Ahoy NCR walas

If you’ve not read Icky, Yucky, Mucky to your kids, they’re missing out on some good, disgusting fun! On the other hand, who better to share the story than the author herself? Catch Natasha Sharma telling the tale of the disgusting King of Ickhtarpur across a number of venues in Delhi. And read my review of the book, where else, but on Saffron Tree.


In anticipation of… CROCUS 2011

It’s that time of year again when there’s a slight nip in the air, a crisp freshness you can’t ignore, anticipation builds up and there’s a festive feeling all around. Strings of fairy lights go up, only to stay there a while, because Dussehra might be over but Diwali is right around the corner and X’mas and New Year are almost here. But for us here at Saffron Tree, and yes, for our readers too there’s an extra reason to celebrate. That’s right, it’s time for our annual festival, CROCUS 2011.

Saffron Tree turns five this year. Five. It has a nice ring to it. Mainly because five is an important number in many traditions. There is of course the ancient pentagram or the five pointed star, incidentally, dating back to the Vedas too, as a symbol of man, the five wounds of Christ, the five times a devout Muslim is called to prayer, the five symbols of Sikhism and not so sacred but oh so important, the five fingers on a hand. We at Saffron Tree however, decided to narrow our focus to Aristotle’s five classical elements, namely, water, fire, earth, air and ether.

As is usual, we bring you a veritable bonanza. Reviews, art and craft, our very popular Crocusword and interviews galore, of arborists, archeologists, environmentalists and more. Even as I type this I wonder if I’ve given you too much of a peek. Perhaps I have. So I’m going to stop here and leave you thirsting for more. What I will share with you, is our lovely banner, designed by the very talented Lavanya Karthik. Feast your eyes on it, folks and brace yourself for the smorgasbord ahead. As ever, spread the joy, share the beauty of the written word and tell the world that CROCUS 2011, is almost here.

You took my happy

I’m convincing the kids that the jujubes taken out of the fridge are too hard and no fun. That they must be left alone for a bit to soften up. The Brat glares at me and says, “Mama, you’re taking away my happy.”

Anyone get the song? Uh uh uh uh uh uh undo it! And no, it wasn’t me. I’d rather put out a fire with my face than I introduce my kids to Carrie Underwood! It was just an unfortunate coincidence and one we really laughed over.


A few days ago the Brat (gentle soul that he is) came up to me and asked me, “Mama, when I am nine years old, will you throw me out of our house?

Me: *horrified* Why would I do that?

Brat: Because of Aan.

To know what he meant, go across and read my book review of Aan on Saffron Tree.  It’s a stark reminder of how stories play on a child’s mind.

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir

I’d like to present our very own stars, bloggy pals and now published authors, Praba Ram and Meera Sriram  – and their book, Dinaben and the Lions of Gir. Did I tell you guys how insanely proud of you two I am? And incase you don’t know, Praba is the force behind Saffron Tree, the children’s book review blog I contribute to.

Published by Tulika, the book talks about the Maldhari tribe, whose main occupation is dairy farming, and also the Asiatic Lion. Read this to know more about the story behind the story. And read this to get to know more about our two authors.

We’ve all been going on about saving the remaining 1141 tigers – but did you know there are only 350 Asiatic Lions remaining? Are you as horrified as I am? Go on and read the review and then go out and buy the book for your babies. And oh – can we start a Save the Lion campaign too?

I started it in my own small way. The Brat loves lions and when I told him that soon all the Asiatic lions will be dead and he’ll only be able to look at them in picture books, like his beloved dinosaurs, he was most upset.

He had this school fancy dress competition a few days ago and when I asked him what he wanted to be, he said he wanted to be an Asiatic lion!! So that is what we went with. I got him a pair of brown trousers, and hunted in vain for a plain brown shirt or teeshirt. Finally on our Mussoorie holiday I found a very cute yellow sweater with a lion made on the tummy. On our return I began work on a mane. I picked up a brown woollen cap, and brown wool and began to pull long strands through it. But the wool wouldn’t fluff out like a mane and he just looked like a very weird little girl in a wig. Of course that upset him because even he, at 4 and a half could see that he didn’t look like a lion! We finally got (read: tailored!) a brown body suit and got a mane and taught him his lines, – which included the last cheeky line – “There are only 350 lions like me left. Please save me before you save the tiger.”

