The imagination of children starts where our imagination ends

// This article has been sponsored by HP and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/the-imagination-of-children-starts-where-our-imagination-ends

When my petite friend who attends my creative writing classes wished me “Happy Teacher’s Day”, I responded by saying “Thank you and same to you”. She was perplexed and wanted to know why I was wishing her because I am her teacher and not vice versa. I smiled and wanted to tell her how much we can learn and discover from children and how they are the best teachers. I did try explaining this to her by using explicit examples but she did not think much of it and was just amused by the idea of her being my teacher.

I absolutely love interacting with kids and imparting whatever knowledge I possess in any field to them. For me, it is always enlightening to listen to their views and opinions on myriad subjects. Many a times, their innocent and rational minds show us a perspective which our conditioned and superficial minds fail to see or perceive. If we pay heed to their voice, they can actually provide us with some fodder for thought always. Their energy levels and fervor always keeps the child in me alive and motivates me to give my best to whatever I do with zeal and vigor. So, it was only natural that I began thinking about ways to involve children in creative writing and provide them a platform to express themselves freely without being judged for their thoughts and imagination. This desire is what gave birth to the “Children’s Corner” section on my website which is for the kids, by the kids and of the kids. This space is for those who are looking at avenues to help their children explore their creativity in literary art form or those who wish to unleash the writer in their children through informed guidance and constructive feedback. Writing is a great way to give an outlet to the imaginative streaks in your child. I am sure most writers will concur with me when I say that becoming a good writer is a continuous process and it takes years of practice to be able to write effectively. So, why not start early?

When I announced the first Children’s Corner contest, the little wonders amazed me with their creativity and flair for writing. That’s when I truly realized that the imagination of children starts where our imagination ends, and my experience propelled me to commence with regular creative writing workshops and classes for children. The aim of the classes is not just to help kids to improve their writing abilities but also to encourage them to read, think and act independently.  The objective is to make them more sensitive, positive and confident individuals too. I rack my brain every week to come up with novel ways of engaging kids and making the classes interesting for them. So we have a different topic with a new activity or exercise in every class, and I am glad we all have been enjoying these sessions so far.

Want Your Child To Learn How To Learn? Go Outdoors!

// This article has been sponsored by Unilever and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/want-your-child-to-learn-how-to-learn-go-outdoors

Recently, while surfing the internet, I discovered that Action for Children’s Environments (ACE), an NGO and a charitable trust which works towards creating safe, healthy, all-encompassing and resilient living environments for children and young people, is calling on teachers across India to take at least one lesson outdoors on Thursday, October 12, 2017, as a part of the global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign. Not just teachers but even parents and anyone else who cares about childhood can get involved in the campaign. Apart from taking a class outdoors, people can contribute by encouraging their child’s school to sign up, or by helping to spread the message far and wide. Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate, enthuse and inspire outdoor learning and play.

I was mighty impressed with the idea and reading about this campaign took me back to the day when I had wholly realized the importance of outdoor learning in case of my child. That day I was gob smacked! My fidgety and impatient toddler was playing “Passing the ball” with her school mates in a field next to the Montessori House that she goes to and they were all waiting for their turn uncomplainingly. At home, it had always been a herculean task for me to get her to wait for something but I was amazed to see the impact of great company, the right atmosphere and natural surroundings on her. Someone has rightly said that play is the best way by which children can learn how to learn because they are naturally drawn to play outside.

It is not that we are not aware of how spending time outdoors is of paramount importance in the overall growth and development of a child. But, in keeping with the changing times, children are exposed to a completely different kind of environment today as opposed to the kind we grew up in. With the advent of new technologies and changes in societal structures, the amount of time spent outdoors is dwindling resulting in sedentary lifestyles. Staying connected to the natural world is actually a necessity but unfortunately, it’s becoming a luxury. According to studies conducted on this subject, probable perils, interactions with strangers and getting grimy are also factors which act as a deterrent for some parents in encouraging their children to play outside, even though they are aware of the importance of such experiences. Though the fear of safety is understandable, we can certainly ensure at our end that children are unfettered and unshackled under the supervision of a responsible and trusted caregiver. And as far as getting dirty is concerned, all I can say is a little dirt does not hurt, right?

