Tuesday, July 10, 2018

School books and the brown covers

The other day as my husband and I were going for our walk, my attention was suddenly caught by a group of little boys who were sitting on the steps of a shop on the roadside busy doing something. They were so absorbed in what they were doing that they seemed to be totally oblivious of the screeching traffic, people scurrying past them or vendors shouting at the top of their voices. Curiosity aroused, I got closer only to see that these little boys were totally immersed in covering school books with brown paper!

I remembered my school days. A week before school reopened, we used to get our notebooks and textbooks for the new session. The first thing I used to do was to rapidly scan all my textbooks to see what the content was. New books were handled in a very sacred manner. Ever so carefully the pages were turned and not flipped so as not to crease the pages. While reading, books were not folded and though we had never heard of bookmarks, we would remember the page number and never would we fold the top corner of the page. It was a sacrilege! The crisp pages and the smell of the new books was something which I used to immensely enjoy.

The next step that would follow was the annual ritual of covering these books with brown sheets or in other words this was the homemade version of bookbinding! It was a ritual which my sisters and I enjoyed. Mom had taught us how to bind the books.

It is an art. Sitting on the floor with all the books beside us, all of us would spread the brown paper on the floor, keep the book that was to be bound and cut the brown paper accordingly. It was then folded neatly on all sides. Finally, when all the books were neatly covered, we would move on to the next step, that of sticking labels on the right-hand corner of the book.  At that time labels were not on sticker papers as they are today, but had to be stuck using gum. Once it was stuck and dry, in our neatest possible handwriting we used to write our name, class, section, subject, and the name of the school. Lo and behold the books thus covered would be stacked neatly in the cupboards! These books were used day in and day out through the year and after the first session used to get over if any of the books required rebinding, then we used to do it again.

When my children started their school years, this same ritual was followed. They would sit beside me and watch me bind their books. As they grew a little older they learnt to cover the books with brown paper themselves. When it came to labels, stationary shops were raided to get the labels of their choice depending on their favorite cartoon programme. Yes, instead of the ordinary plain labels that we used to have during our times they now had the choice of colorful cartoon characters and depending on the flavor of the season they had Noddy, Bob the Builder, Pokemon labels and so on.

Also read: Books - a child's best friend

But as they stepped into high school, this ritual sadly came to a stop and was limited to only their record books. Their notebooks had the school logo on it and they were instructed not to bind it. The textbooks available in the market were of such poor quality that they wouldn't even last for one session and hence we needed to get them bound professionally. So the ritual was that of going to the roadside cobbler ( Yes, you heard it right) and get the books stitched by him to retain the pages for at least one whole year! This was followed by a visit to the bookbinder's shop where the books were then bound in a hard plastic sheet.

I remember my friend to whom we had passed on our kids' textbooks, calling up to ask where and how we used to get the textbooks bound so well. So I let her in on our little secret on the longevity of our books.

I do not see this art being carried on by future generations as everything is digital now! The physical textbooks might be replaced by e-books and just like so many other fun family activities this too will vanish slowly. So that seems sadly the end of our annual ritual which my kids and I used to enjoy so immensely.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Have you read a story to your child today?

I remember one outstanding moment from the archives of my childhood very vividly even today and which is still etched in my memory. My sister's friend had lent her an Amar Chitra Katha. As the book had to be returned quickly, we asked mom to read it out to us and narrate the story. Mom has a lovely soft voice and we used to love hearing her narrate stories to us.

Ah! the world of storybooks. Right from my childhood reading and listening to stories was a passion with me - stories that were passed on from one generation to another - the story of the sparrow and the crow, the Indian version of Cinderella, Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood, The Hare and the Tortoise and so on. We were so very fond of stories that we would ask mom to tell us stories all the time.

