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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tips to make summer vacations interesting


So it’s that time of the year when the schools have shut, the sun is at its furious best and the husband is so piled up with work that there is absolutely no chance of you packing your bags and leaving…..or maybe that will happen at the end of the vacation, but not right now. And for the next three weeks at the least you are going to be very much locked up inside the house during the day, your bundle of joy and energy there to give you company.
Or is it really going to be such a joy after all? I mean, come to think of it, most often these vacations mean an endless pile of toys and books on the floor, dirty food and shoe marks on your couch and furniture, bouts of crying and screaming, you having to run around the house trying to make your little one eat something, trying to clean up after the mess, searching for the remote and switching off the TV endless number of times. And even before it is mid-day, you are ready to pull out your hair, wondering if this is only the beginning???!!!!!!
Well, all holidays need not be this way…..there can be many ways to keep your child occupied and under check, thus saving yourself the nagging and screaming, and making the vacations a fun-filled time to look forward to.
Here are a few tips that might help you help your child during those long months of summer, when the sun is too harsh to play outside in the day, and all your ideas have to be focused indoors:
1. Vacation is the perfect time to bring out those toys that have been forgotten and pushed to the bottom of the toy basket. Let your child re-discover these old toys.
2. Vacations are also a good time to introduce your child to the world of books. Make this an interesting activity for the child during vacations. Sort out all the books that are already there in your child’s bookshelf, then sit together and read a story, or let your child read a new one each day. If the child is small, you may encourage them to read it first and then tell you what they read. For younger children, read out or help them spend time with brightly-illustrated books. You may arrange trips to the nearby book-store and encourage your child to browse through the books, buying them a new one each time they finish a previous book.
3. Summer time is a great time to make milk-shakes and other fun recipes in the kitchen. Include your child in these activities and turn the kitchen time into a fun time. Let them help you with preparing their own shakes, this way the child will appreciate the effort you put in for their meals, and will also learn about fruits, dairy products and other ingredients. For ex. if your child likes banana milk shake, give them a banana and tell them to peel it properly. You can then ask them to put some milk in the blender. Taking out the ice cubes from the tray will also be fun. Once the shake is ready, you can ask the child to decorate their glass the way they want. Help them with a few accessories, like a fancy straw, or ask them to make an umbrella out of foil and decorate the glass.
4. If your child has friends in the building or neighbourhood, one very interesting idea is too arrange for ‘share-a-toy’ afternoons. You can previously decide on a day when you want to invite kids to your place. This will help you prepare for the do in advance. To start with invites, you can tell your child to make simple paper cards, drawing anything they want on the cover and you can help them with writing the name of each individual friend on the cards. Mention the date, day and time in the card. You can ask them to bring along 5 books or 5 toys of their own. Once each child brings 5 books/toys each, you can pile it all on the living room floor and let the children play from the stack. For snacks, you can keep ready an assortment of finger-foods. You can include healthy fruit salads, or raisin-and-corn, cheese dips with carrot sticks, leafy cabbage and carrot sandwich, pasta with lots of vegetables, or even something as simple as cornflakes in different flavours. Keep lots of bright bowls, plates and cups around, but make sure they are all unbreakable. Also, since you are calling a group of young kids to your place, it will be a good thing to invite the mums as well. Along with keeping an eye on their respective kids, it will also make for a nice coffee time with your girl friends.
5. Painting is always fun when done with the appropriate precautions. If your little child likes to get dirty with colours, let her have her fun share of shades this vacation. Spread out old sheets of newspaper on the floor and let your child draw and paint. You can use poster colours, sketch pens, crayons, water colours, anything that holds their fancy. Make sure to check the labels for non-toxic certification. Since it is hot you can let your child take off their dress and just wear an old vest, as they are sure to spill colour on their clothes. If they are to be dressed, bring out some old clothes to wear. Try and do these activities before bath time, so that later you can clean them up.
6. If there is a swimming pool in your building or in the neighbourhood, bring out the swimming gear and take your child to the pool. You can carry water toys and a tube and may ask your friends to bring along their kids as well. Summer times are ideal to join in a swimming class. If you do not know how to swim, you may join in together with your child, thus making an interesting use of your and your child’s time.
7. Water time can be made interesting even at home. If you have a bath tub at home you can take your child’s help to fill it up with water and then add a little bubble-bath soap or regular soap to it. Fill up the tub with little toys, mostly plastic, that will not get damaged in water. You can even give them little squirt toys to play with in the water.
8. Most schools have summer camps during the vacations. Check with your child’s school and if there is any age-appropriate activity happening, get them enrolled.
9. Children at home will invariably want to watch TV and it is not practical to expect them not to. You can utilise the TV Time to your own benefit too. The market today is flooded with interesting educational DVDs that teach various things like rhymes, alphabets, numbers, animals, colours and many more things. You can take your child to the store and together, pick up a few DVDs that they are interested in. Once back home, tell your child that she/he can only watch TV for some time and not the whole day. Let them select what they want to watch from their DVDs. If it is song and rhyme DVD, encourage them to sing and dance along. If you are alone at home with the child you can switch on the TV at a time that will be helpful to you, for ex when you have to be in the kitchen for the cooking, or when you are doing the laundry and think it might be difficult to keep an eye on the child. Engage them in what they are watching, but do pop out your head every once in a while and see how they are doing.
10. Encourage your child to make a ‘summer vacation’ scrapbook. Buy them a scrapbook with lovely bright coloured paper and tell them to write their favourite summer things in the same. You can also take pictures of what you do throughout the vacation and keep pasting them in the scrapbook one at a day. Tell your child to do a brief write-up near each picture, so that next time when the vacations are around, they will have many ideas to spend the time.
11. Do some craft together. A very interesting activity that can be done at home with the help of a parent is making candles. These are simple and non-messy and involve creativity and ideas. Just get a few glass objects from the market, like small bowls or glasses, a roll of wick and any decorative item that your child might want to put in the candle. All of these can be easily obtained in any hobby store or even a stationer’s. Tell your child to fill up the candle and decorate it the way they want. When it is time to heat the wax, you should NEVER let the child handle fire on its own. Lighting the fire and melting the wax should ONLY be done by an adult, preferably a parent. Once school resumes, your child can gift these hand-made candles to the class teacher, principal and class mates.
12. Summer times are good times to take your child for a trip to the aquarium. Find out the nearby aquariums and check their timings. The internet lists many such places, along with their timings and contact numbers. Take your child to one such place and tell them about each and every creature that you see. Check with the authorities if you can click pictures.
13. If you have hand-puppets at home you can arrange for a puppet show. Invite your child’s friends home and do a puppet show. Tell them to participate as well.
14. Arrange for a story-telling session where every child comes up with a story. You can make it more interesting by asking one child to begin and then asking the others to add up to the story one by one.
15. In the evenings when the weather is a little cooler, take them to the park and let them engage in unrestrained physical activity for at least an hour. Let them go on the swing, play on the slide, on the merry-go-round and other such rides. There are many more games like hopscotch, catch and run, hide and seek and others. Let your child play with your friends while you keep a watch.
16. Make shower time fun time. You can get your child to bring their dirty clothes like vest or a t-shirt and tell them to sit under the shower and soap it. Some days when you have to clean your child’s toys, ask them to help by soaping and scrubbing the toys in the shower.
17. Your child can create beautiful palm print artwork by using lots of poster colours.
18. Let your child get creative. Help them make beautiful pen holders using old jars and mugs. Bring out old cardboard boxes and tell them to make a city of their own. They can make skyscrapers by painting windows and balconies and make parks and parking lots using these old boxes. They can make many more things like a hospital, school, restaurant, mall, movie hall and chemist. Once they have enough you can help them arrange it all and make their own city.
19. Many girls enjoy playing kitchen. Bring out their kitchen set and add a few ‘real’ items from your own kitchen. Give them a list of things you want them to make and help them by giving a few instructions.
20. Take your child out when you go to bring the groceries. Take their help in making a list of items that need to be bought. Once at the store, you can hand them their list and a basket or trolley and tell them to get their supplies.
21. In all these activities, make sure daddy too participates in a few.
22. Summer vacation means time for holiday home work as well. Make sure one parent sits with the child and helps with the work. Take interest in the school assignments and make the craft and arts part more interesting.
23. Some days can be movie days when you and your child can sit together on the couch and watch some of your favourite movies. Make a big bowl of popcorn and sit together, relaxing and not talking about any school work.
24. Do make a trip out somewhere, even if it is just a weekend. Many of your child’s friends would be going out somewhere or the other and will talk about it once school re-opens. If your budget and time are restrained, make a small trip to a nearby place, where you can take your child out for nature walks and other such activities to make the trip interesting and memorable. The trip need not be expensive, check the internet for options near your home, for places that are a little off-beat. You will have a better chance of securing accommodation, as well as getting a good deal on the tariff.

So...go out and make the most of this vacation ... for your child as well as for yourself.... :))

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home is where the heart is.......



