Daughter

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Little girl,
I brought you into my consciousness
and here into this tangible world.
You,
a whole new self
thinking, believing, exploring…
What is it that I owe to you?

‘Now and henceforth –
A resolve to joyfully
tend to you, your needs,
your thoughts and your dreams.
An honest effort to awaken our minds- yours and mine
to the enormousness of life, the loftiness of ideals,
the sanctity of truth and the pursuit of self-realization.
A pledge to f
ind inside of myself
a love
that lets you go unfettered
on the path you choose.’

This is all that I hope I owe you
little girl, my daughter –
a person, her own being.


 *This is something I wrote a while back and I often find myself revisiting and reworking this as the years pass.
*Image courtesy of  flyzipper ( Some rights reserved )

Books + Nature + Children = Wondrous

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Today I want to write about some select nature-themed children’s picture books that I have added to the home library over the years. I treasure these books because they celebrate,in their unique voices, the communion of a child with nature. They remind us ever so gently of our coexistence with other living beings around us. They coax us to be aware of and feel a oneness with the natural world. I appreciate being made mindful, through these books, of the permanence of change in life.

Here are a few gems from some masterful authors and illustrators:

Owl Moon‘ by Jane Yolen , illustrated by John Schoenherr

Tells the story of a winter night owling excursion undertaken by a young girl and her father. The search entails the need for quiet anticipation and little conversation, thus the book speaks in the internal voice of the little girl. The lyrical verses describing the sounds in nature, the building excitement, the omnipresent uncertainty of spotting the owl, the quiet solitude of the woods and the beauty of the snow in a moonlit night are simply magical. The text is nicely complimented by pictures in gentle watercolors creating the perfect backdrop of a night out in the woods. The book deservedly won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.
I love this book for its stillness and quietude and the little girl’s understanding of the need to play by nature’s rules.


Time of Wonder‘ by Robert McCloskey

This is a truly wondrous description of a family’s summer days on a Maine island: bright sunshine, fog-filled and rainy days, the humdrum of coastal life, the tide coming in and going out, sea creatures and child explorers, the busy preparations to ride out a hurricane, the destruction in its aftermath, and finally the inevitable end to a glorious summer. The illustrations in watercolor have an old world charm and evoke memories of the fun-filled and carefree days of childhood. This book won Robert McCloskey his second Caldecott medal in 1958, the first being for ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ which is another one of my all-time favorite children’s books.


Blueberries for Sal‘ by Robert McCloskey

“….kuplink,kuplank,kuplunk!”
Yet another treasure by this beloved author, it is a charming story about picking blueberries at a hillside on a summer day in Maine. On one side of the hill are little Sal and her mother and on the other side are a little bear and his mama; how the pairs get mixed up and what ensues next is endearing. The line drawings are done in a deep dark blue color, aptly reminiscent of blueberries and feature detailed sketches of the humans and bears. The scene in the kitchen is a masterful etching of blissful domesticity. ‘Blueberries for Sal’ got the Caldecott Honor in 1949.


Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors‘ by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

A stately young person and their lovable little dog talk about colors in the changing seasons. I love the captivating details in the illustrations- the little hats, the recurring wheels, the floating windows and musical notes, the lush vivid colors, the patterns on the clothes, the notations; I find something new and delightful each time I go through this book ! Each verse of poetry is quirkily illustrated- this book is a delightfully whimsical union of text and pictures. ‘Red Sings from Treetops’ got the Caldecott Honor in 2010.


A Child’s Calendar‘ -Poems by John Updike and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

A poetic and picturesque calendar detailing each month of a year in the life of a young family. The aspect of this book that I love the most is how the little kid in the family notices everything about life in the changing seasons around him- you see him peering in through the windows of his house, looking up at bare trees, observing bees buzzing over flowers, watching birds gathering around the hanging feeders and so much more. The poems and the wonderful illustrations paint an idyllic portrait of the everyday life around us. ‘A Child’s Calendar’ got the Caldecott Honor in the year 2000.


