The Night Of The Monster

I just saw something creepy
After that, I can’t feel sleepy.
Aaah! Those blood red eyes!
That green and gooey slime!
I’ve escaped it before but not this time.
His body reminds me of cries.

I know because I read it now
In my comic “Survival, How?”
It has killed many after shocking ’em in fright .
A sword, a gun with bullets 45
Is all I need to stay alive.
But none lie within sight.

It was coming for
Me, I lay down on my bed in horror.
Everything other than my bed had broken.
I froze in fear,
The end was drawing near,
Then, I awoke.

I was wondering, where
Could it be, it hadn’t left a single hair.
Did it have the power not to be seen?
I was paralyzed in fear,
Did it have the power to disappear?
Then it hit me! I’t was a dream.

Advertisements

Lessons and Parenting

I read this amazing blog last Friday about how children can learn a lot if you bring them into the kitchen. I had not thought they could learn so much through cooking and baking and I immediately resolved to try it out. Later on Friday though, something happened that made that fun plan fly right out the window.

If you are an Indian parent, you probably had this video pop up on your whatsapp too. It has been shot by a mother teaching her three-four year old the numbers. As the little one is pressed to repeat, she gets things wrong and starts to cry, which  angers the mother even more. The child then complains of a headache and pleads to be taught with love. The whole thing ends in a slap.

It is not for the faint-hearted. It is a disturbing video, and you should not watch if you think it will affect you much.

2088471a-8712-11e7-a194-d8b7abb7611c

 

Because it affected me very much. I didn’t sleep at all that night. That’s the funny thing about technology. You see a distressed, crying child and want to pick them up and comfort them but you can’t. You don’t know who they are or where they are. And yet the crying and the pain is so real it can give you a sleepless night. As I found out.

The third time the video came on a whatsapp group, I decided to reply and warn people to not click on the link because it was so disturbing. I was talking to my husband about all this when my older one overheard and interrupted me to say, ‘Why did you say that? You should have told people to click on the link and forward it around so that that mother learns a lesson’. By evening, he got his wish. Virat Kohli and a bunch of Indian cricketers had come across the video too and shared it on their Instagram with scathing comments on poor parenting. The thing went viral.

Now I need to back up a bit. When the video came up on school and office groups, most of us were horrified and disturbed. But we felt that a backlash against the mother might not be very productive. What she needed was counselling and help. I wondered what sort of feedback the mother was getting and whether it would be too negative to be of any use, so I clicked on “Comments”.

The first comment said, ‘This is a normal mother and a normal child. This is not news. Times of India, don’t waste our time.’

Another one went, ‘Come on people, you all thought this was funny till Virat called it child abuse. Use your brains.’

Another, ‘We were all raised like this. Don’t overreact.’

‘All the people reacting like this are either single or not parents or dads. What do they know about raising a child?’

And so on.

So by this time my brain had sort of ground to a stop. A night of no sleep, too much thinking, and then this. Nothing made sense anymore and I just wanted to back off and sleep!
Later, the girl was identified as the niece of a well known singer. The family defended the teaching methods and described the child as stubborn. A bunch of stories came up in the press and the story is now old news.

To my mind, now is a good time to talk about it. One of the more sensible comments said, ‘Don’t judge the mother based on a 2 minute video.’ That is very true. Although, I would still say that it is not a one sided video. It is not of a child crying (and possibly throwing a tantrum) or a mother scolding (and possibly being ignored. My boys do it all the time). There are reactions. There are responses. They don’t feel good.

Do parents need to be perfect and patient all the time? Of course not! It is not possible. But when you are correcting a child, do you realise when you need to stop, back off? When you have crossed a line? Yes! Sometimes you realise it too late. Then you say sorry. It happens! I remember when my older one was ten months and we were visiting family he decided he wanted to subsist on breastmilk. For a ten month old, that is not possible. He was constantly hungry and cranky. After a point, I was just fed up. So my husband held him fast in his lap while I fed him bananas. He cried throughout. My horrified sister made a video of the whole. She showed us the video years later telling me my son could report us for abuse. She was right! If it went viral, I would probably get the same sort of reaction as this one got. Of course as soon as the banana was finished, my son raced off to play – happy and full. But you can’t see it in the video.

