Category Archives: LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

now there’s a nice word !

Some days ago,  I played a few rounds of the game “Hangman” with them.

Noor constructed a word that I’ll remember for a very long time.

After I’d guessed the 2 letters that made up the last 4 of the 9 letter word, the first five seemed kind of obvious. I mean, the 5 letters to come before the last 4 -which were “Mama”- would have to be “sweet”, no? Or so my eager heart wanted it to be ! But I thought I should leave the surprising and delighting of me to her, so went around the alphabet making the wrong choices so as not to “get” it in time. And I was, finally, surprised and delighted with the word anyway, for it wasn’t “sweetmama” after all but “suitemama”.


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More great music

As I searched for Jethro Tull songs on You Tube tonight, I also re-discovered “A Classic Case”, an album that features pieces of Jethro Tull’s music as played by the London Symphony Orchestra.

Very nice too…Or may be it sounds so special because it is the music I grew up on, in a way, in college.

And now of course, with Indira I am discovering and enjoying the sounds of a whole new set of singers – Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga !

Although, given the kind of visuals many of these songs come with, I am very thankful to the people who’ve created Spotify, the online radio, that this option exists ….

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The magic of Ian Anderson’s flute

Tonight, the memory of two pieces of music came back to me out of nowhere, though I haven’t heard either – “Elegy” and “Bourree”, both by Jethro Tull – in years.

The first, especially, is just sublime.  I had the girls listen to it as well, though they were in bed already. They enjoyed the chance to jump back up, mostly, but liked the music too, I think.

The pieces are available here and here.

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What was that again?

There was an amusing moment tonight as we finished dinner, when Indira said, “I like your new karela! ”

It took me a few seconds to realize that she was referring to the new karahi that I have brought back from Mumbai. But then it dawned on me that this vessel is what she had in mind, as she’d just helped me pour the ghee that I made in it this evening  in to a glass bottle.

I guess her Hindi has a way to go yet, though good on her for trying 🙂 She’s obviously picked up the name of the said vegetable during dinner table conversation in India recently, though I don’t think the girls actually ate it in any of the households we visited.

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From the other side of a long vacation

We got back this morning after a long vacation – almost six weeks in India and one in Bangkok.

It feels like it is going to take some time to settle back in. For a while this afternoon, I found myself just wandering around the apartment, not sure about where to begin or what to do.

This is the first time after a holiday like this that I did not unpack right after getting back home. In fact, after a very nice lunch of rajma chawal – thank you, Shefali ! – the girls and I slept all afternoon, which was a first for me.

That made me wonder if this is one more sign that old age is creeping up on me…. But then, later this evening I was glad to see the upside of the passage of years – children who are older too and therefore able to help me unpack and put things away. So much so that the girls even took care of the most important job for today – removing the curry leaves from their stems – I brought back a big bunch of these – so that they could be frozen without delay.

Thank you, Indira and Noor, for all your willing, good-tempered help today.

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A Rocking Kermesse 2010

Today, it was the annual kermesse – a word derived from the Dutch language– or fete in Indira and Noor’s school.

This typically involves a dance performance by every class, followed by food and games stands.

Noor’s class – the moyenne section – were adorable as they did a German polka.

Indira’s class put on an impressive act as they danced to “I’ve got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.

As I watched their well-practiced hip-hop moves, I found myself thinking that this was a far cry from the more sedate stuff we used to do in school all those years ago (cut to a memory of my classmates and me in Grade 5 or 6 or 7, holding candles on stage, dressed in white and singing “God’s love, is so beautiful…” or some such under Sister Manisha’s direction).

This afternoon was so much more fun !

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Helping Hands

Indira and Noor both love to help in the kitchen and I confess I enjoy having willing hands take on all the little chores.

On Saturday we made a carrot cake together. I took some for the baby shower we had for Ayesha at Shefali’s home on Sunday and packed the rest for gouter for the dads and children who obligingly spent the afternoon together at the park in Sophia playing tennis, while the women partied at home.

The highlight of that baking session was that Indira  peeled the carrots. She learned the technique just then but did a remarkably good job anyway.

So this morning as I peeled carrots to make salad for the boulangerie, I found myself missing that help !

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Mother’s Day 2010

Yet another Mother’s Day that they’ve made very special with their lovely cards and gifts.

Then, at lunch in a nice restaurant in the old town of Antibes, Indira startled and delighted me with her knowledge of the word rhetorical.

She asked, “What does rhetorical mean?” and then proceeded to answer the question herself. She asked if it was like a situation where the teacher might say “So who’s talking?!” when in fact the teacher knew who the culprit was.

So I wondered if the teacher had said just that, one day and then told the class that her question was rhetorical.

Then it was Noor’s turn to surprise me next, as she contributed her bit to the discussion of playground tensions in the primary section. I remember that I was quite impressed to hear her speak a couple of big words with ease that I would not have imagined she’d know how to use…it evades me now what she said exactly; I’ll ask Indira in the morning if she remembers the conversation.

I have to say I get a kick out of hearing them use their growing vocabulary. It’s amusing, it’s sweet and it’s pleasing too, that they learn and remember these big words.

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A bedtime story

The cooking I have done today for the boulangerie – boneless chicken in a yogurt and kasoori methi-flavored sauce, gobhi tamatar – will be memorable for this.

I have been working during the day, so though I managed to finish cooking the chicken this morning, I ended up making the gobhi right after we finished dinner. This meant, though, that I still hadn’t finished in the kitchen when Noor came around wanting to know who could read to her before she went to bed.

