Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Puttachi is doing in Mysore

Watching the rain....

Exploring the garden....

Weeding her great-grandmother's garden....

....And getting her hands dirty :)

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fifteen Months

I haven't given you Puttachi updates in a while, and since some of you reminded me to, here they are. I seem to have forgotten how to write interesting updates - either because her progress is so overwhelming or that I have so much to say that I don't know where to start!

Anyway here it is in "short".

Puttachi is a very spirited child. Very active and restless, she is nearly always a blur of movement. Even if she is sitting in one place, her hands and feet are blurs. Her curiosity is endless. No object around the house is safe from her scrutiny. She wants to go everywhere, see everything, and test it for taste, breakage, and even for ergonomics! She continues to be very friendly, dazzling everybody with her smile.

She has a vocabulary of more than 130-140 words as I write this. And I am not counting the words that she repeats immediately after us, because that is plain imitation. These 140 words are those that she actually knows.

And when she wants something, she doesn't stop saying the word until she gets it. For example, if she wants a spoon, which btw, is her favourite object now, she goes on saying "phoonphoonphoonphoon...." with her hands and legs dancing to the rhythm, until she gets the spoon in her hand. Only then does she stop. It can get quite maddening - a little hurricane dancing around your legs, chanting loudly, something like "aacheaacheaacheaacheaache..."[Aache - outside] - sometimes your brain just refuses to work until the hurricane is catered to.

Her dance when she wants something is such a unique movement that everybody who sees it comments about it and has a hearty laugh. Her two feet are stomping on the floor alternately, her hands are flapping, palms are doing a round-and-round bulb screwing-unscrewing action, her head is thrown back, her eyes are looking at the ground, her face has an expression of urgency, and she says the name of the objec trepeatedly, like I mentioned before, like a stuck gramophone record. And oh yes, her lips hardly move when she is saying whatever she is. In this state, she is in her own world - I cannot really begin to describe it to you - you have to see it to believe it!

Lately, she has started stringing words together. "Papa elli?" (where's Papa?) "Adu Elephant" (That is an elephant) "Amma taachi" (Amma is sleeping). She also communicates with sign language to get things done. She also understands a lot of what we say, and sometimes follows my instructions to the T. Sometimes her level of understanding and communication takes me totally by surprise.

She is turning out to be very independent. She wants to eat by herself, wash her feet herself, pour water over herself in the bath, she even tries to wear her clothes herself. If I put food in front of her, more often than not, she eats the entire thing herself. [Even if it is something sticky like anna-saaru, dal-rice, etc] The cleaning up is a pain, but she sometimes refuses to be fed, wanting to do it herself. So I am forced to give in. But there are times of course, when she just plays with the food and starts flinging it around, in which case I have to put my foot down.

She also communicates her needs pretty well now, which is a huge relief. She says nunu for water when thirsty, she points to a plate or at the microwave when she is hungry, and she literally drags me to bed when she is sleepy.

Which reminds me, when she is dragging you somewhere, it is just like a dog pulling at its leash. She is strong and she is fast. If she decides to drag you someplace, you have no choice but to follow her.

She is a drama queen through and through. And when she knows that she is being watched, she puts on such a performance for everybody to see. She is also an imitator of the first order. Then there are other funny things she does, like walking backwards towards a seating target, no matter how far it is. She walks backward until the back of her legs occur resistance, and then she sits down.

She loves the outdoors, and will willingly give up food and sleep to be outside.

On the whole, it is tremendous fun with such a hyper little thing around, though at times, I get so exhausted that I remember to breathe only after she falls asleep!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shruthi's Law of Parenting

Just when you think that parenting cannot possibly get any harder, it does.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I read a very likeable book last week - Totto-chan. The author, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, is a well-known Japanese television personality. The book is an account of her own experiences at an ideal school that she attended as a child. Apparently, the author credits her success in life to this school and its headmaster.

Totto-chan (the author herself), a little girl, is expelled from her elementary school because she is "disruptive", whereas actually the active little girl is just following her natural child's curiosity. Totto-Chan's mother then takes her to the school, Tomoe Gakuen, whose headmaster Sosaku Kobayashi has studied educational methods from around the world, and has started this school to run on these ideals.

The school is unique in many ways - the classrooms are used railway carriages, there are no fixed classes, anybody can do what they want to when they like, and there is a focus on doing rather than just rote learning. The school teaches openness, frankness, love and acceptance, and aims to keep the spark in the children alive. The students actually enjoy going to school, and are disappointed when school hours get over!

"Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear."

... Is one of the things the headmaster believes in. Now how wonderful is that!?

