Friday, November 30, 2012

Whose love is greater?

Puttachi and I are being silly.

Puttachi:  Amma, I love you thousand million crore.

I:  I love you thousand million crore + 1

She:  I love you as much as you do plus thousand million and forty

I:  I love you all that, + 1

Puttachi (giggles, gets the hang of it.):  I love you as much as you say, plus twenty thousand and one.

I:  I love you all that you do, multiplied by two.

She: I do, multiplied by thousand.

I: Ha, whatever you do, I love you more than you love me.

She: Why?

I:  Err.. emmm.....It's just that way.

She:  How do you know?  Are you sure?

I:  (it seems obvious, but is it true?  I don't know.  Aloud, I say). mmmmm...

She thinks for a while.

She: Amma, I think I know why.

I: Why?

She: Because a parent will start loving the child as soon as she is born, maybe even before she is born.  But the child has to be born, and then grow a little and realize who she is and who her parents are, and only then will she start loving her parents.  So because the parents have started loving the child much earlier, they love the child more.

I can't argue with that!

Monday, November 19, 2012

My favourite children's picture book

My favourite children's book has got to be "The Gruffalo."  Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, this is such a delight.  I'll tell you why in a while.

First I have got to tell you who sent this book to us.  Shyam surprised Puttachi and me with these books, sent through the post from the UK.  Three books by Julia Donaldson, and one Activity book.  And me, she sent me... cough, books on learning Japanese.  She knew that I was trying my hand at learning the language, and she sent me some.  A perfect surprise, and totally sweet.

Okay, now about the book.  Written in verse, it is a delightful story of a little mouse who invents a monstrous Gruffalo to scare away predators, and then meets the very Gruffalo of his own imagination. 

The story is adorable.
It is lovely to read aloud - this is one of the very few books I really enjoy reading out aloud to Puttachi.  Such a lovely cadence to it!
And the illustrations - they take you right into the pages of the book.  So bright, so rich!

The two other books, "A Squash and a Squeeze" and "Monkey Puzzle" again by the same author-illustrator team are also absolutely delightful.  The first one has a hidden message too, and the second is perfect for little children who love to laugh when people make a funny mistake.

Puttachi loves all the books, and lately she has been sitting with them and trying to read them herself.  The Gruffalo unsettles her a little.   She wants to see the picture of the Gruffalo, she is so drawn to it, but yet she wants to grasp my wrist while she peeks at it.  Heh heh.. but seriously it is a very cute and yet scary monster.  Hats off to the illustrator who has achieved that effect!

I have not seen it in bookstores here, but it is available on Flipkart

Shyam, thank you for hours and hours of enjoyment with the books!

Which is your/your child's favourite picture book!  Let us know!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reviews of two books by writer friends

This has been a long time coming, but here it is anyway.

I read two books by two writer friends recently.

"Tell a Thousand Lies" by Rasana Atreya.

Nominated for the "Tibor Jones South Asia prize,"  this novel tells us about Pullamma, a dark-skinned girl whose only dream is to get married and have a municipal water connection.  But fate has other things in store for her, as she becomes a pawn in a crooked politician's power games.

Filled with wit, and astute observations about life, this novel is quite unputdownable.  The characters are very well-etched, and I can imagine how difficult it must be to maintain the integrity of a character's identity through a full-length novel, but Rasana has done it.

I think the success of a novel depends on how well you identify and root for the protagonist, and how memorable the other characters are.  So considering all that, I would call this novel a success.

There are twists and turns at every point, and it can keep you turning the pages.  Sometimes you wonder whether such events can really happen, but yes, such things indeed do happen.

There were some parts which I felt was repetitive - especially during emotional scenes where a particular feeling was stressed and re-stressed.  But for all you know, that might very well be the reason it worked to engage the reader in the problems of the characters in the story.  I know how fine a balance it is, to get the right effect, and if you consider all that, then Rasana has done a good job.

Looking forward to her next books :)

"Leap in a Blue Moon" by Ishwar Vedam.

This is a children's book in which the author has woven a story about a girl who is learning about idioms, and then lands up in a place where idioms come to life.  If there is a woman with a green thumb, she really has a green thumb.  And the long arm of the law is really an all-seeing, great long arm which raps law-breakers (oh how I wish we had something like that in real life!)

I think it is a fabulous idea, great imagination too. The story itself is an exciting adventure, with a very satisfying conclusion.  The language is good, clear, but not affected - just right for everybody, not only kids.

The dreamlike quality of the story affected me - even after I stopped reading for a while in the middle, I would keep thinking about it while going about my work.

The negatives - I would have gone in for much tighter editing - I think the reading experience would have been nicer if the book had been a few pages smaller.  The dialogues - in some places I felt that it could have flown more naturally. 

But worth a read.  A good gift for a young friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Making up jokes

Puttachi loves making up her own jokes. Here are two examples

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...
Humpty Dumpty fell down.
Humpty Dumpty broke....
But, he smiled!
Because............. a chick came out!


Puttachi: So I was talking to Little Puttachi (her imaginary friend) and I was telling Little Puttachi how I like to sleep for ten minutes, and so I set the alarm for ten minutes and lay down to sleep every day.  But some days, I fall asleep in one minute, which means I get to sleep for nine minutes.  Then on some days, I take two minutes to fall asleep, which means I get to sleep only for eight minutes until the alarm goes off.  So what shall I do?  I asked Little Puttachi.  Do you know what she said?  She said, "Set the alarm after you fall asleep!"


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The right moves

Children force us to do things we've never done before, or never thought we'd do, or rather not have done.   In my case, the biggest thing Puttachi did was to make me talk.  In these 5 and a half years, I have talked twice as much as I've done my entire life.  And she's not letting me stop either. 

And now she's making me play chess.  I never really liked chess, mainly because I had to use my brains for it.  But a few months ago, they created a human chess setup in the park we used to go to.  Naturally Puttachi wanted to know what it was all about, and when I explained as best as I could, she wanted me to buy a board for her.  Her birthday was approaching, and my co-sister asked me if there was anything particular Puttachi would like for her birthday, and I told her that she's been asking for a chess set. 

So that is what she got from them.  (It is another story that for some reason, they couldn't give her the present in time, and she ate everybody's head until she finally had the board in her hands.)

I took it easy, actually.  I assumed she was too young for it (shows how little I know of other children) and didn't bother to teach her at first.  But she insisted, and I taught her the basic moves.  She seemed to get the hang of it, but preferred playing her own version of it where all the pieces are friends and don't hit each other.  I didn't bother to insist that she play it "correctly" because I still thought she was too young.  In retrospect, this was probably a good thing I did, not pressing her to play it the right way, though the reason I did it was wrong. Playing with the pieces made her familiar with them.

And then suddenly, a month ago, she wanted to play chess the "right" way.  We started playing then.  Of course I beat her every time, but I explained every step to her, and at times, allowed her  to go back a few moves and rethink her moves.  She seemed to be getting it, but I was still doubtful.  And then yesterday, when I made a move, she said, "Oh Amma, watch out.  Your bishop is in danger from my knight."  And yes, she was right, and I hadn't noticed it (I am not a very good player.)  And I was impressed, and told her so.  She was pleased too, and she suddenly realized that beating me might not be that far off into the future, and she is all fired up now to play better. 

