Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writing Workshop for Children

I'm conducting a free 2-hr workshop for children - designed to recognize good writing, so that children can learn to use it in their writing, and recognize why they like the books they read.
Ages: 8-14
Date: 5th August, Saturday
Time: 2:30 to 4:30 pm.
Entry Free
Venue: Aakruti Books, 3rd block Rajajinagar, Bangalore
Email: guruve@gmail.com for confirmation, or you can confirm on the event page below
https://www.facebook.com/events/211287759401133/

Friday, July 28, 2017

Published in Huffington Post!

Perhaps my most-shared article of all time - and I've got some tremendous, loving feedback on this. So pleased I could write this.

My Journey as a Person Who Stammers

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Preorder now! - Manya Learns to Roar

As my India trip progresses, I'm whirled here and there by events and visits and meetings, breakfasts, lunches, dinners -- and amidst all that, this exciting event which, honestly, needs all the space in my mind to process and digest.

Here's the latest - you can now preorder Manya Learns to Roar!

What it is about:

Manya badly, badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film and she knows all the lines. She's sure she'll be a superb Shere Khan.

But not everyone thinks so. Her classmate Rajat is always making fun of her stammer. Her English teacher thinks its risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree. 

The more anxious Manya gets, the worse her stammer becomes. Will Manya lose her dream role? Can she overcome her fears and learn to roar?

This book was a winner in the Children First writing competition, organised by Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts and Duckbill Books

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pictures and experiences - Sunday storytelling at Cubbon Park

Lush green surroundings. Fresh, cool breeze. An energetic, bubbling crowd.

What more could I ask for? I had a lovely time narrating the story of Avani and the Pea Plant this Sunday.

It was an event organized by The Hindu, among many other events - to celebrate Cycle Day. I was there on behalf of Pratham Books.

So many people turned out to cheer me on and support me - ex-classmates, ex-colleagues, childhood friends, blogger friends, my parents of course - it was lovely!

Here are some pictures until I can find some words to describe how it felt! Or perhaps I should just let the pictures do the talking for me.






Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sunday Storytelling at Cubbon Park

Please do attend!

http://blog.prathambooks.org/2017/06/sunday-storytelling-at-cubbon-park.html

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cover Reveal!

Coming Soon!

My latest book Manya Learns to Roar, published by Duckbill Books, in the Children First series. Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan.




Bangalore's weather

The thing about the weather in Bangalore/Mysore is that the weather is a non-issue.

You just don't think of it. You don't need to fight it. It is not constantly on your mind. You don't have to allocate any mental resources into planning your outfit, your footwear, your activities based on the weather. You can wear whatever you are in the mood for. It is not like you sit down to do something but half your brain is telling you that you are too hot or too cold, or your extremities need some covering up or airing.

You can just be.

The fact you don't have to think about Bangalore's weather is the most attractive thing about it.

The only reason that I'm (ironically) spending so much time thinking about Bangalore's weather is that I'm here after two years, and looking at it with new eyes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Photo essay - bench love

I have long been an admirer of benches, and photograph them often. I keep uploading some photographs of benches on a Facebook album. (you can follow my public posts here (https://www.facebook.com/shruthi.rao.writes)

I was asked to do a photo-essay on benches by CafĂ© Dissensus - and here it is!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Avani and the Pea Plant on SoundCloud

Sometimes it pays to indulge your ego and google the names of your books. Look what I found!



The story has been read out (so well!) by RJ Siri of Radio Mirchi (Mirchi RJ Siri), and the information on the site says that this is a part of Lend Your Voice campaign, supported by Paani Foundation.

Don't know anything else about it. If anybody has an idea about this campaign, how and why they chose these stories, etc., please let me know!

The story of my glasses

In Hawaii, I wore my glasses when I went into the sea. (I'd forgotten to take them off.) We were in waist-high water. A particularly large wave took me by surprise, and I went under. I could feel my glasses being pulled away from my face. I flailed around for my glasses, but no luck. By the time the water receded a little - in just two seconds - a thousand thoughts had flitted through my head.

"My glasses are gone. How stupid of me. Have to manage with lenses for the rest ...of the vacation. Can I get temp glasses anywhere close by? Too small a place. Will take time. How stupid of me. How'll I manage? What'll I do? How stupid of me. First order of things the moment I get back is to rush to an optometrist. Which one? The one I went to last time didn't have a good selection. How stupid of me." And so on.


As I turned to S to tell him what happened, I felt something stick-like under my foot. "Watch out, another big wave!" said S, but I just pressed the object into the sand with my foot, held onto S, and plunged in. I picked up the object and came up just as the second wave washed over us. When the wave receded, I looked at the object - and yes, my glasses. Intact!

I couldn't believe that the ocean gave my glasses back to me.

Three weeks later, I was playing basketball with Puttachi. And the glasses fell, and broke. The irony, I tell you.

I've got new glasses now.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ten

Puttachi turned 10 on 23rd. Yes, TEN. Double digits.

