Posted in Food, Little Moments, Memories

Tumba chennagide!

Soft and moist with grated carrots, diced beans and crunchy seasoning, the rava idli melted in my mouth. As much as I would like to attribute the outcome to my cooking skills, it was the baking soda that did the trick. Tumba chennagide (very good), I told myself as I greedily reached out for another helping of the delicacy.

Rava idli and MTR go hand in hand. Long before the MTR mix became a pantry staple, and anyone could whip up world class rava idli, my dad had introduced us to this tiffin. Those were the days when it was considered as an authentic kannadiga specialty, one that deserved the long waiting line at the MTR hotel. Served with a tablespoon of ghee and potato masala on the side, the dish had people salivating over it.

Back then my immature taste buds didn’t quite relish it as much, but the experience lingered today enhancing its flavor as I savored the dish bite by bite.

Posted in Experiences, Learnings, Research

PTA contributions

It took me a couple of school years to fully appreciate the critical role that the PTA (Parents Teachers Association) plays in the school system. The PTA raises funds, facilitates enrichment activities and are vocal advocates of the community. An active PTA truly makes a big difference to children’s learning experience at school. It takes time and effort from an army of volunteers to keep the wheels of the association oiled and running smoothly.

On behalf of the PTA, I compile the monthly newsletter for the school. It takes about two to three hours of my time every month. Although the work itself is mundane, the feeling of contributing to a higher purpose makes it gratifying. Today, I worked on a newer version of the newsletter and was very impressed with the cool new templates that Word has (all I did was open up a new Word document and searched for newsletter in the template section). Very excited about the new look and feel…! I had super fun tweaking it and making it relevant for our newsletter.

Posted in Holidays, Humor, Ram Leela

Rama Navami

Me: Ram, today is Rama ommachi’s birthday. Do you remember the story of Rama? do you remember Rama’s brothers name? Ram: “No amma, I don’t remember their names but I know one of them rides on a peacock”

Oh no, why did I inflict this unnecessary reality check on myself? By the time Hari was Ram’s age, he knew a sloka or two. He was familiar with different characters of Ramayana. Why, he even knew the story of Bharatanatyam. As you can clearly see, we have not been as diligent with Ram. What better day than Rama Navami to get a refresher on Ramayana? And that’s how we spent Rama Navami. Reading stories of Rama, and then splashed some colors on the Rama-Sita coloring sheet.

Posted in Experiences, Learnings, Research

Just Ask

After mentally rehearsing how I wanted to frame the conversation, I dialed the 1-800 number with determination.

I had a $18 balance on the credit card of a retail store. They had slapped a $15 late fee for making my payment two days late. While I had already made the payment and as much as I accept that some late fee was in order, this figure seemed outrageous.  How could I let it go without a fight? If not anything, I had to express my displeasure.

With all this frustration bottled up, I waited for the “next available customer service agent”. As soon as I heard a human voice, I explained the situation as is, and asked him if the late fee could be waived. And guess what?  No arguments, no back and forth explanation. Just a polite, “Let me handle that for you today. Your $15 fee has been waived and your new balance is… kindly make your payment on time the next time, which is due mid of next month.” I had to pinch myself to make sure that this was real and that all it took was a 10-minute call to get back my $15.

Da told me he is not surprised and that this is more common than what I think.  I did some digging and turns out he is spot on. Check this article out, the story is not very different from mine.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember to just ask!

Posted in Experiences, Humor, Little Moments, Ram Leela

Of superheroes (LMT post)

superheroes

Hastily removing his snowsuit and snow boots, tossing his winter hat and mittens, Ram pounded upstairs. A smile crept up on his face as he spied the light green package that finally arrived after all that anticipation. Bursting with impatience, he ripped it open, and carefully examined the contents one by one. Once done, the jubilant child hollered, with contentment written all over his face, “Yay, NO Wonder Woman jetti (underwear)!”*

Over the weekend, Ram sat with his dad and ordered his next set of new underwears – the ones that had superheros design on them. Since then, all that the child has been talking about is his new pieces of clothing –  “Mama, will I get it on wednesday or thursday? Is wednesday near or far?” Finally, now that he had them in his hands, the possibilities of what he could do with them was endless.

Firstly, he sorted and grouped them. Then he went about taking a poll – “amma, what’s your favorite? Superman or Flash? the blue one or the red one?” And then, all this superhero talk reminded him of his superhero toys. He pulled them all out, built a fort and laid out the jettis around them on the floor, and made a game out of it. Then, when I called him for his bath so that we could finally put one of them to use, the child was not too thrilled about it. By now, the pack of underwears had lost its functional value. Reluctantly, he agreed provided I made a special place in the wardrobe.

I had forgotten all about it the next day. But of course, the child hadn’t. Guess what was the big news that evening? – “Mama, not all, but almost all my friends in class have superhero underwear!”

I felt like a Mastercard advertisement just unrolled in front of me – a pack of superhero underwears – $8, entertainment value coming out of it – priceless!

Posted in Me, Memories

THAT kid

What kind of a student were you on an exam day as a child? I was THAT kid, that annoying kid that others would want to stay away from on the day of exam. The one that would flip through the pages until the bell rang, that would quiz others and ask to be quizzed, and who constantly whined about being unprepared. And then once the exam was over, I would go around discussing the question paper and would get really upset if I found out that I was wrong. Yikes! I don’t remember being any different when I went to grad school a decade back. What can I say, once THAT kid, always THAT kid.

