The India I Love

I have read many books by Ruskin Bond lately as part of my venture of reading many books The India I Love -1by one author. I picked this one to get a view of our motherland from Ruskin Bond’s point of view. Though the book is beyond what the title seems to promise.

 

The book is a collection of nineteen heartfelt poems and essays. The India the author loves is far from the one we so often read about, see on TV or on tourism websites. In the author’s own words;

“The India that I love does not make the headlines. The India that I love comprises the goodwill and good humor of ordinary people; a tolerance for all customs; a non-interference in other’s private lives; a friendly reciprocation at all times; a philosophical acceptance of hardships; love and affection, especially in children.

That is on the human side. And there’s the land itself forest and plain, mountain and desert, river and sea, all mean different things to me. All these I have loved, and attempted to celebrate over the yeas, in a way I know best.”

The book has a vibrant cover that makes better sense once you’ve read the book because every object at display holds a strong connection with what the author feels for people, places and things.

Most chapters in the book are preceded by a catchy illustration of the author that adds to the charm of this otherwise heartwarming book. I wish to congratulate Sandeep Adhwaryu for capturing the mood and essence of every chapter in his illustrations impeccably.

The India I Love- 2
The illustrations are a publisher copyright and the photograph is taken only for example purpose

This book has one of the most memorable book dedications I have read in a long time,

“In the spirit of goodwill, tolerance and ahimsa,

I dedicate this book

to all those who come knocking at my door

in the middle of my afternoon siesta.

May they too discover the benefits

and pleasures of a good afternoon’s sleep.”

If you’re a Ruskin Bond fan you’d be well aware how his simple writing has the poignant charm of no two sentences ever being similar. The positive attitude with a gentle yet warming sense of humor makes reading his essays and poems a joyful experience.

The best part of Bond’s poems is that they continue telling the story without ever being a slave of rhyming, effortlessly flowing like a cascading stream down the mountain slopes and always leaving the reader with a wonderful perspective.

At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say that this book is another masterpiece of simplicity at its magnanimous best. Every chapter is filled with pages from author’s personal life and at places also has entries from his personal diary. I couldn’t stop being amazed by how enriching and inspiring it could be to savor the nuggets of life-lessons re-living author’s life in his words.

“We get out of life what we bring to it. There is not a dream which may not come true if we have the energy which determines our own fate. We can always get what we want if we will it intensely enough…So few people succeed greatly because so few people conceive a great end, working towards it without giving up. We all know that the man who works steadily for money gets rich; the man who works day and night for fame or power reaches his goal. And those who work for deeper, more spiritual achievements will find them too. It may come when we no longer have any use for it, but if we have been willing it long enough, it will come!”

There are a few chapters, about his adopted family and friends of the youth that have been shared in his other books too. Having read those recently, I was in no way tempted to skip reading them again, because every time they fill me with awe for author’s compassion and power of observation, recollection and reflection.

The lucid narration makes this book a quick read but I (like always) chose to indulge in one chapter at a time, sleeping over, assimilating and cherishing the life lessons I learnt over the course of reading this book.

I could feel a particular connect with the chapter ‘The India I Carried With Me‘. It surprisingly gifted me many answers to the questions posed by similar choices I made not so long ago. Looking into my life in India (though I do not live on a hill station like the author) and comparing it with the choice I made, holds strong ties with the thoughts that ran through author’s mind in his youth, around 50 years ago.

I share with the author in my love for nature, stopping to spend time observing nature at play and most of all the love of having a room with a window with a beautiful view. I also picked up reading recommendations from the book and loved re-visiting the rivers of India in his words.

The joy of reading about river Ganga and many other rivers and streams in Ruskin Bond’s words is unparalleled because it is not limited to the details we all have read in our geography lessons. It had an insight and personal touch from a traveler’s point of view who has a way of noticing some of the easily missed intricate details while pointing out the obvious in a way that’ll stay with me for a long time.