Once we were able to read on our own a whole new world opened before us. There was now a role reversal. I was the official 'Story Teller'. Narrating stories during lunch and dinner times during weekends and holidays was now my domain! At school, we used to exchange storybooks. The day I got a new storybook, would be the most exciting day for me. I just could not wait a minute longer to open the pages and go through the wonderful world created by the story writer. Homework and other studies would be done and dusted in a jiffy and finally, the much awaited moment would come, when I would settle down in a corner of the house where I was least likely to be disturbed and get totally immersed in the book.

Apart from Hans Christian Anderson, Enid Blyton and so on, who can forget our very own Uncle Pai's Amar Chitra Katha? These were also one of my favorites - the mythological stories which were narrated to us right from our childhood, now took a life of their own because of their colorful pictures and simple presentation. Stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat, Panchatantra, Hitopadesh were not just stories, but also lessons in morals and values which as children we could easily understand and inculcate.

One of the stories that Mom read out to us during our school days was that of Meera Bai. The story begins with Meera being enamored by Lord Krishna right from her childhood. So she would sing, play, dance and sleep with her idol of Krishna. As she grew into a lovely woman, she was married off to the King of Mewar. But Meera was totally immersed and devoted to her Krishna alone. Her husband and his sisters try to reason with her and when Meera refuses to heed their advice, they try to poison her. But her Lord protects her and when her husband realizes her true devotion to the Lord, he himself becomes her devotee. During her last days, Meera goes to various places where Lord Krishna had lived in like Mathura, Brindavan, and Gokul where she writes and sings for her Lord to take her to him. Finally, she is united with her Lord. As mom finished reading, all three of us sat in silence totally mesmerized and when we finally looked at each other there was such powerful emotion in all of us that we had tears in our eyes. The power of stories!

In my own little way, I opened this wonderful world of story to my children too (when they were young) and continued the same tradition of weaving the magic of words, telling them stories where I could see them embark on various adventures, mysteries, and travel into that wonderful imaginary world, where they could become superheroes.

Today, despite stories being available digitally, I love the touch, the smell, and the feel of the books. So, as someone who has gone through the journey, I would urge all young parents to go on and enjoy story sessions with your little ones and enjoy the journey into the realms of the world of fantasy together.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A True iCon

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of  the heart, you'll know when you find it."

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." These famous quotes are by none other than the great Tzar of Technology - Steven Paul Jobs or otherwise popularly known as Steve Jobs of Apple. I read his book - iCon. I got hooked reading about this man, whom people worship and look up to as their idol. The name is revered worldwide.

An adopted child, a college drop-out, with a burning passion, to create something different right from early years seemed to be setting a stage for achieving something great. Working out of a garage with his friend Steve Wozniak they created the first Macintosh. Subsequently Apple went on to create the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad as we all know. His work in three different genres - computers, music, and movie animation speaks for the genius Steve Jobs was.  This man had that Midas touch. He was the driving force with his intuition of futuristic outlook and made Apple the most successful company that it is now. His motto was to build a great product which had to be great looking, smart and at the same time be user-friendly. You just have to listen to his talks and you will be mesmerised. His Aura and charisma became an inspiration for millions across the world.

At home, my husband and kids are technology enthusiasts. I am still in the old, traditional mode and often get teased by them. The first Computer that we bought was in the year 1996. I remember when I came back from my mom's home after my first baby, this was the surprise that my husband had in store for me. When he explained its working it all turned out to be Greek and Latin to me. I was too wary of even touching it leave alone using it, considering the cost!

As the kids grew older, discussions centered around the latest technology, to which I was a mute spectator. And when the discussion turned to Apple products there was always that dreamy look of wanting one, but the price being a restraint. The first Apple product that came home was the iPod in 2007 when my husband had gone to the U.S. Children just couldn't wait to lay their hands on it. And it was time for celebration when it made a grand entry. All of them were totally mesmerised with it. Since I love music, I too enjoyed listening  to music on it. This was our first experience of using an Apple product. This was followed by the mini iPod. I remember there were extra stickers of Apple when we bought the iPod and the children stuck it right on top of our Samsung T.V. When some guests visited us they saw the Apple logo and asked us when we had bought an Apple T.V? Steve Jobs would have had a fit of rage at the very idea of T.V, as he thought television made people dumb.

