Soaring like kites on a windless spring morning!

One weekday morning in mid-March, when the kids were enjoying Spring Break, Rachna came up with the brilliant idea of flying kites! None of us are experts at this clearly skilled job, but then Rachna owned some fancy Chinese kites sourced all the way from San Francisco. We were all delighted and we showed up in full strength at Gurgaon’s Tau Devi Lal Park- Mum (nani), Udai, Aadyaa, me, Rachna and Nupur, who was to get to work after this morning adventure.

IMG_5719IMG_5750As it happened, it was one of those lovely spring morning with a delightful nip in the air, BUT no breeze. Zilch! Not a leaf moved and we spent a few moments of despair, breathing in the scent of the roses, delighted with being out at dawn, but wondering how the hell we would fly these kites!

Not ones to give up, we found another way to do this. And get in some serious exercise at the same time! We taught ourselves to float the kite up in the air and then RUN. Run, run, run as fast as we can so the kite lifts into the air just as the wind rushes into our lungs! Oxygen rush coupled with the excitement of getting the lovely kites into the air- what a heady start to the day!

IMG_5723IMG_5733IMG_5731IMG_5737IMG_5748IMG_5769IMG_5774IMG_5778IMG_5779IMG_5784IMG_5785IMG_5787IMG_5788IMG_5802IMG_5804IMG_5856Of course, we were so tired in a bit that we call sort of crashed into one of the covered gazebo the park designers have obligingly built. Here we proceeded to eat a picnic breakfast, receiving indulgent and slightly mocking smiles from a few young men from nearby Wazirabad who were into a serious workout session in the same space! After a bit, we noticed a little boy, about the same age as Udai, curiously looking at our kites.

Finding an opportunity to sidle out of more running, we tired adults made the necessary introductions. Aman (he’s a village kid, same grade as Udai, studies in Scottish High where he claims the English is too tough!) , Udai and Aadyaa spent some more time running around with the kites till they too were tired out and the kites were too heavy from being dragged through the dewy grass! We promised to do this again, on a windy day.

IMG_5821IMG_5824We can’t thank Rachna (the kids call her Bausi!) enough for that wonderful morning! Looking forward to more bright ideas from the brilliant Bausi soon…

 

 

A 6-yr old’s take on the India Art Fair

It’s an annual ritual, the visit to the India Art Fair. I’m interested in art, of course, but in a general manner. I’m not into buying or collecting, nor do I enthusiastically follow artists and their careers. It’s a nice event to go to to just soak in the trends, often quirky, the crowds and the experience of being surrounded by art. Even though art is not what you would call some of the stuff there!

This year, we took the kids along. We navigated the fair in two groups: Aadyaa, Amma and me in Group 1 and Udai, mum and mum’s friend Bashabi in Group 2. The Art Fair with Aadyaa was a whole different experience altogether! She’s very artistic herself, always drawing even on scraps of paper she finds lying around and it was interesting to see what she liked and what she found amusing. Bright colours, installations that you could interact with, audio-visual exhibits and sculpture were what really got her attention. And large canvases! Here are some pics to give you a better idea….

The first piece we say by Jitesh Killat I think. At this point, Aadyaa was a little dazed by the crowd and the buzz!

The first piece we say by Jitesh Killat I think. At this point, Aadyaa was a little dazed by the crowd and the buzz!

You can't go wrong with butterflies!

You can’t go wrong with butterflies!

Mumma, is that me?

Mumma, is that me?

Aadyaa posing with Aadyaa :)

Aadyaa posing with Aadyaa :)

This was the biggest hit of all. The TV and the clock were still working and the fact that the minute and second hands stuck out into space between 12 and 6 was rib tickling!

This was the biggest hit of all with Aadyaa. The TV and the clock were still working and the fact that the minute and second hands stuck out into space between 12 and 6 was rib tickling! Artist: Deepjyoti Kalita

Sneaking in one of my amused moments, a whole bunch of pics of homes taken mostly in Kerala representing the urban dream! All paint companies very much in business!

Sneaking in one of my amused moments, a whole bunch of pics of homes taken mostly in Kerala representing the urban dream! All paint companies very much in business!

My angel!