Home is where the heart is
And my heart is out roaming…..
On the pigeon’s wing that took flight from the balcony outside my room
To the small puddle of water that is staying on my street since a few days past
My heart is out roaming….
To that sandy beach and the sights of people, boats, colas, lollies and those down-trodden beaten old wooden rides
Sometimes sitting along with a child and screaming in joy
Some other moments a little coy, sharing the look of the beach couples
Home is where the heart is
And my heart is out roaming…..
To that spot on the sky where a lone cloud is drifting
I want to reach out and ask where its neighbours are gone today
My heart is out roaming…..
Moving out in search of those sights and smells that bring back the memories of childhood
The stories ma told at night and are now long-forgotten, hidden somewhere in the corners of my heart
That red tricycle that broke, or maybe I broke it, the one that baba had mended, just a smile on his face
My heart is out roaming…..
Drawn to those smells of my childhood winter,
When ma would mix the milk with the warm jaggery, running after me, glass in hand, my little legs running away
When baba would hand me a mug of coffee in later years, sitting down to chat, ma by my side
Those days when the sun would hurry home, fearing the onslaught of the cold,
Those afternoons when we would bring out the old string ‘chaarpai’ and place it in the verandah
To make it soak up some of the sun while we sat on it peeling and eating nuts
The evenings when the clothes on the clothesline outside would turn icy cold,
The dew having come to rest too soon already
Some days my heart is out roaming……
To those little dots I see on the sea out there, that I know is a boat, out on its turn to fish
Wanting to ask the fisherman who he is, to know what secrets the abundant water has shared……..
Secrets that are still unknown to us, maybe he knows
Some times my heart goes out roaming, crying…….
To that little four-legged person on the street, man’s best friend they say he is,
To see why it is that he is limping, and how old are these wounds and these marks of dried-up blood on his famished frame,
To know who could have been so heartless to hurt a loving creature so, an innocent…..
A beast they say he is, but has is it still managed to become so much a beast as are we?
Today my heart went out…..not roaming, but sad, disgusted, helpless…
To that tiny head bobbing outside my car window,
The one with a little ponytail, matted with dirt and sweat, the face covered in heat blisters
But that impish smile still lighting it up,
One hand holding a brother who is even younger, one hand holding flowers strung together,
She tells me I will look good in them, she tells me I should braid them in my hair, or take it to my ma
Where is ‘her’ ma I wonder…..is she the woman who sits on the other side of the road, watching?
Or is she not there anymore, not there to protect her little one, not there to stop her from growing up before she should……
Home is where the heart is and my heart is out roaming, wondering….
Did I really deserve to be ‘me’, or am I plain lucky???

Varkala Beach (Kerala-India)


Varkala beach: located in Kovalam, 55kms north of Trivandrum. Varkala is a sea-side resort as also an important pilgrimage centre for the Hindus. The main attractions here are the 2000 year old Janardana Swamy temple and the Nature Centre. High cliffs with rich mineral springs rise from the coastline, Varkala beach is more of a secluded beach, with less crowd and hence more serene and beautiful.03 kms of shining white sand, the red soil of the hilltop and coconut trees lend it a breathtaking beauty. the beach is also known as Papanasam, an auspicious place for hindus to worship their ancestors
Warning: children should not go near the water without adult supervision; heed warning signs and avoid going in the water during high tide and monsoon
Nearby attractions: Sri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple, Kanyakumari, Aruvikkara, Ponmudi, Vettukad Church,Vizhinjam, Public Park, Beema Palli, Kuthiramalika Palace
To reach: access to Kovalam: 20 kms from Trivandrum airport; nearest rail station is Trivandrum Central; connected by road to all states of Kerala

Edathua church (Kerala-India)

Edathua church: the church dedicated to St. George was built in 1810. it is a common belief here that prayers and offerings at this church help in healing all mental disorders as well as other ailments. The annual fest is held from 05th - 07th of May each year, when devotees from all parts visit the church to seek divine blessing.
Location: 24 kms from alappuzha on the alappuzha-thiruvalla road
To reach: local transport from Thiruvalla or Ambalappuzha

St. Mary's Orthodox church (Kerala-India)

St. Mary's Orthodox church: located in Cheriapalli and 02 kms off Kottayam, the church was built in 1579 by Thekkumkoor Maharaj. The architecture is a blend of the keral and Portuguese style. The walls of the church are adorned with murals made in oriental and western stye, based on biblical as well as non-biblical themes. January 15th is Feast Day
Timing: 0800 hrs - 1800 hrs
Contact: contact 0481-2566744
To reach: acces to Kottayam : nearest airport is at Kochi at a distance of 76 kms from Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram airport is 160 kms away ; Kottayam railway station is situated 02 kms from the central bus station and there are regular trains to Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Ernakulam ; For road travel, there are 02 bus stations, the Kerala state road transport corporation bus station on TB Road and a private bus stand near the railway station. Buses to major centres operate from the KSRTC bus station

Guruvayur Krishna Temple (Kerala-India)

Guruvayur Shri Krishna temple: located in Guruvayur, this temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is one of the most sacred temples of india. The idol is in the standing posture with four hands (Chaturbahu) that can carry the Sankhu (conch), the Sudarshana Chakram, the lotus and the mace. The lord is worshipped in many avataars, the favourite being that of infant krishna or Unnikrishnan. the idol of the deity is made of a rare stone known as Patala Anjanam. reference for this temple can be found as early as the 14th century. it is a classic example of the architecture of Kerala and the walls sport mural paintings, depicting episodes from the Purana. the door of the place where the idol is installed, as well as the ceiling, is covered in gold.
Timings: opens daily at 0300 am . Closed beween 12:30 pm and 04:30 pm
Temple info: poojas offered are : Nirmalyam, Thailabhishekam, Vakacharthu, Sankhabhishekam,Malar Nivedyam, Alankaram,Usha Nivedyam, Ethirettu pooja followed by Usha pooja, Seeveli, Palabhishekam, Navakabhishekam, Pantheeradi Nivedyam and Pooja,Ucha pooja (the noon pooja), Seeveli, Deeparadhana, Athazha pooja Nivedyam, Athazha pooja, Athazha seeveli, Thrippuka, Olavayana
To reach: 08 kms from national highway passing through Kunnamkulam. 30 minutes' drive from Thrissur. Buses every 05 minutes from Thrissur for the temple. Kerala Road Transport Corporation runs buses from all parts of the state to the temple. Guruvayur railway station is connected to the Madras-Mangalore main line at Thrissur. 80 kms from Kochi international airport. 100 kms from Calicut airport

Fort of Tipu Sultan (Kerala-India)


The fort of Tipu Sultan: Located in Palakkad. Also known as the palakkad fort, it stands in the heart of the town of Palakkad. The fort was constructed in 1766 AD and is today a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. It is one of the well preserved forts of south India. Hyder Ali, the emperor of Mysore province, had built this fort to facilitate communication between both sides of the western ghats, Coimbatore and the west coast. in 1784, after an 11 day seige, the fort was captured by the British. Hyder Ali's son Tipu Sultan later lost his life in 1799 in an encounter with the British and the fort came to be known in his name.
To reach: 05 kms from Palakkad railway station; 55 kms from Coimbatore airport, Tamil Nadu ; 140 kms from Cochin International airport

Cochin (Kochi) Carnival (Kerala-India)

Cochin carnival: the last week of december is the time when the annual Cochin festival is held at Fort Kochi. Each year, the massive procession of heavily ornamented elephants, games and partying, draws crowds from far and near. Fort Kochi is decked to the hilt and tourists from abroad as well as the country flock here. highlight of the celebrations is the procession on New Year's day, led by an embellished elephant and accompanied by drums and music. different folk dances from south and north india are also staged. all establishments in the city don white paper flags. impromptu competitions and celebrations are held everywhere. the festivities continue till midnight of 31st december with fireworks making the grand carnival.
To reach: has a world-class international airport located 30 kms north-east of the city. For enquiries please contact: +91 484 2610087/2610115
Other info: floor drawing, tug-of-war, bicycle race, swimming in the sea, beach volleyball are some of the programmes that take place during the festival

Kasaragod (Kerala-India)

Kasaragod: Kasaragod is the land of temples, mosques and churches. It is famous for the art forms Yakshagana, Bombeyatttu and Theyyam. The Bekal fort is of great historical as well as archaelogocial interest.
To reach: Most of the nearby as well as far areas are connected by road; 70 kms from Mangalore airport; 200 kms from Kozhikode airport; 350 kms from Kochi; 550 kms from Trivandrum. Kasaragod does not have an airport and all distances are from the district headquarters.; on the Kozhikode-Mangalore-Mumbai route.
Nearby attractions: Adoor ; Ajanoor ; Anandashram and Nityanandasramam; Ananthapura Lake Temple, Bekal Fort; Bela Church; Bellikoth; Chandragiri Fort; Cheruvathur; Edneer Mutt; Hosdurg Fort; Kammatam Kavu; Kanjan Junga ; Kanwatheertha Beach resort; Kariangode river; Kottancheri hills; Kottappuram; Kudlu; Kumbala; Madhur; Malik Dinar mosque; Maipady palace; Mallikarjuna temple ; Manjeswar; Nellikunnu mosque; Nileshwar; Perne; Posadigumpe; Povval Fort; Ranipuram; Trikaripur; Trikkanad and Pandyan Kallu; Tulur Vanam; Valiyarparamba; Veeramala hills

Kannur (Kerala-India)

Kannur: Kannur has many attractions for the tourists. The St. Angelo Fort in the Kannur Cantonment, constructed in 1505, is a symbol of the Portugese architecture and attracts many tourists. Another fort on the list is the Thalassery Fort. Kannur beach and Ezhimala should be visited for their sheer natural beauty. The house of Gulldert, who composed the first Malayalam-English dictionary, is a place of historical importance. Another tourist spot is the Madayi mosque, which was constructed in 1124, using marble brought from Mecca.
To reach: Air: 93 kms from Kozhikode airport; well connected by rail to Kerala and other nearby states; can be reached from anywhere in Kerala by road
Nearby attractions: Muzhappilangad Beach (15.K.M from Kannur and 8 K.M from Thalasseri); Payyambalam Beach Resort; Malayalakalagramam (29 K.M from Kannur): this is a renowned centre for arts and culture at New Mahe. Courses in painting, sculpture, music, dance and pottery are conducted here. ; Pazhassi Dam (37K.M. east of kannur ) ; Pythal Mala ( 65 km from Kannur Town ): this hill station is situated 4500 ft above sea level near the Kerala-Karnataka border and is a 06 km trek; Gundert Bungalow (20.K.M.from Kannur); Snake Park at Parassinikkadavu (18 kms from Kannur)

