Friday, December 25, 2009

A new page

The idea of getting my child into a reading habit germinated one night when both me and my husband went to bed reading our respective novels and Remy tried imitating us by picking up a book and pretending to read it. It was then I realized that perhaps Remy too loved books and this was the right time to introduce him to the lovely world of reading.

Just as I was wondering what kind of books to introduce him to, I got a lovely pointer quite unexpectedly. Janaki, the owner of TwistnTales, a cozy bookstore in my locality introduced me to Tulika publications. Tulika publishes books for children in multiple languages. Some of the books Janaki showed me had very simple content and fabulous illustrations. For example there was one book about the story of a peppercorn. It was about a sole peppercorn trying to escape the hands of the amma who is ready to grind it into chutney. In order to escape the fate of being ground to powder, the peppercorn rolls away from her hands into the market place. The story is set in the typical village milieu in Kerala and introduces the child to colloquial terms. I am sure that by reading this Remy is going to soak in a lot of authentic Kerala culture.

Another unexpected discovery was the book series called the Karadi tales. I stumbled upon the book series after I discovered the television show adapted from the books that was being telecast on Disney channel. I was drawn to the show as the tune was so refreshingly different and so were the characters. Then the bear started reciting a story which my grandmother used to tell me as a kid. I had never read this story in any of the kids books that I had ever laid my hands on. Very soon I got hooked on to karadi tales and realized it was all about the local stoies that were passed on from so many generations.

A search on the internet led me to Saffron Tree, a good site that has reviews on all the books for children. A book review is accompanied by pointer to other books with similar themes. What I particularly like is that a few reviewers on this site are mommies who have inculcated reading habits in their children. They have not only posted reviews but also personal anecdotes about books very enthusiastically.

I have enough starters for now to get Remy to turn a new page in his life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A small getaway

I am so gung ho about yesterday's Transactional Analysis (TA) meeting that I was itching to pen my thoughts as soon as I was done with my morning walk. Apart from attending the fantabulous session there were a couple of more reasons for the itch. First of all I was keen to test if I could use my sense of smell just like Pooh and Mammi could use it in yesterday's session. Secondly I wanted to implement the walking meditation that I learnt yesterday and lastly the fact that I was actually able to make good use of my sense of smell to feel the heaviness and the lightness at different places along the path of my morning walk.So here I am finally done with my morning chores of seeing bapu and beta to their respective office and school and sitting down to actually write about yesterday's experience.

Getting people together, co-ordinating the rendezvous and finally getting them to come together at times takes a little effort and sometimes it is as simple as sending out an email...It all started with enthusing people to attend yet antoher TA session. So all I did was send out a mail to our regular TA group. After some mails to and fro it was decided that we all meet at the beautiful Empress Garden at 10 am on Sunday morning. All except two of the group members were available.

So with high spirits we all assembled at the Empress garden. After scouting for a place we zeroed on a spot near a gazebo where a lot of benches were available and as such the spot was secluded. After quickly adjusting the benches under the trees where some sunlight could peep in we realized that Puzo was missing. Ms M made a quick phone call to Puzo and he was on his way. So the TA session started with Mammi, our guru asking all of us what is that we expect to learn from each other and also from the session. This was going to be the very first session for Ms M, Pooh and Puzo who was yet to join us. Ms M was curious to find out abt what the session was, Pooh was using this opportunity to take some time out of himself and I wanted the session to expand on analysing every thought and the action that follows and also for some guided interaction between members to encourage learning form each other's experinces.

Mammi then introduced the concept of using our five senses that can be used to interpret the mental make of people we interact with or even getting the vibes from our surroundings. So she left us with an exercise to use our five senses to soak in the milieu and went looking for Puzo who apparently had reached the garden and was wandering on the wrong route looking for us. We started feeling, seeing, hearing, touching and tasting our surroundings. Most of us were clueless about how to use the sense of taste when it comes to anything non-culinary. After settling Puzo I was quite amazed to see how Mammi and Pooh were in sync while noticing the difference in energies at two different bences that were just adjacent to each other. As for the rest of us the most prominent and the obvious senses that were most active were visual and auditory. Most of us felt a sense of peace and serinity from the surroundings that was a riot of the colour green. As the session continued there were aspects Mammi touched upon that were covered in the previous TA sessions like giving each other strokes. It was raining strokes for Ms M and Bhola was quite playfully annoyed at the lack of attention. After a little tomfoolery and after lots of strokes Mammi introduced us to yet another practical and very easy concept of walking meditation. In that we learnt to pay attention to ourselves as we take a walk, be aware of the muscles used in the activity, the feel of clothes on our bodies and the rythm in which we move as we walk. The idea of this exerice was to help us to teach oursleves how to focus quite like what is midfulness in Buddhism. This was followed by anaffirmation exercise. Mammi had brought along affirmation cards and all of us including my baby Remy picked up one at random. It was amazing to read Mammi affirmation that said " I am unleashing the gold mines within me". Equally apt was Pooh's affirmation that said " I am willing to spent more time for myself". Bhola's affirmation that read "Every cell in my body is getting rejuvinated" left him a bit confused.

