Gunjal Bhansali from Hip Hip Holiday says travel to learn to get out of your comfort zone.

We happened to read one of the posts on visiting Egypt by this mum and how she spoke on why travelling can be fun and at times, scary too. The need to accept varied experiences while travelling makes for the good traveller. This enthusiastic mum from Mumbai should be knowing about it as she is one energetic mom who has travelled to over 30 countries and manages a blog called the Hip Hip Holiday.

Meet Gunjal Bhansali who shares her experiences with Mums and Stories. She says. “I inherited the  passion for travel from my dad. As a child, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country. Thankfully, my husband shares the love and I have travelled to foreign destinations (30 countries & counting) only after marriage.

I have a passion for travel and writing. I have entered the blogging world ( Hip Hip Holiday) only recently. The purpose is to bring real travel stories to the world , especially on  Indian families with kids.

 

I am aware there are loads of bloggers and travel agencies. They paint a rosy picture of every place but I want to show the real stories. It’s not always perfect. There are times when things don’t go as planned, but isn’t that what makes the journey worth its while?

A normal traveller like a mother is not always dressed in flowy dresses & doesn’t have the best camera or cameraman (read husband) to click the best photos.

Nevertheless, it shouldn’t stop them from travelling. There can’t be any better experiential learning for a child (& for us) than travel.

Though I have helped my friends and families make their itineraries, it is only out of sheer love for travel. I am not a tour organizer.  I plan to share do’s and don’ts of places in my upcoming posts, along with itineraries. “

Talking about taking her young daughters to various destinations, Gunjal shares, “The kids have caught the fascination now. They enjoy the change and look forward to it.

Here, I would like to add that we always take into consideration our kids’ opinions before finalizing any destination. “

This mum also has a few useful tips on travelling with kids.

  1. Include your child in decision making when you are selecting the destination is very important. It gives them something to look forward to and makes them less complaining. Also, helps them in building their opinion and enhances decision making skills.
  2. Try and take a late night flight or a one stop flight to long destinations. This helps to be better prepared once you land.
  3. Make sure you get the child excited for at least one thing that you plan to do on the holiday. It could be something as small as a beach visit or a temple visit. Build an exciting story around it so the kid looks forward to that experience!

Talking about managing schedules, considering Gunjal is a busy traveller, she shares, “The holiday lists of my husband and kids are the topmost star marked images in my photo gallery. I ear mark the long weekends and holidays so we do not have to take too many additional leaves from work and from school.  Despite going on vacations almost 5-6 times a year, my kids hardly miss a day or two at school in the entire year.

Yes, proper and timely planning makes it doable.

A holiday on a Tuesday or Thursday gives you the chance to plan a longer vacation within approximately the same budget. Midweek flights are often cheaper than those on the weekend or on holidays. “

Travel can give varied experiences and Gunjal says one incident was when she was stalked by an Egyptian man, who even proposed marriage to me ( on a crowded street) when  she was with her husband and kids.

Second incident was their guide trying to do something similar after touring with the family for 6 days!

” It has made us cautious, for sure but it was also just a one off incident. Nowhere else, have we ever faced such unpleasant experiences. We also do our research better now and plan accordingly.

Also we do save judiciously to incorporate our travels. We keep aside a stipulated sum, every year for holidays and plan them accordingly.”

Talking about starting to travel with kids, this travel lover mum shares, “ We travelled with my first daughter when she was 7 months old, to Goa. We were more seasoned travellers, by the time the second daughter was born. We went for a road trip in Rajasthan and Agra when she was three months old.

I think it isn’t very difficult to travel with babies, as they are either sleeping or feeding most of the times. The only catch is to choose a destination which is relaxed, so even Mothers can enjoy a welcome change in a more easy going environment.

There have been times when we didn’t space out two holidays. The quick succession was because of better deals and holidays at school. That’s when we though we need to pace our trips a little apart from each other. The gap in between two vacations makes the wait more exciting plus gives us a chance to savor the flavor of the last holiday.

There’s a lot more to see, so much to learn and teach! But yes, we have promised each other not to repeat any destination.

If there’s one thing travel has taught us, it is compassion and acceptance. It teaches how to be comfortable outside your comfort zone. Meeting new people, learning about their history and culture, learning about their life style has taught us we all belong equally to this planet and this planet belongs equally to all of us.

