Monday, January 31, 2011

Two more portraits done recently.

This is a portrait of Dhara Sampat which a good friend of hers, Sabarish, commissioned me to do. It was a complete surprise for Dhara. The photographs had been emailed to me by him and I began working on it. Dhara had absolutely no clue. He then gifted it to her  and she was totally speechless. She later spoke to me and told me that she is a HUGE HUGE fan of my work. (Thank you Dhara--you absolutely made my day!) She totally loved the portrait.

This was her reaction in her own words:

Thank you, Thank you Thank you Preeti Shenoy for THE BESTESTTTTT GIFT ever!!! I cantttt stop smiling (Guess m gonna continue smiling in my sleep too) :) Loved the potrait, Loved the message and cant wait to read the book - all over again :) - Lots of love and Alll the very best!

The second portrait which appears here was done for a friend. It is a portrait of her dad whom she lost, a few months ago. She had spoken to me a couple of months back, about wanting to commission me, but I had decided already to surprise her and thanks to Facebook, I managed to get a reference photo without her knowing at all.

Satish and I gift wrapped it and gave it to her.She had no clue what it could be--she had presumed it was probably a painting of a landscape or some such thing.
It was a completely emotional moment for both of us, as she unwrapped the portrait. 

To me, this is Art--the ability to touch people's lives with my pictures, the ability to capture a likeness so well and to simply delight the recipient and leave them over-joyed.

Incidentally, I hold an Internationally recognised qualification in portraiture (from the UK) and had worked really hard to obtain it.(It was something I had always wanted to learn and when I got a chance to do this course, I grabbed it. ) Even in sub zero temperatures, I used to never miss a single class. I had to walk about 25 minutes to class, trudging over snow, wrapped up from head to toe in layers and layers of clothing, lugging my  heavy portfolio and art materials. My hands used to be numb (despite the gloves). My face and lips used to be frozen. Once I entered the classroom, I used to never know how the hours sped. Most of the time we had live models and  we had to work really quickly to get a good likeness. We were trained what to look for and were guided so well. I am grateful to my tutor Karen Conroy who is an outstanding artist herself. Her work really inspired me and motivated me to work harder and harder. I kept pushing myself.

Many a time I used to be frustrated (oh, it was a very tough course. We had sooooo much to do!) and Satish would keep telling me that I would eventually get it. He would keep encouraging me to try harder.He was (and remains) my 'guide'.(I would be so lost without him). After most classes, I just couldn't wait to get home to show him my picture.I would reach home only by and he would have put the kids to bed, after giving them dinner and he would usually have a hot soup ready for me to thaw my frozen bones. (yeah, I know, he is a real sweetheart this guy.)

Another of my closest friends too would listen to me patiently on the phone (we usually spoke when I was walking back from class) when I would moan and sob and whine about how my picture wasn't good enough (sometimes)  and what the problem was and which media I found difficult. Sometimes I would talk about how delighted I was with a picture.If it was all Greek and Latin to him and if he was bored to death about my going on and on, he was gracious enough to never show it :-)

Now,  when people compliment me about my portraits and tell me I am talented I just smile and say thanks, because it is so hard to explain how much of work has really gone into it.

For my other portraits click here .

[ If you want a pencil portrait  as a unique  gift to that special someone, I do accept commissions.  I work from high resolution photos  which can be e-mailed to me. I use Extra smooth Bristol Board 100% acid free, A3 size paper which is of the highest professional quality (and it will last for centuries). You can mail me (on ps at preetishenoy dot com ) for rates and other details, if you are interested.]

Friday, January 28, 2011

Looking younger than one's years

Some people look much younger than their actual age  and some people look so much older. With a 'youth obsessed society' the former might seem an enviable option, what with scientists conducting successful experiments in mice to reverse ageing  (I don't think it made an iota of difference to the mice though :-)), but it does come with its own set of problems, which might seem comical to the ones who do not go through it.

One of my favourite cousins, a single working mum, who lives in the U.S,  looks a lot younger than she actually is. She is 43 now (and yes that is her very recent picture on the left! Isn't she gorgeous? :-)) and she really looks like her daughter's older sister.When she was about 36, she had taken her daughter to Disneyland (USA) and they were giving balloons to the children who were visiting--and yeah--you guessed it--they gave her a balloon as they presumed she was a teen! I laughed my head off, when I heard of the incident  :-)

When I was in the UK (a couple of months back) , an animal rights activist  rang my doorbell. After explaining his cause very enthusiastically, he then gave me a form and a brochure, and enquired politely if there was anyone who could sign for it. The penny did not immediately drop and I said I would sign, whereupon he cleared his throat a bit embarrassed and said someone older than 25 had to sign.

