stories, plays, rhymes and other things for children and childlike adults

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zadeer the Zebra

Little Zadeer was born in the early hours of the morning as his aunts whinnied softly to his mom, comforting her in her painful efforts to birth him. When he was born, his mother lovingly licked him clean and named him Zadeer--the new one. As he tried to get on his feet, falling several times before he stood trembling before them, they all smiled. He was such a cute kid!

Soon, Zadeer's unique brown and white stripes turned black. His stripes marked his identity. Just like no-one else in the world has fingerprints just like yours, no two zebras have the same stripes. Zadeer learned how to use his stripes to hide himself in the tall Savannah grass. He played with the other foals in his harem and could run really fast at the slightest warning bark from his aunts or cousins. He knew which grasses, shrubs, herbs, leaves and twigs to eat. Life was good.

One night, Zadeer was standing as he slept (that's what Zebra's do, you know). Suddenly, he heard a soft rustle. His nose twitched. What was this he was smelling? He hadn't smelled this smell before. It was odd--like too much sun-hot smoking the grass--and quite unpleasant to him. He gave a soft bark. His nose twitched and his tail swished. He didn't like it, but he wasn't sure if this smell meant any harm to his harem.

Before he woke everybody up with a loud bark that meant "Danger! Let's run," Zadeer decided to explore the smell a bit. That was brave and young Zadeer meant well, but do you think this was very wise? Of course not! 

Hidden in the shadows of the grass, Zadeer saw four really strange moving trees. Each tree had two trunks and two branches. The walking trees were smaller than the grass. Each tree had a black stick hanging from its right branch. The rounded fruit on the top of their trunks made whispering noises though there was no breeze moving the Savannah grass.

Zadeer backed away. He didn't know why, but his heart was beating fast. Something in him knew he had to run. He returned to his harem. He barked. Loudly.

Friday, April 29, 2016


image credit:

Just like humans
I'm a mammal
and a social

I live high up
in the mountains
I like grass
and mossy fountains

It's really cold
so I wear a coat
thick and long
from leg to throat

Most of the time
I'm really quiet
chewing cud
and watching my diet

Eating my meal
again and again
is exhausting--
what a drain!

I hardly ever talk
and never talk back
So why do humans
call talking too much
going "Yakety Yak?"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-Ray Tetra: Goldfinch of the Water

X-Ray Tetra, a.k.a Pristella maxillaris a.k.a Golden Pristella Tetra a.k.a Water Goldfinch--those are the many names of this tiny fish that lives in the Amazon's waters. Although it is related to around one hundred other Tetra species, it is the only fish of its genus.

X-Ray Tetra prefer the fresh water but can also be found in brackish water close to the coast. and can be found in Brazil, Guyana, Guiana and Venezuela. It lives in big schools in deep water in the area between the middle and the bottom and is quite peaceful.

It eats worms, insects and small shell-fish and is eaten by frogs, birds and other big fish. Like us, it remains awake during the day and sleeps at night.

The X-Ray Tetra lives between 2 to 5 years. You can easily recognize it from its yellow, black and white striped fins and its golden or silvery body that glistens and looks translucent. Female fish and male fish look similar but the female are rounder and bigger than the males.

The X-Ray Tetra has special features in its bones that makes it very good at hearing things. Because it looks transparent, its enemies can't find and hunt it easily in the shifting and shimmering water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Put your hand out of your window or take a walk outside.

How do you feel on your skin--hot or cold? Is it dry or humid? Does that cloud make you sweat? Does the sun feel good or does it feel too hot? Is it windy today?

Weather is the way the air outside feels to us—hot or cold, dry or humid, sultry or cool, cloudy or sunny. Thunder, lightning, storms, rain, snow, ice, hail—these are all expressions of weather. Weather is always changing and is caused when a lot of little things are put together and react to each other's presence.

Let me give you an example. Say there's a breeze that has been travelling over land for a long time before it reaches you. That breeze will feel dry on your skin. If the breeze comes to you after flying over the ocean or the sea for a while, it will have a lot of moisture and so it will feel damp on your skin.