A few months back my husband decided to buy a new laptop. We went to the Electronics store and were looking at different models. The sales person there routinely pitched in monotonously about the features of various models. But I could see my husband eyeing the far end of the counter and yes I should have guessed it was the Apple counter! Apple have their own trained salespeople I guess. When that guy started explaining the features, I was stuck by the difference. Here was a guy who was not just doing his job, but he actually loved it. The passion, the awe and the reverence with which he explained the working of the MacBook, I was wonderstruck. He was totally an Apple fan. This I have noticed is not restricted to one store - you just check out any store, the Apple counter salespeople are different. So our love affair with Apple continues with another addition to the Apple family - the MacBook Air.

So even if you are not so much into technology, I would still recommend that you read the book and listen to Steve Jobs and you will know why he is truly The iCon and motivated me to write a blog post.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Open Streets - Fun day on a Sunday

When all the world leaders are talking about climate change and discussing ways and means to find solutions to this problem, I thought that the idea of "Open Streets" was a step in a very small way to work towards this goal.

The free and open road without the fear of vehicles whizzing past
I saw the posters and heard the radio spots about something called "Open Streets" being organised on 20th September - a Sunday, in the area where I stay. We got to know that there would be no traffic allowed in the entire residential layout. We were curious to know what this was all about, and so my husband and me set out to know more about this novel idea. As we came out of our apartment the first thing we noticed was a group of people assembled arguing with the cops as to why vehicles were not allowed to ply. Maybe they were not aware that vehicles were prohibited from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm.

Walkers and cyclists having
a good time
As we continued, I noticed for the first time how wide the roads actually were. After eons we found we could walk freely as we pleased, even right in the middle of the road, without having to look around for those impatient drivers in their cars or autos or the blaring horn from the bikes or the buses whizzing at breakneck speed. This I thought was ultimate freedom. Added to that was the bonus of breathing in a lungful of fresh unpolluted air. Later I learnt that the pollution level i.e., the particulate matter had come down by close to 30% and the noise decibel had dropped to 11.5%.

The traditional Pagade game
Just as we turned a corner, several children were whooping with joy and riding on their bicycles and skateboards all over the road. They reminded me of my Enid Blyton Books where they would describe children coming back fresh from summer vacations looking all rosy and rounded. This was no summer vacation, but the children their cheeks all red, eyes glowing and smiles not leaving their face was a sight to behold. The children had just found what it was to be a child once again - Happy and Carefree. We saw several families walking down with their children, all of them sweating profusely because be it kids or adults we have now gotten used to walking less. I thought this might just do the trick of bringing down the national index of people suffering from diabetes and other diseases caused due to lack of exercise.

As we walked down the road, people had crowded around a potter who was spinning his wheel and children and adults alike trying their hands in creating their own version of vase, bowls, and other odd shaped articles which they then carried proudly back with them. In another corner, children were sitting on the road and painting with great concentration. Some children with their parents were using the road as their canvas and drawing beautiful figures with different coloured chalk. There was one that captured my attention and that was a huge figure of Lord Ganesha drawn by a boy who I came to know was actually living in a hutment closeby. What talent!

Games like Chess, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers were being played with gusto on the road where the Chess Board, Snakes and Ladders were actually drawn on the road, and children were rolling out the huge Dice and going up the ladder and walking down the Snakes literally. An old man was playing  chess with his granddaughter with curious onlookers cheering them.

The giant chess board on the road
That day children and adults got introduced to our traditional games of Twelve Houses played using shells, Pagade the age old game mentioned in The Mahabharath, Five Stones, Lagori, Carrom, Badminton, and so on. Families got together with other families who till then were complete strangers forming teams to play Cricket, Football, Hopscotch you name it. It was all there being played by one and all as one big family.