The Snowy Day‘ by Ezra Jack Keats

Narrates a day in the life of a little boy who wakes up one winter morning to find a snow-covered landscape outside his bedroom window. The innocence and charm of the story are reflected in little details like a darling orange-red snowsuit, wispy snowflakes and a snowball tucked into a pocket for safekeeping. The author has used varied illustration techniques such as collages, stamps, inking with a toothbrush and the final effect is quite striking.
Peter,the central character,is featured in six other books by the author- a pioneer in celebrating diversity in children’s books. ‘The Snowy Day’ won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 and is a beloved classic today.


These are just a select few of the books that have enthralled my family over the years. What are some of the books that you and your family love? Please share.

*Image courtesy of  Florin Gorgan  CC BY-SA 2.0

A fair barter

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This post evolved in part from the sad news of Robin Williams’s passing and the tremendous outpouring on social media, of grief and admiration for the man.

His life ended – apparently of his own choosing and now that he is gone, the world mourns the loss of his talent. We, the audience, grieve because we realize that someone who embodied great value and quality is around no more. We lament for those gifts of the future that would have come our way, unasked for, had he lived on. And we weep in acknowledgment of that unknown angst that might have led him to choose not to stay. Some of us might even identify with the darkness that surrounds suicide, having experienced that deep, dark hollow ourselves or with loved ones.

Who really knows for sure what the private struggles were, that Mr Williams faced and how he grappled with them? There is some mention in the press regarding depression and addiction, amidst other issues, and how dealing with this had been a long winded battle for him.

Something that has been weighing on my mind ever since I learned of this tragedy is the realization that in addition to our physiological and psychological wellbeing, it is our social fabric that helps keep us functioning optimally as human beings. Maybe it is to some extent the fine balance between social and emotional give -and- take that helps maintain a sense of harmony in life.
In view of Mr Williams’s battles with depression and other issues , aside from medical help, what could have been that bridge that might have brought him back from the edge of the suffering that enveloped him? What kind of support and in which sphere of his life-personal, social, professional or as a public figure – would have provided some hope, some reason for enduring? What was it that he, who seemed to give so freely, needed most to keep his will and spirit buoyant? It is unfortunately too late now to know the definitive answer to that.

Whilst this actor’s life and work played out on a very public stage, there are so many such ‘givers’ in our everyday lives that do their work and live their lives with meaning , dignity and compassion in a way that touches something inside of us.
We may admire and appreciate the wonders that they put forth, but more often than not we are really only celebrating how OUR lives are enriched by these gems – the love from a parent, child or significant other ; the unflinching support and understanding from a friend; the time, effort and commitment from those that we employ; the wonderful services and products we purchase – that we forget what we TAKE from those that give.
Are we paying back in kind? Not just in monetary terms or tokenism but are we acknowledging and commiserating with the spirit in them that celebrates and honors life, life’s work and probably, the best in us?
How are we offering our kinship and humanity?
What are we giving back?
Is it commensurate with what we have received?
Is it timely?
Is it a fair barter?

That is a question that we as audience, lovers, friends, family, co- workers and consumers need to ask of ourselves.


*Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk  CC BY-NC-2.0

A musical gem – Silk Route

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Yes, this post is about my current fascination with the erstwhile Indian band ‘Silk Route’.
I know that I am embarrassingly late in the game, gushing about this musical gem (that is a result of living the last decade and more with my head in the sand, so to speak), but timelines aside it merits stating that having finally heard the music, my soul is not only stirred but shaken up.

So what do we have here?
A band formed in Delhi with three young men, two of whom traced roots to the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. They burst onto the music scene with an incredible hit in ‘Dooba Dooba’ from their first album, ‘Boondein’ released in 1998, winning a bunch of music awards. I recall seeing the ‘underwater’ video for the song when it first came out. This success was followed by the release of the album ‘Pehchaan’ in the year 2000 and then sadly, the band drifted apart. Mohit Chauhan, the lead vocalist, of course has gone on to achieve great success as a playback singer in films.

