Friday, October 19, 2012

On Capone, Elvis and Learning

A few minutes ago Raghu was watching a video with me online, where we saw images of the soup lines during the Great Depression.  He immediately connected it to what he read about Al Capone in the Horrible Histories Book.  I learnt from him that during the Great Depression Al Capone tried to buy his way into the heart of the public, during his court trial, by setting up Soup Lines for the unemployed.

Often such moments happen during my randomly busy days and I'm unable to remember the connections made or the moment passes and the next time i'm at the computer my mind draws a blank.  today per chance the video froze and so i decided to blog this right away.

I also found it amazing that for a boy who normally does not read novel-length and novel-typesize books, Raghu read the Horrible Histories book on Al Capone cover to cover.  It amazes me the information that he squirrels away.  I may never truly know what my child has learnt, where he learnt it, why he learnt it, how he learnt it and when he learnt it.  But I know that he will learn what he needs, when he needs it, etc.  You get my drift.

Raghu's love for guns, the mafia, gangs, is leading to an interest in history, geography and many other 'subjects'.  I love the mix of information and flow of connections in our house.  Raghu said he loved the story of Al Capone.  He loves watching The Godfather series with Ravi.  And since Ravi has a clear hold over facts and figures and can talk instantly about directors, movies, dialog, films, historic facts etc, the 2 really enjoy their discussions on Scarface and the like :-)

As Raghu plays around the house he might hear us conversing about a topic and he jumps right in with his connections, information or sometimes a joke he heard about the topic.  This is something Ravi and I now welcome. Sometimes it feels like our conversations are interrupted too often and we might tell Raghu to hold his thought while we complete our train of thought... but mostly its a joy to have him and these days even Zoya jumping right in and giving us their world view.  They can influence the actions in this house and have impact.  I think for a child this is real-time learning.

Zoya has been parading us with dialogs from a diverse variety of movies.  She will say something from 3 idiots "jahanpana tussi great ho" when I bring her something she likes :-)  Or she might put her lyrics to the tune of  "Return to Sender" (Elvis).  Try singing this to the tune:  "Nana (Ravi) is verrrry grumpy, and not being nice, so I said to the postman, his letter comes back, Return to Sender, address unknown".  Its so funny!  And the song has the desired effect and Nana is less grumpy right away.  She makes up songs like this in tune to many Hindi and English songs.  Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes circumstances will be reflected in the lyrics :-)  We all enjoy her way of communicating.. thru her songs.  She tells us how she feels, what she wants and even asks questions.  Raghu has been helping her with holding the tune and finding the right rhyming word.

My children and I are learning way more than just facts and figures.  We learn about emotions, personalities, the world and why it is the way it is (a topic that is rehashed every few weeks as my ability to talk about it improves and my children ask more complex things), our selves, our family and its dynamics, what is money and why some people want more of it and some don't.  Etcetera.  And if I'm sad and they notice it, we talk about it.  Sharing my emotions, sharing how I dealt with an emotional moment, is important to me.  Often Raghu will know exactly what I need or want and will make wise suggestions... go for a walk Amma or he might ask if I want a glass of water.

Raghu advised me recently, "You know Amma, when you get angry and you want to not be angry any more, then you just need to forget what happened."  Ravi and I rarely, these days, get truly annoyed with each other.. its usually circumstantial stuff, rocky centers due to a cold or some such.... and yet... this piece of advice from my 9 year old was in alignment with what I have been learning from reading Byron Katie. I was indeed grumpy with Ravi that day and my grumpiness vanished. And I continue to learn.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Simple pleasures

 Zoya loves playing on the kitchen floor with a large steel plate, in which we arrange tongs, candles, camphor tablets and some little plates.  She likes burning camphor and allowing the smoke to coat a plate and then draw on it.  We love the smell of camphor!

I like how random our life is.  And if i fight this disorderly chaos that our interests bring about... then I feel low and angry and annoyed with the kids and myself.  So observing the laughter, joy, peace that the randomness of things in our life brings... makes me peaceful.

Raghu, Ishan (our neighbor) and Zoya helped me wash our Duplo lego blocks... that Z still loves to play with.  They had a blast with all that water and a running pipe... that was helping me clean the terrace as well.

