Thursday, March 19, 2015

Delightful folktales!

My friend Riti Prasad is on a roll! I have before me her second book for children, Folktales from Around the World. It has five delightful stories, one each from Malaysia, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria and Japan. The book is beautifully illustrated by Navleen Kohli.

The first story tells the tale of a clever mouse deer, who manages to outwit several far more powerful animals in the forest in which he lives.

The next, a Zulu folktale, tells us how stories were born, and is a charming account of a family whose children are hungry for stories, and how the mother's sincere efforts to get them stories bear fruit.

The Czech story is about two sisters, Marushka and Helena, and also why the Czech weather is so unpredictable.  Marushka's efforts to fulfull her  sister Helena's demands take her to the top of the mountain, at the base of which they live with their parents, where she meets the twelve months, who help her. Of course there is a moral too.

The Yoruba tale from Nigeria, about an elephant and a tortoise, is an absolute delight. Anything more about this story would detract from the fun of it!

The Moonflower, a story from Japan, is a beautiful story about a baby girl who is found in the forest by a childless woodcutter, who takes her home to his wife, and they bring her up as their own child.
Once she grows up, her destiny takes an unexpected turn. A gentle, poignant story.

I only wish there had been more stories. These are refreshingly different, and also a reminder of the world's amazingly rich heritage of folk tales.

Published by Mango Books, an imprint of DC Books.
You can order it here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Neighbours!

I first encountered these neighbours last spring, and was delighted to know that they were part of our environs. The husband was more frequently visible, although he'd often perform apparently magical disappearing tricks. I managed to spy his hideaway one day: the hole in the balcony ceiling for a ceiling fan fixture.
Now Mr. And Mrs. Sparrow were lithe and agile creatures,who hopped/flew in and out of their home with alacrity, but it certainly seemed to be a strange place for a nest. The laws of gravity seemed to be beyond the understanding of this couple. ( Besides the fact that the laundry drying on the stands in the balcony was often decorated by bird-droppings).
A couple of eggs smashed onto the floor. I sincerely hoped that Mrs.Sparrow had laid enough eggs for at least some to hatch. And then it was time for me to leave for several weeks, for the birth of my grandchild.
The spouse followed a month later, and the house was closed for about a fortnight.

When I opened the balcony door, I was saddened to see two almost dessicated baby bird carcasses on the floor. I don't know if their were any survivors out of that clutch of eggs.

It's spring again, Mr. Sparrow is visible, while his mate is only heard. I truly wonder at the chances of the survival of their chicks. I am fond of these neighbours and only wish that they weren't such bird brains.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


A lady with whom I have a nodding/smiling  acquaintance accosted me on my walk this morning.

'I haven't seen your mom around for a while,' she said.

'It's been five years since my mother passed away,' I told her.

'Aren't you an artitect (sic)? She had said that her daughter's an artitect. She looks exactly like you.'

Much as I would love to be an artitect/artytect, I respectfully declined.

But there's someone in our complex who's a dead ringer for me!

Maybe I can be a good  'arty'tect.

Especially since I painted a couple of oil paintings in recent months.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Number Love!

The fact that I did not do particularly well in the last maths exam that I appeared for several decades ago does not mean that I do not appreciate the beauty of numbers. I was delighted to learn that my friend Riti Prasad has written a fun maths book for children ( age10and above) and was very pleased when Mango Books (an imprint of DC Books) sent me a copy to review.

Some famous mathematicians find their place in the first chapter of the book- there are brief notes about the ancient Greek mathematicians from Thales, Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes and Erastosthenes, the Indians Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya, Ramanujan and Shakuntala Devi, British contributors such as Ada Lovelace, Bertrand Russell, G.H. Hardy, and Andrew Wiles, as well as Egyptian, European and Iranian mathematicians.I would have loved more details and stories about some of these personalities, such as the legendary Bhaskaracharya lessons to  his daughter Lilavati, and the friendship between Hardy and Ramanujan.

Riti then narrates several delightful stories in which numbers play a central role. "Who Is The Brave Man?" is based on an African folktale. A Liberian folktale forms the basis for the next story, "How Do They Add Up."
A simple and systematic account of Fibonacci numbers makes the beautiful numbering patterns of nature extremely clear.
We have the famous chessboard reward story from India next, as well as a story that involves dividing chapatis!
Another famous story, "The Father's Will", is used to illustrate dividing into fractions.
A Chinese legend illustrates the concept of a magic square. Time cycle and rhythm in Indian music essentially apply the principles of magic square. It also forms the underlying principle of Sudoku and the Rubik's cube.
Each chapter narrates an interesting story about its central concept. There are puzzles and quizzes after each chapter, and the answers are explained clearly and systematically at the back of the book.

It is a compact book with a lot of subject matter. I personally feel that it could be printed in a bigger format, with more illustrations, and in colour. It was extremely interesting even for someone of my age, and helped renew my appreciation of the magic of numbers.

You can order it at:,_facts_and_fiction

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Of the grandchild and brinjals!

My aubergineous article for AntiSerious:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Games weather plays!

Weather in the NCR (National Capital Region) is weird, to say the least.
It has decided to play tricks on me!
(I'm egoistic enough to take it personally).