And yet again, I learned two things from this episode.

1) Never, never underestimate your children's capabilities.  Never.  Give them the benefit of doubt.  Never think they are "too young."  You never will know until you try. 
I make this mistake over and over again, and so I thought I must write it down for  myself, to read and remember.

2) If that park had not created that human chess board, we would never have gotten around to talking about chess since I thought it was "too early."  And now look how much Puttachi enjoys chess. 
Random happenings lead to unexpected sequences of events that lead elsewhere.  You can never tell what will inspire a person (not only children, holds good for adults too) and so it is essential that you give yourself every single opportunity to explore the world,  meet people different from you, with different interests.  You owe it to yourself.  And I am writing this down again for myself, because I can be very lazy about moving myself out of the comfort of my home.  Even when I think that I should do it for my daughter, I am not sufficiently inspired at times.

Time to shake things up!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A travel article

I received a cheque from  Deccan Herald in the mail, and had no idea what it was for.  They usually have a slip with the cheque and I googled the title from there, and found a travel article that was published a month ago in Sunday Herald.  I had read the other features in that same paper, but had missed my own article.  *rolling eyes*  Anyway, this is the article.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Amusing Anecdotes with Scientists

One of my grandfather's books, "VijnanigaLodane RasanimishagaLu" (Amusing Anecdotes with Scientists) is perhaps his most popular.  It has undergone multiple reprints ever since it was published.
Many readers of this blog have written to me after getting to know that JR Lakshmana Rao is my grandfather, and have told me how much they value their copy of this book.
My uncle has translated this into English, and we are looking for publishers.  If you, or somebody you know is willing to publish this in English, please mail my uncle at jagalur AT gmail DOT com, or leave a comment on this post, and we can take it up from there
The following is from my uncle's blog
My father, J R Lakshmana Rao, wrote a book called ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳೊಡನೆ ರಸನಿಮಿಷಗಳು (vijnAnigaLoDane rasanimiSagalu) - a collection of humorous anecdotes involving scientists. It was a great success and saw at least seven reprints.
At my father's suggestion, I have translated that book and here is a sample of three incidents.
Mr. Ramamurthy, the great cartoonist famous through his Mr. Citizen cartoons for the Deccan Herald created brilliant cartoons as illustrations for the book.
The way it came about itself is interesting. A friend of my father, who knew Mr. Murthy, requested him to provide the illustrations. Like the true artist that he was, he had to be coaxed and finally agreed to provide some ten illustrations. He had to be provided the pictures of some of the lesser well known (to him) scientists so that he could draw using them as reference.

The anecdotes apparently caught his fancy and he ended up doing 52 cartoons that enhanced the book immensely! 

I am looking for a publisher to take up the publication of the English version. Anyone interested may please contact me. Suggestions are welcome too!

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    

The Boy who Would not Let Read

If you are asked to name the three greatest mathematicians of all times, it is difficult to leave out the name of Karl Friedrich Gauss, the German mathematician, physicist and astronomer who lived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
As a professor at Göttingen for many years, he brought name and fame to the university. His mathematical acumen was recognised from his childhood. He was a child prodigy.
Gauss’ father was an assistant to a civil contractor. He had the habit of sitting in the courtyard of his house and doing all his paper work. He was sitting there one payday and was paying the labourers their weekly wages. He called out the name and mentioned the wage paid to each labourer. Then he noted it down in a ledger. After every one was paid, he totalled up the wages. He read out the numbers aloud while he did so. When he finished the list and wrote down the total, Gauss who was playing in the yard said, “Your total is wrong. It falls short by eighty-three Marks.” The surprised father did the addition again and found that the child was right. Gauss was just a toddler of three at that time.
A few years later the boy started going to school. One day the teacher was in no mood to teach but could not let the students off. He hit upon an idea to keep the students busy. He asked the boys to write down all the numbers from1 to 200 and add them up. He was sure that this would keep them busy for quite some time. He then settled down to read a novel, sure of an hour of peace and quiet. To make sure, he added, “No mistakes! Once you are finished, check it all again.”
            He had not read even half a page when Gauss stood up and said, “Sir, the answer is 20,100”, and the answer was right. The teacher, in shock, asked, “How did you do it so fast?”
            Gauss said, “I used the formula”:       (n × (n +1)) ÷ 2
                                                            = (200 × (200 +1)) ÷ 2
                                                            = 20100
            “Who taught you the formula?”, wailed the teacher.
            “I arrived at it myself”, said the boy.
            “Just now”, said the little imp.

Ah! That Elusive Word . . . .

A student of Norbert Wiener, the renowned mathematician and father of Cybernetics, had great admiration for him. But, he had not had an opportunity to talk to him. One morning, when the student went to the Post Office, Wiener was there. He was looking intently at a sheet of paper on the desk. The student, being an ardent admirer, saw immense concentration in that look. He did not know if he could talk to him. Wiener suddenly left the paper, walked to the opposite wall, stood there for a moment and returned to the paper and started staring at it again. The admirer still did not know if he could talk to him. Wiener left the paper again but, this time, walked directly towards the admiring student. Now he had to, at least, greet him. He did. “Good morning Professor Wiener”, he said. A smile broke out on the face that was so serious until then. He stopped, stared at the student for a moment. He then slapped hisforehead and exclaimed, “Ah! It is Wiener. Isn’t it? I just could not recall that elusive word, however hard I tried. Thanks!” He now returned to the paper and continued filling the form. 

Different points of view
When the first experimental nuclear explosion was carried out in a desert in New Mexico, all the scientists and officials connected with the atomic bomb project had gathered in a safe place, a good distance away from the explosion site, to witness the test. Both Leslie Groves, a two star general, who was the military director of the project and Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the project, were there.
A newspaper reporter, awed by the explosion, asked Oppenheimer, “What did you see?” A perturbed Oppenheimer replied, “….the end of the world”.
The reporter asked the two star general the same question. “The third star”, was the prompt reply.

Not a Question, a Statement

Paul Dirac was notorious for his extreme taciturnity. Once he gave a talk in an American university. At the end of the talk, the chairman invited questions from the audience. Someone got up and said, “I did not understand such and such in your talk” and sat down. Dirac sat comfortably without saying anything. Everyone was curious and after sometime even uncomfortable. The chairman asked rather hesitantly, “Prof. Dirac, could you please answer that question?” 
“That was not a question but, a statement of fact” replied Dirac nonchalantly.

Friday, September 14, 2012

An open kitchen

As a cook, I suffer from a severe dichotomy.  One part of me loves cooking, and the other part hates to spend too much time in the kitchen.  So I am always looking for shortcuts and quick-fixes so that I can get the tastiest and healthiest food ready in the least possible time.  I feel particularly bad when I feel I am missing out on family time.  In the house we lived in previously, it kept coming to my mind that an open kitchen would solve this problem.

On our house-hunt, when we looked at this apartment that we ended up buying, we liked it because it fulfilled a majority of our requirements in all respects.  But we knew that the apartment would require some major rework for it to suit our needs.  The greatest problem was with the kitchen and the store room, and we found that the simplest and logical solution to make it airy and spacious was to break open some walls, combine the kitchen and the store room space and make it a wide open kitchen.