I even ended up giving Snowy a bath... which she did not like.. but was easier for me with all that water being used by the kids.

Playing with fire, water and mud is still Zoya's favorite way to spend time.  Give her sand and water and hours can go by.  Raghu has definitely moved on and is not as engaged by these elements any more.  However he does love fire and will talk about carbon to Zoya and about burning different materials to me.

Simple Pleasures indeed.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mole (pronounced Mo-ley) and death

I returned around 11 pm last night from a day-trip to Mumbai.  Kids and Ravi were waiting up. As i settled in, caught up on the day's news and Ravi filled me in on stuff, i noticed that Moley, our 4 year old goldfish, was looking funny.  He was floppy and floating funny.  Not good.  Raghu and Zoya had named each of our 5 goldfish who entered our lives around 3 years ago, courtesy of a friend who had had them for a year.  Raghu has fed them every day for over 2 years.

Raghu was looking miserable.  I suggested we move some rocks around inside the aquarium and make him comfortable.  Raghu started to cry.  I was focusing completely on Raghu now.  How could i help him?  For a while i stayed quiet.  Held his hand.  Raghu was standing on top of an old toy chest to watch Mole at close quarters.  We have kept our aquarium on a high shelf.  Perfect for viewing but not if the kids want to dip their hands inside.

Raghu stood on the chest and dipped his hands in and stroked the little fish.  At this point I knew this fish was dying and it did not matter what Raghu did. As the minutes ticked by I felt inspired to say things in a soft voice to Raghu and see how he reacted.  I asked if he would like me to take some last photos of Mole. He said yes.  One is below.  Then he stated crying again.  I started talking to Mole.  I told him that we were grateful to have had him be with us for such a long time.  That we would miss him but knew that he needed to go.  I wished him well and said i was willing to let him go.  Raghu was quiet and listening.  I then offered to read The Mountains of Tibet  by Mordicai Gerstein.  Raghu said yes.  A beautifully illustrated book of living and dying and rebirth that brings me much peace.

Then I asked Raghu if he knew why he was crying.. was it because he, Raghu, would miss the fish?  Was it because he felt that the fish did not want to die?  Raghu seemed still and said yes, he was not ready to let him go and yes, he was not sure that the fish wanted to go either.  So i said i too am fearful. Of what, Raghu asked.  I am fearful of my parents dying and me missing them.  Raghu looked at me and we then spent many minutes talking about death, dying, needing to move on from this particular life, etc.

My theory is that if this life does not meet my needs, i will move on.  And if i were to watch my parents dying, i'd like to tell them to go in peace.  Not with me crying and them upset to see me upset.  Reading Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and Dying made me aware of the beauty of death.

Then Raghu and I saw the irony... we celebrate births and do the opposite at death.  Yet when a child is born, it is born to die.  Raghu's words.  I was moved and yet very silent inside.  Something of this conversation made us both very calm and no longer afraid.

I asked him if he'd like me to talk to Mole some more and make him comfortable.  So we lowered a soft kerchief into the tank, placed Mole's still faintly living body onto it.  Then i put on buddhist chants.  And i said some Sanskrit chants.  And i spoke to Mole and wished him well.  Telling him to go in peace.

Eventually Raghu fell asleep on a chair watching Mole in the tank.
The next morning Raghu, Zoya, Ravi and I wrapped up Mole's body in the kerchief and buried him in a pot of mud that has some lilly bulbs in it.  We all stood around in silence for a minute.  I watched Raghu carefully.  He had moved on.  HIs heart seemed to be quiet and full but peaceful.

Zoya asked me where did the fish go when it died.  So I said that I believe that the body went back to the earth (she understands that things decompose and become earth again) and that the energy went back to energy.  This is the simplest thing i can say about death to Zoya.  And i think it met with approval.  For now.

It was a moving experience for me and made me aware, in a very good way, of my own mortality.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


My friend Dola did a blog-post about the questions her children ask.  Its ditto at our place, just different topics.