With a lot of aaha moments, self introspection, soaking in the amazing things we had learnt and a generous peppering of laughter and pranks the session ended with a desire to catch up on the next meeting. All of us agreed to make the next one in Goa in the month of Jan. Until then I promised myself to implement all the I had learnt. The fact that I already implemented a few things today has left me with a sense of elation and achievement and I am unwilling to let go of the hangover.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mommy dilemma

Working mom or stay at home mom? When I was a working mom all I could think of was spending more time with Remy and now that I am a stay at home mom I think how horrible it is to be financially dependent. Well the devil of the mind will always look for greener pastures in the things that it does not have. So the only way I know to hold the reins of the wild horses is to do some self introspection and visit the sorted list of priorities at any given point in time.

There is a huge data base on the internet on working mom versus a stay at home mom. Now that I have experienced a little of both worlds I must say each has its own pros and cons and it is really a personal thing. As a working mom the common lunch table discussions with my colleagues who were moms was the perpetual lack of time available to do enviable things stay at home mommies do - spend time children, good housekeeping and cooking and pursuing hobbies. Now that I am a stay at home mommy and I regularly take my child out to play in the evenings, I meet other mothers who too were once working women and many time the favourite discussion topic with them is the desire to start work again.

I guess it is only the women who have to face this decision and never the man. The female of all species on the planet are primarily responsible for nurturing the offspring. It is not to say that the male is incapable. It is only natural that the one who gives birth is the one that has an unbreakable bond formed with the child from a fetal stage and perhaps thats why the primary responsibility. A few generations back say even one generation back when my mom was a mom my age, most women were quite comfortable with with fact that after graduation comes marriage and then home and kids. That was their life and quite uncomplicated at that. There was a clear divide in the reponsibilities, the woman as a caretaker and the man as a provider. The complications started when women decided to foray into the man's field and started taking equal responsibilities to earn the bread as well. With the additonal resposibilties there has been a shift in the nurturing ways. These have also caused a shift in the responsiblities of the man. From two generations back where most males would abstain from household chores, males today are helping out with the cooking, cleaning, laundry and the sundry household chores. If women have so easily accepted and conquered the additional resposibilities outside the home why is is so difficult to get rid of the emotional baggage that comes with compromising on the first-hand nuturing. While we have evolved and adapted quite well on the newly acquired responsibilities outside home, we will have to wait and see how the we evolve on the emotional front. Shedding this baggage is still a long way to go.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Staying connected

Calling up mom every night and catching up on the days activities with her is a daily ritual. This has been a part of me ever since I moved out of their house and now has got extended to conversations between my parents and my 3 year old son. My son takes pleasure in reciting all the new learnings of the day excitedly over the phone and giggles at every appreciation. So when my parents decided to visit my brother for a couple of months in the US, I thought these conversations would get limited to once a week calls with a watch on the long distance calling card talk time. However on the contrary thanks to Skype I am talking to them daily. My close cousins from another town too have joined the bandwagon and now we are a huge family all simultaneously logging into Skype to catch up with a daily dose of gupshup. All of this is possible because we are chatting over wire. Personally talking on the phone is like using dedicated bandwidth where you cannot really keep silent for long or take long pauses in the conversation. If you do that you might as well hang up. It is as if there is nothing to talk. However with Skype I just make a call and keep the speakers loud enough to be heard as I continue with daily chores. So mummy can hear me coaxing my son to eat his breakfast as I ready him for school, hear the tadka as I cook breakfast and I on my part can hear my brother strumming away to a melodious song. Skype is one of my communication tools.

The other one I find myself getting more and more addicted to is Facebook, especially when it comes to sharing with friends. Just as the daily phone calls, logging into Facebook to check out what my friends are doing has too become a daily ritual. To think about it all it takes is a just a phone call and saying Hi to friends I knew back in school or college but I am bad at keeping in touch. I am bad at calling people who have moved far away in the present but who were a big part of me in the past with who I had fun moments. So the promises of keeping in touch when I parted with them remained just that..promises and never materialized into reality. So why is it that with FB I see this whole lot of change in me. I guess on FB there is a paradigm shift in the way we communicate. I can post what is on my mind whenever I feel like, upload photos that offer glimpses of my life, leaves messages for friends all whenever I feel like without requiring them to be available at that moment. Once I have shared a slice of my present, it automatically opens up channels of communication. So a who I was not in touch with for the past 10 years can comment on my vacation.

