Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Make Friends With A Book : a review and a note

Growing up, I don't remember often being bored or finding myself with nothing to do because I discovered the joy of reading very young. When you can go to tea with Benjamin Bunny or go on adventures with dragons, you don't really need much else. Except for a snack or four, of course.

I bought Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates (published by Red Fox)  because I liked the sound of it and it held a promise of our two top loves - a dog and the possibility of  a pile of books. I did not look for reviews of any sort. I was wonderfully surprised upon reading it.

The story is about a little dog who opens a bookshop. He plans a grand opening but nobody wants to drop in to buy or read a book. The dog feels a bit lonely and upset. He decides to sit down and read to make himself feel better. He reads and reads and reads. He reads books about dinosaurs and aliens and everything between. He goes on adventures to faraway lands and times long gone by. He no longer feels lonely because his bookshop is filled with fantastical creatures from the pages of his books.

One day, a little girl comes to the shop and wants to buy a book. The dog is very excited and knows exactly what books to show her because he has read them all. The book ends with 'the Dog loves books but most of all, he loves to share them!'

The illustrations are old fashioned, delicate and water colour inspired. Is it my favourite part of the book? No. Is it pretty and contributes to visual value to the lovely story? Yes.

The best part of discovering one's love for reading is in sharing that love. A 'reader' takes her job very seriously. Ask one of them for a 'book to read over the summer' and you will come back with a list of 10 books to read, 20 to burn and 5 that you HAVE to have on your bookshelf. Readers are a tribe given to rhetoric and passionate exaggeration when it comes to defending their favourite books. They are also very generous as long as you don't 'forget' to return borrowed books or dog ear them.

I am looking forward to having impassioned wars with this little boy when he grows up about what books we think are great and what we think are terrible. For now, we will settle for a cuddle and read of a sweet book about falling involve with books. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Postpartum Body : a journey towards a safe body positive space.

PC : Mommy Shots By Amrita
 shot when I was 38 weeks pregnant.

The relationship between a woman and her body is very complex. As women, we are, from a very young age, subjected to an almost constant scrutiny of our bodies and conditioned to view and 'evaluate' them through the eyes of others.

Most of our stories begin with a body description and the experiences that went with it. I was a really thin child and got bullied for it. I was a fat child and got bullied for it. I had a great body when I was in college but put on lots of weight after. I want to get back to my college size. What about the enriching world experiences your body has gone through between your childhood size, your college size and your current size? 

When was the last time we took a minute off to be grateful to our bodies? On the other hand, when was the last time we said 'uuggghh, that makes me looks so fat' or very casually told a friend that 'clothes look so much better on you because you are thinner than me'. We may not be thinking much when we say it but maybe, we should stop and think about how easily self-deprecating statements comes to us. It has almost become second nature to us to casually comment on our bodies.

I have been hesitating to write this post because I am sure I will get a lot of 'you 26 inch waisted jeans wearers are not qualified to talk about the body'. Truth is, just as bodies comes in all sizes and shapes, so does body hatred. Finding a safe and positive space for our bodies, away from the opinions and suggestions of society is a battle we are fight almost every day. 

Let me start with my story. I was always a tall and muscular child who was 'bigger and stronger' than most people and so grew up thinking I was unattractive in the 'typical' way. It however did not matter much to me because I had other avenues where I found myself and a family that helped me see what mattered most in myself. The insecurity about my body worth was always there in the background. I swam, I danced and I ate heartily. I was a happy child for most part.

I have been dancing from when I was very young and in college that part of me also came into its own. I suddenly started seeing my body in a different way with a more heightened consciousness of how it was being perceived by others. I started hearing about how I looked 'fit and athletic ' and that I had a 'non Indian' body (whatever that means). The wide shoulders that I had barely noticed till then suddenly became significant but I was far from making peace with it. I still felt like a large giraffe in a room full of delicate little people on many days. I am just about 5 ft 8 inches tall and wore a size S, for the records. Hardly a remarkable height. Just taller and muscular than average. But on those days I felt like a giant in all the wrong ways,

