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Archive for September, 2011

I doubt if any of us grew up without hearing our Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I don’t know if it makes me sound like a non-believer, I was never entranced by Ramayana, I thought Rama was a pretty lame God. Please excuse my verbiage,  I DO believe in one eternal God just that some of the forms do not appeal to me as the others.  Anyway I stumbled upon the author Ashok K Banker and his version of the Epic Ramayana written across 6 volumes.

They were awesome to begin with and the author very lucidly narrates the Epic in his own imaginative style and he definitely has taken some liberties in certain sections, but the entire epic appealed to me in ways it hadn’t before. Rama as portrayed in this is such a down-to-earth Prince unaware of his divine qualities, yet a stickler to Dharma  and Sita is a TOTAL surprise, a warrior princess who teams with Rama in all the fights in the Chitrakutvan. The romance between the divine pair is so beautifully expressed and the Brahman power of Sage Vishwamithra and that of the princes is scientifically articulated. The portrayal of Hanuman – his everlasting devotion to Rama and the characterization of Ravana and his race, the general traits as such of the Vanar race and the surprise wisdom of the Bear race  – all are very vividly explained by the author.

The books in the Ramayana series are

Book 1 – Prince of Ayodhya:

This book introduces us to Ayodhya kingdom and the royal family. Sage Vishwamithra makes a grand entrance into the epic and introduces the Princes Rama and Lakshman to Greater deeds taking them to Bhayanak-van  and empowering the Princes with Brahman power to defeat Demoness Tataka and her sons. The Queen Kaikeyi characterization is awesome, though it is the dark side alone that is exposed, it leaves  a strong  impression in the readers of her involvement in the shaping of the epic.  Also Manthra is depicted as a spy to Ravana who plans to overthrow the King and reign over the mortal world as well. The author talks about a portal in the Earth to the nether world through which Ravana gets his hordes of Asuras. Ravana gets introduced pretty early in this author’s version. The way I see it, the author tries to bridge the gaps in the original epic with reasonable explanation to make the story line more plausible to these day readers. Like explaining the Brahman power endorsed to the Princes who are just mortals and that explains how young 16 year old Princes fight the Asuras. And Ravana’s portal into the Narak – Hell, explains the incursion of demons into the kingdoms – The upsurge of the Ravana’s horde is explained right in the first book setting a pace for the rest. The best part was towards the end of the book when Sage Vishwamithra coolly tells the Princes they have to stop over at Mithila before going to Ayodhya to attend their own weddings! 🙂

Book 2 – Siege of Mithila:

The second book is as fast paced as the first one if not more! I liked how the author depicts Sita – the Sadhu Sita I knew of, as a warrior princess in his version! She is not a damsel in peril as we are used to seeing her in Ramayana. The hero and the heroine meet in very unorthodox conditions in the middle of the forest fighting with Bearface and his allies! Sita is in disguise as a male-kshatriya when they meet!  Ravana appears as a suitor in Sita’s Swayamvar – that is a twist from the original! Rama’s first encounter with Ravana as an equal in the war also happens in this part and Ravana’s army is overthrown by the Brahman power of Rama. You would imagine what else would remain of  Ravana and his power, after Rama decimates the entire Rakshasa horde. But the best is yet to come.. 🙂

Book 3 – Demons of Chitrakut:

If I could name one book that was a little bit of a dampener for me in this series, I would say this is it. This action-packed book talks all about the happenings during the major part of the 14 years vanavasam of the Prince and how he befriends Bearface and his hordes and fights with the demons and asuras.  The best part in the book to me was the meeting between Rama and Parashurama and the author just hooks you into the incident and you are as good as an audience to the actual event! The narrative skills of the author are awesome and he spins such wonderful tales around the original Ramayana. Again I was impressed by the author’s portrayal of Sita – the warrior!

Book 4 – Armies of Hanuman:

This book starts with an end to the war between the outcasts in Chitrakut and the Asuras. The fight is quite nail-biting and vividly described from the eyes of Hanuman who is a silent spectator to the wild battle. You have to admire the author for his excellent rendering of the fight and the soulful dialogues between Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The abduction of Sita happens in this book and also the transition of Ratnakar into Valmiki is beautifully narrated. After the abduction of Sita, the society of Vanars is explained in detail laying the footwork for the rest of the Ramayana. I have always been unimpressed by the Vali episode in Ramayana, but this depiction in the book shows that Vanar society has its own rules and ethics quite different from the human race, hence if I judge their actions from the human point of view, it may only seem wrong! My Patti would be upset in heaven that it took AB to convince me when all she asked of me was unquestioning acceptance when she related the story to me!