Ravi has left for a 2 week trek, so bedtime is hard for Zoya.  She needs her Nana at home in order to sleep.  Her idea of bliss is to wake up in the middle of the night and count the sleeping people around her, 1, 2, 3, and herself, 4.  Anyway, so i was wondering how to make bedtime easier.  Our idea of bedtime refers to "the time we feel like going to bed."

So the kids were lying in bed and laughing at some character's antics on youtube on the IPad.  We started talking about music and the next hour was a mix of all the following:

Music i heard as a kid
Bangles and their hit song Manic Monday
Nazia Hassan and her brother
Guitar lessons
Boom Boom, another Nazia hit
Elvis Presley
We watched Jailhouse Rock (Raghu loved Elvis's deep voice)
Black and while videos
Where did color come from
The Wild Thornberrys (Kids are loving this show...i used to love this cartoon when i was in the US)
Different countries and the ways to get there
How long before Ravi gets back... so that means how many days (for Zoya counting is an on going concept)
We saw Michael Jackson's first moon walk and talked about how he died.
Then we talked about how Elvis died
Dying in general
Bright lanterns (someone near our home floated 2 beautiful lighted lanterns)
We ran to the terrace and watched the lanterns till they disappeared
Discussion on Mr. Bean's fridge fitting into a hot air balloon, ridiculous or possible?
Zoya talked about how they might reach the moon
Raghu argued they would never make it and why
Zoya asked about oxygen and whether you need it on the moon and is that what the astronaut's helmet is for
Sadness that they can't be on the moon (umm like right away or real soon)
Shock that humans sent up a monkey first
We watched the Thornberrys and of course we all felt we had to live that life right away
What is a comvee
Listened to Elvis song "return to sender"  Which is a new Zoya fave now

And finally with Zoya still asking for YouTube videos of how to make a lantern and float it and why we have not had successful kite flying for a long time... we all fell asleep.

So yeah... Questions.  They abound.  Sometimes the answers are easy, sometimes we google, sometimes we just have to trust that we do not know the answer but one exists somewhere.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The stuff of awesomeness

We traveled to Dharwad by car a couple of weeks ago.  Raghu created bazookas and other things out of the old pipes Dad had uprooted during a plumbing clean-up of his building.   We ate Uttappas and dosas and idlis every day and loved it... strangely.  The kids actually say the uttappas in Dharwad are better tasting than mine... hmm.  We loved exploring our new Apple Toys and listened to music and the rain and each other.  We rarely stepped out of home.  Dharwad is beautiful, especially in the rains.  Dad's large terraces on different levels got the kids excited.  They collected things and snacks and jackets and made a parallel home up on the highest terrace.

Zoya has drawn a beautiful mosaic like image on the black board.  Ravi found her listening to ABBA while huddled on top of an old IKEA stool balanced on top of a chair in front of the black board.  She seemed to be very comfortable!

Snowy, my lovely baby is absolutely beautiful.  Here she stares at me, nervous of my camera!

All that lovely plasticine looks like chopped up bits of delicious looking colorful skittles (I miss skittles!!)  The things we built have been slowly cut up and cooked, pared, and even dunked in water (just to see what would happen).  Raghu's elegant Bionicle man seemed to be dancing and beckoning to me.  I love how Raghu fearlessly mixes up all his toys and creates new forms.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Zoya has been watching videos of Kutsuwa eraser making kits.... its real fun... watch here:
There are many videos in this category and she watches them regularly.

Well she wants the kit and i'm not able to source it locally.  It struck me that i could get her plasticine. Something that resembles the stuff in the video.  The last time i got plasticine the kids mixed everything up and it was a ball of gunk... so I have stayed with home made playdough ever since. And the kids have never complained.  They love our home-made colorful playdough.

But recently i noticed that this did not meet Zoya's increasingly exacting standards.  And she wanted details and the satisfaction of creating art that playdough was not giving her.

Anyway... today we went to an art store and got loads of plasticine.  And we were in heaven.  Kids and I created hamburgers, chillies, a stuffed blue-berry pie, sandwiches.  And Raghu, uncharacteristically, played with us!!  He even made an olive on a toothpick that i was frankly amazed by.  We all love this smelly plasticine and are looking fwd to making more things tomorrow.

