Another reason why I love blogging…

.. you get inspired to do all sorts of stuff. Like Origami, which I wouldn’t even have dreamed of trying with daughter, had it not been for Ani and Lifesong.

We started off making some tulips, and then daughter had the idea of making a 3D picture, and this is what came out of it. Tulips, ladybirds(one of them 3D), and lots of Easter eggs scattered in the garden 🙂

The downside? Daughter has planned more 3D pictures, which I will now have to help make!

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That lost personal touch..

This morning, at the library, it dawned on me, how little person to person contact we have these days. I go in, take the books I want to return to the machine, return them, browse through the shelves, select books, and then self check them out.

Libraries have always been in my top of my list of  ‘happy places’. Ever since I remember. I actually remember how the first library I visited looked like. It was the library of my school’s primary section. I remember how I used to wait for the library classes – we had a period reserved for the library. We were not allowed to take home books until we were in Class 3, and I remember waiting impatiently to reach Class 3.

Our high school library was just as good. And our librarian was a darling! She was a wonderful, sweet tempered lady, with whom I used to discuss books. I remember waiting for Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. When the book got released, I was in Class 10. Our school term was almost over. We had study holidays to prepare for Pre-ICSE, and we were not allowed to borrow books(time-pass books, that is). But I managed to convince my librarian to let me borrow it 🙂

I have had a wonderful time talking to librarians, discussing books, getting recommendations. I would have never read authors like Elizabeth George, Sophie Kinsella had it not been recommended by the librarians of the libraries I have frequented over the years. One of the librarians I met was a software engineer who quit her job to open her own library. How I wanted to be her at that time 🙂

In London, I used to go to the library almost every day. It used to open late, and I would often finish a book in the time it took me to get to work and back. So on the way back home, I would either drop off my book, or pick up new ones. After daughter was born, and after I took time off from work, we used to visit it even more. I think she must have been just as comfortable in libraries as she was at home. And what made my library visits so memorable was certainly the interaction with the librarians or library assistants.

That was before the age of self checkout machines. In London, our library had just started introducing them, and they refused to work most of the time, so I always ended up at the counter to borrow books. When we moved to Leeds, everything changed. The self checkout system here worked much better. I hardly had any contact with the library staff. They were almost always busy serving older customers who found it difficult to use the machines. And that is when I realized that although I have been frequenting my current library for over 3 years, but I don’t seem to know any of the staff! I know the checkout staff at my local supermarket better than that! And they have a much larger staff!

And that is only thanks to those soulless machines which I interact with these days.. The mere thought of all this, makes me yearn for the days gone by when the librarian would checkout each book, stamp it out, and talk to you about whether they read that book or not. Sometimes exclaiming that they had no idea that this library stocked this book, sometimes  asking me how I managed to read so much, while I tell them how I used to dream of being a librarian as a young child.. It makes me feel a little sad..  a little nostalgic for the days gone by, a little sad for that lost personal touch..

Memories of books..

Do you remember books? Books that you read a long time ago? Not just the stories, you know, but things like what they looked like, how you got to read them…

I remember some.. Like the first book I owned.. The book, which in a way changed my life. You see, until Class 4, I was quite a mediocre student. My mum used to help me with school work at home, but I never did very well. Then in Class 4, my brother had some medical complications and mum and dad were busy, I started studying all by myself, and at the end of the year, I got an award – for exceptional improvement.. I think from then on, I was consistently good at studies. I think studying independently helped. Anyway, the award was a book, an Enid Blyton book, of which, funnily enough, I can’t remember the name! I used to remember it until very recently – old age, I suppose! Do any of you remember which book had 4 children, one of them named Nora? It was a series, but I can’t remember anything beyond this… and the fact that I loved it( which was true about every Enid Blyton I ever read).

Today, I had been reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Lives of Strangers. The book is alright, but it kind of transported me to another era, because of the colour of the pages. It had that old book feel(it was probably an older copy), if you know what I mean. All my old books back at home, used to have that feel. Especially when they were stored in a trunk. That yellow colour, which also gives the feeling that the paper will crumple under your fingers, if you are not careful.