When I had tried to buy liquor in the UK, they asked me for proof of age. (They are very strict there now about not selling alcohol to those under 25 unless ID proof which shows age is produced)

To me, it is mildly flattering and  hugely amusing. I have now learnt to deal with it, but it still does amuse me (no end) each time it happens, as I  have been told so many times now, mostly in puzzled bewilderment and sometimes in  undisguised disbelief, that I look much younger than I actually am and how is it possible and what do I do.(and I am quite proud to say I  am 39 and I have no qualms about admitting my age.  Heck, I have lived each day  and have  earned my wisdom :-D) People do not believe that I indeed have a 13 year old son and a nine year old daughter.

Looking younger than one's years--I think it is partly genetic.  Partly it is also how one feels, how active one is and how fit one keeps one self.

I know several women who look so much younger than their ages.Several of my friends, who are much older than me and who have adult children, look just half their age. When I sat and thought about why it could be so and were there any common factors in all these women, the following was what I observed.

1.They all have had their children before hitting 27 and they have all breast-fed their children for over an year.
2.They all are very particular about their fitness. They either walk or do yoga or play a sport.
3.They all have a fabulous dress sense and wear lovely, flattering, well fitted clothes.
4.They are all such fun loving individuals. I always have a whale of a time with them.
5.They are very confident,sassy and bold and are very sure of themselves and what they want out of life and what they want in a man. (Maybe it comes with age!) Some of them are big flirts too! :-)
6.None of them want to be any younger and all of them without an exception are happy to be at the age that they are and even more happy that their twenties and thirties are over! They are truly happy to be in their forties and fifties. (makes me want to get there!)
7.They all inevitably have a fabulous equation with the younger folks in their twenties. Their children's friends are sometimes their friends and all of them are very popular among the younger crowd. (may be the younger crowd considers them role models?)

8.None of them use make-up on a regular basis.
9.They all have such enthusiasm for life.They are willing to learn new things.
10.They have multiple interests and they all DEFINITELY have a life other than their husbands and children.They may not necessarily be having careers but they all do something or the other on their own.
11.They have their own  friends who are only their friends and not common friends with their spouse.
12.They all smile a lot!

I have no idea how these women manage to do it. All I know is  these women inspire me. I admire all of them, not just for their looks, but for their attitude to life. I sure want to be like them when I get there.

Who knows maybe they have all cracked the secret to some magic formula which made Bryam Adams croon "18 till i die" :-)  Whatever be their secret, their attitude sure is infectious!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jai Hind!

Indian Flag Pictures, Images and Photos
This morning I attended a flag hoisting event and proudly sang the National anthem, as the tricolour fluttered in the breeze. The stir of patriotism in me was a wave, a deluge.I texted  about twelve of my good friends  conveying the same, wishing them a Happy Republic day. Eight of them cared enough to text back and the pride in being Indian was obvious in their replies too.

Somehow, jokes about Republic day which are doing the rounds (stuff like 'conserve the patriotism') and jokes which do the rounds ridiculing India, do not go down well with me. I don't see anything frivolous about Republic day or Independence celebrations. We  as a nation, have indeed progressed a lot, even if we still have a far way to go. Yes, there might be a million things which are wrong, but surely there are many positives as well--it isn't all doom and gloom, as the pessimists might like to point out.

Many people do not even care about the freedom that we now have.It is taken for granted. Even as not so long back as 1932, there will still signboards in India, outside the European Clubs, which said "Indians and Dogs not allowed." My blood boils in outrage even as I type it. How can such a thing be a laughing matter? Hundreds of people like Pritilata Waddekar  laid down their lives. They believed in a cause. They cared.

It is the duty of every Indian citizen to at least respect the tricolour, attend a flag hoisting and be aware of our past. If they have children, it is indeed their responsibility to tell their children about people like Chandrashekar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Bhaga Jatin, Rani Laksmibai (Bundelo har bolo ke muh hame suni kahani thi, Khoob ladi mardani woh tho jhansi wali rani thi)  and many many more .(They are too many to name in one single blog post). 