Book 5 – Bridge of Rama:

This book reveals to Hanuman his true form and he takes it quite well, if you excuse my saying so! One of my college friends always used to say she is actually a Princess and one day it will be revealed to all! 🙂 Though it seemed funny,  I have always wondered what it would be to discover you are a super natural!! For Hanuman to know about his divine lineage and his untapped strength and power, my God, only Hanuman could have handled it the way he did with such humility! 🙂 Of all the divine characters in the Ramayana, Hanuman is my all-time favorite. I can never imagine someone having the kind of devotion he had for Rama, for anyone.  The making of the bridge by the Vanar force is amazing and the huge feat is accomplished by a smart idea from a simple Vanar and now they have less than a day to reach Sita before she is executed. The book is so enthralling you would not want to put it down.

Book 6 – King of Ayodhya:

The final book and I was really sad to pick this one, as I knew the magic was going to end… 😦 To say it was a rapturing read is the understatement of the century. I loved the author’s depiction of Pushpak Viman, the way the Brahman power in the celestial ride can take the shape it desires and also acutely sense the thoughts of those in it. You have to read this book to know what I am saying. In fact the Pushpak Viman’s power is explained even in the Bridge of Rama, when Sita finds out where she is being held captive, still it is in this book that the full manifestation of its powers is explained. And how can I do justice to the awesome rendering of the final fight and encounter between Rama and Ravana, and how Ravana seems to have known the end always and how he explains this is how it is meant to be. He plants the seed of doubt in Rama’s mind when he asks him to take care of the twins. Or as my hubby thinks, he just says that to point to Rama that he has indeed taken good care of Sita and the safety of the twins in her womb is his gift to Rama. Anyway the magic of the six books ended and I really would love to read the author’s Mahabharatha whenever it is published.

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My husband has been getting some strange calls in his mobile these days from little ones who would hang up with either “Never mind” or “Later then”. He asked me if S has been giving his numbers out to her new friends, I had confidently told him I have only writing our home number and address for her friends in labels. I did not think she would have remembered my hubby’s mobile number. But looks like she has been happily writing out his number to all her new ‘best friends’ at school and her friends have reported that her dad has a weird(?!!) voice that puts them off from asking for her. So at last yesterday she ended up telling this so he will hand over the phone to her this weekend if he receives calls from her friends. That’s when we clarified to her that she has to only give our home number and also inform us when she shares her number. Today when she returned from school, she was horrified to see her room all messed up by A and said to me, her room cannot be in that state when her friends were coming over. Even then I did not really notice what she was saying, she loves to have people over so thought like all days she imagines her friends would come over without an invitation from me to their parents. I was  just waiting for at least a month in school to pass, to see who still stays in her friend’s list and then plan some event at home. But looks like she had other plans; She had asked two of her friends to positively come over and also promised them dinner at a restaurant. She has given them the home numbers today after our advice yesterday.

I was busy watching Airtel Super Singer and skipped even the usual grocery shopping done on Fridays! At 6.00 in the evening, I get a call in our land line from one of her friends asking me to repeat our address for her mom. I was so shocked and just had to cover up for S. The mom on the phone said her daughter was creating a ruckus at home about visiting us and wanted to know our address so she can bring her kid over. She said they were already in the car, so my hubby and I had less than 10 mins to clean at least the living room to a presentable state. S coolly said, “I did tell you but you guys weren’t listening..” In few minutes another mom called me and got the address but also added that they had other plans tonight and so they could not come over for S’s party! I am sure she would have noted the relief in my voice, and said her daughter does the same thing and the second graders think they are now old enough to hang out in each others houses on their own accord and we need to get used to such surprises thrown at us. 🙂

In 10 mins, the friend of S came with her mom and it was all drama for the first five mins when they hugged each other et al, as though meeting after ages! Her mom was very nice and said she has another older daughter and she is used to all this drama. I had nothing to offer her too, was feeling quite sheepish, but she made it easier saying she would leave and come back in 2 hrs to pick her daughter up. The best part was when S’ friend H asked us about the restaurant we may go for dinner, then her mom stepped in and said that can wait for another day. I came clean with her mom about how all this was a surprise to us, she said everyday her daughter also came home with plans about who would visit or not, but surely S is quite a social butterfly because her daughter insisted she had to visit S today or her relationship will be through with S! We were just laughing about all this. In fact this Monday morning, S told us that she and her friend H have decided to ditch school that day and then hangout at our place…  These kids sure do spend some good time planning out all this..  But anyway today was a TOTAL knockout to me and my hubby and we decided we better be prepared for many such surprises to come.