Our travels are a mixture of luxury stays and budget travels. We have done home stays in remote Indian villages, airbnbs in Europe and even luxury stays in leading hotels of the world in India and abroad.

We have flown in sea planes in Maldives, used over crowded public transport in Seychelles , eaten on footpaths with the locals in Vietnam and even stayed in farms and helped out with the pets!

Being calm is very important. Most often than not a setback looks bigger than it is, if we get anxious.  I think the locals at any place can provide the best solution to any problem.

Think of travel as an experience to create wonderful memories for your family and yourself. Be a child with your child and connect with them on a one on one level.

Gunjal ends with the must see places in the world:

  1. Ajanta & Ellora caves , Aurangabad
  2. Hampi, Karnataka
  3. Zaanse Schaans Netherlands
  4. Hoi An Vietnam
  5. Masai Mara, Kenya

You can follow this keen travller mum’s  passion on https://instagram.com/hiphipholiday and http://hiphipholiday.in

Mums and Stories wishes Gunjal the very best and we hope she gets to travel a lot more to inspire others.

Chaos at Keoladeo review on Mums and Stories

#Mustread
#Adventuretales
#Funokplease
#Penguinbooks
#Priyafonseca
#Booksonbirsancturies
#Bharatpur

Over the weekend, we received this book and the young one at home came running asking about our next holiday, we have planned. With the book in his hand, I figured out that he has read on something that has caught his interest.

When probed on suggestions, he asked if we could go to Bharatpur bird sanctuary ever? The response to his question was perhaps it could be done. We have been to nearby bird sanctuaries in Karnataka, specifically at Ranganathittu bird sanctuary near Mysore and perhaps Bharatpur should come on our list, if possible, thanks to this book and the fascination it has caught on the young one’s mind.

It is interesting when you have books that make you want to visit that place. Chaos at Keoladeo is an entertaining read, perfect for 9 to 12 year olds. Written by Priya Fonseca this story captures the joy of visiting a bird sanctuary or even the jungle experience.

Bharatpur or Keoladeo sanctuary in Rajasthan is one of the largest in the country and the story with its characters of children visiting the bird sanctuary with their Uncle Avi on a holiday makes it to a good read. The story has good amount of information of various birds, illustrated very well by Zainab Tambawalla and the book uses real pictures of birds found, migratory birds visiting, information on how a few wild life sanctuaries got their names and so on.

Young readers in this age of 9 to 12 love exciting, little bit of adventure thrown in in their stories they read or the vacations they go for and Chaos at Keoladeo fulfills that part in bits and pieces.

Did you know:

Dr.Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali was instrumental in making space for the area of Bharatpur to be declared as a sanctuary. He made bird watching a science when it was considered an idle pastime.  According to the book, his contribution towards wildlife conservation was huge. 

It’s a book for curious bird enthusiasts and may even make you consider one of your next vacations to be a bird sanctuary. Keoladeo is close to Agra and can be reached easily by Agra, Jaipur or Delhi.

Mums and Stories gives it a 5 on 5 .

Ruchika G Naidu shares on how parents are getting bullied to choose schools -A blog post

Ruchika based out of Mysore, Karnataka is a full time homemaker, counsellor and a storyteller. She wanted to share this experience through a blog where she wanted to share the quantum of stress she went through as pa parent during the school admission of her child this year.

Ruchika shares with Mums and Stories, “One fine Sunday morning, when I settled with my cup of tea and newspaper. As I started browsing the paper, one colourful advertisement of a half size of one side of paper caught my attention. That was about one well-known brand of chain of schools in country. Boosting about all available facilities, well developed infrastructure, how the kid’s personality will be groomed etc etc. As I went further, I found many similar advertisements. Add to this there was one paper release regarding the upcoming educational fair in our city. Then I realized the results are out that’s why schools/colleges are on high in regard of advertising their brands. All this brought back my memories of stress we went through when we were in a situation of deciding on school or we were out for shopping of school for our little one.