Only in view of the Freedom movement and only against the backdrop of what it used to be like, can one fully understand the significance and importance of Independence Day as well as Republic day.(Many are not aware that we became a Republic only in 1950). 

As India celebrates its 62nd Republic day, as the Military might and Indian culture unfolds at the Parade at Rajpath, as I delightfully watch the floats I truly and whole heartedly take immaculate pride in my country and I nod in agreement as strains of 'Saare jahan se achcha ' fill the air.

It is definitely not uncool to be patriotic.
Jai Hind!

Monday, January 24, 2011

That's what 'best friends' are for ... :)

'Best friend' and 'Bestest friends'-- The very words bring a smile to my face. It is a  term we  all probably used  in school. Some of us continue to use them as adults (yes, I have heard fifty and sixty year old people refer to someone as their 'bestest' friend. Their eyes light up when they say it, their voice softens and there is always a wistful faraway look or a smile on their faces, as they probably recall their escapades or encounters)

MRI scans of the brain show that certain parts of the brain 'light up' (to use a term less scientific) when looking at the pictures of 'best friends' or 'a beloved' or 'loved ones' .The  activation happens in those areas of the brain associated with intense reward. It is the same area which is activated when people take addictive drugs or get a jolt of excitement.

It is no wonder then, that 'best friends' (it is a term I use loosely to describe especially trusted and close friends) bring a HUGE smile on our faces.
Best Friends Pictures, Images and Photos

Just a little while ago I was stressed, stretched, high on workload, low on patience, temper was taut waiting to break free and shower like a thunderstorm on anyone who dared cross my path.There were a million things to be done and zillion more rushing through my head. Usually when I am this busy, I appear invisible on chat on my G-mail. (People ping even if a busy sign is displayed). But today I had forgotten to appear invisible. Sure enough there was a ping.

"Hey Prtij! Long time. Howz you?" she said. (she is the only one who calls me by that name, even to this day and I love it :) )
"All good ," I replied politely, still working on the mail I had to send.
She was in a chatty mood  and we were indeed connecting after weeks. She asked me about my book, about new year, about my children and my replies were mostly mono-syllabic.'All good'. 'All fine'.

When she continued, I said " Hey Jayu,I am in the midst of something.Will call you later," I said.

"Ok--take care. And hey, I love you " she said.

And I knew she meant it whole heartedly. (and no, we have never expressed it it to each other even though we have been the closest of friends since seventh grade).

I guess that part of my brain lit up.
There was an a instant W--I --D--E grin on my face.
My heart went 'awwwww' :-)

"I love you too, " I said without even a moment's hesitation and added a  '<3' as well.
I am still smiling.

Stop reading! Call up your best friend(s)  just now.
Go ahead, tell them you love them and make their day.

Someone just made mine and trust me you will feel on top of the world too. :-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

An alphabet Meme

This is a meme from Sunday stealing  which I found interesting enough to do. Most memes are the same stuff that one seems to have done a countless time, if one has been blogging for a few years (which I have. I started this blog in October 2006!)
This one is an alphabet meme  which is the first alphabet meme of 2011.  I have tried to include lots of pictures to make it interesting :)

Here goes:

A is for Age:  

B is for Beer of choice: 

Vodka :P I don't drink Beer :)

C is for Career:
Writer and Artist

D is for favourite Drink:
Same as B :)

E is for Essential item you use everyday:  

My  custom made  powered sunglasses. (I have sensitive eyes--they eater easily :-))

F is for Favourite song at the moment:  

G is for favourite Game:

H is for Home town:

I don't really have a 'hometown'. (have never lived in a place for more than three consecutive years) I'm a true Indian.

I is for Instruments you play:

Learnt to play a few tunes on the Keyboard but cannot claim to 'play an instrument'

J is for favourite Juice:

Don't like juices much. Too sweet for me. :P :)

K is for Kids:
Two darlings (well most of the time :-))

L is for Last kiss:
A little while ago from my daughter.

M is for marriage: .

I complete SIXTEEN years of being married (to the same guy  heh heh) this year.

N is for full Name:
I ain't saying :P :) Only very few people know my real and full name.Even my closest friends, I don't think know it.

O is for Overnight hospital stays:
Once for typhoid was hospitalised 17 days and twice for my deliveries of both children.

P is for phobias:
Snakes--I am petrified of them.