I love finding ways to meet my children's needs.  I'm also loving accepting all the times i can't meet a need head on.  To be able to stay centered and helpful thru both types of situations is very important to me.

Click on the pic to see the details :-)

Just want to mention that you can make really realistic looking food and the colors mix beautifully together and don't forget... unless you press real hard the different parts of the food stay separate!!  So the sandwich Raghu made can come apart and be reused.  Also this material is very satisfying to cut.  Zoya was playing chef and was hosting a talk show while chopping up... just like her fave Nigella :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Food and Layers of Learning

I was harboring fear and irritation whenever Raghu asked for "interesting" food.  His kind of 'interesting' usually involves me going waaay out of my comfort zone.  He drools over Nigella, Masterchef, Jamie Oliver and devours cook books.

A couple of evenings ago I plunged into buying alien items like rice-paper, sesame oil and Sumac.  That evening I created a dish inspired by Nigella and some techniques i'd learnt via Masterchef.  The stuff was eaten so fast that i never managed to photograph it :-)  I created rice paper rolls with cooked corn-rice, cooked and raw cucumber and shredded lettuce stuffing.  It was incredible.  We dunked these translucent, beautiful little parcels of semi-cooked and raw elements in 2 kinds of home-made, asian dips.

What is my point here?  Well for me this was an act of courage.  I want to honor it / myself.  I was able to be playful and relaxed while creating, nay inventing, new food while meeting Raghu's taste, my pantry limitations, dinner rush, and all the other "perceived"obstacles.  I did keep daal and chaval on the side as a backup, just in case :-)

So what are the layers here?  I went way beyond just creating the food.  I was able to get past the fears, irritation (why not focus on the million other things i make?... I already make many different cuisines for my gourmand-son) and learn to go with the flow.  I set an intent "to meet Raghu's need for new foods with love and to make it happen".  And it happened.  This intent setting business is heady stuff.  I don't quite know when the internal shift happens... but by setting my energies in the right direction and not lingering in doubt, fears, irritation or too much left-brain analysis etc... I am happier and able to stay in the moment with love and gratitude and an open heart that says "even what you think is impossible can happen if you want it to".  Ok... a bit dramatic... but truly... buying rice wrappers, fancy-shmancy ingredients, paying a bomb, not knowing whether they will get used fully, whether i'd make anything good with them etc... and whether the kid will eat it etc... tests my thresholds :-) out here in India.

For Raghu he got to see me take a dip in uncharted waters.  He, needless to say, was thrilled, cheered me on and was an enthusiastic taster while i cooked.  He spoke with me about other ingredients we can source in Pune (he wants me to cook him endives and bake Beef-pot-pies next :-) We spoke about why i get irritated with his frequent needs for "interesting" foods.  I shared how i feel stressed by the cost of these imported ingredients.  A simple slab of haloumi sets us back quite a bit here (haloumi being a simple, salted, Arabic cottage-cheese variety that i took for granted growing up in Abu Dhabi) or even a simple Cheddar.  And Raghu is quite the gourmand... he knows his cheeses, oils, meats, salad dressings, nut butters, etc.  But as we talked I realized.... OMG i love it.  I love how much he knows about food... his passion for new tastes and exploration.  And Ravi, dear Ravi, confirmed for me that we should just keep money for it... like we would if Raghu wanted a class.  When it comes to money and seeing it as a flowing, moving energy... Ravi is awesome and inspiring to me.

Raghu surprised Ravi and me by having boiled, salted peanuts sold by the toll booths on the way to Dharwad.  Also road-side, large watery cucumbers slit and dipped in spicy salt.  He has been adjusting to the local cuisine and eats many, many more Indian (read: ingredients are easy to procure and cheaper and more local for me) dishes these days.  But he is a 'foodie' and misses bagels, pretzels, well-made shawarma (tasted last in Abu Dhabi) and other international foods that we (parents who travel and work in different countries) have exposed him to since an early age.  So I move, learn, change, unfold, whisper sweet intents to the universe and the layers of learning dawn upon me everyday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An article on Videogame Shine

This was the script from a Webinar i participated in, recently, here in India. I use the term "Whole Being Learning" for the first time in this write-up. Our life seems to be better described by that label. 'Unschooling' also applies to us and is what i would say to most as its widely known as a label.... but some how 'Whole Being Learning' describes what we do much better in my mind.