Idukki - Kerala , India

Idukki: located in the middle of Kerala, with Madurai on the east side and Ernakulam on the west side. This is the largest district of Kerala with an area of 5105.22 sq km. almost 97 percent of idukki is covered by rugged mountains and forests. The district has 14 peaks, these are Anamala,Eravimala, Tathumala, Chenthavara, Kumarickal, Karimkulam, Devimala, Perumal, Ghudoor, Kabhula, Devicolam, Anchanad, Sabarimala and Karimala. The important rivers here are Periyar, Thodupuzhayar and Thalayar
To reach: Idukki is accessible only by road. NH 49 and state highways 13 and 33 pass through the district.
Attractions: various attractions like wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations, dams, plantation tours (must do), mountain treks, elephant rides and the likes. For further information, please contact District Tourist Information Office, Deptt of Tourism, Thekkady junction, Kumily 0486-322620 ; District Tourism Promotion Council, Civil Station, Painavu 0486-232248; DTPC Information Centre, Old Minnar 0486-531516
Periyar River: This is the longest river in Kerala, with a length of 244 kms. The Periyar river is also known as the lifeline of Kerala, as it is one of the few perennial rivers of Kerala and provides drinking water for most of the towns. The Idukki Dam is built across this river and generates a significant proportion of electric power for the state. This river is also considered sacred by the Malayalis. The smooth sand banks of the river are sure to make it a memorable experience. The river bank has tall coconut palms to give it a beautiful look.
To reach: 200 kms from Kochi airport and 140 kms from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. ; 114 kms from Kottayam ; the nearest town is Kumily, which is well connected by both state and private buses from Kottayam, Ernakulam and Madurai in Tamil Nadu
Additional: Temples, churches and mosques along the banks of the river show a glimpse of the diverse culture here.
Warning: Children should not go near the water without adult supervision; heed warning signs and avoid going in the water during high tide and monsoon

Krishnapuram Palace (Kerala-India)

Krishnapuram Palace: located in Kayamkulam the palace was built in the 18th century during the reign of Marthanda Varma. Architecure is typical Kerala-style, with gabled roof, dormer windows and narrow corridors. The famous mural called Gajendra Moksham, is kept in the western end of the ground floor. This is the largest mural in Kerala,49 sq.m.The palace also houses a museum of antique sculptures, paintings and bronze articles.
Location: in Kayamkulam, 47 kms from Alappuzha on the way to Kollam.
Timings: 0900 am - 0500 pm every day except Mondays
To reach: Nearest railway station is Kollam, about 39 kms. ; Thiruvananthapuram International Airport is 103 kms away ; Cochin International Airport is 132 kms away

Bekal Fort Beach (Kerala-India)


The imposing bekal fort is one of the largest and best preserved forts in Kerala. The Bekal fort beach has two sculpures of Theyyam created using laterite at the beach and a shed with walls adorned with murals created by artisans from Nilambur.

Trees are in plenty at the beach area. A beautiful walkway helps tourists explore the beauty of the fine coastline and enjoy the panoramic view of the Bekal fort. During the evening, the beach is illuminated.

Location: 01 km from Bekal Fort, 16 kms south of Kasaragod on the national highway

Additional info: The beach has been developed as an exotic beach location by the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC). 7000 sq m of parking space. Resting facilities are available at the beach. Toilets and eco-friendly bamboo waste bins help keep the beach clean. Park for children below 14 years of age.

Warning: Children should not go near the water without adult supervision; heed warning signs and avoid going in the water during high tide and monsoon

To reach: Kasaragod railway station on the Kozhikode-Mangalore-Mumbai route ; 50 kms from Mangalore airport ; 200 kms from Karipur international airport, Kozhikode

Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom (kerala-India)

Kumarakom: vembanad lake – 15kms off Kottayam, it is one of Asia's largest fresh water lakes and is famous for its exceptional scenic beauty, lush green surroundings and boat cruises. The lake is also India's longest and Kerala's largest lake.
Nearby attraction: Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on the eastern banks of the lake is a regular haunt of migratory birds and shelters many exotic birds.
Extra facilities: boat cruising, fishing, sight seeing tours
To reach: acces to Kottayam : nearest airport is at Kochi at a distance of 76 kms from Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram airport is 160 kms away ; Kottayam railway station is situated 02 kms from the central bus station and there are regular trains to Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Ernakulam ; For road travel, there are 02 bus stations, the Kerala state road transport corporation bus station on TB Road and a private bus stand near the railway station. Buses to major centres operate from the KSRTC bus station.
Additional info: Vembanad Kol wetland was included in the list of wetlands of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention, for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It is home to more than 20,000 waterfowls in India

Thrissur archaelogical museum (Kerala-India)

Thrissur archaeological museum: the imposing building is home to a gallery of murals from all over kerala and preserves a rare treasure of Veerakallu (stone engravings and sculptures of figures and weapons belonging to heroes of the past), temple models, olagrandhangal (manuscripts on dry palm leaves), megaliths etc. Megalith collection includes earthern pots and earns.
Location: near thrissur zoo, 02 kms from Thrissur town, central Kerala
Timings: 10:0 am – 05:00 pm except Mondays and national holidays
How to reach: nearest rail station Thrissur; 58 kms from Kochi International Airport
Additional info: the temple models in the museum, cast in plaster of Paris, are an excellent representation of the ancient temples in the state.

Cherai Beach (Kerala-India)

Cherai beach: the beach is calm and shallow and is ideal for swimming and sunbathing. The beach stretches 10 kms and is one of the best golden beach of kerala. Dolphins are occassionally spotted here. A walkway has been added at the main beach, which adds to the charm.Tthe highmast lamps make the beach look beautiful at night.
Additional info: the beach is famous for its mouth-watering fare of fresh sea food.
Warning: children should not go near the water without adult supervision; heed warning signs and avoid going in the water during high tide and monsoon

Aaranmula Boat Race (Kerala-India)


Aaranmula boat race: is staged each year in the month of August / September and is part of the Aaranmula temple fesstival. Thousands of people, locals as well as tourists, throng the shores of the river Pamba to watch this fascinating race, which has imposing cluster of snake boats called "Palliyodams". Each boat is manned by a crew of more than 100 men. Each boat is nearly 100 feet long, with the stem curved to resemble the hood of a snake and a tampering bow. The boats are festooned with silk and gold spangled umbrellas.
Location: Aaranmula village in kerala

Kannur (Kerala-India)


Kannur has many attractions for the tourists. The St. Angelo Fort in the Kannur Cantonment, constructed in 1505, is a symbol of the Portugese architecture and attracts many tourists. Another fort on the list is the Thalassery Fort. Kannur beach and Ezhimala should be visited for their sheer natural beauty. The house of Gulldert, who composed the first Malayalam-English dictionary, is a place of historical importance. Another tourist spot is the Madayi mosque, which was constructed in 1124, using marble brought from Mecca.

To reach: Air: 93 kms from Kozhikode airport ; well connected by rail to Kerala and other nearby states.; can be reached from anywhere in Kerala by road

Nearby attractions: Muzhappilangad Beach (15.K.M from Kannur and 8 K.M from Thalasseri); Payyambalam Beach Resort; Malayalakalagramam (29 K.M from Kannur): this is a renowned centre for arts and culture at New Mahe. Courses in painting, sculpture, music, dance and pottery are conducted here. ; Pazhassi Dam (37K.M. east of kannur ) ; Pythal Mala ( 65 km from Kannur Town ): this hill station is situated 4500 ft above sea level near the Kerala-Karnataka border and is a 06 km trek; Gundert Bungalow (20.K.M.from Kannur); Snake Park at Parassinikkadavu (18 kms from Kannur), Thalasseri fort (the Thalasseri fort is an imposing historical monument in the small town of Thalasseri. It was built in 1703 by the East India company, which had established its settlement on the Malabar Coast in 1683. The fort has massive walls, huge doors carved intricately and secret tunnels to the sea)

Kochi (Kerala-India)


Originally known as Cochin, Kochi is also referred to as the ‘gateway to Kerala’. The western ghats on the east and the arabian sea on the west make it a lovely seaside city. Its proximity to the equator, the sea and mountains provide a rich experience of a moderate equatorial climate.

Places of interest: Maritime museum, Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi, Fort Kochi beach, St. Francis Church, Vasco House, Fort Kochi, Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi, Jewish Synagogue and Jew town, Dutch Palace, Hill Palace.

To reach: Kochi has a world-class international airport located 30 kms north-east of the city. For enquiries please contact: 91 484 2610087/2610115

Added info: Spread over an area of 95 sq km, it has a population of 1.35 million people. Temperature ranges between 20-35c. June - September is the monsoon season of heavy rains. October - February is a mild winter, cool and dry with occasional rains. March - May is hot and humid. The state language is Malayalam, though Tamil and a little hindi are also understood. Telephone code +91(India) 484.

Kollam (Kerala-India)



Kollam or Quilon, is an old sea port town on the Arabian coast that stands on the Ashtamudi Lake. The place is made complete with the sea, lakes, rivers, plains, mountains, streams, backwaters, forests, vast green fields and tropical crops. Special places of interest for tourists would be the Ashtamudi Lake, the 144 ft Thangassery Light House, the Ananda Valleswaram temple, the Pulichira church, Mahatma Gandhi beach and park at Kochupilamoodu, Thirumullavaram beach and Ashramam Picnic Village, Achencovil (Lord Ayappa temple), Alamkadavu (starting point for houseboat cruises), Amritapuri (spiritual centre, ashram of Amma), Palaruvi waterfalls.