Here's another example. The sun is shining but you are standing in a wooded area full of leafy trees that form a canopy and stop the sunshine from reaching you directly. Here, the sun will feel less warm to you than if you were to stand in an open field. The sun will feel even hotter if you stand on a sandy desert.

As I said before, weather keeps changing. It was bright and sunny this morning when I left home but now it's really cloudy and it looks like it may rain.

One of the things I really like doing is watching the weather channel sometimes. I like to see those maps and charts of how the weather's going to change from hour to hour, day to day, week to week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vishwakarma, the God of Machines and Tools

In the pantheon of Hindu gods and godesses, Vishwakarma is the god of machines and tools.

The wonderful thing about ancient religions like Hinduism is that they have a god for all reasons and seasons. Every aspect of life is idealised and taken to the inspirational level of a god. The wonderful thing about gods is that each must be given a day of remembrance and celebration. What's the point of being a major Hindu god if you can't have your own holiday?

Vishwakarma is the universal engineer. He makes the weapons and the ornaments, the palaces and the furniture, the machines (a la flying chariots) and the tools for all the gods. He is the ultimate craftsman: carpenter, artisan, fashion designer, architect and inventor all supremely rolled into one handsome, four-armed image.

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In Calcutta--now called Kolkata--Vishwakarma Puja or the day devoted to the prayer of the god Vishwakarma is held on the day the sun enters the zodiac sign of Virgo which is almost always on September 17. In this part of India, the day also marks the beginning of better weather and a heralds a long season of festivities.

A clay idol of the young god is created by artisans and installed in colourful roadside tents,  in workshops and factories. Taxis are festooned with marigold garlands and even balloons. All machines and tools are appreciated in the Hindu way with prayers, flowers and tilak. Most workshops give their machines a day of rest.

In fact, in our part of the world, even kitchens and their implements were given a day of cleaning and rest and the family ate a cold feast of traditional dishes cooked the day before!

When we were kids, this was one of our favourite festivals because we could fly kites for as long as we wanted and the entire Calcutta sky was densely spotted with traditional kites and kite-fight competitions. Intermittent shouts of "Voh Kattah!" rent the air whenever a kite was "cut" by another.

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We would prepare eagerly for days ahead of Vishwakarma Puja. Elders would give us kites and wooden rollers called "lathai" on which the thread was wound. Making the "manjha" or the kite-flying thread sharper by carefully covering every inch with ground glass and then wrapping it around poles to dry was a major task given only to the biggest and most responsible kids. We would count our stash and separate the kites into "types" and go through many after-school hours painstakingly ensuring that the holes we punched in them to attach the thread were in exactly the right place to "balance" the kites.

picture credit:
On the big day, we'd run up to the terrace immediately after school and spend the day under the sun flying and fighting our kites with other people on other terraces. Mom would bring up jugs of rose sherbet and fresh lime shiknajvi in turns to keep us hydrated. According to traditional wisdom, it always rains on Vishwakarma Puja and every year, we'd hope it didn't.

The Calcutta sky is no longer filled with colourful kites on Vishwakarma Puja. We no longer have large joint families where all ages of adults and children lived under one roof. Young adults taught children the art of manjha-making, balancing or the techniques of flying and cutting kites. Every family had its own styles, skills and wisdom that it passed down the generations from uncles to nephews (and some tom-boy nieces).

Learning anything takes time and practice. Time is at a premium for our children who go from school to tuition classes to karate or yoga or drama or mathemagic or some such activity. They have other skills to learn and no time to fly kites for fun!

Our children don't have the freedom to spend hours feeling lifted by the pure pleasure of feeling the wind take a kite and then working with the wind to control its flight. More, they no longer want to be out in the sun. They would, perhaps, much rather fly a kite on an iPad app in the virtual world.

At the risk of becoming one of those "life was better when we were kids" mothers: Alas! I wish my kids knew the Hindu gods and godesses the way we did, as people with quirks and defects and likes and dislikes and life-stories that made our lives so much fun!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Umbrellas, Unicorns and Other Useless Utterings


"An Umbrella is ultra useful"
Said Uma, random as usual
"Sun or rain, cold or warm
It makes a natty visual"

picture credit:

"Unicorns in underwear cannot perform
on unicycles" said Uriel
"Single horns may be uniform
But they're just not suitable!"

picture credit:

Ursula now had to mention
Her favourite "objet d'utensil"
"In both form and function
Urns are most beautiful!"


