Blog Archives

Zoo visit! What kids loved in #Berlin 3/3

Both the kids were absolutely certain of one item on the Berlin must-do list: a visit to the Zoo. Famed to have the most comprehensive collection of animals in the world, Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten (quite a mouthful and Udai practised saying it many times every day, with hilarious results!) is the oldest zoo in Germany, with an interesting history. And true to form, we saw many many species I had never thought I’d see outside of my television screen!

The children were delighted and we spent an entire day there, happy to observe the animals and the humans watching the animals. Of course, a zoo cannot compare to watching animals in the wild, but from an educational perspective, I’m glad we were exposed to such an astonishing array of species. The primate house was particularly impressive, so was the section with night animals where we saw a kinkajou. Now, the kinkajou is an animal we read about in one of the children’s story books and we were all four simultaneously awestruck when we saw one in the flesh! Other highlights were the little joey in her Mumma Kangaroo’s pouch, several types of zebras, the giraffe whose neck wasn’t long enough for Aadyaa and the polar bear, for who we trekked the length and breadth of the fairly large zoo!

Disclaimer: The pictures do not do justice to the fair weather, the well kept environs of the Berlin Zoo and the generally happy state of the animals and those who were out to see them!

Look who we saw first!

Look who we saw first!

Roald Dahl set up some mean expectations about the length of a griaffe's neck when we wrote 'The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me'

Roald Dahl set up some mean expectations about the length of a giraffe’s neck when we wrote ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’

Udai read every board and discovered that Man was the worst of the lot, going around hunting and killing animals, sometimes for no apparent reason!

Udai read every board and discovered that Man was the worst of the lot, going around hunting and killing animals, sometimes for no apparent reason!

Inhabitants of the primate house

Inhabitants of the primate house

The grand old orangutan showed us a dance with a towel and generally was quite the entertainer. His movements were similar to Tai chi!

The grand old orangutan showed us a dance with a towel and generally was quite the entertainer. His movements were similar to Tai chi!

The gorillas only showed us their backs, so the kids climbed all over this one!

The gorillas only showed us their backs, so the kids climbed all over this one!

_DSC7112_DSC7114

Informative, in case you are on a mission to see all the zoos in the world!

Informative, in case you are on a mission to see all the zoos in the world!

Cute, aren't they?

Cute, aren’t they?

What's the fuss about? Puzzled all the eager human faces staring at her!

What’s the fuss about? Puzzled all the eager human faces staring at her!

Reflecting

Reflecting

The pranced about, these Indochinese tigers. Not a patch on the Royal Bengal Tiger, if you've seen one!

The pranced about, these Indochinese tigers. Not a patch on the Royal Bengal Tiger, if you’ve seen one!

Two-horned, no less!

Two-horned, no less!

Hi Joey! We waited 10 minutes for this Roo to turn around and show us her baby :)

Hi Joey! We waited 10 minutes for this Roo to turn around and show us her baby 🙂

Have you seen ostrich babies?

Have you seen ostrich babies?

Check out my a$$, say the Zebra, ignoring us completely!

Check out my a$$, say the Zebra, ignoring us completely!

These little ones were just thriving on attention...

These little ones were just thriving on attention, jumping in and out of the water deftly and showing off their swimming and strutting skills!

This one just slept. If she could have, Aadyaa would have walked right over and shaken him awake. Was probably way too warm for him!

This one just slept. If she could have, Aadyaa would have walked right over and shaken him awake. Was probably way too warm for him!

Aadyaa's impersonating a pelican!

Aadyaa’s impersonating a pelican!

And that's our Berlin Zoo selfie! Signing off now...

And that’s our Berlin Zoo selfie! Signing off now…

Advertisements

Udai’s Tenth: The best birthday ever!

We chose The Netherlands as our summer destination primarily to visit family. It had been a while since I saw my uncle, aunt and cousins who live there. Plus Rahul and the kids had never been to what Rahul teasingly refers to as uncle-land! As soon as we landed, we were enveloped in the warmth of family, but the highlight and the most amazing demonstration of family love was the way Udai’s tenth birthday was celebrated; in his own words, “the best birthday ever!” The large share of the credit, of course, goes to Liduine who the kids call Oma, Dutch for Grandma. But everyone chipped in. Follow the fantastic day in this photo essay of the “best birthday ever”!

Udai woke up to a decorated home. Oma had taken care to do this the previous night. I think we tend to forget he is a kid….he was so excited!

A little joy jig!

Oma is the best!

Post breakfast, we took a trip down to the market nearby to choose our own gifts as well as cake! Udai took ages to finally choose two Lego Technic boxes and a delicious apple cake

Doesn’t this pic say it all?