To reach Kollam: By train: Trivandrum-Ernakulam line passes through here. Railway station contact: +91- 0474-2741590 By road: NH 47. Main Central Road, Kollam-Shencottah Road and Punalur-Pala-Muvattupuzha

Alappuzha (Kerala-India)


Alappuzha is the much famous backwater of Kerala, the prime reason to visit God's own country. Kissed by the waves of the Arabian Sea, the canals and shores, outlined with palm trees, the country-side glimpses, the lagoons, picturesque lake sides and long sandy beaches, all of this make Alappuzha, or Alleppey one of the most visited destinations of tourists from abroas as well as from within the country.

Houseboat info: Hire a houseboat for anything between Rs. 5000/- to Rs. 15,000/- on a per night basis. AC or non-AC, 01 / 02 or 03 room, attached bathroom. All the houseboats have a crew comprising of a cleaner, captain, cook, and helper. The crew will assist you in selecting the day’s fresh catch, which will most likely be shown to you by a fisherman who will row in on his boat and come near your houseboat, so that you can peek into his catch and select what you want as your meal. The dish will be mouth-watering to say the least.

To reach: Cochin airport, 64 kms to the north. ; international airport 159 kms to the south ; located on the NH 47 and well connected with all important towns in south India.

Important bus timings: Bangalore 1400 hrs (duration 17 hrs), Coimbatore 0615 hrs (duration 07 hrs), Cochin frequent service (duration 01 1/2 hrs), Trivandrum frequent service (duration 03 1/2 hrs), Quilon buses every 02 hrs. (all buses going to Trivandrum pass through Quilon, duration 02 hrs), frequent buses to Kottayam, Trichur, Palghat and Calicut. Railway station is located 05 kms from bus and ferry station. Alappuzha is connected by rail to cities like Cochin, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Bokaro.

Railway enquiry: 253965, 253865. linked by boat service through backwaters to Quilon, Changanassery, Kottayam, Cochin, Kumarakom, Kovalam, Chengannur. Contact ferry services : 0477- 252015

Alappuzha beach: The beach here is one of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches in India.

To reach: any local transport from Alappuzha

Nearby attractions: visit the Vijaya Park and the Sea View Park, both of which have boating facilities. A children's park with toy trains and bicycles is also located at Vijaya Park. Timings 1500 - 2000 hrs.

Additional info: at the beach, look for a sign that displays a food joint called UPSTAIRS. It is an authentic Italian eatery owned and personally supervised by an Italian lady. Sample the lasagna, pasta and other day-specials.

Warning: Children should not go near the water without adult supervision; heed warning signs and avoid going in the water during high tide and monsoon

Ambalapuzha temple: the temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is in this temple that the ritual of Pallipana is performed by Velans, once in every 12 years. Pallipana is an art form performed by sorcerers (Velan). In ancient times, human sacrifice was performed here, which has now been replaced by the sacrifice of cocks. the temple is also famous throughout Kerala for its "Palpayasam", milk porridge.

To reach: local transport in Alappuzha; 08 miles south of Alappuzha

Nearby attractions: Visit Karumadi, to see an image of Buddha, a relic of the times when Buddhism flourished in the state. Backwaters and canals in Allepey

Munnar (Kerala-India)


Munnar: This is one place you absolutely have to visit atleast once in your lifetime. Before I visited this quiet picturesque hill station which is so beautifully manged by Mr. Tata and his people, I never knew there can be so many variations of the colours green and blue. Situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala - Munnar has sprawling tea plantations, picture-postcard towns, winding lanes and trekking and holidaying facilities, which make its charm unforgettable. Munnar is essentially a tea town and the plantations are now owned by the Tata Tea Company. The flora family of Munnar boasts of the Neelakurinji, a flower which paints the hills blue once in twelve years. Munnar also has the highest peak in Southern India, Anamud,i at a height of 2695 mts. Standing on your hotel balcony, being visited the entire time by clouds and mist, looking out at rolling valleys and tea gardens and hills, wherever your eyes go you can only see greens and blues in all the shades that nature painted them in. The people here are extremely friendly and simple, the best bet in food is mostly regular vegetarian south-Indian delicacies like dosa (which has thousands of different varieties here), idli, vada and the lot.

To reach: Take a flight till Kochi and a 03 hour drive through the hills to Munnar.
Places of interest: Mattupetty (13kms) from Munnar, is famous for its highly specialised dairy farm. Timing 0900-1100 hrs and 1400-1530 hrs. Rates Rs. 5/- per head. Pothamedu (06 kms) offers a breathtaking view of the tea, coffee and cardamom plantations.; Devikulam (07 kms) is an idyllic hill station which also has the Sita Devi Lake, famed for its mineral water and trout fishing.; Pallivasal (08kms) the venue of the first hydro-electric project in Kerala ; Attukal (09 kms) has waterfalls and is also ideal for long treks. Located between Munnar and Pallivasal.; Nyayamakad (10 kms) has waterfalls which fall from a height of around 1600 mts. Located between Munnar and Rajmala ; Chithirapuram (10 kms) old world charm with little cottages, bungalows, old playgrounds and courts.; Lock Heart Gap (13 kms) ideal for adventure tourism and trekking;
Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea (museum) – it houses curios, photographs and machineries, that depict a turning point that contributed to the flourishing tea industry in India. Visitors are greeted by a sundial, placed on a granite block, which was made in 1913 by the Art Industrial School at Nazareth, Tamil Nadu. In terms of antiquity, the burial urn from the 2nd century BC, which was found near Periakanal estate, is of great interest. Visitors can go through various stages of tea processing and also learn a bit about the production of black tea. Timing: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm every day. Entry Fee: Adults Rs. 50/- ; Children below 12 years Rs. 10/-..

Echo Point: located 13 kms from Munnar, ideal for adventure tourism and trekking, the place is kissed by fresh mountain air and surrounded by mist-clad hills. The place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here. On the way to Top Station from Munnar.

To reach: 140 kms from Madurai in Tamil Nadu; 190 kms from Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery; Train: 60 kms from Theni in Tamil Nadu; 93 kms from Changanacherry

Added Info: 1600 mts to 1800 mts above sea level; temperature 0-25c ; Peak season August – March.

Happy travelling :))

In God's own land - Kerala (India)


Sometime back I had the chance of visiting God’s own country – or Kerala, as we know it more commonly. The place had been advertised in so many ads in the television and print media that by the time we made up our mind to actually visit, our imaginations were filled with smiling and content faces of families and couples, who have been witness to one of the most pristine destinations that boasts of nature at its best.

Once the choice of destination was finalised, me and hubby decided to do a small background check on the internet, to see what all options were available to tourists who would love to tour the state. And were we surprised by the kind of options we saw? We, me, my husband and my daughter, had a great time there, the place was ideal to make a long-ish trip, something for around 7-10 days would be most ideal.

The locals were extremely courteous and helpful, friendly and full of advice and travel tips. Weather was very very pleasant, in fact in Munnar, the hotels we stayed in and visited did not even have a fan, and that too in the month of April, so you can very well imagine how things would be in the cooler months and during monsoon.
For now I am jotting down a list of some of the main things that a traveller to Kerala can look forward to….

Munnar, Allepey, maritime museum, kollam, tea museum, st. angelo fort, aaranmula boat race, the cave temple, houseboat, thiruvananthapuram wildlife sanctuary, cherai beach, archaeological museum, Vembanad Lake, bekal fort beach, alappuzha, alapuzzha beach, Krishnapuram Palace, kochi, kottayam, idukki, periyar river, kannur, kasaragod, cochin carnival, the fort of tipu sultan, thalasseri fort, ambalapuzha temple, bekal fort, guruvayur Shri Krishna temple, St. Mary's Orthodox church, edathua church, varkala beach, veli tourist village, sankhumugam beach, Kuthiramalika Palace, ponmudi, echo point, Shenduruni Wildlife Sanctuary, silent valley national park, chinnar wildlife sanctuary, kadalundi bird sanctuary, kuttanad......
for more information on these spots, please keep an eye on this page....

Happy travelling :))

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kabul Express (movie) - an express you shouldnt miss boarding...