"Utterly useless!" said Umpire Uncle
"This is not debatable!
I tell you, this Ukulele
Is Unquestionably Untenable!"

Saturday, April 23, 2016


How many of these famous tigers do you know? A few of them are real and the others belong to the world of books, cartoons and movies.

CHAMPAWAT was a man-eater tigress who killed 437 people in Northern India before she herself was hunted and killed by the famous hunter, Jim Corbett in 1907.

KITTY, the cartoon sabre tooth tiger is the Rubble family pet in The Flintstones!

RAJAH is Jasmine’s protector in the 1992 Disney
movie, Aladdin.

MOHUN was the name given to the white tiger captured by the Maharaja of Rewa in 1951. Mohun can be said to be the ancestor of most of the white tigers who are bred in captivity in zoos all over the world! You can read more about Mohun here

TIGER TIM was the first ever cartoon tiger to appear in a
British newspaper in a strip entitled Mrs
Hippo’s Kindergarten published in 1904.

DANIEL TIGER is a puppet who lives in a clock in the once popular children’s television show, Mr Roger’s Neighbourhood.

TIGGER is one of Winnie the Pooh’s friends. Tigger looks like a tiger but likes bouncing around on his tail.

Beware of SHERE KHAN,  Jungle Book’s smooth, dangerous and supremely cunning villain. His mind is set on eating the man-cub Mowgli.

Just take a look at a Kellog’s Frosties box and you’ll know who  TONY THE TIGER is!

Calvin’s stuffed toy tiger in the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes is good-natured, intelligent, friendly, and enthusiastic. He always greets Calvin at the door with a high-velocity leap. Do you know his name?

He is HOBBES, of course!

image credits: for Champawat for Kitty for Rajah for Tiger Tim for Daniel for Tigger for Shere Khan for Tony for Hobbes

Friday, April 22, 2016


Everybody collects sea shells on the beach. Aren’t they beautiful? Have you seen how many different sizes, shapes and designs they come in? Do you know that these shells belonged animals who have died or those who have over-grown and abandoned them? If you put a large shell against your ear, you’ll hear a gushing sound. My mother used to say it was the sound of the sea talking to me. I have always believed that.
image courtesy:
What do you do with your shells when you come back from the beach? Do you put them in a packet and forget about them? Do they get thrown in the trash after a while? I have some fun ideas that I think you will like. If you have any other ideas, will you let me know? I have a large collection of shells from all over the world!

image courtesy:
Well, the first thing that I do when I get back home from the sea is to catalogue the different kind of shells that I have found. If I see a particular design that I like, I draw and colour it in my scrap book. If there is a shape that fascinates me, I draw it too, and describe it. I now have a thick book filled with the designs and shapes of many shells. I think it is lovely!

I have a big aquarium at home and sometimes, I take some really well washed and cleaned new shells and line the gravel with them. They look so beautiful in the water, especially if the lights are on! Now you must remember that the water will eventually wear the shells away, so if you want to preserve them you must remember to change them frequently—at least once or twice a month!

image courtesy:
With the small, tiny shells, I make designer tooth-picks! It is really easy I guarantee it will be a wonderful present for your mother on her birthday. All you have to do is stick a tiny shell on the top of each tooth-pick with superglue. And once it dries, you can have the loveliest tooth-picks in the whole world for your mother’s snacks.

image courtesy:
For your Dad, you can make a photo-frame with shells that he can put on his office desk. He will love it even more if you put your best photograph in it. Again, it is really easy. Take a plain old photo-frame from home, the older and rustier the better and stick shells on it. You won’t believe how new and attractive it will become!
image courtesy:
I found a wonderful site with lots of sea-shell craft ideas for you:
Hurry up and make some while the summer is still here! Then take a picture of your craft and post it here.
I'll be waiting to hear from you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rainbow Girl

Rainbow Girl
Here's a story about the Rainbow Girl
On her head she has a violet curl.
Her eyes are bright and indigo
On her neck she wears a big, blue bow

Her pretty dress is as green as grass
With gleaming yellow flowers of brass
Her socks and shoes are orange and red
When the sun sets she goes to bed.