I have let Shri take care of the bedtime routine quite often in the recent past, but tonight I found myself wanting very much to share this ritual with her.

So I asked her if she would stay with me in the kitchen so we could read a story together while I cooked. She agreed and stayed by my side as I read aloud “Les Trois Petits Cochons” ,though it took a while since I was making the gobhi in two lots at the same time and I stopped every few minutes to add the spices and turn the gobhi over.

Thank you Noor, for your patience.

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Look Ma, no wheels !

Today’s the day Noor started to ride her little red cycle, for more than just a little bit, for the first time without the training wheels.

She is so pleased, as were Indira and I as we watched her go in the park this afternoon.

Fingers crossed for another sunny day tomorrow, so that we can go back to practice some more.

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Donkeys in the Springtime

That seems an improbable title for a post, but it is just what we have had in Mougins le Haut these last couple of days.

The Mairie seems to have decided to send out seven donkeys to our village, to clear up the grass that’s grown everywhere after all the rain these last few months.

The news of their impending arrival had spread already the previous day and the children were looking forward to it, so the sight of them created a lot of fun and excitement as the children all came out from school on Tuesday evening and saw them munching away on the grassy slope that runs along the road going in to school.

I thought this a great idea on more than one count. It is probably a cost-effective solution for the purpose, as well as eco-friendly (the Mairie, which is very green-minded, is advertising this measure as such- the digital display board on the side of the road that climbs up to the village says just now, “Ecologie !… ” and announces the work the donkeys are doing). And of course  the children’s delight at the whole scene makes me hope the donkeys will be back next spring too.

Here’s a picture of les’anes.

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Learning a lovely word-Kaffeeklatsch- and acknowledging an irony

I came across this word – kaffeeklatsch – for the first time just a few days ago, when a friend used it.  Though I had never encountered it before, the context in which she used it made the meaning obvious. As the Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes it here, it is an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation/gossip.

And then, in a little coincidence, I saw this very interesting article here a little while ago which describes many “mommy blogs” as a sort of kaffeeklatsch.

While this “mommy” blog, unlike some at the conference the article describes, is not trying to build a brand or monetize its’ content,  the title resonated with me because I am guilty sometimes of saying ” Honey, don’t bother Mommy…(or words to that effect)” to my daughters as I concentrate all my attention on this virtual space.

When I stop to think about it, it strikes me as a little ironical that though this blog began as a project  for and about them, it also prevents me now from conversing with my children in real time, sometimes.

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“He’s a growing boy…

…his clothes are just not keeping up, he’s a growing boy, look how he’s shooting up !”

or something like that, I think. Those were the words of a Complan or Bournvita commercial on Indian television many years ago, and I am often reminded of it each time I see that the girls’ shirt sleeves are getting shorter yet again, which means that through the long winter they have grown and so it is time to go shopping for clothes again.

I sometimes feel a little guilty, and ill-prepared, when I send them to school on a winter morning in a shirt or sweater the sleeves of which are not quite long enough to cover their arms as much as they’d like so as to be really cozy.

Then yesterday, when I was in the library with Indira’s class as they did some online research, I was amused to see that there were at least three other children whose sleeves looked as if they could definitely be longer.

So probably it happens to other mothers too, I thought, that you suddenly find yourself scrambling for clothes that fit them well !

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A walk in the park

The walkathon yesterday was just that – we did indeed walk in the Parc Valmasque (in Sophia, near the CIV)and it was a very easy trail too, so that even Noor walked 6 kms!!

The way it happened was that she and Indira and Shri did the 3 km circuit once with some of Indira’s friends and their parents, while the mother of  Indira’s friend Emmeline and I sat at the registration desk for walkers from our school.

Later, we all went together with Emmeline’s family and their two beautiful dogs Pastis and Snoopy so that was 3 km more for the children and the fathers.

Noor is ever so pleased that she has this impressive feat for us to write about in her Cahier de Vie, about this weekend.

I had thought that they’d be very tired today, especially since we  had Celine and her parents for dinner yesterday so we all slept very late last night.

But as it’s turned out, it’s me that has had an almost 3 hour nap this afternoon, while they have been up and playing as they usually do !

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Two evaluations, both aced

I get a little kick out of Indira’s grammar evaluations – usually always more than good – in both the French as well as the English curriculums.

She is the only child in her class with parents who are neither French nor from any of the usual English-as-the-first-language countries.

So I was particularly chuffed with the 60/60 she made on a fairly long test they had in English grammar before these holidays began.  She was, in fact, the only one in her class who got that score.

Noor had a super report too; their class – the moyen section – got their first evaluations of the year and she’s got a green dot (which means skill or concept “well-acquired” as opposed to not, or in the process of) on all the parameters there are in the very detailed, four page report.

Good going, girls!

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A Perfect Cup of Tea

As I write this – indeed it is the reason I am writing this – I am drinking a cup of very well-made tea.

The really significant thing here is that it is the first cup of tea that Indira has ever made for me all by herself. So that is a memory of today I want to preserve.

As I vacuumed this morning I debated whether to ask Shri or her to make me my second cuppa of the morning. Then I remembered that Indira put together her own tea last night at the table- to drink with dessert after dinner at the home of their schoolmate Katia (who lives with her parents Maria and Louis on the first floor) – quite carefully.

So I decided that perhaps we can now move on to letting her handle the electric kettle as well, since she has helped Shri and me with all the other steps several times.