As I have used the word shopping here, let me tell you a phenomenon or nature of ‘shopping’.  Every person has different take on the process of shopping, for some it is need based, where for others it is window shopping or time pass. For some it turns to be a therapy or just getting away from a boring daily routine. For some it is an opportunity to catch up with friends over a cup of coffee and some light & heavy shopping bags. Now in the present days, we have new trend of shopping; online shopping. We are aware that’s the easy way of choosing things, just at one click.

But the ‘shopping’ which I am talking here is the shopping of schools for children. Which I thing parents who are reading blog will agree with me. Which is the most difficult and complicated experience any parent can ever have. Choosing the right school or the right board or right curriculum for our child becomes the most bewildered situation for us. That we end up doubting our own ability of making a right decision for our own child. Multiple choices of schools and the availability of many boards. And where each school shouting from the highest cliff of the city that they are the best choice for our child. Well planned infrastructure, with sports ground, swimming pool and after school activities has become a trend these days. Along with main stream schools now we have alternative schools walking on the ramp and introducing the new fashion or call it as a new trend. It sounds like, where people are bored of conventional methods of schooling and they want new modern methods. Here the child, is given a platform to choose what he or she wants to learn. The schools of course claim to cater all the learning needs of the child. Starting from the critical thinking, analytical thinking, creative thinking etc etc…. you name it and they will provide you.

When the concept of alternative schools started grasping the attention of parents, the main stream schools suddenly realized that they are lagging behind in the rat race. So, they have also pulled their socks up and started offering the multiple boards under one roof. It’s like till grade 7 children will study under one board or curriculum and then from grade 8 onwards they will offer another board which is more in demand. School with the concept of learning through nature, like gurukuls or where there is no board no classroom or no curriculum; are also not behind in this race.

All this sounds like a, WOW!! experience for a parent. As if you are entering in super market of schools. Pull up your trolley, go around rack to rack to choose and pick which school suits to you and your child’s needs and aspirations. Here starts the complication and confusions. When you have too many choices and each one looks perfect to your requirement. The decision becomes more difficult. And here you don’t have mix and match option. If I am not wrong, majority of the parents go through this kind of dilemma once in a life time, to choose a right school.. The same experience we had in our life.

By profession I am counsellor and life coach. Most of the time parents have approached me to take advice to choose school for their child. Which is good or I would say, best brand in town. According to them I am a counsellor and I have answers to all their problems. And I have also tried my best to help them decide. At the same time, I always had this question in my mind, do we really have perfect schools for our kids. Am I also going to face the same situation of confusion, when our time will come? At that moment I always use to brush that thought. Because, I was on the side of the table which provide advices. And, one fine day our time also came and then the stress started. That day I felt, I am on the other side of the table, ‘the advice seeker’.

We checked many schools, the best schools in our city and took feedback from many friends. we discussed which board is best for our child. Which board will provide more opportunities of learning and exploring? We had discussion on what do we want, main stream school or alternative school or nature-based learning or combination of all or school provide multiple board. Oh!! God, what a stress, anxiety, sleepless night, endless discussions and arguments. One fine day we visited so called best school of our city, where half of the student population of our city studies. Please pardon me, if I am hurting anyone’s feelings or sentiments. Huge building, huge play-ground, best technology used in classrooms, what not, you name it and you get it. But we both felt, that school was like an ocean. I personally felt, I am going to throw my child into an ocean and ask her to swim.

I know, many of the parents will say, that’s life, that’s how they learn. The reality of life is different. I totally agree, and we too want her to understand life and its reality. We want her to be strong and matured enough to deal with hardships of life. But one step at a time.

That day we both realized, the choice of school should be by keeping our daughter’s personality in mind; not based on our expectations or others.

It’s important to groom her and help her explore the world the way she likes to do. Its not important, to have large number of students in her class or modern technology or smart boards, but it’s important that she feels free to move in her class with sense of freedom. Its important, where she gets opportunity to connect with immediate surroundings not for credits or marks or presentations; just for experience. The place, where she doesn’t get judged or labelled as hyper child because she is full of energy. Where she gets groomed to use her energy in a right way.

Where she gets support to understand her emotions and moods. Where she gets accepted in spite of being highly functioning child. Not labelled as a reluctant child, because adults around her are not able to match up with her learning needs through their methods. We being modern generation parents, are aware of so many things and also complimented by our professions we are in. Still at time we fall into such difficult situations. Because we are not perfect, and can’t have everything perfect in life. This choice became easier for us, with just one change of perspective; ‘the decision should be need based not on what we want’.

