Thursday, November 27, 2014

Against all odds - e-book review

Against all odds by Jazz Singh is my first book on Indireads and i was a little skeptical about reading a full length book on a flickering screen, but when i finished the book in one go, i realized I enjoyed the experience. I seem to have picked up one of the best light reads for my first full length e-book experience and so am glad about the experience.

A typical  romance novella where a small town designer Sanjana dashes against City Tycoon Abhimanyu’s car and there is a misunderstanding. They keeping bumping into each other at various ocassions and sparks fly between the two. How they overcome the hiccups of misunderstanding & social standing is the story line spiced up with some clashes, romance and light family moments.

I loved the characters of Sanjana and Abhimanyu. Sanjana is a modest and fiercely independant woman who loves to be self-made without seeking external help and Abhimanyu character is what any young girl would fall far. An angry young man , although rich is down to earth without any airs and has many virtues.

 What arrested me in the whole book was the description of the small town Kasauli . I almost visualized myself in the hills of Kasauli with all those little children and Sanjana . Also, i loved the family moments and the camaraderie shared in small town relationships.

Overall a breezy read and  I throughly enjoyed my first experience at Indireads.

I read this book on Indireads whose vision i have copy pasted from their site.

About Indireads 

The Vision 

Between the blue shores of the Indian Ocean and the white tips of the Himalayas is a land crowded with the rich history of many peoples. Tapping into the region’s diverse cultures, languages, religions and traditions, Indireads weaves an intricate tapestry of fresh voices from the sub-continent.

Indireads’ books bring alive the vibrancy and intensity of modern South Asian life and present it in digital friendly formats, inviting new generations to fall in love with what it means to be South Asian. Digital, handy and engaging, an Indireads book is the perfect companion for a quiet afternoon under a Peepal tree, for the early morning ride on the bus, for that long flight or for that relaxing moment at the end of a long, draining day.

Indireads is a place for you to call home, whether you enjoy telling stories or you hope to abandon yourself to a web of words spun by other story-tellers. Join us on a magical journey through the sub-continent, with writers whose prose echoes the people’s voices, whose imagery paints vivid, familiar landscapes and whose stories capture the very essence of being South Asian. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Of stories,storytellers and storytelling

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
—Robert McKee

Many people will remember the time when they were told a story, not read to, but told- the oral art of story telling.  

From my early memories, I recall my  Grandmom’s elder  sister who would lie beside me and tell stories of mythology, tales of royalty, of common man, wisdom tales, folk tales and animal tales etc. She would gesticulate with her wrinkly hands and modulate her voice as the story changed the settings from a forest to a Kingdom to a faraway land. The First story that I remember told to was a”  Kozhakattai”(modak) story in tamil.

 Later, it was my  grand parents, parents, aunts and uncles who would narrate family stories. Especially the moments spent with my Grandmom on the terrace of her home, with my cousins under the starspangled sky are my emotional cushions now.  These family stories are like the blueprint for our family identities. One such  famous family story is the Dhanushkodi story which I have already blogged about.

My Story tellers must have had a profound influence on me that even today wherever I see the word “Storytelling” in print or in e-media my eyes stop there and throw me back in time.

Then it was at school I wandered again into fairy land along with Thumbelina, Goldilocks, Tom-thumb, Red Riding hood etc. These listening and reading of stories some where left such a deep influence  in me that many years later my passion for stories lured me to take up  a profession of story teller.  For a couple of years between 2009-2011 my job was that of a life-skill facilitator(visiting faculty) which involved teaching life skills through story telling for children of class I through Class X and I even conducted a small Winter workshop in theatre through Helen-O-Grady style of story-telling.

The stories we told not just put ideas and moulded  the young minds but also enchanted and delighted the young ones so much that the children of the various schools where we went waited for us than their own school teachers. Infact, This was a pet complaint of many regular faculty when we interacted with them. Some children would even follow us after class hours for autograph.

I believe stories have that power. Apart from teaching moral values, life skills, they enchant, delight, teach, inspire, excite and take us to  unexplored lands .

 During my early school days we had an exclusive story telling period. One such story that I have heard during my young days  is that of “The thirsty crow”. This story was hung up as a chart and was divided into 6 pictures . The moral or values did not sink into our little brains then, we were more besotted with the art of storytelling. I am sure this story is widely heard and read for its lovely moral of "Where there is a will, there is a way". Even recently, one of my friend sent me a message on our Whatsapp group asking how many of us remembered this story. This is one of the evergreen story. Today's children of course, I am sure will apply the moral by seeing them in video formats like this. 

