Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting the cheer back in Diwali

I was chatting with friends a few days back and I found myself saying with a sigh, 'I wish Diwali was already over. It's a bit of a pain, right?' And that friend replied, 'Not really. I like Diwali, it's fun.' It might count that he was a 'he', wasn't a mum, wasn't even married for that matter. But the thing that struck me was, 'Hey! I used to think like that. When did Diwali become a drag for me? When did I stop missing putting out the diyas, doing up the house, dressing up in new clothes?'

Me the Scrooge

It happened slowly, over the years, ever so slowly that I didn't notice. It happened when all of that became a compulsion. I've shared how I felt many times here on the blog. I even took Lakshmi ji to task. Jokes apart, Diwali to me had come to mean loads of cleaning, wading through crazy crowds, trying to drive bargains and draining out my bank account handing out those bonuses.

However, that's not what festivals are supposed to be about right? Well, they are, but they are more about being happy and excited and content and about spreading cheer and making everyone happy while also being happy yourself. 

So this year I decided I'd put the cheer back into my Diwali. I needed to, specially since The Husband might not be home this time. The key, I realised, is to lower expectations and do more fun stuff with the kids. It helps immensely that at 8 years they are older and a little less of a pain. (I cannot believe I just said that!!)

So I drew up a 'Will' and 'Won't' list for myself. Take a look.

I won't

Dive into closets and lofts for that once a year cleaning.
Trawl the old city for the best idols, the 'different' diyas, the cheapest bargains.
Worry myself sick about visitors.
Try to clear up the kids' cupboards or their room (Whew! Such a load off, already).
Go ballistic yelling at them to clear up either.
Try to keep a democratic approach with them (This one is HARD).
Try to say 'Yes' to them as much as possible. (I have good friend Shailaja to thank for this tip).

I Will

Put out fresh (not necessarily new) covers.
Put up the pretty stuff I've bought for Diwali.
Order gifts online.
Paint diyas with the kids.
Try new crafts with them.
Have a few festive foods like the mandatory Yam (So we don't turn into chhuchhundars in the next life!) and a simple sweet like a kheer or the super easy atta laddoos which we make together.
Buy lots of sweets.
Hand over the bonuses with a smile and without a grudge because the people around me do make my life simpler and happier.

The list comes with a word of caution to myself:
- The house will not be as clean as I would like it to be or as it used to be
- The food will not be as elaborate
- The gifts will not be as glorious

The democratic approach

Starting from there we've spent the past few days happily cleaning up TOGETHER. 
The kids made out lists of things they would do and the things they wanted me to do for them. They allocated cleaning one small area (a drawer, one shelf of a cupboard) each day to themselves. H even included 'not trouble N' in his list! Now that's a time-saver if ever there was one. Their lists for me were, of course, much longer (buy crackers, help us paint diyas) but that was fine.

Our fun times

Since painting diyas was top of the list, that's what we started off with. Midway through it N wanted a dance break so we put on some LOUD music and she danced. Then we got back to work. After a while she wanted to invite her friend over. And we did just that.

We tried making jam jar lanterns for which we'd been saving for some time. After a few mishaps they turned out fine. Take a look.

Here's what we did..
We pasted cello tape. Then painted them with fevicol, then applied powder glitter. We intended to peel off the tape later but we couldn't find the tape and ended up peeling off much of the glitter. So next time we left the ends clearly visible. Like this...

... and then peeling it off was a cakewalk.

We stuck on some sequins and ended with some ribbon and gota. All we need now is for some candles to go in and we're done.

And we tried some damage control. We pasted kite paper hearts on the really bad ones. Once the candle lights it up, we're hoping it'll look just as good as the others.

Then we wondered what to do with the bottle caps. So we made them into tea-light holders.

This was easy. And here's a tip: Use a toothpick to pick up the tiny sequins. Once the kids got a hang of it, it was fun.