End of the day we are happy as parents not as professionals or adults, that we have found a good school, not perfect school for our little one. Where we as parents/partners will work as a team with school to help our daughter to enjoy and experience learning and life. But one step at a time.

( Lead image for representation purpose only.)

 

 

 

Mums and Stories and The Little Gym presents The Toddler Fun Hour at Little Gym Jayanagar

Mums and Stories and The Little Gym presents The Toddler Fun Hour.

Story session
Play Activity
Fun Time

Date, Sunday, August 4th, 2019
Venue- Little Gym, Jayanagar
Time- 4.00-6.00pm
Age group- 8 months to 3 years

Join us for a Fun Toddler Hour at the coolest centre in The Little Gym, Jayanagar on August 4th, 2019. We will be having a story session, play activities and let you and your kid experience the centre with its activities.

It’s a Free Event and registration is mandatory. Please note the age category is only from 8 months to 3 years only. We won’t be able to take kids beyond that age group.

Registration link- here

You can fill the registration form or mail at mumsandstories@gmail.com for further queries.
Terms and Conditions apply.

Quiz books for kids from Hachette India

We love books at home that test our skills on comprehension, sentence structure, language, grammar and yet is simple and fun.

Brain Games by Dr. Gareth Moore, illustrations by Jess Bradley, published by Hachette India are fun ways of keeping your young one’s boring weekday evenings or weekends creatively occupied.

 

 

The books have simple activities like join the dots, find the perfect pair’s, mark the odd one out or word puzzles or playing with numbers, that it makes for a good usage of time.

The activities are creatively titled and we’ll illustrated and many have multiple options questions with answers given for reference.

One of the two books in this series, is specifically on knowledge and information that gives out interesting insights. Questions like Which of these animals can walk on water? Options are frogs, pond skater, swan or deer. The answer is pond skater.

Likewise questions are on weather, underwater world, animal lives, geography and do much more. This could be a great parent-child activity too to solve the questions and puzzles together.

We loved the books and do recommend it for 7 to 10 years of age. Kids will get interested in a lot of topics and it could be great conversation starters.

We also received 501 facts factory Amazing Buildings of the world by Sreelata Menon, published by Hachette India.
Classified into Lighthouses, palaces, museums, temples, the tallest buildings in the world to mausoleums to many more the book is not exhaustive in each category, in content but does attempt to get the curiosity bug out from kids who might get fascinated by interesting buildings.

So you have a number of Indian structures like the Taj or Umaid Bhavan palace or the Lake palace or the royal Mysore palace.

Did you know that the Amba Vilas Palace in Mysuru, Karnataka has a Kalyana Mantapa built entirely in Glasgow and has been transported to Mysore. Facts like these make the book a good reference and add up to the child’s knowledge on structures.

Mums and Stories gives these books 4 on 5.

Mums from MakeMyTale create magic with novel way of storybooks as a gifting option

Meet Swaraja Batra and Jaya Nakra from MakeMyTale who got into creating personalised storybooks for children. Swaraja shares with Mums and Stories their entrepreneurial journey.

” MakeMyTale was actually conceptualized over many informal dinners and casual conversations. As mothers, Jaya and I often discussed the need to make reading a more attractive concept for children who were restless and impatient and didn’t give even the first few pages of a story the chance to grow on them. As against this, I-pads, apps, video games seem a more attractive and luring option to which children easily fall prey to. These are curated storybooks for children largely for 5 to 9 year olds.

 

We always felt that there were so many strategies that were conceptualized out there to get children addicted to online apps and video games. Why not get children addicted to books instead of screens? We wanted to make reading a more personal, relatable experience for the child where he would be a ‘here’ in the story. His name would appear as the main character all throughout our story. And he wouldn’t be alone – his mom, dad and even his real life friends would be in the story with him!”

