November 30, 2012

The birthday bash

After going over several times in my head and discussing it with hubby about whether we needed a birthday party for R, we decided that this time, we shall have one at home with all his friends over. Even after making a conservative guest list, I hit a figure of 35 odd invitees including the children and adults. Phew! all of them in my house for an evening had me in jitters. I had woken up to the party call just 10 days prior to the D-day, so that left me with just ample time to pull up my socks and hit the action button.

I was going to outsource all the food since I have neither the passion, ability or the resources to cook up a party menu for so many. It had to be all finger foods was something I was sure of. As a first order menu, I decided on Dhokla, some non-spicy kababs, finger chips, popcorn, cake and juice. Now, finding a good joint supplying these at a reasonable rate was a challenge. Most of the restaurants nearby were big names who would not undertake a relatively smallish order and also with their rates, even if I had managed a bargain, it would've still been a tall amount for a homely affair. Totally not worth it.

As I began my hunt for suitable eating joints in the vicinity, I realized how inadequate I was in terms of knowing my neighbourhood well. But, trust the internet and the blogosphere to come to the rescue. In the end, it was the typical case of overlooking something that was right under my nose. We have passed by this place practically every other weekend and I'd even taken note of the catchy name and made a mental note several times to check out the place. Obviously, that never happened and memory too failed to rise up to the occasion.

For those interested and lazy to click on the link above, the joint Chaipatty-a lovely name, right?- is a charming, warm and cozy place to have amazing snacks and kullad chai.  Not a big place in terms of area (at least this branch- they are located in four branches around B'lore) but I'd recommend this place for anyone looking to have good food and a quiet conversation or even spend time alone with a book for company. They have a few books and magazines stacked up for reading. If you are still particular, there is even justbooks right next door.

We sampled and ordered paneer pakodas and cheese balls from Chaipatty- finger chips and kababs were dropped from the menu instead.The dhoklas were to come from a different place. With the food and cake ordered, I tackled the rest of the itinerary- decorations, props and the (uber essential) return gifts without which no kid party ever ends!-in the next couple of days. Despite starting on the preparations a tad late, I managed to put together the logistics well in time. 

The party was quite a success with almost all the invitees turning up, food being appreciated and most importantly, the kids having a super duper gala time. For a moment I thought I'd go deaf with all the chaotic, noisy merry making all over. It's a different story that in the aftermath place looked like it was hit by Sandy. But, what the heck, we had a great time!

Leaving you with some pics... 




Lot of friends

The Birthday boy making merry


modest decorations


Add caption



November 27, 2012

Cheers!

So, the boys turned a year older,
have they turned a tad wiser?
Of the older one, I can't say
but the younger is definitely naughtier

Birthdays are fun, for young or old
it is all about you and you,
the norm, tad dulled for the dad
by the arrival of the lad

Why's that, you ask?
With the special days falling
back to back,
any wonder then, the glory is
a little skewed to bask?

A party for the little fella
was all fun and gala
The older chap was but
not forgotten
and a special lunch for him
did happen

Wishing the two
fabulous years ahead
replete with fun, health
and wealth
May God keep me too blessed 
to be with the love of my life-
oh, make it two!

P.S. It was the husband's birthday on the 25th and R's birthday on the 26th.

November 23, 2012

School admissions and such related stuff

Image: google, Deccan Herald
Dealing with school admissions these days definitely amounts to research work akin to the ones done before getting a Ph.d. Starting with what board to choose from, to checking out schools in the vicinity, to evaluating their curriculum and not the least, their (astronomical) fee structure. Adding to the confusion is the varied parental reviews about each school. 

As you'd have guessed by now, we have been dealing with R's school admission process in the past few months. Unlike many other parents, we did not do a tour of schools in our locality. The fact that baring a couple of schools, most schools are situated at a distance of minimum of 13-14 kms from our place, made our job easier. Yes, most reputed schools are quite far and yet, surprisingly a humungous crowd goes to these schools from our complex. Therefore, 

we fall in the minority category of parents who attach more importance to distance among other factors. 