My angel! The dear old man at the stall helped her onto a chair to post for that pic…

Purda hi purda...having fun peering at each other through the lovely curtains by Pierre Legrand!

Purda hi purda…having fun peering at each other through the lovely curtains by Pierre Legrand!

A brief intersection with members of Team 2

A brief intersection with members of Team 2

Beating up Asim Waqif's piece to hear sounds and other auditory and audio-visual experiences were something new that Aadyaa loved exploring!

Beating up Asim Waqif’s piece to hear sounds and other auditory and audio-visual experiences were something new that Aadyaa loved exploring!

Meeting her friend Soha from school and creating textures on an outdoor exhibit was another highlight. The messier the better!

Meeting her schoolfriend Soha and creating textures on an outdoor exhibit was another highlight. The messier the better!

Those boxes were made to jump on! The installation that greets you at the fair is made by Space Matters, an architectural practice run by friends from SPA.

Those boxes were made to jump on! The installation that greets you at the fair is made by Space Matters, an architectural practice run by friends from SPA.

 

A sporty weekend [2]: Kids do Raahgiri on cycles

After a taste of the Raahgiri experience last Sunday [read about that here], the kids weren’t giving anybody any choice. In fact, the word had spread as it is wont to among the young ones and we had a larger group now. Udai was enthused about the idea of cycling around the Raahgiri route this time and I was requested to figure out the logistics. However, on Sunday morning, we were looking at a very flat front wheel and I was scurrying around in my head for a way to handle this. Our neighbor and friend Deepak came to my rescue, offering an adult’s bicycle from his home, but over and above that ensuring Udai test rode it at home before we loaded it on.

Despite Rahul not being around (and we all miss him sorely), the dads in the group Ananth and Deepak worked overtime as did the mums (Shruti, Preeti, me), dadis (Amma) and masis (Gauri) to ensure the kids had a lot of fun. Quite a bunch they were- Udai (9), Aadyaa (5), Avandeeta (6), Candy (3), Deepika (8) and Priyanka (not yet 1!!). All except the last one cycled the route, the rest of us running alongside in turns. Exhausting, but immensely satisfying, this past Sunday at Raahgiri, Gurgaon.

For those of you not in the know, Raahgiri is the name for a car free route designated for citizens to enjoy the streets in Gurgaon, otherwise known for its traffic congestion, pseudo glitzy mall culture, poor infrastructure and corporate prowess. It’s an effort spearheaded by dedicated citizens and supported by government, a win-win partnership that has inspired many of us to hope for a better world._DSC3863_DSC3873_DSC3876_DSC3883_DSC3886_DSC3888_DSC3892_DSC3896_DSC3907

A sporty weekend [1]: Sports Day at Shikshantar

Just as I was getting a little cribby about Udai’s new penchant for hanging out gossiping with his friends rather than playing in the park, we spent a weekend full of outdoors fun! Winter in Delhi is perfect for sporty activities and we took full advantage of superb weather and great friends.

Saturday morning was spent attending Aadyaa’s sports day, quite a spectacle a Shikshantar where kids demonstrate complex obstacles, relays and patterns using props like balls and hoopla rings. The focus is complete immersion in the task at hand, with no regard to the idea of ‘winning a race’, quite unique to this school and absolutely age appropriate for pre-schoolers I think. I have to point out that the idea of sports for pre-schoolers is as much about the development of physical strength and skills as it is about honing social skills like sharing, encouraging peers and pushing yourself to do better. As parents, we all feel good that these little ones are protected at this point from the disappointments of losing and do whatever they can with great confidence. There will be a time and place for comparisons, but for now the happiness and enthusiasm is catching!

Here are a few snapshots from that energized morning, though I must confess I was sunburnt into a stupor afterwards!

Sports is internalized into every aspect of what the kids do at this time of the year!

Sports is internalized into every aspect of what the kids do at this time of the year!

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Good to see them focus on a task and chellenge themselves to do better. Notice the highly informal setup with parents and grandparents, siblings and even house help (who are so integral to the family from a child’s perspective) standing or sitting around the activity area

Teamwork was introduced this year. A significant step forward for the little ones!

Teamwork was introduced this year. A significant step forward for the little ones!

Cheering for her friends!

Cheering for her friends!