Long back, when I was still in school, I used to raid my granddad’s book shelf. One of the books I remember from those days was A J Cronin’s Citadel. I still remember particularly poignant parts of that book. I have re-read it many, many times, but I guess reading a book that my grandfather enjoyed gave me just as much pleasure, I think, as the story itself. Once I had worked through my grandfather’s collection, his brother, my great Uncle got me some of his – his collection of PG Wodehouse. What fun! Those were the best holidays ever! I would read his collection of Reader’s Digests too. It used to amaze me how the magazines which were so very thick in the 50’s and the 60’s became thinner and thinner by the 80s! My grandfather had 4 decades or so, of Readers Digests, and I read them all 🙂

As I read through the yellowed pages of my book today, I couldn’t help be a little sad, that daughter might miss that entirely. What if only electronic readers remain by the time she gets older? Heartbreaking, isn’t it? No more thumbing through books that had been in the family for years, no more reading books that one’s grandparents might have enjoyed.. Instead brand new, soulless books on the reader.  It just makes me so sad..

Edited to add: I figured out which book it was – The Secret of the Moon Castle. How could I forget that, I have no idea 🙂 But at least ‘Googling’, reminded me 🙂

Memories.. Old and New..

Some thirty years ago, one of the things I remember clearly are the annual circus visits. I think it was during the winters, when the little town I grew up in had visiting circus companies set up camp at a certain ground, and all of us would wait for a chance to go there.

I think we did it regularly, until it stopped somewhere down the line. I actually don’t even remember when. What I do remember is the excitement, the awe that we watched the performers with, the animals( I do realize that it was so cruel, but for a young child, it was still something out of the world). The clowns and their antics – it  even made grown-ups laugh!

Last year, we were in Blackpool, and were thoroughly disappointed with the place, when we got to know that there was a circus there. We went to watch it, and really enjoyed it. It was not the same as the ones back home. It was inside a building, and too posh? Maybe? Something was just not the same. The magic that I remembered from my childhood was missing.  Of course, it can’t be the same can, it? I am a grown-up, now! Silly me!

A couple of weeks ago, husband came across a circus being held here, near us. He booked tickets, because we thought it would be fun – much better than just eating out – which is what we would have done otherwise. Yesterday was the day. We(husband and I) did not have very high expectations, but daughter was super excited! All she wanted to see was the clown!

The very first sight of the circus made me strangely happy, and nostalgic! It was just the way I remembered it from my childhood. The pitched tent, and colourful decor. This was no posh circus, it felt real! It felt like those circuses that I had watched as a child! It was a Russian circus, and the performances did not disappoint either!

Two hours just flew by! We laughed at the clowns antics, wowed the acrobats, and the other performances. It was just perfect! The only disappointment, according to daughter, was the the popcorn was sweet 😦 Daughter and I like the salty popcorn, while husband loves sweet(he loves sweet in everything), and they only had sweet popcorn.

It was such a fun outing. Hopefully daughter will have wonderful memories of circuses – just like I have. I managed to take a picture of the circus tent, just as we were about to drive off, after the show. Does it bring back memories for you guys?

To make the weekend even more fun, we went to an Asian fair, this morning, at a park nearby. Had loads of chaat. For a change, the chaat here was delicious. Or was I delirious with hunger? Probably a combination of both. Husband and daughter feasted on jalebis. Daughter got into loads of kiddie rides, and we did a family ride which went on and on until we were ready to beg them to stop. Even the rains held off until we were ready to go home.

And a weekend, where we did not eat out. Not counting the chaats! I had food prepared, and ready at home, but we can’t resist eating when there is delicious fair food available!

Perfect weekend, by our standards 🙂 How was yours?

Captured memories.. Post 21

Every time I browse through old pics, I can’t help be amazed at how different life was even a few months back. So when I think of life as it was when I was growing up, I can’t believe how different it was from what my daughter experiences today.

To just take one simple example, we are so lucky to be able to capture so many memories on camera. I remember how different it was when we were growing up. My parents certainly did not have half as many pictures as we have. The exorbitant costs of taking photographs reduced photographs to a ‘special events thing only’. Most of our childhood pictures are awkwardly posing pictures in photo studios or during some wedding or holiday. Even then, it would not be random clicks like we have today. No options for mistakes, developing a roll, was not a cheap thing at all, was it?

Today, thanks to technology, we just click to our heart’s content. We take all sorts of pictures, of anything that catches our fancy..  We fill up our memory sticks with anything and everything. All we need is a hard disk big enough. Not even bothering to delete pictures that are not taken well. Anything that helps us capture the moments that matter to us. Little moments spent together with loved ones. When I go to India, I come back with so many pictures with random things.. Some of them sweet memories, some just moments captured..