And she has in fact done this very well indeed and got the amount of milk exactly right too.

Ever since the girls were quite little, I have said to them often -and only half in jest – that I look forward to them being old enough that I can ask them to make for me the endless cups of tea I like to drink everyday.

Thank you Indira, I have waited years for this, it is very special !

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Home-made Butter

Our experience with this is here

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An idea that won’t go away….

This is an idea/dream I have had for years -one that keeps coming back to me every once in a while- that I’d like to run a salon de the style café or restaurant or a catering service of some kind.

It is hard work, so I keep asking myself why I would do this. I guess the answer is that I genuinely enjoy cooking and introducing people to “real” Indian food of the every day sort, as well as the  fascinating variety in Indian cuisines, which is so often not what most Indian restaurants offer.

I wonder if I’ll ever actually take that plunge; in the meanwhile I am testing out the waters by supplying Indian food once a week to the local boulanger and the food I provided him for 10 people (dhokla, aloo tikkis, tandoori chicken, green chutney, carrot salad and chole) last Tuesday sold out very quickly.

Since the girls are always so appreciative of all my cooking efforts, I split my takings from this first time with them and this has won me several points with them 🙂

Fingers crossed for next week now !


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The Snowy South of France

Yes it’s winter, but in my 11 years here I have never seen this much snow here in one day.

The girls were delighted with this opportunity to play in the snow right here in the village, in the park. One family ventured out even while the snow was still coming down lightly and built a snowman.

Even now, after a calm night and a very sunny morning, there is barely a dent in the 3 inch high pile of snow on our terrace and the girls are having the time of their lives making shapes in it and building up little forms with plastic boxes from the kitchen.

Winter wonderland, indeed !

11th February - in the afternoon

the family that ventured out first to build the snowman

the next morning - our terrace and beyond(Noor's rocking horse is completely snowed under-the little bump to the right)

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Singin’ in the Rain? Be careful how you dress!

Last week when Indira was at her flute lesson, Noor and I watched the “zoobie doobie” song – from the recent Bollywood film “3 Idiots”-  again on YouTube.

I had seen the film recently and just loved this song, so we watched it together one evening while eating dinner.

Noor did not say anything that day but last week when she watched it with me again, she said -when it gets to the bit where Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor are standing on the swing while it rains – “Mama, they don’t feel cold? They shouldn’t really be wearing those clothes in the rain !!”

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Shhh…It’s a birthday surprise…

Noor did the sweetest thing as we walked to pick up Indira from her dance class on Wednesday afternoon this week.

She began to tell me her plans for the card she intended to make for Shri’s birthday- which is round the corner – and I listened with half an ear until I suddenly realized that she was whispering ! And in fact she continued to whisper to me for the next few minutes, describing the color scheme and her ideas for hiding it from him until the morning of his birthday. I thought that was just the most adorable thing, that though he was not in hearing distance she felt the secret could only be whispered. So I found myself whispering back too, to acknowledge that I had heard and understood what she planned to do.

And tonight she helped me bake a cake for him – I depend on them now to bring out many of the ingredients and to do some of the mixing; it really makes the job easier and less mechanical to have one of them by my side – while he was away at the music school with Indira.  I’ll post the picture here after the formal cake-cutting ceremony.

Here it is

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A pleasurable afternoon

We woke up yesterday at 10am- after a very late night at Ayesha and Naiyer’s- to a light snowfall.

The view from our window yesterday morning

It was such a lovely sight and it  had the girls all enthused about going to one of the ski slopes not too far away to play in the snow.

But it turned out to be only just a flurry that stopped soon. The sun came out, in all it’s glory, by noon and it was another clear, gorgeous, warm day after all.

So after a late lunch we went for a long,leisurely walk in the Valmasque ( a large, forested area that extends across Valbonne and Mougins) which the girls enjoyed very much. I realized then that it has been a long time since we did this sort of thing with them and we have all resolved to make the most of spring and summer and go for such walks often.

This part of the forest is where I walk sometimes – the trail begins a five or ten minutes walk away from home – when the girls are in school, so I was pleased to take them there yesterday and that they enjoyed it as much as I do.

The beginning of my trail

Two cyclists who rode past me this afternoon

It is probably too early but it feels like spring is in the air, with that pretty splash of red

The table I hope to come to with Shri and the girls for breakfast next weekend

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Fun In The Sun

It was a beautiful winter morning – warm sun and a clear blue sky. As the three of us walked back today at noon from the dance studio after Noor’s class, I asked them on impulse if they’d like to play in the park for a while and they of course agreed most happily.

So I sat on a bench and soaked in the warmth of the sun while they played marelle and ate their clementines.

Here’s looking forward to more such blissful mornings and afternoons. The next time I might even join their game of marelle; I don’t remember what we called this game when I was in school but I do remember that I played it all the time, much as Indira and her friends seem to do, so it was very nostalgic to see the two of them play it today.

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A difficult – but very pleasing ! – word

The two “sh” sounds in conscientious have always made me think of it as a difficult word to pronounce and in fact this has sometimes made me opt for a synonym.

But yesterday I was only too pleased to say it aloud as I read through Indira’s first term evaluation report from school and discussed it with her.

For Mrs. Guez says Indira is that sort of student, among the other nice things she has written about her and her work 🙂

Well done, Indira !

