A School Night Diwali

In India, Diwali is hard to miss whether it’s a weekday or weekend. The flurry of activity starts days ahead with cleaning our homes to a sparkling shine to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.  Kids dream about the days off from school and all the sweets and gifts that are coming their way. Buildings are lit up, trays of sweets arrive from friends and of course, there are Diwali parties to attend.

Things might be a little different for families who live away from India though. Apart from the fact that there are no days off from school (or work), there is a stark absence of the festive atmosphere that defines Diwali. We may have to put in extra effort to keep some of our old traditions alive, and find ways to make our own little family traditions for this “winter holiday”. Celebrating Diwali with kids and creating meaningful traditions with them can be especially difficult when Diwali falls on a weekday like it does this year.

Here are 5 easy ways in which you can celebrate Diwali at home with your kids on a school night and maybe create some special family traditions of your own!

  1. Make art. Drawing Rangolis is a fun activity at any time of the year, and kids will love having their artwork displayed prominently at home by the entrance. Draw a simple geometrical pattern on some construction paper and have the kids fill up the shapes with colored beans, lentils, rice or flowers.
  2. Dress up. Wear new clothes for the evening. Pick bright colored clothes for feelings of energy and happiness, remember, no black!
  3. Light candles. Have the kids help you place candles in the different rooms of the house. The younger ones can use electric lights instead of open flames for safety.
  4. Eat Indian. Prepare their favorite Indian food at home or order in from your favorite Indian restaurant instead of slaving over the stove. Enjoy the extra time with your family!
  5. Share stories. Read a Diwali story for bedtime. Share Diwali memories from your own childhood and what the holiday means to you.

Tell us in the comments below how you plan to celebrate the festival of lights at home this year!

Happy Diwali!

ABCD

ABCD is a term (that can sometimes be derogatory) used for Desis born in the U.S. As parents, it’s always a struggle to keep our Indian heritage alive in our kids while they grow up outside of India. But our kids might be more confident about their identities than we think. Today, we have a guest blogger, our dear friend Radhika, who writes about her conversation with her kids and what ABCD really should stand for!

For folks from India and around, these letters stand for American Born Confused Desi (Desi, often collectively used for people from the Indian subcontinent.) It is used to refer to first generation Americans of immigrant parents, such as our children. This term must be coined by non ABCDs, meaning the born and bred Desis or the immigrants. In our household, a very Indian household at heart, we enjoy and comfortably accommodate the variety these two cultures offer, at least the way I see it. No single language prevails, popular music of all kinds is played. Even though Indian cuisine is predominant, we enjoy foods from all over. Our closest friends are people from America, India, Mexico and Ukraine. The one unique quality about Bombay, my hometown, I share with America at large is that both are melting pots of people from various places with different backgrounds, cohabiting with ease. My girl asked me the other day what the letters stood for. To my surprise she took it pretty seriously. I didn’t think at ten years, she was old enough to grasp it. But in her usual calm and articulate manner she said that in her opinion the ‘C’ should stand for ‘Clear’ instead of ‘Confused’. She said she was obviously American born but that didn’t confuse her at all. She put it simply, “I am an American born Indian. I have no confusion about it in my mind. I have two countries which are both mine.” Yet again, my usually reticent daughter, bowled me over with her obviously ‘Clear’ thought process. My son was observing and marveling at his sister’s intelligence, as always. Not the one to be left out of any discussion, he contributed too. He asked me if they were considered American Born Confused Desi kids, then could we, as in the parents, be considered IBCA, Indian Born Confused Americans? He left me totally speechless. For a six year old this was pretty intense. I am not sure if this was only an innocent play of letters for him or an observation? One can’t hide anything from children they say. I experience it firsthand every day. They are very sensitive to their Desi Aai. Baba is usually very composed hence probably easy to deal with. I wonder if this duality is a struggle for them or just a part of their lives. They’ve never demonstrated a tussle. Their friends are comfortable at our place. Over the years we have seamlessly come together in-spite of our obvious differences. Food, language, expressions; even though different, we meet at a common place.
Baba coaches his football team in which he plays soccer. When I ask them to take a bath, they know it means showers. Be it garbage or trash, it all needs to be picked. A shoe bite or a pinching shoe, both are painful. In the end we all relish dosas. We celebrate Christmas and have Tandoori turkey for Thanksgiving! She teaches me about the American Civil war and I tell her stories about the Indian struggle for independence. He loves eating his rice with his little fingers. Like a true blue blooded desi, he loves hot sauce with all his food. We jokingly tease each other about our respective accents. At home we have come to develop our own unique one. We all bond over Bollywood. All in all I think we are fortunate to have the variety. We all grow up together, having a blast mostly.
There is Clearly no Confusion about that.