We did quite a bit of research as to what was available out there when it came to personalised books. And there are some really good efforts too. But mostly, we realized that while most of the competition was doing pictures or messages, none of the stories really impressed us. When that happens, we think ‘personalisation’ becomes more superficial and commercial a term. In fact, at MakeMyTale, during our initial start-up months, we refrained  from  using words like ‘personalized’ or ‘customised’ as we thought that it categorised us into a segment that was too limited or superficial. The truth being, that our stories have important take-away values for children and the lessons and morals find a much permanent home in our young readers minds when they read the story as their own story.

For example, our book titled – ‘The Genius Magical Camp’ is a lovely, adventure story of 4 friends on a camping trip. It’s amusing for the child to read an adventure story with all his real-life friends as characters and the moral take-away is so beautiful – That Love and Friendship can help you survive all odds. And the bond of friendship toughens in difficult situations. When faced with a tough situation, trust your instincts and presence of mind to sail through any problem. Isn’t this, what we all want as parents? – That our children learn to solve their problems independently; to be solution seekers rather than cribbing about them.

Seeing oneself as a HERO in a story is a major confidence booster to the child and his self-esteem. He or she feels special, talented, and confident. We were very clear that we wanted to have stories that leaves the child inspired after reading them. The child should feel warm and special and lucky at the end of all our stories.

We have ensured that we are never preachy in our stories.  So we decided to start with concepts that form the main pillars of a child’s life during the ages of 5-10 years. Things like friends, parents, school, performance, confidence, fun, independence, wanting to do things in their own way – small incidences and wishes! Things that may seem miniscule to us, as adults, may mean so much to the child in his world.

For example, our story, ‘The Genius Shrinks Mummy’ is an amusing story about how the child in the story wishes to live his day without any instructions or ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’s’ from his mom. That’s his small, simple wish. We think most children can relate to something simple like that. And while parents could have a much serious outlook to “Keep your school bag in place, don’t throw your socks around, wash your hands, clean up, dirty clothes in laundry bag, please” – kind of instructions. For a child, it is just a matter of compulsion or losing control or authority over his day. He wishes, he could be in charge of his own life! Only if, my parents were small and I could be as big as them – then I would enjoy my day, the way I wanted. And what happens ahead is an amusing story, where the child becomes the parent’s parent for one whole day and the chaos that ensues thereafter!!

All MakeMytale stories are conceptualised in such a way that no matter which child reads our story – he or she will be able to relate to at least some part of the story, the character or what the main protagonist feels or behaves like. Our stories are very, everyday stories that every child can relate to and identify with.”

Talking on how they went further with the idea, these mompreneurs duo share with Mums and Stories, “ At the start up stage, to build any business and to ensure it has its holding firmly in the ground, one has to put in crazy amount of work hours and mind space too. We have been helped tremendously by our spouses on the technical, website and even story writing and conceptualisation front. There are a lot of things we do not know. And a whole lot of things we need to learn. And it’s a new, enriching, tiring, at the same time, thrilling experience for us. The road ahead for MakeMyTale is an ambitious one.

We are planning to venture into the toddler age group and will be adding more titles to our current genre too. We are also still figuring out the international market. There is still so much to explore and achieve. And I think, our children are learning with us too – to be more independent and to achieve more during a day than what seems possible. They often ‘advise’ us on crucial matters related to what a child perceives as interesting or not! They call themselves the ‘the advisory panel’ to MakeMyTale. I think our family and friends are proud, despite the daily madness that has now become a part of our life! We literally do have ‘miles to go before we can sleep every day’. But we love every part of it.

And that shows, because we are ready to go that extra mile when required. Be it, an urgent birthday delivery that needs to be completed, or when we know that the child is in a boarding school far away from his parents and misses them. When we got to know that a mom was going to miss her son’s birthday as she had to travel for work, we personally went and delivered the gift on his mom’s behalf. We once made a Farewell gift for 4 friends who had been together since kindergarten but now had to part forever since their parents were relocating.

We made a collage of all their happy moments and they wrote special messages for each other which we printed at the start of the book. On another instance, we got to know that one of our little 8 year old readers had recently lost his father – so we removed the dad from the story and made his granny a part of it. Script changes or illustration changes do not work out for us financially and take a tremendous amount of time and cost a lot of money. So it’s practically not possible to change the script, dialogues, illustrations and visual depictions, as these are very expensive and also structured after a lot of thinking and consideration to appeal to every child who reads it. But this was a situation that demanded exceptional measures and we wanted to deal with it sensitively as parents rather than as business women.