Well it is common understanding that whichever Bollywood movie isn’t hyped or has the glossy premieres and isn't given a star treatment is actually the movie to watch out for.
One of the main attractions for me to watch Kabul Express was of course John Abraham.Plus the fact that I love documentaries also added to the same.To project a sensitive subject like this, it is required that the film does not turn into a preach saga or a commentary of what is happening.
Surprisingly, the movie comes from the commercialized Yash Raj banner, wonder why they don’t think of doing such sensible cinema most of the time.It also marks the debut of writer director Kabir Khan. The background score by Raghav Sanchar complements the feel of the movie, the typical accent and the way in which the Afghani people speak hindi is very sweet n real.
The movie starts with 02 war journalists going to Kabul to cover the post-war destruction. Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi), are there in the middle of all the gun and the bullets, to shoot a story that will bring them accolades back home in India. War has destroyed everything. Smiling children with amputated legs and arms, women begging everywhere for food and money, as they don’t have a husband, a father or a male relation to turn to for their survival, young men with rifles, who do not hesitate to pull the trigger over trivial issues. People who were once friendly and warm, who now have no choice but to be suspicious of each other and always be ready to kill. Even in the midst of all this shooting and fear, the 02 journos manage to have their sense of humor and witty liners intact, which is desi and very natural. Khyber (Hanif Hum Ghum) is their guide n driver, who takes them to meet the Taliban soldier, or the “militant”, as the world largely believes. But it is bad luck for the duo as they just miss the Taliban and fear their journalist career will now mean shooting pot bellied politicians in India. As they return to their car, Kabul Express, all fear is set loose by the sight of the Taliban soldier Imran Khan Afridi (Salman Shahid), who is now settled in the back seat of the car, with an AK-47 comfortably aimed at the terrified occupants. He instructs them to drive him safely to the border and assures them that as long as they don’t try to be smart with him, they have nothing to fear. John is practical and calm, while Arshad is jumpy and impulsive. The story continues as the car moves along toward the border and the 04 men have no one to talk to except one another. One of the most realistic aspect of this movie is the way it shows the bonding between 04 complete strangers, all coming from different backgrounds. The men share their habit of smoking cigarettes. Each time Arshad lights one, the Talibani also asks for a “Hindustani cigarette”, much to Arshad’s irritation and John’s amusement. They share a love for music. As the old radio plays an old Hindi filmy number “main zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya”, everyone joins in the melody. They share a common sense of fear. The Talibani faces the fear of being killed by the Afghanis or the Americans, while the other 03 fear they will be killed by the Talibani.Squabbles over Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, arguing over Coke and Pepsi. Jessica Bekham (Linda Arsenio) is an American journalist working for Reuters, who is a war pro and runs into the most dangerous areas, just to get a great story. It is only near the end of the movie that we get a glimpse into her real purpose, that of trying to tell the people in power , through her war documentaries, that it is high time we stop pitying and debating over the fate of such countries and really get down to help them to re-settle. The Talibani is a Pakistani Army soldier, who has been posted in Afghanistan for more than 06 years. In obeying the orders of the High Commission, he has been labeled as a Talibani. Imran does not agree to the Talibani idea of forcing religion on people and committing atrocities on women and children, but orders from higher authorities in the army have forced him to be labeled as one of the Talibani militants. We feel his deep love for his daughter, who has refused to see her Talibani father in the last 06 years. His only wish now is to have a glimpse of his daughter, to know that she is well and then go back to his home in Pakistan. The journalists help him meet his daughter and tears of love and gratitude run down his cheeks as he bids her a silent and distant farewell and heads for his country. While on their way towards the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, soldiers arrive and try to shoot down Imran. But John and Arshad help him escape by engaging the soldiers in firing. It is tough for Imran as he has to trust the 02 Indians and hand over his gun to them. John and Arshad give him a pack of the Hindustani cigarettes as a parting gift from India and wish him luck. As Imran nears the border to Pakistan, the Army refuses to acknowledge its own man. The official orders the soldiers to shoot him, though the latter are sure he is a Pakistani and is only returning home. But the officer needs to be politically correct, humanity features nowhere on his list of priorities. As we sit and hope that now Imran will finally be able to go back to his loved ones in his own country, he is riddled with bullets. The last shot of the movie shows his body falling in the water, the cigarette case and the picture of his daughter slipping away from his hands. I could not help the tears from trickling down my eye. The sense of loss, the sense of destruction, the sense of barbarism and cruelty inflicted by the so-called “civilised” and “powerful” nations of the world is portrayed in a mature and sensible way in the movie.
The political wars and diplomatic farce of these countries is evident here in abundance. Physical boundaries do not separate us. We are all the same at heart, we feel the same emotions, fear the same fears, share the same smiles and tears. It is rather these so-called politicians who govern us, people we choose to give us our share of freedom and happiness, the same people who choose to give us boundaries in the name of guarding us, rules in the name of keeping us safe and bullets and guns in the name of protecting us. Just wondering, did we really manage to be civilized in the 21st century?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Harihareshwar - a MUST getaway in Maharashtra, India

When the Gods made this Earth, according to what many of us have been led to believe, they must have thought of keeping a few vacation destinations exclusively for themselves. And maybe that explains how, even in this mad and busy world of today, we have a place that has almost never been touched by a crowd, never yet been spoilt by the excessive commercialisation that the human race is so famous for. There are many such places here and one of them has a name called Harihareshwar.

Lying peacefully along the Konkan border of Maharashtra, this place is a mere 200kms from Mumbai and a travel time of just a little less than 2 hours from Navi Mumbai. If you ever want to experience the sheer joy of seeing a beach and a hill station at the same time then this drive is for you. We travelled in the month of October, the drive up the hills was breathtaking and we were surrounded by clouds. As we drove downhill the beach spread in front of us as if by magic, it took our breath away. You have to be there at least once in your life to know that this will be one of the best drives you have ever had. The road is a little bumpy at a few stretches and those who have a problem with hill drives are advised to carry adequate remedies (read Lemon juice and Hajmola) as the hill curves are pretty sharp.

And now for the details.....

Distance to destination by road: From Mumbai approx 200kms, from Pune approx 140 kms.

Time taken to reach destination by road: From Mumbai approx 3 hours and a little short of 2 hours from Navi Mumbai.

Connectivity: By air reach Mumbai and then you can either drive, hire a cab (approx Rs.3500-Rs.4000 rent). Tourist buses ply from Mumbai and Pune. By train the nearest station is Mangaon about 65kms from Harihareshwar.

Accomodation where we stayed: MTDC resort, District Raigad, Harihareshwar beach.

Contact Info: 02147-226036.

Check-in Time: 10:30am

Check-Out time: 09:00am

Type of accomodation: Konkan House AC.

Room rates: Rs.1500-Rs.2000/- per night as per 2009.

Room Info: Spacious and clean, double bed which is comfortable enough for 2 adults and a child.1 extra bed can be placed on request. A huge balcony overlooking palm trees and the beach. Attached bathroom equipped with a hot water system. Clean and spacious. TV and Intercom that can be used to converse with the staff and with occupants in other rooms.

Type of food: The best bet here is surely the day's fresh catch. Be sure to have a word with the chef who will personally guide you about what will suit your taste. We had a lot of help in deciding the fish as we were travelling with a baby. Also check out the onion pakodas, they are simply a must have with those steaming pots of tea. The North-Indian is alright, as this is not their forte and expecting so would simply be a mistake on our part. South Indian fare is also delightful.

The resort is extremely picturesque and has a sea-side open breakfast area, a park with swings for the kids and lots of greens where you can walk and spend a quiet private date with nature.

Food to be had at the local market: A must-visit place for all the fish lovers is a small eatery called Hotel Prasad in the local market. Ask anyone at the resort and they will guide you, they did so to us too.

Nearby attractions: Shreevardhan beach at a distance of approx 20 mins from Harihareshwar MTDC Resort. Apart from this there are several temples in and around Harihareshwar, one of the most famous being the Kalbhairav Temple. But I will not be able to shed any lights on the same as we were only attracted by the beach.

That’s more or the less the main info that you would need to take into consideration before planning a trip. Do so and have a wonderful time.... Happy travelling :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

VIBGYOR

V iolet when I see the lavender in full bloom....
I ndigo when I see the darker hue
B lue as the waves come and caress me through
G reen when I feel fresh and cool
Y ellow as the sun comes up each day
O range as it walks back home
R ed as the tinge in the dancing flame
So many colours to fill my life .... and I wish the same for you....

The Palace of Illusions - a masterpiece retold by master storyteller Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


I am a self-confessed book lover and there is hardly anything in this world that can give me as much peace and satisfaction as having laid my hands on a new book (after I have quickly devoured the previous one) and settling down to let those pages take control of my senses. So it was no surprise that when I saw my friend holding a book that I had not seen earlier, I peeked to check the cover and discovered to my utter surprise that here was a book I should have heard from someone by this time....how the name of such an amazing work eluded me is still a mystery...
The book is 'The Palace of Illusions' by one of my favourite and one of the best female writers of Indian origin - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

We have all seen the Mahabharata....literally...ok, a little adulterated maybe, but yes, we have all seen the epic unfold before our very own eyes, on each Sunday morning, courtesy the very (now) underrated Doordarshan. Almost all of us will have happy and nostalgic memories of those Sundays when mothers would finish off the cooking before nine and fathers would complete the shopping and outside chores of the day, when we would have woken up early and sat through pages of homework and memorising....all gearing up for that 'special' time of the week when the sages and the kings and the warriors would invade our homes and take over our senses.....

Who doesn’t remember the silver-bearded Bheeshma Pitamah, the strong and charismatic Karna wrapped in a gold armour, the 'satyavaadi' Yudhishthir, the ever-powerful Bheem, the brave and famed Arjun, the smiling and hugely popular Krishna (who was actually thought to be a God by many mere mortals), the vision-less Dhritarashtra and his 'loyal' wife Gandhari, the one with the blindfold on her eyes...

And Draupadi? Of course you must have heard of the beautiful and arrogant Draupadi, Paanchali, the one with the five husbands, the haughty and arrogant one, the one whose pride and the need for vengeance ultimately led to one of the biggest blood bath the lands of Bharat have ever witnessed.

The book Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is immensely apt in its title in the sense that even by the time the reader moves on to the second page, a lot of the illusions created by the epic Mahabharata are already beginning to clear off. You will see questions where earlier you had only taken each of the mythological fact at sheer face value. As the book begins we see King Drupad invoking the blessings of heaven and bringing forth from the fire a ‘blessed’ son Dhristadyumna (Dhri), who will help him in avenging his rivals. But even as the king begins to move away from the fire holding the hand of his beloved son, something else tugs at them. This something is a girl, who too has been sent along with the son. Not sure what to do now, the king brings her out of the fire too, and since she was unwanted and unasked for, he simply names her Draupadi, meaning daughter of Drupad. The gods warn Drupad that Draupadi will eventually change the course of history and even as the little girl hears the same remark repeated over and over again, she cannot for one moment comprehend how it will be that she would cause such a change in history that it would become something monumental.
From the moment she steps into this world Draupadi realises what it means to be a woman in this male-dominated world. She will receive none of the education that her brother is privileged to get, though she has a penchant for studies and has a sharp intellect.
We get a glimpse of the little Draupadi, how, as she is growing up into a woman, she gets more and more self-conscious about her dark complexion, until she meets Krishna, who is even darker than her. He tells her that ‘others see you as you see yourself’ and her words soon put a confidence into the nervous and shy Draupadi, who now holds her head high and is amazed to see a change in the way people behave with her. Where earlier there were nudges and whisperings about the dark girl, now there are praises and comments on her beauty and the way she carries herself.
Early on in life Draupadi meets the sage Vyasa who gives her warnings about what is about to happen in the future and tells her there will be three major moments in her life that will change the course of things. To help her he warns her thus:
1. just before your wedding, at the time hold back your tongue
2. when your husbands are at the height of their power, at that time hold back your laughter
3. when you’re shamed as you’ve never imagined possible, at that time hold back your curse

The sage tells her that if she can do the above, maybe it will mitigate the catastrophe. The reader can only hope that Draupadi remembers the warning and acts accordingly.
As the story moves forth we see the growing relationship between Krishna and Krishnaa, as Krishna calls Draupadi. The friendship, which almost can be termed as love, proves to be one of the most strong points in Draupadi’s life. Krishna assists her in situations when she believes there is no hope, he instils a sense of confidence in her and tells her to be cautious and to keep a check on her temper as well as her curious bent of mind.