So, a lot, and I mean a lot of work later, the kitchen has been modified to suit me, and the best part of it is, yes, it is an open kitchen.  It integrates seamlessly into the drawing room and dining room, creating the sense of a lot of space.

So this open kitchen has made such a difference to our lives, that I just had to write about it.  A major problem in the previous kitchen was that when I was in the kitchen, Puttachi would clamour for my attention, if not for anything, just for me to hear her talk or watch her draw, or be with her when she ate.  Even if I pulled a chair inside the kitchen for her, it was a little congested, and there were only a few things she could do in there. 

Now, with this kitchen, complete with a kitchen table, Puttachi sits at the table when I cook.  She talks to me, she eats, and she reads or draws or does whatever she wants to - I am happy because I can be with her, and yet get my cooking done, and she is happy that I don't have to keep running away into the kitchen.   Such a great set up.

The other advantages are all secondary, though they are important too.  When there are guests, I don't feel cut off if I am finishing up something in the kitchen, or if I have chosen a menu which needs me to linger in the kitchen.  And guests also feel free to enter the kitchen and sit at the kitchen table - because the  kitchen is no longer a separate space which is out of bounds.  It makes things more comfortable and informal.

And in general, I feel more connected with the happenings around the house even if nobody is in the kitchen with me.  And this open kitchen has kind of made the kitchen a central part of the house.  We also have our meals at the kitchen table. 

Another associated advantage is that when I finish my meal first, and Puttachi is stil eating, I can rise from the table and start clearing up without making Puttachi complain that I am "abandoning" her.  So by the time Puttachi's meal is done, the kitchen is wound up too!  What joy :)

Of course there are negatives too.  You are forced to keep the kitchen neat and tidy all the time in case of surprise visitors (which is actaully a good thing for messy and lazy cooks like me.) 

You cannot steal a quick bite if there are visitors sitting in the drawing room. :)

And the smell of course.  A good chimney is a necessity for an open kitchen, is what I feel, to contain the smells of cooking.

Another disadvantage is that you cannot hold back the sounds of the kitchen within - for example, clanging of steel vessels, and the whirr of the mixer.  

And I am sure I'll discover more disadvantages (and advantages) as the years go by... but yet, I really feel that these disadvantages are minor when compared to the change in lifestyle that an open kitchen has given me. 

Yes, open kitchens are not very popular in our culture, because traditionally, cooking is a private affair, and the kitchen is a sacrosanct place.  Also, some people are just not comfortable with it, and I can totally understand that feeling. 

But I wanted to share my experience with you, because if you have the temperament and the opportunity, do go in for an open kitchen - it is such a life-changer!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The day is here!

Yesterday, there was an unnatural silence at home, and when children are silent, it makes you worry.  So I ran to see what was up, and saw something that I had been waiting for, for 5 years and 3 months (yeah all of Puttachi's life)

She was sitting, reading a book, all by herself.  Reading, yes, not just looking at the pics - and the key phrase here is, "by herself."  The day is finally here when I can start piling up the books next to her and leave her alone to read by herself and give my ears some rest :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Excess baggage

One of my PG-mates in Mumbai came to the city with three suitcases.  She got the last available accommodation in our PG place, but that room didn't come with much storage space.  So, she transfered her essential items into one of her suitcases, and left the other two in her father's friends house, to collect "when she got more space."  She stayed in the city for 1.5 years, and managed very well with the things she had in her one suitcase.  She did occasionally mention something or the other that was in one of "those suitcases" but it was clear she did not need them.  When she left Mumbai, I went with her to drop her at the railway station.  We took a taxi, went to the friend's house, picked up "those suitcases" and went to the station.  So in the end, those two suitcases with their contents just ended up having a ride to and from Mumbai, and a good hibernation in someone's loft.

Ok, what I am getting at is this - my friend could make do with the essential things in that one suitcase for 18 months.  Yet, she dragged two times more baggage with her when she came.

I have been remembering this ever since our move.  Comparatively, we don't have too much stuff in our house.  Both S and I are very careful to buy just what we need and nothing more.  In fact, the bulk of the stuff is Puttachi's, since I don't know where to draw the line, sometimes.  Yet, her things are much less compared to what I see in other kids' houses.

When we moved here, two of my friends laughed when they saw so many full-length built in cupboards in our new house.  "All the clothes of all three of you will fit into just one of these cupboards," they said.  "What do you need the others for?"

And yet, in spite of having such less stuff, I realize how many things we have that we can make do without.

The weekend before the move, I packed and sent across all the non-essential things, and managed for more than a week without them, and didn't miss them either.  And then when we moved, we took the essentials with us.  And naturally, when we started to set up house, we  unpacked the essentials first, and due to various reasons (not the least of which is lack of motivation and laziness) I am yet to unpack the non-essentials.

Yes, I do remember something from those things, sometimes - saying, oh I wish I had this handy, but the point is, I can make do without them.

How much we accumulate, without even realizing it, when in reality, all we need are just a few things!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In defence: Television

How come Puttachi doesn't watch television?

It is because it is not a way of life in our house.  It is just another appliance that we use once in a while.  When I am bored, I never switch on the television for entertainment.  Most of our television watching is selected, and done after Puttachi goes to bed.  So she doesn't see the television on too often (never on weekdays) and so for her, it is not an option for entertainment.  Doesn't even figure in her list of things to do.

But you let her watch movies and videos and animated songs.  How is that alright?

The two main things I have against television are:
I have no control over the programmes that are aired.
I have no wish to expose her to advertisements right now.  There is enough time for that later! 

Movies and videos - I have control. I know what she is watching. 

As for movies, I always, always watch it with her the first time, guide her through confusing/emotional scenes - make her understand what is happening.  Subsequent viewings - I don't mind if she watches it alone.

But once again, I have rules -

- never on weekdays (barring exceptional circumstances)
- on weekends, no more than an hour or hour and a half per day.  And not on every weekend either.
- and as far as I can help it, no eating anything while watching the screen.

What do you have against watching anything?  TV, movies?

Television is addictive.  It can become a habit.  And I know that when Puttachi is watching a movie, she is immune to everything - sleep, hunger, thirst, even the calls of nature.  If I hit the pause button for some reason, she comes out of the trance, realizes she needs to go the loo, and runs.  What kind of a medium is this that can hypnotize an active child in that way? 

And every hour spent watching the screen means an hour less of imaginative, creative play, physical activity, socialization, reading, crafting...

You're keeping her away from reality.

If all that sexism, racism, stereotypes, violence and sex that we see even on kids' television is reality, then she is better off being away from it as long as I can help it.

She's going to feel isolated from her friends.
She might.  When her friends were talking about "This was on Nick," I overheard her asking, "Who is Nick?"  And her friends said, "Whaaaat, you don't know Nick?"  

So far, she has got on quite well without having any problems.  It might change very soon, but I'll handle that when we get to it. 

She's going to rebel later on and watch a lot of television.

Not if she's hooked on to other more interesting things, in my opinion.

What do you think about parents who let their children watch television?

To each their own - the situation in every home is different, and I, sitting here, cannot possibly pass judgement on anybody without knowing why people choose what they do.  I know how tempting it can be - to plonk the child in front of the tv, and get all your work done, get some much needed alone time.....

