Tuesday, September 30, 2008

La la la la, la la

Just for fun, some songs Vansh is found crooning these days :)

Nanha munha rahi hoon, desh ka nahayan hoon

Ganti ke bappa morya

Lakkad katthi kaathi, kaathi pe ghoda, dummmm barrraake dauda.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Whatchya' say ...

I put the non-returnable label, you get the tape!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Childhood revisited ...Mornings!

I have read and immensely enjoyed posts by friends on the bygone era, the life and the times before the world started moving just too rapidly. Was it the 90's starting with the advent of cable television, offering too many choices at any given time of the day, followed by the internet heralding a whole new concept of globalization, bringing together in literally seconds folks 'saat samundar' apart. I have read, I have enjoyed and I have thought every so often about my own life then and I have wanted to pen it down here for the longest time in an effort to savor, to relive, in whatever little way, the time when inspite of the 'slow' paced life, everyone had so much time at hand to enjoy, to relish the simple pleasures one could indulge in. I read a lovely poem written by Dipali, an early morning walker and a dear blogging buddy. You must read it here.

The sweetest and a major chunk of the memories I have are from the summer holidays. My mom was a teacher herself and so this was the time both of looked forward to spend together with little activities planned for the whole day. In spite of being vacation time, our days started early at 5:30'ish as we got ready to go to 'Sanjay Park/Lake Park' in Laxmi Bai Nagar, a 40-45 minute walk from our government quarter in Lodi Colony. The path to the park was a treat in itself, wide roads, a cool breeze, chirping birds, the first rays of the sun just beginning to shine their way to illuminate the top of trees and make the dew on the grass glisten. I don't have memories of other people we met during these walks except the paper waalas who busily went about their daily grind always fascinating me with the perfection with which the paper landed on the floor it was intended for. The park was always a delight, lush grass on both sides of 2 ponds, a big one for the ducks and a small one for the fish, on either ends of the park with a stream of water running along the entire length of the park joining both of them. The major attraction of coming to this park, while passing another beautiful one on the way closer to home was taking small pebbled sized flour balls and feed the fish. For the same reason, many cousins liked to spend part of their vacations with us. There was another steps like structure made in the park, an amphitheatre kind of setting, where the steps were all covered with the green grass and the area just next to it was a slope again covered with the same rich carpet of grass. How much we loved to just lie down and roll our bodies on the cool grass, letting out peels of laughter and giggles, taking pleasure in an absolutely simple, yet pleasurable activity. The other end of the park which had the big pond and the ducks was then visited and we again delighted in chasing the ducks. We also picked up leaves and flowers to make that project as part of the Science holiday home work. As we paced our way back, renewed after the refreshing experience, and if the sun happened to be in its full glory by then sending out scorching rays to cause some discomfort, we spent a major part of our discussion on planning our day that lay ahead so that we could sleep just a little early and get up just a little earlier the next day to escape the heat.

The mornings continued to be full of activity, bais coming in to wash the dishes and sweep and mop the floors, mom making breakfast rebuking, at times playfully, at others seriously the bais for one thing or the other, papa getting ready for office, me sitting down to read or practice cursive writing or generally with the pages of holiday home work deciding what to tackle first. My mom used to make lines for borders on the chart papers that we had to make as part of home work and teach me several interesting patterns to decorate them. That was something I loved to do. The rest of the contents we worked on later in the day after finishing off the rest of the chores (which my mom was in a constant competition with herself and took pride in finishing 15 minutes earlier from the previous day). At times that would mean walking down to the neighborhood 'Khanna Market' to buy charts of fruits or festivals or birds, sketch pens, crayons, stencils. We also utilized this visit to make a phone call from the phone a friendly neighborhood shopkeeper used as a PCO to my friends or some relatives for it was not before grade 8 or 9 when we had a personal home phone. The shopkeeper joked that I pay him Rs 2 instead of 1 if I spoke in English. The stationery shopkeeper rented out Chacha Choudhary and Babloo and Pinki comics and as is the case with everyone, the new issue was never published soon enough to keep pace with the hogging me.