We had planned to go out last Sunday morning, though the RE wasn't very keen to begin with. I woke up at seven, (planning to wake up the spouse by eight), and peered out of the bedroom window, to see fog so dense that nothing but fog was visible. We have a tall building across the road from us, but there was no building, no road, no compound wall, no green belt: only a dense whiteness. The 'view' from the sitting room window was no better: the neighbouring block of flats had disappeared as well. The maid, however, did come in, a little past her usual time.

We remained fogbound till almost noon.

Mr. Sun, please do not vanish on your day. How can we have a Sunday without you?
Monday was foggy too.

There were very few morning walks happening.
On the last morning of the year, though, a good friend called and we went for a late-ish walk.

I resolved to start the new year with a walk, and I did, although it was grey and cold. (Had a nap later).

We celebrated the first day of the New Year, we had lunch with our kids and their friends at the delightful Cafe Lota. Mr. Sun remained on leave. I missed him.

On the morning of the 2nd, I was up early and got ready: jacket and woolly hat and scarf and all!
I stepped out and was about to lock the front door, when I heard what sounded like shuffling footsteps. I looked out of the lobby window, and it was suddenly, sneakily raining. There went my walk. It was miserably cold and soggy and bleak all day, my least favourite weather.

This morning it wasn't raining, though the road was wet. A few minutes into my walk, there was an almost magical misting of my glasses, and I brushed moisture off my jacket, from the tiniest of miniature droplets, enough to make their presence felt, yet soundless and almost non-existent.

I'm quite enjoying these weather games- I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Happy New Year, gentle readers.
May we all be blessed with a climate of kindness and compassion, and thankfulness for what is.
As Shakespeare wisely said,
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
  Thou art not so unkind
      As man’s ingratitude.....

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities (+ Mixies) aka Things I've Never Been Able to Understand - VII

Although I've been married for ages and been a householder for the longest time, there are certain material objects that I have come to buy myself only in the relatively recent past. The particular object I speak of here is the ubiquitous kitchen blender, what we desis call a 'mixie'

The first one we possessed was, I think, a Moulinex, which my husband bought in Hongkong, before I joined him in our brand new household in Thailand. I have very little recollection of that appliance: it performed its functions well and ultimately conked out after a couple of decades. While I was thinking of buying a replacement, my sister very kindly gave me a spare one that she had, which, though small, was adequate. Once again, while I was thinking of buying a larger, more powerful one a couple of years later, I was pipped to the post by our sons, who presented us with a beautiful Philips Juicer Mixer Grinder on our anniversary. This particular blender was bought in Noida, where we were then stationed. (I found the juicer taking up too much space, besides not being very user friendly, so I packed it away). This beauty served me well for several years, the motor never gave me a single day's trouble, minor repairs of the stainless steel grinding and chutney jars were made at the company's service centre in whichever city we  moved to. Some nine years or so later, however, the large plastic blender jar, source of countless cold coffees and lassi and salted buttermilk and aam panna, disintegrated in my hands, a stream of buttermilk flowing all over the kitchen floor. I trotted down to the trusted service centre, hoping to find a replacement jar, but the ever helpful staff said that the new model jar would not fit my nine year old machine. ( This was not true,  I discovered later).

Summer in Kolkata requires the consumption of plentiful cool and nourishing drinks: salted buttermilk was a breakfast staple, and I had absolutely no desire to use an old fashioned mathani to make it every day. My trusted helper was very pleased at the thought of inheriting my old mixie.
I went to the department store and looked at all the blenders on offer. ( Going to New Market seemed like too much trouble in the heat. South City is air conditioned). After much pottering around and comparison of prices and features, it seemed to make sense to simply replace my old Philips with a new Philips. Which is what I did, and which is when the fun started...........

Brand new blender brought home and unpacked. All jars given to the happy house help to wash and dry, while the old machine and its two surviving jars are packed up and given to her.
The big plastic jar is used the very next morning.It so happens that the steel jars are not immediately used. And then, just a couple of days later, I see an almost inch-long crack on the edge of the larger jar. I rush to the service centre with my three-day old bill. They do not have a replacement in stock, but will inform me as soon as it's available. So Jar No. 1 is eventually changed.  But can the little one be far behind? In a few more days the chutney jar also develops a crack near the rim. This theatre of the absurd continues for the next couple of months: replacement jars one and two are re-replaced.
I also suffer one ridiculous visit from a service engineer who is determined to find something wrong in my treatment of his precious jars- maybe I'm dropping them from a height, or hitting them deliberately with a sledgehammer. My trustee maid and I are both most miserable: she offers to return the old mixie, with its long lasting, intact jars. Of course I decline.

In the meantime, Life happens. We relocate to the NCR. The cracked mixie jars remain on the fringes of my consciousness. I still have a few months of the one-year guarantee period. I write to their head office, and am directed to their Noida service centre. They don't have the jars in stock but will inform me as soon as they arrive.  A few days later they call. The chutney and grinder jars are replaced for the second and fourth time respectively, on the 11th November, 2013. More than a year later, they are, thankfully, both intact.