Then came my choice to take up dance as a profession. I started training in contemporary dance and began to, for the first time, pay attention to every little detail of my body. I spent the next decade training hard and coming to terms with my body to a point where it was so dependable that I could set my clock by it. Was I at peace with being a taller than average dancer? No. Did I really make friends with my muscular and strong swimmers upper body? Not really. I understood and valued the immense advantage that it gave me but I always secretly would have traded them in for a pair of slender arms and a hollow back which, popular culture told me is more beautiful. I never would have admitted it, even to myself. Instead, I focused on my great flat abs and general fitness. I came quite close to liking my body and that I did by focusing on what other people told me they envied about my body. I even successfully hid my my insecurity about the parts of my body I didn't quite like. Not exactly clever, in retrospect.

At this point, pregnancy happened. For the first time in forever, I loved my body. It had never felt stronger or fitter or looked better. That is, everyday except on those when I had to go to the doctors and would be weighed. I danced, trained, swam and ate right all through but still ended up gaining 15 kgs. Every time the nurse loudly exclaimed 'you gave gained so much weight!' I would feel a piece of me shrivel up in shame. The worst part is, I had no clue where the damn weight went! Every time someone told me that I look barely pregnant or that I haven't gained any weight I would want to scream in frustration. I woke up in panic and manically weighed myself, obsessing over a half kg weight gain on many days. I probably used the scale more times in those six months than I had in the 27 years gone by. 

Somewhere around halfway through the third trimester, my amazing Gynecologist figured this weight gain was eating my head up and helped me deal with it. This just meant that my muscular and lean body needed to gain some fat to help it grow the baby. This was not my 'fault'. This is what my body needed. My partner and family helped immensely and never brushed my anxiety aside and that really helped too.

The next time I weighed myself, I was 15 days postpartum. I had lost every kg of the weight I gained. I fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans. I was given the go ahead to start gentle training again. Crisis averted and all is well with the world, right? No. My body did not feel anything like my pre-pregnancy body. I was very upset. I spent the next year trying to battle my body into thinking it never birthed a child. For instance, I spent weeks trying to ignore my new pelvic alignment and insisting that things would go back to exactly what they were. They never did and they never will. 

Some time after my child turned one, I came to my senses and realized that I am being an ungrateful idiot. my body had just made an entire new person, nourished it and continued giving me so much in return for my dissatisfaction with it. I realized that the only way forward was to start listening to it again. It taught me many things. It made me understand that the years had made it stronger, quieter and more conscious. I went back on stage to perform feeling better than ever. I still went through patches of hatred when an old favourite top fit differently from what it used to or when I had to buy something in a different size from the old usual. This was the beginning of my new normal. 

On the morning of my 31st birthday, a few weeks ago, I woke up feeling at peace. I had never felt or looked better (to myself), I was dancing better and with more thought than I ever have before, my body was strong and prepared.... I, for the first time, did not have anything bad to say about it! It was a wonderfully liberating morning. I did not care what my body looked like but focused on what it felt like instead and on what it was telling me. Most importantly, I did not care what other people thought of it. I am sure I will continue having patches of anxiety about my body as I grow older but now that I know delicious that feeling of body love, I hope to be able to constantly try and go back to that state. 

When people tell me that I have 'maintained' myself well or that I don't look like I had a baby, I almost feel like retorting that I am not an engine. I don't need to be 'maintained'. My body is my space and mine alone. Considering that my body made a new human begin from scratch, I am jolly well going to take pride in the fact that it looks like it made a baby!

As somebody that has worked with bodies (as a dancer and teaching fitness classes) this is something I tell every woman I work with, myself included. Be kind to your body. Be grateful to it. Stand in front of the mirror and for once see it for what it is. Not in terms of what you like or dislike about it but with clarity and detachment. It is alive and fighting. How much better can things get? 

Now, prioritize. For me, being a dancer, keeping my body functioning at a higher than normal level of fitness is necessary. I need to invest time and effort into it. I also need to be conscious of my body and its form. These are my professional requirements. What is your priority? To fit into your decade old jeans in a hurry or to make small changes to your everyday life? You may not ever make you fit into those old jeans this way but it help you get healthy and stay in a body positive space. Do ourselves a favour and cut those size tags out of our clothes, shall we? 

