Challenging the Marbles

A new children’s toy store opened near my house. I was passing by it on my way to the grocery store. My curiosity got the better of me and I ended up entering the shop. The colorful games are always a sight to behold regardless of the age. Among all the games, one game stood out. It was Brainvita and I ended up buying it. The very thought of challenging the marbles in this game fills me with energy.

This game has always been a challenge. I received the first Brainvita on my eighth birthday. Initially I used to end up with 8 or 9 marbles. I used to get bored after 1 or 2 games and give up. Most of my friends also ended up with same results. One fine day, someone asked me how intelligent I was. I did not have anything other than my scores. I asked myself, how should I confirm my intelligence. The answer was Brainvita. That day I decided to work on it. After playing for 2 hours I was able to complete a game with 3 marbles. The box said, if you end up with 3 marbles you are intelligent. I was happy and informed my mother. My mother asked if I would be able to reproduce it. That was a lesson for me, since I did not remember the steps to end up with 3 marbles. Before you claim anything, you should check all the facts. Same goes with our work, before marking anything complete, we should validate all the tasks have been done. It is most important to prove your expertise to yourself. Once you do that, you need not bother about what others think of you. I did continue my practice and eventually identified the steps to end up with 3 marbles. Sometimes I feel these solo games are a big motivation. If you want to turn your mind from negative thoughts just pick up brainvita and aim to get one marble. Soon you will be so engrossed that all the useless thoughts will be substituted by ways to find solutions. This is my way of activating my brain.

Enjoying with Colors

The festival of Holi happens when the season is about to change from Winter to Summer. There are warm days and cold nights. Many people fall sick. During my school days the final exam for an academic session used to happen in April. The month of march used to be full of internal assessment where our notebooks, workbooks and assignment books were checked. Falling sick had to be avoided because one may miss out on internal assessment.

On the day of Holi we used to prepare our bags with colors and pichkari. Pichkari is like a spray bottle. We would fill colored water in it and spray it on others. We would be given strict instructions to avoid water while leaving the house. Within 5 minutes of stepping out of the house, we would be colored and wet. In those days, cell phones were not common with kids so after 2 to 3 hours, it would be time for lunch. We would be so colored that it would be impossible to identify us. Calling up the neighbors to find out if we are near their house would not work. So our parents would come out in search of us. Once they found us, we would have to go home. That day we would spent long hours in shower. The rest of the day would be spent in instructions of being extra careful since we had exposed ourselves to the risk of getting cold by playing with water. The next day all of us would have colored faces. For a change, our school prefixes would be lenient in their checking. The amount of color on the face would show how actively one celebrated the festival. Although the festival of Holi would come right before the final exams, it would give us a colorful break from studies. I do pray those days come back again and we are able to meet everyone without the fear of getting sick. Wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Healthy Holi.

Here comes the King

Last week the vegetable vendor brought raw mangoes. Mango is called the king of fruits. It is a seasonal fruit and is available during summer only. If there is anything which makes us look forward to summers it is mangoes. This tasty yummy fruit just makes everything pleasant.

Mango is consumed in a number of ways. As soon as raw mangoes appear in the market, the terrace of the houses are full of jars. Raw mangoes are cut and marinated with spices and oil. They are then dried in the sun in jars to make pickles. This way mango is consumed the whole year. Raw mango is sour in taste. I would cut raw mangoes, tomatoes and cucumber into small pieces, sprinkle rock salt and squeeze a lemon. This salad just makes my day. We even add it in pulses/lentils to make mango dal. This seasonal fruit reminds us, nothing is permanent in life, be it good times or bad times. Today we all are going through a challenging phase. Tomorrow is Holi the festival of colors. Normally we would go to everyone’s house with colors and wish them but this year due to rising Covid cases, community functions are not happening. So no socializing during Holi. I believe this bad phase will also pass and we will be able to come together again one day. We should make the most of the situation. Stay at home, spend time with your family and have lots of mangoes as long as they are available fresh.