The Rainbow Girl's name is VIBGYOR
All the world's colors are in her store
She takes them out, one by one
And wears them all, just for fun.

Images taken from:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Mommy, where did my mango go?
It was here a minute ago...
Orange and green and soft as a cat
Sweet and sour and juicy and fat

I held it in my tiny hands
I heard its stories of distant lands
I touched its smooth and silky skin
I saw its cheeky little grin

Mommy, its smell was so divine
It made my tummy growl and whine
I just bit and licked a bit--
And now its gone! I can't find it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Puppy Asterix Kills a Ball

Meet Asterix, my beautiful and feisty pocket dynamite. He's a tri-colored Jack Russell Terrier and he can keep the entire family entertained for hours with his antics.

I took this video of his first kill! I know you'll enjoy it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

On the Ocean Floor with Kakra Kaka

Remember Kakra Kaka from the letter K?
Well, he's back with the kids, teaching them all about the ocean floor!

When Rubik, Ziggy, Niti and Sumit reached the rock on the beach on the second evening, Kakra Kaka was already there. “You’re late,” he growled when he saw them. “ D’you think I have nothing better to do than wait for you?”

“Kakra Kaka,” giggled Ziggy, “under that crustry shell, you’re quite a softy, aren’t you?”
“I have a question for you,” said Kakra Kaka, ignoring Ziggy’s joke. “If you could see the ocean floor, what would you find?”
“A great, big, sandy, beach with lots of shells,” sighed Niti dreamily.
“WRONG!!” Kakra Kaka groaned. “You children are so illiterate! Now listen carefully..

The Ocean Floor is a fantastic and wondrous place.

It begins quite gradually, at the end of the continents as a gentle, sloping plain called the Continental Shelf. At the end of the Continental Shelf is a steep cliff called the Continental Slope which falls about 12000 feet to the ocean floor. Now begins the Abyssal Plain, a huge plain land made up of mud, sand and the remains of dead sea animals and plants.

In the middle of the ocean floor is the Mid-Oceanic Ridge which is a long chain of mountains stretching to about 45000 miles. In the centre of this Ridge is a steep valley called a Rift. Sometimes, molten rock pushes up from this rift.

Next are the sea mounts, mountains built by volcanoes. Sometimes, they rise above the sea and make islands. Often, these islands are pounded by the waves and sink. In some places on the ocean floor, there are long, narrow valleys called trenches. Some trenches are more than 34000 feet deep!

Can you use your imagination to draw a picture of the ocean floor?
Image from:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Nanak Waters His Fields

Here's one more Guru Nanak story Biji (my grandmother) told us at night as we cuddled close to her in her bed. As I write this story now, I can almost feel the soft folds of the much-washed "dhoti" she wore since she became a Gandhian. 

On one of his journeys, Guru Nanak came to Haridwar, a picturesquue place of pilgrimage for Hindus, high in the Himalayan hills. The holy river Ganga flows through Haridwar, and Hindus believe that a dip in the Ganga washes away all their sins.

Part of the ritual bath in the Ganga is the offering of the holy water with both hands towards the East, where the sun rises, to remember and honour dead relatives and ancestors.

As Guru Nanak stood in the Ganga waters, a group of Brahmin priests were performing the ritual of offering water to their ancestors, facing East. Guru Nanak promptly turned West and began offering water in the same ritual manner. 

"What do you think you're doing?" The Brahmins were perplexed.
Guru Nanak replied serenely, "Oh I'm watering my wheat fields in the Punjab. Since I've been away on my travels, they're getting a bit dry."

The Brahmins had a good laugh at this reply. "You fool! How will the water you throw here get to your fields in the Punjab?"
"If the water you throw towards the sun reaches your ancestors, why can't the water I throw West get to the Punjab which is only a few hundred miles from here?"

The Brahmins were left speechless.