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Discovering Scrabble

Indira and I played our first game together today 🙂

Julia, the teacher for the French curriculum, asks them to make words on their little white boards, every once in a while,  with 10 letters she gives them at random. This has piqued Indira’s interest in Scrabble and since she is obliged to stay at home all this week – Dr. Galliano’ orders due to an ear infection and a stomach infection she’s developed which are very contagious, he says – she asked me this morning if we could play a game of Scrabble together.

I was only too pleased to be able to take out the board and dust it off after all these years !

She enjoyed the game, even won it (98 points to my 96, albeit with some help :-)) and helped me make a nice word too ( I was going to make “fled” but she spotted the “I” among my tiles and suggested that I could make “field” instead).

Here’s looking forward to more.

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Vegetarian for a Day…

While I don’t think I am for cultured meat (which is what the story below is about), the first video there , which shows how they separate those poor little chicks from their shells on a separator tray, makes me think about becoming a vegetarian; or at least that I must never again buy industrially produced chicken

This reminds me of how Noor declared some months ago that she was going to become vegetarian.

The girls were watching me skin pieces of chicken, before I marinated them in preparation for  tandoori chicken that I was planning to make for dinner guests the next day. The sight of a little bit of blood still visible on the leg pieces seemed to affect Noor enough for her to make this statement.

She actually resisted eating the chicken with the rest of us the next day, and even the day after that I was unable to tempt her with the leftovers.

Since then,  though she has gone back to her meat-eating ways, every once in a while she does state her intention to become a vegetarian one of these days.

Indira’s reaction to the whole thing is more objective/prosaic. She said to me once, when she was 6 or 7 I think, “Well I am sure there are lots of chickens in the world and it’s not as if we are killing all of them !”

Spoken like the meat-lover that she is 🙂

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, The Food Police says...

All About Alliterations

Are they just exceedingly common – like the three or four on most pages of a book called “Legend of Dirty Bert the Bandit” – or did the one in the title of this post come about because I am thinking alliteratively today?!

Sonu Bua – the family’s English language champ – could probably tell us about that.

But now to the point of this post.

I still remember the day- many years ago now –  when I first started to fall in love with the English language; it was when Sister Manisha pointed out the alliterations in a poem we were studying in class (it might have been grade 4 or 6, or class 4 or 6, as it is known in India but I am not sure).

So it has been such a pleasure – and a nostalgic “how time flies” feeling – to see Indira pick out, quite easily, all the alliterations in the afore-mentioned book as she does her holiday homework this morning.

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A Weekend with Calinours

Noor’s teacher, Natalie, has introduced a cute little tradition. She has got a bear for the class -since they have been reading and learning about bears this term- called Calinours who visits the home of one of the classmates each weekend. Last weekend it was Noor’s turn and she was thrilled to bits.

We took him with us to the park here in MLH where he went on the slide as well , the girls introduced him to all the other animals in their menagerie,  Indira even tried to feed him her cereal.

Noor read him a story (about bears, biensur !) and he sat through at least 15 repetitions, so I was glad that she finally got the patient audience that she doesn’t find in me.

Good for you, Calinours !

calinours,laddoo,diwali 037

calinours,laddoo,diwali 001 calinours,laddoo,diwali 027

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More Pertinent Questions-Learning about History

Today, when we talked about the time line of humanity’s history (Indira and her class are learning about in their French curriculum) from Prehistoire to L’Antiquite, Moyenne Age, Renaissance, Monarchie Absolue and L’Epoque Contemporain we discussed the idea that events are referred to as B.C and A.D and why (and the French terms for the same) and the fact that the starting point of our present day calendar is the time of Christ’s birth.

And she said “but why not from prehistoire? we know that people have been living on earth since then so why do we not include that time? ”

I though that a good question and it reminded me of an ad campaign in the year 2000 , it was I think.

When most of the world was celebrating the second millenium, the Egyptian Tourism Board ran a commercial which said, “welcome to 5000 years of civilization” or words to that effect.

It’s all relative 🙂

And while googling about the Gregorian calendar just now, I found a great site called with an amusing discussion along the lines of the question Indira asked –

She also wanted to know why it was the Europeans who discovered America (in 1492, I think her lecon says) who decided that the land they had found would be called America.

Did the people who lived there already not mind? What did they call the place? How could someone else decide what the place was to be known as?

I started to tell her that yes there was a native population but that might have become a whole new conversation (What happened to them?) so I stopped.

I guess children eventually learn too that history is written by the victors, but in the meanwhile this sensibility and instinct for what is logical and fair/ just/right is very nice to see.

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Evolution, and The God Question

Once again today, I found myself  struggling to discuss with Indira a vast subject that I know only a very little about, but that she is naturally curious to understand.

It all started with a picture of  homo erectus on a page of her French grammar book.  The picture  is there to illustrate a sentence containing a particular verb but it sent us off in a whole different direction, with evolution rather than conjugation becoming the subject of discussion.

She asked why/how people have changed as they do from prehistoric times to then the in-between times to now and I explained that this was called evolution, a process of adaptation to the environment. We then ended up talking about how humans spread to other parts of the world from Africa, that they once had as much body hair as chimps and monkeys (“eeew!”); why giraffes are said to have long necks; the reason that melanin levels – and therefore skin darkness – varies among say Indians and whiter skinned Europeans; the fact that humans were once animals that walked on all fours and gradually began to stand – and thus the name homo erectus; etc. This last part though she seemed to know already, having seen pictures of that progression in some book.

After a while though I told her we ought to get back to the grammar homework, since evolution would take a lot longer to get our heads around !