Celebrating Earth hour

Today, 27th March 2021 is the Earth Hour 2021. It is a world wide movement organized by World Wide Fund for Nature on the last Saturday of March. It is held every year by switching of non-essential electric lights for one hour between 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. We used to spend this time singing songs or reciting poems. We are so habituated of electric equipment that we cannot think of life without it. Pollution is increasing every day. Conserving forests and wild life has become a necessity. This day is meant to remind us of our responsibility towards our planet.

During lockdown many people spent their time on digital media. We all are aware of the side effects of looking at a screen for long hours. At the same time, there were many who came up with creative activities. People realized gardening is actually fun. They created beautiful vegetable gardens in their compounds and even on their balconies in flats. As one starts studying plants, seeds and manure, one realizes there is so much to do. One can use everything from broken mugs to jars to old boxes. I often used to wonder if every community had a green balcony competition or a green compound competition, where the greenery in each house or apartment would be judged. The one with the most healthy plants would be declared a winner. Every apartment would look so beautiful. How would it be if every kid’s school project included nurturing a plant for an academic year. This would help the child to learn so much. I think if all of us do our bit in increasing greenery and reducing carbon footprint, the world would be a better place to stay. Let us try to make this Earth a better place on this Earth hour.

Celebrating simplicity

Today is Maha Shivratri, a festival dedicated to God Shiva. He is also known as Mahadev, the great God. It is also the day when God Shiva got married to Goddess Parvati. It is celebrated at home in my family. We get up early, clean the house, take bath and offer prayers to God Shiva. We offer fruits and kheer (sweet made of rice and milk). During my school days, the kitchen used to be full of the aroma of kheer. We used to help in getting the flowers and bilva leaves. In some places, the ceremonies are performed whole night. People fast and meditate. There are devotional songs meant only for Maha Shivratri.

We are brought up on tales on Mahadev. He occupies a special place in our hearts and lives. I have always been an ardent admirer of his simplicity. There are numerous cases where those benefited from him, have been ungrateful to him but that has never impacted his giving nature. He stays in Himalayas. Maybe that is why I love being in the mountains. The word meditation brings forth an image of him deep in meditation. With the rise in lifestyle diseases, I think we should take lessons from his life. Choose comfortable clothing over expensive clothing. Lead a physically active life. The more we can build immunity the better. A year of Pandemic has helped many of us to incorporate good habits and lead a simple life. On this Maha Shivratri, I do pray that the tough times get over. Best wishes of Maha Shivratri to everyone.

A Day for Science

Today (28th February) is National Science Day in India. This is celebrated to mark the discovery of Raman effect by Sir C.V.Raman. Schools conduct science exhibition on this day. It started in our school when we were in 9th grade. We were supposed to bring projects for the exhibition. We started looking for project ideas in everything from boiling milk to vehicle wheels. When this happened, the books on science projects in school library were all issued. In those days internet was not there in every house. So the next option was requesting our friends in other schools. It seems they too were facing the same situation since their school too had science exhibition. We used to discuss about project ideas from the doctors and engineers of our neighborhood. It used to be fun gathering all the information and making the project. Finally the day before the exhibition we would arrange the tables in the hall and other rooms to be used. We would try to think of all the questions that might come from the guests and prepare answers for it. Our guests were the students from junior classes and teachers. It used to be a huge thing standing in front of our project in freshly ironed uniform and polished shoes. We would speak about our project as if we were in some big science conference.

This used to be a big school event in many schools till last year where parents were invited as guests. Although this means work in addition to studies for students, it is an event to look forward to. Theoretical knowledge starts appearing interesting when it is put into practice. This event enabled us to view science beyond books. We were able to put the concepts learnt into practice. Preparing the theory for presentation helps the students develop their presentation skills. Today the world is looking at science to come up with solution for the pandemic. On this National Science Day, I wish all the best to the science community to find a vaccine for Covid.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.