Then there are times when it is like the internet cloud offers a shield behind which I find my freedom where I can be myself. I can think of an analogy where a speaker with a stage fright would probably get petrified to speak in front of an audience with just a microphone in her hands feeling completely exposed as opposed to standing behind a rostrum, with a good part of the body hidden behind the rostrum. I believe the same must be true for many of us as just yesterday when I was logged on FB a close friend revealed over chat that she was seeing someone. Not once did she mention this when we met in person. She even directed me to their photo that was in her shared FB album. So there I was getting an immediate introduction with her boyfriend. Also a good friend from the past happened to invite me to his friends list on FB and soon our messages turned to cheerful banter. Then there were those whom I had lost contact and a search on FB sure enough resulted in a hit. Some skeptics may call this as the disadvantage of the internet age where we are losing touch with the personal side but to me it is a great way to stay connected.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fear Factor

The current reality show that has me glued to the TV screen like a child to advertisements is the Khataron ke Khiladi or KKK. I missed the season 1 simply because the cable TV operator did not have this channel called Colours in his bouquet at that time. So maybe it is the novelty of seeing a new format for the first time that has caught my fancy. Yes I did see a few international episodes of the show Fear Factor but known celebrities performing dare devil stunts makes for interesting viewing and to add to that the show being hosted by Akshay Kumar an all time stuntman cum actor and a popular one at that makes it even more fun.

Any channel that I tune into does have at least one reality show to its claim. With the popularity of reality surging or so it seems, there have been umpteen areas that have been televised live possibly rigged too at times. Singing dancing shows, quizes, matrimonial hunt leading to marriage, adventure, road trips. The choices are abundant. It is not that I am a hard core reality TV junkie or a hard core Akshay Kumar fan but still here I was tunning day after day at the prime time spot to Colours to catch my daily doze of adrenaline rush. I wondered why was it so addictive. Possibly it is the constant challenge to expand the boundaries and horizons of the mind that we sometimes knowingly and at times unknowing set.  KKK is one of the shows that challenges not only the physical prowess but also the mental capabilities. Contestants being stumped with such difficult stunts that any normal human being could not even imagine let alone experience even once in a lifetime. Almost all of the challenges are about training the mind and conquering the fear, an emotion that is the body's basic in built autocop mechanism to protect from the perceived dangers. Again dangers that fit into the realms of the set boundaries. Fear of cold waters mercilessly lashing the body, fear of losing balance atop a moving vehicle, fear of choking while inhaling tear gas, fear of creepy insects crawling all over the body and any such rational or irrational stimuli. Many a times I question myself would I be able to do something like this? Though it clearly seems an immensely daunting task, yet you see these contestants actually perform these with flying colours.

It is possibly the ability to take control over our mind before it controls us. Before the irrational takes over the rational. Like in the past my only reaction to anything fearful was the obvious that is to get scared. I happened to have a discussion with a friend who once told me that the only way out is rational thought process. When you train your mind to think logically when presented with a fearful situation, your mind draws an action plan, a response or many a times a conclusion that the situation in itself is invalid to be a fearful stimulus. I believe the triumph is in going beyond the initial response to draw an action plan BEFORE panic strikes. 

Maybe I may or may not be in a situation even remotely close to what is done in fear factor but I take one thing away from the show that nothing is impossible. As Nike has so beautifully put it "Impossible is nothing".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bake me a cake

I drew my inspiration and excitement for baking on a lazy afternoon when after a regular lunch session I was channel surfing and tuned into one of the cookery shows on TV. After eating another meal that was the regular run of the mill home cooked food, my sweet tooth was craving to be satiated. Maybe it was this crazy craving for the gorgeous cakes and pastries being aired on the show or the lovely hostess or the wonderful locales of the baking school that caught my attention. Perhaps it was all this and also the fact that I have a husband who simply loves cakes,pastries and chocolates and that his birthday was coming up soon and I was yet undecided about a personalized gift for him. I enjoy creating something as a gift for a loved one and not so long ago I managed to surprise my mother with a oil on canvas painting on her birthday. The painting exceeded my expectations even though it was my first and that I took help from a dear friend to complete it. Now that gives me confidence that the first time in baking also would turn out good. So I watched on and let the show bolster my the enthusiasm.By the end of the show I was certain about what the perfect personalized birthday gift should be.

