(चिड़िया और चुरुंगन, श्री हरिवंश राय बच्चन (translated for a friend))

The lil’ birdie hopped out of the nest-

I saw the branches swaying in the wind,
I heard the rustling of the leaves,
And eavesdropped on the leaves whispering to each other;

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait wee bit more.”

I hopped from branch to branch,
I saw the delicate buds, and saw them bloom into flowers,
I flew to the higher branches, and saw the quivering tendrils,
I hopped to the lower branches, and saw the mighty gnarled roots.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

I learned to recognise- the raw fruits from the ripe ones
I ate some, I dropped some others,
And I felt, I could hear my buddies call out for me,
Friends who wanted to share with me, to sing with him.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

I can fly from tree to tree, I can swoop down to the earth,
I can spot a grain flying in the sky,
I know a good grain from a bad one.

“Ma, can I fly away?”
“No my dear, just wait a wee bit more.”

The clear blue sky beckons me,
Someone deep inside urges me to take flight.

“Ma, do I know how to fly?”
“Yes, your wings are strong, they can take the wind,
Your are grown up and ready to take on the world”



I am often quizzed about where I buy books for Aru.  While I do visit Crossword and Landmark occassionally, I have to admit that I am not exactly thrilled by the choices offered by them.  So, I generally keep hunting for kids’ books via different sources.  The list below covers most of our current sources.

In addition to these, there are local bookstores in Pune, who keep a good collection of kids’ literature. I do plan to post a review of the local bookstores in Pune sometime soon 🙂

1) Pratham books

I have ordered quite a few books from them for Aru and they are quite a hit at our place.

I discovered Pratham Books through a friend who has illustrated some of their books.  Her mother works as a Content Director for Pratham, Mumbai.  Pratham is an NGO that works in the field of child education. Pratham Books come from their not-for-profit publishing division.  They endeavour to develop good quality, reasonably priced, supplementary education material primarily for Pre-Primary and Primary school kids. (They are also coming out with curricular and other books for older kids, but that seems like a more recent project.)  The study material gets used primarily in Municipal schools and other schools in relatively poorer neighbourhoods.  So, naturally their books are mainly written in regional languages, which then get translated to different regional languages and also English.

I had seen their Marathi books and found that the content and quality of books was superior to lot of children’s books you’d find in many popular bookstores in Pune. Aru quite liked them when I read them out to her.  So, I went ahead and ordered quite a few books in English.  When they arrived, I was slightly disappointed, mainly with some of the stories, but the disappointment was short-lived.  They instantly clicked with Aru. For one, she could read the ones from the ‘Pre-school category’ all by herself and others with a little help from me – so naturally she was thrilled.  The stories are quite simple and uncomplicated, which I think works very well for kids who are just learning to read, because they can concentrate on reading and still ‘get’ the story.  Personally, I think their books under the ‘Pre-school’ category are great for kids who are just beginning to read.

(Lesson for me – you are not always a good judge of what your child would like to read and like to be read!)

So, there!  Do hop over to their site and discover the khazana of some of the most reasonably priced, very good quality reading material for your kids 🙂

2) Katha

Katha is another popular source of kids’ literature for us.  Their books, however, are more relevant for 3 year and above – though thats my personal opinion.  I bought a couple of Katha books when I visited ‘Sreebhumi’ in Kolkata; Aru was around 2 year old at that time.  They did not click with her.  However, recently Katha books are one of her favourites.

The quality of their books is very good and quite a few of their books have won the ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ awards.  Good stories, very good illustrators who experiment a lot with different forms and styles – overall a very good experience.  They have also come up with some very good books in the ‘Katha World Series’.  ‘Katha World Series’ presents works of some European authors translated into English.

‘The song of the Scarecrow’, ‘The Princes with longest hair’, ‘Mo…aaaning Morris’, ‘A Lion in Paris’ are some of our favourites these days.