However, the best part of the book is where the author shares a sneak peek into his life as a writer in the chapter ‘Joyfully I Write’. I loved the way he touched upon the subject of how writers are often chided for repeating themselves. He not only acknowledges the existence of this trait in every artist, musician and also writers but beautifully elaborated as to what makes it happen and how it is nothing to be shied from. This particular chapter holds nuggets of wisdom worth their weight in gold for every writer (or an aspiring writer) seeking advise from someone who is passionate about writing. I loved the insight into why a writer’s pen can never run dry because there is inspiration aplenty for everyone, waiting to be observed and etched into a memorable story.

Brief introduction to author’s love for haiku writing in one of the chapters (visible in the picture above), impressed me enough to try my hand on it.

I highly recommend this book if you are a Ruskin Bond fan, are looking for a balmy, autobiographical, quick paced book or are a writer looking for inspiration from the life of a very talented, celebrated, passionate writer like Ruskin Bond. This book offers an insight into life in India from a very positive yet honest point of view inspiring the reader to go back to nature for all his needs.

About the Book: 

Title –  The India I Love

Author – Ruskin Bond

Publisher – Rupa Publications

Genre – Non-Fiction

Pages – 144

Price – INR 195

ISBN – 978-81-291-4178-1

About the Author – Ruskin Bond has been writing for over sixty years and has now over 120 titles in print novels, collections of stories, poetry, essays, anthologies and books for children. His first novel, The Room on the Roof, received the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys award in 1957. He has also received the Padma Shri (1999), the Padma Bhushan (2014) and two awards from the Sahitya Akademi one for his short stories and another for his writings for children. In 2012, the Delhi government gave him its Lifetime Achievement award.

Rating: 4/5

 

Aw Snap!

The past couple of weeks have been very stressful due to many reasons. One being the constant trouble with the Broadband connection playing up and no concrete resolution for almost 2 weeks now. 


Though it was a major blow to my work schedule, on deeper thought it was life’s way of giving me time to reflect upon some other important issues.
The biggest of them is Pari’s temperament. Not a single day passes without me wondering if my kid is just 5 years old or am the parent of a teen. Pari’s mood swings are quite difficult to handle or maybe, I am not approaching it all with an open mind. Whatever might be the case, I find myself inept at taking good care of her (in a patient way), getting agitated when she acts in a rather inconsiderate fashion.

I might be stupid to expect a 5-year-old to behave the way as instructed, without posing a dozen questions and throwing a fit if mommy fails to answer them as she expected. But, somehow I keep getting trapped in this vicious circle of hoping things will go as per my expectations and being disappointed when they don’t.

Working from home means a dependence on the fast speed internet. Without which, meeting any deadlines, answering emails on time and more so keeping the mobile data usage within budget is simply not possible. After repeated complaints, I have come to believe that the issue with my broadband connection shall sort out only after the rainy season ends, which at the moment is a good month away.

Of the many things that I miss doing online, the ones topping the list are, updating this blog (because my head is buzzing with many thoughts waiting to be put down in words) and reading my favourite blogs. 

It is amazing how much our lives depend on the Internet. In the initial few days of the broadband crisis, I couldn’t help but try endlessly to get connectivity. To put it rather bluntly, I wasted many hours failing to concentrate on any work. Thanks to the chronicity of the problem, sanity seems to have dawned over me. Now I wake up without hoping for the broadband services to have been restored, without imagining how much research I could have done in the time flying by and without feeling let down by the possibility of posting this post yet another day.

Life away from the Internet is tough (because my work involves Internet usage and can’t entirely be done using mobile internet) but nevertheless it is not so weird as I had pictured it in my mind in the first few days. The digital detox has been rather helpful and has helped me catch up with extra sleep. I have come to spend more time in the real world without being distracted by Twitter (as much I usually am) and most importantly, I’m learning to stay focussed when I use the mobile internet (to keep data usage suiting my budget) as against getting drifted away to a click-bait link every couple of seconds.

I have been exploring connections by other telecom network providers, but don’t want to make a decision in haste. Till then, I’ll stretch myself, typing blogposts from the WordPress app. However, commenting isn’t as easy as I’d hoped. The pages keep closing, comments fail to get published and if both of those don’t happen, I get a call or text and the whole comment is lost (I take the liberty to blame my phone for these goof ups).