To our surprise and happiness they even floated on the water so now we have ended up making floating candles! Yay!

There's a few days to go for the big day and we've had a relatively peaceful time. We still have some more things in mind which we might try out. But I'm not pushing it.

So what would your 'Will-Do-Won't-Do' list look like? Of course it might be completely different from mine. If you love cooking that'll feature big time or if you love to shop, city shops might be fun. The thing is to list and prioritise. 

Happy Diwali!!

Come join a set of fabulous bloggers sharing their Diwali moments , easy Crafts, DIY ideas, Recipes and book recommendations with you .

Starting from today till Diwali and beyond, each one of us will be writing a post related to Diwali.
Participating blogs
So sit back, relax and check out all the fabulous Diwali Dhamaka posts from the participating blogs in the linky.
Link in your Diwali posts here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My five favourite mums

It's Day 4 of the Write Tribe's super initiative '7 days of rediscovering your blogging grove' Where we blog seven days in a row according to a format. The idea is inspired by Darren Rowse. We've done a list , answered a question, written a review  and today, we share our favourite links.

And so here I am, listing links from five wonderful mothers who I enjoy reading. This in no way is a comprehensive list.


The blog chronicles the homeschooling journey of 8 year old Pari by her mother Rashmie. It is a wonderful mix of learning and fun, art and activities, music and photography. And it's a storehouse of ideas on teaching kids, talking to them and reaching out to them.


I have blogged about the mad momma earlier. A more straight-from-the-heart, no nonsense blog you'll not find. This isn't strictly a mommy blog because the mad momma writes pretty much about anything that catches her fancy. But it's all immensely relatable.


This one's my 'go to' place for crafts, activities, recipes, DIYs. It's crammed with creative fun ideas on every topic under the sun.


This one kicked off as a baby-book by stay-at-home mom Jill Smokler. I love it for it's irreverent take on parenting. It's funny and witty and useful. I love the listicles posted here. There is even a confessional where you can spill all your bad-momma feelings.


Momofrs' blog Mothering Multiples was one of the first few blogs I started reading after I got back to the real world post the twins' arrival in my life. Here's another lady who writes from the heart and is unflinchingly honest - too unflinchingly honest sometimes. She has twins, like me; a boy and a girl - like me and it's super fun to read her stories which seem sometimes like an uncanny retelling of my own.

So there, those are my favourite links.
For more link posts go on over to the Write Tribe blog.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Book Thief - A Book Review

The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

The Book Thief, set in a small German town  during the 2nd World War, tells the story of a young girl Leisel Meminger. It opens with her being taken to a foster home along with her brother. On the way her brother dies and has to be buried. That's where Leisel steals her first book - A Gravedigger's Handbook. She preserves it as the last link to her family even though she cannot read.

With the help of her gentle foster father, Hans, she learns to read falling in love with the written word. The book talks of her journey as she grows into an aggressive yet sensitive, football playing, boy bashing, book loving girl.

As the war progresses Hans gives shelter to a Jew Max, and Leisel strikes up a wonderful relationship with him. Max strengthens her friendship with the written word.

During the bombings Leisel passes time and comforts the townsfolk by reading in the underground shelter. She spends time writing in her own basement and that is what saves her life.

As a rule I dislike 'sad' books with no happily ever after. This one turns out to be an exception. If I had to describe The Book Thief in one word I'd call it 'unusual'. It took me the first few pages to realise the story is a first person account by 'Death'. It is Death who labels Leisel the book thief while turning out to be a book thief himself.

The other thing that I liked about the book was the non-Jew perspective of the War. I've read many books on the 2nd World War (there's something fascinating about a single small man taking on the world) but most have been from a Jewish perspective. That many non-Jew Germans hated and dreaded the war as much, that they hated Hitler with the same intensity, made for a refreshing read.