After daughter was born, of course, cameras and pictures took a different meaning. We would have the camera ready at all times.  Especially when she was younger, it used to be a race to capture everything she did. Her smiles, her cries – I actually have videos of her crying – yes, crazy first time mother, I know… Although as I was going through the pictures, I do realize that I don’t take as many pictures of her as I used to. Yes, she is getting bigger. The ‘aww’  moments are different. And not so often, as they used to be. And we have far less time together in comparison too. Which I guess makes me all the more nostalgic..

Now, let me show you the picture that started off this post ….

This was a picture taken in 2008 on our annual holiday to India. Daughter dotes on my dad. She would copy everything he did. One morning, he was reading the newspaper, when she grabbed a paper, and copied him. She sat there, pretending to ‘read’ as long as dad sat there reading his news.

Every time I come across pictures like this, I can’t help be glad that technology has improved to the point where we can capture everyday moments like this, to relive years later..

What a sad place, it would be..

if a home is without books..

I caught a bit of ‘We, The people’ yesterday, where they were discussing books, and how Kindle and iPads might result in books being non-existent in a few years time. Have to watch the whole programme today, if I get a chance. The first thing that sprang to my mind is how sad a home would look without books?

I have never lived in a house without books.I always have books lying around. My longest standing dream has been to have a library of my own. Walls full of books, books that have been read with love, re-read with passion, and maintained for years.. Yellowed pages, but still much-loved. As much as I understand that electronic devices are easy to read, and feel quite the same, the mad romantic in me refuses to see reason. To me, reading the book, turning pages, holding a physical book, is all part of the reading experience.

My oldest memories have books associated with them. I still remember my first ‘own’ book. And the joy when I discovered my grandfather’s collection! At first it was a whole load of Reader’s Digests from the 1950’s! I used to devour them when I went over for holidays. Nothing gave me more happiness than curling up with a book. Then it was his and his brother(my grand uncle’s) huge collection of P. G. Wodehouse books. They were old, much thumbed through, but absolutely precious to me! The fact that they gave me their books to read was an added honour.

In comparison, reading on a Kindle feels so ‘lifeless’ or bland… Or may be it is just me.

And then there are the libraries. I still remember my first library in primary school, and the massive library my school had in secondary school. It was one the best libraries, I have been to. And we had the best librarian. Ok, I am biased 🙂 But seriously, I can’t tell you how many happy hours I spent there. Which is probably why I love libraries. Everything about them. Rows of books, waiting to be browsed through. Taking my time in selecting books, reading the back cover, sometimes picking up a book which ‘looks good’.. I know, we could do all that in an online bookstore or an online library, but for some reason it still does not feel like the real thing to me.

Then again, in a few years time, I might be raving about the versatility of an online library 🙂 The one thing I am sure is, that the one thing worse that having a home without (physical)books is a home without any books. The one thing I hope to bequeath to my daughter is the love of reading. The absolute joy of picking up a book, and getting absorbed in it. Forgetting hours together, oblivious to everything else in the world, and having the best time of your life! One of the reasons I love reading as opposed to watching a movie, is the our joy of imagining things your way. My imagination used to run amok. I had these really fancy ideas of what sardines were, after reading countless Enid Blyton books, only to be brought down to earth by my grandfather, when he showed me what they actually were 🙂 Or imagining that the breakfast my mum set before me was actually something out of my books. I hate watching movie adaptations of books, to find that they have picturized it all wrong! That was so not the way they looked(or behaved) in my mind! Outrageous 🙂 Which is why, I guess, I still prefer to read, and imagine the characters, my way, rather than  watch a movie and watch them spoil it for me 🙂

When I was in school, the day when we get out new books for the year, was a magical day. I could not wait to get my hands on my English Literature and Language books. The Literature books would have loads of short stories, and the language books, excerpts from literary novels. I loved reading them, again and again. Until the teacher taught them – that made me stop reading them 🙂 So the last story in the book, I would know, every word, and every sentence – I would have read it so many times by then 🙂 And during my ICSE, the last story was ‘Remember the Roses’ – which was absolutely beautiful! I think I might still remember sentences from it .

I want daughter to have it all. I want her to love books, to love reading, to want to grab  a book and lose herself in it, To let her imagination fly, to go where it takes her. Now that she is reading, I can’t tell how happy it makes me. I can’t wait for her to read all the books that made my childhood as wonderful. I can’t wait to see her excitement when she gets hold of a book she has been waiting for! I can’t wait for the days when she recommends books that I should read.