Here’s the thing though. This was not a video of a normal child and a normal mother. It was an aberration. Something we remember ten years after it happened. If this seems like normal to most folks, what is normal?

This thought reminded me of something else. In the aftermath of the murder of S Swathi by a man who had been stalking her, there was a discussion on Baradwaj Rangan’s wonderful blog about the link between the depiction of stalking as an expression of love in Indian movies and the acceptance of stalking as ‘normal’ in real life. It was an amazing discussion but some things stayed behind especially, in my mind.

  • One lady spoke about her experiences as a teacher in small town India. She sounded young, enthusiastic and like she might have been a popular teacher but when she spoke to her teenage pupils about how it was better to approach a girl and just talk instead of stalking, her class bristled and she ended up being counselled to not bring her city ways too much to the country because her own safety was at stake.
  • A young reader and frequent commenter on the blog, a sensitive and thoughtful young man, objected to how stalking was an unfair word to use for ‘following’ which was a fair way to express love and interest. That it was normal.
  • One reader spoke about his experiences as a student in small town India. A rather horrible story about being used by a girl to test the love of a boy stalker who was not coming up to scratch, leading to a violent episode and ending with this person leaving India for good to study abroad.

All of this was ‘normal’.

We are a huge country. We speak, according to Wikipedia 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. We have an insane variety of cuisines, clothing styles, facial features. Also apparently, a huge range of what is considered normal. Including holding a country to ransom to ensure a rapist does not go to jail. But I digress.

If there is a solution, I am not sure what it is. I’ll put my hope in talking to each other. And let us not assume that we are always right and ours is the only valid point of view. Parents on my kids’ school whatsapp groups speak from a position of privilege that they might not realise the extent of. India is a developing country. Not every parent has the luxury of letting a child follow their dream. There are just too many of us for all of us to be successful that way. We do have to teach our kids. They do have to clear their exams. But is this how they will do it? Can a child really learn this way? Are there examples where this has worked?

And what are the other ways?

I liked what Robbie Cheadle suggested in her blog, that we take them into the kitchen. My boys made modak with me this weekend for Ganesh Chaturthi. We started with too much jaggery, and then they did the math and measured out the right portions of every other ingredient.

Then today evening, my older one was standing on my head waiting for his milk to heat up so he could down it and rush off to play. His observation about bubbles on the edges of the pan led to an interesting conversation about heat conductivity in metals.

In our house though, me and my boys mostly bond over and learn through stories. We all love books and story telling and our bed time and waking up stories are filled with more than moral science. We put in interesting facts, trivia and math and science problems. I guess if you enjoy the teaching, they will enjoy the the learning.

And I’m sure we could extend this to so much more. We can learn from music. We can learn from sports. We can learn by observing nature. We can learn by hanging out together.

Is it always possible? No. Is it always easy? No. Is it always fun? YES! Does it work? I think so.

Maybe we can take the distress of this child and the discussions over this video somewhere else than accusing each other of poor parenting or non parenting. Maybe we can use this opportunity to work on how we deal with and raise our children. Maybe we can learn too how to do things better.

Dastkar Once More

IMG_20170811_160558.jpg

A quick post to remind all that Dastkar is back in town! I had written about Dastkar previously here.

