De-cluttering the Mind and Wardrobes Before Diwali

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Image Courtesy Pinterest

I don’t remember celebrating Diwali last year; that probably has something to do with having a newborn. This year however I am having this deep need of making few changes, be it home, career, relationship, kids, garden, whatever. I want to do something (don’t exactly know what), just get down and create something beautiful. Last months has been really trying for all of us, with new job, sick kids, and losses that few our friends suffered. There was an air of stifling gloom and negativity surrounding me, something that even the spirit of Durga Puja couldn’t shake off.

However, things are slowly changing. Maybe it’s the nip in the air, lights in the neighborhood, and over-crowded markets. Or maybe it’s the spirit of Diwali that is making all the things right on its own. I don’t know, but that phase made me realize that I could be unhappy, even after having the best partner, adorable kids, good career, friends, home and hearth. That thought has shaken me up a bit. As I am typing the words now, I realized the extent of sadness I felt, but the strange thing is I really don’t know what made me so unhappy. Does that make any sense?

I took up house-cleaning with a vengeance! It sounds silly, but it was so cathartic and after having read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I have started looking at house cleaning from a different perspective. I am taking baby-steps where Kondo is concerned; just started off with accessories and baby clothes, and it helped. Honestly speaking, I don’t really have any time to introspect about my state-of-mind juggling kids and career. But sometimes, the simple task of folding a cloth or re-arranging a wardrobe can feel so good.

As I’m not a full-blown creative person; I get creative ideas in bouts. Mostly, I am OK with neat bed and few cushions. But as a child I always use to trail after my mother during Diwali house cleaning; I would re-arrange the sofa, dust the bookshelf, arrange the innumerable case-files Maa possessed or fetch some flowers from the garden to be put on vase. I would stand holding the tool watching my father put on the Diwali lights on our verandah in neat U-shaped layer. I loved all that. I remember once I made a small landscape in the corner of our garden, with a small pond, wooden bark and plants. That fetched me many compliments from neighborhood aunties and uncle. I know they were indulging and encouraging a little girl, but down the years that girl got lost, and somehow I feel, I need to find her and make peace with her, before I lose her forever.

As the years are passing, and I am moving further away from my childhood it’s making me more conscious of how I need to hold on to that part of me. I need to light up some new dreams and fresh hopes, and sweep off this internal clutter of negativity out of the window.

Here’s hoping this Diwali will bring out that much-needed clarity in my life as well as yours.

Happy Diwali!

#Diwali #MarieKondo #decluttering #slowingdown #takingcontrol #findinghappiness

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Landour: Of Stunning Views and Steaming Khao Suey

With steep hill climb, sweeping history lessons, stunning scenery, pinewoods, old churches and Ruskin Bond’s house around the corner. Landour is probably the oddest destination one could have picked to travel with kids (10 months and 4). Odd because of the sheer amount of uphill walking one has to do ( with kids that could be a pain). Plus, there’s nothing much to do as said by many friends. However, husband and I wanted to runoff to a quiet and non-touristy place; so on a gorgeous summer afternoon we landed up in Landour, a small cantonment town roughly 4 kilometer away from Mussoorie.

As I stood in the gate of Ivy Cottage, a sense of calm descended on me. How do you describe a feeling you don’t have words for? With clouds touching my nose, I hugged the baby and descended down the stairs to reach where our cottage was.

…and the sight just stole my heart.

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The 180 degree view of the hill, nestled Woodstock school in the distance and a small window with colorful hanging flower pots (I was told that is Ruskin Bond’s balcony) held me in spot. I had seen different shades of the sky, but never before have I witnessed the magic of green, blue, aqua and white mingle in a manner so cohesive that you can’t help but get teleported to the fantasy world of your childhood.

The next three days were spent doing that– staring at the hills for hours, playing peek a boo with the sun and clouds, amidst lots of laughter, diaper change, baby food and conversation.

Plus, we abandoned all the plans of usually site seeing that our driver suggested.

Kempty Falls, Gun Hill, Mall road…NO.

Instead, we did this.

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…spent hours staring at the horizon.

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over many cups of coffees at Cafe Ivy.

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and many heated arguments on world politics.

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There were discussions on experiencing Landour in winters, just so we can curl up in bed with a book under the glowing orange flame from a fireplace.

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Not to mention, how unashamedly we posed for pictures in every possible corner of Rokeby Manor

Tell me why, the food taste so good on holidays? or was there something special about this Khao Suey at Doma’s Inn.


and this Salmon at Rokeby Manor

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What can I tell you about this old-fashioned library at Rokeby? Just pick any book from here, and find your favorite corner.

