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

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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

 

Heritage Transport Museum: A Photo Diary

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If you are vehicle enthusiasts, head straight to this one-of-its-kind Heritage Transport Museum. Housed about 40 KM from Gurgaon, this stunning and well-maintained Museum is a goldmine for transit junkies, packed with information and dozens of the actual vehicles used to transport high-flying Indians over the past 150 years. Run by Mr. Tarun Thakral of Le Meridien, New Delhi, the museum houses an eclectic collection of vintage cars (from IMPALA to Pontiac), hand carts, palanquins, boats, a train compartment, Pakistani truck-art by famous artist Anjum Rana, and even a bi-plane. Built on a 3 acre complex, the museum is spread over four air-conditioned floors that offer over 100,000 square feet of exhibition space, library and reference centre, mini auditorium, souvenir shop, and cafeteria.

What’s on offer?

Take your kids on a walk through time and explore the history of transport in India, although I felt they need to make it more interactive for the kids. Lots of vintage cars, buses, mini Vespas to see; but they can’t really clamber or touch it, and that could be a little disappointing for little kids. (Disclaimer: I am not endorsing touching the displays here, in India you can’t really allow that). I felt a nice play area where kids can indulge in a vehicle-related activity would have been nice. Though, after checking the four floors of the museum kids can enjoy a day of painting, pottery, horse and camel ride in the outdoor plush green area—but they can do that anywhere, right?

Getting there

Finding the place was a little taxing for us as it is a bit far from Gurgaon, and the GPS showed 2 approaches— via Sohna or NH8. NH8 is recommended, and a possible landmark could be GITM College. The place itself is in the middle of nowhere so that made it a nice little road trip for us.

Mommy Tips:

  • It felt great to visit a museum like this in India with great exhibits, informative displays and without any jostling for space.
  • Cafeteria is running but there are limited things on offer (Pastas, Popcorns and Yippee noodles are not my thing)
  • One can spend 3-4 hours easily exploring the museum
  • Souvenirs are expensive as all the cars and trucks are designed and decorated by famous artist Anjum Rana. However, it’s worth paying for if you are into that kind of stuffs.
  • The entire place is accessible by stroller and wheelchair

Verdict:

Highly Recommended.

#destinationunlocked #eyeforluxury #kidsdayout #daytrip #everythingvintage #parenting #placestovisit #mustvisit #museum

A version of this blog post also got published in Huffington Post India under my name. Here’s the link of that post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/mousume-roy/heritage-transport-museum-gurgaon-steer-the-kids-here-for-a-fu/?utm_hp_ref=in-

 

 

What The IKEA Play Report 2015 Tells Us About Indian Kids

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Upside Down

I grew up in a small town where playtime used to be the highlight of our day. After school, we couldn’t wait to get home and get outside to play—be it racing the bicycles with friends, chasing the fireflies, or playing hide-and-seek—the memories are still pretty vivid in my imagination. Every day our parents had to fetch us back in the evening with a good amount of scolding, as the rule in the house was to come back once the street lights are on.

We grew up being physically active—much more than the current generation. Though, I don’t recall our parents taking any real apart in our play activity—barring those rare occasions when dad taught us backhand shots in badminton or how to fly kites; essentially, we (me and my sister) used to play on our own or with the neighbourhood kids.

Also, the notion of spending quality time with kids did not exist in those days; as adults were too busy running errands and making ends meet. My mom being a working lady in a time when it was not a norm, we even used to go to the library –some 5-8 km away from our home—all alone.

Sadly, the world is not as safe as it used to be.

As we are working parents, the nanny takes our son to the neighbourhood park every day in the evening, however, there are hardly any kids of his age-group there. So oftentimes, he wanders on his own with the nanny trailing right behind him, and after spending some time swinging and sliding, kicking the ball towards random strangers (usually retired-old guys), and making faces at whosoever indulges him, he returns back for his supper.

Sad, isn’t it? I know, but I would say it’s still better than him watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at home with grandparents to fuss over him. In a recently conducted survey by IKEA— the Swedish furnishing company— calls India a “time-poor” country. They interviewed over 30,000 parents and children online across 12 countries, to learn about playing and how people spend their time together around the world.

India tops the charts on three fronts:

  1. Spending Quality Time with Children:

60 per cent of Indian parents feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children — followed by China at 57 per cent. They not only feel stressed when playing with children but the children too feel their parents are always in a rush.

  1. Safety Quotient:

75 per cent parents feel they are over-protective and don’t let their children play outside for fear of strangers or traffic. The US comes second with 62 per cent.

  1. Digital Devices:

38 per cent parents say that playing on the smartphone or I pads qualifies as family time— China comes a close second with 31 per cent.

There is no news of IKEA Play Report 2015 anywhere in the Indian media. I guess, parenting and playtime doesn’t garner that much attention, nor does it do anything for the TRPs. I read about it in Indian Express the other day, apparently the only newspaper to cover it.

In the light of this study, what it means for us parents? We live in a time when houses don’t have a backyard and being outside the house doesn’t necessarily mean playtime. What is the answer to our nature-deprived modern lives? The answer is, we need to get outside more often. We need to pick a sport, play in the park, lie-down in the grass, plant trees, and pack a picnic; instead of teaching kid how to play Subway Surfer on I Pad, we need to show them how to kick a ball or do a cartwheel. Times are changing, if we want our kids to stop being a “couch potato”, we have to give play a chance!