They will be around from the 11th to the 20th of August. I was away this weekend and I heard it rained a lot and I hope this lovely market was not completely washed out. I paid a short visit before I left. It was Day 1 and many of the stalls were not up yet but here’s what I thought:

  • Just LOOK at the amazing wood carvings! I expect they cost a bomb and were honestly too big for small apartments such as mine, but maybe some fancy hotelier picked up something.
  • Not too many fabric or saree options. There are so many direct weaver sales happening on Facebook these days, not to mention the many many weaver sales happening in Bangalore round the year, so this is not really a surprise. Probably not much of a loss either but I missed the stalls!
  • I did see a beautiful linen saree in pink and really the finest linen but it was too expensive for me. Things did seem more expensive than in other places.
  • The food was to die for as usual. I bought a lot of papads and pickles – the sort of thing Rujuta Diwekar is fond of calling real food. Any weight I gain is to be blamed squarely on her! They had dal baati choorma at the stall next door. Since that is real fattening food, I nobly skipped but I did try some choorma. It was SO YUM!
    WhatsApp Image 2017-08-11 at 3.17.51 PM.jpeg
  • They had some glass jewellery from Agra. Murano, you got competition!
    WhatsApp Image 2017-08-11 at 8.19.57 PM
  • They had plenty of handmade jewellery in everything from antique silver to crochet. I like how tribal jewellery goes with handwoven sarees.
  • Mojris are a no brainer. Here’s what I succumbed to!
    WhatsApp Image 2017-08-11 at 8.19.49 PM.jpeg
  • There was a good selection of terracotta garden ornaments.
  • The usual gourd and bamboo planters marked attendance.
  • Paintings etc. of course!
  • Neev and other organic soaps were conspicuous by their absence. Not that I missed them. I buy my soaps now from Arun of Coco Naturals. He makes soaps on his farm near Mettur and mails them wrapped in butter paper with a rubber band around them. His soaps are amazing and I appreciate minimal to no packaging so he gets my vote every time. I had to give him a shout out.
  • There were no cultural displays or kite flying when I visited, but well – day one! I expect they will have all of that over the coming weekend.

That’s it – short and quick. If you happen to visit, do leave a message and tell me what you thought of it!

Almost entirely about cuckoo clocks

It was two months back that we went on this trip and it was about the same time that the WannaCry ransomware attack hit. In fact, on the same day we took our train to Germany. Having heard so much about German Engineering, I am pleased to report that it’s all true! Every time our train ran late, the delay was fine tuned to be the exact time taken by us to get off the train and run to the next platform in time to see our connection puffing away. Nah, I’m kidding. It was just the ransomware. Makes you wonder though!

We got to our hotel at Kirchzarten very late in the evening. And  also, got a shock. Now we had packed our clothes based on Accuweather and were expecting the Schwarzwald area to be very cold. Not only was Kirchzarten not cold, it was hot – like 30 degrees celsius which is a million degrees fahrenheit. And without the protective layer of pollution that we in India are used to, the rays of the sun hit us hot and direct. On our ten minute walk to the hotel (the delightful Restaurant Sonne, super old and beautifully restored) all I could spot in the stores was sunscreen! How were we so duped? I’d thought we were visiting Switzerland, but we seemed to have ended up in Phuket!

But Kirchzarten is a small place, and we needed to hurry to get dinner before thinking about anything else. We were lucky enough to find Fiesta. The food was good. The beer was better. The play area for the kids – the best! The staff were friendly and all young and enthusiastic, very keen to help. What a change from Prague!

But the next day, we had to man up and face facts. Which of our two sets of clothes (we recycled our clothes while traveling and saved a day, if you’re counting) would we be less likely to melt in? Fortunately, we were saved from making this decision for the kids at least as we found a max fashion style store down the road called NKD. 4 euro for a kiddie tee? China, I love you!

IMG_20170517_131429
I have a four Euro weather fix – I’m the King of the World!
IMG_20170517_124010
Medieval Church, ancient friendship – that’s my college roommate and I

Our plan for the day was to get to Triberg, see the falls, buy cuckoo clocks for my parents, my in laws, my friends who had neglected to buy a clock in Switzerland last year, their parents, their in laws and two big cuckoo clocks for some friends who’d recently moved house. Our return trip looked like this!

most-shopping-is-excessive1-300x200

 

By the way, this image is not my own – naturally! I borrowed it from critical cactus which must be the most inappropriate place to borrow it from. And so, I will take a minute to say this. Critical Cactus speaks about minimalism and not being consumerist which are good goals that I identify with. This one-time fall from grace was a group effort – not mine alone – and it soothes my conscience a bit to note that I bought nothing for myself!