During her swayamvar Draupadi sees Karna and we can immediately see how her heart goes out to him as it is love at first sight. The attraction is not one-sided and the reader can clearly state that Karna too feels the same way. But remember sage Vyasa’s warning, that there will be a moment just before the marriage? The moment arrives and Draupadi speaks, and something is set in motion that will change many things.

We see how the newly-wed Draupadi is taken to a hut, where she weds all the five brothers, as per the command of their mother Kunti. Arjun, who cannot counter his mother’s command, directs his pride and anger towards Draupadi instead, and a husband who was once almost caring and loving, will now turn his attention somewhere else. For how else can a man behave when the code of marriage, arranged by Vyasa, states that Draupadi will be wife to each Pandav brother one year at a time, starting from eldest to youngest. The command of the mother-in-law will prove to be the root for her marital disharmony – the woman who had so looked forward to be a good wife will never be happy as a wife again.

At Indra Prastha, the Palace of Illusions is set and the Pandavas are at their height of powers. Remember the warning – hold back your laughter? Though she does not realise it then, this will again be one of the follies that will work towards bringing forth an impending doom.

When the game of ‘chaupar’ or dice is on in full swing, our very own ‘satyavaadi’ Yudhishthir, who has developed an intense liking for sura and gambling, will lose his all, so much so that he will put his wife as a pawn, trying to salvage what is lost. But when the most shameful act is performed on Draupadi, sage Vyasa’s warning of holding back her curse is forgotten again and hence the beginning of the doom.

Her temper, her pride, her curse, her need for vengeance has been attributed to be the cause for the biggest war on Indian land. But how did that little unwanted girl, the one who wanted to be the cause of love and peace and who never wanted to have anything to do with ‘astras’ and violence lead to a war that shattered the very core of the human nature? As Chitra Banerjee takes on the tone of Draupadi you are witness to what transpired between those years from Paanchali’s childhood to her youth that made her one of the most controversial women in Indian history.

Go, immerse yourself in these pages and be a part of an epic that will never be retold as only Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Be a Yummy Mummy


Ok, so now that I am at it, let me share some more gyaan about a few little things that the very-new mummies should keep in mind.
So you are almost gonna have a baby and are already having nightmares? Or you already have a little cuddle in your arms and still cant figure out what hit you? Eternal days of bad hair day, when your hair screams in agony for a little touch of shampoo and that soft conditioner, or even for a basic hair comb? When your maid is better dressed than you for weeks on end, your dress made new each day with fresh polka dots of spilled baby food or traces of thrown-up milk? When your once-beautiful eyes are encased in stubborn dark circles, the paint on your finger nails is flaky and you have almost forgotten how a perfume, or even a deo, smells.....
Admit it....we have all been through such days one time or the other, that is, we, the mothers.....fathers still have the option of looking at a sleeping baby early in the morning and leaving for office even before the angel actually wakes up and returning near baby's night-sleep time....But even those mothers who go out into the corporate world, we have all faced such days for weeks on end.....
There are many things that create confusion and cause frustration, anger and tears for a new mother. But making a few changes on our part and keeping a few things firmly in mind will help us distressed moms from being frustrated-mommies to becoming yummy-mommies...


FOR NEW MOTHERS


1. DO NOT, PLEASE..REPEAT AND REPEAT, DO NOT TAKE ADVICE FROM ANYONE AND EVERYONE
As simple as this may sound, now that you have a new-born baby at home, everyone, starting from parents, to in-laws to neighbours, to strangers in malls and flights and anywhere for that matter, will turn into doctors overnight. Each person will have a different solution to baby’s cough, cold, crying and food habits. It is not only confusing for a new parent to be faced with so many different choices coming from the so-called reliable sources, but it is also highly unadvisable to go in for home remedies without consulting your baby’s pediatrician first. Though such advice may be well-meaning, convey politely that you do appreciate the help, but in the end, it is baby’s doctor whose advice is final.

2. EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO LACTATE FROM THE DAY OF DELIVERY, YOU WILL SOON CATCH ON
Some new mothers are not able to feed baby right after birth. This could be due to various reasons.
A) You may have had a C-section, in which case you need to be in full rest for at least 24 hours before you can feed your baby.
B) The baby might not be able to suckle and hence cannot feed.
C) You might be experiencing sore nipples and hence unable to feed.
D) Post-natal depression is also responsible for mothers not being able to lactate.

There may be still other reasons, but in each case, the one thing to remember is, do not get anxious. The more a new mother stresses herself, chances are, the less she will be able to lactate. Try to lighten up your mood by thinking of the new life that is there with you.
If you are experiencing hardness in your breasts or swollen nipples, take a cotton cloth and warm it, then place it over the area that is paining. Rub lightly with tender hands. Repeat the same till pain is less.
Sometimes, lactation starts after repeating the process for a few minutes. The first milk, or colostrum, is the most important for a new-born baby. Consult with your doctor and if you are not in a position to feed directly, arrange to store the colostrum in a bottle to be given to baby.

3. BE PATIENT
This is one of the most important and basic rules of parenting. No matter how determined you are to be like one of those perfect parents staring out from the endless cute commercials, never losing their cool, always smiling with an infant in their arms, truth is, you will lose count of the number of times when you might feel like banging your head on the wall. Every parent goes through this phase and it is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. The way to handle most of these moments is to try and remain patient. Babies can sense when their parents are hyper and this in turn makes them more scared and hyper, thus causing more crying and crankiness. If the situation does not improve, try taking the help of your spouse for a while.

4. SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS
Nights with the baby are full of feeding and nappy changing. So sleep when the baby sleeps. Even though you may feel like finishing off your day-to-day chores while the baby is sleeping, it is best to catch those precious winks and be fresh for baby when he/she wakes up, rather than keeping the house clean and shining and being in a foul temper with your infant. If you get less sleep, it affects lactation and hence baby gets lesser nourishment. Invest in a domestic help.

5. EAT WELL WHILE YOU ARE LACTATING
When you were pregnant, you were eating for two. The same applies even now. While you are lactating, your eating habits should be pretty much the same they were while you were expecting. Baby will draw all its nourishment from the breast milk, hence it is important for lactating mothers to have a well balanced diet and avoid spicy and greasy food, as it can cause acidity in baby. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol as long as you are lactating, though some doctors okay alcohol after the initial stage. Check with your doctor before hitting the bottle.


6. AVOID COSMETICS AND ACCESSORIES AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
It is proven that babies are allergic to cosmetics. For the most part of their day, as well as nights, babies are either in their mother’s arms or in close proximity. Wearing strong perfume, having nail paint on your fingers that can chip off while you are making mashed food for baby or while baby tries to suckle on your finger, using lipstick that can get transferred to baby's skin, glass bangles that can cause cuts in baby, even beads and pendants around your neck and dangling earrings that can cause cuts or be accidentally swallowed by baby, are a potential health hazard for your little one. Avoid as much of these as possible. Try and pull back your hair, as many babies develop rashes and allergies due to constant rubbing with hair on their skin. If you carry your baby most of the time, opt for fabrics in pure cotton, as these are comfortable for baby and will not cause any allergy or discomfort to the tender skin.

7. KEEP UP THE ROMANCE
You just had a baby and romance is definitely the last thing on your mind right now. With a baby who needs your constant care and attention twenty four hours a day, as well as timely feeds after every couple of hours, your body and mind are exhausted beyond your imagination. Just when you think that your life has come to a standstill and you are converted to a nagging and irritable wreck, take a minute and give yourself a pat on the back for being a wonderful mom. Smile at your partner. Make for cozy times in between nappy changing and feeding. Intimacy need not always be the sexual kind. A warm hug or a caring and loving smile can brighten up the day, just when you are about to lose it. Many of us do not realize this, but during pregnancy and after the arrival of the new member, it is mostly the father who becomes the most ignored member of the house. Sharing a few loving words over a cup of coffee when your baby is asleep, will not only give you that intimacy you have been missing for so long, it will also cheer up your partner and make him want to be a more active part of baby-care, if he is not already doing it. Go for a drive with your baby and partner, text each other during the day, if you have access to a computer send him an e-card once in a while, just like that. Go out for dinner, or if that is still not a comfortable choice with the baby, order in food and have a nice lazy spread on the bed. Give each other a nice back massage to relieve the day’s tension and stress. Remember, small gestures and a few loving words is all it takes to let your partner know how much you love him and how he still continues to be one of the most important and loved person in your life. And if any husbands are reading this, one small smile to your wife or a single word of appreciation will make her feel on top of the world......


