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In Search Of A Good Story

“Mum-um Golpo bolo”

(Mother, tell me a story)

Storytelling is a parenting hazard! Oh yes, it is…especially if you have a kid like mine who asks for a ‘golpo’ (story) all round the day. At meal times, play times, ‘me’ times, bedtimes, in between a story, after a story, before a story. Stories about his car, bike and toys. And stories about Spiderman, Poo, Momkey and Hamba (cow) Stories about his father, uncles and aunt. His own stories and stories of Thakur (we happened to watch a bit of Sholay together)…Phew!! Oh yes! He has a voracious appetite for a story.

😀 *touchwood*

Nothing gives me more joy than to read a book with V. Like Baby Bing in ‘Baby’s Day Out’ V gets stuck to a favourite book. While it is sometimes a struggle to break away from his favourites, it is also a delight to lure him towards a new read. We snuggle together, read together, make funny faces together, emote together and enact the book together.  We pick the characters in the book and mix them with characters from another book. We make new stories and experience our stories in a new way every day. How else can I explain that V gets up in the morning asking for Simba’s hug?  😀

Reading Collage

Over the past several months I have come to experience the power of books and storytelling as a parenting tool; one that EVERY parent must have in her / his armour. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to be a reader, really. All you need is to want to spend time with your child when he / she has your complete attention. I don’t want to get into the benefits of reading to your child, chances are that you already know it. If you don’t, I will leave that for another post. But before that, here are the top 5 reasons why I read to my 28 month old.

1)     Connect

 There is no better way to connect with my child than read a book together. Our reading sessions are short and crisp…lasting about 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I have been able to stretch it to 30 minutes! We almost always read more than 1 book at a time. Mostly it is 2 books, sometimes it is 3. But that’s because he wants to read more than one. In those precious moments we are one, connected by a single tale that draws us in. When I bring a book out, we take time to explore the book. We look at the cover, the illustrations, the clothes and mannerisms of the characters, the tiny small details that do not play a role in the story but form an essential part of the image that the child sees (for example, the image of a lizard on a wall). We try and judge the emotions the characters go through mostly their expressions tell us that.  Even if the book is a re-read, we do the same drill. It is only after this that we really read the book. And through it all, we cuddle and have a great time.

2)     Vocabulary

In a Bengali household I make sure I talk to V in Bangla. But that’s because I know as he grows up, this language will become his third preference, lest it slips further down in his choice of languages. So a lot of times I have read stories to him in English and translated them to him in Bangla. As he grows up and nears his play-schooling phase I have ensured his basic English vocabulary is built up. Thanks to some stellar Indian publishers, there are some great bilingual books available today. So no matter what is the age of your child, you always have a choice and resource to teach your child more than one language.

3)     Imagination

 If you are a parent I am sure you have been washed away by your child’s imagination. To look at a picture and interpret possibilities without considering its real meaning is truly a child’s genius. Give me an image and I will only look at it for it is worth and not what it can become. But that’s not what it is to V. And I am sure it is the same for your child too. So when we read I leave the book to his imagination and interpretation. “What is this?” we often ask each other. While he tries to eke out answers to questions in his head, I love to hear his babble of possibilities.

4)     Lessons

Do all books come with a lesson? And when is the right time to talk to a child about morals in a story? Yes…all stories come with morals.  It is up to us to pick them. It is never too late to begin talking about lessons and morals in a story. I dislike The Ugly Duckling for instance, and for V I have a different version of the story. Emotions, feelings and behaviour are very delicate issues that must be shared with children at an early age. As adults we often underestimate the understanding of our little ones. Concepts like sharing, kindness, gratitude, empathy and are not too tough for them. They are waiting for experiences, and it is up to us to give them the perfect examples; through books and stories and otherwise.

5)     Children’s Literature

Did I tell you I am smitten by Children’s Literature? Oh yes, I am! So much so, that my own reading list is lagging behind. And it stands at a dismal level! Everywhere I go, I walk into a book shop losing myself in the children’s section. I am constantly browsing through online libraries, making notes, pinning posts on Pinterest and all I can think of is the next kiddie book that I want in our library. Yes, I am so loves truck that I can’t bear to call it his library! So I dig into his liberally. Today we have more than 200 titles that stand on V’s bookshelf. *Yikes*

So in between of all this reading, where did story telling come in?

I have told stories all along. Professionally as a television producer, story tilling and telling is what I have done always. From political documentaries, to lifestyle shows, travelogues, to human interest. Sometimes we’ve dug up the archives to bring to life stories of the past, at others we have scraped the truth of what is being hidden. For 9 years I have done just that and I have loved every moment of it.

To be fair to my source of inspiration, V was the reason I took to storytelling. I wanted to be a better storyteller to him, to entertain him and play with him. With my heart in its place I trained under Simi Srivastava at Kathashala. And it took me away like a leaf in a storm!