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and this oh-so-inviting living room which called for cuddles and hot-chocolate.

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Did I mention, how often we huffed and puffed like a dragon in Landour?

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There were times, when the pebbled streets looked far too quiet and spooky near Stubli, The Stray Dog.

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We saw other interesting things..

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Landour stole my heart; we couldn’t help doing the touristy things.

Landour taught me what slowing down means.It taught me, I don’t have to tick items out of my bucket list to be happy, I need to appreciate life for what I’ve now.

#Travellingwithkids #Travelogue #Landour #Mussorie #Ruskinbond #RokebyManor #IVYCottages #CafeIvy #TheStrayDog #Stubli #IvyCottages #CharDukan #Travelling #slowingdown

6 Books to Pick this Summer for Your Kindergartner

We are going to the hills next weekend. The idea is to just soak in the Mountain View, take a hike through forest, dip our feet in pristine streams, read good books and come back rejuvenated. This would be our first family vacation after the birth of our girl (she is 6-month old now). Although, we’ve been traveling since her birth, but that was more work than vacation.

For me vacation means unplugging, it means spending quality time with your loved ones, communicating, reading, watching the sunset together, and just absorbing the sight and sound of Mother Nature. I usually carry a book while traveling or end up buying some as a souvenir. Actually books make a perfect souvenir, it reminds you of places you have touched upon, cafes you have visited, views that made you pause and ponder.

I have compiled a list of story books for the child to indulge in this summer and I am definitely packing few of them in our upcoming trip to the hills.

Take a peek at these essential summer-reads for under-five year old

Where the Wild Things Are By Maurice Sendak

This one’s GOLD. If you haven’t yet bought this book for your kid, you are doing him/her a great disservice. The book narrates the elegant simplicity of the childhood fantasy. The illustrations are beautiful. Aurko and I are literally reading it every night. So Max goes off into his own world to escape his parents and explores “wild things” but ends up missing his loved ones and decides to come back to the real world. I guess both kids and adults will relate to this story. This one’s for keeps.

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David Series by David Shannon

“No, David!” is David Shannon’s first book of the “David” series. This is Aurko’s current favorite. The book details the adventures of David being bad while his mother continually tells him: “NO, DAVID”. Shannon writes in a simple preschool format that makes reading easier for young readers. This book has won the Caldecott Honor Book Award. We can’t wait to read the other book in this series.

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The Usborne Baby and Toddler Treasury

I bought this book when Aurko was a baby and apart from few torn pages, this book has survived 3 years. Aurko still can’t get enough of it, especially the stories—The Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The 3 Little Pigs story. It also has an art & craft section. This book is also serving my little girl, talk about killing two birds with same stone.

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My Dinosaur Backpack

Aurko recently picked this book from his school library. It’s a sticker activity book full of themed activities and fun dinosaur stickers. With over 250 stickers to use in the book or anywhere else, this is my go-to book this summer to keep my boy all tamed, as I run errands or enjoy a cuppa overlooking the mountains.

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Folk Tales Around the World

We picked this one from Kolkata International Book Fair. It is a compilation of short stories from around the world, such as, The Sun and The Moon (Siberia), The Woodcutter from Gura (Ethiopia), Water Lilies (Wales), The Bright Pearl (China). This one is for older kids; although, we have read The Sun and The Moon and Aurko thoroughly enjoyed it. But he never really asked for a repeat. I am sure he will come around in a few years.

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Little Spider and Geeta by Parthasarathi Chakraborty

I bought this one as I was a little fed-up with Aurko’s obsession with Spiderman, and wanted to show him the real deal. This book narrates the life history of spiders in the form of storytelling. Observing a spider make a web makes for a fascinating read and with my boy anything involving spiders always work.

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Have you read any of the books mentioned above? Do you have any other book to add to this summer special list? Do write in the comment section.

 

 

 

Comparison, You Bitch!

The other day at the grocery store, I looked over at this woman next to me, and heard her fixing a work-meeting with a client. She looked like one of those corporate high-flyers. Neatly dressed. Driving a sedan. Basically, she seems to have everything – brain, beauty, money, dressing-sense, poise.

“Ugh, you suck. You are still caught up in this silly job,” I thought to myself.

Then of course, I continued with some self-shaming:

“You’ve been working for 5-years, you should have reached X figure salary.” “Look at your unkempt hair, worn-out jean. You suck.”