3) Tulika Books

Tulika offers a wide variety in kids’ literature.  Their books are very Indian and the stories are based in various parts of India. Various cultures, traditions, behaviours are very naturally incorporated in the stories.  The illustrations depict very Indian images, are mostly in Indian folkart and hence very rich in colour and their form and styles.  Thanks to Tulika, Kolam and uruli are part of Aru’s vocabulary 🙂

Tulika is also a very good source of bi-lingual books.  This may appeal to Indians settled in other countries who want to introduce their kids to their mother tongue.  They also have picture books for very young kids – 6 month – 1yr olds 🙂

4) Karadi Tales

Karadi tales are also integral part of our lives these days 🙂  From the site you can see that they have audiobooks, picturebooks, video books a.k.a DVDs etc., however, our experience is limited to their audiobooks.  In audiobooks they have a good collection of mythological stories, folk tales, panchatantra stories, kids’ rhymes (rhymes which have a very indian theme).  The Karadi Rhymes are simply loved at our place.  The stories are narrated by Karadi, the bear, their main storyteller.  Lending their voice to Karadi are some very well known theatre personalities in India like Saeed Jaffery, Naseeruddin Shah, Tom Alter, Girish Karnad, so you can rest assured that the narration will be superb.  The style of narration is very good, the characters are very colourful and have very interesting names – a crow couple is called Kala and Karupi, the stories are interspersed with songs, there are very vivid descriptions of the settings.

They also offer bi-lingual books.  We own their audiobooks in both English and Hindi.  However, I have to admit that we like their Hindi books more than the ones in English.  I think the drama, songs and dance etc. creates more impact in your own language.  In English they sound too polished and sophisticated 🙂  This is ofcourse my personal opinion!

5) Jyotsna Prakashan

Jyotsna guys are fairly well-known in Pune.  I think, in general, they are pretty well-known amongst the Marathi speaking populace.  I was introduced to Jyotsna by a friend when he gifted Aru a set of 6 booklets by Madhuri Purandare.  During same time Jyotsna had come up with some very good set of books for teenagers – Marathi translations of Iranian stories by some famous Iranian authors.  These books retained the original illustrations from Iranian books.  I bought a couple of them and quite liked them.  Lateron, English translations of these books were also published by Jyotsna.  I liked the books so much that I bought the entire set of books for Aru; to be read when she grows up 🙂  ‘Vachu Aanande’ by Madhuri Purandare, also from Jyotsna is another very good compilation from them – a must for all Maharashtrian households with kids.  So, the crux of the matter is that they have very good Marathi books for kids.

Their website is not of much use, however, if one is in Pune one can easily find their books in local bookstores.

6) Tara Books

Tara books are a class apart!  And no, we don’t own any Tara books nor have we seen any, but I surely have reasons why I want to own some.  Their books are presented in a lot of Indian folk styles – Patua from West Bengal, Warli from Maharashtra, Gond Tradition from MP and many mmore.  Their books are priced slightly on the higher side, however, I think if you have a look at the books, the prices will seem justified.

Ta Ra Rum Pum

May 11, 2007

We happened to see “Ta Ra Rum Pum” last weekend.  

Our two year old keeps demonstrating, in one way or the other, that she would like to have some exciting night-life, so we went for a 9 to 12 show.  At other times, the choice of movie would have been important.  However, these days other factors like- the lil’ one has had a good afternoon nap, her dad too is well rested, the lil’ has had a good meal and is in a good mood, all weekend chores are over etc. are the deciding factors.  If all these conditions are met, we just land up at the multiplex and watch whichever movie tickets we can manage to get. The actual movie is much lower on the priority list. 

“Ta Ra Rum Pum” is our good old, tried and tested rich boy, poor girl love story, happy marriage, loving family, cute kids, post-marriage turbulence, some adversities and then a happy ending.  Thers isn’t much to talk about.  The best part of the movie was the song with this bear-family- Ta, Ra, Ma and Pa.  Yes, those were the names of the family members.  Aru loved it!  That was the only time she stopped playing with her toys and paid some attention.

Go for it, if and only if, you are dying for some outing, just because you’ve been confined to indoors with a sick child for the past month and a half.  That was my motivation.  You can find yours!!!

The Namesake

May 4, 2007

We watched ‘The Namesake’ sometime in March. 