To write about my experience as a story teller will be tough and I am not sure I have the words to truly describe it. But I will give it a try…

ð  To decide to be a story teller as a hobbyist or a professional is a HUGE risk that I take. At 32, it has taken me great courage to push myself towards a creative field once again. And to enjoy it thoroughly, as much as I do has taken me by complete surprise. I didn’t realise I would have so much FUN!!

ð  There are clear divisions here when it comes to experiencing a story. There is a difference between ‘reading’ a story, ‘telling’ a story, ‘performing’ a story and ‘watching’ a story. As a story teller, I get to experience one story in so many ways.

ð  To watch a wide-eyed audience, almost stupefied by your performance is surreal. I have addressed mixed crowds of children and adults and I have never seen so many happy faces. “In all my 60 years no one has told me a better story!”this is the one compliment that will remain with me forever.

ð  Everyone enjoys a story, well told. And that has been my objective behind being a story teller all along; in television and now. To tell a story like no one else can. Whether I am able to do this in the future will be a test for me.

ð  I am the Chief Entertainment Officer for my kiddo. So why not do that for some others do. It is best to make people smile than to make them cry, right?

ð  I’ve always wanted to have a bookstore. Yes, as long as I can remember that is the one thing that has driven me. Now I may not have a book store really, but I have a ready excuse to be around books and stories.

ð  Oxytocin and Serotonin – are at their best! These are two very powerful ‘feel good hormones’ that the body releases after a feel-good, successful act. So why not make it a daily affair? Say goodbye to negativity and pessimism.

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If this has interested you and you want to know more about my adventures with reading and storytelling hop over to the GOLPO **page. It has listings of all my forthcoming events. Feel free to connect through the Contact Page or mail me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

I’ll be delighted to tell you a story!

 **’Golpo’ is the Bangla word for Story**

 

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Parenting Goals in 2014

Each New Year is like a box of surprises. You open up a box unknowingly and out jumps a surprise. Sometimes you set yourselves goals. Sometimes, like I did this year, you may set out to list the things you wouldn’t do. But when it comes to parenting I tread a very careful line. Because it is not my role as a parent that I am talking about, it also that of another human being that I am responsible for.

So here in no particular order are my New Year Parenting Goals:

  1. Hands-On to Pro-Parenting

I am a huge follower of hands-on parenting. From reading together, to making discoveries, to talking, making use of our hands and minds, I believe that the role of the parent is evolving today. And while there are so many like-minded parents (mostly mothers though) who make conscious decisions for their children and families, there are also so many who rely on traditional wisdom when it comes to parenting. Some believe that money spent on their children will bring them happiness. Some others believe that the school is meant to teach the child all that he/she has to. This year as a parent I want to share my experiences of being a hands-on parent with as many as I can in an order to turn every parent into a pro-parent.

  1. Balance

2014 has begun when my professional life is undergoing a tumultuous phase. I am at the crux of leaving my television career for good, to soak into something that has been my heart’s calling. I will still be a working mother, and starting now it will only get tougher. So as I embark on a new journey, I begin my balancing act once again. This year I hope to keep a fine balance and maintain a perfect harmony in my role as a parent and a professional.

  1. Handle the Tantrums Better

There is nothing more disconcerting than have a toddler have a meltdown that disrupts his sense of calm. More than us, I notice these meltdowns and tantrums leave him upset and perpetually cranky. As he grows up and makes more demands of us, I hope to give him fewer reasons to throwback a tantrum at us. It is tough, I know. So I will watch my words, actions and behavior and try and walk him out of these stressful and threatening situations.

To read the rest of my parenting goals for the year head over to Parentous

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Making The Best Use Of A National Holiday

With a working mother who is out 6 days of the week, it gets really tough sometimes. So when a National Holiday comes in the middle of the week, we choose to use it well.

It began last night with these pots of homemade paint. We made a fresh batch of yellow, green, red and chocolate brown. The red and brown look similar in the picture though.

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The morning started with V’s favourite activity – kalaloo (colouring).

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We brought out yellow & green today. So first with brushes and then with fingers, our homemade paints painted a messy canvas. (Btw…these paints are totally eatable & washable)

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Next up, some fun with numbers. We brought out the ice-cream sticks and pipe cleaners. Happy to note that V can comfortably identify numbers 1 – 10.

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Lastly, we played with our colour flashcards. I made these sometime back and we hadn’t used them in a while. V enjoyed identifying his buu, oange, pulpul, edd, blaack. 🙂

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We also used the pipe cleaner for a quick game to put to test our motor skills.

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This comfortably took care of nearly 2 hours! Mommy was happy she could hold V’s attention for sometime. And V seemed pleased that Mommy wasn’t running away today.