On alternate days after coming back from walks, I also had the responsibility of bringing milk from the Mother Dairy booth which was about 7-8 blocks away from our house. I think from grade 3 onwards I used to go there by myself. I used to chide my mother if she told me to get it on a particular evening because I liked going in the mornings. As I try to picture the reason in my mind, I think I liked the freshness of everything, the fruits and vegetables on the thelas the fruit and subzi waalas carted along, the freshness of the morning, the sight of people waking up from the charpais as I crossed one block after another, discussing the morning newspapers. It was one such fateful morning of my summer vacation, May 21, 1991, when the news being discussed was that of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The gloom and the total shock, the sounds and the sights, the aghast expressions still linger on my mind from that day as I went about my regular business of fetching milk. I also chided my mom when she asked me to fetch 5 tokens of milk instead of 4 (one token was/is half a litre) as it was a token too heavy for my arms. What all reasons moms get chided for?! In times when there was a temporary shortage of milk, the queue of people was long. Free from any responsibilities at home, I liked standing and just watching the people around me. I remember looking at how clean or unclean someone's clothes were, how long and shapely and perfectly nail polished a young girl's nails were and dreamt that I too would have such nails one day. At that time I didn't know that I would keep smudging my nail polish for the lack of patience in sitting still for 5 minutes after applying the nail polish. I looked at footwear, tried to form some pattern man, woman, man, woman; young, young, old, young young, old; or some such random series. Then after the first single queue, deciding on which one out of the three to stand in next strategically looking at the number of people as also the size of container they were carrying and then waiting to see if the decision made was correct.

Sundays were special too. The water flowed from the taps on any given day from 6 to about 9 in the morning and about the same time in the evening. When going to school/work it didn't matter but on Sundays that meant you still had to maintain some disciplined routine if you didn't want the amount of water with which to bathe to be rationed depending on the number of baltis filled. Also the heat as the day passed warmed up the stored water unlike the refreshing cool one straight from the tap. In addition there was the added fascination and the glory of the Pandavas and the Kauravas who made their appearance in the epic - mythological as well as televisional The Mahabharata. If you are from the era when it was aired, you would agree when I say life came to a standstill for those 60 minutes on a Sunday morning. The roads were empty with the only people being those who flocked the electronics shops to catch their favorite show on the televisions. In our family too, it was in deed a miracle to be sitting on the dining table with our breakfast exactly at 10'o clock every Sunday morning, bathed and prim, as the 'Yada yada hi dharmasya ...' played on in the background.

To be continued ... (I don't know when, I hope soon!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fireworks!

Wanted to chronicle this piece of art done by Vansh last week at preschool for the reason that its his first where he says what he has painted something and it looks like it. He came home on Thursday and said he had painted fireworks at school. The paper was in his folder the next day and in deed they were bright sparkling fireworks.

He took a great liking to sparklers and the likes last Diwali when we lit a lot of those with some friends and then again on our trip to India earlier this year. Fireworks at Niagara Falls on the Independence Day weekend and again at the riverfront district during a festival in downtown Minneapolis had him in awe and his eyes gleamed when he saw them in pictures or videos, the latest ones being the Huge display at the Olympics opening ceremony. That the idea of painting fireworks without being prompted occurred to him was a novel feeling for me and a nice one at that :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A memorable day I shall remember with a smile :)

A day full of surprises big and small and very very sweet made my 30th birthday yesterday a very special one in the last few years. I shall remember this one with a smile.

To begin with, Ashwini and the kids handed me my Birthday cards the first thing in the morning unlike the evenings when Ashwini goes to get the cake and gets the card as well at that time. That itself was a surprise and made me feel a little bad about the late hour that he returned at the previous day. I wished he would have continued with his old ways, he had to anyways go again to get the cake as well. Not to say that I didn't lovvveeee getting them in the morning :) And the card from the kids was the first and so all the more special. And it was too cute as well. It said

"Happy Birthday Mom and thanks for always believing in me...

...even when I was Unbelievable!"