The book and the incidents in it are very interesting. Since the language is simple, it can be good reading for young children too. And I think it is a must for parents and teachers.

I found a very nice write-up of the book - here and here.

I can see shades of Totto-chan in Puttachi. She is growing up to be a very active, curious child. She is bursting with energy, and she is so full of life. Reading this book made me wish that there is a Tomoe Gakuen where I can send Puttachi to study, so that the fiery spirit in her doesn't fade.

I'm afraid that is what schools do to us - compel us to conform to the "system", set wrong parameters for success, and turn bright kids into boxes. I know that we, as parents, do have a say in the matter, and it is definitely possible for us to ensure that the spark is not extinguished. But do we really have that much strength to resist the deep-rooted institutionalization that schools have to offer?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Olympics

For me, it all began with the Seoul Olympics of 1988. I was old enough to watch and understand it, and I was very fascinated by it. I would come back from school and sit hooked to the television, forgetting even to go out and play. I watched with a sense of horror as Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal, I watched with glee as Steffi Graf won the Gold Medal, I wanted to paint my nails and grow my hair like FloJo, I watched with bated breath as Greg Louganis hit his head against the spring board.... I remember so many things from that first Olympics. I can even remember the pictures used to represent each event. That set the stage for my love affair with the Olympics.

During our crazy days of trying to be Nadia Comaneci and Jesse Owens, I was quite sure that one day I would represent India at the Olympics. I didn't know in what sport, but I would. As the years passed, of course, my dream came down to just wanting to watch the Olympics some day. [That hasn't happened either... yet.]

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics did everything to fuel my fascination. I cut out the event schedule from the newspaper and pasted it on the back of my bedroom door, and everyday I would check the list to see if any of my favourite events were on, and I would be sure to watch it. The events would go on late into the night due to the time difference, but it would hardly deter me. At that time, it was fashionable to say that you had a crush on one of the Olympic athletes. (though I don't think we called it "crush") And I had chosen Vitaly Scherbo, the gymnast, who won Gold after Gold. I can still see quite clearly in my mind's eye, Scherbo's performance on the rings.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics was marked by the fact that we got a new (colour) television set just in time for the Opening Ceremony (calling the store and shouting at them because they hadn't delivered it yet, and the ceremony was to be telecast the next morning). The events, of course, only started in the evening for us, and so I had to be content with the highlights.

The 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics were nearly non-existent to me. I don't remember why I didn't watch the Sydney Olympics (most probably exams or some such thing), but I was in Mumbai during the Athens Olympics, without easy access to television. So I just read the reports in the newspapers, if I could get hold of one. It was that bad.

But the Beijing Olympics has been an unexpected party for me. For one, I am not going out to work, and so I can watch television all the time. Second, I do not even have school/college/studies. I do have some work that I have to do, but it is something I can do with the television set on. Third, I am in Mysore right now, with a bunch of people, all of them who are crazy about the Olympics, and watching with them all is even more fun. Fourth, the Olympics being held in China, the time difference is hardly anything, and I can watch all the events live, right from morning till night, without having to wait for the highlights. What fun, I tell you!

I like watching the events, yes, but do you know what I like better than that? To feel the palpable tension of the final moments in each event, to watch the athletes react after winning. To watch their faces as they climb the podium to receive their medals. To watch them fight to hold back tears as the flags of their countries go up, with their national anthems in the background. To feel their joy, to revel in their excitement. To live their moments in proxy.

But in my eyes, every Olympian is a winner. You just cannot belittle the years of hard work and sweat and dedication, that enables them to participate in this magnificent show. It is almost unfair to crown one person the winner.

But whatever it is, I love the Olympics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bangalore to Mysore

Some of the high points of my hitherto mostly uneventful life are journeys from Bangalore to Mysore. They have always been special because Mysore means to me - holidays, lazing around, getting to meet grandparents and cousins and aunts, eating good food, and generally having fun.

And the journey to Mysore has always been sweet - the anticipation, the excitement....

My first memories of going to Mysore consist of getting up at unearthly hours to catch the 4 45 am bus from near our home, that went directly to Mysore, with a stop at the main bus stop. So my parents would pull us out of bed and drag us, half asleep, to catch this bus, telling me that I could sleep on the way (which I usually did). There was a corresponding bus (at a slightly more earthly hour) from Mysore back to Bangalore. These early buses ensured that we reached our destination very early, and had the whole day ahead of us. But the buses those days weren't as comfortable as they are now - but they would do - after all, it was a journey of just about 3 hours. I would sleep for the first half of the journey, and wake up when the bus stopped half-way at Maddur. I would then eat the sandwiches that my mother had packed, and then doze fitfully for the rest of the journey. My mother, usually travelling with two small kids and a fair amount of luggage, never got down from the bus during the ten minute stop. But when my father was travelling with us, he would get down to stretch his legs, and I would be paranoid that the bus would leave without him. I would be jittery and keep looking out of the window to keep him in my sight, and my pulse rate would come back to normal only when he got back onto the bus.