For more, visit Radhika’s blog.

Not Tea, Coffee

You may not think of coffee when you first think of popular Indian beverages, but did you know that India is the 6th largest producer of coffee in the world? Legend has it that on pilgrimage to Mecca in the 16th century, Baba Budan, a revered Sufi saint from India, discovered for himself the wonders of coffee. In his zeal to share what he’d found with his fellows at home, he smuggled seven coffee beans out of the Yemeni port of Mocha, wrapped around his belly. On his return home, he settled himself on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills in Kadur district, Mysore State (present day Karnataka). This hill range was later named after him as the Baba Budan Hills and one can see his tomb even today by taking a short trip from Chikmagalur.

Why not try some South Indian Kaapi today on #NationalCoffeeDay? Our favorite is Mysore Filter Coffee, made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the decoction obtained by brewing finely ground coffee powder in a traditional Indian filter.

Try this recipe from Rak’s Kitchen for photos and step-by-step directions and let us know how it turned out!

Dance Into Navratri!

Listen to the clicks of your dandiya sticks
It’s Navratri, nine nights of music!

It’s time for celebration! Navratri, one of the greatest Hindu festivals begins this week on September 25th. Taking place around the beginning of harvest time, Navratri (which literally means “nine nights”), symbolises the triumph of good over evil. An exciting revelry of sights and sounds, dance is an integral part of the Navratri festival celebrations.

Garba or Dandiya, are dance forms which were earlier only performed in Gujarat region of India, but have now become very popular across the country. The lively and colourful dances are seen in almost every corner of the country today to grace the occasion of Navratri. Usually played in the late evening after performing all the religious rituals, the Dandiya dance involves clicking together highly decorated wooden sticks or Dandiya sticks. Meanwhile, Garba is performed before worshipping Goddess Durga.

Besides setting the festive mood, the Garba and Dandiya dances hold a special significance in the festival, as they are believed to be the dramatisation of the fight between the Goddess and Mahishasur– the mighty demon king. Dance into Navratri with your children with an easy virtual lesson by watching the video below!

What’s Cooking?

The spirit of Navratri is in the air! It is common for many people in North and Western India to observe fasts during this festive period. Navratri occurs during the change in seasons, when fasting helps detoxify our body by abstaining from foods that are difficult to digest. In our busy modern lives, even if we can’t observe strict fasts for nine days, it helps to be mindful of our diet and eat light and nutritious meals during Navratri.

It’s a good idea to avoid or cut back on alcohol, meat, grains and normal salt (substitute with rock salt instead). To help you plan your Navratri detox, here’s a simple traditional recipe for Sabudana Khichadi, which is sure to be a hit with the kids as well! This nutritious and tasty dish can be prepared ahead and eaten for breakfast or as a snack.

RaksKitchen.com shares a version that includes simple ingredients such as sabudana (sago pearls), potatos, green chillies, lemon, peanuts, ghee, jeera, mustard and curry leaves. Try it yourself at home and let us know what your little ones think!

It’s National Yoga Month!