The other story  that is clear in my memory is that “Goldilocks and 3 bears”. This was a pictorial pop-up book and the baskets, tables, bowls and beds that popped up enchanted me more than any moral. I even remember seeing the dramatization of this story in a TV program called “Wonder Balloon”.

Some stories and story tellers leave an impression on our young minds that they are unerasable for a life time. Apart from the power to enrich us with language skills in the form of vocabulary, expression and communication, they inspire us with their morals too which are applicable in our day to day life. Today's kids have wide exposure and access to such stories like in the above video formats. 

This post is a part of Kids Hutactivity at

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eco-friendly toilets for Babli

If ever you get a chance of driving through villages on a road trip in India, one of the common sight that you come across is the problem of poor sanitation, especially widespread open defecation. It is an irony that being one of the fastest growing economies in the world that a majority of our rural population still have bare minimum sanitation facilities. While most rural population had access to mobile phones, they have less access to a toilet.

There are many programmes by the government and NGO’s big and small who are involved in constructing toilets which are economical and child friendly.But still, it needs a massive reach. Rural India needs not just toilets but toilets that are eco-friendly and have funds for maintenance.

As a resident of Bangalore, In the late 90’s I have seen corporate comapnies  engaging with the then Government run by SM Krishna  in a programme called Bangalore agenda task forward.(BATF). Many corporate companies like Biocon, wipro, infosys and others came together to beautify and keep the city clean. One of the corporate company’s initiative(Infosys) was the Nirmala shauchalay which built many public toilets across the cities. A couple of years later the toilets were vandalized and fell into poor maintenance.

So, the need is not just for toilets but eco-friendly toilets keeping in mind the climate, water, space, maintenance etc.

Recently South Indian cameraman, director and social actvist Suresh menon has designed and built a prototype of a toilet by using an old shipping container.He has designed 5 bathrooms in each 20 feet by 8 feet container in which over 100 women could use it a day. These are strong, sturdy and easily transportable and is a green model using solar panel on the roof for electricity. The waste disposal is through an existing sewage mains, or discharged into a biotank like in Kerala house boats. The water source is either borewell or tankers. The sides of the unit could be used as an advertising hoarding to generate revenue for maintenance.

Such facilities could be useful and easy to maintain considering factors like water, space etc. It also gives  rural women and urban poor women and children dignity and self respect.

Also there are many NGO’s which come up with innovative design models, catchy slogans and media campaigns educating the rural masses about the usage of such toilets.

A recent survey states that No separate toilet for girls is among the top potential factors that leads to high school dropout rates for girls.

It may be squeamish or make us angry to see scores of women, children and even men crouched secretly across fields or in open spaces. I felt as a responsible citizen, I need to support such causes &  initiatives taken by
 Domex and blog about it rather than getting angry.

About The Domex Toilet Academy
Domex, HUL’s flagship sanitation brand, currently runs the Domex Toilet Academy (DTA) programme. Domex Toilet Academy was launched on 19th November 2013. It aims to become a sustainable and long-term solution to provide sanitation that benefits the local community and helps stimulate the local economy. The Toilet Academy makes toilets accessible and affordable, while promoting the benefits of clean toilets & good hygiene. Our effort has resulted in bringing the change in the villages of Maharashtra and Orissa and we aim to build 24000 toilets by 2015 in rural areas faced with the problem of open defecation. 

You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blog to feed a child

The right to nourished food and education  is a vital right for all children. Healthy educated children build an economic, social and culturally developed society.
Our government and many NGO’s actively participate in providing the  vital rights and in improving the  quality of health and education of the poor children in India. Some NGO’s like Akshaya patra foundation  headquartered in Bangalore, India strive to fight issues like hunger and malnutrition by implementing the mid-day meal scheme in the government  schools and aided schools. They also aim to bring children to school and educate them. The NGO is constantly leveraging technology to cater to millions of children through its state-of-the art kitchens.  Many philanthropic donors and well-wishers, business houses contribute to such NGO’s to build a healthy and educated society.
We still need to bump our resources  for this  mammoth task. Apart from donations used for meals,  inititatives can be taken  to eliminate the classroom hunger by growing food. NGO’s can co-ordinate with schools to grow their own food.  Each and every school can utilize the space in the ground or use container gardening in terraces and little sunny spaces  to grow organic food. The kitchen trash generated  in community kitchens of mid-day meals can be utilized for composting . The organic food can be grown by the children themselves as part of outdoor learning. The produce reaped from outdoor learning can be utilized for the mid-day meals thus saving substantial amount on raw materials.