“…Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”— Dr Seuss.

Tags: #playmatters #playtime #parenting #IKEAPlayReport2015

Happy Family Vacation

Friend, partners in crime, rivals…

I have one elder sister.

While growing up we fought like cats and dogs, and said some of the meanest things to each other, and later patched up as if nothing happened. We did some of the silliest things together, and laughed at jokes only we could understand.

But then she moved to the U.S and the Skype conversation and over the phone talks took a beating because of the time zone change, work and babies! Thus her arrival in India was something I was looking forward to with bated breath. The moment I saw her the years vanished like a fart in the wind, and we’re right back to where we’ve left it, that is, like nothing has ever been missing.

We recently visited them in Kolkata, and the overnight conversation against the high rising Rajarhat is something that I cherish the most. We had the best time with our parents joining in. The house was bursting at the seams, but in a good way. Also, watching the kids gel is something that took me by surprise as they all met for the first time. My nieces and nephew don’t speak Bengali or Hindi, and I was a bit skeptical about how Aurko will respond to their accented English. But boy was I wrong, kids speak their own language, they don’t need familiarity. Cousins laughed and giggled, husbands had long conversations, there were lots of slamming doors, chasing after boys, and hair braiding for girls.

As usual we (me n hubby) did a poor job of taking pictures and didn’t pull out the camera much. Partially because it was busy and there was so much catching up to do and so many stories to be recalled.

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Princep Ghat

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#Travel #Travelogue #Familyvacation #Cousins #Sisterdom #Sisterhood

Unsolicited Parenting Advice from Know-It-Alls

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Oh wow! You are a baby expert as well?

So David Beckham is facing the wrath of trolls for allowing their baby girl Harper to use a dummy (pacifier) even at 4. What’s new in that for a parent, I say. From the moment you turn pregnant you will find “mom experts”, “baby experts”, and “parenting expert” crawling out of the woods from all corners.

You know what I mean? All the unsolicited parenting advice that is vomited on you once you are a parent, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or 5th …these people still know more than you. And expect you to listen.

OK! So I have nothing against the well-intentioned advice; I am not the sort who will roll eyes on some good motherly tips. But if I just met you on a lift…I don’t need you to tell me what to do and what not to do with my 3 year old.

Here I’ve listed some of the common sages (unsolicited of course); all parents must have come across in their parenting days.

  1. Back in our days….

Brace yourself, mama! If you have anywhere to hide, better start running now, because when a sentence starts with THAT—you are in a sticky situation. Be prepared to be bombarded with outdated parenting tips from a generation who has never heard of Google.

How to handle?

A polite nod of head, and “Thank You”, because you cannot really argue with an old hump; you just have to grin and bear.

2. Isn’t he too old to be—?

This always makes me defensive and hurtful. My son still uses milk bottle (did I just hear you shriek). Yes, he does. He is obsessed with it and we are trying our best to wean him out. He uses his milk cup as well but when he is sleepy he prefers a bottle. I’ve faced a lot of wrath and gasp from strangers and relative but I’ve realized most of the time they may genuinely wonder if the behavior that they’re commenting on is age-appropriate.

How to handle?

Swallow the bitter pill. If they are offering an advice on what to-do than you might learn something. But if they are just boasting about their super-efficiency, put your hands over your ears and start singing..Wheels on the bus go round and round…..

3. My kids never did that…

I bet you have chanced upon that “middle-aged Mrs-know-it-all” with kids in college witnessing your child throwing a tantrum, and uttering that golden line.

Excuse me! But I barely remember what I did last week let alone what I did 20 years ago, Mam. What’s the secret of your super-memory?

How to handle?

Defuse your anger with a pinch of humor. Congratulate her on raising wonderful robots. Ask her if you can call her next time the child throws a fit.

The world is full of critics. There is always going to be information coming from parent, non parent, and everyone in between. Filter out what advice to listen to and what to blow off. Eventually, a funny thing happens—you become a “baby expert” in the process, and when your best friend has a baby, you will know exactly what to tell her.

This post is also published in Women’s Web as my article, go check it

http://www.womensweb.in/2015/09/deal-unsolicited-parenting-advice/

Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi

Sky scraping snow-capped Mountains, vast expansion of meadows, small quaint cafe, steep walks and groves, is what I’ve been longing for lately. Except reality couldn’t be any further from the truth. A mountain getaway now is completely off-limits, as the boy’s flu last month took away two-weeks off work.

Living in Delhi NCR, I have always missed the nature. There are no water bodies, no mountains or rivers to just sit by and stare, and do nothing. I stayed in Bhopal for a few years, and I have some fond memories of sitting by the lake chewing on roasted corn on weekdays. I couldn’t imagine doing that here as I am always in a hurry.

If only life could slow down a little? Some would say, there are enough parks and bawlis, old forts and ruins, India Gate and Lodhi Gardens but the distance and the crowd always spoils the appeal.

However, there is this place right in the heart of this city where life takes a different turn the moment you enter through the gate, where you can here the chirping of birds and not the traffic honking that you are so used to, where the whistling sounds of the woods are as clear as crystal, where the serenity and calmness stirs the poet inside you, where the trees play their own music, and even you are allowed to make some with the hanging instrument–minus the tourists, college crowds, or some such humdrums.

Just the sound of the nature playing its own tune!

I call it my Secret Haven.

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