In my Dharwad trip post i forgot to mention how Z ended up enjoying the scooters and motorbikes. Initially she would only sit on one if the bike was stationary. Thats her in the initial stages. by the end of that one day she was riding behind Ravi on a motorbike and refusing to get off. She takes her time with new things… warming up slowly. Everytime i hear someone forcing a child to swim, bicycle, try something new… i cringe… its an inbuilt safety mechanism in the child that will stand them in good stead… that we mess with. eventually they all learn to swim and bike and read etc.

Raghu and Zoya were having a long bath when all of a sudden i heard raghu yell and scream in his “i’m the most ferocious alien etc..” So i ran to see whether Zoya was safe 😉 I saw raghu slathered in shaving foam… except for the armpits…which he and Z forgot…. front and back white as snow… and R yelling “I’m GOOP” Please pull out your Blueberries and google “ben 10 goop”. Live and learn. I was given a tutorial on the character that is Goop – a good guy.

My trip to Madras was a month ago. I’ve only just got my video on comp to work again… some thing about my inability to process info 🙂

Anyway, Ashwini and I have been friends since we first met thru a mutual friend Shobhana in our first year of college in 1990. We ended up being roommates for 3 of our 5 years of art school in Mumbai. And since then our life choices have kept us geographically close. We’ve caught up with each other’s lives again and again after many partings and lapses. Always i am left with a sense of gratitude that we have each other. Always inspiring, affectionate, helpful and never dull… that’s us 😉

Currently Ashwini’s 9 year old son is with his father and grandparents in Pune. And Ashwini is taking a years sabbatical in Madras… pursuing her long-standing-love “Dance.” During my 3 day trip I was fortunate to meet her teacher P.T. Narendran and even watch a class in progress. Amazingly Narendran was able to include Ashwini in his soon-to-be-televised interview at Kalakshetra… Started by Rukmini Devi. The banyan tree spot where Ashwini got to dance was filled with a very beautiful energy… something we feel strongly at JJ in Mumbai too. its the years of artists walking thru and their creative force i think. Anyways a highpoint of the trip for me and a big moment for Ashwini.

We visited parts of Chennai and Auroville and had a grand time. We had some deep conversations and lots of laughter. Energizing to be with her as usual. Some videos aren’t loading right away. so more in another post.

This past month

Our comps are not cooperating these days and need our attention… so not too many photos yet. But here are some of the highlights of this past month:

We had a lovely long day at Essel World. Its like 6 flags in the US. Not quite as intense… but still good enough for Raghu’s age. 6 flags had more intense rides… lots of loops and other stomach churning rides. This place had only a couple of stomach churners. Rest were twirly, up and down, car-banging type stuff. Clean and well maintained. We did not get any stomach issues from their street-food-vendors. Bathrooms were alright and did not gross out the kids. Thats a sign of progress here in India. These basic amenities get clobbered by sheer human numbers. So these things made for a better trip.

We were 10 adults and 5 children. Ravi had to take a day off so we could beat the crowds and do it on a w’day. We hired a mini-bus and set out for the outer regions of Mumbai. We opened the place and quite literally shut it that night. The kids had a blast. THey repeated rides non stop and tried almost everything. Bumper cars and roller coasters were the popular ones. The kids survived on icecream and cold drinks all day long. We ate lots of local spiced things. Yum.

The day after this we had the homeschool fair here in Pune. This group of homeschoolers includes eclectic, traditional, unschooling etc. The idea had started because of Raghu wanting to sell lemonade. So finally it happened. Raghu sold home-made lemonade for Rs.10 per glass. He made about 450Rs. He was thrilled. His 2 girl cousins sold playdough and greeting cards. I did free caricatures of everyone willing to be subjected to a few laughs 🙂

Some of the other stalls were selling Solar cookers, jewellery, nail painting, darts, pasta, etc.. We enjoyed purchasing things from the other children. Raghu was upbeat and stayed in selling mode for almost an entire hour. Ravi’s aunts and uncle helped with washing up the re-usable glasses we’d taken along. The entire fair was conducted without any plastic throw-aways. Felt good to eat pasta in the leaf-bowls… dry leaves stitched together with tiny stems… eco-friendly and useful for semi-dry food. They compost easy.