It was quite a coincidence then, to come across this set of two essays on the evolution v/s divine creation debate

fascinating ….

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Another win for Jenny’s Famous Carrot Cake !

Indira invited her class mates – and Elizabeth, from CM1 (the year after CE2), and petite Emilie, a little girl in Noor’s class who Indira loves and who loves Indira too – to La Petite Ferme for her birthday party on Sunday the 13th.

They provide a cake and drinks there in their restaurant and we’d asked for the chocolate cake which turned out to be really excellent.

But I had taken some carrot cake in any case, because Alicia, one of Indira’s classmates, is allergic to chocolate.

And I am glad I took enough so that each of them had a couple of pieces (though how I wished I had taken more, or larger pieces), because they  all enjoyed it so much more than the chocolate cake !!

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Talking about what happened on September 11, 2001

It’s been 8 years, but I still remember watching the images on television of the WTC falling. The first few seconds I don’t think I was able to quite comprehend what was happening, or believe, or get my head around those pictures.

Indira was only 5 days old that day and I remember feeling so  scared and despondent that for all its’ progress the world could still on occasion be a dangerous and uncertain place.

Then yesterday, when she asked me, after having picked up some talk on the subject in the school play ground, why September 11 was a sad day for American people, I found myself unprepared to answer her question though it has been 8 years. But I will talk to her, this weekend, to explain just what happened and why – for it is important that she knows and understands – and this essay

will help me arrange my thoughts.

Moina Noor, the person who has written it tells of her experience so simply and with such integrity and very much from the heart.  I found it very moving and was able to relate completely to how she must feel as a  mother dealing with the issue.

She says at the end  “….I explained that good and bad exists in every group, even your own…”  which, I think, is the essence of what we all need to understand.

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A Journey of Discovery

The questions come so fast, and from so many different angles, I find it tough to keep up with them. Not that I could anyway, by way of answers.

What an experience this is, to see Indira trying to figure the world out.

Every time I start to tell them a little bit about anything, it quickly becomes a conversation I find myself struggling to cope with !

When we were in Mercantour last week, I forget how it started but I began to tell them once again (as I had first done when we saw the shroud – or to be accurate, the replica of it, since the original is locked away  – in Turin earlier this year) the parts I know of the story of Christianity, that some people say Jesus was the son of God, that he was killed (and that the use of the cross was a common method of the time) by some who thought he was becoming too powerful because his followers were growing in number, etc.

That and other conversations see them, especially Indira, asking the most pertinent questions, but ones that I am so ill-equipped to answer.

So where does God live?Does he really know everything?  Has anyone seen him? Can anyone see him?

She has never questioned that different people pray to different Gods – I like it that she accepts this as a given – but she does seem to wonder if there is a God at all.

Who makes the trees and the animals? How were the stars and the sun and the earth created? Was it God?

I said some people think so yes- for even if if there was something that the earth and the sun are formed out of, as scientists say happened, then who created that which came before, some people ask? So maybe that was God’s work, but then there are others who are not so sure.

At which point Shri arrived with the car so I was relieved to end by saying that they would have to wait to be older, to read about these things since I only knew as much as I had told them, though Noor seemed keen to pursue the conversation about Jesus and how come he was so wise.

Then tonight, at dinner, as Indira watched Shri and me add some sea salt to the soup  (the girls , bless them, seem not to have noticed that I added too little while cooking the soup) –

so how come there’s salt mixed up in the water in the sea? where does it come from? how do they take the salt out of the water? There is so much else that is mixed up in sea water ( not all of it clean, is her concern) so how come the salt is finally white?

Later, since she wanted to read “La Nature”  at bedtime, once again there was this flurry of questions, because she wanted to read the part that talks about how the earth came in to being.  To make things difficult for me, the book mentions the Big Bang and how things were in a molten state for millions of years after that , before cooling down to form rocks that then fused together to form larger bodies such as planets.  I have asked Indira to not worry about that bit  for now, but to  keep reading about these things so  that eventually when she is older she will be able to understand some part of this very complex theory.

But then –

How hot is 6000 degrees C( the temperature, according to the book, at the centre of the earth), exactly? So we talked about how the temperature of boiling water is already high enough to burn a person and the centre of the earth is 60 times that. But I struggle to convey the magnitude of such numbers, or indeed wrap my own head around them….

Also –

If there are all these other planets in our and other galaxies, then how come no one lives on them?

And – this is the one that I simply loved , because it seems such a logical question to ask – if they can’t be lived on, then why are all these planets there?

Wonder how creationists/intelligent design types would answer that one !

So I told her yes there are scientists who believe there are bound to be other planets in space, with earth-like conditions that perhaps support some form of life.

She then moved on to  –

Who decided that continents will be called continents and that they are made up of countries?

Why’s a lamp called a lamp and not some other word?

So how come there are so many different languages? Why do some people speak French, some English and some Japanese?

I have explained a little about how there are several different fields of science that study each of her questions, including how mankind developed speech and language, the growth of different languages and the connections between them (language is a subject that seems to really exercise her mind these days). She nodded knowledgeably as I  listed again the different areas of study – biology, archaeology, linguistics, chemistry etc; she seems to know that there are people whose job involves digging up dinosaur bones from the ground.

I can’t say I remember wondering about the world like this when I was their age, so it is quite fascinating to witness  their journey of discovery.