My neighbor and dear friend Lopa made me breakfast, a delicious cinnamon banana toast.

In the morning rush of getting Vansh to preschool now I just opened my e-mail inbox but just couldn't click on most of the birthday messages except for ones from immediate family. I had spoken to my mom and dad just the previous day and they had been worrying that they hadn't been able to send an e-card to me this year. The postal mail card which I anyways prefer much much more had already reached a week earlier and I told them that I was very very touched with that itself especially considering the busy and tough time they are going through right now owing to my mother's accident a little over 2 months back. But there it was, the most perfect e-card as well, bringing tears to my eyes. I thank you once again mummy and papa for all that you have done and still continue to do for me.

My dear brother in law had made a beautiful e-card for me and made it a point to send it to each one of my e-mal id's just like he sends his new phone numbers to each one of them. Always makes me smile and this year the soon to be newest addition to the family, his fiancee sent her warm wishes too.

As I returned after picking up Vansh, Lopa was at the window and called me inside. And lo and behold, there were 5 of my friends there who had thrown a surprise birthday lunch party for me complete with home made cake, pakoras, chholey, bisibele bhaat and kheer. And as a special gift they even fed my kids. Now I any mother of two would know how precious a present that is. Just the previous day I had been telling Ashwini that I am happy that it's my birthday just for the fact that I have no cakes to bake, no decorations to do and the likes :) While I was there another dear friend Debbie whom I didn't expect to remember my birthday, more so because she too is going through a rough patch healthwise, came to wish me and got me a lovely pot of Chrysanthemums. She too is a foodie and of a very diverse cultural variety and the party was already on. Everything fit perfectly :)

In the evening another friend had sent me a paper greeting card making this year's count to 5 as opposed to the 3 every year - 2 from both set of mom and dads and one from Ashwini :) We celebrated with the cake and snacks Ashwini got home yesterday but have kept the going out for the weekend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First day of pre-school

After apprehensions at some times, excitement at others, a few questions in the positive attitude tone "Mummy Vansh preschool kyon [nahin] ja raha hai?", the exclamations in the sing song way "Vansh pre-school jaane waala haiiiiiii" but most of them in the negative attitude tone, expected from our little boy who I say is born with a reflex to say 'NO' to anything new - "Nahin mere ko preschool nahin jaana! Mere ko Mohit ke ghar jaana hai khelne ke liye"; "No! I don't want to go preschool. I want to go summer camp something!"; amidst all this Vansh finally started pre-school today. It was not an out and out new experience for him partly because he had been going to the same building for 2 years for ECFE once a week and secondly because we went for an early learning conference with his teacher Miss Debra last Friday as a result of which he got to see his new classroom and spend some time there. That was the day when he was dome with "Mummy, I want to go home." After repeating it several times and not getting any fruitful result, this one turned to Miss Debra and said "You go home!" Yeah na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri, we were stunned and had a hearty laugh!

We read a few books about school last night as I prepared him about what he needed to say to who when he needed to use the restroom or when he wanted something. I told him to stay with everyone when they would go to the playground and also told him to remember his room number and the teacher's name just in case he got lost and to notify the nearest adult about the same. I reminded him of the fun things we had seen in his classroom and asked him what he would like to do. But he was deep in thought, probably thinking about all that I had said and so I just let him be.

He woke up with a luke warm attitude first saying that he didn't want to go and after that wanting to go just for playing with Mohit's sake, who is also in the same class. After the bath, getting ready, breakfast routine, as I pleaded with him to let me take one nice picture and he kept acting funny and making silly faces which is his typical thing these days, among the random ones that I clicked I managed to get one picture capturing his spirit perfectly - venturing out slowly looking behind for familiar settings and faces with the unmistakable mischevious glint in his eyes :)