After the fair we had a relatively quiet week with some cousins exiting and one staying for a longer stay (Kaveri is Ravi’s sister, Meghna’s daughter.. they are both staying till mid-June). We picked up books at British Council Library. Where Raghu also found Magic School Bus cds!

Veena and Nikhil (my sister and her husband) came to be with R and Z for 3 days. Not once did they call with a “come home now” wail. So Ravi and i got upto 6 continuous hours each day outside the house, loaded with laptop and internet-plug-ins. We spent time at air-conditioned cafes and a restaurant in a fancy hotel. So we had access to coffee and food (basics of any conference 🙂 and clean bathrooms. We lounged, chatted, searched Sandra’s site for potential hot-topics, boosted each other’s egos and juggled ideas. It was fabulous being able to focus on Sandra’s site and really plow thru all the links with no interruptions. I think only once there was a call from Raghu about getting rock salt in his eyes while making a witch’s brew. Other than that no calls! Thanks to Nikhil and Veena for giving the kids a lovely time and us some much needed time alone to chat unschooling. More on this conference and what it pulled up in a separate post.

We left for Dharwad on last Friday and had a lovely journey except for the last couple of hours (its a 6 hour drive).. when i started to feel real sick. I ended up bed-bound for a day with a bad viral. The doc gave me 2 shots… which the kids loved watching me get. They have not been vaccinated in full… and don’t remember getting any shots. So it was quite a scientific moment… and not fraught with fear.

A day later i was better and we went to Kali River Rapids… water was low enough to walk thru… as it is still pre-monsoon. It was a fabulous experience. The kids, Veena (my sis joined us there for 2 days), Ravi and my mom waded thru the water and collected lots of beautiful rocks/stones. Mini waterfalls and small outcroppings…. we got to feel like we were sitting on the surface of a flowing river. Dharwad was green, cool and refreshed us. Raghu declared it a beautiful place and one that he’d like to move to! He loved Amma and Appaji’s apartment. My parents built a 3 story building for their business. The top floor is a large, simply fitted apartment with a terrace. Amma brought some of their old furniture there to make it more comfortable. The kids loved the house and were effusive in their compliments. It was nice to see them enjoy Dharwad and the house.

Over the course of the 3-4 day trip (extended by a day because Raghu insisted) the kids observed us doing namaskaras (occasionally), eating off banana leafs, eating foods that normally they may not have eaten, interacting with relatives, riding on a motorcycle, etc. Food time was a traditional sit down, banana leaf, served by men in lungis, ritualistic sort. Raghu decided to taste things and ended up liking some of the foods. We were happy for him. Normally if there is nothing on the menu that satisfies them… plain rice and yogurt is a staple for both R and Z. The kids found their fun and went up and down the stairs, played DS, played with some cousins, and generally had a nice time.

I did not carry any preconceived notions about what the kids will or will not like/do… given the traditional atmosphere all around… and just let them be. We followed them when possible or found ways for them to enjoy things on their terms… which meant that at someone’s house the entire meal was ignored by the children and WE graciously over-ate on their account and did not apologize for the kids 🙂

More about the ceremony soon.

A lovely walk with Raghu and a solution too.

As i may have posted earlier, i’ve struggled with giving enough one-on-one time to Raghu. So this morning having gotten up at 4am… i decided to see if Raghu would wake up for an early morning walk. He is always agreeable in the morning… no matter how early.

So i woke him up at 6:30. He woke up smiling and happy to have risen almost with the sun. i explained my little one-on-one idea… before Z wakes up… she wakes at 9ish every morning. And Ravi was home.

Raghu was ready with his shoes and DS nintendo right away. We had a lovely walk. we ended it at Ravi’s aunt’s house. We had milk and tea there. We agreed that we should do this more often. I get to catch a 15 minute nap in the afternoons easily with Zoya while Raghu pursues his interests.

Good Mornings to you!

I’ve been up since 4 am because of my cough. Its a good thing. I’ve been thinking about my blocks… my blocks are the areas that i still make bad choices in.