Celebrating World Radio Day

The first thing that caught my eye in newspaper is today that is 13th February is World Radio Day. Mention of Radio brings up beautiful memories. Let me share the most recent one. Last year due to lockdowns, I was at home like everyone. Initially the rising counts created fear and I started looking for ways to keep myself busy. At that time, I started trying new things in kitchen. But the fear kept on coming so I started listening to Radio. The monologues by the RJs followed by songs allowed a nice break. Radio allowed me to move around the house doing different activities. Also it is less stressful for the eyes. There are different programs on various genres of music. I also discovered audio dramas for suspense stories. This took me to the world of Sherlock Holmes, Feluda, Byomkesh bakshi. I searched in net and found the Radio broadcast of special events like that of Apollo 11 when man stepped on moon or of India’s independence. These just reminded me Radio had been the such an important part of our lives although devices have changed from dedicated radio to radio app in cellphones.

These broadcasts not only helped me get over the pandemic stress but also helped me relive special events about which I had only read in books. Today Radio is part of my life while cooking and walking. I would take this opportunity to thank all the people associated with Radio for making our lives better in these tough times. Best wishes for World Radio Day.

Celebrating the Republic Day

My mother was surprised to see me awake early today before 5:00 am. I told her its 26th January and I am at home. 26th January is celebrated as the Republic Day in India. The Indian Constitution was created after Independence. The new constitution came into force on 26th January 1950. From then onwards, every year this day is celebrated as the Republic Day. This is one of the special events of winter. My school used to start at 7:30 am. We used to start practicing march-past 2-3 weeks before republic day. For this practice we used to reach school by 6:30 am in cold. I used to get up before 5:00 am to reach on time. Maybe this was the reason I woke up early today. The house captains used to align us based on our heights. The school band used to play the drum and we would practice march-past for days. “Haven’t you seen the march-past of Republic day!” This was the ending statement of every scolding of every teacher and captain for every mistake during the practice.

We used to have a dry run of the entire ceremony on the previous day. Before the Republic Day, I used to iron my uniform and polish my shoes. On 26th January, I would wake up early to dress up in freshly ironed uniform and put on the polished shoes. Then my mother would tie up two tight plats. We would reach school on time, stand in our designated positions. Then the march-past would begin. We would walk a path across the playground. Then the principal would come and unfurl the flag. As soon as the flag unfurls, we would sing the national anthem. The event used to complete by 8:30 am. We used to rush home, to catch the Republic Day Parade at the capital New Delhi. The defense parade is followed by the tableau of different states and national organizations. We used to discuss about our favorite tableau for the next few days. Our Constitution gives equal opportunities to everyone. We have leaders who have come from humble backgrounds. They have proved themselves through their work. They always inspire me to strive to be better. This year I watched the entire parade like school days. As the day comes to an end, I hope everyone is inspired to do their best and make 2021 a great year. Happy Republic Day.

Kites in the Sky

The sky is filled with colorful kites and the terraces are filled with laughter and cheer. Today is Makar Sankranti for Bengali(East India) and Uttarayan for Gujarati(West India). Since I am a Bengali from Gujarat, I get to celebrate both. It is a festival dedicated to the Surya Devta(Sun God). The days are expected to become longer from today. We worship the Sun God with prayers and offerings. People fly kites in Uttarayan. The stalls for kites start appearing from first week of January. The colorful kites of different sizes and designs hanging on the shop windows makes the market appear like a palette of colors. As a kid I used to look forward to taking a stroll in the market during these times.

Delicacies at home. Thanks to mom

Most of the delicacies of this festival are made with jaggery. In East India, they make Pitha from rice flour, coconut and jaggery. In West India, they make sesame and peanut rolls or bars(chikki) with jaggery. We spend most of the day in terrace flying kites and eating all these delicacies. This is also the time when families come togather and celebrate. Uptill last year, there used to be Kite festivals, where large kites of various shapes and sizes were flown. Participants used to come from all over the world to display their unique kites. It used to be a fair like atmosphere. During school days, the mid year exams used to get over just before Uttarayan. So it used to be a bigger celebration for us. This year I was able to celebrate the festival at home after a long time. My mother prepared everything I enjoy. The world is seeing a new hope with vaccines coming up after last year’s pandemic. I just pray there is a vaccine which provides us permanent immunity from this disease and again allows us to meet each other without the fear of getting infected. Happy Makar Sankranti and Happy Uttarayan to everyone.