I have realized that the importance of outdoor learning and play is undermined by many, because it is largely considered to be “fun” time. Truth is that it also contributes to immense learning right from the infancy stage. Being outdoors provides kids with unlimited stimulus and boundless opportunities to develop their gross motor skills, soft skills, problem-solving skills as well as language skills. Fresh air invigorates and fuels a child’s imagination and senses, which ensures that whatever they grasp during that period stays with them forever. It is not just about play but just simple things like taking a stroll in the midst of nature makes for a perfect setting for erudition. Experts also highly emphasize on the impact of outdoor play and sunlight on a child’s sleep patterns. Needless to say, sound sleep is essential for the development of a child. I have also observed that children who are well acquainted with nature develop a keen sense of environmental awareness.

Raising a child who is not homophobic

// This article was written for media/news company “Youth ki Awaaz” and has also been published by Women’s Web. It is available at below links:

https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2017/09/raising-a-child-who-is-not-homophobic/

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/10/help-child-accept-homosexuality-as-normal/

The other day we were at a social gathering and my friend’s 8-year-old child came trotting to us. Her innocent inquisitiveness brought an awkward silence into the room which had been bustling with chatter all this while.

“Mummy, Ria said that one of her friends has two fathers and not one mother and one father. How is that possible? Isn’t that funny?”

I shot a glance at my friend whom this question was directed at and I could sense her discomfort as well as a tinge of displeasure on her face. She was almost about to tell the child to go away but I could not stop myself from intruding at that point.

“Come here Shuchi! Well, there is nothing funny in that, dear. Some children have one mummy and one papa, some have two mothers, some like Ria’s friend have two fathers and some have a single parent. It is all normal. You might have found it funny because you have not come across such families before. But they exist and are just like any other family.” 

“Oh! But why are such families not common, Aunty?”

Before I could answer any further, my friend diverted her daughter’s attention towards a tattoo artist and rolled her eyes after the children left. I confronted my friend because I knew that she was not opposed to homosexuality and hence, her reaction had left me befuddled. I was genuinely curious to know the reason she dismissed her daughter instead of making use of the opportunity to talk to her about homosexuality. I discovered that she felt it was too early to discuss about “such” things with her daughter and that she didn’t want to wreck and pollute her mind with “all this” talk. She, however, was grateful to me for handling the situation as best as I could. I didn’t prod her further but I did feel sad for the child.

While there is increasing awareness and acceptance of sexuality in today’s times, we still have a long way to go before it becomes a norm socially and legally. I strongly believe that a lot of the change that we wish to see in the world will come about from the way we raise the next generation. If we truly want to raise children who are not homophobic, we need to accept it wholly ourselves first. It is one thing to be aware of it but it’s very important to normalize homosexuality for our children without judging them for their questions or chiding them over it. If they witness us feeling embarrassed or cringing when the conversation steers towards such topics, or if they watch us mocking someone due to their sexual orientation, they are certainly going to imbibe it all from us.

7 tips to keep your child safe this Diwali

//This article has been sponsored by Dettol and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/7-tips-to-keep-your-child-safe-this-diwali

It’s that time of the year! Diwali is around the corner and every household is bustling with enthusiasm. Preparations for the “Festival of Lights” are on in full swing. It’s heart-warming to witness the manner in which the kids are also getting involved with equal fervour. Diwali is indisputably one of the most celebrated festivals in India and it signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. In today’s world when we are all caught up with our chaotic and frenzied schedules, personally for me Diwali is also the time to unwind and spend quality time with my loved ones. My daughter is now a toddler who understands what is going on around her, hence this time she is looking forward to thoroughly enjoy the merriment and splendour associated with this much-loved festival.