A while back, I chanced upon the track ‘Mai ne meriye’ from Mohit’s solo album ‘Fitoor’   (released after the trio had disbanded ) and was intrigued and deeply moved by this song. It is a pahadi ballad and speaks of the angst of separation and the longing to be with the beloved. It has a whiff of the mountain air that I love and the reiteration of Chamba, Kasauli and Shimla resonates meaningfully with me, having had wonderful memories of travel in that region. I became very curious about this singer and his musical lineage. Predictably, I then spent a bit of time exploring the music of  ‘Silk Route’ and was spellbound.

Here’s why –

Be it the languid strains of ‘Dooba Dooba’, the tender missive ‘Khoi Ho…….Boondein’, the call to love in ‘Humsafar’ , the teasing and possessive ‘Jadu Tona’ , the haunting lyrics in ‘Sapnay’ and ‘Saujha’ lamenting of loneliness and longing or the old world charm of ‘Sab se peeche hum khade’ – there is an unmistakable honesty in the music. It is not contrived or facetious, nor is it overreaching – it is enough, just enough……

For me, lyrics are an important part of the experience of enjoying songs and perhaps that is a reason why the music of ‘Silk Route’, with its wonderful marriage of soulful lyrics and a unique mix of acoustic sound elements, seems particularly fulfilling to my untrained but enthusiastic ears. The songs seem to whisper sacred secrets about life and love long searched for.
The title track from the album ‘Boondein’ evokes the feeling of reciting a beautiful prayer that permeates the furthest reaches of one’s being. I am utterly captivated by it. The amalgamation of rock and folk elements in ‘Morni’ and ‘Thanda Pani’ is a wonderful ode to what seem to be local pahadi songs.
The sound of flowing water towards the end of the song in ‘Thanda Pani’ seems aptly poetic.
‘Paheli’, ‘Tu woh nahi’, ‘Door chala aaya’ and ‘Ganga naha le’ embody a philosophical, almost fatalist tone, taking us on a journey evolved organically from the romantic mood of the rest of the repertoire.
‘Koi Pooche’, ‘Dastak’ and ‘Chakkar Gor’ are faster paced, as if adopting an explicit rock music avatar. You would think that they were setting themselves up for failure by including two songs in English as well – ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Lullaby’, but it works ! Marvelously !

In all, this is a remarkably unselfconscious and mature musical sensibility that honors its unique heritage whilst exploring a thoroughly modern sound. One is left wondering what other gems would have been created had the band stayed together.
Mohit’s subsequent solo album ‘Fitoor’ is a delight in itself but who knows what magic the band would have woven into it.

It would be wondrous if  ‘Silk Route’ reunited for more music, for it is through their unique brand of music that their light seems to shine through brightest.
Until then, main to hoon doobi doobi in these enchanting albums…….

 


*Image courtesy of Rajesh  CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

Lost and Found

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Have you ever felt lost,
well and truly lost…………from yourself?
Lost in a way that
the sudden reappearance of a buried memory jolts you awake
from the stupor of ‘busy living’ that you have been in for a long time.
Lost in a way that
you have let ‘dealing with life’s challenges’ chip away incessantly at your being.
Lost in a way that
you can no longer identify with all that held so much value for you before.
Lost in a way that
you feel an impostor in your own skin.

What happened next?
Did you strive tirelessly to find your lost self –
as if it were your life’s mission to do so?
Did you visit and revisit
the things, people and places you once loved?
Did you call upon nostalgia –
every lodestar, every lighthouse that has ever been a part of your life?
Did you search haplessly for that
which seems lost, yet you cannot quite pinpoint what it is?
Did it seem endless until it finally dawned upon you
that all you really needed to do was
tap into and trust that internal compass within you –
the one that knows who you are, what you want and where you are headed?
Did the struggle ease when you accepted
that life around you has answers, if you know to ask and are willing to listen?
Were you at peace when you ceded that
meaning and joy exist right here in this moment – the present?

What did you lose and what did you find?
What’s your story?


*Image courtesy of Brent Danley  CC BY-NC-SA-2.0