Next in line was a visit to the cousins, the ‘little people’! Olivier (5) and Berend (3) are delightful kids and Aadyaa had been asking to meet them for years. Her dream came true…

The kids spent an hour or two jumping and playing sand in the backyard plus general shouting, running and laughing around. Much pandemonium! And cake cutting too...Thomas (my cousin) and Coleta (his wife) have a beautiful house on a canal. Typically Dutch, with lots of place for the kids to play

The kids spent an hour or two jumping and playing sand in the backyard plus general shouting, running and laughing around. Much pandemonium! And cake cutting too…Thomas (my cousin) and Coleta (his wife) have a beautiful house on a canal. Typically Dutch, with lots of place for the kids to play

_DSC6582_DSC6588_DSC6589

Udai and Rahul are full of cake by this time!

Next destination: Zandvoort! It’s not very far from Haarlem, this beautiful Dutch beach. It’s a fixture on most of our visits to the Dutch family, but the 11th of June was a beautiful, windy but warm day to be at the beachside…

_DSC6596

The van you see in the background is driven by a tractor and sells delicious seafood preparations. We ate calamari (a favourite with the kids since the 2011 Barcelone trip!), a mixed seafood platter and the quintessential summer Dutch delicacy- new herring which is eaten raw or smoked and served with chopped onion!

Shells galore…

…and running away from the numerous jellyfish in the waters (here, some kids have made an artwork of the helpless jellyfish!) were the beach highlights!

Some horsing around too!

Oma had been chilling out at a beach restaurant nearby, sipping a cool drink, while we were at the beach. We joined her for a drink and then realised…

..that the rest of the family was driving down to Zandvoort as well! We were going to have a beachside birthday party!

A party in which you got gifts (check out his new watch!), ate some delicious food and…

…ran back to sea for a quick dip in the cold waters

Raising a toast for Udai here before heading back. It’s late and the deceptive European summer light invites us to linger, but the children are tired and we must go now…

Oma has another trick up her sleeve, however! A quick pit stop for Italian ice cream on our way home. She clicked this picture and sent it to us. It sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

What the kids loved (or hated) in Shimla

It’s a very simple list, seen from the eyes of 6-year old Aadyaa. Along with her friend Myrah who is a year younger, the children’s’ perspective on the vacation was an important one for us, for keeping them in good humor was the vital ingredient in our holiday! Here’s my attempt to reconstruct our day out in Shimla from their perspective!

#1 The mandatory horse ride

Yes, the mandatory horse ride must be ticked off the list in a place like Shimla. I did it in Mussourie when I was perhaps the same age and here is Aadyaa astride Badal, the horse who wore her “kathak ghungroos” around his neck!

Image

Image

#2 Roadside eating

From pastries to the local phalsa fruit, the kids had fun demanding on-the-go food at regular intervals. Besides the energy shots, the food served as able distractions from the changing weather!

Image

 

Image

#3 Picture posing

For some inane reason, the kids would yell “Aaloo parantha!” and “Pasta!” each time someone asked them to pose for a pic. It gave us all a hearty laugh each time and I loved the way they infected us grown-ups with their wonderful inanity. Check out their wide grins!

Image

Image

Image

#4 Battling the winds and the rain

I don’t think the children expected the cold winds and the rain. Aadyaa had a windcheater on to help her out, but she found the wind quite uncomfortable. Her legs were cold in the rain and she has to ask me to buy her new pajamas in the mall. Myrah too needed to buy a thicker jacket.

We spent quite a lot of time walking in the drizzle and then taking shelter wherever possible when the rain increased. One time it was the crowded porch of the post office, another time the porch of the church. Yet another time it was a long long wait under a sturdy old tree. They didn’t mind the latter too much as they had space to stretch and play and we passed the time singing rhymes and laughing!

Image

Image

#5 The monkey menace!

The monkeys were everywhere. Despite several instructions about not looking at them, ignoring them, not being scared etc etc, it was hard for the children to not worry about the monkeys. I was scared that Aadyaa might try to be too friendly since she loves animals. In the crowded part of the city, we managed to avoid the monkeys, but on a lonely stretch they managed to terrorize little Myrah and snatch away a bag we were carrying. From then on, monkeys became Enemy no.1 on the trip!

Image

Image

 

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!

Fotor1217123427

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!)

Mukta mommy can’t handle a breather!

A Sunday morning. Children still recovering from yesterday’s long, hectic evening attending and enjoying the Diwali Mela in our apartment complex. A heavy silence around the house. The October nip in the air. For most mums this is the time we get to sip our morning tea in peace, look out of the balcony, smile at the world, breathe.

But I feel restless on such mornings and I realize that inadvertently, over the years, I have got addicted to constant activity, a schedule, targets. When did I get here and how do I get out of this trap?