Fitness goals are great but true fitness begins in the head. Can you get through your day happy and high on energy or do you feel like taking a nap halfway? Does running make you feel wonderful or do you do it because you have to? You don't have to do anything. You run because it makes you happy. You don't have to run because you think that society sees you as someone that needs to lose weight.

Let go of size tags and how the world sees you and look at yourself from inside out. Write a little thank you note to your body. Start a new fitness routine that makes your body and mind happy because you owe it to yourself to be happy. Don't do it because everyone thinks you should or you think you 'should'. Do it because you 'want' to.

The next time you give someone a compliment, skip the 'How have you lost so much weight? Tell me also!' or the 'You have put on some weight? You still look good though.' for a 'You look wonderful and happy today!' 

Do yourself the same favour. When someone tell's you that you look good today don't come back with a 'thanks but I need to lose 10 kgs' or a 'I was so much thinner in college/before a baby/when I was younger'. Don forget that you are much wiser and are probably making better decisions now that you were capable of at 20. We are so used to being judged on our bodies that it becomes second nature for us to judge ourselves. 

Get fit or not but do it on your own terms. Never let anybody define your worth our your body's worth by their idea of perfection. Stop evaluating your body by their standards too. Do not compare. Not somebody else old body with their new, yours with theirs or your new normal with your old.

I have not tried on my 'college clothes' in a very long time. Some will fit. Some will be loose. Some will be snug. My body has changed in more ways than one after the decade of training, performing, hating, loving, baby growing and searching for wisdom. I like my new clothes better. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

No Fussy Eater : 5 ways to help your family eat better

Very often, we hear a young child being dismissed as a  'fussy easter' and I don't quite agree with the label. Children are actually little people with food preferences just like adults. However, unlike an adult, a child often doesn't have much of a choice in what gets served at mealtime. This makes your pint sized 'fussy eater' only as fussy or not as an adult who likes or dislikes certain kinds of food. 

Our relationship with food is probably going to be our longest for practically as long as we live. The foundations of this relationship start right here as children. This is what we do in our home to help our two year old establish a healthy relationship with food. Think about it. So many of our childhood memories involve food. Gathering around with family and food on a summer night for an impromptu terrace picnic. The time you cousin and you burnt a pan making caramelised bananas. Mangoes, jackfruit and vathal drying on patti's terrace. 

As someone who has worked with the body and fitness in a professional capacity for over a decade, I have realised that a healthy relationship with food is integral to any positive lifestyle or 'getting healthy' commitment as an adult. 

1) Involve your child in the kitchen. Make grocery shopping a family activity and help your child identify and buy vegetables and groceries for the week. Whenever possible, discuss your meal plan with your child. Now, the idea of 'discussing' what to cook for the week with a two year old may sounds a bit silly but it actually is not. My two year old, for instance, has been involved in the kitchen from when he was much younger and now has a say in what he would like to cook and eat. Children have an inherently intelligent relationship with food so we really don't need to do much more than help them along. This also makes a great learning experience for your child. 

2) Do not 'hide' vegetables. No child is born with an inherent hatred of spinach and a preference for potatoes. Now, the question is, do we like our greens and gourds as much as we like our potatoes? If a child senses that adults around regard certain vegetables as tedious and less enjoyable than others then the child might find it easier to believe so too. If I think blanched spinach is a bore to eat and would much rather be eating deep fried green plantains, as an adult I can rationalise the need to eat spinach because its 'good for me', A child, on the other hand cannot really understand the implications of 'it's good for you'. Lets not forget that potatoes and green plantain are essentially good vegetables too.

So, the next time you are cooking with a vegetable that is not a huge favourite with your child, do not grate it into her idly or paratha to hide it. Instead, show her the vegetable and cook up a simple and tasty recipe that you can all enjoy. She may refuse it the first few times but she will eventually come around. Children are wonderfully adaptable and open to new experiences way more than adults are.