So worry not if I am not seen around for a few days (some wonderful people actually chose to check on me cause I hadn’t posted on the blog for a long time, you guys, keep me going. Thank you for being there). I will be back to blogging every time I get connectivity. Till then let’s pray India wins a medal in Rio Olympics.

How’s monsoon treating you? 

What has been keeping you busy?

School Times

Ever since Pari stepped in school, I have been interested in reading a lot of books talking about school life to get an insight of what all goes on in the minds of young children at school, the various challenges they face and how they hope to alter their outcome.

 

I know, I have my personal experience to fall back on for this, but there is a major hurdle
School Timeson its way of being handy. I studied in an all-girls school all my school life and the public school Pari attends is noway close to what my school was. Reading these books, gifts me a better insight on child psychology in the words of talented writers making me see the many aspects of school life that went unnoticed (due to limited experience) when I was a school going kid myself.

In this journey, I chanced upon this book by Ruskin Bond. As part of reading many books by the same author, I picked this book. The blurb on the back read:

In School Times, Ruskin Bond brings together a bunch of heartwarming stories written by some of the best writers of the genre. These rivetting stories of school life are a heady mixture of love, friendship and loyalty, which will take the reader to the very extremes of imagnation, entertainment, thrill and excitement. So, here is your chance to savour every morsel of this sumptuous assortment.

My Review: Like all Ruskin Bond books this book too has a bright, colorful cover featuring a school student reading a book under the shade of a tree. Though the stories compiled in this book qualify as inspiring for children in middle and high school, I couldn’t feel they all connect (as mentioned in the blurb on the back of the book) to the book’s title. All the stories deliver important lessons but all stories aren’t scenes of school life. Only a handful are.

I picked this book thinking it to be a collection of heartwarming stories by some of the best authors who ranked high in Ruskin Bond’s reading list. It is quite an experience reading your favorite author’s favorites because I loved to learn what ticked for him.

The first and the last story of this wonderful collection are written by Ruskin Bond himself and they beautifully set pace to the book while providing the inherent joy his stories gift me.

The beauty of this short story collection is that some of the works date back to the nineteenth century. While I stumbled at following the old English at a few points, the joy of enriching my vocabulary and also visualizing the school life of almost two centuries ago was quite an experience.

While I liked many stories, I particularly loved, My Grandmother and the Dirty English by Aubrey Menen for it brought to fore the cultural diversities of the Indians and British while in an amazing manner taught the lesson of how all races share stark similarity in their beliefs and customs.

Another favorite is, A Pair of Steel Spectacles by Richard Church that introduces the reader to the world of fantasy in a way to make their imagination run wild while being intrigued to explore the mundane life in intricate detail.

Ullie’s Dream is a wonderful story about a child waiting for her father’s return from war. I particularly loved the way Ullie chooses hope over fear and how fearlessly she darts out in the end to see her dream come true.

Undershorts and Roses by Muzzafer Izgu is an evergreen tale that carries an important lesson for every adult part of school life and also parents. The ending note in the story bears a very powerful message that shall remain with me for a long time.

Another story that stirred the parent in me is, What Happened to a Father Who Became a Schoolboy by F.Anstey. I am sure every child has at some point harbored the wish to change places with their parents and this is what actually happens in this beautifully narrated story. But along the way, it was amazed by the child’s points of view, making me see my relationship with my child in a new light.

All the other stories make for an entertaining yet enlightening read however few come across as rather predictable having been adapted over time into movies, plays and even books in one form or the other. Though something similar can’t be said about The Four Feathers and Getting Granny’s Glasses the two stories from Ruskin Bond’s pen. They both come across as rather simple incidents of a scholar’s life but their heartwarming, poignant beauty made me smile as I read these.

However, I didn’t enjoy a few stories. They include, The Phantom Ship Steered by a Dead Man’s Hand by Matthew Henry Baker, Charge by Stephen Crane, Boy among the Writers by David Garnett. Their language was bit difficult to understand and the stories didn’t inspire me enough as did other tales part of this book.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys reading short stories and would love to have a scoop of variety of themes covered in the powerful words of writers across centuries. Most importantly, because the selection here is some of Ruskin Bond’s favorites, if you’re a Ruskin Bond fan, you’d love this book just as much I did.