In this way, Guru Nanak challenged rituals followed mindlessly by generations of Hindus and made people think for themselves about spirituality and how to make their own way to the ultimate Truth.

image credit:

Friday, April 15, 2016


The white tiger is probably the greatest attraction at zoos all over the world. I’m sure you’ve seen one—a creamy white tiger with coffee coloured stripes, a pink nose and blue eyes.

But in the wild, white tigers are extremely rare. Did you know that only Bengal tigers have a white variation? Which means that all white tigers are Bengal tigers. And it is only when two normal, orange Bengal tigers each have a special gene called a double recessive allele and produce a cub together that a white tiger might be born. As you can guess, this does not happen too often in the wild. So how come there are so many white tigers at so many zoos all over the world?

It is said that in 1951, the Maharaja of Rewa (in Madhya Pradesh) captured a white tiger while he was hunting. He named this tiger Mohun and bred him to his own offspring to get more white tigers. One of Mohun’s grandchildren was gifted to the Washington zoo, which started its own in-breeding programme. Now many zoos all over the world have such breeding programmes because there is such a demand from visitors to see white tigers.

But there is something tremendously unfair and unnatural to breed tigers with special genes to selectively make more white tigers. This kind of inbreeding weakens the species and increases the instances of genetic deficiencies and diseases.

So the next time you go to the zoo and see a white tiger on exhibit, don’t Ooh and Aah over it. Instead, take the time to write a complaint to the Zoo Director about the white tiger inbreeding programme at the zoo. Zoos must be made aware that their main concern should be for the health and well-being of the animals they house, not the numbers of visitors they attract!

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Have you thought about the leaves
How they hang from trees in sheaves
Light, dark, thick, thin, big and small
Smooth, rough, blunt, sharp, short and tall.
See them rustling in the breeze
See them dressing up the trees!

Some we chop and cook and eat
Some add flavour to our meat.
Some we dry, curl, boil and drink
Sometimes black, sometimes with milk.
Some are good for our sore throats
Some protect our sarees and coats!

Leaves feed their trees and plants
They feed animals, birds and ants.
They line nests to keep baby birds warm
They shelter worms and save them from harm.
See them, feel them, smell them— and please—
Pay attention to the leaves on the trees!

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Try this leaf quiz:1. Name 5 leaves that we cook and eat.
2. Name 5 leaves that we eat raw.
3. Name 5 leaves we use to flavour our food.
4. Name the leaf that we "dry, curl, boil and drink"
5. Name 5 leaves that are used as medecines.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Kakra is crab in the Bengali Language. Kaka means uncle (father's younger brother). Thus Kakra Kaka is Crab Uncle. I use this character to explain science and weather to children in the form of a story. At various places in this blog, you'll find Kakra Kaka discussing tides and waves. The amigurumi crab in the illustration is my creation.

Rubik, Ziggy, Sumit and Neeti went to the beach for their summer holidays. It was very hot, but there was always a wonderful breeze rustling through the palm trees. And rolling in and out, ever moving, ever changing, there was the sea! The four friends spent most of their holiday on the beach, playing with a big beach ball, hunting for shells or making tall sandcastles. When it got very hot, they let the breakers cool them off.

In the evenings, they walked silently for a while, watching shy crabs scurry diagonally and disappear into tiny holes in the sand. Then the friends sat and chatted on the beach, looking at the waves throwing molten silver foam at their feet.

One evening, the friends sat talking quietly on a rock.
“What makes the sea move so much?” asked little Sumit. “Why is the sea so restless?”
“And I wonder what high tide and low-tide really mean,” mused Neeti.
“I have a tough question,” said Rubik, the thoughtful one. “The sea always seems to be moving forward, so how come it always stays in one place?”

Suddenly, they heard a gruff voice, “Oi! I can answer all your stupid questions. But do something useful and get me out of this thing, will you?”

The children jumped! Where was this hoarse, rude voice coming from?
“Oi! You brats, DON’T YOU HAVE EYES? I’m stuck! Get me out of here!”

The children scrambled around obediently. When they found the source of the voice, they were flabbergasted. The big, rough voice belonged to a small crab, who was snarled in a long, torn strip of blue plastic. Very carefully, the children untangled the creature.

