Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beastly Tales - and a poem

I read out Vikram Seth's Beastly Tales from here and there to Puttachi recently. We don't read much of poetry together, and this was a change. Some of the stories were familiar fables, from Panchatantra or Aesop,  with a different spin on it, and we didn't know the others. Initially, all the stories ended not very pleasantly, and though we were having fun with the reading, Puttachi wasn't very happy.

But by the time we reached The Cat and the Cock, things had become better. The repetitive nature of some stanzas in The Cat and the Cock caused us great enjoyment, and we repeated them together and swayed to the rhythm and the cadence.

At about this time, we started speaking in couplets in general conversation, taking care to rhyme the last two words, resulting in a lot of merriment.

The Elephant and the Tragopan was my personal favourite, as it beautifully explained real-life problems of the world - about man assuming that the earth and everything in it exists only for his benefit, and not caring about animals and their habitat. I think this will be a great introduction to children about the danger to ecology due to human greed. It didn't have a very happy ending, though.

Also, some of the humour and the issues in all the poems were a little too much for Puttachi to understand. I explained what I could, but I think that an adult or an older child will enjoy it better.

Anyway, the greatest achievement of this book, for me, was that it inspired Puttachi to write her first poem. Here it is:

At the Sea

My hair
Rustles in the air
I am sailing into sea
As blue as can be.

The waves splash against the ship
Seagulls squawk and nip,
Oh, wonderful is the sea,
As blue as can be.

The waves are so high,
So high! Oh my!
Darker and darker gets the sea,
But it is still as blue as can be.

The ship sails to land,
I swing down onto the sand,
I look back at the sea,
As blue as can be.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Two things that made me do a double-take

So you think that I'm exaggerating, huh, when I say that living in the Bay Area is like living in India? Yesterday, in the Target parking lot, I saw a car, with the words "Ati vega, Tithi Bega*" written on its bumper - in Kannada. I didn't miss autorickshaws at all :D

*Loosely translated, it means "Excess speed (on the road) will lead to your funeral rites being performed early."


I had been to a social gathering last evening, where I was given the ele-adike (betel leaves and nuts) and arishina-kunkuma (turmeric-vermillion) and fruits. But when I laid it all out after I came home, something looked very off. And then I realized. The dakshine (a token amount of money) given to me along with all that, was a dollar. If it had been a rupee coin or note, I wouldn't have felt that anything was amiss!

Thursday, October 15, 2015


The weather today is like, if this had been Bangalore, I would have thought, "Hmm, it is going to rain today".

There would be a faint hint of petrichor in the wind, and a distant rumbling of thunder. The sky would be that beautiful shade of purple-grey. The wind would make the door slam loudly in someone's house. The household help of the aunty next door would hurry to the terrace to bring the clothes in from the clothesline.

Puttachi would call me from the clubhouse and sa...y that she felt a raindrop on her nose. S would call and say that he is on the bus and it is raining cats and dogs and that he is stuck at Silk Board. My mom would call and say, "I hear it is raining in your area? Not a cloud in sight here."

The house would darken suddenly, as if it were 7 pm, not 5 pm, and the skies would open up. I would make myself a cuppa and watch the rain.

But it is not Bangalore.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reading out Harry Potter to Puttachi

In summer of 2014, Puttachi and I started something momentous--me reading out books to her. Until then, I had not read out full-length books to her, and I had definitely not read any to her after she started reading on her own. Even when she couldn't read yet, I narrated stories to her--hardly ever read out to her.

So when we started with the first book in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage--Magyk, we didn't know that we were launching ourselves into a lovely journey, one that I hope goes on for a long long time.

We finished the seventh and last book of the Septimus Heap series a few days before we left India. In fact, on the evening that we finished it, we went to the bookshop and bought the first book of Harry Potter, because both of us were feeling empty-ish and we wanted to jump into the next experience immediately.

I started reading Harry Potter to her on the day before we left India, and then read quite a bit of it in Hong Kong airport. We finished the first book a couple of weeks after we came here to the US.

There were many differences between reading Septimus Heap and Harry Potter. For one, both of us were discovering Septimus Heap together, and so we were walking hand in hand, peering around the corners, discussing heatedly about what is going to happen. And experiencing the joy of discovery together.

But it is different in Harry Potter. I have read the books, and watched the movies. I am in the know here. And I think Puttachi is not entirely happy about that. One more thing about my reading Harry Potter is that unconsciously, I read dialogues in the style of the actors in the movies. I realized this when Puttachi once told me, "Say this dialogue like Snape, amma!" So unfortunately, I've been doing a Hagrid voice and an Hermione voice and a Ron voice, and a Prof McGonagall voice complete with the British accent. Puttachi really enjoys it, but I'm feeling bad that I'm not allowing her to imagine it by herself!

We are now three books down--finished Prisoner of Azkaban a couple of days ago. And she loves it. But Septimus Heap still rules her heart--after all, that was her first foray into the world of fantasy. (Btw I think that Angie Sage deserves more recognition. She is in no way a lesser writer than Rowling is. Her world is as detailed and mesmerizing and real, if not more, than Rowling's world.)

Anyway, back to Harry Potter--since I know the story, it is hard for me to keep a straight face and not react when Puttachi wonders aloud about whether a character is good or bad or what his or her fate is, or what the point is of an incident.

It is all I can do to maintain a poker face when she says things like "Amma somehow I feel Snape is not a bad man. I think he just doesn't like children, and doesn't know how to behave politely with people that's all." And I go, "Mm-hmm."

I told her that I'd stop at Book Three and read the rest next year because it is going to get darker, but she is not ready to listen to me. She wants to read on. And her justification is, "Even Septimus got scarier with each book. But you read on because you didn't know what was going to happen, and you also wanted to know. In Harry Potter, just because you know what is going to happen, you are not reading further. How should I feel?"

And then she goes on, "Your imagination is probably scarier than mine, and so you think it is scary. Or it is because you have watched the movies and have got scared by it. See, you and Harry are so scared of the dementors, but I didn't find them scary at all. In the same way, I'm sure I won't find the rest of the books scary."

I think she has a point. I'm on the verge of caving in.

Thursday, October 08, 2015


A friend had once told me, a few years after she moved to the US, about how different she found the skies here. I remember thinking, "Whaaat? Isn't it the same sky?"

No, it isn't. Or at least, it doesn't seem like it.

The blue is bluer here. More striking. More intense. The clouds are different. More scattered. Feathery, dotted. (Once I look up their names, I'll come back and edit this post and sound more scholarly.)

The sunshine itself is more intense. It makes me want to shut my eyes (or wear sunglasses).

The night sky too, is different. I look up and search for Orion, the constellation that I know best. And I don't find it. There are other constellations, of course, and there are some good apps that help me learn to recognize them. But yet, the three stars of Orion's belt has always been there in the sky, and to not find them is disconcerting.

The moon is brighter. As if it is a lamp of a higher wattage. And I think it looks bigger too.

Also, in the part of the world I am in, I can see more of the sky. In Bangalore, my line of sight was usually interrupted a short distance away by a high-rise building. The vistas are more sweeping here, and I get to see a greater chunk of the sky.

And another thing. It is a strange feeling to see 5-6 planes in the sky at the same time.

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