You are not good enough (as compared to her).

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The other day I was talking to my cousin on phone, and she was telling me how her daughter (who is of the same age as my son) is already counting till 100. 100 already?

“OMG, we’re so behind,” I thought so.

Then of course, I continued the self-shaming:

“Am I doing it RIGHT? Everyone is so conscious about education nowadays. Look at the competition. Why am I not putting more efforts with him? I’m failing him.”

I am not a good mom (as compared to her).

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COMPARISON — you make me miserable!

Yes. Miserable, frustrated, discouraged, unhappy….. !

I hate myself when I do that, and still can’t seem to shake it off. This creepy crawly feeling keeps invading my peace of mind time after time. However, I also know for sure that I don’t want to live with that kind of negativity in my life. Happy people are seldom hopeless and discouraged.

After coming back from the store, I sat looking at the horizon thinking about the hopelessness of my situation. Will I ever be able to reach that level? Seems like a distant dream now that I’ve two kids. After my cousin’s call, I thought of drilling my son to count till 100, so that we can “catch up”.

See, the chain of thoughts? How it’s creating self-doubt.

If I am evaluating my worth by comparing myself to others, I will always be losing. Because in this game of life I will never reach a point where I am better than others in every possible way.

Comparison will only spin me into a tail-chasing frenzy of self-doubt.

So, trying to “catch up” to others is clearly not a solution.

Social psychologists and authors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer believes, “we are hardwired to engage in comparisons, that is, we can’t get away from it, and we’re doing it to try to make sense of our world. Do I make enough money? Do I need to update my kitchen? Do I need a new car? Are my kids doing well? It’s almost impossible to make those assessments objectively. So instead, we turn to comparisons.”

The authors believe, comparison can be motivating, and it can and do co-exist within the same person, and neither feeling is necessarily superior. It’s learning when to use each feeling that counts.

Makes sense, isn’t it?

I especially loved this thought-provoking example that they’ve shared in their recent book.

In Olympics, silver medalists tend to be miserable because they’re comparing themselves to the gold medalists; bronze medalists, on the other hand, are comparing their outcome to those who came in fourth and beyond, and so they tend to be more pleased with themselves than the silver medalists — even though the silver-winners technically beat them.

WOW.

So next time when you find yourself comparing, seek favorable comparisons if you want to feel happier, and seek unfavorable comparisons if you want to push yourself harder.

Steve Furtick said it best, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

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Pic courtesy Google

#lifelessons #loveyourself #selflove #comparisons #lifetips #Ibetterstoppreaching

Train Trips and Summer Vacation

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Image courtesy ClipArtBest.com

So, the new session has started, the son has joined a new school, the baby is napping on my lap, and summer vacation is around the corner. How exciting? When we were young, this was the time when Baba use to book the train tickets for our month-long annual trip to Siliguri. Journey always meant trains, and the anticipated train journey use to make April hard to pass.

Our parents use to accumulate all their work-leaves so that we can travel to their native place, and spend time with the extended family. During nights in April, me and my sister use to lie down next to Baba and count down the days of journey and make long list—orange or elaichi crème biscuits, cake, chana chur, Koolkit with ice, air-filled pillows, chicken & roti for dinner. Maa always use to pack in some rice, as she’s never too fond of ruti.

Maa also use to carry a Kujo (an earthen pot) to keep the water cool throughout the journey. This was long before Bisleri and Neer days; people use to get down in the station to fill their bottles with tap water. “The ice would melt but the Kujo will keep the water cool” she used to argue. Baba’s “it’s too big for journey” retort and our embarrassment standing no chance in front of her. I remember, once when our train was running 18-hours late that Kujo came to rescue. The train was stranded in the middle of some barren land, with no station nearby, and my mother started offering water to those who had none. Our effort of carrying a kujo over the years finally paid off that day. Incidentally, she never carried a Kujo again, and we never asked her why.

I also have indelible food memories of train trips— what we ate, what we packed, what all we bought. Jainagarer Mua, orange and black lozenges, shosha (cucumber) with beat nun, jhaal muri, and how the taste of tea changes as you near Bengal— passing through, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Those smell of frying samosas wafting from the pantry and— naa, pet kharab hobe, from my mother.

Our train trips also inevitable featured some fights with the sibling. Who will sit next to the window? Where will we sleep at night? Will I get the middle birth? The fights would inevitably be accompanied by a phase of sulking, followed by long conversation and antakshari.