More on these individual activities later…

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A Box of Colours & A Lifetime of Memories

Dear V,

I know how much you love your kalaloo. Yes, at two, that’s what you call colours, no matter where you see them. In the books, in your box of crayons, in your clothes, your play dough at the traffic light and almost everywhere else, you have an adorable habit of noting the colours.

Remember these lovely colourful pencils I gave you yesterday? You loved them from the moment you set your eyes on it. You will use them a lot over the next few weeks, and months, I hope. But let me tell you a little story about them.

Colour Pencil 1

Yesterday I parted with the colour pencil set that Baba (my and not yours) had bought me from England 18 years back. It was a big thing then. Not like you when you thanks to your Baba got your baby-friendly cloth rattler from Amsterdam and your first walkie-talkie from Singaoore (which as of this date you are yet to use). Back in the day I think that was Baba’s first international work trip and I remember being thrilled to bits waiting for him to return. Because every time Baba went on a trip, he always returned with gifts for Maa, my brother and me. So when he opened up his suitcase (which we bought for this trip), out came the goodies! Baba had bought us (Mama and me) three sets of these colour pencils. And when we were in school I used them to carefully colour my study maps. Mama, I suspect lost them in his boarding school. At least I don’t remember seeing his set. All the more reason why I guarded my colours from him! But you don’t need to learn that. Tomorrow, if you have a sibling, I would love you to share your things with your sibling. J

Colour Pencil 2

So this was the spare colour pencil set; so pretty it was that I loved seeing them packed and preserved. I am sure back then I never thought of you. I didn’t know that one day I would have a beautiful baby who would love playing with colours. I didn’t know that you would first display your ambidexterity with these very colours. Here my boy, enjoy your kalaloo. Go and paint your world. Gee, Lello & Pulpul these are just some of your favourite colours.

Colour Pencil 6

No need to preserve them like I did, because as you grow up you will need a lot many colours to brighten your life. Colour your days. Your growing up. Colour your childhood. Colour your memories and mine. Don’t worry, you will never run out of kalaloo. For, if they do, I will bring them all for you, my love.

Always Yours,

Mum-um

 

Give a child a box of colours and you will see the brightest smile as pretty as a rainbow.

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Dear Son, Happy Teachers’ Day!

Oh! So it is teachers’ day. Two years down the line, I think there is a long, long way before I graduate from Mommy School. Looking at my parents in their 50’s and 60’s, I wonder if one ever graduates from parenthood! Needless to say that this has been the most active phase of my entire life with never a dull moment. So my darling V, thank you for being the most awesome teacher in my life. Greater than my parents, than the teachers through school and college, greater than life itself!

Happy Teachers' Day

Dear V, thank you for making me,

… a better person,

…more patient,

… more creative (after all, I created you!),

…a better child,

… a willing multi-tasker,

…a not-so-efficient superwoman,

… a wanna-be story teller,

… a not-so-boring workaholic,

… more ambitious,

… a mompreneur,

… a writer,

… a student,

… a teacher,

…. a child (again),

… believe that life is about the small joys,

… see the utility of an empty bowl,

… play like a small child,

… babble like a baby,

… look at the world through your eyes,

… more responsible,

… more adventurous,

… more loving,

… more happy,

… more fat,

… more messy,

… non-organised,

… more rushed,

… more late,

… more happy,

… more content,

…cry more,

… laugh more,

… worry more,

… love more.

Thank you, my darling kiddo, thank you for choosing me to be your student.

Lots of love…may there be more and better lessons down the years,

Mum-um

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When Baba Was A Little Boy… (The One About the Big Fish)

I feel I am a terrible story teller. Ask me to write one, I may dare scribble something readable, but ask me tell you a story, I completely mess it up! Grrr…so after learning how to croon thanks to the endless lullabies V is subjected to each night, I am seriously considering to learn how to tell a tale. Yes…I am contemplating undergoing a story telling workshop now. 🙂

Anyways, this post is not as much about story telling  as much as it is about story writing. It’s been two nights in a row that I started telling stories to V. Not stories that we read and I tell him again. But stories that I have made up. Stories that are borrowed from real life incidents and adapted for Baby V. I am happy to note that on both nights, I could pin him down to close his eyes and listen to the story patiently. And by the time I finished the it, little V was gently snoring.

So here I am sharing my first story. My first story that I wrote for V. 🙂

Baba & baby

WHEN BABA WAS A LITTLE BOY

When Baba was a little boy he loved to eat fish.

Each morning, Thammi would pick out a nice, big piece for Baba to eat at lunch.

Baba would play, bathe and wait for his lunch. “Mumma, I am hungry.  Can I have my lunch?” He would ask.

From the kitchen Thammi would tell Baba, “Yes, Picku…I’m coming! Your lunch is ready!”

A big, juicy piece of fish would be on his plate every day. Steaming hot and deliciously yummy!