Thankfully there were few popcorn packets available at home and few other goodies too. First they went to a park nearby with my husband, played for a long time then came home for a cup of hot chocolate and then the duo watched Barbie’s Swan Lake munching on popcorns and cheese balls. For the theater effect, they wanted all the lights in the living room switched off and they were giggling through the movie! Somehow we pulled out an OK playdate I guess! We will be better prepared the next time as long as S gives us enough notice. We have to have a talk with her tomorrow about certain guidelines I guess!!! Today she was so elated it seemed unfair to break that elation and chide her.. So the task is off till tomorrow!!

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S started II grade last Tuesday. On her first day, I was having more butterflies in my stomach than her. I woke up at 5.30 am! Believe me it was such a challenge to wake up so early after the extended vacation I have had!! Anyway I packed rather over-packed her lunch, wasn’t sure if she would prefer Banana nut muffin or Cheezits for snacks, so packed both of them. For lunch made some Aloo Parathas – really small ones and some cut apples.. As an afterthought added a pack of Goldfish crackers and a granola bar as well in the bottom zip of the lunch bag! Needless to say except for the Parathas and some apples everything came back untouched – from S’s words I had packed snacks for the entire week on the first day! 🙂

Both A and I missed her during the day, the home was EERILY silent and I seemed to have all the time in the world! We hadn’t even switched on the TV the whole time she was away at school!! I am used to spending so much time during the day asking her to switch off TV or clean up her mess; asking her to learn something rather than just read story books;  forcing her to have her meals faster and stop her from hogging up junk food while she watches TV. Believe me, motherhood brings unpleasant qualities in you that you never imagined you had, I mean I never thought I would be such a boring mother staying at the back of my daughter and troubling her. But that is parenting for you, we can all not be ideal mothers all the time… 🙂 And kids are not super sweet all the time too.. You should see the way S rolls her eyes and says ‘REALLLLY Amma’, when I suggest something I think is cool and which is clearly not appealing to her!

Anyway on her first day to school, we found out there were quite a number of kids going to Public schools from our apartment. In fact we found that the boy who used to come around us with his dog, whenever I used to take S out for walks goes to her school. He always used to say Hi to S and try talking, but S never found a thing amiss and would just wave her hand and keep walking with me. 🙂 You know the chemistry among kids do start early these days, so S though wants Justin Bieber posters in her room, doesn’t know how to spot a person interested in her! Thank God!! 🙂 Anyway that boy was pretty surprised that she is only in second grade, he is a fifth grader and so I guess just ruled her out! 🙂 Good for me…

The school bus was going to drop her off at 4.10 pm. A and I were out at 4.00 and it was 4.45 before her bus came.  I had already called the school, the bus authorities and was having a panic attack! What if she had boarded the wrong bus, What if she had gotten down at some other apartment…  It was so nerve-racking waiting for her bus.. Apparently the first week of school, the bus schedules will be erratic, I was told. S came running to us, I half expected her to complain about her new school or lack of friends, but she was beaming! I asked her about the day and her I am quoting her verbatim ‘It was great  at school! How else would it me Amma?’

S is the second Indian kid in her school, another Indian girl is in fourth grade and my worry was only about her fitting into the class with all the cultural differences. But  she has been doing fine, In fact last Friday she came home with a note from a friend H in her class  that said “This is my number. Call me so we can hang out with each other” and it was addressed – To my best friend S! 🙂 So she already has a best friend at the new school. Also she kept insisting that i have to let her call her friend and invite her over.. I was and am still a little hesistant to do that. It is quite early and I would like to first hear from that kid’s parents before initiating the call! S has shared our numbers too with her. Anyway she was so upset that I did not let her call H and kept fuming that her relationship with H is going to be THROUGH because of me!! 🙂