We checked out only two schools in the end, and went ahead with one of those, although I still keep revisiting our preference for the chosen one since the school we rejected is situated right at our backyard! However, it has been drawing a lot of flak lately for it's lopsided management policies, high teacher attrition and in general a seemingly lack of control over things. The other school, although a little far off in comparison, appealed to us in terms of the management response, infrastructure and positive reviews of its parent branch in a different location.  Yet, there is constant humdrum in my mind of whether I've taken the right decision, if it'd be better to continue R in the present set-up and look for high schools later or whether I should go for the nearest school and not worry too much about other factors ? Gosh! it tougher being a parent today, methinks.


Just in case you were wondering didn't I just go through the playschool rigmarole just a year ago and happily settled for the Montessori R is going to currently? Yes, you're quite right. I too wondered about the same. Especially, because, not only did the teaching methodology  appeal to me, it also meant I'd have to look out for big schools only after another 3 years. But, then you know, I had many people telling me that getting admissions in higher classes become progressively difficult. I might get admissions alright but it may not be the school I want, I was told. So, that's the reason behind the renewed hunt.

Coming to the brighter part: before I sound like a broken record grating horribly on the nerve, the shortlisted school follows the Montessori method for the pre-schoolers- hence gets an extra thumbs up from my side.  Ok, before you folks pick that broom and hit me out for this long-winded saga story, let me finish on a lighter note. After we submitted the applications, we were called for a personal interaction. It was a casual and informal session where about 3-4 kids were engaged in some activities by the teachers to glean some information from them orally and to gauge their skill level. One parent was allowed to be with the kid, if the kid so wished. I am not going into the discussion of what could be gauged from tiny-tots and if this is necessary at all. My solace is at least this school had it in an absolute casual manner. One of the reputed schools, I heard, had a formal interview with the child, asking everything that could be asked from names of fruits, vegetables to colours to alphabets to names of the parents, phew!

Now, we are parents who do not believe in coaching the kids for an interaction that is in all likelihood just a formality (at least for nursery). So, we thought it is best to let R be himself. It was useless to even give him an idea of what was in store is what we believed.  So, we marched in our best attire that morning with a happy R in tow. Once at the reception, they asked us to wait for a few minutes until our turn. Now, this school is situated close to a railway track which meant that there are train sightings- an eye-treat for little children. So, R was mighty excited and wished to remain at the entrance foyer and didn't want to enter the classroom. So, in a sense we hit a roadblock at the onset itself. Next, he demanded that I come along, something that seemed quite contrary to his usual independent nature. The teachers appeared warm and friendly and asked him if he wanted to colour. R's reply? No. Do you want to play with the blocks, then? No.  Would you like to sit here? No. I want to see the train! The teacher was kind enough and steered the conversation to other things to make him comfortable. R finally agreed to sit. Then, they showed him a picture of balloons and asked him what it is. R said, "flower". He even translated it for good measure with great confidence in tamil and said,"poo" (flower in tamil). I didn't know where to look. Actually, I wanted to laugh but was scared it would encourage R to provide funnier answers. The teacher also looked like she had come across such an innovate answer for the first time. She composed herself to say,"umm..maybe they look like cherries?" But our boy was adamant. Then, to my relief, he rattled off the right colour names, reviving my confidence. Then he was encouraged to play with some blocks. He put the smallest black below the largest one and insisted that that's how it should be and that it is an aeroplane. After some scintillating conversation about aeroplanes and such, the teacher asked if he liked aeroplanes. R's reply, "No"! Later, at the principal's office too he was talking his head off about some random stuff giving us very less chance to talk! Well, at least he kept them (and us) in splits.

And the best part? In spite of
all the circus above, we got through the interview! So, all's well that end's well :-)


November 20, 2012

The Stopover by Mr. Ram Prakash and Deepa Pinto

So, I was one of the few privileged persons to get a copy of The Stopover- A photo-fiction book. As the title suggests, it is a one of its kind photo-fiction book with four simple yet beautifully woven stories that has a generous dose of splendid photographs from around India-  Leh to Channapatna, Ooty to Kolathur.



The book is authored by Ram Prakash and co-authored by Deepa Pinto. Mr. Ram Prakash owns a flat in the complex where I stay, although he does not live here. As a special release, and on popular demand, he arranged to get a few pre-ordered copies delivered to our complex on as a Diwali bonanza and that's how I got to be one among the early birds to get to read the book.