I had read the book a couple of months back.  Though I wouldn’t heap adjectives while expressing my opinions of the book, it definitely is a good read.  That is, I wouldn’t say it is a must-read, but you’d enjoy it if you happen to read it.  The book captures the ambitions, dilemma, dreams, anguish, trumoil of Indians who take the bold step of making another country their home.  And then, it goes ahead and captures the very same emotions of second generations Indians, in an altogether different setup.  Though the story uses the backdrop of a Bengali family, I’m sure even people from other communities- Gujratis, Maharashtrians, Keralites, Andhraites will be able to identify themselves in the pages of the book and in the screens of the movie. 

I found the movie a bit fast paced, but Mira Nair never loses control of the movie.  Tabu, Irfan Khan and Kal Penn are too good.  They transform a good movie into a “must-watch” movie.  You can almost feel Ashima’s pain in Tabu as she struggles to come to terms with her loneliness and tries to become independent as her children grow up and start distancing themselves.  You can feel Ashoke’s discomfort in Irfan Khan as Gogol’s girlfriend hugs him or his aloofness when he interacts with his children.  Fathers in many very traditional Indian families are generally not very demonstrative of their love for their children and Irfan Khan captures the awkwardness well in his interactions with his son.  You can feel Gogol’s anguish on having so unusual a name.  You become part of Gogol as he transforms from Gogol to Nikhil to Nik and nowhere do you feel like admonishing him for distancing himself from his real self, because deep inside you, you somehow know all along that Gogol will come to terms with his identify as we all do.  We could’ve done without some of the sequences in the movie as they only come in the way of narration and don’t really augment the storyline.  I wonder what Mira Nair was thinking while filming the dance on old hindi movie songs, on Gogol and Moushumi ‘s wedding night.  It was not funny, it was not required, it simply jumps at you without warning and you just wait for it to get over and for the story to move forward.  I think it is very easy to give in to the temptation of a little bollywood style masala 🙂 

All in all ‘The Namesake’ definitely provides some food for thought- the movie as well as the book.  I would definitely recommend it to all my friends.  If you can afford the luxury of reading the book, please do read it.  If not, do watch the movie over some weekend.  You don’t necessarily have to go in for both.  I had to, for being part Bengali myself.

Last week, while I was vacationing in Nagpur, I happened to watch ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’. To be frank I regretted every bit of my decision. KANK happens to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever watched. It fails on each front- the story, the story telling, direction, acting, editing, songs- everything.

The basic story- two married individuals falling in love and the repercussions of their actions – is probably ok. However, the director presents it in a very very unconvincing manner. It’s all very bookish. It all looks like someone’s bad imagination. To begin with, there seems to be no solid ground for Maya (Rani Mukherjee) to be unhappy about her marriage. And if there is, atleast it isn’t brought out well. It’s like a forced discord. Maya is supposed to be this- mature, brooding, thinking, serious, introverted person. Oh! By the way, you don’t know this because of the movie, it’s because she keeps repeating this about herself, berating poor Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan), whom she ends up marrying for not a very well thought out reason. The differences shown are very superficial. The Dev-Rhea (Shahrukh Khan-Preity) marriage atleast has some good reason for not working out.

Amitabh is shown very caricaturish, and I HATE it.

You just don’t remember any songs after you come out of the theatre, and the ones you’ve been bombarded with continuously on the television are difficult to place in the movie

It seems like a movie about two losers, but the movie does not generate any sympathy for the two of them. If you tell a story about losers you atleast have to make the viewers empathize with them. Like like … Sunil in ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’. You loved Sunil- with all his blunders, mistakes, failures. You wanted to forgive him for everything, yes, even for those faked marksheets 🙂 Oh! But, how could I forget, “Kabhi Haan, Kabhi Naa” was also a comedy. Whereas KANK is supposed to be serious stuff. In KANK, you feel bored with Rani’s incessant weeping and Shahrukh’s continuous shrieking. Or maybe the movie was supposed to be about “love”. “Love” that does not care for societal pressures. Bold love, brash love. Alas! It isn’t even that.

So, my advice is- stay away from it. Even if you get free tickets along with a dinner invitation in a funky restaurant. Somethings just aren’t worth it.

And please don’t believe those reports about KANK being a hit. A person will have to be braindead to like this movie. I’m not saying KANK will not be able to recover it’s money or it’d lose money. Those days are over. I only want to say, that if you love movies just stay away from it. There are far better ways of spending money and time.