Big brother Udai watches. Later, parents and siblings also have similar activities. Wish I had pics of how much he enjoyed those, on the same team as mommy. Of course, our (more grown up) bunch was competitive as hell, yelling and behaving like the brats that I am sure we all were (or still are!)

Big brother Udai watches. Later, parents and siblings also have similar activities. Wish I had pics of how much he enjoyed those, on the same team as mommy. Of course, our (more grown up) bunch was competitive as hell, yelling and behaving like the brats that I am sure we all were (or still are!)

The sea, the sea! Crazy excitement of the Gurgaon-walas at Miramar, Goa

If you live by the water, you have no idea how those of us who live in landlocked places long for the open sea. No matter what age we are, no matter what state of mind, just take us to a beach or jetty and watch us go wild!

One morning in Goa, this past week, we were out to fill fuel in the car and decided to visit Miramar, which is a beautiful stretch of beach next to Panjim, Goa’s capital city. Within minutes, the children had walked out into the waves, sat in them, jumped in them, rolled in them, and well, thoroughly soaked themselves into the experience of being on the beach. I walked around in my shoes (why was I wearing them exactly?) collecting shells, which Aadyaa really wanted but didn’t have the patience to collect, preferring to frolic in the water instead. Udai wore a silly grin while Rahul had a beatific smile stuck on his face. I took pictures of my beautiful family as we all thoroughly enjoyed some peaceful time on a nearly deserted beach!

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Learning should continue to be fun!

Aadyaa is raring to go! She is a few months beyond five and studies in a progressive school where they take it fairly easy in introducing basic concepts and she has just about finished covering the alphabet. However, she is a big fan of Udai, who is nine and is grade 4. Result: We have a super aggressive learner on our hands right now. She wants us to assign her 3-digit addition problems and we struggle to ensure that they do not have the carry-over issue to deal with. She wants to read and write.

Today she has been working on writing out a description for an illustration she has made. This is happening in the other room. So there is a writing pad going back and forth in which I write out a word and she copy-writes it onto her creation. I haven’t yet seen the product of all this activity, but am totally amused by her little frustrations and triumphs.

Learning is such a fun process. Why do we make it such a drudgery? Why do we link learning to fear- fear of failure, fear of punishment? I see the joy Aadyaa takes in discovering each new fact, each new formula (Udai was the same in pre-school) and in contrast, I see Udai starting to get bogged down by the compulsions of learning, and starting to somewhat lose the excitement to discover new ideas. There must be a good way to keep excitement levels high through middle and senior school! Technology, perhaps, could be a good tool, but I see school hesitate to go that way for various reasons.

Thinking back, I found some subjects painful, especially in grades 11 and 12, but now I see the lethargy was either because of poor quality teaching or too many distractions and I’m none the worse for that short phase. For the most part, I have found learning a lot of fun and continue to do so. In fact, I can learn and study all my life! On that note, let me get back to my work….a part of which is trying to find flexible ways to pursue a PhD in migration and urban planning.

Ok, I managed to click a few pics of what she is upto….here you go!

What she asked me to write....

What she asked me to write….

Illustration...book cover maybe?

Illustration…book cover maybe?

struggling with putting the words together...

struggling with putting the words together…

 

getting somewhere, but also getting frustrated!

getting somewhere, but also getting frustrated!

 

Woes of the Tiger Mom! The sweet-n-sour nature of being a parent

As my closest friends will know, I’ve been having growing up pains about Udai. All of nine, he has been in a broody, sensitive, rebellious frame of mind for the past few weeks. With holiday time meaning a complete lack of structure, it has not been easy to steer him into spending small amounts of time doing things that are not always appealing- in particular, written work and music practice have been a challenge.

We have always tried to let our kids be, or that has been the intention at least. We’ve taken care to put them in a school that lets them be as well. And it’s been a rewarding experience for the most part. But as Udai moves toward middle school and I see him reluctant to rise to challenges, I do worry. I have no benchmarks for comparison; we all went to conventional schools and grew up in homes where discipline was a big part of our lives and questioning authority not acceptable. Of course we did our share of rebellion, but perhaps I have forgotten about my own experience of the confused state that entails being a pre-teen!

