Space for the Kids

Having your “own space” is important for children and this is more so in today’s India’s urban areas where outdoor areas and parks are limited or overcrowded. Children are spending more time indoors with video games, social networking sites and television.
Creating a healthy and functional bedroom space is important. What’s more important than a memorable room? For a child, it’s a comfortable, workable space that grows smoothly along with him or her. Keeping the “fun” in “functional” can be a challenge, as every age group has its own needs. Think long term so that you need not break the bank; after all your child’s needs will change as he or she grows.
For the first 10 years of life the most important accessory for children is you. They want to be around you and most likely will want to study in the dining room or play in the living area no matter how small just to be closer to you. How many times have you cleared your child’ toys and books from the dining table before meal time?
As the child begins going to full time school, the idea of having their own room is exciting, they will need a space to keep their school things and to show their work to the world; it is a place where they can bring their friends and play. Involve your child in the design process and get valuable inputs.

The main considerations for designing your child’s room are:

1. Light – Natural and general lighting should be plenty in the room. Keep a lamp on the study table, and to encourage a reading habit keep wall lighting near the bed. Ensure that kids are able to put on and shut off the lights easily themselves. Even simple light pieces can transform a simple room into one that provides the right atmosphere for your child to read and play. Experiment and use lights to add glamour, style and drama.

2. Colour –Colour is important especially for younger children. Most pre-schools classrooms are painted with bright colours for a reason; it encourages happiness as well as creativity. As the children grow they may want more subtle or wilder colours. Redecorating by re-painting is economical and can give the room a whole new look.

3. Fashionable Fabrics –These are quick and inexpensive ways to add some punch to the room. How about some sequined fabric for curtains in your pre-teen’s bedroom? Many of these fabrics are sparkly, shiny and slinky. Just what the kids are looking for.

4. Furniture – The essentials pieces of furniture in a kids’ bedroom are a bed, cupboard, bookshelf and a study table. If your child is small then there are many options in beds available including theme beds as well as bunk beds. A correct sized writing table and chair are important. For the remaining furniture like cupboards and wardrobes, invest in sturdy furniture that will last for the years to come. They can be painted or polished when the kids outgrow a young childs’ room. If you have a space constraint, select furniture that serves a number of purposes, makes use of corners and has storage with corner cupboards.
Interesting drawer knobs and handles are available or a carpenter can make the shape you would like such as stars, moons, balls and bats.

5. Flooring –Kids do many activities on the floor, such as art projects and playing games so do not fill the room with too much furniture; keep some floor space open for play. Laying down bright rugs or colourful bamboo chatais is an easy way to brighten the room

6. Window treatments – Easily available colourful and themed curtains are a wonderful way to dress up a room. Use stencils to make patterns on the windows. For older children blinds are an option.

7. Accessories–There is so much that can be done with accessories and knick-knacks. Actually every time you go shopping you are sure to find something new to include in the room. After you have decided on the color of the room, furniture, lights, window treatment and furniture, you are now ready to proceed to the next stage. Keep an area with a pin up board for the child to display his/her works of art. Pictures of their favorite characters, flags and maps would also add another facet to the room keeping with the rest of the décor. A chalk board or white board is also nice. You can select from a wide range of bed sheets, pillow covers, curtains and cushions including cartoon figures and designs such as cars and flowers.

8. Themes –Themed bedrooms are easily made with knick-knacks and accessories. Matching curtains and bedspreads are plenty in the market.

Elaborate theme bedrooms excite doting parents, but many times they are often too stagnant and limiting to a child’s own creativity.

Kids may ask for everything they see on TV or at a friend’s house, but many parents know the frustration of having the latest bought toys cast aside overnight in favor of pots and pans and a pair of wooden cooking spoons or some clay. The same case applies when you are furnishing a whole room for a child.

Designing a bedroom with your child is a great way to spend quality time with him or her. You focus on providing safe, sturdy furniture and play structures, easily accessible storage, and appealing colors and patterns. The kids will supply the dreams and imagination.