You don't need to tell you child that eating spinach will make her grow tall and strong. We all need food to grow and we learn that eventually but our relationship with food, as we grow up, is seldom that simple. It is often complex and emotional. So, how about, aubergines are something that I love eating and hope you will too. This is how I liked eating it when I was your age. Shall we make it this way? 

3) Don't use treats as bribes. If you do this then I will give you a cookie. As a parent of a young child, it is almost everyday that I have to stop myself from doing just this. Toddler doesn't want to get ready and go out. I have an impatient cab driver waiting downstairs. What do I do? Tell toddler that I will buy him an ice cream if he will just wear those damn shorts and leave the house. Simple, right? We all do what it takes to live our lives. 

Now, think about the last time you bought yourself a sugary treat because you had a bad day at work or the toddler drove you mad. Was there any guilt involved in the eating of it? If you answered yes, then you may want to do it a bit differently with your child. 

There should not be guilt involved in food! Food is important. By using food as a quick fix to stop a meltdown or reward 'desirable' behaviour what we are essentially establishing is the beginning of the 'I deserve that pizza after the horrible day I have had' relationship. It should be, I really feel like eating some processed cheesy pizza today, I am going to eat it and I am going to ENJOY every bite of it. No guilt and no question of do I deserve it or not. Do I know it's unhealthy? Yes! Am I going to eat it every day? Hopefully not. 

This is what we do. Toddler knows that a store bought cookie or chocolate is a treat. We eat a cookie just like that with no weight of 'good' or 'bad' behaviour attached to it and we enjoy the cookie because its not everyday that we eat one. Because the cookie is not a bribe the toddler also knows to not expect a treat every time he uses his newly developing powers of reasoning and persuasion. 

4) Try to avoid distraction feeding. Oh, the temptation of playing something on the tv or on a computer and quickly shovelling food into the toddlers slack mouth is so strong. You know how we so often sit in front of the tv and eat without quite realising how much or what we are eating? It is essentially the same thing. Think about it.

One of the major problems we have as adults is portion control. Most of us end jus eating way more than what we need to and don't quite stop when we feel just right and full. We are, from a very young age, taught to ignore our own hunger cues. When we 'make' a child eat when she is not hungry or to force feed the whole bowl of food (which is almost always a bit more than what she actually needs), what we are doing is to teach her to ignore her body. 

Children are very intelligent when it comes to the body. They know how much to eat. Its is this constant reinforcement that 'I know how much you need to eat' that teaches the child to ignore her natural body cues in favour of conditioning. Do we really know better? Do we know listen to our own body cues? Do we eat too much because its so tempting and we could not stop with just one? Yes. A child who knows that the adult respects her body and her presences does not usually overeat, even when it comes to favourite foods. 

Yesterday, my two year old wanted ice cream for breakfast. He is usually a very clever child when it comes to food choices and we decided that he must have his own reasons for wanting ice cream for breakfast. We let him have a small bowl full after which he asked for his usual unsweetened ragi cereal. In the afternoon, pre lunch, he wanted some more ice cream. We were on Skype with my parents and I was about to go the 'you had some for breakfast and you care eating too much sugar!' route when my mother pointed out that he never asks for ice cream twice in a day so just offer him some and see what he does. I decided to listen to the mothership and offered him another bowl. He was overjoyed, ate exactly one spoonful and asked me to put it back in the freezer for later. Its been over a day and he hasn't asked again. We went out in the evening and we got gelato. He barely had a spoonful. So tell me again, who is the more intelligent person in the story? The toddler, obviously. 

Your child may teach you a thing or two about good eating if you just give her the chance to. Don't tell her to not waste anything food that has been served to her. Instead, help her serve herself small portions that she can comfortably finish and that she can always come back for seconds or thirds of she is still hungry. It is ok for her to want to eat a full bowl of food on one day and just four spoonfuls on another. Don't we all have days when we want to eat a full meal and days when we just want a light bite for lunch? 

5) The 'junk' food rule. As a parent to a young child, one of my biggest nutrition based learnings has been to try to stop referring to certain foods as 'junk'. The idea of calling something junk somehow makes it more exciting and I will talk about that in a tiny bit. Instead, I find it more rewarding for us and for the child to talk about food in terms of what is important for the body to grow and what is not necessarily healthy but enjoyable in reasonable amounts. 