About the Book :

Title –  School Times

Author – Ruskin Bond

Publisher – Rupa Publications

Genre – Fiction

Pages – 201

Price – INR 195

ISBN – 978-81-291-4177-4

Rating: 3.5/5

Do children learn better closer to nature?

Do children learn better closer to nature- (1)

Ever since Pari stepped in school, she was burdened with home-work. Even as a 3-year-old she had at least 2 pages to write every day. This work load has been growing with every class.

There is often a talk about how the heavy bags and home-work load are something our children are better off without. However, there is no denying the existence of competitive parents who want their children to study hard right from the start and carve a niche, perhaps by making a place for themselves in Limca book of records if not the Guiness book.

The arguments, for and against the home-work debate often fail to outline; how differently could the children be taught than filling sheets of paper scribbling the same letter 100 times? Is learning all the poems written thus far the sole aim of a kindergarten student’s life? Aren’t these home-works building stress in young lives similar to the work stress we adults loathe about?

Better still, what more can be a part of kindergarten kid’s curriculum to enrich their lives rather than transforming them into parrots who simply mug up whatever they’re taught.

This was when I decided to learn about the practices in different parts of the world for kindergarten kids. And this was what I stumbled across on Facebook as being the regular practice in Germany and Switzerland:

On my first view, I felt the video was rather dangerous. I couldn’t imagine my kid running around with a sharp knife or climbing a tall tree or for that matter exploring the forest on her own, getting dirty and staying so all day and perhaps doing anything done in the wild kindergarten.

My first thoughts were, where is the discipline?

Let the truth be told, kids learn discipline from everything part of their lives. Play included.

Dismissing it all as practices from a ‘different part of the world‘ is rather easy. But somehow, this video stuck to my mind.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the possible good of letting young children learn and play in proximity of nature than being caged in classrooms in controlled environments. Eventually, I could get a feel of the possible good this approach could bestow on our children:

  1. Learning from preschools in the wild is about getting a taste of nature in its true form: The children today (and more so their parents) dread the very idea of playing in the dirt or more appropriately the soil. During my growing up years, playing in the soil, getting dirty looking for small bugs was all considered play and essential part of growing up. A liberal wash with soap and water afterwards was considered enough to get clean. However I can’t say the same for my child today. It isn’t just her but my own paranoia (I’m not too sure where did that come from) of contracting infections that drives me to prevent her from getting dirty and close to nature.
  2.  Learning to be free, balancing themselves in the rhythm of nature: Trusting the young kids to take care of themselves, climbing trees fearlessly, playing in the sun, chasing the birds and bees  has been a part of my growing up years. The dependence on TV or other modern era gadgets was never so much as it is today. I often feel the alarming rise in childhood obesity is not to be blamed on the junk food alone, it also has its roots in our children being inherently trapped indoors.
  3. Learning by experience: What we see as rather dangerous is actually a way of teaching children their personal gauge of  awareness of their capabilities. My home has never seen safety scissors. Right from the days when I was a baby till today when I have a baby of my own, my family has practiced teaching the children right handling and use of sharps while also ensuring they’re generally out of reach of children when not being used. Though the use of sharp knives by kindergarten kids (in the video) did scare me, but on a deeper thought, I could actually find partial semblance to the childhood I have had. Startlingly, my parents (who were children in the pre-TV age) could relate to this video more without shock being writ large on their faces as was my initial reaction.
  4. Spending time in the lap of nature helps curb the distractions of the virtual world:  Guided by their curiosity, kids learn to marvel at the life that breathes around us. It is such a wonderful way to be guided by our curiosities, develop problem solving skills, acquire social skills of making friends with children around, indulge in nature explorations and learn so much from tactile experiences and spatial awareness.They’re less stressed, concentrate better because wonder and beauty awaits them at every step. Fall ill less because their immune systems have a better exposure to antigens. They are more aware of their surroundings and are blessed with better development of motor skills.
  5. It challenges your adventurous side: I have to admit that the wild kindergarten isn’t for the faint-hearted. You really need to weigh in your priorities well, be up for some adventure before embarking on something so different from an academic kindergarten. Okay, playing Pokemon Go doesn’t count here. Learning to take on challenges, not being broken by failures, rising to climb again is so crucial in times when we see kids getting depressed and giving up on life so easily.
  6. Inspiring faith in their independence: Letting children be, of course supervised by the experts would spell out to be a huge message that they can go about, having faith in their independence. They’re not forever tied up to behave in a certain way in the name of discipline. They may dare to take the plunge, to scale heights, be up for a taste of exploration and adventure. This is in my view is an important lesson that can change one’s whole view of life.
  7. Self-reliance: A lesson learnt only by practice if learnt early on would definitely a gift for our children all their lives. Gradually as they involve in academic lessons, this virtue would go a long way in shaping their approach towards learning in general.

“Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.” ~ John Burroughs

 Early experiences can be very important in raising generations of true nature lovers who see life in the open and not just on the screens of their smart gadgets. More physical activity, better social skills, less stress and stimulated growth. Starting academic schools at ages when kids are more prepared- emotionally, socially, physically are definitely what we need.

The pressure early on kills the love for learning. It would be a great relief for kids going crazy sitting down in a classrooms all day long.

Can we completely eliminate academic curriculum for young kids?

Perhaps not, but we can definitely add on activities like gardening, planting and caring for saplings, going for nature walks and picnics (beyond the usual once a year), camps and so much more to the curriculum to raise a generation of nature lovers who care for the environment with all their heart and grow up to be stronger, confident, independent human beings.

“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.  Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually   into sustainable patterns of living.” ~ Zenobia Barlow
What are your thoughts about the kindergarten in the wild?
Would you like to see your child step away from burden of books and learn in lap of nature?

Shifting Focus

I wish to begin by thanking everyone who sent positive vibes my way. Be it in your comforting words or the wishes you might have made to help me swim through this difficult phase, every ounce of positive energy matters.

The beauty of this blog lies in the fact that it always succeeds in drawing out the bitterness, the toxicity in my life. It might be simply because writing is cathartic but I like to believe that this blog is my well of positivity from where I borrow the elixir of eternal optimism from time to time.

This time my pain has been the gift of my reluctance to write freely about all the issues looming large over my mind, pressing hard on my pressor centres. Maybe, its high time I wrote about them at length to let the weight lift off my chest.

Please expect a few password protected posts in the coming days. And since my blog’s readership has been quite dynamic, I’d like to mention that if you’d like the password to any of my posts please fill up this simple form requesting the same. Of the lists I made in the past, I’m certain many people have drifted off my blog. So I won’t be spamming anyone but shall be happy to share passwords on request.

I have lately realized that I tend to magnify my problems by overthinking with all my might. It is only wise to shift my focus to things that need my attention and are important for my peaceful existence. One of such areas is my future.

Shifting Focus

I have been paying too much attention on my responsibilities of being a parent in recent times, the result is all the plans I made to make a decent living were pushed to the back burner. This approach might appear gratifying in the short span, but in the long run has been causing me a lot of grief.

This is why, slowly but surely, I am working at realigning my focus to invest time and my undivided attention to the work I have recently started (from home). I am confident, the outcome will surely help me regain my confidence while adding to my financial independence.

Being a parent to a baby is far easier than being a parent to yourself. Here, by being a parent I mean playing the coach who encourages you, guides you, stops you when you’re making a wrong move and motivates you to rise and try again every time you fail. Trying to make something out of my professionally destroyed life has been a humongous task, especially in the scenario when I have just myself by my side. The earnings have been few, I have turned down many offers (guided by my principles) and have made some acute choices.

In hindsight though, I have no regrets.

I don’t miss the money I could have made in the past financial year. I am content with the effort I’ve been investing in my child’s upbringing, despite struggling at every step. The one thing evident though is my personal growth. The lessons I have learned from failing endlessly have helped evolve my power of judgement. I am at the penny drop stage when finally I’ve learnt to see through people’s motives right at the time when they make me an offer. Though at this point, I can only hope these turn out to be positive changes.