Shining with Video Games

I was trapped by the good-mommy-status i’d conferred on myself when Raghu was little... timed sessions of TV and Videos, timed sessions with electronic things in general, only whole-grain food, no candy, no refined sugar, etc.  I was coming from the perspective that these things sucked children of their imagination, education, nutrition, health, etc. I was doing what I thought was best for my little one.

One day, when Raghu was about 4, and we were already homeschooling, I was inspired by Sandra Dodd’s web page on Media and realized something crucial:  
When I was 8, I was an avid book reader and would often find quiet nooks around the house or garden to read.  However my parents would tell me to stop reading so much and instead go out and ‘play’.  When I was 16 and in 10th grade and would watch TV detective shows, they told me to stop watching so much TV and read books (what happened to playing outside?)  Now here I was trying to tell my son not to watch Magic School Bus videos or Little Bear on TV and go out and play or read a book.  Where and when did the cycle end?

I learned then that I was controlling Raghu’s growth.  Why was I so controlling?  Fear? Of what? I had to dig within to go to the root of my fears.  Ultimately the control was eroding Raghu’s Shine, his natural inclinations.  His beautiful sense of self was being messed with.  Raghu was not exposed to video games till he was almost 5.  He took to it like a fish to water.  Upon being gifted his first DS he would not give up on a game till he cracked it.  I stopped fighting what was obviously to him a real fascination and to my surprise a real learning/education. I was just beginning to understand what “learning” or an education truly meant.

Now when we consider what is true learning, what is true education... why do we not equate everything in the world.... biology, astrophysics, painting, dancing, video gaming, cooking, plumbing, carpentry, tasting foods etc.?  Give everything the same value? We value an engineering degree to an apprenticeship in plumbing.  Why? A lot, i found, was rooted in our understanding of the word “success” or a “real education”.  

Back to my fears and thoughts.  It took time to accept that Raghu was ‘learning’ thru video games.  He was engaged, focused, absorbed, intent... completely immersed in video games.  He wanted to know when they were invented, why, how did the games come about, which characters, what games did i play when i was little.  He began to notice the music in different games, developed a love for Queen, Rock bands, and Pink Floyd (thanks to his Dad’s love for classic rock). Today he researches cheat codes, talks about cultural differences, languages, maps, directions, different genres of music like Blues, Jazz, scenes, characters and their development, life, death, real, unreal, philosophy, math, history, etc. to name a few.  All kinds of learning is happening constantly.  As long as i do not get in the way with my criticism or negative energy.

My role is to be the partner he can talk with, converse and discuss with and make connections with.  He will often talk to me...starting with some random character in the game and end up talking about film making.  Everything in the world is connected.  He uses math skills, logic, reasoning, advanced language vocabulary etc. … sometimes all in a span of an hour. He even learned all about guns simply thru an Ipad App. He started to identify, classify and even talk about cartridge types etc. He eventually went to a rifle range and loved it... he was a good shot.

Trusting that my children gravitate towards what makes them shine/learn/happy etc brings peace to all of us.  This is important.  It is important to honor our own needs and those of our children.  Our family communicates, talks, figures out things together.  And we do not undermine what we each love.

If i had a passion i wanted to pursue I’d simply pursue it.  I want to give my children that freedom.  These days Raghu is talking about being a game tester, gaming critic and advocate for letting children play video games.  He also wants to be a food critic... for someone who can identify many ingredients simply by tasting and is quite a gourmand, this is a real possibility.  He also wants to pursue his rock climbing passion.  I no longer view video games as bad or good.  I only look to Raghu.  He directs me towards what he needs.  Or he finds it himself.  What if i combined food, gaming and rock climbing and a couple of grenades thrown in.... Well he might be the next online whiz who creates a gaming version of Masterchef and throws in a level where you ride a horse and hunt animals for the meals you plan.... and then you climb a virtual rock-wall to get to the kitchen.  A giant video gaming relay race.  I don’t know... does it really matter?