This growing up. It is delightful and terrifying, joyous and heartbreaking -- all at the same time.

To all the readers who've been with me since the beginning of the journey with Puttachi, and those who joined along the way - thank you. I would have noted and documented whatever I did anyway, whether anybody was reading it or not. But the fact that people were enjoying it, appreciating it, and drawing strength from it -- it made my attempts even more meaningful.



Monday, May 01, 2017

Hawaii - Day 5, 6 and 7

Day 5 - We went to Pearl Harbor (Puttachi was very interested in it because she'd read an article on it) We did go inside and see the place, but unfortunately, we couldn't get a seat on the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial (just call it bad planning). Puttachi was deeply disappointed, but she and I decided to be content that we did get to go to the site. There were other museums too, which we couldn't see. Ah well, anyway. As I said, some bad planning, and some bad decisions. What is a holiday without that, eh?

Then we went snorkelling in Hanauma Bay.


All the snorkelling experiences I had heard of involved going in a boat to the middle of the ocean, and a kind of guided snorkelling experience. But this was different. The friends we'd been with had done it before, and so, based on their experience, we rented gear, and just got into the bay by ourselves. Getting used to the snorkel, and more than that, getting used to breathing through your mouth is not at all as easy as I thought. After a few mouth breaths, the body screams for a nose breath, and to tell your brain to shut up and not panic is not that easy (needs time and patience, which we didn't really have.)

So not only did it take a while to get used to it, but the breathing in and out failed me when I was in 6-foot deep water and I panicked and clung to S at the same time that Puttachi had a mini-fright and she clung to S too, and he was amazingly collected and cool in the crisis (and earned my renewed undying admiration) as he led us calmly to shallow water. That was it -- I had had enough of it (besides I can't see very clearly without glasses, and I wasn't wearing lenses and so I couldn't really appreciate whatever fish I saw.) I went out onto the beach, and then Puttachi went back in again with S and had another little fright, but came back fine. I can see how snorkelling might be a good experience, but I think I'm done with it (until next time of course, haha).

Day 6 - I had hoped to do the hike to the Albatross sanctuary (this was what I'd been hoping for, really, the most) - but heavy rain washed out the whole day. We did give it a try -- the rain stopped for a bit, and we went to the starting point of the hike, but it was a dirt track, and extremely slippery. So we just came back. And good that we did, because it rained again heavily.

The good thing was that we got to experience a real tropical thunderstorm after such a long time, after the "fake rain" (as Puttachi calls it) of California. And it was nice to curl up in a hammock and read, as Puttachi demonstrates here.


We walked a little, to the nearby Makaha beach, and the kids played in the sand. And I successfully got a picture of the gorgeous blue-green that I wanted to capture:



In the evening, we went to the beach again to play in the water -- a little beach three houses away from our house. It was like a private beach, and the waves were the best I've seen. Strong and exciting, and at the same time, it was safe.



The greatest plus point was that this remote, obscure beach that nobody knows about (except for the people who live on that little lane) is the chosen hangout for endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. There are boards on the beach asking us not to touch or go near these beautiful creatures. One turtle seemed to be basking on the beach all the time, and a couple of them swam with us, even brushing past us oh-so-casually. Truly a wild and unique encounter.
.



Day 7 - An early start, a last cup of tea on the fabulous patio overlooking the ocean, and then off to the airport.

Hawaii - Day 3 and Day 4

Day 3 - Waimea Valley. Primarily a botanical garden, this was a beautiful, soothing haven of green. It was drizzling throughout, and was a true tropical paradise. Saw many familiar trees, and many strange ones that I'd never seen before.
Was a sight for my eyes - they might not look so spectacular to those of you who live in tropical areas, but for me, starved of this thick, dense, wild kind of greenery, it was like going home.





After that, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Touristy place, but they've done it up well. And you can really spend days here if you are so inclined. You can experience a sample of the culture of different Polynesian islands (Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and so on) in each little village. There are popular shows by talented young people (many of who study in the university on the island). There are cuisines you can taste, dances you can learn, traditional games you can play, canoes you can ride, traditional crafts you can learn, things you can buy - and many more touristy things to do.
Only one picture from here for you - since most of the pictures have us in them. :) Do click on the link above for a good idea of the place.



Day 4 - I really, really wanted to go to this Albatross sanctuary very near where we lived, but we'd booked a Dolphin encounter at Sea Life in the afternoon, and we knew we wouldn't have enough time to finish the hike to the sanctuary and reach Sea Life in time, and so we just went to Sea Life directly.

There was an aviary where we could feed birds, and at one point, there were 5 birds sitting on me, eating out of my hand (literally) and trying to peck at my hat, looking for, perhaps some soft straw to line their non-existent nests with?

And then we went and saw the dolphin show (which made me bawl very publicly -- full of tears and snot -- to see those wonderful animals forced to jump and show off for us stupid humans.) Yet, I was hypocritical enough to go to the Dolphin Encounter to see the dolphin from up close and pose for photographs. Can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to get close to a dolphin and touch it -- those lovely eyes, and that smiling-like mouth --  how can you not fall in love with those creatures?