Though, summers were mostly about bonding with the cousins, grandparents, and relatives. The most exciting part was the train journey, and stories they brought. Like, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the train passing over a bridge “this is Farakka Barrage, we are passing over Ganga”— Maa would say. “Throw in a coin and take her blessings”.

No matter how rough the ride there were plenty of stories we carried in our bags from our train journeys. Stories that remained etched in my mind.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

At the end of the day, all that matters is love and memories!

Women Dhakis of Bengal: Girl Power Unleashed

Photo Courtesy: The Indian Express
Photo Courtesy: The Indian Express

I woke up to the sound of Dhak today, its Shashti morning! The much awaited Durga pujo is finally here; BTW the dhak is playing in the ETV Bangla’s TV show where they are showing different pandals of Kolkata.

Welcome to the Durga Pujo in the Delhi NCR.

We being probashi will only get to hear them LIVE when we reach the pandals, which is a good few kilometres away. The sound of dhak is as ubiquitous to pujo as laal paad saari to Bengali ladies. The Dhakis wearing starched dhoti and phatua carrying a humongous dhaks with feathery tail have heralded Bengal’s most important festive season since time immemorial. However, times are changing, they are now getting a tough competition from the girls. Yes, a troupe of girls from Maslandapur village of West Bengal, is setting the tone of this year’s puja.

A girl dhaki—how cool is that!

According to Indian Express:

Late on Mahalaya evening, the prelude to Bengal’s 10-day puja carnival, 25-year-old Uma Das prepares to take centrestage at a south Kolkata pandal. Her face, with a dot of sandalwood paste adorning the forehead, is a mask of concentration. Her lal paar sari is starched stiff, with not a fold out of place. As she moves towards the dais, you half expect her to pick up a thali and help out with the puja preparation. Instead, Uma hangs the jute strap attached to a hefty dhak around her neck and signals her band of five women to follow suit.

What a refreshing change, this can only happen in Bengal. This is a small post I wrote in a jiffy in the spirit of Durga Pujo—you see I am a bong I have to make a post on pujo as I am sitting in the office trying hard to kill time till the evening, before I head to the pandal.

Happy Durga Pujo, everyone!

#durgapuja2015 #womendhakis #girlpower #girldrummers #bengalis

Toddler’s Play – Butterfly Kiss

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Actor: Hagar Tishman; Director: Elinor Agam Ben-David

As a kid growing up in the 90s, my first recollection of summer vacation is a day of chasing dragonflies with my friends. The bratty-ones use to tie a thread on the tail of the flies (sounds brutal, I know)—they were the expert in the game—much-respected and lauded among their peers. Such was our obsession of catching the flies that even games like pitthu and hide-n-seek took a backseat that summer. We all use to start early so that we get enough flies to practice and master our art. Fast-forward today; my 2-year old first introduction to the concept of the chase has come from The Temple Run or Subway Surfers.

So, when a few weeks back Israel-based director Elinor Agam Ben-David’s toddler play Butterfly Kiss came to The Indian Habitat Center, Delhi, I knew that I wouldn’t miss it for life, for my sake as well as Aurko’s. The concept of the toddler’s plays being non-existent in India, I was eager to find how they would hold the attention of a 2-year old.

Butterfly Kiss narrates the tale of a young girl who catches butterflies in a jar and finally decides to set them free, but only after getting the last butterfly’s kiss. After watching the first scene, I knew that only a mother—who knows the psyche of a child—can come up with a concept so simple and innocent. The use of hand puppets, digital artwork and toys made the show visually appealing and interactive at the same time.

The play was recited by the beautiful lone actor Hagar Tishman, who effortlessly formed a bond with the audience the moment she entered the stage. Dancing, playing and sharing butterflies, Tishman made sure that the backbenchers also get the same attention. Kids were allowed to stand very close to the stage so that they can participate. Unfortunately, all the kids in the front where way older than toddlers, but nonetheless the interaction was not limited to the front rows.

Now, how Aurko perceived the show is all together a different ball game. I would say the experience of sitting among 50 kids was something new to him. He was very coy and shy to start with, but warmed up to the show in the end, much to my surprise. It’s just a start for him; we are taking tiny steps now. Though, I have not seen a dragonfly in Delhi yet. I hope to find few butterflies in our small garden for him to chase. At the end of the show, we all received a handful of little butterflies, which the actress tapped on our cheeks—like a kiss.

Altogether, it was a wonderful experience, and something I would love to see again.

This is an old post firstly written for my previous blog Idle Tusser.

#thingstodowithkids #toddlerplays #toddlertheater #oneofitskind