We went with our neighbors and friends Afreen and her daughter Safiya who is in the same clas as Vansh, whom we shall be carpooling with to drop off and pick up the kids. Vansh was slow in moving to the classroom. I asked him when we passed the restroom and he said he didn't want to use it. A minute later, as we hanged his backpack on the hooks outside the classroom and were ready to go in, he said he wanted to use the restroom with his eyes on the crowd of children, teachers and parents inside. We went to the bathroom and I assured him that its okay, he didn't have to worry and we would go inside the classroom together in a few minutes. He held my hand, went inside and as one of the teachers greeted him, he said he would be going to India soon which is his current greeting. So as you and I say hi, Mr Vansh says "Main India jaane waala hoon/I am going to India soon, pata hai/you know" depending on what language you speak. The teacher tried to take him around the class but he preferred to be my side as we walked around pointing out the fun things that he could do. During this time he told me a few times to sit on the sofa outside when I go out. Finally I kissed him and said I'll come after 2-1/2 hours to pick him up. I sat on the sofa for a few minutes and as soon as I got up to go pay the fees in the office, he came out telling me to stay there. Miss Debra gently took him by his shoulders and asked him to get inside and I reminded him that he had to be inside the class and stay with everyone always.

After about 7-8 minutes as I returned and peeped in, he was well settled at a table and rolling out the play dough with a rolling pin. And I heaved a sigh of relief for a wonderfully smooth first day. I attributed it to the recent summer camp where we had our share of separation triggered screams and howls and are glad to be done with them.

When I went back to pick him up. most of the moms were there peeping in from the window and Vansh was looking back from inside the classroom where all the kids were sitting around in a circle. I went in after a few minutes and he hugged me with a pleasant smile. I asked him whether he had fun and got the reflexive "No!" with him smiling all the same. His teacher said he had had a great day.

The answers to my questions were a little more revelaing than the the standard ones "I played" and "I ate goldfish". He said that he played with cars, worked on a puzzle, played with playdoh, ate popcorn. Surprisingly after coming back, he said "Mummy Vansh kal phir preschool jayega" and I say surprisingly because coming from Vansh on the first day itself, and also when Mohit didn't come at all as he was down with fever, it is not a small thing. Said a lot to me about his first day at preschool.

Oh and I almost forgot. As soon as we reached and he was done taking off his shoes, he went inside his room and guess what I heard "I am going to give you 5 minutes, okay!"; "Come on over here! Move on, move on!" phrases he had picked up from his teacher :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Vansh's favorite books

Its been a while since I wrote about the books Vansh has been enjoying lately. I like to do that, one for recommendations to other friends and also so that I'll remember the books and the little sweet every day memories attached with them when I read about them later.

He loves being read to. Earlier he sat with the books himself as well. He does that now too but not as often as he used to earlier. But that's because he now has an additional pastime of playing and fighting with Jiya. And summers of course mean going out much more. One time when he definitely reads to himself is when he goes to potty where he insists on taking at least one current favorite and at times even two when there's not much interesting happening outside. Before bedtime he begins by saying that he wants to read 10 books and after much bargaining we are able to bring it down to 2 or 3 or 5 depending on how much energy we are left with.

Some of his favorite books at this time are:

I love it when you smile by Sam McBratney and Charles Fuge - I would recommend this very very highly for the sole reason that its a non-car,non-truck book and Vansh still loves it. Which means it HAS to be GREAT! Jokes apart, it is an extremely lovely story about a little kangaroo who wakes up grumpy one fine morning for apparently no reason, something I think every toddler/pre-schooler can identify with and no matter what his mother does to cheer him up, he just doesn't smile. Ultimately what is it that does in deed make him smile? A sweet story with beautiful endearing illustrations add to the exuberance of this book wich is great for a snugly cuddly read and strengthening the mother-child bond. We love to act out the various scenes in the book even when we are not reading it, especially the last part (which i have not mentioned here for the surprise factor). The only tough part is Vansh wants me to carry him and hop at the same time like a kangaroo!!

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss - The classic hardly needs any introduction and this is Vansh's favorite among the many Dr Seuss books that I checked out for him. He has read it so many times that he now reads it to himself from memory and that makes him proud. The biggest advantage I have had from this book is that I use it to encourage him to try a new food telling him how the finicky character in the book actually started liking the green eggs and ham once he tried it. The book has also helped him recognise some words like mouse, house, rain, train, tree apart from the simpler phonetic ones like box, fox, Sam, am, car etc. and he is usually able to generalize them to other books as well.