And so, I open my lappie and check my mail. I go over some work I could do today if I feel so inclined. I stress about the deadlines during the week ahead. I choose a new profile pic on FB in a bid to feel better about myself. I worry about the directionlessness of my life. And I eventually open a ‘new post’ window on my blog and I write.

I write to keep my sanity, to understand myself better, to share what I feel and hope someone else feels the same way. I write to shake off a feeling of despondency that no beautiful Sunday morning should bring. I write to purge myself and bring back my smile.

Let me face it. Mukta mommy can’t handle a breather!

I can’t wait for the kids to be up and yelling for their breakfast, for the day’s appointments to begin, for the hyperactivity that is so part of my life to take over. At some point today, when life has returned to its usual madness, I will get around to laughing (and even perhaps blogging) about the crazy outfits at the Diwali Mela, the Chinese residents  of Vipul Greens doing the bhangra in absolute glee, Aadyaa’s mad rounds of the rides and the wonderful job Udai and his friends did with their own games stall last night! I already feel better now!

Getting away: Up in Dharamsala

Family vacations are things you dream of when the work piles up and deadlines threaten to obliterate all possibilities of sleep. Getting away from it all in the company of people you are comfortable is a great way to destress and to do it with kids gives us the opportunity to see things from their uncomplicated and ever-excitable perspective!

Yesterday was one hell of a day for us. We started from Gurgaon at four thirty am, quite a feat with four adults and three kids aged 4,5 and 9! All three of them were bright and chirpy, thankfully. Making good time, we crossed Delhi in an hour only to hit a snag when Mishu’s car had a tyre bust. Not ones to lose steam, the rest of us carried on to Murthal in our car and ate a leisurely though super early breakfast while a replacement car was arranged etc. only about an hour later than schedule, we were back on track, driving straight through to Chintpoorni, where the climb towards Dharamsala begins. Of course, the kids car hopped a bit, so there were short handover stops. They sang songs, playing some sort of Antakshari, with our inputs. They played ghar-ghar, with strange role plays that left us bemused. We invented code names and played a game with Rahul giving them instructions that they must respond to only when their code names are used, without ever responding to their real names! Great fun, with all of us collapsing in giggles!

At Chintpoorni, we stopped to say hi to the resident goddess, who promised to fulfil our wishes, whatever they may be. The experience of wading through throngs of devotees, responding to touts selling Prasad and blessings was amusing and thankfully not too stressful. Mishu introduced us to ‘uncleji’s’ bun-paav and we were off again, stopping a bit to feed the kids a proper though late lunch and then driving straight on to D’sala. The hills gave us a fitting welcome, with a wonderful show of rain and thunder. Temperatures dropped and all of us, up since early morning with barely a wink of sleep on the way, were refreshed and excited to be here. It had taken us 12 hours to do the entire trip, each minute enjoyable.

The numerous pics I took are locked inside my Nikon for now, but I am sharing some shots of the Dhauladar range as I see it this morning after a good night’s rest, from my room at Blossoms Village Resort.

We’ve had a number of friends writing in via mail and FB with some great tips for how to spend the next few days here. Will get back to you on what we decide to, and how it went!

20130529-103414.jpg

20130529-103429.jpg

20130529-103439.jpg

The little girl with the artist’s eye!

Sometimes I wonder if it’s just the easy access to technology via phone cameras. Or a narcissistic streak. Or a penchant for documentation.

What is it that draws my 5-year old daughter Aadyaa to obsessively take photos of her art work, random creations or just certain objects? It started with her asking me to click pictures of things that caught her fancy. Now she simply asks for permission and does it herself (she has complete mastery over my iphone).

I look back at these pictures often in an attempt to see the world through her eyes. What do you make of them?

Tomatoes from our kitchen garden, placed on a saree I was about to wear!

Tomatoes from our kitchen garden, placed on a saree I was about to wear!

She sorted out all hairclips of the same kind from a box of assorted hair accessories, arranged them and clicked!

She sorted out all hairclips of the same kind from a box of assorted hair accessories, arranged them and clicked!

At a friend's place, she just made that clothes pin sculpture for a new born baby. Those are Aadyaa's feet as she photographs her work

At a friend’s place, she just made that clothes pin sculpture for a new born baby. Those are Aadyaa’s feet as she gets me to photograph her work

Three colour ice gola at Bikanerwala!

Three colour ice gola at Bikanerwala!

The watermelon ginger fizz at Chilis completely fascinated her!

The watermelon ginger fizz at Chilis completely fascinated her!

Mumma, is mar hui butterfly ki photo lo na!

Mumma, is mar hui butterfly ki photo lo na!

After one hour of watching the ants do their job...Mumma, cheentiyo ne apna khaana le liya, ab phir se butterfly ki photo lo na!