8. START ENJOYING PARENTHOOD
Having a baby in the house is a blessing. Though right now you might feel it only results in countless nights without sleep and days without food and a proper wash, gradually, you will adjust to the routine and start loving your new role as a parent. Having a baby can be fun in a lot of ways, though many of us forget to enjoy these precious moments and instead, get disillusioned and cranky. To make your life a little organized, try getting baby used to a routine, for food, for bath, for bedtime. Though many babies refuse this kind of a routine outright, some babies stick to their routines and start accepting the clock as early as 02 months old. You might just be one of the lucky few. Start enjoying baby activities. Bring home some baby DVDs with music and rhymes, sing along and make smiley faces at baby. Soon your baby will start recognizing these rhymes. Go to a baby store and browse among the tiny accessories and clothes. Much as it will be an outing for baby, it will be a totally new and fun experience for you as well. If you have a nature park near your home, go out with baby and point out the birds and trees. Simply going to a park with baby will also be fun. Babies love to see other babies of their own size, just sit back and enjoy those gurgles. Have fun while giving baby a bath. Put baby toys in the tub and sprinkle baby with water. There are many fun things that you can do with your baby, different parents have different methods and games that they share with their tiny tots. Start enjoying your moments with your little one and there will be lots more to life than the regular cleaning up and feeds and nappy times.
WORD OF CAUTION: All activities mentioned above should be done keeping age of the baby in mind and if it is an outing, parents should first do a background check themselves before exposing baby to something that is new for the baby as well as for them, like a particular park or a play area.

9. LOOK PLEASANT AND BE PRESENTABLE
Some women get so carried away by the pressures of being a new mother, that they completely forget the basic rules of hygiene and grooming, when it concerns them. Staying and looking clean will not only take care of the hygiene issues, it will also make you feel much more cheerful, than seeing a dirty face in the mirror the whole day. Clean your face and put on some bright clothes, comb your hair and tie it up with a nice band. Apply some kohl to your eyes and you will be happy to see what a difference it makes to your confidence when you look clean and good. Wash your hair regularly as well as take a bath. For nuclear families, it might be difficult to leave baby alone and take time off. In such cases, take a nice hot bath when your partner is back from work. Occasionally, make a trip to the parlour over the weekends, while hubby dear tackles the nappies.


10. REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
Continue taking the various supplements that your doctor has prescribed. Most women are prescribed vitamin and iron supplements throughout the lactation period and for some time later as well. Check with your doctor what works best for you and continue accordingly. For some women, a particular brand of iron might work better, consult with your doctor if you are having any problems after starting the medicines, like problem with motions, vomiting or dizziness. Your doctor will advise accordingly. Many women are also advised some or the other form of supplement to be taken with milk, check with your doctor. Different women are prescribed different medicines, based on their individual symptoms and health records, do not self-medicate or take medicines that your friend might be taking during motherhood.


I had a difficult time in the begining as well, but just when I thought things would never get back to being the same, our baby began to adjust herself to the new world around her, and now all three of us, me, baby and hubby, are a team :)))

Travelling with an infant


Today as I went down for my daily walk in the park along with my daughter, I saw a young lady standing morosely in the lobby, a crying infant in her arms and a barrage of baggage round her tired feet. Of course I could not just walk away from the duo in distress, so I decided check in on the matter myself.
On questioning, the woman told me that her baby was a little girl barely 4 months old and that she was new in the building. On further probing, she told me she and her husband were planning an outstation trip soon, but with the way the baby was behaving, she was doubtful if it would be a good thing to travel with the baby.
"What is there to think? It is much more easier than you think it is. And not really that difficult as some people might make it out to be."
"Is it? You think we can travel with her, I mean just me and my husband and her, without anyone to help us?"
"Of course. Just keep a few simple things in mind and you are all set."



TRAVELLING WITH AN INFANT

Traveling with a baby can be quite a task, as most parents will tell you. Not only do you need to take constant care of the little one, you also have to be well prepared to handle all possible baby requirements, while being on the go. Keeping a few basic things in mind can help make the journey hassle-free and fun.

 BUY A BABY BAG
The markets today are flooded with baby bags of different sizes and features, as well as baby bags for twins. Most of these bags are water proof, washable, have separate areas for storing baby bottles, diapers, clothes and other knick-knacks. You can have a zipper bag, buttoned bag, string-up bag, or even a stick-on bag, depending on what is more comfortable for you to use. Check the length of the bag’s handle and also how strong it is, as a lot of baby’s things as well as yours, will make its way in here.

 MAKE A CHECK LIST OF THINGS TO BE KEPT IN THE BABY BAG
Most of the times, a baby will feel hungry and sleepy and cranky at the exact time that you have decided to throw things in the bag and start to move out of the house. To avoid forgetting things and to save yourself a last-minute rush, prepare a list of the important things that you will need for the baby and stock in most of it in the baby bag. For your own convenience, always keep 02 fresh diapers (apart from the ones in your luggage), a wipe box, some old newspapers, a wrap, an extra empty feeding bottle, a soft cloth, a change of clothes and 02 bibs in the baby bag. These are things that you will need each time you go out with baby and having to stop mid-way in your travel to buy wipes or diapers is not convenient, especially if there are no stores nearby. Also, keep some rattles and toys in the bag, which you know your baby is fond of.

 CHECK ON THE WEATHER CONDITIONS OF THE PLACE YOU ARE ABOUT TO VISIT
While planning your trip, gather information on the weather conditions and temperature of the place you are visiting. For hot climate, baby will be most comfortable in light cotton clothes. For a colder climate, keep extra woolens, warm socks, caps and wraps. Always keep some extra items of clothing than you think is required. Keeping some extra wraps and blankets is always a good idea, as these can also serve as baby’s bedding, as and when needed.


 BABY BOTTLES
If your little one is less than 06 months old, chances are, you have not yet started any top feed, liquids or solids. But for older babies, keep a spare feeding bottle/sipper, some spare nipples and a cup. If your baby has started solids, keep an extra spoon and plate or dish. Do not forget the bib.


 BABY FOODS
If you have started baby on powdered milk, remember to keep the bottle of milk powder in the baby bag. In case you have started baby on solids, carry some baby biscuits, crushed cornflakes (if baby likes), breads, carrot sticks, apples, bananas and other such non-messy foods that baby is familiar eating and the doctor has okayed.



 BABY MEDICAL KIT
While getting ready to travel, always remember to keep a medical kit in your luggage. A baby medical kit should have wipes, a mild antiseptic, cotton, baby thermometer, nappy-rash cream, baby lotion, baby oil, baby soap, baby shampoo, baby talc, baby comb or brush, bandage, a pair of scissors. Consult with your baby’s doctor before going out. If possible, get a baby wellness checkup to be sure your baby is fit and fine. Always keep the contact number of your baby’s doctor handy. Inform them beforehand that you may call if required. In case your baby is on medication, remember to take the medicines as well as the prescription. Also carry a liquid mosquito repellant if possible.


 FOR TRAVEL BY AIR
If you are traveling by air with your baby, make sure you inform the airlines about the same at the time of booking. Ask for a seat with extra leg-room. Baby meal is available in the flight, but be sure to carry some milk or supplements. To avoid ear pain during take off and landing, feed baby while aircraft is making its ascent (during take off) and descent (during landing). If you are not comfortable feeding the baby in a craft, try putting your finger in baby's mouth, or a pacifier if you use one. If you have started baby on water you could try that as well.


 ADDITIONAL MEASURES
In order to have a safe and pleasant trip, it is advisable to be careful about certain basic things.
1) Babies are most comfortable when they are in their familiar surroundings or amidst people they know. In most cases, this is the mother and father, sometimes grandparents too. If baby is crying or irritable, take them in your arms and soothe in a soft voice. Often the best way to calm a terrified baby is by rocking them in your arms and softly singing a favorite rhyme or song in their ear.
2) If baby is finding it difficult to sleep in a new environment, lightly massage legs, arms, back and head with mild baby body oil.
3) Make sure baby is in comfortable clothing.
4) If the weather permits, you may give baby a warm bath just before bedtime and follow it with a warm bottle of milk or feed.
5) Never try a new routine or new activity for baby in a new setting. The unfamiliar surroundings and change in routine will only make baby more insecure, thus adding to baby’s woes as well as the parents'.
6) Always be careful of who your baby is with. Never let strangers be alone with baby, even for a minute.


A few very simple and basic measures for new parents but I think all of us who have had a baby would agree how useful these usually are.
And as for my new neighbour, well, a couple of weeks later she invited me home and we sat together over coffee, checking out the snaps of the trip on her laptop.

On a new grown-up morning........

School bag in hand she leaves in the morning,
waving goodbye with that absent-minded smile
that little pudgy finger slowly slipping through my fingers
each time I think I will be her friend, she just keeps growing,
I think I will do it tomorrow,
but now I realise there is just no way to know,
that so soon my little doll would grow......

As she starts school


As she steps into a new world, doing things on her own for the very first time, I sit back, a line on my forehead, a thought in my heart, trying to remember how it is that she suddenly grew so big while all the time I was under the impression that it was only yesterday that my little doll was born !!!

A few things I am missing right now:

watching reruns of all those animations on the Disney channel
singing rhymes out loud and performing them with full actions
cleaning up crayon marks on the wall
running around the house with a bowl full of food and a spoon in hand
hearing the giggling
getting wet with sloppy kisses
playing horse
screaming and then smiling the next moment as I see that smiling pixie
missing being me as I start on this new phase of my life, seeing my little one fly
out of the nest, spreading her wings, ready to face the world on her own.....

Bengali wedding in all its splendour - a treat in the form of a traditional Baangali biye


There is something so romantic about a wedding, well, maybe not your own wedding, where you hardly get a chance to free yourself from the clutches of the photographers so desperate to make that ‘perfect wedding album’ or the video-waalahs who want to capture your perfect smiles and each and every second of your ‘wedding’ moment. Your own wedding isn’t the perfect ‘platform’ to enjoy really, but what I was talking about was the wedding of someone close and dear to you. A wedding, a traditional one at that, where all the intricate patterns of our lovely culture come popping out.