The Dynamic Duo –Shobhaa and Dilip De –Published in ICICI Elite Life

She needs no introduction. She is not only the face of the Indian popular literary scene but through her newspaper columns, a reputed voice on civic affairs and politics.
Shobhaa De has always been visible in the eyes of the Indian media and whether you have read her works or not, you know the name and face. She has seen it all: life as a model, a copywriter, a journalist, a socialite, a scriptwriter, and novelist. She continues to make or report news.
Married to successful businessman, Dilip De, together they are a refreshing example of a strong and enduring relationship, a rarity in the current times. With six kids she has also a busy mother and although all the children are out on their own and grown she continues to place importance on their happiness and well being.
We caught up with the couple during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Shobha and Dilip enjoy this time of year and each year welcome a traditional Lord Ganesha into their home in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai.
The secret to a happy marriage can be summed in one word for Shobhaa…commitment…“ You have to believe in marriage – like it!! And have mature – not unrealistic – expectations from one another. I think we understand each other and our respective expectations match. We are willing to go the extra mile and accommodate one another. The important thing to ask is – can I count on my partner to stand by me at all times?? If the answer is ‘yes’, you are on to a good thing!”
Dilip also believes in the power of commitment. He adds, “good marriages and strong families are what strengthen the fabric of our society and provide stability. Family provides the joy that makes the ‘success journey’ worthwhile. It’s important to make the environment in your home a stimulating, one that is conducive, supportive and positive. Maintaining traditions gives the added value of creating continuity within the family.”
The De family kids have had excellent examples from their parents of how hard work and a balanced life can lead to a productive and happy life. Shobhaa is proud of each of them. “Nothing else gives me the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment as when I watch my kids. It’s not related at all to their achievements but to the fact that they are good human beings with the right values, are happy, and in such a dysfunctional world we have managed to be there for one another and enrich each other’s lives in our own way. Nothing can compete with that or give me more pleasure,” she proudly says.
Except the youngest, Anandita, who is 20, all the De kids are adults. Anandita is presently an intern at the Taj Group of Hotels.
Ranadip is based in Singapore and has been in advertising for ten years in the creative space. Radhika, who holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Baroda, is married to an award winning sculptor and has a studio in Baroda. Aditya is an entrepreneur with business interests in restaurants and clubs. Avantikka is the Fashion Editor of Hello! She is married to an investment banker and lives in Mumbai. Arundhati lives and works in Paris with LVMH, after getting her MBA degree from Essec, Paris.
Setting priorities and realizing that compromises are a necessary part of life have been the secrets of the De’s successes, both personally and professionally.
“Very often, couples who spend their youth chasing career goals, suddenly wake up to find themselves in an isolated spot, dealing with loneliness and bad health. Success has to be seen in an overall context – how much are you willing to let go, to sacrifice, to compromise – whether in career or family terms. It’s key to recognize your priorities at the start of the career curve. Once you know those, the rest is easy. You learn to prioritize; you become a self-styled expert at time management! A sense of balance is all you need,” says Shobhaa.
Dilip feels that unfortunately that typically men are judged exclusively on the basis of their career success without considering the other equally important life factors, such as the personal and spiritual. “That is a fallacy. The measure of a man’s success has to be seen in the context of his overall growth as an individual – a family man who contributes to the well being of society at large,” stresses Dilip.
“To become truly successful, it is crucial to remain focused on your goals, personal and professional, both short and long term. Remain a seeker, a student….and shun complacency. The day you believe you know everything, is the day you stop growing,” he adds.
Dilip refers to a quote from novelist H.G. Wells who contended that wealth, notoriety, place and power are no measures of success whatsoever. “The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have been and what we have become,” Wells said.
Optimism also appears to be an essential quality for a balanced life. For example true Mumbaikars, both Shobhaa and Dilip love their city. Mumbai has bounced back from bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, floods and reckless town planning, however they remain positive. “The picture remains grim. Mainly because of a corrupt administration and the unwillingness of the aam aadmi to get more pro-active and demand reform. Despite that, I remain optimistic, Why? Because the Mumbaikar is a unique creature – adaptable and hugely accommodating. The Mumbaikar has his heart in the right place. God is great!”
Many of Shobhaa’s works exhibit a modern and changing India. Her feelings on change in society are mixed; she feels that change is not just inevitable, it is also essential. “Change is a reflection of a dynamic society that is constantly reinventing itself. Some changes are attractive and needed ( more and more educated, empowered women in the work place), others are somewhat negative ( drugs and instability within family). One has to embrace all change – not be selective about it.”
The word retirement is not in the De vocabulary. An achievement that has been quite satisfying for him, Dilip’s farms in Alibag have recently matched the flower production of Thailand, the world leaders. But his ultimate dream is to grow a blue dendrobium orchid flower in his farm at Alibag.
There are many more books to come from Shobhaa; she will be launching a new book soon and this time getting into the teen segment, an area where there are no Indian authors exploring youth living in urban India. “I want to continue writing till my last breath. It is what I find most exhilarating and challenging,” she declares.

The Allure of the Aboriginal Arts

The alluring charm of the aboriginal arts is seen throughout the Australian continent. The boat for the diving excursion on the Great Barrier Reef was more like a party than a boat ride to see one of nature’s wonders.
Lou, a native aborigine of Australia was a one man show making music with his large horn like instrument known as the didgeridoo. Lou made us laugh and got nearly everyone to learn a bit of the native dance. Art galleries are many in Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne all filled wonderful pieces of modern Aboriginal art.