Every book is personally looked at by both the partners. We ensure that every child looks beautiful in our books and hence we have not kept that part automated and give it our personal attention. Also we have always respected the parent’s judgement to decide whether they are happy with it or not.

A lot of parents share their feedback with us. We get messages everyday stating how elated, excited the child was to see himself as a Hero in the story. Not just this, to discover that his real life best friends are a part of the story with him. And it’s not just the child; I think the parents are as excited to see their child as the Hero in our stories. “It’s like they fulfil some part of their dreams too, through our books”.

Personalised gifts leave that special feeling in your mind. That something was made especially for you. And rather than vogue, it’s the impact of this feeling is what counts. Besides, children today have everything and one really wonders what to gift them. Books and personalisation (done the right way) can be a powerful tool to make someone feel special not just through personalization but more importantly through the message that the story conveys. Our books are also accompanied by surprise, customised freebies that we include with every book and are an absolute thrill for the parent as well as the child. Besides, this is one book you want to keep on your shelf or that special trunk of memories which you hold close, forever. Because every time the child will see our book, even 10-20 years down the line as a grown up adult, it will still make the young one feel special and loved, no matter what stage of life he or she is at.”

Sharing a few tips for other mums who want to try their hand in entrepreneurship, Swaraja says, “As a new found status of a ‘Mom Entrepreneur’, we would just say – Be comfortable in whatever you do whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working woman. No one defines us or has the right to judge women for the choices they make. At the same time, try new things and explore what makes you feel good. Cause – “Boundaries, don’t keep other people out; they fence you in. So draw some and cross some too.”

To know more about them check this link- – https://www.makemytale.com/

(All pictures are subject to copyright).

Photographs of the Toddler Fun Hour at the Little Gym Cunningham Road

It was one interesting evening with lots of giggles, noise, music, dance, laughter, movements, interesting expressions all rolled into one evening where parents and toddlers came to participate in the Toddler Fun Hour organised by Mums and Stories in association with The Little Gym.

So it began with stories narration , yes we were surprised to find young ones (from 8 months to 3 years) interested in stories, a few characters they could identify and understand it’s a story narrated for them.

Right after the story narration, it was time for lots of fun through physical activities which the Little Gym team refer it as the parent child class. This interaction was boisterous, a laughter riot and activities that ensured all kids had a good time.

Rolling to jumping to singing and interacting with parents, the session was fun to say the least. With beautiful scenarios of rainbows, umbrellas and a riot of colours to soft play activities and bubbles, the age group we hope did have a fun time.

We hope to bring more of these interesting parent kid sessions with interesting activities in the future too.

All photographs are subject to copyright.

If you want to collaborate with us for interesting parent child interactions for launch of a book or for bringing a new interesting experience for mums or kids, do reach us at mumsandstories@gmail.com

 

 

A Night to Remember- Overnight trek review by the Road Trips Co on Mums and Stories

We were invited recently to experience an overnight trek by The Road Trips Co who organize regular road trips to offbeat destinations, curating varied experiences.

We had mixed feelings of this trip as it was an overnight experience of being completely outdoors in an almost secluded destination and the idea was to go ahead with strangers.

On the exciting front, it was going to be thrilling, exciting, adventurous and fun too.  After contemplating for a day, we decided to go ahead taking along the kid too.

So we reached the foothills in Chikkaballapur, which is after Nandi hills, approximately 70 kms away from Bangalore. We we went in cars on a dark night reaching around 11.15pm. We were eight of us including the guide and team leader from the Road Trip Company.

(On our way to the base camp at Kavaranahalli, Chikkaballapur)

The first thing that struck me as soon as I got down from the vehicle was the turbulent winds around the hills. While unloading the backpacks and luggage from the car, I noticed we were truly among the hills and right next to the designated mountain there was a tiny village.

It was dark, and except for a few flickering bulbs outside a few homes, not a soul was seen except us the adventurous tribe to climb the mountain. At a distance we could hear dogs howling and lights across the initial path of the mountain. That I was informed was the path to the Shiva temple which has many followers and early mornings a lot of devotees do turn up.

(The Shiva temple that is on the way to the peak)

 

( Tents put up atop the mountain for camping in the clouds).