Throughout September, we celebrate this ancient Indian tradition to increase awareness about the numerous health benefits of yoga. We at Little GuruSkool believe that teaching yoga from a young age will help kids develop this wonderful habit that will benefit them for life! We encourage you to try yoga at home with your child for just ten minutes a day as it’s a fun way to get them engaged in a physical activity that will help them feel more focused, calm and less stressed.

Read on for three of our favorite kid-friendly yoga poses to try at home today from yoga expert Kimberly Lipson from SheKnows.com. Your little yogis will be saying ‘namaste’ before you know it. View photos for each pose here.

Bridge: To accomplish this position, have your child lie on her back and bend both knees so that her feet are flat on the ground. Have her bring her heels as close to her  bottom as she  comfortably can and then lift her  hips high to the sky. Most kids have a very flexible spine, so they can press their hips up very high. This pose is also great for leg strength, ankle stability and energy.

Downward Facing Dog: Instruct your child to begin on hands and knees and then tuck their toes and lift their bottom high so their body and the mat create a triangle, pressing their chest forward with her head hanging down. Instead of allowing kids to stand on their tiptoes, which may happen naturally, have them focus on keeping their feet firmly on the ground, bending their knees if needed.

Butterfly Pose: This pose is great for opening the hips and a good stretch for the ankles. It is very important to remind the yogis to sit up straight. The more the crown reaches for the sky, the more of a spinal stretch and hip stretch the body receives. Push down on the knees or thighs with their elbows as they  keep their feet pressed together allows the hips to open up more.

Photo Credit: Yogi Beans

There’s No Place Like Om

Ommm. It’s often the first and last sound in your ears in a yoga class. But what does it mean?

Turns out, a lot — and yet, like many spiritual things, it’s not so easy to define. “It’s big. Om is nebulous, and it’s vague. It can mean almost anything,” says Michael Carroll, dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga.

The answers are in the ancient yoga text known as the Mandukya Upanishad. Written in 800-500 BC, this text explains both the concepts behind the sound and the symbol. The first paragraph of the Mandukya states, “The syllable OM, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, and whatsoever shall exist hereafter, is OM. And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is OM.”

Chanting Om brings into your awareness the physical reality of this world and your body, the subtle impressions of the mind and emotions and the thoughts and beliefs of your life and this world. We at Little GuruSkool believe that it’s important to not only chant Om, but to consciously integrate its meaning into your own home. Your house is your sanctuary and just as breathing deeply can energize your body and mind through Om, we hope that you can energize your home and make your place more inspiring through our easy tips for your living room, bedroom and bathroom.

Living Room: Keep It Casual

  • Your living room is the most public room in the house, and traditionally, the central room in the home. Use your living room to create a spot for relaxing. Instead of a couch, invest in a chaise that can double-up as extra seating for guests and give you that place where you can meditate and think.
  • Choose mood lighting and lampshades that cast a warm glow. More flattering and soothing than white light, this lighting should be bright enough for reading, but soft enough to be relaxing.
  • Place fresh flowers, pictures, vacation mementos and kids’ report cards in a special place, such as on your mantel. Don’t be afraid to display those eclectic pieces you’ve acquired over the years. This makes your living room a personal museum or visual biography. Go ahead and put that pottery you picked up on vacation in Jaipur on top of your granny’s coffee table.

Bedroom: Create Order

  • Make your bed each day. It helps when you come home to a space that looks like it is prepared to receive you. You’ll feel more relaxed before you even hit the sheets.
  • Keep messes out of your bedroom, since the disorder in your room can seep into your subconscious.

Bathroom: Spa Scene

  • The bathroom is the most functional room in the home and by far the most visually oriented, with mirrors, lighting and water defining the environment. Clean out the clutter and put everything you don’t need out of sight. Then you can create a sensuous environment on a foundation of cleanliness and order.
  • Potted plants and fresh flowers tend to flourish in a humid bath environment, adding color and life. Add a low-fuss potted ivy plant to the room for some natural beauty.
  • Invest in quality: Purchase soft, plush hand and bath towels, cozy rugs and natural-scented bath products.