One of the oldest civilizations, indigenous people of Australia date back more than 40,000 years. Nomadic tribes that were hunters had no language and used art for storytelling ceremonial purposes. The term “Aborigines” has been used in Australia to describe its indigenous peoples as early as 1789. The culture and particularly the art forms of the Aborigines have endured through the centuries, even through the dark ages of colonization. Currently they make up only 2% of the Australian population.

A feeling of an ancient time warp comes over you when you see an aboriginal painting. The fundamental focus in the arts and culture is recording of the origins of life, and is referred to as dreamtime. Resourceful ancestors are the forces that created the world with their wonderful power, wisdom and intentions. The figures that were drawn or etched were believed to come alive and protect them. According to the Aborigines, dreamtime is not an easy concept to understand as art is an integral part of the Aboriginal culture. The end products however, are beautiful exquisite pieces of art for everyone to enjoy.

The Aboriginal philosophy called Tjukurpa is founded on the laws and traditions created by their ancestors, based on the connection between man, his ancestors and his land and this philosophy encompasses the arts as an integral part.

Everywhere the ancestral beings had carried out their many tasks and significant landmarks that were formed, for example on mountains, rivers, rocks, or even bushes or trees.

Ancient Aboriginal art covered a wide medium including painting on leaves and ceremonial clothing, wood carving, rock carving, sculpture and sand painting, as well as artistic decorations found on weaponry and tools.

Being nomads roaming in extreme climatic conditions in the desert not much of the ancient art remains. There are however many interesting sites remaining in throughout Australia. In areas of flat rock surfaces rock engravings, the oldest and most lasting of the aboriginal art, can be found.

Rock paintings are mostly found in caves or shelters protecting both people and paintings from the rain. Mostly earth or natural pigments were used.

Pigments used were white clay or gypsum, yellow, red, and purple, ochres, and black obtained from charcoal. Ochre pits have been found which are over 30,000 years old and are still in use. The pigments were mixed with kangaroo or emu fat or other natural glues and then applied with fingers or a brush. Nourlangie Rock and Ubir, famous rock painting sites can be visited in Kakadu National Park.

Today there are many indigenous Aboriginal artists who work with conventional western materials such as acrylics, canvas or board to create beautiful visual effects, at the cutting edge of modern art, but who have synthesized old traditional imagery to conventional techniques.

Dreamtime based art remains an integral theme for modern artists. They also represent a new context of interaction between indigenous and western societies. Through modern art the Aboriginal people are able to introduce and express their culture to the world. Acrylic paintings are mythical representations of landscapes or conceptual maps of designs wrought by ancestors. In this tradition, paintings, dances and songs relating to the Dreamtime are repeating the work of ancestors, thus keeping the Dreaming alive.

Just like the many languages, Aboriginal art varies from place to place, from the cross hatching style on bark in Arnhem land to the contemporary dot painting on canvas in the western desert. Dot painting is one of the most common forms of Aboriginal art. Like most Aboriginal art it is more of a ritual involving secrecy, mystery and symbolism, than a purely artistic expression.

Music and Dance
The didgeridoo is the instrument that is the symbol for Aboriginal music. It is made from a log hollowed out by fire or termites. Different tube lengths (normally 100-160 cm) produce different sounds, and a player will normally have a number of instruments to choose from to suit the voice of particular singers who are being accompanied.
The didgeridoo is played by blowing through vibrating lips directly into the mouthpiece, air reserves being held in the cheeks and replenished by rapid sniffs through the nose which do not interrupt the continuous blowing. There are two playing styles, either resting on the foot or the ground.
Music is a vital part of the everyday life and Aboriginal sacred ceremonies. It is traditionally connected with important events such as the bringing of rain, healing, wounding enemies and the winning of battles. Traditional music is still practiced and performed widely along with a very strong and lively contemporary music scene.
Aboriginal music is learnt and carried on to later generations by performing it. It is not seen as fixed but rather is something that is varied or built upon in successive performances, usually with a large number of participants and performed communally. The diversity of culture across Aboriginal groups is reflected in the diversity of songs, music, instruments and techniques.
Young aboriginal children are encouraged to dance and sing about everyday tasks. At puberty a child learns the first songs about the plants and animals of their clan and the history and mythology of the group – all with different melodies. Young men also learn more lighthearted songs which are the basic entertainment for their group. When a man marries and enters further into group responsibilities, the karma songs are the central part of his education and his source of spiritual strength. His maturity can be measured in the knowledge he has acquired through songs and ceremonies.
Aboriginal music is used for formal religious ceremonies, both for women’s reproductive ceremonies the initiation ceremonies for young boys. Entertainment music is also popular. The best known form of these public events is the corroboree in which the men dance for up to three or four hours continuously while the women and children sing. Non-sacred songs were traded freely between tribes and spread easily, often crossing from one language into another.