“People who throw their trash on beaches should be flogged!” growled the crab.
“Are you always so bad tempered?” demanded Ziggy.
“I guess that’s why Mamma calls you crabby when you throw a tantrum,” joked Rubik and the others laughed.

“Oh, shut up!” the crab groaned. “That’s not funny at all! Now I’ll tell you some of the sea’s secrets. But you have to call me Kakra Kaka.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Junior School Christmas Skit

A Christmas skit in April? 
That's just me being lazy and recyclint something I wrote a few years ago when my daughter's school had special assemblies in early December and junior school classes were asked to perform short christmas plays of 5 minutes duration or so. I wrote this for her class. It was chosen as the one both teachers and children liked the most!

Also, who says the Christmas spirit shouldn't be remembered and propagated all year round?
Storyteller 1
Storyteller 2
Storyteller 3
Storyteller 4
Mrs Ghosh
Miss Sikka
Girls in class (5)
Girls in Assembly (10)


Storyteller 1:
It was three days before Christmas
When Mrs Ghosh told her class—

Mrs. Ghosh:
I want each of you to write what Christmas means to you—in one word!

Storyteller 2:
We all sat and thought—
Ayushi chewed her pen in half
Vitsy ate her nails—all 10 of them!
Bhageshwaree kept writing and scratching
Anupurba held her head and cried
Trisha doodled little flowers and stars
And so it went, until the bell rang
And Mrs. Ghosh took our papers away.


Storyteller 3:
At assembly, the next day
There was a big bowl of little chits
On a table in front of Miss Sikka’s chair

Storyteller 4:
After the school song was sung, Miss Sikka said:

Miss Sikka:
Let’s see what Christmas means to Class V (she takes out chit after chit and reads the words aloud. After each word, she looks up disappointedly)

Girl 1:
(whispering and nudging her friend) Is that one word?

Miss Sikka:

Girl 2:
(to girl 1) I’m sure that’s two words!

Miss Sikka:

Girl 3:
(to her friend) Snow?! In Calcutta? (they both giggle)

Miss Sikka:

Girls 4-7:
(Looking blankly at each other) HUH? YECH!

Miss Sikka:

Girl 8:
(To girl 9) Has anybody here ever seen a reindeer?

Miss Sikka:

Girl 9:
(to girl 10) I wish I had one!

Miss Sikka:

Girl 10:
(to Girl 9) I wish I had one!

Miss Sikka:

Girl 1:
That’s definitely two words!

Storyteller 1:
Miss Sikka sighed loudly. I swear, I could hear her sigh in the last row. It chilled my bones and made me sad.

Miss Sikka:
Is that all Christmas means to you?
I’m so sorry for you, then

Storyteller 2:
Shy little Sreemoyee—who never talks in class—raised her hand!

Miss Sikka:
Yes dear? You want to say something?

Girl 7:
(Shyly and softly) Love

Girl 5:

Girl 8:

Girl 3:

Girl 4:

Girl 1:

Girl 2:

Girl 6:

Girl 10:

Girl 9:

Girl 1:
(to Girl 2) I know that’s two words

Girl 2:
(to Girl 1, smiling happily) SO WHAT?

Storyteller 3:
Miss Sikka sighed again, but this time, it was a happy sigh

Storyteller 4:
Her eyes smiled at us brightly over her glasses, and she said—

Miss Sikka:
I knew my girls would never forget the real meaning of Christmas!
Have a very Merry Christmas, my children, and a Happy New Year

All the girls:

Picture from:

clipart credits are on the images

Monday, April 11, 2016

Indian National Anthem Explained

All National Anthems connect citizens of a country and fill them with pride and respect for the country in which they were born. Ours does the same thing, but given that Independence came to us as late as 1947, the National Anthem still has, perhaps, greater emotional impact on us. After all, this was something our grandparents struggled to win the right to sing in honour of a motherland they wanted to free from foreign rule.