 Baba would go chomp, chomp, chomp, eating his fish with great delight.

One day after lunch, Baba was washing his hands and mouth when he thought of something.  He went to Thammi and said, “Mumma, I am a big boy. From tomorrow I want to eat a big fish. I want to grow up faster!”

Thammi smiled at Baba and said, “Why don’t you go and buy your own fish Picku? Go with Baba to the market and you can buy any fish you like!”

Baba’s eyes lit up!

“Really Mumma? Can I really go and buy my own fish?”  Baba asked.

“Yes, my darling! It’s time for you to sleep now.  Why don’t you take a nap now? When you wake up we can talk about which fish you want to buy?” Thammi said and picked by Baba to put him to sleep.

Baba lay down on his cot and closed his eyes. And then he dreamed of all the lovely fish he would see in the market.

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Mothering, Then & Now

This post was originally written for Parentous.

 

Bangla has a few curious words in its dictionary…words that don’t have equivalents in other languages. Take aadikkheta for example. A very difficult word to explain, I just called up Maa to give me an appropriate translation in English or Hindi. She laughed it off, saying that if she had to describe the word to a non-Bengali, it would be safe to say that it loosely translates to ‘over-indulgence’.

Now all my Bengali readers will vouch for the fact that that is just a mild description of the word. Let me give you an example to explain its usage in a common Bengali household. Take for example, me as a mother. No, wait…imagine me as a mother in my previous generation. What if I was my mother’s sister or sister-in-law? I know it’s quite a fanciful piece of imagination, but then, just during the course of this piece, imagine me in my mother’s generation.

So, it is the first pregnancy. The tiny bun is baking in the belly, but the mom couldn’t sit still. Her husband gets her a driver and a cook. She reduces her work hours gradually, takes a little stool to work so she can really put her legs up and rest! She reads up scores of books to understand what’s happening inside her belly. She takes to her bump, tells stories and sings along. She has engaging conversations with her doctor. Her husband accompanies her on every pre-natal check-up. He wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world!

By the time the baby is born the new mother who dotes over her new born son like he is Prince George and the world has been waiting for the son to rise! She would click every yawn, every wink, every smile and coo and turn and wave and bath and play like nobody, nobody has seen such a cute (read: featherless, scrawny, new born) baby! The pictures are not just for her. She would use the power of technology and BBM pictures of the baby to the father who is miles away. So much so, that it becomes nothing less than an obsession! Click, click and click…

The child grows up and it is time to leave his grandparents’ home and go back to Daddy. Normal train travel won’t do, unless it is first class. Baby and mommy travel first class and they never learn to travel any other way.

Mommy returns to work. No, she won’t depend on her mother and mother-in-law to bring up her son. The nuclear family may have its disadvantages, but she will not send her child to a day care. Yes, the child needs his familiar surroundings. So it will have to be a stay-at-home nanny for the boy.

And that is not all. The mother wouldn’t care two hoots to check if the laundry is done, but she would want to know which clothes her son wore all day long. She wouldn’t bother if the pantry is empty and they have to order out, but she would be watchful of her son, sit around creating activities for him. She would read, read and read as much literature available in terms of baby care. Engage with parents. Discuss parenting and its issues. Read blogs. Write some of one’s own. Discover toddler activities and create some for her son. She would sniff out crafts stores and art supplies everywhere she would go. She would hoard bottles, scraps of cardboard and go hunting for packaging boxes. Bottles will be used to make rolling pins. Cardboard would be used to make cut out toys; and boxes to make a garage for the ever growing stack of cars. She would discover her own perfect way of making homemade paints. She would make her own flip board to learn colours. She would buy new books for him and read to him; and let him turn pages and pull some out. She would constantly ideate on how to stimulate him, how to engage him, how to control his tantrums and how to let the discoverer in him take shape.

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If I were in my mother’s generation…this indulgence which to you and me seems the modern age recipe for mothering, would be termed aadikkheta. My scheming sister-in-law would have been jealous that my husband supports my mothering fundas and let’s lose my extravagance. My mother-in-law would have sniggered at my indulgence and with a raised eyebrow said, “As if no one has children! Are you the only mother around?” I would have been termed a bad wife for neglecting my husband and household. I would have been considered a radical for not depending on the great Indian joint-family to raise my baby. I would have been a rebel for wanting to have a career.

Maa often apologises to me. She says, “Sorry, we couldn’t do as much for you!” She also regrets that she couldn’t enjoy ‘motherhood’. She didn’t enjoy her pregnancy and post the birth of her baby, life was made tougher when her mother-in-law fired the maid at home. She would cook, clean and bring us up. She couldn’t complain. She could little more than what others decided for her and her children. Motherhood, Maa says is tougher for us, because we have to handle our careers, lives and homes.

I think otherwise.