Books are far more than information, they are far more than ‘getting to know things’, they are for me, an experience, that I carry with me all my life. They also ensure that I am seldom bored. I have my entertainment with me. I remember a discussion on BBC on how, they were worried that the number of parents reading to children at an early age is reducing, and the number of children who do not get a bedtime story is increasing. I understand why it bothers people. It might not be a huge issue for some, but for people like me, it feels sad. The bedtime story that we read together, is a precious part of her childhood. And there is nothing I would do to change it.

A life without books would be so different, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine a life without books – electronic or physical?

 

When memories turn into nightmares..

Childhood memories for most of us are, cherished, special memories. Memories of a safe, and protected time.

Not so, for some. For some like Dave Pelzer, it was a different memory, the stuff nightmares are made of. I just finished reading, ‘ A man called Dave’, and like all books I read on the subject of Child Abuse, left me sad, and deeply disturbed. The one concept I can never fathom is how parents can abuse their own children, but clearly it happens and it happens much more than we would imagine.

The book itself is quite a positive, hopeful one.  Dave braves a very, very traumatic childhood. He is abused, starved, burnt by his mother in what seemed to be some sort of a ‘game’ for her. His mother used to call him ‘it’, and everything that happened to him was because ‘it’ deserved it.  He escapes when his teachers called in the authorities and he gets fostered. He grows up haunted by what he went through and with the determination to break the cycle. He is determined to never become like his mother, when he learned that children who were abused were more likely to turn into abusers themselves

He, not only overcame everything, he went on to become a wonderful father to his son, and even gave back to the community, by doing volunteer work with abused children and speaking at venues to increase the awareness around child abuse. He tries to be there for his dying father, and even tries to make sense of why his mother did everything she did, all the while, knowing what he never wanted to be.It was a very moving story of a person who overcomes his past, learns from it, and tries his best to ensure that nobody ever has to go through what he went through. He worked through a difficult marriage and when it fell apart, did everything to ensure that his son was not badly impacted by the separation. He talks about how he managed to survive on bare minimum stuff, so that he could save what he could for the times when he had his son with him. He finally finds happiness, love and contentment, a life which is a far cry from his childhood.

The book ends beautifully with a very touching conversation with his son. He talks to Stephen, his son, how things were different in that time. How parents had complete rights over children. He talks about if a parent says ‘Jump’, a child had to ask ‘How High’. Saying ‘no’ was never an option. Reading that it just makes me glad that there is more awareness today. Even if it means that in some countries parents cannot beat/smack their children. Surely disciplining a child can be done in other ways. Just as abuse can happen in so many ways. Mental abuse is just as possible, and just as harmful..and much tougher to prove.

Despite the laws, and the improve awareness, we still hear of cases like this but surely, if the laws were not there, wouldn’t things be much worse? Every time I hear of people who say that these things never happened a few years ago, I can’t help wonder if it were just that we were not aware of it. I hear people, even saying that such stuff never happens in India – how can we be so sure? Apparently we, in India, don’t even have a specific law or guidelines that could tackle child abuse. Another report says that 69% of children in India are victims of abuse, 50% being abused by someone they trust.

It scares me when I read books like this.. All we can really do is try to make our child’s childhood as happy and safe as we can – by making them aware,by letting them know about what constitutes abuse and ensuring that they always know that they can come and confide in us, irrespective of what they want to talk about..

Poohi’s Holiday updates

Poohi had a rather colourful time in India. Here’s a wee summary of all that she(and I) have been up to.

– Cows eat rubbish. One day, in Wayanad, we saw a cow grazing and chomping down grass, when Poohi exclaimed, ‘Oh look, this cow likes grass!’. She had seen quite a few cows eating rubbish on the roads, on our travel earlier, and accepted ‘rubbish’ as part of cows’ diet. It took me a while to convince her that cows are not really supposed to eat rubbish.

– She has adopted my parents as her parents. She was not too keen on having me as a parent. Just this morning, she asked me if she could go back – while I stay here.She wants to have a ‘parent-free’ holiday.

– She is totally cross with me because I am not as much fun as Achan(my dad, who she insists on calling Achan, instead of Ammachan).He used to spend hours at her beck and call. Pretend play with him was one of the highlights of our stay.

– She loved, loved making the Pookalams every day, and I was quite amazed at her sense of symmetry. She was quite good at it.

– Every day would be a marathon session of fun, and food. And she would wake up at five, if she were allowed to.