Anyway, the first time I began to agree with the idea of discipline and the parents-do-know-better thinking was when I read Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom by Amy Chua a couple of years ago. Thinking back, I hated my music classes too on certain days, but my parents gave me no choice and coaxed and perhaps even badgered me into it. In time, I developed that special bond with music that I cherish today and this is the sort of example Chua uses to support her hypothesis that American parenting is mush-mush and Indian and Chinese parents are doing the right thing by deciding what’s good for their kids and being strict enough to enforce their will

The thing is: How do you explain that process of growing to love something that initially seems imposed, to a 9-yr old? I talk about my own experiences as examples, but I see in his eyes an unwillingness to engage with what I say and also a sheer inability to imagine a future that spans several decades!

Added to this is the fact that Udai has high expectations of himself, but has not yet developed a mechanism for him to be able to accept criticism in any constructive fashion. His defense for performing a task shoddily, therefore, is the I-am-not-good-enough sort of pseudo self-battering that could, if left unchecked or allowed to grow, turn into lingering low self-esteem. I do realize that even very well meaning parents can burden their children by constantly voicing their expectations and that this can make for that child growing into an adult who is constantly seeking approval and struggling to gain confidence.

In theory, I would rather Udai grows up to be an average student who is happy and follows his passions, but in reality I, like any other parent, long for him to excel and achieve what I think is his potential. The disparity between these two constructs is enormous and it isn’t practical to think one while practicing another, I know.

I am venting on my blog my sheer guilt after this morning’s battle (regular feature now), and I have encouraged Udai to vent his feelings as well. Check out what he wrote! Now we sit relatively at peace, each of one of us, Aadyaa included, on our own separate devicesImage , immersed in our work. I know I need to back off, calm down and I will get to it. For now, we battle and lock horns and that’s how we move a few steps ahead!

The World Through My Eyes

ramblinginthecity:

Lovely captures of slum children!

Originally posted on Thirdeyemom:

Traveling the world with a third-eye has always been the way I prefer to experience life. It means to view life openly and see everything – good or bad- with an open mind and heart. The world through my eyes can be contradictory and complex. Seeing both good and bad can bring so much immense joy and happiness while also such deep sadness that it makes your heart ache. Yet in my humble opinion, you cannot go through life with a blind eye. Otherwise nothing will change.

On my most recent trip through the Delhi slums as part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I saw a tremendous amount through my eyes. If I could look beyond the immense poverty, destruction, destitution and disease, I could also find beauty and hope. Beauty in the lovely warm smiles across the children’s eager faces whenever I pulled my camera out to snap…

View original 58 more words

Father’s Day creations from my enthusiastic children

There is nothing more than an early morning creative outburst. To create this surprise for Rahul papa, behind his back while he was at the gym, we slit apart old used A4 size envelopes, glued them together to create this long strip and then the kids just unleashed their creative juices on them. Dadi (their grandmum) offered them discarded kajal (kohl sticks), lipsticks etc and we used acrylic paints, crayons, toothbrushes, etc.

Aadyaa chose to recreate the mountains we recently holidayed in, while Udai drew a fleet of spacecrafts! Mummy and mausi chipped in here and there. We cut out the words from old discarded brochures. The entire process took us a couple of hours.

When Rahul walked in sometime later, the kids were shouting out ‘Happy Fathers Day’ atop their voices. The house rang with yells and laughter, smiles aplenty and lots of cheer. We breakfasted on a dish of yesterday’s chapati reinvented with garlic, onion and tomato seasoning and another experimental smoothie made with curd, milk, watermelon, beet root, red bell pepper,carrot, apricot and cucumber. A morning of creative reuse and family fun, with good old Furby joining in! Feeling really satisfied!
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Did you manage the kids or did they manage you?

Just back from a week out with kids and friends and friends’ kids and I cannot sleep. The images of the week gone by and the to-do list of the week ahead clash inside my head as I toss, turn and finally sit up and start up my Mac to..what else, blog!

Our trip to Dharamsala included two couples and three kids- aged 9, 5 and 4. Quite a bit of our time and patience went into managing the kiddos and so I thought I’d pen down what worked and what didn’t. At the end of it all, I wonder whether it wasn’t the kids that had the fingers on the control buttons all along!

