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Fete de la Musique: Celebrating the summer solstice in the Marais #ParisBliss

Last evening on the longest day of 2017, I met the kids and mums on the banks of the Seine where they had been lounging for a while. We were facing the tip of the Ile Saint-Louis, the smaller of the two islands that are amidst the Seine in the centre of Paris. The idea was to make our way through the streets catching what we could of the citywide festival of music, where performances both organised and impromptu were to be the order of the day.

We started ambling down Rue St Paul past sun kissed facades. Turning left on Rue Saint Antoine, the mothers were ensnared by an eager fruit seller while the kids and me dove into the less conspicuous but absolutely breathtaking Church of St Paul St Louis. It was cool inside the church, a welcome respite from the sweaty heat outside. Aadyaa was thrilled to be able to light another candle at yet another church, her latest fixation as we explore Paris.



The Rue Sevigne frames the facade of the church beautifully. I caught this frame as I turned back to make sure Udai was behind me. There he is to the right of the frame cooling himself in front of one of the ventilation ducts (yes, we are amid a heat wave here)! The street also has some delightful shops with lovely and enticing facades. I was reminded of Ho Chi Minh City where I fell in love with the shops decor. I’m wondering if it was the Parisian influence or the other way around!!

Turning left onto Rue des Franc Bourgeois we saw a string of heritage buildings, many of them hotels. This area is within the Marais, where the epicentre of 17th century Parisian society was during the time of Henry IV. One can only imagine how the hotels, designed in classical style with front courtyards and back gardens, were at the heart of aristocratic life in those times!

The Musee Caranavalet is at the corner and a few others including the delightful little Jardin de l’hotel Lamoignon that popped up to our left. We had begun to see signages inviting us into various buildings hosting the Fete de la Musique. The EDM sounds streaming from the Uniqlo premises perked Udai up a bit, but my expression must have told him how enthusiastic I am about that genre of music. So we walked on.

Amidst the beautiful framed entrances and detailed stone masonry, we found another treasure, the Notre-Dame des Blancs-Manteaux. A sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary, there has been a church in existence here since 1258 though the present structure is more recent (1685). We sat inside absorbing the calmness and spirituality of the space. And just as we were leaving, the priest broke into the most melodious Latin incantations I have heard. Much credit, of course, to the acoustics of the church!


Our first musical encounter as part of the Fete was inside the premises of the Credit Municipal de Paris. A swing quartet if you please! Delightfully balanced and with strong vocals, this was a pleasure especially because of the scale of the little courtyard that made it an intimate experience. Watch the dancing and you’ll know what it felt like. Aadyaa and me joined in too briefly!


Next we heard young talent inside the historic premises of the Archives Nationales which used to be the Hotel de Rohan, one of the many 18th century mansions in Marais that used to belong to the Strasbourg bishops. Post the revolution, the building became the French government’s printing press and then the archives. The open to public courtyard was impressive as were the few performances we took in, featuring instrumental ensembles as well as opera singing!!



Our walk back to the Chatelet Metro comprised a pit stop to grab a drink and some dessert, a few more glimpses of interesting monuments framed by these historic streets (see the Tower of St Jacques below) and then we navigated our way through the growing crowds, hordes of people enjoying the fete, a giant outdoor party!!

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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

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!

Day 2@Bookaroo: All about letting go and enjoying the moment!

I was back at Bookaroo yesterday, and it was a whole different experience. Why? Because this time, I was accompanying Aadyaa. Not only is she a totally different person, but she is only four and a half. And a crowd of people looks very different from the eyes of a child who is four and a half. No no, she isn’t shy or afraid of crowds. But I didn’t really see many little ones that age or thereabouts who could concentrate on a story being told in a venue with nearly a hundred people listening in. The kids got there by enthusiastic parents, the parents who would have enjoyed the narration but for their anxiety that their little ones weren’t paying attention and looking here and there, or eating, or wanting to go elsewhere.

So this is how the Sunday visit to the Bookaroo played out for us. We attended the first session with Anupa Lal was telling the children stories in Hindi. Now, this got Aadyaa’s attention as she is most familiar with Hindi as a language of narration and conversation. At home, I have to tell all her favorite stories (Peter Pan, Clifford, Rapunzel, Lion King..) in translation. So Anupa Lal’s story about a ghost and a boy got some of her attention, though she kept asking for biscuits and munching through this, not because she was hungry but because she wasn’t totally involved in the event!

We then took a walk through the venue and the sandpit, the steps, the green grass was far more interesting than any of the workshops, activities and narrations. The attempt to sit through Penny Dolan’s animal stories in which she used small soft toys as props, was not successful. I honestly think smaller groups would have worked much better for the little ones, but I can see how that is a logistics nightmare!

So I gave up, and decided to enjoy the sunshine and the charms of Anandgram as a location instead of getting stressed about how much exposure I was  giving my little one! We migrated to the little raised platform with the large terracotta horses. And Aadyaa and her pal Eva proceeded to spend the rest of the outing playing ‘ghar-ghar’ at the Bookaroo, eating ice cream and running around!

Moral of the story: What will be will be, go with the flow and without expectations, if you are to truly enjoy time with a bunch of kindergarten children 🙂

They will make up their games and play. Company, outdoor spaces, interesting spaces and unconditional love from a trusted adult, and maybe some food and drink thrown in (and ice-cream), that’s pretty much all they need!

Anupa Lal’s story telling session in Hindi was a good way to start the day…

Playing ghar-ghar was a lot more fun for the little ones…Bookaroo be damned!

Udai was also kinda done. On Day 2, he simply bought the nonsense book he had heard about on Day 1, and read it in the sun 🙂

Adventure trail: Testing our limits- March 23, 2012

One of the loveliest aspects of leaving the city is the experience of enjoying the outdoors. Here in Coorg, the forests beckon and the weather is warm but not enough to drive us indoors as it certainly will be when we get back to Gurgaon!
Today the family was in the mood for adventure. Mum and Udai went on an 8 km trek to Abby Falls. A tough walk for someone not yet eight and reportedly one full of sights of the bountiful flora and fauna of the Kodagu Valley. Aadyaa explored the property and tried all the swings and curvy trails.
Rahul and me tried the obstacle course. He went first and I hadn’t quite made up my mind if I was up to it. On impulse I started the course, but as I went along I found my confidence grew. The sheer height of the ropes from the ground meant you needed full concentration. It was important to focus and relax at the same time and necessary to follow instructions to the tee. It struck me that this was true for anything we want to do well in life. But it’s only that, for many other tasks in our everyday lives, we choose to not remember that we are indeed high above steady ground. Instead, we delude ourselves and create excuses and escape routes in our heads. No wonder the results aren’t often as good as mine were on today’s obstacle course!
The last few days, I have been fairly upset about a few small health issues, the perpetual battle with my weight and generally a bit low. The obstacle course jerked me out of my self pity and drove home the need to set myself small targets, find mentors to help me, follow their advice, leave aside my fears, and simply go for it!

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