Lastly, I loved the way the book is written. At the start of each chapter Death gives a summary, spilling all the suspense, telling you how the chapter will unfold. Which author has the courage to do that? To play his own spoilsport? This one does. And Death makes for a wonderful narrator - witty and garrulous and with a bit of a heart too.

The Book Thief certainly doesn't have a 'happily ever after'. How can it when Death is the tale spinner? However barely anywhere does it come across as a sad-depressing-heavy story. Maybe it is because of the strain of humour runs through the book or that it has a lively protagonist in Leisel - I cannot say. But it certainly doesn't pull you down. 

All I'll say is - Give it a read.

PS: It's a free online read.

Linking to Write Tribe's super initiative '7 days of rediscovering your blogging grove' where we blog seven days in a row according to a format. The idea is inspired by Darren RowseToday, on Day 3, we had to 'Write a Review'.

For more reviews hop across to the Write Tribe blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Girls and boys and a lesson in chivalry

Dear H,

The other day as I was taking my walk I saw you pulling a girl by her T-shirt. At least that's what it seemed to me. She was yelling and struggling to free herself. I was appalled. I made you let go and apologise too. Oh I did see those tears of anger, frustration and humiliation that sprang up in your eyes. I didn't mean to humiliate you but this needed to be done.

Later, much later when we’d both cooled down, you’d explained, “Ma we were playing Chor Police and I was a Policeman. We have to hold the 'thief' to a count of 10 for him/her to be declared out.”
“You cannot pull a girl’s shirt,” I’d said.
“I wasn’t pulling, she was. I was supposed to be holding her.”
"No matter what, you CANNOT pull a girl's shirt,"
"Why," you’d asked, ‘Why can’t I ? That’s how she catches me too, that’s how I catch the boys and everyone is fine with it.”

You had a bit of a point. 

Here is my answer. Listen patiently for this is something that will stand you in good stead all your life.

The problem was not that you were holding that girl. The problem was that she didn't like being held. That she was asking you to let go and you weren't.

It's simple, actually. If a girl doesn't like you holding her T shirt, let go. If a boy doesn’t like it, let him go too. LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

Yes it’s tough. Yes it’s easy to get carried away by the game. Yes it’s easy to take people’s reactions for granted. But it’s crucial to remember that it’s a game only if all people playing it are enjoying it, or else it’s plain bullying. Sounds harsh, I know. You didn't intend to bully, I know. But that's what it was.

I hope that answers your 'Why?'.

Here's what you can do. ASK what everyone is comfortable with. Put the rules in place before you start a game. As you grow up you will realise, many times people don't even speak out when something makes them uncomfortable. You have to learn to listen, even without words. This ‘watching out' for the other person’s reaction is very very important. It's called being 'sensitive'.

And while we're at it, here are a few more things for you to remember...

- Caring for other people’s feelings is way more important than winning any game.

- Your responsibility doesn't end with good intentions. If the other person feels hurt, wronged or even uncomfortable by your behaviour, don't do it. Take time to understand and explain.

- Open doors, hold the lift, help with bags. Practise chivalry for no other reason but that you are a gentleman. 

- Respect not just girls, not just people older to you, but everyone. You have an even greater responsibility if the other person in not as strong as you.

- Never be an unintentional bully.

You might not always win the game but you'll win over many many more people and that, dear H, is way more important and much more fun too. This is a BIG thing and needs plenty of practise, but you'll get there. And like I always say 'You are the best'. I know that.

Hugs and love,


We've had our 'big talk'. And I am hoping it made some impression. Have you handled similar queries from your son/nephew/friend's son? So how do you teach a boy to be chivalrous without being sexist? How do you tell him he doesn't need to do this because the other person (girl or not) is weaker but because he is stronger? Mothering, I tell you... is a hard hard task.


Linking to Write Tribe's super initiative '7 days of rediscovering your blogging grove' where we blog seven days in a row according to a format. The idea is inspired by Darren RowseToday we had to 'ANSWER A QUESTION'. 

Go find some more answers at the Write Tribe blog.


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