For e.g. Raghu did not want dinner last evening. But i forced him (not physically but verbally) to sit and taste the rasam I’d made the way he likes it and had asked for only a day before. Why did i do that? Normally its not an issue. “I was watching my niece and daughter eating dinner. I was tired and grouchy because of my bad throat and cough. I knew he’d be hungry later and did not want to deal with it. I bet that if i told him that he’d say “no problem Amma… I’ll get some milk and cereal myself”… Dammit he is so considerate. Just honoring the child’s need in that moment meant i would have to accept him eating cold cereal for dinner… something that goes against the Indian-hot-meal-is best-mindset.” Back to the dinner… once he tasted the rasam he enjoyed it and asked for brown rice and yogurt. But he ate very little and was done soon.

I made a bad choice. I could have laid out some food for him in the fridge… but the fridge was crowded and I’d have to clean it out to make space… and that weighed on me too. Still a bad choice forcing him. If i had honored his need for no dinner… he’d have eaten cereal probably or helped himself to some cold rice. Why is that bad? A block to be slowly ripped and replaced with conversation, choices other than the one choice that seems to overtake my mind.

Sometimes as a mom of young kids who is learning late in life about “choices” i find myself knocking myself on the blocks despite knowing and having better tools. Its better to listen and accept food choices… the easier one to navigate than say wanting to buy a 2000 Rs. toy.

Back to why its good mornings… every morning is good here. We wake when we feel rested and we eat as we will each morning. Its a good feeling. And today i shall get a whole new day to really hear my children’s voices… voices that come from knowing their bodies as best they can at this early stage of unschooling.

I’m unblocking, reminding myself that there are multiple choices in every scenario, hating my postmortems, wanting to do it right each time, reminding myself that its the feeling-blocked-moments that need my fullest attention and wishing myself a very good morning.

Pre-Monsoon Showers at last!

Its raining… a proper shower happening outside. Beautiful, energizing and very dark. 4pm feels likes 6pm.

The 3 months of monsoon showers are Pune’s primary source of rain-water. So the scrubby land will take on a green sheen starting now and stay that hue till about November. Then it returns to its scrubby, dusty self.

Everything will get clean and sparkly… except for the ground. Mud baths and sludge all over. Boots, rain gear and fungus on our cupboards. Fun 🙂

Its beginning to rain a little each day… even just a small drizzle… but enough to feel monsoony in one’s heart. Its a delicious feeling. The smell of wet earth and the knowledge that the surrounding hills will be green soon makes me so happy.

Raghu has been explaining rain-shadows and other interesting weather related things. He asked me to walk without bending my knees. Impossible unless i allowed my hip bones to lift. He is so alive and full of information these days. He may spend upto 6 hours a day in his DS nintendo. Something that i’m getting used to. Its like getting used to a new family member almost… he is busy and involved in things that can’t involve his little sister any more. She is not even able to use a mouse very well or perhaps just has no interest… or perhaps we’ve not found the right software for her yet. All in all.. she has been fending for her self and finding her own fun.

She took her Barbie doll and a scissor and looked set to do some serious hairstyling. I asked her to cut in the balcony… not in the house. So she went out and wet the doll’s hair and cut it. She had fun. I was slurping soup and watching her. Earlier today Z allowed me to cut a fringe for her… she wants to grow most of her hair so she can put it up in a pony soon like me.

Raghu and Zoya are having a lot of fun-filled moments with their cousin. My s-i-l, Meghna and her daughter will be with us on and off these next few weeks. Its lovely to watch Z and Kaveri in the bathroom. They had shaving cream and baby powder all over the bathroom adn themselves today. Its a routine… every few days they get into a long session in the bathroom and then shower together.

I’m feeling much better today and am beginning to look forward to our road trip. We head to Dharwad tomorrow.

Raghu has been asking a lot of questions about words in the english language. He said the word Night is spelt wrong. I have to look up why the english language is this way. Pneumonia and Psychiatry. I mean there are millions of exceptions. Its hard to read this language. Sanskrit-devanagiri based languages are so clear. Hindi is read as it is written. Rare exceptions. However Raghu is into the english language and very keen to read. I mean not overtly. But he has been reading steadily these past few weeks and i’m surprised at his new skill.

Clarifications and DVDs

Clarification about the post about the Dharwad trip and DVD player: I meant a Car-DVD player. We have a DVD player at home.

