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!)

Are there smart ideas for cities and errr, slums? #informality #Delhi

This is the week when the semester-long research efforts of my final year students at SPA culminate in a presentation they make to the world-at-large, which usually means their fellow students, faculty and guest invitees. It’ a big deal and they all put up a good show. Dress codes, fancy invites and posters, bouquets, formal welcome speeches and funky presentations, all thrown in for good measure. It’s great fun to see them there, all confident and gung ho, after all the struggling and fighting, the crazy discussions and the times when you shrug your shoulders and sort of give up as their advisor, at least once through the semester! My group, which speaks on Smart Slums under the ambit of the Smarter Cities seminar for their batch, is on tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. Take a look at their FB event page to see some cool graphics and pre-event buzz.

smartercitiessmat slums-2smart slums-1On the content side, we’ve spent all semester arguing and debating the place of informal areas like slums in a big city like Delhi, which aspires to be world-class and ends up being exclusive in the worst possible way. In that context, I have looked at play areas for children in the informal city in an article published today in The Alternative. Children, youth, the elderly and many other groups who need special attention get bypassed not only by formal planning processes, but even by community-centric approaches. Keeping this in mind, tactical interventions that are agile and responsive can provide answers to problems that appear insurmountable.

What sort of safe, clean play spaces can we create for children in the informal city?

What sort of safe, clean play spaces can we create for children in the informal city?

More such tactical and even technological approaches are going to be presented all week at the School of Planning and Architecture by students who are exploring the Smarter City from varied angles. Looking forward to seeing some of these presentations and if yesterday’s glimpses were anything to go by, they will be both informative and though-provoking!

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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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!

The unfailing fun of peek-a-boo!

This was a bit of the Rock Garden experience in Chandigarh that I was saving for a separate post. As usual, there was me walking around with my camera, clicking anything and everything that caught my fancy. Udai and Aadyaa decide to explore a dark cave in front of us. I pick up my camera to idly look through the viewfinder, when I see an eye slyly stare out at me from behind a pillar. Click. Then a face appears. Click. Then two faces dart out. Click. Then another naughty eye. Click. And so on….

We play the game of peek-a-boo, my camera and the kids, I and the kids. Us. All.

We have so much fun.

It is over in an instant and we are all three (ahem, four including the camera) laughing, hugging, feeling refreshingly insane!Image

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Guest post from Udai: A day at the passport office!

So much fun to have my nearly nine-year old write on my blog! Udai (and his parents) had quite an experience trying to get him a new passport at the Passport Seva Kendra in Gurgaon. You could say we spent some quality time together. I would say it is a waste of time when things could be much simpler and faster! Here is his very to the point description…

A day at the passport office

I was thinking ‘how much time it would take to make the passport?’ when we reached. When the form checking person checked our form he sent us to the A.P.O [a scary dragon lady]. She checked our form too. She said an affidavit was missing. Then we made the affidavit. We got sent to the A.P.O again. This time there was a problem with an ID. Then papa went to print it in a better way. We got our brown file at last [that got us a token number].

After some time we went to counter A [where the TCS staff verified and scanned documents]. We had it done quickly. We waited to go to B counter and we made a joke- the “bees are not buzzing”! This was because the counters closed for lunch for one hour and we had to wait. Then we cleared the B counter [where the Passport officials verified the documents as well, asking strange questions and with stern expressions on their faces]. Then we did the C counter quickly [a final check and cancellation of the old passport if new one is granted] and it was finished. The whole thing took us from 10:45 in the morning till 4 in the evening.

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Done and dusted!

I must tell you though, that it has been a week today and the passport shows no signs of arriving. The status still shows it is under process even though I have a ‘granted’ receipt in my possession! I suppose I have to wait till the police bother to verify. Sigh!

Shy

Shy

My camera is fast becoming my best friend as I explore the by-lanes of Gurgaon’s urban villages and unauthorized colonies interviewing migrant workers for my research. This child dived endearingly into his mum after staring at me unabashedly for 15 minutes, the minute I whipped out my camera..and then he re-emerged. And that’s when my shutter went ‘click’!

A birthday weekend in Chandigarh, the city of beautiful, open spaces!

I turned 37 two days ago. On that day, I was in Chandigarh enveloped in the warm love of dear friends who have been, for the most part, closer than family and the lucky recipient of the unadulterated affection of my two most wonderful children. Considering I was born in that city, I could not help thinking that life keeps coming back in full circles, again and again. These were the tree lines beautiful avenues where I spent the first few years of my life. Despite its inevitable expansion, Chandigarh retains its laid back feel and its vast, accessible public spaces give it a special charm. No other city in India that I have visited comes close to Chandigarh in the sheer amount of green open space available to citizens to walk, play and lounge as they feel fit. Those who live here are cognizant of the huge advantage they have and are reminded of their luck each time they leave town, so I am told.

We stayed the weekend with Nupur’s sister and her family in Sector 30 and the park right next door to her home became our first port of call. Naturally, for Aadyaa is an ardent park lover. And if the park has swings and jungle gyms in it, no force on earth can keep her away! As soon as we dumped our bags at home and gulped down our evening tea, Aadyaa has dragged us down there and passed her infectious enthusiasm to her brother as well. Nupur and me spent an hour watching the kids go up and down the slide over and over again, make friends with the local children and also observe interesting turf wars with them, fortunately none of which ended in fisticuffs!

Next to the slides, a group of young men were playing soccer. They seemed to be members of the local RSS Shakha, a thought that was confirmed when I was woken up the next morning by the chants and shouts of their weekend morning lessons! Mothers sat on park benches nearby, while others watched their kids from inside their homes while they cooked dinner. Men played cards in a corner, some people were engaged in a brisk walk around the park. I heard from didi that the sector had mixed income residents, living in employee housing for officer level as well as Class 3, Class 4 workers from government departments. The mixed income character is critical from the point of view of the usage of public spaces. The sheer vibrance of the neighborhood park Aadyaa chose to play could not be compared to the rather bland nature of the larger, better maintained sector park nearby that boasted some decent walking paths and a musical fountain that played Punjabi music!

Other highlights of the Chandigarh visit were the Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake and Sector 17 market (sataara, as Udai correctly picked up!) and I will blog about those experiences as well. The first evening spent soaking the the green open spaces and the fresh nippy air was, however, the best of all!

Stunning spring colors- the adenium in Meeta didi's roof garden

Stunning spring colors- the adenium in Meeta didi’s roof garden

Peek a boo!

Peek a boo!

 

Park next door...

Park next door…

Making new friends...

Making new friends…

 

Sibling love

Sibling love

Aadyaa antics!

Aadyaa antics!

Dramatic skies and the incongruous fountain!

Dramatic skies and the incongruous fountain!