But I do think that the harmful effects of extensive TV-watching far outweigh the advantages that the caregivers get from letting the child watch too much TV - so, yes, do take informed decisions, and of course, limits and rules definitely help.

Too much and too less.

The days in my life are largely uneventful - every day is usually pretty similar to the previous one.  Every once in a while, something happens that keeps me abuzz for a while, and then life takes on its regular pace.  I am not complaining I actually enjoy it, as long as it doesn't get monotonous.

So imagine how it is for me the last few weeks.  The major event, of course, being the Big Move to the new home, and all the attendant issues - which by itself is enough to overwhelm me.

Add to that, my parents' departure to the US to visit my sister, the arrival of my aunt and my friend to India on a holiday - both of whom I keep constant touch with and so wanted to spend as much physical time as possible with.  

Add to that the arrival of a little being - my brother-in-law and his wife had a baby girl.  Puttachi's first little sister :) , and my first niece - so that's not an everyday occurence.

And then the book release, and all the hullabaloo surrounding it.

And with all this, a Humungous Cold - that happens to me only once in about 2-3 years - but really grips me and shakes me up, and nearly puts me out of commission for its duration.

And these were the big events - I'm not talking about many many little get-togethers and parties and chores and ... well... what do I say?

3 weeks of all this, and 49 weeks of quiet.  I seriously would prefer it a little spaced out, please.  Familiar?

Book available now

The book is now available on Flipkart and at Reliance TimeOut outlets.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview on Chillibreeze

My interview on Chillibreeze

Comments and questions welcome.

It is "outed" not "ousted" at one point in the interview.  I have asked for it to be corrected.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I don't usually mark milestones on my blog, but this calls for a celebration.  500 posts.  Coming to think of it, it is not such a big number at all for all that I have said over more nearly seven years. 

But what a journey!  How I agonized before publishing my first post!  I was so shy about showing my writing to the world.  I rightly guessed that blogging would cure me of that hesitation, and now here I am, 500 posts later, with a few writing successes to my credit.

In these 500 posts you can see my journey from a clueless and irresponsible new bride, to the mother of a five-year old, someone who doles out hot (albeit shapeless) phulkas as effortlessly as she doles out unsolicited parenting advice (heh.)

You can see me transition from someone who wrote to escape the boredom of a job I wasn't interested in - to someone who writes for the love of writing.

A large part of what blogging did was to open me up to an entirely new world out there - to people who have affected my life profoundly in ways I would never have imagined.  There are people who wouldn't ever have come into my life if not for blogging.  Windows have opened that led to doors, and more doors, and with that came more people - and the learning, the discovery, the joys - phew!

I'll stop the gushing - I'm sure you get the picture.

Some of you have been with me all through that time. Some have joined me later, a few have held my hand in the beginning, but you've moved on since.  Some have been silent, some of you have constantly spoken to me. But each one of you has contributed to me and my writing in some way or the other, so thank you all for being there.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Book is here!

Edited to add: Report in The Hindu
And so the book has been launched, and it is really nice to hold a book with my name on the front cover. :).

That's me on the extreme right, with (L-R)  Jahnavi Barua, Teresa Bhattacharya, Usha KR, who released the book.

Another picture, with Rachna Chhabria.  Both our stories make up this book.

 The front cover of the book

The back: 

It says about my story:   
This delightful story tells you how little Meenu sets out on a mission to save this arid world by bringing back stories that fill our lives with colour and delight.  Shruthi Rao succeeds in exploring the profound world of creativity and imagination using terms that even a child can understand.

Soon, I will update the blog with details on how and where you can buy a copy of the book.

Edited to Add:   The book is now Available on Flipkart and in Reliance TimeOut outlets

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Story Lady - Book Release

The book with my prize-winning story, "The Story Lady" will be released on Friday, Aug 10.  Here is the invitation.  If you can, please be there!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


This weekend, we moved to our new home.

I'm writing this sitting in a room piled with belongings, and outside, work still goes on - I can hear talk, banging, drilling and I can smell paint. 

The house is not quite ready yet, but we moved in anyway.

Our previous home was special to me.  It was the first home I managed on my own. (We lived with S's parents until then.)  It was the place I learned, experimented, unlearned and blundered in.  We had a lot of lovely times there.  Of course there were bad times too, there always are, but I prefer to remember the happy ones ;)  It was small, but convenient.  [As Puttachi grew, we realized it was getting smaller ;)]  And of course, this home was next to a lovely park, where we had some beautiful times, Puttachi and me.  I'm going to miss that park, definitely.  Though we've moved only about 4 km from this place, the park is not across the road any longer! :)

And it is so true that memories make a home.  Yesterday, after we moved all our belongings to the new house and cleaned the old house, I stood there, looked around.  It is amazing how much this rented house that we lived in for 3.5 years, absolutely empty, totally devoid of all our belongings - seemed more like "home" than our new house, which is our own, and where all our belongings are.  Memories - good ones at that! 

Puttachi hugged the walls of the old house and bawled, saying she didn't want to leave it.  No wonder. It is the only home she has known.  On our last visit to the park, she even hugged the park (don't even ask how.)  Anyway, it took us a while to comfort her and drag her away from that house!

And I've found that it is also true that the kitchen is probably the heart of the home.  The kitchen is not yet ready in the new home, so we are living out of boxes.  I discovered how many elements it takes to make a cup of tea, only when I had to look through three different boxes for the vessel, the strainer, the mugs, and the tea.  I hadn't paid much attention to packing, because I had assumed that I would empty the contents of all the boxes into the kitchen cabinets, and only then start cooking.  Who knew that the people who come to work had other things in mind, and wouldn't have the kitchen ready? :)

So, the first two days, we ate the food I had manufactured on an industrial scale before moving out of the old home (while Puttachi spent the two days happily at her friend's house.)   After that, we ate out and at my mom-in-law's place, and late on the third day, I made the first cup of tea, and then some soup which we ate with bread for dinner.

Today, I whipped up a quick veg pasta with whatever I could find, for Puttachi to take to school.  And then I went into the room for something, came out, and felt the heat radiating out of the open kitchen, and felt a warmth that was much beyond the physical one.  This finally felt like "home."

This is a nice place, one we got after months of searching, and then months of renovation.  A very nice, green apartment complex with lots of space and facilities for Puttachi to play in, great location, aaaaaand - walkable from Puttachi's school! :D

Here's to predominantly happy times in the new place too!  Cheers!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Is your child a fussy eater?

Is your child fussy about food, a picky eater?

Why do some children seem to fuss so much about eating, and why do some children sail through meals?  I am no expert, but I am a good listener ;)  This is a result of my observations, experiences and conversations with parents.  And I have a wealth of references because this is such a common complaint.

So I'm going to list out what could be going awry, and what you could do to set things right.

I started off thinking about this subject with one thought.  No child in our family has ever been fussy about food.  If I think about it, I can remember me and my sister, all my cousins, everybody, happily tucking into food all the time without any ado whatsoever. 

1) Limit junk food, increase physical activity.  No matter what you cook and how well you cook, the child cannot possibly eat if he is not hungry.  Really cut down on junk food, and make sure the child gets plenty of fresh air and exercise.  At about the age of three, it was quite remarkable the difference in Puttachi's appetite, the day when she went to the park and the day she didn't.  (They sleep well too - double advantage.)