After one hour of watching the ants do their job…Mumma, cheentiyo ne apna khaana le liya, ab phir se butterfly ki photo lo na!

Lego afternoon! Self-clicked....

Lego afternoon! Self-clicked….

Her own drawing amused her endlessly- self-clicked!

Her own drawing amused her endlessly- self-clicked!

Aadyaa made her own roti. Then she placed it in this composition and clicked the picture herself

Aadyaa made her own roti. Then she placed it in this composition and clicked the picture herself…and only then, she ate it!

Their powers of negotiation….kids vs us

His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare

As I stared at this teeny weeny little baby…in my head, these lines from ‘Macavity’ in the ‘Old Possum Book of Practical Cats’ by TS Eliot transformed into….

His powers of negotiation would make his mater stare

Of course I was deeply impressed that the musical Cats chose to pronounce fakir as faker when I saw it way back in 199…..thus lending itself beautifully to my version of the line!

Ah well, let me get to the point.

Life is all about negotiating the best deal for yourself, isn’t it? And who practices it better than children. Even as newborn babies, the human instinct for survival is so strong that a baby would probably push away his mother if her breasts were dry and the devil were holding the bottle of milk out!

My kids do that all the time! One minute I am the best mother in the world and kisses are being bestowed, the next minute I am the worst creature on earth for trying to discipline Aadyaa. The emotional trauma that creates is not entirely something she is unaware of. That is her negotiating tool to get what she wants. She knows it, I know it, but yet more time than not, I give in!

She negotiated to wear that lehenga...and how!

She negotiated to wear that lehenga…and how!

Udai too, will always pitch his demands at a level slightly more unreasonable than what he is willing to settle for, knowing well that the adult mind is habituated to bargaining to get things moving slightly in their favour. When I say ‘yes’ to a proposal without any questions, like going for an extra half hour of play on a hot afternoon, he vamooses within a split second, lest I change my mind!

He is the most straightforward kid, and even he negotiates!

He is the most straightforward kid, and even he negotiates!

It’s a great thing, this ability to negotiate. A good negotiator gets far in life. So I’m resolving to sharpen the negotiating abilities of my kids by not giving in to anything without a little tussle, a teeny weeny back and forth, a mini turf war…..makes life so much fun!

 

Play is fun! Exploring the Stellar Children’s Museum, Gurgaon

Ever since Aadyaa got invited there for a birthday party last month, she has been raring to go back to the Stellar Children’s Museum. This is located on the 2nd floor of Ambience Mall, Gurgaon right under Haldiram’s and works really well to keep kids between 3 and say 7 well occupied for a few hours.

I think it is overpriced, though, at Rs 500 per child for unlimited time, which does not mean much considering kids get tired after a few hours anyway. The extra Rs 200 per accompanying adult is really overkill, considering the adults will end up buying themselves eats and drinks inside anyway, which are priced high as well for rather passable offerings.

But that being the downside, the museum itself is a fantastic place for children to immerse themselves in many fun activities while getting exposure to many principles of physics. Basic installations and do-it-yourself tasks based on gravity and magnetism, gear movements, the power of moving air, etc allow children to repetitively perform simple experiments that offer huge amounts of excitement for little children.

Another space offers opportunities for unbridled creativity in the form of art, including glass walls that kids can paint. Watching wet paint dribble down a vertical facade, creating its own interesting formations is a lot of fun indeed! I also found interesting a pin board that allowed kids (and adults) to push in their hands or faces on one side and see the impression emerge out on the other. Simple magnetic jigsaw puzzles, overlapping perspex sheets that slide over one another to explore the mixing of colour and pattern were also a great set of activities, perhaps more suited to the kids.

Other fun features were a water play area, a found object wall where you can tap all the objects to create different sounds, a travel room where you could explore a series of tunnels that took from one ‘continent’ to another, explaining interesting facts of geography (perhaps for older kids who can read) and a cute pretend play zone replete with a down-sized supermarket (amazing detail), medical room, house and the like.

Aadyaa and her friend Maayra, after exploring a little bit of everything else, zoomed in on these gigantic interconnecting blue blocks. They created one ‘skull-ture’ after another and it was really funny to watch as the installations were larger than them most of the time!

If you have young kids and live in the NCR, do spend a day at Stellar. Despite the steep price, it is precious to see children so excited and engaged in such healthy fun. Watching the children, I was reminded once again that it is not fancy toys, but simple things that children love most. The helper didis at the Museum are well trained and patient. Aadyaa bonded with them immediately and hardly needed me to be there with her. For mommies or daddies who want to relax in the cafe and read a book or catch up on work or a phone call, this is entirely doable!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

%d bloggers like this: