously, people like to watch the judges put the participants down, and so the programmes have them. TRPs, you see...

A couple of Kannada shows that I have seen have the judges being very soft to the children. They correct them, but very gently. It can be argued that the kids can be praised publicly, but corrected in private. But that is not enough. To put kids through stressful competitions like these is not excusable.

And I don't even want to talk about those dance shows. Little girls, dressed in shiny, skimpy, stuff, moving their body to obscene lyrics - cringe-worthy and disgusting to say the least. I cannot believe that people actually watch it with pleasure.

Everything, everything for that elusive fifteen seconds of fame.

Childhood is the only innocent stage we have in our lives. Why sully this golden period? Let children remain children.
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