My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk - Like most children his age, Vansh loves books with repetitive text so that he can chime in when its being read aloud. And what more can he want if the text being repeated is about "Rotten luck! Can't go! My truck is stuck" and then asking the car, van, jeep and a bus passing by for "Help! Do you know how to make my stuck truck go" and then "Engines hauling! Tug and tow!" until finally a truck mechanic comes along. The illustrations are humorous and draw the children into the story.
Another great book for truck lover kids with repetitive text that I had written about some time earlier is Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha.

The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom has good illustrations he can identify with, of a big brother and his younger sister asking him as each vehicle comes along "Is this the bus for us, Gus?" and then the brother telling his sister the name of the truck, taxi, backhoe, fire engine and the likes till the bus finally arrives. Simple repetitive sentences, just one per page, serve the purpose well for beginning readers.

At 14 months, Jiya is upto ...

Wow!! It was fascinating to see the mental leaps with Vansh in his 2nd year and the wonder just never fails to surprise, even more so with Jiya, probably because I am more tuned now or probably because I know I would never be able to see these again so closely with any other child.

- She understands so much now. She knows where the garbage can is and wants to throw her diaper there herself and loves to help and to please when we ask her to throw something else there. She takes off her sandals when we get back home and puts them in the shoe rack in the laundry at the entrance. She generally likes to play with shoes and if she forgets to put a shoe back, on being reminded she takes it back and puts it at the correct place. Its the same with other things, papers or magazines taken out from the coffee table go back there when we tell her to do so. And I, also a mom of a 3-1/2 year old, am letting her help me all she wants ;), encouraging her profusely all the same. She opens her mouth for me and takes out whatever is in there when I ask her "Kya daala muhn mein?" (What have you put in your mouth?)

She loves to walk, walk, walk. At home, just as Vansh used to when he learnt to walk, she walks at least 2 miles if not more in a day. Its getting tough to feed her because she has just a few bites and wants to move on. As a result she now needs more frequent meals. And actually at times, I just call her back, put another morsel in her mouth and she walks back again. Things are so different the second time over, I think and I smile. Even when outside, she is hardly ever content to be in the stroller. She wants to get off and explore on her feet. However unlike Vansh who would just walk off and won't even look back, she usually doesn't stroll too far away from us.

- She loves to go out of the house and she's exactly like her brother when it comes to that. As soon as she hears a hint of us going out of the house, she gets everyone's footwear out from the laundry and gives it to the respective owner. At times it really is funny because she'll give one to Ashwini, one to me and the way she walks 'matak ke' and even more so with a heavy shoe in hand is rather hilarious. When outside in the corridor, she runs away when I call her to come inside. In fact she really likes to tease me on numerous such occasions when I call her to have her food, or brush her hair or change her diaper, she just lets out a squeal and runs away from me giggling away to glory.

- She is not a very fussy eater however. She is very eager to try new foods and comes to us saying 'kha-kha' as soon as she spots us eating something. And she doesn't mind spicy foods either. In fact she likes them. Her favorite foods are bananas, apples, grapes, cantaloupe and water melons, paneer, kheer and she is impartial to sweet or salty foods. Again a major contrast to Vansh's tastes and preferences. Its extremely hard to make him try anything new and he definitely has a preference for the salty foods.

- Her favorite word turns out to be 'mamma' :) and she says that in a sing song way every now and then. When she has been playing for too long whether by herself or with other kids, she comes back to me for a few minutes to get some hugs and kisses, shower some of her love on me and then go back to playing.

- She loves to sleep for long on weekends. Again a characteristic in absolute contrast to Vansh who would get up at his usual 7:30 or so irrespective of the time he went to sleep. She sleeps in till 10, at times even 11 before she rises and shines.