So we were ready to climb with our backpacks and it seemed exciting. Kaurava  Konda is a twin peak though it seemed to be a single one for me. The trek has two ways of reaching the top and for best reasons known to the team leader, we were guided through the tougher one. I must say this was definitely far more testing our skills in climbing, perseverance and made it thrilling. So amidst the drizzles that had begun on the moonlit night, we were climbing, walking on the mountain that had slippery stones and we did take two breaks before being encouraged to go further.

 

 (Enthusiastic trekkers)

It was 11.30 in the night when we began our climb and now the wind had started to blow heavier at each step ahead. A few managed to climb this path very well including my kid. The adults who did well of course had other trek experiences including night treks. For me this was the first and it was filling me with varied emotions.

As we halted for a two minute break, I looked behind and was stunned at what I saw. The entire view of the village, the mountain, the rocky surface looked spooky, different and almost dream like. I must say it seemed like an episode of Malgudi days, giving the scenery of the mountains, flickering lights and a tiny village.

Now I began to question myself if I was doing the right thing of going on the mountain and that too with a kid. Yet it seemed good as the rest (those who were better climbers and trekkers) began assisting others and encouraging too to take one step at a time. The team from The Road Trips Co were co operative though they encouraged trekkers to do things on their own, as the intention of the trek is to get you to do something different and largely on your own.

It was tedious, though according to the organizers this was an easy trek. Finally we reached atop the rocky strewn with huge boulders across the mountain, at 1am midnight.

There was an eerie silence prevailing in its own way though we had winds blowing everywhere and literally making us feel we are nothing compared to nature. My layers of clothing seemed insufficient though I found solace seeing my kid jumping around at the new found experience in the night.

We were just eight of us on top of the mountain overlooking many other mountains  and of course we had company of dark clouds and even planes, several of them flying across the sky. Probably the airport being close by added to the number of planes flying across the sky. I tried looking for the stars but it didn’t appear and though the moon shone so bright and made the entire scene mystical, foggy and it was terribly windy.

Slowly we were beginning to feel the chill and I saw the team leader and guide getting busy in having a fire created for cooking a simple meal. Of course my kid was super thrilled just at the idea of cooking and eating midnight on top of a mountain. But  I think the excitement was more because it was going to be like cave like experiences of getting fire ready. So we had leaves, sticks and a bit of paper to light up to cook cup noodles.  With winds blowing heavily it was one tough task at hand and finally it got done with the help of experienced trekkers who had done this earlier and everyone coming together and hoping to have something warm before we sleep.

(Oh yes! That’s the team trying to cook atop the hill)

By this time we had encountered a few drizzles and I was beginning to wonder if the rain gods decided to make the night more adventurous for us. It was wet in some places and that was the reason why the sticks too were not catching fire easily.  Finally we had our cup noodles in our hands and it didn’t’ taste that great. Yet it made the experience good and we munched along a few sandwiches that tasted delicious, got again by the team leader. Now it was almost 3am in the morning and my hands had gone numb due to cold. Again it struck me that at that hour I had never been outdoors anywhere and this was something I wouldn’t forget for a long time.

We also had the company of almost 25 dogs who came along the trek and they seemed to know the path better. It looked like they expected trekkers to feed them after the meal. No plastic was thrown and luckily fellow trekkers too maintained the decorum required in managing a good and clean outing, especially in the outdoors.

Now the winds were beginning to show their power and it seemed like a tornado movie running across. I came to know later that Kaurava Konda is in the similar range of Nandi hills, Brahmagiri, Channagiri, Skandagiri which is popular for sunrise treks , but overcrowded .

This trek was indeed spooky, adventurous yet it gave the privacy and space to climb in one’s own pace. With lots of earthworms crawling across we managed to find spaces that were devoid of these crawly creatures to put up our tents.

(The village view from one of the points from the hill)

As we struggled to put up our tents in the torturous windy environment I had my kid entering the tent and I realized when he finally slept at 3am, this was one mini vacation, one night that was so different for him and me. No comfortable bed like in the countless hotels we have spent, no soft pillows around, no soft lighting around, no fine dining experience to remember; the list could go endless but  we were one with nature sleeping in our sleeping bags, in the tent, camping outdoors, in the open, amidst hills, under the mystical sky.  Also there’s absolutely no water around so we had take our drinking water and for cooking too. Though in the morning I did see a few puddles of water.