But if you are visiting Black Forest and must take back gifts, really what else could you get? Switzerland is known as the home of the cuckoo clock but that is not what I saw. This is where the clocks are actually made. The clocks on sale in Switzerland were mostly China made knock offs. This was the real deal! All the clocks are mechanical which means you need to wind them up. Which might get to be a bit of a bore once the novelty has worn off! A quick recommendation for Oli’s cuckoo clock shop. Not that one is needed. This was easily one of the more popular stores and we got everything we needed!

Triberg is not as dense green to black as I expected the Black Forest to be – there was too much visible deforestation which was sad. Maybe this contributed to the sultry weather?

But it was great fun reading about the history of the forest.

IMG_20170517_153747.jpg

So in short, we stopped at this medieval village with the most gigantic and delicious tomatoes (I bought seeds!), walked all the way up to the falls, shopped(I fessed up already!) and then after some train related confusion (can we make the laundry today? time table? yes? no? return! return! return! missed train – noooo!! ok, caught up!) had a quick stop at Gengenbach and then got back.

 

We also saw many traditional black forest style houses with the wooden beams. I have not been able to figure out any reason for the design though. Do you know?

IMG_20170517_192230

PS. Do you know that the black forest cake – which originated in these parts is supposed to be inspired by the traditional dress from hereabouts? Also, the real black forest cake is so soaked in alcohol, it is strictly not for kids! I didn’t know this and will never look at the Just Bake version the same way again.

The hills are alive

A full two months after my European vacation, I sit at my laptop writing this. I’m saved from worrying too much though by the simple fact that there is no one waiting for this post. Quite unlike how people waited for their Christie at Christmas back then or the latest Imtiaz Ali movie these days. Although I bet some of those folks feel pretty silly right about now!


DSC03534

I don’t like burgers. It is not something you would ever suspect anyone of, but it’s true. I just don’t. On the train to Salzburg there was not much of a vegetarian selection and I had to make do. Surprise surprise! This burger was unlike any I have ever eaten. I don’t think there was even a patty. It was more like a veggie sandwich from Subway but with flavour. The feta cheese was very salty but in a good way. Words cannot describe the yumminess so I will just say – if you are on a train to Salzburg and someone offers you that veggie burger, take it!

I am totally mixed up in my head as far as train stations go but I think Salzburg was the underground one with lifts that brings you to ground level where the taxi drivers you have advance booked wait for you (muttering under their breath in Hindustani all the while). I say Hindustani, not Hindi, because the majority of the people we met speaking Hindi in Europe were in fact Pakistanis and really the language we all speak is a mix of Hindi and Urdu and should I believe be called Hindustani.

Anyhow, they took us to our hotel which was really a service apartment called Apt Stone Lodge. And it turned out to actually be a stone lodge! It is built right into a rock face. State this here and now – of all places I stayed at on this trip, this was my favourite. And we stayed at some pretty nice places! This one was super cosy, nicely located, completely homey(not too fancy) and it had a piano. Since it was Mother’s Day while we were there, the kids put up a performance (they had started prepping in Prague) for us and the piano came in very handy. What is it with Salzburg and singing children?

 

My kids are learning to play the piano and know their Mozart from Beethoven so I did not want to miss the chance of taking them to a concert while we were here. The one I wanted to go to was at Mirabell Palace but they were not playing the days that we were here so our next choice was the Salzburg Fort. Now I like music, but I am not at all highbrow so I checked out TripAdvisor reviews from other Indian visitors to figure out if we would like it. The reviews were mostly positive and spoke about the atmosphere and the fort and the moonlight so we went for it.

The fort is a short walk away from Apt Stone Lodge and we all walked down. It is a lovely fort with a fabulous view from the top.