As we were walking back, we saw a group of teenagers trying to fly a plane which they had modelled out of thermocol, and using the law of gravity after several tries they got the plane to fly and land with thread being used as the navigation aid. They got cheered and applauded from all the bystanders.

We missed watching the play that was organised and the evening show where a Music Band was playing. But I must say this was one unforgettable experience for me.

The most positive aspect that I saw was that people had gotten away from all kinds of electronic gadgets that gets them so hooked up. Mobiles on that day if used was for the sole purpose of capturing the pure essence of joy and festivity all around us. The reason for having an "Open Street" was different, but as a parent I saw that this was the perfect way to once again rekindle the joy of bonding as a family which was sealed that day between parents, children, grandparents, neighbours and strangers alike. It was like one big Family Day Out. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The little guide

I was standing on my terrace the other day and seeing all the fun that children in the apartment were having. Evenings are meant for fun and play. So they were there out in hordes indulging in various activities; little ones on their tricycles, the older ones on their bicycles, some zipping past on their roller skates, the older lot playing cricket and so on. Observing children can be a very enjoyable affair, don't you agree?

It was then that my attention was drawn towards an old man with a bag hung on one shoulder walking very slowly with the help of a walking stick. Holding his hand and walking alongside him was a little boy who I guess was not more than three years of age. It looked like the grandfather and grandson were going out for a walk.

As I watched them, the old man was concentrating on the path ahead, walking carefully and beside him  holding his hands was the child who was carefully guiding his grandfather along the path. He would point out and tug at the old man's arm if he thought the path was slightly uneven and veer him towards an even stretch.

After a while he let go of his grandfather's arm and walked a few paces in front of him and then turned back and waited to see how his grandfather was progressing and when he saw that his grandfather was close to him he would again walk a few paces ahead and wait. Then the little boy changed his course and started walking behind his grandfather all the while keeping a close watch. His attention was so totally focused on his grandfather that when some of his friends called out to him he did not respond to them. Such was his concentration! For a boy who was all but three, the care that this little child took of his grandfather was quite amazing. It was as though he knew that it was his responsibility to take great care of his  grandfather.

As they both progressed slowly towards the last stretch till my line of vision could follow, I could see the little boy had started marching smartly in military style with his grandfather walking behind him and when they were almost close to the gate the little boy turned back and gave a smart salute to the old man. Then I could see them no more.

I found my spirits soaring at such a wonderful sight that I had witnessed. This looked like a very small incident but the sensitivity and empathy shown by the little child was exemplary. I silently saluted this little guide and sentinel.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An ode to home scientists

It's now a little over Twenty Five years since I graduated from college! It somehow did not look so long ago. But there we were the graduates of '88 batch celebrating our silver jubilee of graduation with overnight stay at a resort planned and organised by some of our classmates followed by lunch hosted for our lecturers who had taught us. The D day was ushered in with giggling, laughing, talking, accompanied by oohs and aahs as each one of us had met after so many, many years.

As I looked around me at all those lovely faces, my thoughts raced back to those times when as gawky, gangly, pimpled teens we had entered the hallowed portals of one of the prestigious colleges in the city. There was a lot of energy, vibrancy in the huge campus which added to our bewilderment, as we had just left the secure cocoon of our school and were stepping out into an alien world.

Once we settled into the new environment, we began an exciting roller coaster ride. Our stream was Home Science which included various interesting subjects like child development, nutrition and dietetics, home management, family relationships, textiles and clothing and so on. As part of the curriculum there were several theoretical as well as practical aspects that we had to fulfill. Textiles and clothing saw us all busy trying to learn embroidery stitches, stitching frocks, blouses and so on, struggling to get things right and in accordance to the specifications that our teachers had set when we hardly knew how to thread a needle!