- She already has a favorite book called Tickle Tickle by Helen Oxenbury. She gets it to me, places herself on my lap and then points to the pictures as I turn the pages. She squeals as I perform all the actions like "Squelch squelch in the mud", "gently gently brush your hair" and "tickle tickle under there" on her. Oh its so hard not to think of Vansh as I write about Jiya. Vansh on the other hand needs his space, he likes to sit besides us without too much of touching from very early on when we read to him.

Her favorite activity is closing lids of various bottles and jars. Basically she likes to exercise her fine motor skills, so putting things in bottle necks, screwing and unscrewing their lids keeps her busy for long times.

- She loves to swing and slide in the park. And the ease with which she slides is commendable. She'll climb it, even though she still has to crawl up the steps but she tries hard to be able to do it the big kids way, the climbing without having to kneel down way. Once up, like a total pro, she'll first bring one leg forward and almost as she is sliding down on just one leg, the other leg still behind her, causing all around her a certain degree of nervousness, swiftly the second leg also comes forward as she slides down with a squeal.

She also loves it at the beach playing with the water and sand for a long long time. Her favorite activity - knocking down with her brother the first sign of a castle that mom and dad try to build :)

I still repeat to her often times "Don't grow up any more Jiya" but she obviously doesn't listen and is off to try out newer activities, busy herself in newer adventures and just grow up some more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rakhi 2008

Phew!! Whats with the Rakhi this year! First, even though I remembered on Aug 15th that tomorrow is Rakhi, but I almost forgot that Jiya would tie Rakhi for Vansh and hence we would celebrate it nicely. Yeah I am that weird at times. I keep remembering that some date is so and so's birthday, that date comes and goes and I still keep thinking that I have to wish so and so on this date till after about 2-3 days if not more.

And then I forgot to pen it down here! So here I am now.

Anyways part of the reason I forgot was the Indian Independence Day celebrations we were heart and soul into at that point. So as soon as I remembered which was at about 6'o clock the previous evening, we went and bought some stuff for making a couple of sweets. At 9'0 clock after putting Jiya to bed and as Ashwini took Vansh inside for his bedtime, I put the milk to boil for kheer on one coil and condensed milk for another sweet, I don't know the name but its very close to the brown part of milk cake, on the second one. The sweets kept cooking as I cleaned the house (yeah festivals and guests are the two things that make me do that). At 11:15 I was all done and ready to sleep, foregoing the usual Friday night movie. I woke up early and made Poha with cahews and raisins etc for breakfast. The kids woke up at the usual time and bathed at their usual early hour and we were ready to celebrate Rakhi by 9:45. I'll tell the rest of the story along with the pictures.

The kids eyed the Rakhi thali for some time taking in the sights and smells of the various goodies, me thinks.
The appetizing goodies and the fact that it was past their breakfast time, they first wanted to devour the poha and the sweers. I tried to make Jiya hold the rakhi to Vansh's arm before they ate ...
... but gave up after a couple of attempts and let both of them have a few bites of whatever it was they wanted to have. Vansh wanted to have the namkeen poha preferring that to the sweets and Jiya as always was impartial to all tasty foods be they meetha or namkeen.
Hmm, so pehle pet pooja, phir kaam dooja; Jiya finally did the honors of tying the rakhi around bhaiya's wrist.
Both the kids were all hugs for each other as Vansh handed out the kharchi to Jiya, with which she bought a couple of ear-rings, by the way :)
And then they had several moments which always make me cherish the festivals for creating an atmosphere, an aura of the emotions that run high as we celebrate those. Be it the majesty one feels on seeing the innumerable lights and diyas on Diwali, the pride one feels in being an Indian on Independence day, the joy and childlike excitement on seeing the colors on Holi. It was beautiful and in deed surprising when they spend so many of their waking minutes trying to tease each other, snatch things, scream, cry, how they sat peacefully eating together from the same plate, feeding each other, hugging each other impromptu. As if two little children who don't even fully understand the significance of Rakhi just felt it within their hearts their love for each other and a need to express it so strongly. As we prayed for the bond to strengthen and the love to blossom.