It was a bit tough for an amateur trekker like me though I have been open to varied vacations. So would I go in for another overnight trek? Most likely yes as it did offer something so positive and different which others didn’t.

(From the tent view)

Would I recommend to others? Yes of course, but to those moms who are ready to welcome a bit of adventure in their lives and off beat experiences. Also consider taking those kids who can manage on their own like for climbing or be ready for nights that can be devoid of any luxury. It does of course teach some life lessons and can be a great experience for ten year old onwards. The trek would actually be good for families or group of friends together. You do need company of encouraging trekkers who don’t get bogged down easily. This I am told is one of the easier treks so it could be possible for many families.

Finally we did sleep for three hours before I was up again by 5.45am with the outburst of natural sunlight around me.

(The morning view from the Kaurava Konda betta)

I could hear birds chirping and the wind continued with its pace of blowing heavily. It of course seemed different from the night and mountains looked more welcoming.

 

We got down beginning our descent by 8am, headed to a breakfast joint nearby and said good bye to each other.

A night to remember and a night that did trigger me to consider more such outings, camping vacations. Cheers to camping in the clouds.

( Reshma Krishnamurthy travelled with her family including her kid on an invite from the Road Trips company).

The Road Tips Company website-http://www.roadtrippersclub.com/

The Road Trips Company facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/theroadtripsco/

 

 

 

 

Bookasura for kids fuels up your imagination

We happened to go to an author interaction at one of the book stores in Bangalore and and though we couldn’t stay for too long, we bought this book that was on our list to be read.

Thankfully it was a right decision to get it home. Bookasura by Arundhati Venkatesh, published by Scholastic is one of those books that fuels up kid’s imagination.

Taking a cue from Bakasura monster who is narrated as a story to kids, bringing them glimpses of Hindu mythology, Bookasura is of one such monster who instead of eating lot of food or people, devours books.

The story is fun, imaginative and on Bala who is sent to his grandma’s home. His pasti( grandma ) in Tamil like many other real life grandparents enjoys cooking and feeding her grandchild.
On a vacation away from his home, Bala comes across Bookasura and he’s eaten quite a number of books belonging to the young boy.
The story is a good read for 6 to 9 year olds and almost reminded of characters and sequences from Malgudi days. The narrative is simple storytelling and a good read.

 


If you have a kid who enjoys reading books, perhaps it’s time to make him or her read this too. The author through the story lists down popular stories by other authors like Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson or The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle( all these are eaten by the demon Bookasura) and it’s good to go through the list to remind ourselves how many have we have read.

Mums and Stories gives it a 4.5 on 5

Ammijis Chai Masala from Masala Monk reviewed on Mums and Stories

We received this product for a review. Now we know there are a zillion other mums whose days get better with one good cup of tea at that moment.

Yes of course there are coffee patrons but we stick to being chai lovers.

So Chai masala from Masala Monk is an interesting product, packaged well and as we were even unwrapping the product, the aroma was sharp and inviting.

Now we have tried a few cups of tea with this masala, brewed along with your regular cup of chai with milk and sugar. It’s flavourful, doesn’t dilute the tea taste and good.

The aroma is strong and it does smell of cardamom and cinnamon every time you open the bottle to add to your tea.  It apparently also has star anise, another spice that does add to the flavour.

Ammijis Chai Masala is handmade, made by a family and done in small batches – from the sorting of the spices to the grinding and packaging.

We do find it however premium priced, but as the manufacturers say the ingredients are carefully chosen with care, homemade and we would like to believe it.

Also we wish the ingredients information was published on their packaged bottle.

It’s got an interesting story as to why this product is named Ammiji’s Chai masala as fondly remembered by her grandchildren.

The shelf life is one year and suggestions on the pack say it can be added to kheer, puddings or even deserts.

 

We wanted to try a more sober product and apparently one of their fast selling ones. There are quirky ones like the Orange Whiskey Marmalade or the Mango Tequila Jam and even the range of pickles with interesting combinations that do look inviting.

You can find more products from them  here

(All pictures are subject to copyright)