The stories are refreshing and simple yet have an underlying message at the end for the readers to ponder upon. Each story reflects upon the lives of the people from different backgrounds, with actual photos from that location to make the reading more powerful and enriching.

The first story-The Tibetan Wheel Of Wisdom revolves around the lives of the Tibetans living in Leh. A story that tugs at your heart as it highlights the trauma that the Tibetan refugees have gone through and how in spite of all the hardships, they live positive lives, practicing the Zen philosophy in the actual sense. 

The second story-A Rocking Horse can gallop too-my personal favourite- etches out a very pragmatic and relevant story in today's times and brings out all the emotions in the right proportion without going overboard with melodrama. One gets a peek into the beautiful town of Channapatna and the lovely toys for which it is famous for.

The third story-The sun shines forever-is a story woven around the Toda tribe of Ooty. While it was enlightening to read about the lesser known tribes, their culture and also to visit the less-touristy spots of the most-crowded hill-stations of the South through this story, I was a little disappointed with how the story ended. It seemed a little far-fetched and un-realistic in the end.

The last story- I hear them calling- is a feel-good story that infuses the pulse of the current age youth with some strong principles thrown in to have you in good spirits after you put down the book.

I quite liked the book on the whole. The USP of the book is definitely the splendid photography showcased. The visual treat is enhanced by the breezy read of all four stories. The print quality of the book is fantastic and does fine justice to the picturesque journey that the reader embarks upon.

The current contest at the Write-up cafe is based on this book. You can also read a few pages of this book there to get a feel of the book.
Published by Krab media, it is available for Rs. 495 on Flipkart.

Have you read this book? What do you think of it?

November 13, 2012

Celebrating Diwali

Diwali is here. Usually, I am at my parent's place around this time of the year. This is the first time in five years that I am celebrating the festival of lights in my house with just the three of us and a whole lot of friends to compensate for our family. And, this also meant, I had to indulge in the usual pre-Diwali preparations which included making of the Diwali sweets and savouries that I'd conveniently skipped so far at the parents' house.

However, I was pretty excited from the word go and was looking forward to buying diyas, decorative lights, sprucing up the home and even making the bakshanams (the sweets and savouries). Last week was a whirlwind activity of polishing off the dust and clutter from the house. There was a donation drive in our complex and I happily gave away some old clothes to under-privileged children. I planned ahead and shopped for the lovely lights, decorative diyas and ready-to-make rangoli design moulds. These moulds are a big boon for people like me who can only look wistfully at lovely rangolis in front of other creative folk's houses because we cannot draw even straight lines, leave alone make a flowery design!

So, here we are:  (excuse the poor photography, I blame the camera ;-)



R dancing away to glory

Fireworks


I successfully prepared some traditional sweets and savouries, after some sweat and effort. So, yay to that!
I was not too keen on buying and bursting crackers but had to give in to hubby and R's excitement levels. R thoroughly loved watching the colourful fireworks. We had a small get-together in our complex a day before Diwali, with yummy food stalls, art and handiwork for display and sale, exciting games and the famous housie. I never ever win at Housie, yet buy the tickets religiously each time. There is some weird fun and excitement in anticipating the number on your tickets to be called out. While, this time too I did not win at the Housie, I won a gift voucher at a musical quiz. So, that made my day :-)

So, how did you guys celebrate Diwali? Wishing you all a fun-filled, prosperous and safe Diwali!

November 6, 2012

What happens mid-air at times..

Last night I watched a very interesting show on National Geographic about aircraft disasters that were tracked to maintenance issues. Now, usually, I don't like watching violent or gory stuff but this wasn't either; a very well constructed show that took you through three different instances (reconstructed parts) that felt like watching a thriller movie.

First incident: Somewhere in the west-coast of the United States: A few minutes after the aircraft was air-bound and the passengers settling into their routine, there was a loud thud and the people on board were in for a shocking sight: the roof of the airplane got ripped off and the plane started tottering dangerously. "The oxygen masks came down but the outside pressure was so huge that the fingers were going numb and the entire head was swathed in excruciating pain", recalled a survivor. The oxygen masks were to last only until 30 minutes, hence the aircraft had to be brought to a lower altitude. The aircraft made a tumultuous rapid descent to lower altitudes and as the oxygen levels resumed to normalcy the pilots are able to gain some control. They managed to maneuver the plane to a nearby airport with great difficulty and landed everyone safely to ground.