But the 4 45 bus service from near our house was discontinued, and then we would have to go all the way to Majestic to catch the bus. But since we anyway had to go to Majestic, we started going by train, because we enjoyed it more. Oh the excitement! Rushing in to the compartment and grabbing two window seats - one for my sister and one for me, better still if the window seats were west-facing (so that the sun wouldn't blind us as the journey progressed). Settling in, keeping the luggage away, removing our footwear and sitting on the seats, and looking out of the windows. Wait desperately for the train to start, and when it did, stare mesmerized at the huge city of Bangalore. Know that we have left Bangalore, at the stench of the city sewage canal. Watch the landscape unfold. The green paddy fields, the bushes and shrubs, and then the distinctive rocky landscape of Ramanagaram. Watch once again as the rocks fade away, giving rise to the same kind of hypnotic landscape, the sapota trees, the coconut trees, the toddy palms, the wild flowers, an occasional lake or stream, a hillock or two with a temple right on top, the stations, some small, some big, but all the same.

None of the stations held as much interest as that of the Maddur station, simply because of the vendors selling hot Maddur vades. How our stomachs would growl and mouths water at the tantalizing fragrance! But our mother would refuse to buy it for us, stating lack of hygiene as the reason. She would say that she would make it for us after we got to Mysore. We would just have to be content to dream about the hygienic Maddur Vades we would get at home, and do with watching our co-passengers gobble down the Maddur Vades and wiping their fingers on the oily paper. Once, just once, our mother astonished us by buying us Maddur vades at the station. We went mad with joy, and wolfed down the oily vades with glee.

But what she did buy for us regularly were the roasted groundnuts, peddled by a toothless old man, mumbling, "Kallekaaaayi, kallekaaaayi." We would buy heaps of groundnuts, and crack each nut laboriously, to eat the delicious nuts within. We would then wrap up all the shells carefully in paper to dispose of later. A few years later, a young boy replaced the old man, and we were told that the old man had died and this boy was his grandson. We bought the groundnuts anyway.

The landscape, meanwhile, remained unchanged, until, of course, we reached the island town of Srirangapatna. We would pass the Kaveri river twice with a deafening clanging, and we would peep out to see how many of the rocks in the rocky river was visible, and exclaim at how much rain or how less of it had fallen that year.

When we had passed the Kaveri the second time, we would grow dizzy with excitement and impatience, because it meant that Mysore was just a stone's throw away. And sure enough, as the first clumps of homes and buildings came into view, we would start putting on our shoes and taking the luggage down, and start jummping up and down. As the train rolled into the station and stopped, we would jump out and rush to the auto stand to find the auto that would take us to Ajji-Tata's house. The superb culmination of a wonderful journey.

But we've hardly travelled by trains in the last five-six years. With roads getting broader and better, and the cars getting faster, we have been driving down to Mysore. But my excitement remains unabated. I love getting up in the cool of the morning, loading things into the car, and setting out on the smooth drive, punctuated only by a stop at Kamat Lokaruchi or some other popular highway restaurant for a mouthful of delicious breakfast, and some steaming coffee.

I guess the journey to Mysore, for me, will always be sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Beetle in the Park

Have you ever seen such a beautiful beetle? It shone with such a lovely greenish-gold glow!

My cousin V found it in the park in front of my parents' home, when my father and V took Puttachi there for a walk.

Oh, have I told you the story of this park? It belongs to the Housing Society of which my father is a member. For years and years, it languished, full of overgrown bushes and trees, and filled with snakes and other animals. It was also a site for illegal and dirty activities. Very often, there were threats of it being taken over for private use by unauthorised people. My father and other members worked long and hard to protect the park, and very recently, the park was finally marked for development. The bushes were cleared, and a walking path and a couple of shelters have already been built.

What a relief! The best part is that it is right across my parents' home. As for this beetle, it was found wandering alone on the side of the walking path.

Disclaimer: No animals were hurt during the preparation of this post and the clicking of the photo. The aforementioned beetle was safely let go in a bush in my mother's garden.
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Friday, August 08, 2008


Did you see the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics? Truly spectacular, stunning, and spellbinding. I watched it live, and actually applauded when the torch lit up.