2) Plan meals according to the child's temperament at that stage. Every child has its own eating preferences and patterns, and it differs at every age too.  Puttachi went through a phase where she couldn't eat much at one go.  So I gave her a little food, say saaru-anna and palya at one sitting, and then after a couple of hours, curds and rice.  (I didn't make anything else, mind you.  Just split the same meal into two.)  Also, do make a note of what the child has eaten before offering her the next meal.  You really can't expect a child to eat a full dinner at eight if she has had a tall glass of milk at seven.

3) Don't force food in, let the child go hungry a few times. :)  Don't force the child into eating anything.  If the child stops eating, just stop offering.  If the child is throwing a tantrum or showing disinterest, stop.  Let them starve. They'll come back the next meal and eat well.  Even if this goes on for a few days, it is okay.  The child is not going to suffer from starvation.

3a) Don't supplement a half-eaten  meal with junk food.  I know some parents who give the child bread or cake or biscuits if the child doesn't eat a full meal just to "fill the child's tummy."  Avoid that.  If you must, give her a fruit. 

4) Children go through cycles of eating less and more.  It could be growth spurts, it could be a rise or slump in physical activities - it could be many things, but children sometimes just don't need so much.  So if they suddenly stop eating for a few days, relax.  They'll make up for it.   Even we as adults sometimes don't feel like eating a particular meal.  Children also go through such periods.  Respect that, and leave them alone.  And as early as possible, get them to take decisions about how much they want to eat.

5) Other caregivers - It is easy for you as a parent to decide that the child can starve for half a day, and be done with it.  But if someone else is in charge of feeding your child on a regular basis, they are answerable to you, and they will not be comfortable about letting the child rise from the meal with a less-than-full stomach.  Even if you are cool with it, it is natural to feel that it is their responsibility to make sure the child has a full meal.  I know, because I feel that way even when Puttachi's friend is eating at our place.  So they might tend to pamper the child a bit, go that extra mile to ensure that he eats a full meal.   Not eating curds?  Add a spoonful of sugar.  Still not eating?  Add one more spoonful of sugar.  Finally, the child gets so used to sweet curds that he won't eat unless his bowl has three spoons of sugar, and that is how fussiness takes root.  So let these people know that is is okay if the child doesn't eat full meals from time to time.

5) Make mealtimes pleasant - If the child associates mealtime with a parent who is forcing, cajoling, fretting, worrying - making her eat even if she doesn't want it - mealtimes will always become a chore.  Come on, food is wonderful.  Teach the child to enjoy it!

6) Same food for everybody from the beginning - As soon as the child is ready to eat regular food, make the same kind of food for everybody in the family if that is possible.  That might mean going low on the spice for a while, until the child scales up.  Avoid all those problems of setting aside a little bland dal and vegetables to mix with the rest of the spicy food.  My laziness worked for me in this case.  Ever since Puttachi was 1.5 years old, all of us ate the same food.  I gradually hiked up the spice levels as she grew.  For me, it was lesser work.  For Puttachi, this made it clear that there was no special treatment for her.

7) Fussy adult, fussy child. -  I have noticed that if there is a fussy adult at home, the probability of there being a fussy child is higher.  When the adult sets forth his choices and refuses to eat this and that, the child gets the concept that it is possible to refuse to eat such and such a thing.   I can understand, it will be very difficult to get an adult to change his eating habits, but the least you can do is to get the adult to stop announcing his preferences.  If he doesn't like brinjal, let him not eat it when it is being made.  If you are forced to make another vegetable for him, let it not come to the child's notice.  Very difficult, I know.  But I do feel that this is a great contributing factor.

I can't think of anybody in my family who is a fussy adult.  We eat anything and everything that is put before us.  That doesn't mean our taste buds have calcified.  We also have our preferences, likes and dislikes.  But when we are presented with something to eat, we just, well, eat it.

8) No choices - This is an extension of the previous point.  Don't give the child any choices.  Bring in the "eat it or leave it"  rule.  Nobody gets a choice at our home.  Whether you like it or not, you have to eat it.  There is no question at all about making something else for a person who doesn't like a particular dish.  Eat it, or starve.  Yeah, I know, I am very strict that way.  But it works.

Children are very self-centered people.  If they see that you are willing to bow down to their whims, then they will definitely make you dance around.  Don't give them that option at all.  We have a lot of conversations at the school gate nowadays about food, because Puttachi's class has started taking packed food to school from this year on.  I have seen, universally - all those mothers who say that their child doesn't eat anything and so they give them three different dishes to choose from in their lunch box - those are the kids who come back without having eaten anything.  And the mothers who state categorically that our children have no choice - eat it or leave it -  our children are the ones that come back with empty boxes.

9) Positive language - When you present a child with a new dish or a new vegetable, and you are not sure if the child will like it, offer it without comment.  Or if you must comment, say something positive.  "Here's something new, I have a feeling you might like this."  I have seen many mothers offer a new dish with, "See, aunty has made this - I don't know if you will like it.  Eat and tell me if you like it, I will give you  more."  The child immediately is on an alert.  And even that little negativity that creeps in gives the child the power, yes, the power to refuse and assert herself. 

10) No crutches - Don't ever devise a crutch for the child to make her eat.  Many children eat when the television is on, and that becomes a crutch.  One child I knew ate only when he was put in a tub of water.  One child, only when she watched advertisements.  One child, only when a particular album of nursery rhymes were played.  Why, Puttachi also was hooked on to stories for a long time, and wouldn't eat unless I told her a story.  When that stimulus goes missing, or if conditions are not absolutely right, the child doesn't eat at all.  As far as possible, get rid of any such dependencies.

11) Don't complain or keep saying that the child doesn't eat anything.  Not in front of the child, not in front of anybody.  This constant reinforcement especially if done in the child's hearing, immediately works to make the child not eat anything.   I have seen one child cured of its fussiness by the mother consciously changing her complaining tone to one of positivity, saying, "Oh yes, my son eats his meals.  No problem."  instead of "Ayyoooo he doesn't eat annnnnything!"

Constantly worrying about a child not eating also gives the child a sense of importance.  Why will he want to do away with all that attention?  ;)

12) Start early. The older the child is, the more difficult it is to get her to change her eating habits.  So start good, positive eating habits as early as you can. 

Edited to add this point: 13) Putting ideas into the child's head.  One of the mothers at the school gate was saying, "Poor kids, so sad, their food would have become cold by the time they eat it in the afternoon."  Yeah, obviously, but so what?  Haven't most of us grown up eating cold lunches?  Don't millions of kids all over the world eat cold lunches?   The mother will say this in front of the child and the child will find a new reason to refuse food.  Don't do this - children adapt and adjust very easily.  Don't put ideas into their heads, and create problems for yourself!

I am sure you have heard many elders say, "In our time, children were not like this, they just ate whatever was put before them."  That was simply because the children were left alone.  If they didn't eat, they would starve until the next meal.  (No junk food to carry them through either!)  So they probably fended for themselves, and of course, there were many children and they all just ate together and got the meals out of the way so that they could go and play.