Since few years, we have been celebrating cracker-free Diwali. Offering our prayers to almighty, decorating our home with beautiful lights, relishing lip-smacking delicacies and bonding with those who matter – this is the essence of Diwali for us. As a result of this, my daughter will not directly be engaged in burning firecrackers but there are many other factors we intend to take care of to ensure a safe and joyful Diwali experience for her. Below are a few hacks that one can follow to keep children safe this Diwali.

Make sure kids are not unattended at any point: While this may seem like an obvious thing to mention, it is important nevertheless. Diwali has been the cause for quite a few accidents as per statistics. This is a festival which keeps us busy in many ways and unintentionally, we might tend to lose focus while keeping a watch on our children. Please keep in mind that firecrackers, diyas, candles, matchsticks etc. are potentially dangerous and can be injurious for kids. Hence, ensure that they are supervised at all times during the festivities.

A Letter To My Daughter On International Girl Child Day

// This letter has been published by Women’s Web on the occasion of International Girl Child Day and is available at the below link:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/10/the-perfect-woman-a-letter-to-my-daughter-on-international-girl-child-day/

Dear Daughter,

Today is International Girl Child Day and this day always evokes myriads of emotions within me. As you grow, you will comprehend the significance of this day in the world that we dwell in but this letter is not just about this one day. This note is, in fact, going to be an aide memoire for me and if I ever try to enforce my beliefs and opinions on you, this will hopefully serve as a reminder for me to back off and let you be.

I endeavour everyday to raise you as a sensitive and strong girl, but achieving this in a patriarchal society is no child’s play. While on one side I will always strive to encourage you to be yourself and stand up for your values, there will be a counterbalancing effect from a section of the society which will threaten to bog you down and crush your fiery spirit. At times, you might struggle to decide what you want to do; you might find it overbearing to fight loved ones and in a bid to want to fit in and be accepted, you may end up losing a bit of yourself.

2007 Attack at Madame Tussauds – By Harshil Goel

//This story has been submitted by 12-year-old Harshil Goel who resides in Hyderabad. He had written this tale as a part of  the weekly Creative Writing Classes which I conduct in my society. The kids were given different word prompts to pen a short story and his prompts were “Museum” and “Actor”//

It was a lovely sight as we were passing through a garden. The beautiful green trees and the fruits hanging on them made for a peaceful and mesmerizing view. We were on our way to Madame Tussauds and I was eager to see the wax statue of my favorite actor, Tony Stark. Once we reached, I couldn’t wait anymore to witness the figurine of everyone’s favorite and the most adept actor in the whole world.

Veera’s adventure at the Ice-cream Parlour – Various Authors – Illustrated by Alankrita Ahuja

Illustration

Illustration By: Alankrita Ahuja, 7 years old

// This story has been authored by Shashank, Arnav Sharma, Avni Malhotra, Tvisha, Alankrita Ahuja, Sharanya, Hridaya, Abhiram, Jeslyn and Kylie together during a creative writing class. I started the story with the first line and then every child added to it one by one and hence, there is a contribution of all these young writers to the tiny tale. During this activity, kids learnt to identify loose ends in a story and also about how all the threads in a story should tie up together. They also understood how to maintain a consistent flow in a story.//

Veera was waiting in the ice-cream parlour for her friends. After a while, her friends arrived and they all exchanged hugs and pleasantries with each other. They enthusiastically placed their order for delicious ice-creams. Most of them wanted to have chocolate and strawberry flavors. Veera told her friends about a beautiful fountain that she had witnessed next to the ice-cream shop. She mentioned that she had seen a mysterious bird there which looked very strange. The bird’s right eye was large and the left one was bleeding. Her friends got scared listening to this but they all decided to visit the fountain nevertheless.