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Traditional Toffee at Confiserie Florian

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Like the Verrerie visit (to the factory in Biot where they demonstrate the technique of glass blowing at the beginning of the holidays which we did with Novairah and Zohair, the girls really enjoyed the afternoon we spent at the Confiserie Florian at Pont du Loup ( last week .  Zohair was with us too and I think they were all fascinated by  the bonbon-making process. They seemed very struck by the sight of real rose petals and violette flowers – among other flowers and fruits – being used to create the flavors, as much as by the molding machine.

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The browsing and tasting in the boutique was good fun too 🙂

Surprisingly, the kids liked the jams more than the toffees. And by unanimous choice, we all picked the rose jam to bring back with us.

Shri said that one of the confitures he tasted was “just like murabba” . Which made me wonder if kids in India know any more that delicious fruit confiture of our own.  My mother did make delicious  murabba with carrots and amla when we were in school, but I don’t think she does any more.

Probably a good thing too, given all the sugar that goes in to it !

But I guess I still seek the taste of those preserves made from traditional recipes, in which one could actually taste the fruit,  so that most commercially prepared jams just don’t work for me.

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violette bonbons, coated in sugar, ready for packing

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rose-flavored bonbons as they come out from the molding machine;the truncated finger is perhaps the hidden cost of hand-made?

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the pate, after it has been cooled and cut in to those smaller pieces with the scissors in the picture, before it is put through the molding machine

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For the folks at Balenciaga…We’d like that in white, please

this is another precious memory to record.

we were walking back late last night along the Croisette in Cannes, after watching the first of the annual fireworks-competition shows on the beach.

The Balenciaga store was still brightly lit, and there was this gorgeous grey and pink gown on display, one of those things that is made to fit and flow beautifully and Indira looked at that and said

“that is what I am going to wear for my wedding”….

For most of the rest of the walk back to the car, we talked about whether a white model of the dress would be nicer, since it would be a wedding dress, and whether silver or white shoes would be better.

Interesting conversation, that 🙂

I did feel compelled to end – just felt I ought to, had to !! – by pointing out that it was anyway too early to be making up one’s mind or worrying about wedding dresses, that there was a long time to go yet.

But very good taste, I must say, it was a really beautiful dress. Wish I had had the camera to take a picture; am sure the designers at Balenciaga would not have minded ! And we’d have a record of what she’d like, in white, in  time to come.

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Finance 101

As we said ‘bye to B, Nani, Boudi, Ruhin and Rehaan at the airport last Sunday, the girls apparently got a generous 10 Euros each from their Mamu.

Indira was delighted that I said this meant we could buy the trousse (soft pencil case) for her that she has wanted for some weeks now but that I have been saying is too expensive (part of the “Didl” range of toys that are so popular here, the trousse was marked at about 9,95Euros when I checked a few weeks ago in Jouet Club).

Then yesterday evening, as I did my weekly shopping at Carrefour, I saw quite a pretty trousse – though a generic one – in purple which is one of the colors Indira likes a lot. What’s more, it was priced at only 3 Euros. So when the girls came with Shri to pick me up, I showed it to Indira and suggested that since it was pretty enough, buying it instead of the “Didl” brand would mean she’d have a nice trousse, and 7 Euros left over for her piggy bank.

She agreed very readily, without demur,which was very gratifying.  I think she got the point; though she does say that having this balance means she can get other things she wants, she also intends to limit those next purchases to 2-3 Euros, so that she’ll be left over with 4 or 5 Euros still.

That, I like to think, is a start…

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Le Futted Ballon

There is a balloon story now about each of the girls and they will always make me laugh.

A few days ago while the girls ate their gouter, Noor was describing to me how her teacher tried to inflate a balloon, and how a little boy in her class came and poked it at so hard that, she said,  ” Mama and then the balloon burped !!”

Indira and I looked at each other and grinned, because we both understood that she got that word mixed up with burst. Noor thought, I suppose, that we’d found the story very amusing so hoping to make us laugh some more she said again with a dramatic fling of her hands, “and the balloon burped!! ”

The story about this balloon reminded me about another one that burst some years ago, this time at Indira’s hands.

She was only four then, and more prone than she is now to mix up her English, Hindi and French.

When her balloon burst at Pizza Hut one day, she ran to me saying anxiously, “Maman, le ballon is futted!!”

That will always be one of my fondest memories of Indira’s childhood 🙂

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An enduring tradition

Yesterday, Indira’s classmate Nicky spent the day with us.

In the afternoon, the girls seemed to be getting a little bored so I asked if they’d like to help me bake something for their gouter.

They agreed happily and we made a carrot cake together.

The unexpected pleasure for me  was that after I had finished pouring the cake mix in to the baking pan, Nicky asked for two spoons so she and Indira could scrape off what was left in the mixing bowl. Indira and Noor always love a little lick – sometimes more than one – of the batter too but they have never asked for the bowl !

As they sat on the sofa, licking the remnants off their spoons as they watched some television, it reminded me of the time Dada -my father-in-law – did the same with what was left in a pot which I had used to make kheer, after the kheer itself has been taken out in to a serving bowl; Shri does the same with the masala and crispy or slightly burnt bits of subzi left sticking to the sides of a karahi in which the subzi has been cooked.

In an era of Nintendo DSs, it is good and reassuring to see that some things stay the same 🙂

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A grade that pleases

In her first term evaluation, in the part that covers the french portion of the curriculum Indira has got an A for language orale and an A+ for


I must say that is a source of some pride to me, since she is after all a trilingual child and one whose parents speak no French with her.  I do try and get her to read the occasional storybook in French that we pick up at the  local bibliotheque, but am always worried that this can’t be enough since she doesn’t even watch any television in the local language, except the Disney channel on the weekend.