Posted in Experiences, Health and fitness, Little Moments, Ram Leela

Little Yogi

Sitting on the floor with his legs spread out, hands tucked under his legs, and his head bent, Ram said loudly “Be strong”, and in the same breath with unabated excitement told, “Mama this is the dinosaur pose, this is what we learnt in yoga today”

Last week he stood on one leg, his hands resting on his hips, his eyes sparkling with pride on being able to balance, and called it the tree pose. The earlier week he lay on his tummy, lifted his chest, looked on both sides, stuck his tongue out with a hiss and exclaimed, “this is snake pose”. He then came up with a list of poses he knows- dog pose, boat pose, giraffe pose, turtle pose and what not!

It is with great anticipation that I wait for Monday evenings wanting to catch up on the latest and greatest yoga poses the child has learnt at school. I mean how could one not be enamored when pint sized people do something as meaningful as yoga and say something as profound as “Be Strong”, even if it is just parroting what has been taught.

Posted in Experiences, Hari Katha, Learnings, Research, Writing

Annual exam

Hari will have his first standardized test for the year tomorrow. The learning and practice for the test has happened over the academic year at school. Additional preparation at home is neither required nor expected. I have not spent a minute coaching the child at home.

Tomorrow’s assessment will be long composition. A writing prompt will be given based on which children will have to write a two-page essay. Most of the school day will be spent in writing a first draft and editing it before it can be finalized. The essay will be graded based on idea development, organization and use of rich language.

This was last year’s writing prompt.

You are finally old enough to baby-sit, and your first job is this afternoon! You will be spending the entire afternoon with a one-year-old. When you open the door you realize that instead of watching a one-year-old child, you will be watching a one-year-old elephant!Write a story about spending your afternoon with a baby elephant. Give enough details to show readers what your afternoon is like baby-sitting the elephant. 

And here’s description of the essay that got the perfect score. I am not reproducing the essay here, but check out the comments to give a sense for what’s expected – pretty sophisticated writing, I would say!

This richly developed and carefully organized composition begins with the engaging introduction, “‘WOO-HOO!’ I’m finally old enough to baby-sit!” and immediately draws the reader into an unfolding adventure. The plot continues to develop as it is discovered that the object of this babysitting adventure is an elephant from a family zoo. Effective description of the elephant follows with phrases such as “with ears too big for her head” and “all I could see at the moment was a gray lump wriggling around and trumpeting loudly.” The voice of the writer is apparent as the audience experiences the feeding of this “cutie-pie.” Subtly, the writer strategically places her salad recipe on the counter, leaving it to play a later part in the conclusion. After lunch, the story continues to the backyard kiddie pool where splashing and bathing prove exhausting. The writer uses effective word choice to show that the job is not that easy: “She cried and twisted, yelped and pulled. I put up a fight sometimes, but this was one tough elephant!” It is evident that the relationship between the two deepens in the writer’s thoughts: “she snuggled up to my hand,” “wow, she is adorable,” and “I pulled up her blankets and patted her head.” There is an effective interaction of dialogue between the sitter and the family when they arrive home, as everyone is shushing everyone else in an effort to keep the “baby” sleeping. The writer is praised and invited to babysit the next Saturday. Suddenly, the salad recipe left on the counter is of great interest to the mother. She would like to use it to make a salad to feed “the other herbivores at the zoo.” She also notes, “[G]et rid of the hay[,] add some chicken and almonds and you’ve got a salad for the rest[a]urant!” The writer’s conclusion finishes with the clever comment, “Well, as for the other animal I’m sitting for on Saturday, I’m praying it’s not a tiger. A monkey would be nice though.”

I have always felt like I can get better at writing by following tips taught at Hari’s school. They are taught to have a strong beginning, a powerful ending, to appeal to all the senses , to use vivid words, and what not. I love love how writing is taught in schools here…!!!

Wish Hari all the very best for tomorrow.

Posted in Experiences, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings, Research

Culture Day and Tamil Day

Today was a day of celebration at Sunday school. For culture day, kids were required to do a project on a topic related to the culture curriculum. Hari chose to do a monopoly board game based on the Mahabharata. He labored on it for two full days and loved every moment of it. The picture below does not do justice to the details. We (mostly the child, the parents were pretty much his sounding board) poured over the classic game and tailored every detail to make it relevant to the epic. The kingdoms captured in the BharatVarsha map formed the places, the utilities (railroads, waterworks, etc.) were substituted by weapons (gadha, bow and arrow etc.), treasure chest and community cards were renamed as boons and curse, and points were assigned based on barter system and so much more. My personal favorite is the four corners (go on exile, stay in gurukula, cross river ganga, chariot rest).

monopoly

Today was also Tamil day, for which Hari recited four Thirukurals along with their respective meaning. We labored on it for several hours over several days and it was brutal on him. Whether or not I find this exercise meaningful, it made Hari and I marvel at the power of practice – with every repetition, there was tangible improvement, and you realize that you have to hang in there, and do what it takes. No shortcuts. None at all. This morning after completing his turn, the look on his face was priceless. He had given it his best shot, and it showed!

Posted in Experiences, Life

Friends

Friends is my latest guilt pleasure. I never watched it at the height of its popularity. In a way, I am glad I didn’t because it’s more fun watching it now in my mid-30s, having an outsider’s perspective, than it would have been in my mid-20s, when I would have identified with the carefree lives of these 20s-something characters.

For the very longest time, I thought one would live life like the friends did in Friends – our friends would be the center around which the rest of our lives would revolve. And then life happened and taught me that the center of our lives are more dynamic than what we think!