Beauty does not lie in the eyes of the beholder

// This is one of the winning entries of “Warrior Women” blogathon contest conducted by Women’s Web in association with Juggernaut Books. Fact meets fiction in this tale of two warrior women.

The alarm kept ringing unremittingly but Reeti woke up from her deep slumber only after her mother’s squawk reached her ears. She shot a hasty glance at the clock while she dived towards the bathroom to freshen up. She was late for office again and she knew she would have to face her mother’s wrath as this had become a routine off late. It had been almost 3 months since 23-year-old Reeti began having prolonged midnight conversations with Ritul who lived in Pune. Ritul and Reeti had connected on Facebook through a common close friend. What started as a casual Facebook messenger chat had now turned into a clandestine affair, though there were no talks of commitment from either of them yet.

Reeti gaped at the mirror and felt crestfallen. She was almost in tears looking at the malevolent, outsized pimple that had popped up right at the tip of her nose. All the efforts she had been putting in since the last few days to ensure a scrupulously clear and radiant face had gown down the drain. Ritul was in Mumbai for a customer visit and it was a special day for her – their first date! But she did not want to meet him now. He would also mock at her skin just like some of her friends and relatives did during her growing years. From medical treatments to her grandmother’s hacks, she had tried it all in the past but the pimples kept coming back with a vengeance. There was a time when Reeti was extremely miserable and down in the dumps because apparently no boy had a crush on her ever, even though she was considered to be a benevolent, affable and intelligent girl. But, once she began working for a leading MNC, her self-confidence increased and the thoughts about her physical appearance started taking a backseat. Though she had never met Ritul, she felt a connection with him and was keen to take this relationship forward. He seemed to be a sensitive and level-headed man but Reeti was too scared to lose her worth in his eyes. She did not want him to think of her as an unappealing woman and wanted to look beautiful for him.  But, the bulky bump on her face had shattered her desire. With a heavy heart and moist eyes, she sent him a text message.

“Sorry Ritul, I cannot meet you this time. Something very urgent has come up at office and I will have to work late hours. Hope you understand. Hugs!”

Hydro and Strikers – By Shreyas Saboo

//This story has been submitted by 8 year old Shreyas who resides in Hyderabad. He had written this tale as a part of  the weekly Creative Writing Classes which I conduct in my society. The kids were asked to write a story related to friendship.//

In 1999, there lived two aliens – Hydro and Strikers. They were best friends and both loved hopball. They also liked to invent things and their latest device was the tracer which could trace anyone, anytime. They kept all their inventions in a laboratory. They also started working on a new invention – a spaceship which they named MP390. Both of them worked hard on the spaceship and were delighted when it was ready.

One day, Hydro told Strikers that even though the spaceship was ready, he wanted to ensure that it was working fine.

“I think I should take the spaceship for a test drive”, said Hydro.

“Oh yes! I think you are right.”, replied Strikers.

So the next day, at the crack of dawn, Hydro set off for testing MP390. His route was from Mercury to Earth, and then back. But alas! When he was between Earth and Mercury, the spaceship started slowing down and even before five minutes had passed, it crashed into a house on Earth.

Book Excerpt: Shadow in the Mirror – Deepti Menon

SHADOW IN THE MIRROR – DEEPTI MENON

Shadow in the Mirror

Excerpt:

The door opened and her aunt bustled in. An air of expectation hung about her, tempered by an aura of anxiety that surprised Kavita. “Kavita, child, please don’t let your heart rule your head!” Her aunt seemed to be actually pleading with her. Kavita nodded mechanically as she looked at the older woman’s lined face. Wasn’t this her future being decided? “I will not make any compromises, whatever Aunty says!” she said to herself, but at the moment it was easier to concede to her. One last look at the mirror, the smoothening down of an unruly curl that kissed her flawless profile, and then she waited in impatience for the summons. The minutes went by, dragging their feet, emphasized by the ticking of the clock. Or was it actually the beating of her heart?