Second incident: Fifteen years earlier, a similar catastrophe struck a Japanese aircraft that had 500 passengers on board. The rear of the aircraft blew off mid-air and the passengers faced similar disastrous conditions as in the first incident. But here, even the controls failed as the hydraulic system was damaged due to the rip off. However, the pilots discovered a unique way that could keep the plane moving. When pressure was applied to right engines, the plane swerved slowly to the left and vice-versa. A very difficult way to propel the aircraft, yet the pilots tried to keep the plane in the air for as long as they could. Yet, it was a tall order to get to safety and in addition they encountered a rocky terrain ahead and crashed. Everyone aboard perished.
The entire story was reconstructed to create a dramatic effect and what was even more heart-wrenching was to learn about a little lad of 9 years travelling alone on this ill-fated flight and whose body remained unaccountable for. The parents for a long time believed that the boy somehow escaped the disaster miraculously.

Third incident: In the third instance, a British aircraft was to fly its maiden flight. The aircraft was fitted with brand new window screens just a day ago. As the plane gathered altitude, there was a loud noise from the cock pit and as the steward rushed to see what happened he was met with a horrific sight of the front window plane being blown off and one of the key-pilots sucked into the frame. The pilot was dangling in mid-air with just his legs inside the aircraft. The steward had the presence of mind to hold on to the legs of the pilot. The co-pilot had twin troubles to flying the plane to safety. The nearby airport was unfamiliar to him and he had no help from his co-pilot. There was a motor way close to the airport which could have been confused with the runway. Imagine the chaos going inside the pilot's mind. Through sheer grit, determination and skill, the pilot managed a safe landing. Miraculously, the pilot who was stuck out in the mid-air, subjected to minus degree temperature and cold winds that blew onto his face at unimaginable speed, survived too with some minor fractures on the face and frost bites.

In all the three incidents, the survey team conducted a tough and thorough investigation routine that worked backwards to find the root cause that led to such mishaps in mid-air. Maintenance records were combed in detail. What was uncovered was to take the work done by the aircraft maintenance team to a new level.

In the Japanese incident, it was found out that years before the fatal accident took place, the aircraft had met with an accident on the runway- the tail had hit the runway, causing a dent in the rear end. There was a strict procedural guideline to carry out the repair work, wherein the two ends had to be joined with a single continuous metal plate wedged in between, joined together with rivets at three different levels. The repair was done but not as per the specifications. Instead of a single long metal plate, two smaller ones were used one with two rows of rivets and one with only one row in place. However this arrangement weakened the design and with every flight thence, the crack in the design deepened. The disaster was just waiting to happen one day during one flight.
Diagram of correct and incorrect repairs-Wikipedia

In the third instance, it was discovered that the window screen was secured to the framed with bolts that were narrower than the ones intended by about a small fraction. Yes, just a miniscule of a difference, yet, when the aircraft encounters huge altitudinal pressure, it is sufficient to wedge the seemingly correct bolts off little by little off the groove. The person who fit them worked by comparing the look and feel of the bolt with the original rather than going by the manual and said rules!

In the first instance, the roof of the aircraft that blew off, baffled the investigation team since that area was not deemed to be a critical area under the maintenance rule book. The fatigue cracks that were visible on them were supposed to arise at a much later date. The aircraft had completed 39000 flights and the maintenance team would have carried out the required checks for these kind of warning signals only at the completion of 60000 flights. The rule book was changed therein to carry out these checks at the end of 30000 flights. Not only this, but the team identified similar flights at various locations that were staring at such a disaster and managed to withdraw them before they took their next flight.

I was thoroughly impressed with the manner in which the investigation team carried out their task of working their way backwards to find the root cause given the baffling circumstances in each of the three cases and managing to pin point the fault too. The mistakes when singled out seem like a minor slip off but when in comes to aircraft maintenance, these instances are lessons that drive home the point that nothing at all is unimportant.

Just wondering how good is the safety features in our airlines, Do we have a thorough procedure to follow when in comes to maintenance? Even more important, do we conduct such intensive survey and investigation after a disaster and learn from our mistakes thereafter? A very scary thought indeed!