As adults, so many of us 'stress eat'. This tendency goes back to a feeling of guilt and reward that most have grown up associating with food. When we use a treat as a bribe we are reiterate the idea of the 'forbidden food' which automatically assumes proportions of deliciousness that were prior unknown to mankind as opposed to the box of ice cream that is in the freezer and can be had at any old time. We don't eat something because we 'deserve' to eat it. In a country where a good portion of the population can barely afford a meal, everybody  'deserves' to eat. 

This is the treat rule in our home. If it is in the house and child sees it and asks for it, he can have it. This means that we literally cannot buy to stock food that we don't want our child eating. Good bye, Lays, Pringles and all such packaged food! Can you see how much good this holding the whole family accountable for our food choices can do our eating practices? Even our chocolate fix has come down to very dark chocolate which we all enjoy small pieces of every now and than. This is quite fair, isn't it? If as adults we cannot hold ourselves responsible for making 'healthy' choices when it comes to food how can we expect a child to do so? This way, a treat is a treat that is enjoyed by the whole family. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sarees and Summer Weddings

It is no secret that I love sarees and food in equal measure. I also enjoy the company of family and friend's so it is logically safe to assume that I love wedding's. There is not too many nice things one can say about summer in Madras other than the mangoes. However, the summer is also wedding season here and it is honestly way too hot to even think of a silk saree. 

In this post, I am going to put together three of my favourite sarees to wear to a summer wedding. I have styled all three with silver or non-precious jewellery.

First up is a deep bright blue Maheswari silk cotton with a silvery border. I love how these sarees are light and fluttery to wear but still manage to look shimmery and festive. This I have worn with a cotton blouse (because I hate sweating in silk blouses). The jewellery is a gorgeous beaded choker designed by Sujatha of Rimli Boutique (the have a store in T Nagar and an instagram page as well) that picks out the green and reds in the blouse and a pair of jhumkas that were curated by a friend who runs a home based store. I wanted to match the deep blue with a complementary jewel tone and it was a difficult choice between this green and a deep magenta, both of which would have worked with the jewellery I had in mind for this saree. 

Cannot do wedding season in Madras without a traditional Kanchi Silk Cotton, can I? This one with a traditional korvai border with mango motifs in colours that scream weddings to me is a top favourite.This is a look for a day when you want to look like you are wearing a silk but don't really want to wear one. The blouse is a silk cotton with a jacquard weave. The adigai style pendant is another Rimli Boutique piece and I am so impressed with the fine workmanship on it. These jhumkas were also sourced by the same friend who found me the pair in the previous photo. 

The third is something I wore to a wedding in the family a few years ago. I think I did a green and red brocade silk blouse at that time though. Shimmery white and gold silk Kota with a red silk cotton blouse. The silver and kemp earrings (the fish part of it cuffs the ear like a maatal) were custom made for me around the time of my wedding almost six years ago. I ended up not wearing these for the wedding because it was bit of an overkill with my handmade (also kemp adorned) Andal Kondai and the works. I ended up wearing it to a cousin's wedding a few months after. I have never worn this for the stage which is why the pearls are still white and have not been dyed pink with makeup and alta. I prefer minimal jewellery with dance costumes. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Children's Books I Dislike And Why.

If you have ever had a chat in person with me about children's books then you might have already heard an earful about how much I dislike these four books.These are right on top of my list of inane   and thoughtless book. Let me add, right at the beginning, that this is entirely my personal opinion and no early childhood developmental professionals or such folk have been harmed or traumatized in the writing of this post. I am just an average adult with decent internet speeds who grew up on a solid diet of books and still thinks that reading is one of the non-negotiable parts of her day.

Lets begin with every body's favourite. The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Almost every parent I have met thinks this book is a library must have. 

Dear fellow Parent, out of curiosity, what exactly do you find spectacular about this book?