By doing this, not only are we meeting the food demands and food security ,we are also educating the children on environmental sustainability,reducing the carbon foot prints  and saving our precious resources . It is usually a small group of people who bring about a change  and with little hands growing their own food  and getting educated,  there is hope….of a better tomorrow.
This post in response to Bloggers Social Responsibility.
                    I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A healthy child makes a happy family

I live in a city where most homes have atleast one NRI in the family and  also  in  this  city  most students from class 5 go to coaching institutes or tutorials for professional studies. Many even go to tuitions from PP1.(nursery)

Most kids who go to IIT/medical coaching get down from their school bus, refresh themselves and then hop onto a regularly hired auto or the Institute's van to travel to that most advertised and famous coaching( read by rote learning) institute which claims to qualify children in the entrances to premier institutes and there are plenty such commercial coaching institutes in my city which compete with each other. The children  travel in the traffic only to  return back like Zombies in the night. Many a times, they miss their regular school next day due to overwork and health issues like lack of sleep or improper diet. They absolutely have zero physical exercise in the form of games or sports.

In such a city, there are few families like mine which does not believe in private tuitions at such early ages. Those parents  have even asked whether we don't intend to educate them in the premier institutes subjecting us to peer pressure  or some want to know if we tutor them at home.

To be honest, we have never had the necessity to tutor them (may be on occasions) but yes we have guided them.

First, as parents we have never believed in the rat race and we are not preparing them for it. Secondly, our idea of education is not just scoring marks and ranks although we don’t tell  our children  this. Thirdly, thankfully till today we have never buckled to peer pressure and admitted them in any of the tuitions. Fourthly, we have reasonably traditionally intelligent children who can manage on their own with their  systematic regular school tutoring and mentoring.

 A healthy and energetic child which goes to school regularly has an alert mind, concentrates in class and comes home to recall all that is done through homework, correlates it with real life and visualize wherever necessary, the concepts gets embedded in their memory. The application oriented homework further strengthens the concepts.

  As parents, we have always believed that  apart from values, general problem solving capacities, decision making, analytical & logical skills, thinking skills, communication skills, life skills, etc are the results of a good education and that is learnt through school, home and external exposure  and not through the money spinning coaching institutes.

What is important is to have a healthy child and as a parent it is our duty to nurture and nourish one. 

That is the principle which has worked for us  but to keep them healthy was quite a task initially. As children with just 2.6 years apart, both of them have been cross infected many a times during their infancy. Those periods were easily the tough times as a parent, especially when both the children fall sick.

Thankfully, those days,  I  had experienced elders in the family who have raised many children to advice me. They guided me to help build their immune system through time-tested practices like weekly and monthly administrations of kashayams( herbal teas) like “inji sorasam”(ginger), “oma sorasam”( ajwain), home made regular food which had immune boosters like vepampoo( neem flowers), haldi, mustard, cumin, jeera, nellikai( gooseberry) etc, Apart from that, good rest, exercise in the form of games, seasonal vegetables,fruits and good hygiene helped them to keep fit and healthy during their early years(0-8).

As they grew older, they developed a taste for global cuisine and refused to follow the old ritualistic diet and drink the kashayams. Moreover, they had also grown old enough to overcome those cross infections. Now, I too allowed variety in their diet and so cheesy pasta, burgers,nachos, manchurians, noodles  etc., did make way into our house, in a way this also morphed them and me into great(?) chefs. It was also at this time when they were around 8 and 5+, I introduced them to a spoonful of  “Dabur’s Chywanprash”( especially winters)which took care of their immunity and strength. All these have kept them going healthy and strong. Thankfully due to which they have never missed their school sessions and so could avoid extra pressure in the form of private tuitions.

Our children are our pride and joy. Subjecting  them to constant study and competitive pressure does sap their energy and make them physically and mentally sick . It is important to nourish and nurture them with love and care because a healthy child is a happy child and a happy child makes a happy family. 

 Also, in this context i quote a poem which i followed in my parenting to raise my kids as healthy kids.

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

William Martin