I asked my daughter this morning whether she knew what the words of the National Anthem mean. She didn’t. So for her and all the children of India who live in any part of the world, here’s my translation of Jana Gana Mana in English. I’ve tried to make the English true to the Anthem’s words but easy enough for you to undertand.

Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya He
Bharat Bhagya Vidhata

The leader of the people’s minds and hearts, we praise you
You determine the fortunes of Bharat

Punjab Sindh Gujarat Maratha
Dravida Utkala Banga
Vindhya Himachal Yamuna Ganga
Ucchala Jaladhi Taranga

Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, the lands of Dravid, Orissa and Bengal;
the Vindhyas, the Himalayas, Yamuna and Ganga,
the chanting waves of the seas,

Tubh Shubha Name Jage
Tubh Shubha Ashisha Mange
Gahe Tubh Jaya Gata

all wake up to the sound of your name;
all ask for your happy blessings;
all sing of your victories.

Jan Gan Mangaldayak Jay He
Bharat Bhagya Vidhata
Jaya He ! Jaya He ! Jaya He !
Jaya,Jaya,Jaya,Jaya He "

The benefactor of the people, we praise you.
You determine the fortunes of Bharat.
All praise; all praise, all praise.
We hail you.

This is just the first stanza of a 5-stanza song written by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The song was first sung at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress on December 27th, 1911.

The first stanza was adopted as the National Anthem of India on 24th January, 1950 by the Constituent Assembly.

There are a lot of rumours about the anthem. A recent rumour says that UNESCO voted it the best National Anthem in the world. A very old one says that Tagore wrote the song Jana Gana Mana to felicitate King George V.

Both are untrue.

In India, we stand with our hands straight down our sides when the National Anthem is played and we sing our anthem with pride.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hamish the Scottish Highland Canni-bull.

Hamish, the Scottish highland bull
Never ever thought his tummy was full

They fed him mountains of hay
Yet he'd say
In his bellowing way

"I could eat a horse today!
I'm so hungry
I feel so empty
All I get is ve-ge-tarian
Grass and weeds--a terrible ration!
I should have no hesitation
In filling myself with some man-meat!
Ifyou can eat
Me, and use my parts for glue
Tell me, why shouldn't I eat you?"

Friday, April 8, 2016

Guru Nanak Story for Kids: The Tale of Two Villages

Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) was the founder of Sikhism and the first of 10 Sikh gurus. Sikhism is a religion that was born out of the need to reform an increasingly hardening Hinduism in the face of Mughal Rule in 15th and 16th century India.

Guru Nanak is said to have taken 4 major journeys in his lifetime. During each journey, Guru Nanak gathered followers with his unique style of down-to-earth and experiential teaching. There are many stories known as "sakhis" that have been told to generations of children by family members to keep alive Guru Nanak Dev's teachings through the centuries. This is one of my favourites:

Nanak and his two disciples Bhai Mardana and Bhai Bala came to a small village. The villagers were very respectful and hospitable. They invited the guru into their homes, listened to his sermons with attention and fed and feted him with all the honour due to a visitor and guest.

After spending a few very restful and pleasant days in the village, it was time for the guru to say goodbye and carry on with his long journey. As he left, the villagers crowded around him, seeking his blessings. He cursed them instead. He left the village saying : "Be uprooted and disperse!"

On the same journey, Guru Nanak Dev came to another village. Here, the villagers were uncouth and unfriendly. They were rude to the guru and his followers and had no interest in his teachings. They refused him hospitality and forced him out of their village.

As the guru left this village, he blessed the villagers with a gentle smile: "Stay safe, stay here and prosper."

Bhai Mardana and Bhai Bala couldn't understand the unjust behaviour of their beloved guru. They asked him for an explanation:
"Why did you curse the good villagers and bless the rude ones? Why were you so unfair?"

Guru Nanak told them:
"The people of the first village should be uprooted so that they may disperse to other places and teach the world their wonderful ways. The people of the second village should keep their unfriendly and barbaric sensibilities locked within their little limits.

If the people of the first village remain safe and prosperous within their village limits, it would be unfair to the world. If the people of the second village are uprooted and sent out to a larger area, they will poison and pollute any place they go to. Now tell me--was I unfair or was I just?"

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