IMG_20170514_190202

There is also a museum. I liked this marionette exhibit representing the Von Trapp family.

IMG_20170514_184038.jpg

Our pre-concert meal was a little underwhelming and the music put the younger one to sleep almost at once, but I enjoyed myself. The only other Indian family present took to their heels at intermission but we stuck it out till the end. It was a little scary walking back. That part of Salzburg sleeps early. It could not have been later than eleven but there was not a soul on the streets and I wished for a cab but there was none.

IMG_20170514_221111

We took the Hop-on-Hop-off lakes and mountains tour the next day. Starting at the Mirabell gardens and taking lots of Sound of Music style pictures, we went on the most scenic drive. The audio commentary was informative in a distant way and we enjoyed ourselves overall.

Our first stop was at Sankt Gilgen – also called Mozart village although Mozart never visited this place. The lake it is built around is called Wolfgangsee and it is a charming place. There was a cable car ride to the top of a nearby hill and some of us took it while the rest of us were content to walk by the lake and eat at the cafe. Also run by someone speaking Hindustani! Our kids ran wild in a nearby park and invented some fun pirate games. We ended up missing our hop-on because of a mix-up regarding timings. The driver told us to expect a bus in 45 minutes but he meant 45 minutes from the scheduled, not the actual time of arrival. Put it simply, even if your bus was late – expect the next one to be right on time! There were also some local buses that we missed but Sankt Gilgen deserved the extra time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next stop was at Mondsee which smelled strongly of cow (which is a smell I like) but was pretty-pretty with tiny bylanes selling, oddly enough, fashionable boots. We had no time to stop however and made a quick trip to the church which is famous for being where Maria married Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Even minus that bit of trivia, I would have loved the place. It made me feel like I did about the Naina Devi temple – it was a real place of worship, not a tourist spot.

We ran all the way back so as to not miss the bus again but the very few other stops left were largely skippable. We got off with the feeling that we should have stayed longer at Mondsee. We could not take another green line at Mirabelle for time reasons but we took a white line to the old town. This was exactly like other European old towns. My friends bought paintings and I took pictures and plagiarised one on my own. This was done with no malice at all, I only wanted to draw again – I haven’t since I was in middle school – and I did not feel ready to start with something original. The outcome is exactly like something a middle schooler would make but I had so much fun!

IMG_20170609_192430

We were running out of clean clothes by this time and I had read on the net about the Green and Clean laundry and as part of my green manifesto wanted to spread the word about their good work after some first hand experience but it was not to be. They were closed for repairs and with the grim knowledge that we had only two good sets of clothes each left before we found a laundromat in the Black Forest, we returned home.

Our children were waiting anxiously for us so they could begin their performance. We thoroughly enjoyed the songs and skits about strict moms and kids who love them anyway. We hushed them a bit so as to not disturb the early-sleeping Salzburg neighbourhood but nothing could dampen their spirits or our pride and joy.

I loved Salzburg most of all the places I saw these two weeks in Europe. Perhaps things look rosier through happy tears?

The Devil lives in Praha

WhatsApp Image 2017-07-08 at 10.12.11 PM

We didn’t exactly cover ourselves in touristy glory in Vienna and were determined to make up for the lapse. Prague is exactly the place for such plans!
The countryside en route was lovely but the city itself was as pretty as I have seen.

IMG_20170512_124850

We stayed at the Residence Bene in the old town of Prague. It was small and full of character. My friends were upset because the towels looked like they had been purchased when the hotel was set up around World War II but they looked clean enough (though yellow) so I was not too bothered. The kettle did not look so clean and that definitely bothered me!

It was a bit cold but sunny and bright. The view from my window was old town cheek by jowl with shiny new city which is my favourite kind of view.

They provided a decent breakfast but the USP has to be the location! We were a short walk away from everything.

There were a number of interesting looking stores nearby including many selling art supplies. Prague looks like that kind of place! However, the art supplies were insanely expensive – in Indian money anyway. No way was I paying a 100 bucks for a pencil my boys would surely lose in a minute!