S would still be in I grade if the school had its way, by the rules here for her age she should only be in I grade; We toured multiple schools and found a school that would take her into II grade as she has already completed I std in India.  They assessed her and said she seems ready for II grade but the Principal said once the school year begins, if her teacher finds her not appropriate for II grade we have to let her move to I grade. We took the chance knowing S!! Anyway yesterday evening I got a call from S’s class teacher. She said S is doing great at the school and is very mature for her age and is a great listener. She also added that all the girls in the class seem to gravitate towards her and her lunch table is always full!! The best part was when she asked me to tell S to be a little patient with the teacher and that she is working on a tougher curriculum for her as she can clearly see that S is bored with what is happening in the class right now. So the teacher promised that she would get some advanced stuff for her and give her additional assignments to do at home as well!! You know academics here is a little slow during the initial years and only in middle school it gets really on par with our Indian grades. Anyway I dont have to worry about her getting demoted to I grade.. Hurray!!!

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S’s school starts this Fall in the second week of September. I had sent her to a summer school for the months of June and July to get her acclimatized to the kids here. There were quite some expenses lined up for us and thought I can be prudent and have her at home for the month of August and save up on her tuition and get her new clothes for school and other stuff for her!! And you know anytime I end up planning to save money, all my activities get jinxed!! Read along and find out how I ended up with the most expensive pair of Oral B kid tooth brushes and the most expensive hair clip for S! 🙂

Remember the dentist visit I spoke about on my birthday! The dentist visit was suggested by S’s Pediatrician, he referred his own personal dentist. We were just overwhelmed during that visit as the Ped checked on both S and A and it was quite exhausting for us, as it was the first visit. So right after the Dr visit got over, we scheduled S for the dentist checkup the following week. All this happened at the Clinic named after our Health insurance provider, kind of their own clinic. So it never occurred to us to check if the Dentist was covered under our plan. Blissfully unaware, we took S to the Dentist on my birthday and again the Doctor and his assistant were charmed by S and A (or so they acted), and to check S’s jaw-line, took couple of X-rays as well. They showed S how to brush and gave her some advice related to maintaining her teeth health.  And just before we left, they suggested we bring A also for an appointment as it is better to have the teeth and jawline looked at, once the first tooth comes out.. We were very impressed with the antics of the duo and took the next available appointment with the dentist, the next week. Even in that week in between, it dint occur to us to check with the insurance!!

At A’s visit, A absolutely refused to let them handle his mouth so I ended up doing whatever they asked me to and the visit was over in like 5 mins! Again, everything was perfect for him, the same verdict as of S’s. At the end of the two Dentist visits, we ended up with Oral b brushes for both and Crest toothpaste samples! Thanks for the patience so far.. the best is yet to come…. Last week we received a notice from the health provider that we have to pay around 270$ for both the visits as the dentist we had gone to, was not somebody recognized by the insurance company. This was totally our mistake. We should have checked before setting up the appointment, however we were lost in the pampering of the Pediatrician and we had our chance at least after S’s appointment! We lost that too, this is what happens when you take your kids and get sucked into that myriad of adoration and adulation upon your children that confuse you and do just whats told to you without a sane thought! The irony was that we did call the Health insurance provider before the first appointment but that was just to confirm that the kids were covered, it could have taken a minute to confirm if the Dentist was in their list of preferred Doctors! But no, we didn’t do that and now we have the most expensive tooth brushes and paste with us!! $270 for a pair of toothbrushes!!

With just weeks to spare before the school year starts, we decided to do some shopping for S’s clothes. My DH dropped me and S at the Kohls store and he went to the library with A. We spent like close to two hrs picking, trying and shortlisting stuff to buy and then billed them, It was a super saver Saturday and also I opened a Kohls account to get a further discount. Overall was very happy with all the purchases and the so-called ‘savings’ we had made that day. S was very excited about a set of hair clips she purchased with some false colored hair attached. Against my wishes she took one purple color hair clip and put it on. After my DH returned, we went over to Old Navy, JC Penny and Sears! When we thought we had done enough shopping, we were about to go out of the shopping mall when we realized the Kohls’s cover was nowhere to be found. We had misplaced it somewhere and we traced back our shopping route, and checked everywhere in vain. So we lost all our precious shopping, except for the purple hair clip in S’s hair! Thats how we ended up with the most expensive purple clip – around $80 value! 🙂

Needless to say, I don’t have anymore smart saving plans… Now that I got busted twice, there is no point in trying right?? That said, since S has been home all this month, I hardly seem to have time for anything.. Have at least 2 blog entries in draft – finished so many books when S was playing at the laptop… Once her school starts,  I will be back to serious blogging!!

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