It is a book about a caterpillar that eats extremely inappropriate things like sausages and candy (which will kill it if it actually did) and then becomes a butterfly. Creativity is one thing but over simplified drivel with a theory to defend it is another thing altogether.

The illustrations are interesting, I will grant the book that but when the same artistic sensibility becomes endlessly repeated (replace caterpillar with spider / elephant / flowers / assortment of animals) and ends up being a commercial franchise it become stale and mass produced. There isn't much of a difference between Peppa Pig  and these books, is there? Find something that sells and make a formula of it. 

The companion 'classic' to this wonderfully mediocre caterpillar would be 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear' also be the same author. 

There's a white dog looking at a yellow duck who is in turn looking at a red bird who is looking at a brown bear. And then? If it's helping  your child to remember a sequence that you want out of this books, you are better off building word stories with them.

It could just be me but this book has a creepy Foucaultian / Orwellian 'big brother is watching you' feeling to it. I am not entirely sure that is appropriate reading for a toddler. 

Now proceed to copy past the other parts of my opinion on the pointless caterpillar book here. It's all mind numbingly  similar anyway. I absolutely fail to understand he point behind either of these books. 

Book three is my sworn enemy. If you are a parent and wish to have a conversation with me about books for children. do not ever open your side with 'we love Good Night Moon'. I will, in all probability, roll my eyes at you and process to deliver a lecture. Please try to not take it very personally. 

What is wrong with this blasted book? Let me count the ways. 

1) It is pointless : good night bear, good night chair, good night bum, good night tum, good night bed sheet, good night fan.....  I  to a book to teach me to say good night to random inanimate objects because.... oh wait, I don't! 

2) The room : it is the perfect mix of creepy (those creepy toys and paintings in baroque frames on the walls), unsafe (unprotected fireplace in a child's room, anyone?) and depressing (the colours of the book. Ugh.)  Before we engage in the debate about bold colours for children, let me remind you that dirty brick orange and mossy green are NOT stimulating colours for a young child or toddler.

3) It is a creepy room : with a tiger skin rug on the floor. Perfect decor for a child's nursery, isn't it? Have you ever taken a moment to pay attention to the knitting bunny's face? It could very well be the serial killer version of the beautiful rabbits that Beatrix Potter drew. The room might fit pretty decently in an Edgar Allen Poe story. I am not sure I would room child there though.  

A good children's book should aid a child's  imagination and open up endless magical possibilities. Books need to evoke a child's curiosity. Not numb it with thoughtlessness. Children do well with repetition but I would much rather read Dr Seuess to them. If it is a calm and sweet bedtime book you are looking for I can think of a dozen right at this moment and a walk to the bookshelf  will throw up a dozen more suggestions. On the other hand, if boring you child (with a side of subtle terror) is what you are looking for in a bedtime read, how about a zombie version of counting sheep to fall asleep on? One zombie sheep, two zombie sheep, three headless zombie sheep, four bloody zombie sheep....

Book four is The Giving  Tree by Shel Silverstein. A tree loves a little boy and nurtures him. He cuts down the tree. End of story. Gratitude much? This is not a story about kindness. It is a rather unkind story. This may not be a bad book to read to a child who is old enough to understand irony but my two year old is mot quite there yet. Having read a lot of Silverstein, I wonder if there was an element of sarcasm and irony intended in the book. If any of you have any commentaries or papers on this book that you could share with me, I would be very grateful. Before you use 'and she loved him very much' as a quote on a cute photograph of you and your child, do remember that he grew up and cut her down. Reading to the end of the book, I find, is usually the answer. This book will stay on my maybe shelf till I can find more answers.

A lot of time, as parents, in all good intention, we end up buying our children the 'popular' books that everybody is reading to their children. There has to be a lot of thought that goes into building your child's library and buying all the 'reccomended' books and force reading to your child is not the answer to wanting to raise a reader. Remember, Vijaykanth is immensely popular but letting your children watch one of his movies may not be a great decision. Going with the 'popular' may not always mean the best  decision for your child or your family. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

One Saree Three Ways : Styling a saree that incorporates multiple weaves.