– Her collection of books have increased three-fold. My parents got me a copy of a Bhagwatham, which I grew up on, and I was so delighted to read it again. I had planned to read it to her, but I think I am having far more fun reading it 🙂 Infact, I have been rather sneaky. I have been reading it on the sly, so that I can read it in peace before I read it to her 🙂

When I look back on our holiday, I am just so grateful that we get to spend this kind of time at home. She gets to know her grandparents and bask in their love. It is such a precious time. I hope that she will remember and savour the feeling for years to come, just as I still remember and cherish the time I spent with my grandparents. It also makes me so glad that she gets so much time close to nature, that would have been impossible, had my parents settled down in a city. There is something about growing your own vegetables, and living in a house surrounded by greenery. I can only be thankful for it and count my blessings.. Precious memories forever..

Memories..

I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Lucky that my school years have been some of the best times of my life. That I had teachers who I adored.

This video had been shared by one of my batch-mates on a social networking site. It says ‘memories of the 2007 batch’ – but surprisingly,  it could have been mine. The school grounds, the classrooms, the library I used to haunt…, the annual days, even some of the teachers who taught me are there in the video. To say, that I choked on emotions would be an understatement. It has been 17 years since I graduated from this school – but it feels like yesterday.

Last I went there was in 2005. I was pregnant with daughter then and it was to be one of my last visits to Jamshedpur. Dad was to retire the next year and move to Kerala. I had pulled husband along to come and see one last glance of my school. He had been surprised to meet teachers who still enthusiastically remembered me – one of them even told him that I was a ‘gem’ 🙂 Have to say, that made my day 🙂 It had felt wonderful to see some of my old teachers, the place where I spent 15 years of my life.

Whoever made this video, did not  just capture his memories – he gave me back some of mine – tucked away, almost forgotten memories.  As I always say, I just hope that my daughter is equally lucky with her school and her teachers.

Late night reading and Book reviews

I have been reading loads these days. There are days when I sat up reading until late at nights and feeling sick and woozy in the mornings. I am just not a night person, but with a good book in my hand, I can’t not finish it before going to sleep.

The other day, I read under a duvet with a flashlight 🙂 Reminded me of my childhood. Also reminded me to get one of those book light which can be clipped on to the book while reading – that would have been far more comfortable to read with! Growing up, I used to read so much that my parents used to worry that I get marks in school simply because the teachers liked me. So they used to try and regulate the amount I read, and I used to find ways of reading all the same.

As I said here, I have been picking up books rather randomly from the library. I never seem to get the latest bestsellers, so I just go by my instincts and seem to end up with great books(thankfully!).

I finally managed to lay my hands on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Arranged Marriage. This had been on my wish list for ages but had been evading me. Well, all I can say is that it was totally worth the wait.

The collection of short stories depicting women in various situations brought about by their circumstances. Be it an abused woman’s story narrated by her little daughter, or the new bride who finds herself a widow in America, or a happily married woman who finds one day that her husband wanted to leave the marriage and grab at a chance of real happiness. Each of the stories brought out the feelings of the protagonists, ending in despair, triumph or just accepting what life throws at them. Every story was a wonderful read and I was disappointed when I came to the end of the book. To say that I loved it, would be an understatement. Waiting to get my hands on her other books.

 

Amongst the other books I read, Joanna Trollope’s books stood out. I had read her Brothers and Sisters earlier and quite liked it. Last week I picked up two of her books. Marrying the Mistress and The Rector’s Wife. Both were amazing reads. In Marrying the Mistress, she picked up a really sensitive topic of a much married older man taking the decision to walk out of his marriage to marry his mistress who was young enough to be his daughter. How the various relationships in both their lives were affected and how many individuals one decision of this sort could affect and how each of those people behaved was beautifully crafted. And not for a minute did anything seem tacky.

The Rector’s Wife is about a village priest and his wife who are trying their best to live within the set expectations. So far, Anna, the rector’s wife had performed her role in every way possible, but her daughter being bullied in the local state school and her son’s aspirations to travel propels her to get a job in a local supermarket to earn some money.  This causes a lot of raised eyebrows in the parish. Trapped in the expectations set by her role as the rector’s Wife and the need to be independent and do something that she wants to do, she gets pulled in all directions and widens the gap between her and her husband.. Again, I love the way, Trollope has woven the various relationships, including the emotions of her teenage son and her supportive mother and mother-in-law.  I could not put the book down until I finished it off in one session.

I am now reading Trollope’s Next of Kin which is right now, just as gripping.