So those grades, from a new teacher who is very demanding in the pace and standards she sets, have been very reassuring.

My father would have been pleased too.  He was a man who delighted in words. He loved to challenge us with little vocabulary tests at meal times, pushed us to always try and find just the right word to express a thought or idea or situation, and had a great command of the three languages he spoke – Hindi, English and Urdu.

So I like to think that he would taken pleasure in Indira’s little achievement too.

Bravo, Indira, and let’s keep reading.

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A question of gender-Man vs. Woman

Yesterday, Indira was browsing through a book about the history of ballet and she stopped to ask what evolution means. I tried to explain that it conveys the idea of how things and people change/grow/learn. I gave her the example of pre-historic man’s evolution to our current way of life , with the discovery and learning along the way of  fire, cultivation of food plants, sheltered habitats, invention of progressively faster means of transport, and other such milestones.

All of which together, I told her, is described as the evolution of man.

To which she said, being ever quick to spot a nuance, “Why do we say ‘man’? What about girls?”

I told her that the term is generic, used to encompass all humanity. And indeed a quick google-check of the etymology of the word would indicate that ‘man’, which probably comes to us from similar words in ancient languages (manu in Sanskrit and Avestan, mannaz in proto-Germanic) did in fact mean ‘human being’ originally and only much later did it begin to mean the male gender specifically.

But I was amused by this very prompt parsing of words.Just another logical thought, or might this mean there is a small spark of feminism here ?!

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A seven year old voice of reason

After the unsettling,upsetting, horrible events of last week in Mumbai, a conversation with Indira this weekend really lifted my heart.

On Sunday afternoon, she was reading aloud a story to me from her French reading practice book for this week when she stopped, and looking puzzled, said,  “What’s a temple?”  This startled me, but only for a few seconds.

She has never been inside a temple – there aren’t any in this part of France nor have we ever taken her to one during our holidays in India – and Shri and I are not the practicing kind of Hindus who have talked much about religion, or any associated rituals or traditions, to the girls, though they do know their Gayatri mantra and about Ganeshji.

I was not too surprised, therefore, that temples are a concept she does not understand very clearly. She’s only ever seen one in picture books, on the page showing different places of worship, and had probably forgotten all about it.

So I explained again that it is a place for prayer, like a church, since she has seen more than one of those here. This then led to us talking about Christmas (very much on her mind now that she has finished writing an elaborate letter to Pere Noel which begins with her expressing much appreciation for his yearly efforts and thoughtfulness in bringing so many gifts for people everywhere, and ends with a long list of requests for presents for her and Noor for this Christmas)  and how it celebrates the birth of Jesus.

Since we were on the subject anyway, I quickly took her again through the periodic, cursory discussion I have with her about how different people pray to differently-named Gods, and that this is what gives rise to the fact of different religions and places of worship.

This is a discussion I tend to be chary of. I suppose I am uncertain how much detail to go into or withhold, to strike the balance between making her aware of the facts that I think one should learn as one grows up so as not to be clueless about different ways of being, without leading her to see them as differences that matter.

I guess the recent trouble in Mumbai was still very much on my mind because while we talked, I mentioned that unfortunately our differences of faith can sometimes lead to argument and fights.

And she said, “Well, I’ll just pray to all the Gods”.

That was such a “Mais voila!! ” moment for me.  I told her that was really just the perfect approach, IMO, and we did a high-five to acknowledge the simplicity and rightness of that solution.

There is something else she once said,about a year ago when we talked about the same subject, which has stayed with me – “Since they are all Gods, then wherever they live surely they must all be friends?”

I remember thinking that this was just such a logical idea.

So what about us, then? Why can’t we stop fighting and killing each other?

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This week in our history…

Barack Obama has deservedly won a historic election. Though I found myself wishing, as I watched the media focus so much attention after his victory on the country of his father’s birth, that they would also then stop to acknowledge that it is his mother and her family who played the far more important role in his becoming the person who has been able to get to where he is today. As he has said himself about his mother “What is best in me I owe to her”.

But, other than that minor gripe, what a fantastic thing to happen. As I wrote to someone I discussed this with, this has been an event that for me has made America after a long time seem the place it is supposed to be, not the place it has appeared to become in the last few years.

Also very heartening is the fact that Mr. Obama won 66% of the youth vote , or those between 18-29 years of age. Looking ahead, this gives me confidence that the America my daughters may travel to later in their lives, for work or study or both will be a more fair-minded, more color blind place than it is today.

Closer home, Indira has been reading “Grown-ups make you Grumpy” to me.


They get one book each week from their teacher, to bring home for reading practice.

This one is about the humor in some common phrases.

We have had fun discussing how when the teacher says ” Come on Jack pull your socks up !!” she means to get sharp and do your work, not to literally pull your socks up, and when Mom says “I’ll put the kettle on”, she doesn’t mean she’ll put it on her head, but that she’ll boil water in it.

Today at bedtime Noor “read” to me again every page in that little book in the picture -Ma petite voiture rouge– verbatim, from having heard Indira and me read it to her a few times. it is a just such a pleasure, I must say, to hear her do that, and say even the bigger words like silenceusement so clearly 🙂

Not too long ago, she used to call a boulangerie a “boonjali”, and said “rimberer” for remember.