Around the time when I was pregnant with Pari, I remember having seen the movie, Rockstar. Midst of the heartbreaking sickness (owing to pre-eclampsia) I still remember echoing Ranbir’s thoughts, wishing for life-changing experiences to help him break free as a singer whose soul shines in his craft.

I am confident, destiny was my companion that fateful day. Because from that day on, my life has been a fall-in-the-dark-pit kind rough, bumpy and full of so many setbacks that I believe, one day my soul too will shine in my work. My pain will bleed in my craft and someday, I shall bounce back making all the falling worth it.

These are not mere aspirations, these are my promises to myself and Pari. This is my determination to work hard and make a life for ourselves that we deserve and are fully capable of creating. It’s just a matter of putting our heart to it and shifting focus.

I’m sure destiny will read this post too, like it has read others thus far and will keep me going the way I must, to make these aspirations be the reality of my life in the years to come.

The song on my mind: Kun Faya Kun ~ Rockstar 

 

In a negative head space

I have been wishing this negativity away from a long time. I tried extinguishing it through mediation, washing it in sweat working out like crazy, let is pass slowly by ignoring it, giving it a tough fight by working around it. But it just won’t go away. It just won’t let me be.

Finally, I have chosen to do what I always do, write it all down and pin it up in words on the blog. I’m hoping a dose of public attention might convince it to let me be, finally.

The monotonous routine, non-stop tantrums of my child, building work  pressure and the drama that my life has become lately (or rather I have let it become) are taking a toll on my mental health. Minutes before I started typing, I had the urge to leave everything and just run away to a far away land. I want to do that even now. But it’s the anchor of the many responsibilities that I shoulder that has kept me from doing anything crazy. The Era I Lived In-1

In the past couple of months, the unsettling feeling of being stuck in the muck from years, has been gnawing at my soul. I feel as if I have stopped growing. I am no longer the person I had come to be proud of because I simply can’t stop the negative emotions from getting the better of me.

Just last week, I baked a number of cakes and cupcakes that turned out very well, but they too failed in alleviating my mood. There are a few things at the back of my mind that I want to write about, but unknown fears lurking in my mind have been stopping me from opening that Pandora’s box. Today, while writing this, I can feel a compelling need to finally put pen to paper and say all that I’m holding back.

Where everything else has failed, maybe, emptying my head space would do the trick and relieve my tension.I have learnt from experience how crippling the feelings of emotional burnout can be, how damaging depression is in the long run. The battle is ongoing, I need to keep kicking and moving my arms to stay afloat. I have to fight back. I have no choice but to win this battle somehow. I have to do it for myself. I have to do it for all I love.

I took a leap or rather was pushed out of my comfort zone a month ago. I know, I had the choice to take the offer or leave it. But given that I have taken the first step, I might as well work hard, learn my way and try to build a new life around it. Not mentioning anything because I haven’t done anything worth mentioning, but will write at length when I do make progress.

Like with children, distraction works very well with me. Having jotted down 480 odd words in past fifteen minutes, I am already feeling better. I often wonder why am I not so good in distracting my child, else my life would have been 100% sorted. There have been new parenting struggles adding lot of adventure and drama to my life. Some, about which I have no clue about how to tackle, the others where I’m on a hit and trial mode.

Recently, mommy guilt, the emotion I always felt would never irk my determined mind has slowly started making appearances in my life. To sum it up, my life is a mayhem at this point and I (rather foolishly) want to run away from it, leaving the mess to sort on its own. I know, that never happens in the real world. So before negativity pays me a visit again (cause I can hear it next door) I better chart out a plan to fight it out.

If you’re reading this line, you must be proud of yourself for having swum through a sea of negative thoughts that absolutely made no sense. But since you care enough to read what I’ve posted, here’s a hug from me for being there.Because it matters, yes it does make me feel heaps better.

The song on my mind: Ae dil -e nadan ~ Razia Sultan