Thanks are due specially to Puttachi, who amused herself with a bowl, a spoon, and some blocks, allowing me to watch one of my favourite shows, one that comes only once every four years. It also helped that she was quite taken with Jingjing, the Panda mascot. (She is crazy about Pandas now).

Imagine the kind of hard work that has gone into this whole show! It made me feel very sad too, at times. If China can do it, can't we do it too?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

GP Rajarathnam

This year is the birth centenary of the Kannada poet G.P. Rajarathnam.

He has written many, many books, but he is best-known for his work Ratnana Padagalu - life as seen from the eyes of Yendkuduka Ratna (Drunkard Ratna). The entire work, in verse, is written in rustic Kannada style. It is recommended that you read it out aloud to experience the complete effect. It is a very funny, sad, and extremely thought-provoking work. My mom read it out to me for a while long, long ago, until other matters claimed our interest and we forgot all about it. I really have to read the whole thing soon. Ratnana Padagalu has been popularized by well-known Kannada singers, and it is still appreciated and admired.

But the reason why I personally like him so much is because of his poems written for children. You could call them Kannada Nursery Rhymes. I am sure every Kannadiga child knows at least one of his poems - at least "Naayi Mari". His poems are very lovable. Small, easy to recite, and enjoyable too, what with the rhymes and alliterations.

I grew up reciting and singing these small poems and songs... my favourites are "Naayi Mari", "Taata butti tumba rotti", "Putaani Krishna", "Haavu bantu haavu bantu", "Kuri mari byaa", "Namma maneyalondu sanna paapa", etc.

According to GP Rajaratnam himself, he had no intention of writing poems for children. But once, he found himself jobless after doing his MA, and stood in for his ailing father who was a Kannada teacher in a school. He was quite distressed to see the kind of poems in the Kannada syllabus for such small children. That evening, while he was sitting and thinking, a poem, "Bannada tagadina tutturi", came to him without his bidding. He was thrilled with it, and taught it to his students the next day, who loved it too. He then went around teaching it to all the children he knew, until finally, it came to a publisher's notice, who asked him to write a few more poems and published his first collection of children's songs. The rest, of course, is history.

In the introduction to his "Kandana Kavyamale", the collection of collections of poems (!), he has written that these poems were written four decades ago, and they are still so popular, and has asked, what more could a writer want?

He wrote that in 1978. He would be thrilled to know that thirty years after he wrote that, at least one mother is still teaching her daughter his poems. His words are still alive!

His works are available at all popular book stalls.
Sapna Book House has recently published 25 volumes of his children's literature, available at all Sapna showrooms in Bangalore.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


A couple of months ago, we had visited somebody, and they were showing Puttachi pictures in a book.
"Tiger Elli?" They asked her. (Where is Tiger?).
Puttachi looked blank. They were surprised, and they called out to me and asked me how it is that Puttachi did not know Tiger.
I said, "She doesn't know Tiger, she knows "huli" (Tiger in Kannada).
"Puttachi, huli elli?" They asked her.
Her eyes lit up, she pointed to the Tiger in the book, and for good measure, shaped her hands like claws and roared.

I talk to Puttachi almost entirely in Kannada, and most of the common nouns and verbs are also in Kannada up to a sensible limit. For example, though I know that Rhinoceros in Kannada is GhenDamriga and Ostrich is BenkikoLi, I teach her Rhinoceros and Ostrich. Similarly, I call a chair "Kurchi", but a table, "Table", not Meju, simply because that is how I would say it.

But I know lots and lots of people, some who are not even English fans or fanatics, who use English for nouns when talking to Puttachi. For example, they will most likely tell me, "Shruthi, aa hoovu eshTu channagide noDu!" (Look! How beautiful that flower is!), and then immediately turn to Puttachi and say, "noDu, flower nOdu." Why "hoovu" to me and "flower" to her? And this is not a one-off incident.

I first wondered if this was a Kannadiga trait, but the little boy next door told me, "Aunty, sky mein sun hota hai aur night mein moon aur stars hote hain." Whatever happened to aakash, chand and suraj? Relegated to romantic film songs?

At he park I see more than fifty percent of parents talking to their kids in English. Entirely in English. I know that many of them are from bilingual marriages, and English is the common language at home, but the others?

Is it training for school? Is it an effort to sound "upmarket"? Or are there any other legitimate reasons?

Puttachi recognizes both English and Kannada words for several objects now, because I read out the English word from the book, and tell her the Kannada word for it. (And as it happens, she finds the English word easier to say!) Anyway, I am just keeping my speech to her Kannada based, sprinkled with English. And I am not too bothered.

Children are like sponges. I don't think there is anything to worry about that they will not learn English in time for school, if that is the reason. If there is any other reason, I would love to hear it.
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