I embrace Raghu’s gaming and will help him just as i would have if he was asking to play tennis or asking for a class.  Its all the same.  

Now for those who want resources, research, articles, essays on the beauty of video gaming in unschooling families... please do look up the links i will be posting on  Various family dynamics, issues, choices, violence in games, connections, types of games, online gaming groups for unschoolers, future plans, careers etc... related to this topic are all being discussed and have been discussed endlessly.  The material exists freely on the web, thanks to many, many committed moms and dads and grown unschoolers and people like John Holt.  

Welcome to a world where we can let our children shine with their own inner light.  Welcome to “Whole Being Learning” and its possibilities.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Climbing Shine for me

Posted this on FB and realised i'd done a near blog post.. so here goes:

At climbing class Raghu, grinning broadly, told me what he told his friend (12 year old, intuitive, brilliant climber): "Tu Bandar Ka Sikandar Hai."

It is only because i see separation and feel comparison that i acutely felt the beauty of this statement. To him it was obvious and lovely and a simple happiness in coming up with an apt descriptor in Hindi.

For those needing translation and background :
-"You are king of the monkeys".

-Raghu has been expressing himself in Hindi more often these days. As i think in English and my Kannada and Hindi are both only passable... kids and I talk mostly in English. So its way cool that he came up with this on his own.

-Raghu is in love with climbing (has been since he first got on a wall about 3 years ago). As we did not have access to a wall here till about 3 months ago and because he has no consistent interest in any other sport/physical activity... he is struggling to meet his climbing goals/challenges. Some of the kids who've attended classes have climbed easily and then left the class as they did not have a real interest in the sport.
Raghu has been at the wall, loving and connecting with it and the fabulous young bunch of instructors. In my heart i feel bad/sad that he is struggling simply because his body is not on par with the average 9 year old (yes i have closets full of crap despite my understanding of this thought line being unhelpful).

And then to see him be joyful about anothers joy, to simply climb and not care about how much better he is than another (unless it helps set him a goal), to be able to crown his friend even as he struggles (just the previous class Raghu had cried with frustration, trying to push his body to do things it can't do just yet.) I'm crowning this soul and loving him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My mom is very fond of Snowy, our dog.  She gave her a bath and played with her to the kids and my delight.  Its lovely to watch Snowy play and run around the house.  She is a smart dog.  We've played hide and seek with her!  

Hiked up the hill near our home with my Mom and Dad the other day.  It was a lovely time for all of us.  A few friends joined us at the top.  Its still fairly cool in the evenings.  Ravi got a nice shot of the kids resting and snacking. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No-Poo (no, not that poo)

I have not found anything poppy to write about this week.  But just now i was kicked by an idea found via the random clicking online that i occasionally indulge in. "No Poo" is the idea :-)  Sounds poppy to me.  Its all about no shampoo usage.  

Raghu has been anti soap and shampoo for a long time.  He just instinctively feels better without too much skin and scalp cleaning :-o   I struggle with it.   I've recently been committed to finding solutions/inspirations for me... so i do not get in the way of my children's natural instincts.  And lo and behold i find "No Poo"  :-)  For those of you who still plan on visiting us and hanging out with us ;-)  thank you.  For those who need a little persuasion that we will not be maladorous here is a link: or just google no poo and find the page that appeals to you.

So Raghu and I are starting our new regime or lack thereof today. Warm showers as we feel the need, but no soap or shampoos.  Maybe some of that vinegar and baking soda or lemon etc... if i feel the need.  I'm ready to try it all as i've been loosing enough hair that i may as well go for the bald look... it may be better. I love finding new paths towards eco-ness.  And not pouring money or shampoo down the drain is something up on the list.

Shall post a pic if we are feeling brave and confident a couple of weeks down the line.  I believe it takes a few weeks for our body to sort out its skin/scalp oil/balance. 