DVDs: Just wanted to post here our favorite videos these past few months:
The Clone Wars
Dunstan Checks In
The Magic School Bus series
Motorcycle Diaries (Raghu sat thru this and asked me to read the subtitles)
Angelina Ballerina
Little Bear Series
Batman.. cartoon
Asterix and Obelix… cartoon
BEN 10… should have been posted as number 1 🙂
Snoopy come home
Richard Scarry Busy Town
Night at the Museum
Tom and Jerry.. old and new
BBC series on Gerald Durrel’s My family and other animals
Dora the explorer

I’m sure there are more… but these are the ones we’ve seen off and on over the past couple of months.

For those who want to learn about RU

Ravi has very little time slotted per day for himself. Usually any spare hours go towards the kids and me and some finance things. Leaves him little time for any research or reading.

So since our little conference (i shall post about that soon) he has taken to reading one essay per day on Sandra’s site.

At — — Sandra has created a randomizer for this kind of reading. Anyone who is interested please take a look. You don’t have to think about navigating the site and finding topics. Just read whenever and whatever you can.

We can all be happy.

We are going on a 6 hour road trip this Friday. Meeting up with family in Dharwad for a nephew’s ceremony. And then we return on Monday.

I have been a bit under the weather since last afternoon. So while Raghu and I were settling into a nap.. he asked who would be coming to this family meet and how long the trip would take and other related questions. Then he asked me if the Car/jeep we are hiring has a DVD player. (we don’t have one .. portable or otherwise. But Raghu had experienced a Family van with inbuilt DVD player a while back…. again a longish road trip… the DVD player was used non stop by Raghu. It bothered some of us. We were a large group.)

Back to his question…. I barely did any deep breathing or checking of my emotions… i simply blurted out “Raghu if you want to keep watching videos while we travel thru lovely fields.. the trip is on a good road known for a beautiful ride…. then you may as well stay back with your grandma.” He looked surprised at my outburst and said “no, no i’ll come.”

At that moment i could think of nothing else to say except “we really want a road trip to enjoy the sights and be exchange stories and sing along with our CD player etc. So we did not consider hiring a car with a DVD player.” Then my head throbbed too much to talk. and we fell asleep.

A few hours later i had a quiet walk (baby sitter at home) and called sister for advice about this… she is my baby-sister all grown up now… and she is the one who gets RU the best. She and i discussed my choice. But i did not feel good inside. I felt rotten.

I called Urmila (the only other RU mom in Pune). Based on what we exchanged…. i felt a lovely shift happening inside:

Raghu’s choices are as best as they can be for him… as are mine for me. I love watching the rolling fields and talking to Ravi and kids and exchanging stories/singing along with cds etc. I love stopping and tasting some local food item (food and language changes every 50 km in india i think 🙂 Or taking a small detour and stretching our legs and clicking a few photos. Raghu, per his current interests, would love to carry his DS Nintendo and enjoy our company alongside his playing. He does not mind not having a DVD player since he has his DS. He may want different things from this trip than i do. If he does nto choose to enjoy the scenery the way i do… i need to stay smiling.. happy for his choices. And i can continue to enjoy my choices… i can stop the car and stretch and take in the view. And i shall smile at my child’s and husband’s choices. We all make different choices and they must be honored as far as possible.

I immediately felt a weight lift and i felt light and airy. We can all be happy and supportive of each other. I can’t even begin to write the ramifications of coercive living… but i can begin to write about the beauty of RU living. No one is martyred.

Zoya has been feeling sad whenever Raghu is on the DS for too many hours of the day and he refuses to join our games. But i make up for his absence as best i can. Last evening she told me that she wanted to get her own DS. I said yes… that was a great idea. She smiled and kissed me and said… “me happy, you happy?” Then she thought a bit and said “I will play with Raghu”. 🙂

Sure… i’m not fond of screen time for myself… but if it is a passion for my child or children… i shall make shifts within and accept their choices… as they accept mine. Raghu i’m sure would never stop me from taking a break for photos while we are on the road. He is so reasonable about our choices. Why can’t we joyously accept his?

So looking forward to this trip and to making it joyous for all of us with our different/overlapped/similar needs.