Just one problem...I had to start form scratch. Literally. So I went to a nearby electronics store to scout of an OTG. First off I had this difficult decision to make where I had to choose between the OTG with rotisserie and the one without. Now this kind of decision can be difficult for girls especially the ones who are fond of shopping and who get swayed by "the fancier the merrier". So I must congratulate myself on making a practical decision of choosing the one without the rotisserie. Having completed the hard work, I ended up paying for the one with the rotisserie which happened to be more expensive than the one I bought. Now that to me was a clear sign from the universe. I am the type of person that looks for signs of good and bad omen and though this had been clearly a loud sign encouraging me not to try my hand at this experiment I was so far not deterred. As if that was not enough I was denied entry into the shop by cops the second time I went in to get the refund. Turns out there was a bomb scare and the entire premises was in the process of being vacated. However even the fear of a terrorist attack or screaming blaring signs from the universe do not come in the way of a woman possessed. I managed to find an alternate entrance to make my way into the shop and get the refund. The bomb scare was a hoax and I managed to come out of the shop alive. To think of it God saw my determination and decided to give me one more chance at survival so that I could bake. Now baking seemed my sole motive at the moment, my raison d'etre.

With all the kit and the caboodle such as the baking tins, measuring cup, the raw materials in place and I was all set to bake. I searched the internet for simple cake recipes to get a hang of proportions of the ingredients. I decided to add to the batter the piece de resistance - mashed banana, almonds and dates. However unlike the painting my cake turned out just all right, edible yes but not that hugely impressive. However that has not diminished my enthusiasm for baking for this was just a warming up routine. The next one on my list is an ambitious chocolate brownie cake...and yes feel free to drop by and try it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ga Ga Google

All of us at one point or the other been enamored by what started of as a search engine - Google. Be it its philosophy, the fabulous out of the box applications that almost everybody can use and need to use or the stock..It seems everything it does starts a trend. Even before the admiration of the best internet explorer could die down Google applied its data searching and data mining abilities to spurn out fantastic applications such as the Google Earth and Google Maps. Ever wonder how Google manages to be so innovative? It is the company's strong engineering principles that make this happen.

Never compromise on the quality of the people you bring in and hire only the best and brightest minds. It is easier said than done because getting in the intelligent people in is only a small part of the battle won. What is most challenging is keeping the motivation levels high at all times. One would think a big popular name like Google would draw people to it like bees to honey. While that may be true to some extent it is the freedom to create. 
A company that allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects that interests them. Now how many such companies have you heard of? The company that totally frees up people who demonstrate a streak to innovate. What is a better example of this than the history of Google's founder Sergey Brin. It was the restrictive regime of the Soviet Union that forbade Jews from holding high ranking professional career positions that prompted Sergey Brin's father to relocate to the US. In this free country where opportunities are aplenty, Sergey's talents could be  nurtured and as fate would have had it, Sergey met Larry and they founded Google from the most famous garage in Menlo Park California. 
Ever ponder to think that had it not been for Sergey's father's decision to seek freedom, we would have missed out on the legend of Google today.

All of us have heard umpteen number of times the Google's mantra, " Don't be evil". In these times, the company has proven time and again that money can be made by following the path of honesty and doing no evil. I believe it is this philosophy that has resulted in the good karma. The philanthropic division of Google called the is exploring how best technology and renewable energy sources can be combined to create a greener and better tomorrow. Perhaps greener sources of energy is the next big revolution to hit us and these biggies are already have the ingredients to bake the pie so that when the revolutionary wave hits us, they will be ready to eat it. On second thoughts Google's brightest minds will lead us there...

References : 

Friday, October 2, 2009

Keeping the faith

I have been brought up in a god fearing family and grown up seeing parents and grandparents perform the daily ritual of performing pooja and reciting mantras. My father,a strong believer in God, has always been very certain that all that he has achieved till date has been only due to the divine intervention and all the not so good things are meant for lessons we need to learn as we tread on the path to a greater good.  In the grand scheme of things that only He knows we often fail to take time off to reflect on the learnings when we are facing obstacles. It is only natural that my father's philosophy has become a part of my system as well. At this stage in life I am quite comfortable with the fact that there is some divine force quite like a guarding angel that is constantly accompanying me.

Things were not so in my growing up years. In the early schooling years of my life I was at a stage where I was simply observing things happening around me rarely questioning or reasoning the logic. I remember reciting the prayers just as I would recite a peom that has been learnt at school but not really delving into the meaning or the reason. In the growing up phase there were several conflicts in my mind as to what it feels to be religious and to pray with the same fervour as I had seen my father do. Despite this I never even once been convinced of the non existence of God. It was rather that I was waiting for something to happen that would cement my trust in him.

That was back then. Now my belief in Him is only getting stronger by the day. Between then and now, there have been many instances that have lead me to think differently...things that may not even have a plausible scientific explaination. One such time was when I was pregnant. During my entire nine months of pregnancy I have never once felt that I was carrying a girl child. It was just as if I just knew I was going to have a baby boy as if my intuition was a sign from Him. And so it was.

All of us have our own interpretations of God. To me these days He is my constant companion with whom I have daily conversations.