I have never been a huge fan of sarees that incorporate bits and pieces of different design aesthetics and weaves because, a lot of times, they end up looking disjointed and random. This was before I got to know the designers behind Tvaksati. What they do is work with craftsmen from all over the country on the finest weaves and piece them together in one of a kind sarees that work so harmoniously together. They seem to get it right every time! All their sarees are fun and quirky but have a strong design aesthetic and integrity that keeps it together. Safe to say, they have managed to make me change my opinion on this matter. The Tvaksati saree that I am going to feature in this styling post is a soft handloom coimbatore cotton with an ikkat pallu and a border that incorporates a weave from Kutch. The colours of the saree are classic so I have tried to stay in the colour palette without bringing in too many confusing colours and textures. 

My paternal grandmother loves white blouses with little thread work motifs on them and wears them with all her stunning custom woven nine yard silks. This look is inspired by her in more ways than one. I have already written about temple jewellery and cotton sarees in previous posts. When you have a saree that is as complex and special as this one you certainly can dress it up with some heavy traditional jewellery to wear to a wedding or other 'dress up' occasions. A white blouse is, to me, a saree wardrobe staple more than a black blouse is. A black blouse with every saree can look tired but a while blouse will pick the colours of the saree up so much better. Look for one with a subtle texture and you can pair it with just about any saree. This one here is a jamdani cotton. Sort of an old fashioned pearls and white blouse look with a twist. 

This pairing has already been posted on my Instagram page a few weeks ago, if you want to see how it looks worn. Its no secret that I love checks and stripes and the colours of this blouse with it's 'paalum pazhamum' checks are deep and on either side of the family of colours in the saree. The blouse is cut high and close around the neck which is becoming one of my favourite blouse styles. Since its a high necked blouse I decided to skip the necklace bit and wear a pair of heavy Jhumkas from Amrapali Jaipur. 

Look three is possibly the most 'conservative' of the lot. A 'safe' mustard, maroon and green blouse, bespoke beads from Umang Beads (check out their Instagram and Facebook page) and terracotta jhumkas. I could not skip doing at least one ikkat on ikkat pairing though, could I? Ikkat weaves are found in many parts of India with Orissa and Andhra Pradesh / Telengana being the most popular. 

What do you think about a one blouse many sarees post the next time around? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A is for anything but an Apple : part two of the alphabet books with a difference series

I had posted the first part of a two part series on alphabet books with a difference and had promised a second part with fun alphabet books from Indian publishing houses. Apart from the obvious advantage of having an alphabet book with colours, characters, illustrations and examples that are culturally and socially familiar to a child, to me, these Indian made English alphabet books are very significant in our journey towards recovering from a post colonial hangiver and taking ownership of the language. 'Indian English' is not something one needs to cover up under a forgein degree. It's the result of a complex history and struggle and something we ought to take pride in. 

First up is a book with lovely illustrations in colours that are not typically found in children's books. The text by itself it fairly straight forward along the line of D is for a paddling of Ducks. It follows the format of matching animals to their communal groups and can be an excellent resource for older children as well. Is it a good book? yes. Is it my favourite of the three I am writing about today? No. 

The Alphabet of Animals and Birds by Prabha Mallya (illustrated and written) 
Published by Rupa 

I have lost track of the number of copies of this book that I have bought to give as gifts. By far my favourite alphabet book. I have always been a big fan of Anushka Ravishakrs writing and this one is no exception. Meet delightful Lions Licking Lollipops and Dull Donkeys Dancing Daily as you laugh your way through the book. It's witty, it's delightful and does wonderful things to the your toddlers vocabulary. 

Alphabets are Amazing Animals by Anushka Ravishankar 
Illustrated by Christiane Pieper
Published by Tara Books 

This is the newest alphabet book in our collection and a very interactive and fun one at that. Bright and happy illustrations and engaging text that will get you standing up, jumping, hopping and twisting over to form alphabets with your toddler. It's got the right amount of silly to get your toddler (and you) giggling. 

Hey, That's An A by Jerry Pinto 
Illustrated by Sayan Mukherjee
Published by Tulika 

And that, my dear children, is the end of this set. What shall we chat about in he next book post?