On our way to the Astronomical Clock tower in the old town square, we saw this man blowing soap bubbles which thrilled the children who jumped around trying to burst them. There were loads of kids doing this and in fact, the entire square was full of people doing street stuff. Our kids dropped some money in the man’s bucket like all the other kids but while he collected the white kids for pictures, he shouted at our children who were still innocently bouncing around after bubbles. It was the greatest shock to see someone who makes a living off children behave like this. To be honest, we were too shocked to react with the sort of anger that that man deserved. In hindsight it was probably all for the best since the episode closed quickly, the kids did not realize what had happened and we were able to salvage our day. But it left a very bad taste in our mouth! There is a God up above though and it began to rain almost immediately after and while we continued to have fun, this fellow had to shut shop and made no more money that day.

Unfortunately the clock was being repaired at the time. But it was beautifully made and we were able to see the clockwork procession. It was interesting to see the vices – greed, vanity, death(??!!) and something else that I have forgotten. The good figures I have predictably forgotten entirely but do look up!

IMG_20170512_171452

From there to the famous Charles Bridge was but a step – but a very souvenir rich step! I travel with die-hard shopaholics and progress was slow. There were hand embroidered aprons and caps, paintings, cups, figurines, clock models, Bohemian crystal and magnets! The only two things that caught my eye (and I regret not buying) were

  1. These crazy colorful Dali-esque paintings of CharlesBridge that I saw in a side alley and should should have bought! I cannot find anything similar on the internet to show you what I mean. I SO wish I had not been so sensible about not adding to our severely packed limited luggage!
  2. Garnets – I fell in love with a pair of earrings and did not buy because my husband was not there and I wanted him to approve of them. Now this was probably all for the good since my uncle’s warnings and numerous other net based feedback insists that most garnets sold in Prague are fakes. However, the super recommended Granat Turnov had a store less than 200 meters from the Residence Bene so this was really a miss! If you like jewelry and have troubled to research –  do buy some while here!

IMG_20170512_180054

We went from there to the Lennon wall. I have seen more interesting graffiti but the peace messages and the general flower child vibe of the place was fun and contagious! I spotted this water wheel nearby which looked interesting. There were a number of cafes and we stopped for a break.

And then back!

Our second day in Prague was along similar lines. A ride on Tram 22. The Prague castle where I heard this lovely opera singer.

A visit to the Jewish quarter was next after which we stopped for lunch at an Italian place and I had the most amazing ravioli! The chocolate museum was the most fun for the kids and we ate more chocolate than was good for us. I also bought a tub of chocolate face cream. The chocolatey smell makes me feel like I am walking around in my own bakery bubble. Reason enough to buy it, no?

We went next to Kampa Island where the kids found a park to play in and I noticed this very unexpected statue of Chinmaya!

IMG_20170513_174706.jpg

And back to Old Town Square. My little one is reading Asterix these days and wanted to eat wild boar (he saw a pig on a spit) but did not like it much when it arrived. Finally dinner and a late night on Charles Bridge.

Then Goodbye Prague. We missed a lot – we did not tandem cycle (group cycle?) while drinking beer and singing songs, we took no rides in vintage cars, we did not ride in a horse drawn carriage, didn’t see the Fred and Ginger building. And we missed the garnets! I may never visit Prague again but if you do – please pick some up for me!!


PS. The Indian Food Reccos :-

My husband insists my friends and I are not fit to go anywhere outside India, but we like our desi food. So, for Indians in Prague – here’s the recco.

  • The Dhaba Beas where we ate our first lunch had a great system where you pay by weight for what you eat. What a neat way to reduce wastage!
  • For dinner, we headed out to The Indian Jewel. This was a posher place than the dhaba. Although there was indoor seating, we sat out under umbrellas. The owner looked European and had a silver ponytail but spoke Punjabi! I love when people do that. When I was a child, I got on a train once where there were a number of  Sardars speaking fluent Tamil! Anyway, both places served good food.