So, in short, I would say - no special treatment, no fuss, no pampering.  And it is okay to let them go hungry once in a while.  Children are resilient creatures.  They will make up.  Relax.  It is good for you too! :)

Any other suggestions/observations?  Something else that has worked with you?  Anything that you think is wrong with my reasoning?  Please share!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Validating a child's feelings - a simple thing that has proven invaluable to me.

I want to share with you a little insight/trick that I have learned while interacting with a child, that has helped me a lot.  I picked this up from one of the parenting books or websites that my friend M keeps sharing with me, and I found that it is one of the most valuable inputs I have received about parenting.

In short - it is about listening to and validating a child's feelings.

When a child comes to you crying or whining about something - some little thing which you think is too small and insignificant to worry about - we usually say, "Oh come on, is that all, you should not cry for all that, stop crying."

To understand how this might feel, think of yourself in this situation.  You are sad, unhappy, frustrated about something, and you want to tell somebody who will listen.  But instead, that person says, "Huh, why should you feel that way?"  of "Yeah so what?"  or worse, starts giving you solutions ;) - don't you feel really annoyed?  You often know you are not justified in feeling the way you are feeling - but still the fact is that you are feeling that way, and you want to share it with someone.  That's all.  But you don't get what you want.  It can be very irritating.  I know that.  And I know that I have also been guilty of doing the same thing - saying "Stop feeling that way and move on," or something like that.  Because, that is probably the only way we know how to deal with it, trying to be helpful, trying to be uplifting.  But we'll probably be helping more if we just listen.

Many years ago, I heard about a young person who was crying for some reason, and her mother said, "Don't feel sad." And the girl said, "Don't tell me how to feel!"

This made me think.  It is so true - how can we tell people how to feel?  Whatever you say, they will feel what they feel.  All you can do is listen, and then if it is in your control, help them or make them feel better.

Similarly, in your eyes, the child's problem might be tiny.  A miniscule scratch, or some inexpensive thing that broke, or any one of those hundred little things children can find to whine about!

But, at that moment, it is a big thing for the child.  If you say something like, "oh come on, is that all, forget it,"  the child is not satisfied.  Very often, the child can even go into tantrum mode.  All she needs is someone to listen and say, "awww, is that so?"
Now if you are thinking that this is dangerous, that it might lead the child to start complaining more, you are absolutely right.  So the solution is - do not encourage it, do not extend it.  Nothing like, "Awww, where have you hurt yourself, oohhh so sad, is it hurting?  Poor thing.  Come on let me have a look, ohhh so sad..."  - This way you are giving undue attention to it.

So just listen, sympathize, and move on - perhaps look at what you can do about the problem.  Perhaps talk about something else.... here are a couple of real examples from me and Puttachi.

Me: (From next room) What happened?
She: I was coming out of the toilet and I hit my heel on the door. (Nearly crying)
Me: Oh, show, where?  Here?  Just rub it well.  Yeah I know, that must hurt.  When the skin is wet, it hurts more, you know.
She: Really? Why is that? (Hurt completely forgotten, conversation moves in other directions.)

She is building a palace with her blocks, my mom and I are in another room. We hear a loud wail, and sobs, and she comes running here.

Me: What's the matter, Puttachi?
She: The palace broke, it tumbled down!

I hug her, wait for her to calm down a bit. I don't say anything, but just hold her.

My mother says:  So just build it again!
Puttachi literally snarls at my mother - someone she loves so much.

I sign for my mother to not say anything, and still hold Puttachi quietly until she finishes sobbing.

She: Amma, the king's palace broke.  If I try to put it back, it won't be the same again.

Me: That's true.  It'll be different - so then you'll have a new kind of palace, right?

She: But I want the same.... but.. but... (Brightens up!) Amma, I have an idea.  I'll make a palace for soldiers now!  (Runs off happily)

As you can see, I did not do anything at all.  I just held her until she had vented her frustration through tears.  Then she found the solution herself after she was done.

(Disclaimer: I would have done just what my mother did if this had happened a year ago.)

This tactic has worked very nicely with me and Puttachi.  I think the key to this is that the child feels validated, and once she feels that it is okay to feel that way, she can move to other things.

About I hope you can use it with your children.  And I hope I can use it with adults too ;)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In defence: Junk Food

As a mother, I have to frequently defend the choices that my husband and I make with Puttachi, to well-meaning well-wishers who think that we are going about certain things wrong. 

Junk food tops the list.

Why don't you give Puttachi Junk food? Poor thing!

I do give her junk food.  We love our junk, so why would we deny her those little pleasures?  The only thing is that I have very strict rules about when, what, and how much she can eat.
- No junk food before mealtimes, or on an empty stomach.
- No junk food after six in the evening
- Each serving is very small.  Just enough to satisfy the urge, and not to fill the stomach.  No more than two biscuits, no more than one piece of chocolate, no more than 2 tbsp of mixture - do you get the drift?

Why do you do this? Poor thing!

Junk food has no nutritional value.  It is eaten for enjoyment.  And so too much of this food in the tummy means that much less of nutritious food.  I'd rather she eats full balanced meals than fill her stomach with sugar and carbs.

Does she listen to you?

She does.  In fact, she now takes decisions herself.  Recently, when she was offered a third biscuit in the same sitting, she said, "I think I have had enough junk for now." 

How do you make it work?

From the very beginning, we've ensured that she doesn't even have the concept of eating so much at one go.  And more importantly, we follow those rules ourselves.  She frequently sees me decline a sweet because it is mealtime.  When she observes us following these rules, she realizes that this is something that is followed for a reason.

In fact, once, we were unexpectedly stuck somewhere and I didn't have any food on me, and Puttachi had become very cranky with hunger.  I had a Munch in my bag, and I gave it to her to eat.  She said, "Amma, the whole thing?  Are you sure?  Did you see how much you gave me?  The whole thing?  Is it okay?"

You're going to have a tough time later.  She's going to rebel and eat lots of junk food.  You have to give her whatever she wants now.

If you have a picture of her begging for junk food while I stand with my feet apart, hands on my hips (and horns on my head) and shouting, "No," you are wrong.  I never deny her junk food when she asks for it.  In fact, she even asks for it this way, "Amma, can I have a chocolate after I eat a banana?"
If she asks for something at an inappropriate time, I tell her why I cannot give it to her at that time, and she immediately modifies her request to - can I have that after food?

So it is not a question of my denying her something she craves for.  So I don't think this will cause her to rebel. 

But I know that many things are not in our control.  So if later in life, she actually does take to binging on junk food, we'll deal with it later.  Why get it started right now?

When we offer her junk food, she looks at you for permission.  We don't like that.  Aren't we responsible enough to know what is good for her and what is not?

If she wants to ask me for permission, it means that you are giving junk to her at at an ambiguous time - it has been a while since she's eaten, and there is still some time to go for the next meal - so she cannot take her own decision.  So she looks at me for help on taking the decision.  I cannot do anything about that.  In fact, I think you must appreciate her sense of responsibility on this, instead of labeling me Hitler.  I have in fact, never told her that she must ask me for permission if somebody she KNOWS gives her something to eat.

Some people even give her something and ask her not tell us.  That is a very dangerous trend, so please don't do it.