1- Kids are competitive, so comparisons are a no-no, even though tempting at times! Aadyaa and Maayra, the two girls aged 5 and 4, drove us up the wall with their constant competing. They wanted the same number of spoons to play with at each meal, they wanted to eat the same stuff, play the same game on the same ipad at the same time, outdo each other at getting our attention, all the time! All four of us were taking turns at getting irritated with them on Day 1 and 2. By Day 3, this was getting to be hilarious and I started noticing how much we incite them to compete.”Look at her, she is eating so well. Why can’t you?”…..”Look at her, she is siting properly in her chair. You also sit down!”

And so on and so forth. Within ourselves, perhaps, we are competitive too, I thought. And that’s why we need to super super let go if we are calm them down. As the vacation progressed and the holiday chill sobered us down, the girls seemed to calm down as well. Or our management skills improved, perhaps! Just wondering how much of our own stresses, insecurities and inner struggles we pass on to our kiddos unwittingly!

The two who inseparable squabblers having masti time with 'Hansa mumma' who pampered them and scolded them in equal measure!

The two inseparable squabblers having masti time with ‘Hansa mumma’ who pampered them and scolded them in equal measure!

2- Never underestimate children, they are built to amaze! Rahul and me were enamored of the idea of trekking on this vacation. When we mooted the idea, Udai was super enthusiastic, but we were all a little skeptical about whether the girls could trek a lot. Aadyaa had managed a couple of hours of walking earlier this year at Ramgarh, but could we push her a bit more this time? So we set off one morning and decided to see how it goes and we were more than pleasantly surprised. The kids rose to the challenge and loved the adventure, even the youngest of them all, Maayra. Finding new paths to climb up, getting stung by nettles and recovering fast, drinking from a cold mountain stream- all these little thrills served to entice them to go further and further and we ended up successfully completing a half day trek without much fussing and with enough energy to enjoy the rest of the day as well!

Starting uphill from Dharamkot

Starting uphill from Dharamkot. Hansa and the kids walk ahead of us…

Udai was navigator, happy to do extra climbs to check out if we were on the right path. Proud to say he is turning out to be one sure footed trekking enthusiast!

Udai was navigator, happy to do extra climbs to check out if we were on the right path. Proud to say he is turning out to be one sure footed trekking enthusiast!

Conversation is a great way to keep the kiddos going! Mishu and Maayra in full flow

Conversation is a great way to keep the kiddos going! Mishu and Maayra in full flow

Even as she walks, she romances the camera, my little one...

Shot #1 Even as she walks, she romances the camera, my little one…

Shot #2 Peek-a-boo mumma!

Shot #2 Peek-a-boo? No, she’s in the midst of a kathak routine!

Shot # 3 Inspired by her kathak lessons, she danced her way to the top

Shot # 3 And there, she reaches the sam! Inspired by her kathak lessons, she danced her way to the top

Thrilled by the little mountain stream and happy to play in the crystal clear ice-cold water...sheer bliss!

Thrilled by the little mountain stream and happy to play in the crystal clear ice-cold water…sheer bliss!

Little imp all but tumbled into it!

Little imp all but tumbled into it!

Me with the kids...posing...

Me with the kids…posing…

Hey! Look here! Mishu and Hansa caught by my lens

Hey! Look here! Mishu and Hansa caught by my lens

Udai's idea of a little sunbathing break, with Aadyaa happy to join in

Udai’s idea of a little sunbathing break, with Aadyaa happy to join in

Rahul, impatient to restart climbing!

Rahul, impatient to restart climbing!

After we reached the temple, our hilltop destination for the day. Horsing around with papa!

After we reached the temple, our hilltop destination for the day. Horsing around with papa!

And snuggling with mumma too, before we begin the climb down!

And snuggling with mumma too, before we begin the climb down!

3- Don’t shy away from using tech to keep kids busy, too-principled is passe! When you’re on vacation, you’re there for a break. So letting the children have a good go at the ipad once in a while is just fine, in my opinion. They do the same at home as well, or watch television, for a small bit of time everyday. I found that asking kids to share an ipad or iphone actually meant they found ways to cooperate, take turns and share. They taught each other new tricks, they exhibited patience while waiting out their turn.

Busy bees!

Busy bees!