Funnily my face has been on a no-poo diet for years.  This is the post where i can reveal that except for an occasional makeup-remover i have not used soap or cleansers on my face since i was a teenager.  Thanks to a family friend who suggested i never rub my face, never apply soap and only splash water on my face when i feel like it and then 'dab' it dry not 'rub' it dry.  I have often been told i have great skin.  My one pregnancy pigmentation spot is the only little hiccup. No pimples, natural balanced skin.  So maybe i should have taken the hint and spread the love.  Suddenly can't wait to see how this works out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some of our latest adventures

I just posted about Raghu's Gun Shine :-)  It was written originally on an online forum last week.  Soon after, a very dear friend helped me find ways to help with Raghu's gun love.... yahooo for dear friends :-)

For the last 3.5 years we have lived 20 minutes away from a fabulous facility initiated by the ace air-rifle shooter, Gagan Narang. I did not know this until said dear friend did online research and told me !!  (I used to be proud of my online research abilities)  Anyway... I was reading Tao of Physics and some other material recently that says something to this effect:  our very thoughts create our universe.... ok those of you who are skeptical... i can't back this with logic.  I have sensed this deep within and found it happening time and again in my life.  Thats my basis for belief. Anyway... loved that Raghu got what he wanted.  

The instructor is a young, friendly, very committed chap.  Raghu has hit dead center a few times, learnt to cluster his shots etc and has gained his respect. I think video gaming has a lot to do with Raghu's ability to hit the target.  Raghu is currently handling an air-rifle gun that is about 3.5 kilos!  So he mostly balances it on a couple of sponges and sits on a chair :-)  He will slowly grow into holding the gun and standing.  Raghu is turning 9 next month.... so he is young for this course.  Here is one video and a couple of photos of Raghu and his instructor.

Some of our homeschooling gang and my neighbor's son (who also happens to be one of Raghu's best friends) at a local dog show.

No we were not forcing this dog to jump up and push its nose up in the air.  He was just very happy with us. The kids loved touching all the dogs, hugging the ones who were huggable and generally running around.  We have been having lovely cold weather so sunshine feels very good.

Loved Erica's traditional pop-up popcorn gift to us :-)  It was fun to watch and eat.

Raghu's salad and spinach cooked with tahini and garlic over brown rice.  It was looking so pretty and minimalistic, i had to photograph it.

Zoya swinging with her hair sweeping the ground.  Notice her shark sleeping inside an umbrella hanging on the ladder.  She loves her stuffed animals and is often feeding them, nursing them back to health, or sometimes killing them or saving them (which means she's playing a Raghu-game ;-)

A sweet couple of shots of the kids by Ravi.  We were up on the hill on Sankranti for kite flying.  The large group who were actually kite flying were a few feet away.  My kids wanted to watch and not fly anything.  So they seemed to be talking about the city and Raghu of course was aiming imaginary guns at a world that was under siege and mutants were crawling up the hill while humans were being bitten by zombies.....  Oh and yes.. Raghu and Zoya are the same height now :-)  Raghu is quite easy going about it even when many people point it out (pointedly ;-)  He is taking joy in being himself.  Zoya is my gentle giant who has such compassion and love for all of us.  

She was at a homeschooling friend's home.  My friend asked Zoya if she'd like to stay the night.  Zoya said, "My Nana (Ravi) always smiles at me when he comes home in the evening (from work).  So thats why i have to go home."  <sighing with love>

Gun Shine

I wrote this recently on a forum and thought i'd post it here so friends and family with ideas for Raghu can chime in.

Umm... I'm writing this subject header and am glad to see those 2 words
together. I have struggled with guns being a part of Raghu's shine. I still
have visions of 9/11 and being in the city and Ravi being in the building next
to the one that fell. Somehow those images float into my head when I see
Raghu's intense love for guns. I was also in college in Mumbai (bombay) when the
blasts happened and i saw the bloody, racist aftermath to some extent. So I took
those images to their root and saw that really why would I connect the 2? Raghu
is Raghu. He loves guns. He talks about killing enemies. And there are so many
parts to Raghu.... he is sweet and generous to friends, he has so much affection
and concern for everyone's wellbeing. And looking to the environment he is being
raised in.... i can't see any reasons in his life for him to become a violent

Yesterday we explored gun quizzes online (Raghu loves quizzes!.. it was his idea
to google guns and quizzes!) and he knew so many answers about so many different
types of guns, old and new... that I was amazed. Yesterday we researched thru a
friend and found a store that sold M-16 type realistic looking toy guns. Raghu
was blissed out. He slept with his gun next to him! He woke up and took apart
the gun and lovingly told me how he dreamt of TRON and his gun was part of the
story. We have an endless variety of guns at home. He plays a gun app on the
ipad in which it shows you how to take apart different guns and put them back
together. He now does it without the app helping him. He spends hours playing
zombie/sniper/war type games with his friends outdoors. They use our car as a
sort of tanker and invent endless variations.