I think even the fact that I had to write this post speak volumes about the junk food culture that is so prevalent now.  People think nothing at all about eating anything and everything at any time of the day.  In previous eras, there was no junk food available commercially.  When somebody wanted to eat some nice yummy fried stuff, they had to make it at home!  And that is the biggest stumbling block!  And even if they did get around to making it, it was naturally way better than the stuff we get outside for the simple reason that they knew what went into it!

Gosh the things in junk food now - colour, flavouring - studies keep coming in about how this or that flavouring has proven to have ill-effects on children, yet the food flood keeps pouring out of the factories, and there are a million people standing with their mouths wide open to take it all in......

It scares me, it does.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Ah, tennis!

I remember watching my first Tennis match with my father.  Boris Becker was the first player I knew and recognized, I thought his name spelt "Baker" and I was both fascinated and repelled by his fair eye-lashes. 

Tennis was really in, while I was growing up.  We named ourselves after tennis players and played badminton.  In high school, we cut pictures of tennis stars out of sports magazines and collected, shared, coveted, safeguarded, begged for, showed-off, and exchanged these pictures.  (And defaced them, when we didn't like them.)  Ah those days, when the greatest problem in my life was that I didn't know how to pronounce "Stich" of Michael Stich!

I remembered all this after Puttachi and I watched the two Wimbledon finals over the weekend.  It was her first time, and she cottoned on to the basics of the game pretty quickly.  When I stepped away from the TV, she gave me running commentary too - "I think Radwanska won this point because Williams' ball hit the net."  "Amma, I think Williams won the next point because I can see her sister clapping."

She watched the whole match with me, without taking her eyes off the screen.  It fascinated me - how a sport could hold her attention for two hours!

She was intrigued that both the losing and winning parties wept - one out of sorrow and the other out of joy.

She was very eager to watch the Federer vs Murray match too, but I had warned her that she wouldn't be able to watch the whole match, since it would go on for long, and that the next day was a school day.  She watched as long as I let her, and when she went to bed, she was very worried about how she would find out who won.

That night, when she woke up for her toilet break,  she wasn't disoriented as she usually is.  She asked me, "Amma, will the match be over now?"
"Yes," I said, but didn't tell her that I had watched it and knew who had won.  I wasn't ready to answer a barrage of questions at 1 in the night!
"Will the winner's photo be in the paper tomorrow?" she asked.
"Amma, don't look at the newspaper until I wake up.  We will see it together and find out who won."

And all these instructions from someone who usually has no idea what is going on when she wakes up at night, and who needs to be helped into the bathroom and lifted onto the toilet seat!

I am waiting for the Olympics to begin.  I'm pretty sure we'll enjoy watching the games together. :) 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Another children's story published

One of my stories appeared in the Student's Edition of Deccan Herald of June 22nd.  I've attached a photo of it, but don't bother to read it because they've edited the sense and continuity out of my story.

I know my original story could have done with some pruning, but not at the expense of continuity! :)  So I am going to produce my original story here in full.


The noisy Monster.

Achal wasn't sure if he liked it or not. Manisha had decided that she was old enough to stop sleeping with Amma and Appa. She wanted to sleep with Achal in the room meant for the two of them. Achal was glad of her company – he liked his little sister with her loud voice and whirlwind ways. But he was annoyed that she would stop sleeping with their parents when she was only four years old, while he had waited till he was seven before he could summon up the will to sleep apart from his parents.

"That's just because Manisha has you for company, Achal," said Mamma. "You didn't have anybody, and that's probably why you were hesitant to start sleeping alone in your own room."

But Achal was uncomfortable anyway, that his little sister had become a big girl much before he had become a big boy.

Yet, that night, he felt good going to bed, turning off the lights, and knowing that Manisha was right next to him. Achal smiled, listening to Manisha's soft breathing on the bed next to him. How quickly these little kids fall asleep, he thought.

His mother called out to him. "Achal, Manisha has a slightly runny nose – if she wakes up at night calling out for me, will you let me know?"

"I will, Amma," said Achal, feeling very responsible. He was only nine years old, and Mamma already trusted him to look after Manisha! He felt very proud indeed.

Very soon, he was asleep too. He dreamt of Beyblades. He dreamt of his friend Arif's football, and of hanging by his legs from the tree in Raju Mama's house. Then he suddenly found himself in a park, with a monster following him. He couldn't see the monster. He could just hear it. "Pheeeeeeeee-Pop! Pheeeeeeeee-Pop!" said the monster, and the sound became louder and louder and scarier and scarier. It seemed like the monster was coming closer and closer to him.

Achal got scared. He ran from the sound, but it never ceased. He ran and he ran, his mouth dried up and his legs got tired, but still he ran and ran, and the sound was still right there, almost as if it were right next to his ears. "Pheeeeeeeee-Pop! Pheeeeeeeee-Pop!! Pheeeeeeeee-POP!"

From some corner of his mind, a voice told him that this was a dream. It was a trick his father had taught him. "When you dream that you are falling off a cliff," his father had said, "Tell yourself to grow wings, and then you can fly away instead of falling with a thud. And if you dream of monsters, tell yourself that there are no monsters, and then your mind will realize it is a dream, and you will wake up."

Achal hadn't had the opportunity to try it before, and this was it. The voice in his head became stronger. "Wake up, Achal," it said. "There are no monsters. You are just dreaming. Wake up, and the sound will go away."

Achal tossed and turned. He shook his head, and gradually the mists of sleep faded, and he emerged from his sleep.

He sighed with relief, licked his lips, and was about to turn and go back to bed, when "Pheeeeeeeee-Pop!" The sound was STILL there! Achal froze. This wasn't a dream. This sound was real and it was coming from the room. He lay frozen for a moment, letting only his gaze move slowly and fearfully around the room. He looked at the window, he looked at the cupboard, half-expecting it to open and monsters come tumbling out....... when suddenly he saw movement – right next to him!

"Manisha!" he thought. "Manisha is in my room! And is she making that strange sound? What on earth is it?"

He switched on the night light next to his bed, and looked at Manisha. She seemed troubled by something, and yes, it was she who was making that terrible sound.

"She's having trouble breathing," Achal thought. "Her nose must be blocked."

He ran to his parents' room and woke up his mother. "Mamma! Manisha's nose is blocked!"

Mamma came to their room, rubbed Vicks on Manisha's nose, and turned her to one side. She sat for a while, stroking her back, until Manisha's breathing became regular. She patted Achal's head and then went back to her own room.

Finally, the "Pheeeeeeeee-Pop" had gone. Achal sank back into bed thankfully, but not before having a sip of water for his dry throat.

There really ARE no monsters, he thought happily, as he closed his eyes and willed himself to dream of nice things!


Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Puttachi gives such generous compliments! 

Here are a few things she says about my cooking:

- Amma, you know exactly what I like.  Thank you soooo much!
- Mmmmmmm this is soooo good I cannot believe how good it is. 
- Amma, you cook sooo well, so well that you can teach others how to cook!
- Amma, give me your hand, I want to kiss it, because this hand made such tasty food!

If I'm wearing something nice:

- Oh Amma, this is such a beautiful dress I can't believe how nice you are looking.
- Oh here comes pretty pretty Amma!

If love just overflows for no reason:

- Amma you are such a cutie pie
- Amma I love you sooo much you are such a nice girl.