Right after the show, we went to a beach right across (Sherwood I think it was called) and wallowed in the water for hours, before going back home.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Hawaii - Day 1 and Day 2

Day 1 - This was a very long day. We left California in an early morning flight, and were in Honolulu before noon local time. We checked into the home we'd rented, and in the evening, went to check out the local beaches. We swam in the nearby Makaha beach. The others went beach hopping, but I went back to the house to rest -- I had a bad  headache. I just sat looking at the ocean and listening to the sounds and felt so much better.



Day 2 - Hiked up Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone. It was a hot day and it wasn't a very easy hike.
Diamond Head (Le'Ahi)

Views from the top:


Honolulu


That evening, we went into the sea again. Okay, not me. I am strictly not a big fan of the sand. I love the sea. LOVE it. But wet sand - I can do without. So I just took some pictures. But this was the last time I avoided the sea. Let's just say I love the waves too much.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Moods of the Ocean

Here are a series of photos of the same two chairs at the vacation home that we had rented in Hawaii, taken at different times of the day, and different weathers.








Hawaii



More than 20 years ago, I read Hawaii by James Michener and was taken with the story and history of the place, and I immediately knew that someday I would just have to visit the place.

Last week, during spring break, we did go. Yes, it was beautiful. But to tell you the truth, it was a slight let down. Let me explain. Yes, it is really beautiful, and all that it is touted to be. It is just that I had imagined this place of wonder, a paradise, an exotic escape - something that had to be seen and experienced. But in reality, it is a combination of Kerala/coastal Karnataka/Western Ghats/Goa. Once again, don't get me wrong - these are beautiful places and among my most favourite places in the world, places that I love to keep going back to. But my point is that Hawaii was not so different!

There are differences, of course. For instance, when the sun is out, the blue of the Hawaiian Pacific is such a light, ethereal colour that I can't stop looking it. Almost as good as the deep rich blue of the Pacific in California that I love so much.

Everything else brought back memories of India. The weather, for instance. You, yes you, who are standing right now in the balcony at 10 o clock at night with only a thin half-sleeved t-shirt on, you are very, very lucky. Even on the hottest days here in the Bay Area, I can't go out at night with a thin t-shirt, because the night invariably gets cold. And even if the night is warm, I have to carry a jacket with me because you never know when the night's mood will change!

Back to Hawaii - the flora was so familiar. I exclaimed at the profusion of coconut trees, mango trees, the plumeria (the place is full of blooming, fragrant plumeria!) and a host of other familiar trees which I greeted like they were old friends.


We went to the island Oahu - which would  not have been our first choice, but we were going with someone who had already been to Big Island and Maui.

Anyway, now that I have gotten all that out of the way, I'll put up some posts in the next couple of days about what we did, and of course, more pictures of the ocean!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The history of Lalbagh's trees - article in BLink

If you've walked at Lalbagh, you've seen, no, experienced those gorgeous trees. But if you're like me, I bet you wouldn't have realized that many of those trees are from across the world, and some are extremely rare. And many of them have a story behind them, and there's rich history in every corner of Lalbagh. I wrote about some of that history in this week's BLink.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Getting your child to speak to you about her day

"How was school today?"

"Fine."

"What did you do?"

"Nothing."

Does that sound familiar? Exasperating, no? But how do you get kids to talk about their day?

Some time back, I read a list of questions that you could ask kids so that they open up to you about school. The questions in that link is a good start, but you can evolve what works best for you, depending on your child's age and interests.

I juggle questions, mix them up, ask some more than I do others, but here is an example of some of the questions I ask Puttachi:

- So what made you laugh today?

- Did you see anybody do something kind today?

- Tell me what the worst moment was for you today.

- Did you feel scared?

- Did anybody bother you today?

- Did you help anybody today?

- Did anybody help you today with something?

- Was the teacher happy or upset with anybody from your class today?

- Did anything make you angry/annoyed today?

- Did anything make you happy today?

- What was the best part of your day?

- If you could change one thing about today, what would it be?

Btw one question that ALWAYS gives me an enthusiastic response is this:
"Did anybody get hurt at school?"  Because somebody always falls down or hurts themselves during play break, and children are utterly fascinated by bruises and scratches and falls.

And when children open up about something, you can follow up on it the next day. For instance, if the child has told you yesterday, "Mr. M spoke sharply to D because he was disrupting the class." Today you can ask, "Was D better-behaved during class today?"

These questions are also a good way to reinforce kind behaviour. For instance, when Puttachi tells me, "G was crying today." I ask her, "Did you try to find out why, or did you say or do anything to her to make her feel better?"  That way, Puttachi knows what is expected of her.

Another thing is, when she starts speaking about her day/emotions/feelings, I try not to interrupt her for any reason. I allow her to retain the flow, though sometimes it is tempting to stop and correct her pronunciation or language, etc.

I'd be interested to know if you've tried something that works for you,



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