The nursery children who were taught by us as part of pre-school education would ask us smart questions, as if on cue, while we were being evaluated by our teachers, leaving us fumbling for the right answers. :-(

Then it was that time of the year where as part of our role to manage the cafeteria, all of us would plan out mouth watering menus, try and work out the proportions and quantity of ingredients that we required, shop and prepare, and then sell it in the campus. This was generally a big hit with the rest of the college as one can understand the enormous appetite that teens have. The quantity of food that we struggled to make from previous day would just disappear within minutes of us opening our food counters!

In our final year we had cottage stay where seven or eight of us would have to live together for a week along with one of our lecturers, in a cottage within our college campus. The idea was to give us an experience of running a home within a budget and getting our group dynamics right. Starting with choosing a name for our home, matching the decor and the interior accordingly to planning the menu, cooking, cleaning and attending classes - all at the same time. God help the lecturer who had to put up with our amateur cooking!

At the end of the stay we had to invite our parents for a party to show them how good party hostesses we were along with our cooking prowess. Elaborate party menu was planned and cooking would start from previous day. Finishing touches would still go on till the last minute as there would generally be utter chaos added with kitchen disasters. The scene would be straight out of the television programme "Hell's Kitchen". All these however added to a very exciting and unforgettable experience for each one of us. No wonder then, with these kind of whirlwind activities we did not realise how five years zoomed past. Because of all these experiences where as a whole class we were all involved in each and every activity brought us all closer than we realised.

And now after twenty five years I looked around at all the beautiful ladies picking up threads from where we had left twenty five years ago, as though we had never been apart, talking about each of our families, our dreams and our experiences with life till the wee hours of morning. Yes, we all had our ups and downs, but there was an inner strength in each one of us to surmount these and move ahead in life with a cheerful smile. And that is what Home Science as a course had taught us - to value human relationships. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bidding adieu to school years..

31st January will be etched in my memory for the simple reason that it was my son's Graduation Day. Yes! he completed sixteen long years of his school life - Playgroup to twelfth grade.

I remember his very first day of school. There was my baby, all set in his new uniform with a cute school bag and a snack box setting off to school on the first day with his dad and grandfather (I missed it as I had just had my second baby). We had photo sessions before he set out. I felt happy as he did not create any fuss and within a week he had settled down well in school and was enjoying. The journey had just begun.

Fancy dress events saw him being M.F. Hussain painting away to glory (later the teachers told us for a two and a half year old child, he really had a great sense of art), or competing as a chef on sports day activity, or reciting rhymes dressed as a fisher boy - these are but a few images that flashed through my mind.

Initially it was the carefree days which saw him participating not only in several sporting events like learning the intricacies of table tennis, cricket, football; but also pursuing art work, chess, calligraphy or drama classes along with his studies.

Attending all the parent teacher meets, cheering him on during his sports events, appreciating his art work put up during the school exhibitions, or cheering him loudly while he performed on the stage - we have been there at each and every event of his.

Finally it was the culmination of this wonderful journey on 31st January. It was a very nostalgic moment for all of us parents to see our children, walking up slowly in their gowns towards the dais. The feeling was indescribable. The inspiring speech made by the Director of the school, the motivational talk by the chief guest, and of course parents perspective given by me - all added to the poignant moment.

With dusk setting in, it was an ethereal scene when all the students with candle in their hands sang the school hymn proudly. As the final strains of the music died there was a hush everywhere as each one of us were coming to terms of our children growing up into fine young adults.

As the evening progressed there was joy and much chatter over a sumptuous dinner organized by the school. While parents and teachers were going over nostalgically over several events which they recalled, humorous anecdotes were narrated;  the children (and of course the parents) were busy capturing that one moment with their friends on cameras.

Finally it was that time - bidding adieu. I thought all these friends who have been together through thick and thin will now go their different ways. These friends whom I had seen growing up right in front of me, who used to come home either to complete projects or on night outs or on birthdays. There were many, many memories flooding through my mind. So it was with promises to keep in touch and an adventurous future beckoning them that we bid adieu.