Is it any wonder my head is in the clouds these days? :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

This and that

If you read my blog on a feedreader, you might have noticed a few posts that speak about Puttachi who is definitely younger than she is now.  I was just going through my drafts and deleted some.  I found a few which had some things I didn't want to forget, and so I published them.

And if you are wondering why the sudden prolific blogging, Puttachi goes to school full time now, and so I have some solid time for myself.  :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some more on a child and its choices.

The comments on my previous post raised many interesting points. I tried to discuss some of them in the comments itself, but I realize I have lots more to say.

1) When you allow the child to make choices and take decisions about his own life, it puts him in a position of confidence and control.  He realizes that he is the master of his own life.  And just as Sumana said in the comments, this attitude will enable him to respect other people's choices too.  If someone is always saying do this, do that - then he will also turn to the others around him and say, do this, do that, and will get offended when people don't concur with his choices or opinions.  And aren't we seeing a lot of that intolerance around us? 

2) Where to draw the line - The question uppermost in every parent's mind, about every aspect of parenting.  Such a fine balance, really, and so easy for it to go awry.  In this matter of giving your choild choices, all that is in your hands is to lay before the child all the facts of the case, and then let him take his own decision.

In the matter of growing Puttachi's hair, I put it all down on the table - washing and drying hair will take longer and will be more difficult, your hair will get tangled more easily, and it might be painful when I try to smoothen your hair out.  We will need some time in the mornings for me to tie/braid your hair, and so you will have to help me by getting ready sooner.  She considered all this, and still went ahead with her decision.  And if she ever whines when it is taking too long to wash her hair, I remind her that she had been warned, and she shuts up immediately. 

I know that my aunt would set things out like this to her son, and he would invariably weigh the pros and cons and make the correct decision.  That way, he felt in control of his own life, and my aunt was also satisfied that she told him all the facts of the situation up front, and he made the choice she wanted too.

And honestly, I personally think that when a child grows with this kind of attitude, the possibilities of his making the wrong choices becomes very little, because he gets used to weighing the pros and cons of it all. 

Besides, if he grows up with constantly being told what to do, he might want to rebel on purpose, though he knows that what he is doing is wrong - because now he has the power to carry out his wishes though it is against his parents' wishes.

3) A friend and a reader of this blog told me about how her 6-7 year old daughter signed up for Taekwondo classes without discussing it with her parents.  I think it is a good sign, because the child is already confident about her own life and choices, enough to go ahead on her own.  Second, and most important, she has taken this step because she knows that her parents will support her.  That security, that confidence in parents - that spring board is essential for a child to spring forward in life.  If the board itself is faulty or shaky, how do you expect a child to step on it and leap forward?

But then again, where to draw the line?  In this case, I would have first appreciated the child's enthusiasm and initiative, and later, maybe some hours later or the next day, bring it back into the conversation and gently suggest that some things need to be discussed with the parents first, because the parents have a bigger picture and can help with the decision.  And my guess is that the child will oblige because by now she already knows that her parents are sensible.

4) One more commenter suggested "As a parent, you choose three good options, and then give them the liberty to choose one among them. That way, you protect your child from making wrong decisions... "

My take on this is - providing your child these options might seem like you are allowing them to have a semblance of control in their lives - but yet, the child has no freedom to make his own choice.  So how will he make mistakes, and learn from them?

The child wants a chocolate, and you say, "you can have either an apple or a banana or an orange." How is it going to help the child who wants chocolate feel in control?  Later in life, if the child wants to become a photographer, and you say, "Become either a doctor or an engineer or a laywer."  What do you think?  If my examples weren't good, if you can give me examples about how this aproach can be a good thing, please do.

5) When the child has the freedom to decide, the child probably respects your decisions more, and believe it or not, listens to your words more readily.
For example, sometimes, if I ask Puttachi, "Want to have your dinner right away, or do you want to play for a while longer?"
She says, "Whatever, Amma.  If you want me to come right now, I will.  Whatever you want."  And this is not obedience, and it is not as if she is not interested in what she is doing.   Probably she is not too particular either way, and would rather leave the decision to me, and my guess is that it could be because she doesn't feel the need to assert herself. 

6) Giving the child a choice helps make her responsible for her choice.  If Puttachi wants to play in the park for ten minutes longer, I tell her, "Fine you can play, but you do realize, don't you, in that case you will have time for only one bedtime story."  So Puttachi now has to make a choice, and she makes it, and if she cries for an extra bedtime story, I put my foot down.  You chose this, so accept this, I say.  And so the next time, she will be careful about what she chooses. This result, cause and effect will somehow shape her decision-making, is what I believe and hope! :)

There are, of course, certain situations where you just have to step in and draw a line - especially those concerning the child's safety, well-being and health.  Until the child is old enough to know better, these choices are best made by you - BUT, with an explanation to the child why this is so.  It is the child's life and she deserves to know why. 

I'd love to hear from you about your views, your experiences.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Respecting a child's choice

I recently read about Will Smith talking about why he let his daughter cut her hair off. (Couldn't find the original link.)

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

This resonated with me especially because Puttachi has declared that she wants to grow her hair.

For as long as she had no particular choice, I kept her hair short, because I found it easier to maintain.  But now that she is old enough to know what she wants, she told me that she wants to grow her hair, and that is fine by me.  I know it is going to be a little difficult - I have never dared grow my hair because I find maintenance too tedious.  But if Puttachi wants to grow hers, then that is her decision and I will help her with it.

People have asked me why I indulge her.  Just cut it off, they say.  Anyway, you are the one that cuts her hair - just tell her that you are trimming her hair and then cut it off.   People told me this even when she was three years old, and was aware enough to insist that she wants hair long enough in front - because she liked wearing clips.  They felt she looked cuter with her hair cut in a fringe, and told me to just cut it off, what would she do about it?  I was shocked, because even a three-year-old is a person with a say over what she wants - and this is such a harmless thing, it is not like she is insisting on eating only ice-cream for every meal!  So I refused to do anything to her hair without her permission.

That doesn't mean that we will let her do anything she wants.  There has to be a line somewhere and we will draw it, but we will tell her why we are drawing that line.  And since, from the beginning, I have explained to her in detail why I do the things I do, she already knows that there is a reason for everything we do, and I'm sure she'll respect it.  In fact, she is always open to logical arguments.  Now that she is growing her hair, it started falling into her eyes, and she is frequently too busy in her own world to realize that it is obstructing her sight, and so she doesn't always push her hair back, or tighten her clips.  So I told her that I would have to cut her hair short in the front, and she can grow it long at the back.  She saw the sense in my argument and agreed.

My mother tells me about a child who came to my first birthday party with bindis stuck all over her face.  I find that very impressive, that the girl's parents let her be a child, follow her fancy, and go out to a party with stickers all over her face.  I mean, it is so harmless, and if the child likes it, so what?  If the child wants to choose her own clothes, so what?  If the child wants to wear twenty clips on her head, pink on one side and red on the other, and go out of the house, so what? (Puttachi has done that.) 

This might seem a small thing - but it is just a foundation for the future.  If we don't allow our children to take simple decisions about their own bodies, about their own lives, then what can we possibly teach them?  What do you think?
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