He also loves blood and gore, adores everything Halloween, is looking fwd to
having a mock battle for his birthday. Oh my... as i write this I'm more aware
of his love for all this. I want to align myself better with his love for guns.
I am sometimes fine and then sometimes I feel like I can't deal with it.

He shocked my mom one day when she asked "Raghu what would you like to be when
you grow up" He happily said "a sniper". My mom to her credit despite being a
little stunned said... oh wow. Raghu saw her shock and said don't worry... I
will be the good guy. She asked how he would identify the bad guys. Pat came
the reply.... i will have a manifesto... it will help me identify them :-)

So i was wondering if anyone has more ideas for me to help him along his quest
to know about guns. We already watch a lot of YouTube videos of people handling
guns. I'm trying to find local gun stores... so he can see them in person. I'm
trying to get an army friend to show us some real stuff too. Have yet to find a
gun range for children. We may buy an air-rifle to use with pellets... with
adult supervision we could re-create what we find at most fairs in India.... a
balloon shooting wall.  Any one know of places for RAghu to do shooting under guidance?

Any ideas for us?  Or if you have a blog post about your child's or your love for wars, guns etc... please let me know. LAst night i was reading for the millionth time Gerald Durrell's "My family and
other animals". In it Durrell describes his brother Leslie's love, obsession,
joy for guns, shooting and hunting. Reading it made me wish for someone like
Leslie in my life... so Raghu would be able to share his joy with a true gun

Monday, January 2, 2012

Art, Christmas and Indore

Zoya's first (as far as we know ;-) drawing of our family.  

We got a real Christmas tree and some poinsettia this year.   Some presents, cookie baking, video gaming, gun games and some Christmas cheer... thats how our day was. 

Raghu and I built a Lego Christmas tree.

Raghu posing his Christmas gift... a bag i crocheted. 

Raghu has been playing a lot more games like Cricket, Badminton, Pictionary, Masternind, Uno, Card games, Twister, some invented games,  Charades (locally called dumb charades) etc.  And Zoya joins in sometimes.  She is awesome at Pictionary and Uno.

We paid a surprise visit to Ravi's sister in Indore.  Meghna is pregnant and we thought we'd spend a few days with her. Yesterday we all went to a typical Dhaaba.  The cool weather, hot food and traditional seating made for a lovely experience.  We flew kites after lunch.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A dear one asked me to get back to writing my blog again. My old blog chronicled our journey from homeschooling to unschooling and on to radically unschooling.  It was a lovely blog to hold on to and post photos and little stories at. But with Raghu turning 9 in a month, Zoya turning 6 soon and Ravi and I being together for over 14 years, i feel like a new blog is in order. A new blog at the start of a new year.

While thinking of a name for this blog the word 'Shine' kept cropping up, or its variants, as it seemed to describe much of our life.  Attending the Shine Conference at Jellystone Park in NY a few months ago has kept the word shine up and foremost in our minds.  So 'The Bharadwaj Shine' seems like a happy title for this next phase of chronicling our journey as a family (unschooling, no school, living life with children, inner journeys etc..).

Trying to figure out how to stay in tune with my inner self and outer self is looking like a big part of my current journey.  Not in order but rather all in their own time and way.... the vision of Auroville, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Natalie Goldberg, my dear Ravi, Urmila Samson, Dola Dasgupta, Georgia O'Keeffe, my children Raghu and Zoya, Anne Ohman, Erica Chase Salerno, Anna Brown, Sandra Dodd, Ashwini Pawar, my sister Veena, are some of the most important inspirations to me during this 37th year of my life.  I owe them all a great debt. A debt of enormous proportions.  One that cannot be re-paid.  They are all different parts of my self.

Happy New Year and love to all who read here.