I feel a pang in my heart for the babyhood she is leaving behind…

And on the subject of food – this Saturday, I made a very interesting,spicy dish called Achari Paneer for our guests who came to dinner; and some Besan vali Moongfali ; a very quick-to-cook (albeit not very healthy on account of it being deep-fried) starter to munch while the early arrivals waited for the rest.

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I wish this rainbow would stay awhile…

It has rained without much let up these last few days, and each time the girls and I went for a walk in the rain, (they love to do this, dressed for the weather in wellies and raincoats and holding their little umbrellas over their heads) Noor asked, “Mama why isn’t there a rainbow in the sky?” Indira, being the older and therefore the wiser/all-knowing told her very knowledgeably each time that first it needed to stop raining and the sun to come out.

Well this afternoon finally it did – i.e it stopped raining and the sun came out and now there is this HUGE  rainbow across the sky.

But Indira has gone for the day to a friend’s home and Noor is having her nap. And I am feeling so sad that neither of them is with me right now. Somehow rainbows make you want to have everyone around to exclaim over them !

I can’t get the camera to work either, so I can’t record this for them, which is another bummer because I know the rainbow will be gone by the time Noor wakes up.

I hope Indira at least will have seen it from Uma’s house.

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Look who’s cookin’ !!!

Noor was home, bored and moping a couple of days ago, while Indira was at her music lesson.

So I suggested to her that she could help me make the paranthas for dinner.  She of course promptly brought out her little apron and settled down on the kitchen floor with her own little rolling pin and board.

She did a pretty good job of rolling them out,I thought; what say you?!

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Empty Nest Syndrome, already

It is the first day that Noor has gone back to school, for the afternoon session, after eating her lunch with me at home. And I find myself a little – forlorn.

It was easier for me to deal with the transition when Indira started to go in the afternoons, back when she was in maternelle (kindergarten). I guess because I had so much to do then, and so little time, since Noor was just a six month old baby.

And Indira had had a tough time getting used to going to school even only for the morning sessions; so it was actually a relief when she started to go in the afternoons as well- it was a sign that she had finally adapted/integrated.

But this afternoon, as I handed Noor over to her teacher at the door of the dortoire (it is the place where the little ones nap), I found myself overwhelmed with that same familiar urge to cry that I have experienced on other similar occasions – when I said bye-bye to Indira outside her maternelle her very first morning there, 4 years ago now; when I walked back after dropping her off on her first day at her then-new primary scool last year. I was really worried that she would have to start the process of making friends, making a place for herself all over again -though as it turned out, she did just fine and is absolutely happy there now.

But Noor seems more than ready for this step, and I am sure that I too will quickly come to treasure these 3 quiet hours I will have each afternoon to myself.

There will be no interruption at 2.30 or 3pm, which is the time when Noor usually finishes her nap and comes to me. And yet that interruption has been welcome too; it meant that I had a legitimate excuse to stop work to either play with her, or to start on household chores, since that is one more way to keep her occupied- to ask her to help and give her some little task to do.

But today, this first day, I find myself wishing that I had put this off just a little bit longer…

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About “Cuisine du Monde” Day, in school

I went this morning to complete Noor’s registration at the kindergarten – she will start there in September – that Indira went to as well.

It was a good feeling to go back and meet the teachers again; it is a typical, small, village school, with a very warm, friendly and “familial” atmosphere.

One of their really interesting annual traditions is “Cuisine Du Monde” or world cuisine day . They ask, for this event, all the parents to contribute a food typical of their home country. The first time I participated when Indira attended this school, I remember the children spent the morning tasting paella, sushi, tiramisu, brioche, zlabia, and then went back to their classrooms to identify each of the countries they had tasted the foods of, on a globe. They colored in their respective home countries on a world map, learnt to identify those of their classmates, and exclaimed over the fact that much of the earth is covered in water.

How cool a Geography 101 lesson is that!!

My own contribution that year was coconut laddoos, and potato-tuna cutlets for which I got the recipe from Jinia. Both were big hits. Many of the other mothers asked me for the recipes –always a good sign 🙂

Perhaps I’ll make the same things again for Noor’s class too, at this year’s world cuisine day.

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The Beginning – Diwali,2007

That seems like a good place to begin this blog.

As I did when Indira was in her last year of kindergarten,  last Diwali too I decided that I would send some Indian sweets to the girls’ schools. I hoped to introduce the festival to their friends and teachers, and to encourage the girls to share the excitement at home -over the puja, the fire crackers, and the annual potluck with all our Indian friends – with their friends in school. They are so crazy about Christmas, I guess I want them to be equally enthused about Diwali as well.

So I made some shakkarparas, and some gajar ka halwa, for the teachers and children of Indira’s class and for those in Noor’s playschool.

I was quite overwhelmed by the delighted response from both places. Both the shakkarparas and the halwa were big successes in both schools; Indira’s teacher got all the kids in class to make a thank you card for me that I’ll cherish forever.

And the real icing on the cake that day? I found, when I went to pick up Indira that day, that her teacher had in fact bought a book about Diwali , with lovely pictures, on her last trip to England and was planning to tell the class about the festival in any case !!

The picture here is of the rangoli done outside the door of our apartment by our friend Sumitha. While I watched in admiration as Sumitha made the pattern on the floor with rice flour so effortlessly, I was also amused by the utterly fascinated look on Indira’s face as she watched Sumitha at work. That made all the organization for the potluck worthwhile.

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