I recently had the chance to be part of one such wedding. My friend, the one who always was so sure she would never marry, and when that conviction began to waver upon meeting a certain ‘charming young man who was a ‘typical’ bong’ was so sure that she would have a registry marriage and not one with the countless numbers of rituals and hoo-haas (that’s how she put it)…..well, it was one ‘BIG’ event when she finally got married, a marriage that was finally performed in as traditional a way as it can be.

As the bride and groom’s families were all based in our very own sweet and fragrant Kolkata, the marriage simply had to take place there, with all the ‘dadas’ and ‘boudis’ and ‘kakimas’ and ‘kakus’ and ‘didis’ and ‘jaamai babus’ and ‘thakumas’ and ‘pishis’ and ‘maashis’- who were all geared up to converge in their best fineries and glitters jewels.

Beginning the preparations:

As I was ‘special’ friend of the bride I reached Kolkata a good three weeks before the wedding. I was immediately sucked in to the group of women and almost immediately after landing I was shepherded off to the tempting markets of Gariahat, Shyam Bazaar and New Market. There was a riot of colours on the counters as the shop attendants brought out sarees after sarees for the bride and her entire entourage. There were the ever-favourite reds with gold work, the bright greens with yellow, the blues with navy, the purple with the silver, the creams with the maroons and so many more shades that I wondered how I had managed to stay away from this most charming fabric till now, the fabric that is undoubtedly one of the most flattering gifts to the Indian female form. Our bride would be draped in a lovely bright red and gold ‘benaroshi’ saree, red an auspicious colour in a Bengali Hindu wedding.

The mouth-watering spread:

The cooks had been booked from Kalighat a month in advance; the feast would be elaborate and guests would be treated to a culinary delight they were not going to forget soon. There would be steamed basmati rice, ghee, mushoor dal (pink lentils), chholar dal (Bengal gram lentil) with roasted coconut, aaloo bhaaja (fried potato), begun bhaaja (fried brinjal), maachh bhaaja (fried fish), luchi, aalur-dom (a typical Bengali potato gravy), mocha ghonto (a dish prepared with the flower of banana), chanchra (a mixed vegetable curry with fish head), shorshey maachh (fish in mustard), fish curry and kosha mangsho (a typical Bengali mutton curry). After the main meal, tomato chutney, papad, mishti doi (sweetened curd), roshogollas and shondesh would be served, followed in the end by a huge paan wrapped in silver foil and decorated with rose petals, as a mark of the auspicious occasion. Guests would stuff the paan in the insides of their cheeks, their lips and tongue red with the kaththa, their mouths sweet with the mishti supaari, talking animatedly about the marriage and how beautiful the pair looked, and finally blessing them again in their talks. I had read the menu and my mouth had watered immediately, couldn’t wait for the special day when I would stuff myself with all the baangaali food.


At the bride’s house:

A week before the wedding the house was lit up with little dots of gold. There were long wires full of tiny gold bulbs that hung from the terrace and came all the way down the front of the building till the ground. Strains of shaanai came from inside the house and people were already dropping in to celebrate the wedding. Cooks had been hired and a makeshift kitchen took shape on the terrace, a bright red shaamiyana was erected to keep out the sun and tables and chairs set to accommodate relatives and neighbours who came in large numbers. Temporary beds were made by placing mattresses on the floor and everyone sat around till late in the night, enjoying addas, singing folk songs and marriage songs and enjoying this holiday atmosphere. We placed sticks of rajanigandha (tuberose) and roses in all corners of the rooms and the heady fragrance announced the arrival of the wedding.


The day of the aashirbaad (blessing):

The aashirbaad day was fixed four days before the wedding. The significance of this ritual was to symbolise the acceptance of marriage between bride and groom by both the families. In the morning, the bride was dressed in the finest silk, her hair washed and shining in the morning light. As someone blew the shaankh (conch shell) signalling the arrival of the members from the groom’s side the house broke out in a flurry of activities. The groom’s side sprinkled husked rice on the bride and gifts, in the form of gold ornaments, were exchanged by the families. The same evening, the elders of the bride’s family visited the house of the groom and blessed him by sprinkling husked rice over him, in addition to another round of exchange of gifts in the form of sarees and kurta pyjamas and sweets.

The aai-buro-bhaat (the last meal of the bride in the house before marriage):

The day before the marriage was the aai-budo-bhaat. The last meal of the unmarried girl in her home was celebrated with all relatives and friends, songs were sung and many jokes shared in giggling tones by the many aunts and boudis.

THE WEDDING DAY:

On the wedding day the bride, and I, since I was sleeping in the same room as my friend, was woken up at four in the morning by her mother. She was carrying a small bowl of curd and sugar. In the Bengali custom, doi chini is considered a good start to any auspicious occasion, be it a wedding or even an examination. The bride would be allowed only this small helping of curd and sugar for the whole day, her next morsel would come only after the rites of holy matrimony had been performed and her transformation into a Mrs.

After some time, the ladies of the house accompanied the bride to a pond nearby. It had been a task to locate a water body in the posh neighbourhood of Jodhpur Park. I realised then how much the times had changed from when our elders had formulated these rituals. The singing and giggling group reached the pond where my friend, the bride, had to take a dip in the cold pre-dawn water, before taking the blessings of her ma and all the ladies who had come along.

During the day a yagya was performed to invoke the blessings of the forefathers who were long since departed. Once the pujo was over the purohit handed four bangles, two red(polas) and two white(shaakhaas) to the seven married women of the family who had sat with them near the pujo. They then put one red and one white bangle in each arm of the bride.

Gaaye-holud (smearing of turmeric on the body):

With much laughter and joking and giggling we then proceeded to the courtyard where five ladies of the girl’s family had already ground the fresh turmeric and turned it into a fine paste, mixed with a little ghee and oil. The ritual was meant to provide the bride with a glowing and fair complexion. After the initial teasing and fun the bride went for her last bath in her maternal home as an unmarried girl.

The evening:

We were all ready for the occasion, our silks sending out flashes of colour everywhere, our jeweleries causing people to turn and admire. The bride looked resplendent in a bright red and gold saree, her forehead lined with small dots in red and white, gold bangles on her arms, a shindoor kouto in her hand, a shy pink blush on her cheeks and a traditional mukut on her head. The groom looked dashing in a cream silk dhuti kurta, little sandalwood dots on his forehead and a topor on his head.

The Sampradan, the ceremony where the bride is formally ‘given away’ to the groom’s family, was performed by my friend’s mama and it was a time when the tears sprang up in every eye.

After the shaat paak, the seven rounds around the holy fire to solemnize the occasion, the bride’s brother got up to help perform the onjoli, the offering made to the holy fire. He handed khoi, puffed rice, in the bride’s hand, as the groom, standing behind her, held her hands and poured the offering in the fire together. A loud cheer went up in the crowd as he finally coloured her parting red and my friend covered her head with a ghomta, a veil, with the saree that her in-laws handed her. There she was, the girl who had lived her entire life in a pair of faded jeans and fitted tees, now all shy and blushing and covered in a veil. As odd as it was, I could feel my vision blurring as I realised my friend had now become a new person altogether and that now there was someone more important in her life to lay claim on her.

The Bidaai:

After the heavenly experience of savouring some traditional mouth-watering Bengali food, it was now time for the bidaai, that time when the bride would leave her maternal home and go to her new family.

The plate of rice was brought and placed near the bride who dipped her aalta-dyed red hands in and picked up fistfuls of rice. She then threw it over her head on her mother’s saree, crying inconsolably, even as kakima (her ma) continued to cry behind her. The ritual symbolises that the bride has repaid all her debts to her mother, or maternal home, and as she departs to bring prosperity to her husband’s home, she wishes prosperity for her parents’ home as well.

Conch shells were blown and the auspicious sound of uloo (which I hate) made as the bride stepped into a new beginning.


POST-WEDDING:

As the bride’s best friend I was invited to go along with her to her new home.

Bashor ghor (welcome of the newly-weds in the groom’s house):

For the bashor ghor, the groom’s boudi (brother’s wife) was waiting to assist the newly-weds in the house. The bride dipped her feet in a plate containing the red aalta and milk and as she imprinted her feet on the floor of the house, boudi held her hand and took her in. The conch shell was blown again and I realised how important a part it played in a Bengali wedding.

Baashi-biye (stale marriage):

After an eventful night where the bride and groom were surrounded with relatives and friends from both the families and many rounds of games played, a new morning dawned, the morning of the baashi-biye, or the stale marriage, when a few rituals of the marriage would again be performed. The groom applied shindoor (vermillion) to the bride’s parting and they visited the mandap where they worshipped the sun god under the watchful eyes of the family’s purohit.

Bou-bhaat:

After the pujo the bou-boron, or welcome meal, was served, where the groom offered a plate of sweets and a saree to the bride, signifying that, from this moment, he would be responsible for looking after her food and clothing and shelter. The bride then proceeded to the kitchen to prepare a rice dish, ghee bhaat, assisted by the women of the house, which was later served to the elders of the family as part of the bou-bhaat ritual.

Dira gaman (visiting the maternal home):

In the evening we went back to my friend’s maternal home as part of the dira-gaman ritual, where the bride visits her maternal home first time after marriage. As soon as we got off the car, the entire family erupted out of every single door in the house and crowded around the new bride, welcoming their daughter home. Kakima (the bride’s mother) struggled to get a free moment with her daughter, even as relatives quizzed her about her in-laws, the house, her husband, how she liked it and how she was treated. Finally, as the questions were answered and as everyone settled down once again, kakima cut the thread that had been tied on the bride’s wrist by the purohit at the time of the wedding. I left my friend alone with her mother for a quiet moment between mother and daughter.

In the evening my friend left her home for her home with her husband. Kakima had placed a few new sarees and a fresh pair of shaakha-pola in a bag and handed her daughter.

“Come to visit your ma soon and make your new parents happy and proud, just like you have us the happiest.” With this my friend left for her new home, even as this mother echoed a sentiment shared by all mothers in any part of the world.