The OA and I roared with laughter each time he said it and the Bean went as a little fairy because that is her current craze. When we reached school on the big day, there were the usual round of social messages – donate blood, save the earth etc with some very well made costumes. One parent whose kid is learning classical Indian dance sent her in her dance costume and her tape and she first spent a good three monotonous moments telling us what she would do… and then another 4 -5 minutes dancing. She was only 4.5 and undoubtedly learning, but it wasn’t meant to be a dance recital, it was meant to be a fancy dress – so coming and performing something that you have been learning for a year isn’t the deal. My personal favourite was a little drop of water who said her lines beautifully. The one that really got my goat was someone who copied last year’s winner – a Thank You card to the school. Gah – apple polishers. Did I mention there were a whole bunch of tigers asking to be saved too!

I gave the Brat very few lines and he drove me nuts when I was teaching them to him. He’d change them everyday and say anything he pleased – “I am an Asiatic lion and I like chasing deer… ” or “I am an Asiatic lion and I am going to eat you up. Growwwwwl”. It would be funny if I weren’t trying to get him to stand still on stage and say his lines. After his recent setback and suspected learning problem, I didn’t want his school to have yet another reason to complain about him. Day after day the OA and I chased him around pretending to be lions, laughing, joking, having fun, practicing in front of the mirror with a comb held like a mike. But the Brat would not say his lines right. We shoud have realised he would say it eventually after  last year’s drama over the fancy dress but we didn’t want to regret not trying hard enough.

So as I sat there watching the other children shuffle on to stage and slowly and indistinctly mumble lines that no one understood I crossed my fingers and prayed really hard that my son wouldn’t get upset by the crowd and run away. I saw him standing in the wings and smiled at him. He glared at me and growled. I gave up hope and made my peace with the fact that it was after all, only a children’s contest.

And finally his turn came and I felt my stomach clench. And then Someone Up There smiled down on mother and son and the Brat bounded on to stage cheerfully where every other child had reluctantly shuffled on. He grinned confidently into the audience, bestowed his sweetest smile on me and said his lines beautifully after introducing himself. Loud and clear. His words distinct, his voice ringing crystal clear across the audience. I felt my eyes well up and I fumbled to take pictures of him. Perhaps I am biased and if I don’t write it down here where else will I – I think he was the best. My little lion cub rocked his few simple lines, bowed and said thank you, and walked off stage.

Maybe if this were a hindi movie like Taare Zameen Par, I’d be able to end this saying that he came first. But he didn’t so I can’t. The apple-polishing Thank you card came first (the grapes ARE sour !!;)). But it didn’t matter at all. I think he had wonderful stage presence and if he lost out at all it’s because we didn’t trust him with a more complicated message. And perhaps because his costume wasn’t the most creative either.

It’s also a lesson to me to not expect so little of my son. Other parents have high expectations and are disappointed when they aren’t met. I tentatively give my children lower benchmarks to meet and end up pleasantly surprised when they surpass them and also kick myself for not  helping them push that bar higher.

The Bean on the other hand spent a good fortnight preening in front of the mirror and saying her lines to any visitor. The OA was after me to give her a nice lengthy poem to go with it but I figured the point was to just participate. With no house help (again!), my job, a recalcitrant Brat who was refusing to learn his lines and the  Mussoorie holiday bang in the middle, I really didn’t want to rock that boat. She was just doing so damn well that I didn’t want to add to my work.

A good thing too because she woke up on the morning of the show and began to cry for just about everything. She didn’t want to eat, to dress, to brush her teeth.. anything, nothing.

We reached school and she howled while waiting her turn. A lot of the other 2-3 year olds were also crying and parents were encouraged to go on stage with them. I walked up to her, carrying a little handful of fairy dust that was to be thrown the moment she said her lines. She decided it was a good time to play Holi with me and by the time our turn came she had my face shining like the moon.

She wrenched herself away as we walked on to stage and I groaned inwardly. Kicking myself for thinking less of my son and too much of her. And then the moment she reached the mike, the little diva in her took over and she grabbed it, grinned confidently at the audience and said her lines. I threw her fairy dust over her and we walked off the stage to applause.

End of one headache for the year!!

Anyone want to predict the next?!

Let me end by thanking Praba and Meera for their lovely book and the idea, once again, and wishing them luck. Anyone else want to join hands and start a proper campaign for the Asiatic Lion?

The Lion in Paris

Yes, it is kiddy book review day…

Katha has launched a lovely range of books in their Katha World Library series and I happened to lay my hands on one of them, A Lion in Paris. Written by Beatrice Alemagna, the English translation is by Mariette Robbes.

I think it’s a brilliant idea simply because it teaches kids of this age about the Bartholdi lion in Paris even before they recognise it for the big deal that it is. To be honest, I started the book without really making the connection. The story is about a lion in the savannah who heads out one day in search of pretty much everything anyone of us would – love, life and a future.

Read the rest here…