Q is for quote:

R is for biggest Regret:

For saying some stupid things which seemed terribly important at that time. It truly does not matter now. Wish I could take them back, but they have been said. The spoken word once uttered never can be taken back. It was a big lesson I learnt, in controlling my acerbic tongue.

S is for sports:
I am a total sports person. Used to play Basketball at National level (a long time back) and also volleyball and cricket (yes I can bowl a perfect leg spin) too. I swim too. Used to be an athlete too.

T is for Time you wake up:
On weekdays at 6.30--6.45 a.m. On weekends as late as I please.

U is for colour of underwear:
For Men--spare me the fluorescent undies please!
For women: Black is always classy--but more than the colour it is the type :P :)

V is for Vegetable you love:
Almost all. specifically fond of Dill

W is for Worst Habit:
 Do you think someone so nice as me can have a worst habit? heh heh heh..

X is for X-rays you've had:
Once when I had broken my right arm. Another time for a bad chest infection.

Y is for Yummy food you make:
I am a great cook. (Certified by Husband and children and a few select friends)

Z is for zodiac sign

Saggitarius Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Impress that special someone with an easy to cook meal


If you're single and ready to mingle, one of the best ways to impress that special friend is to invite them over to your place and make it really special by cooking a meal for them. Of course playing soft music, dimming the lights (to set the mood) and laying the table out really nicely, with some candles and wine  (preferably) would most definitely win brownie points.

If you're married (and whether or not you have kids), you could perhaps do the same, for a nice surprise for your spouse. Send him/her on an errand and cook a meal in a jiffy half an hour.(If you have children, later send them out or put them to bed. ;-) heh heh)

Even if you haven't made anything other than Maggi and a cup of tea before this, the following suggestion is simple enough. I usually do not post recipes, but this was too good to not share and it takes less than 15 minutes to make.
I had earlier posted a recipe for 'Golden fried babycorns' (click on coloured words to read)  which got a lot of response asking me to post more recipes. So I thought of sharing this one with you.


To make it you need to buy a packet of Macaroni which is available easily in any grocery store/Supermarket in India. I used this one.

Then put a  large vessel of water to boil. Add some salt to it. When it nearly starts boiling, add some macaroni and reduce the flame. (keep it on sim) Boil it for about 8- 10 minutes. You will see that the macaroni has become soft. Now strain it in a strainer or a 'channi' and run some cold water on it. (so it does not stick)

Now heat some  butter.(remember to keep the flame low). If you are not calorie conscious add lots of it :-) When it melts add some freshly ground peppercorn.(or just use pre-ground pepper, but freshly ground gives it a better taste). Add the macaroni and toss it well.Check salt and add if needed.  Switch off the flame.( It should not take you more than 2-3minutes.on the stove)

Squeeze some lemon juice on it. If you like Oregano add that as well. (Tip: Save that tiny packet from the pizza you order next  time.They give lots of it anyways :-) )

Ta-da..It is ready! If you like cheese, then you can add some grated cheese on top.

Buy some vanilla ice-cream and use chocolate sauce/syrup (you can buy that as well) as a topping, for a very simple but delicious desert. Use anice glass to serve it and stick in a fancy wafer as well. :-) A  lot lies in the presentation.

There you go--Golden friend baby corn for starter. Butter-pepper-Macaroni as main course and Ice-cream with chocolate sauce as desert and a lovely ambience created with candles, music ,wine and dim lighting. Personally this is one of the songs I'd play :-)

The result:  A very impressed date/a very happy spouse.

Sweet, ain't I, to share all these tips? :-)

Go ahead, thank me, thank me! Of course, I like to be acknowledged :-D

Monday, January 17, 2011

How a book got written

 Writer hugs loved woman friend Pictures, Images and Photos

Sometime back, when we were living in the U.K, a very good friend, who also happens to be a single mother to two lovely children, visited us. Her ex-husband (with whom she is on very friendly terms) is an Artist and a very accomplished one at that.Over glasses of wine, soft music and a lovely hot dinner, conversation turned to art,creativity and other related things.

"Creative people, be they artists or writers should never be allowed to marry or have children.They are so hard to live with!" exclaimed my friend with all gusto and complete sincerity. My friend has the highest regards for artists/writers and she does appreciate and admire them a lot. She is also a great book-lover and a delightful conversationalist. She also has a lot of artists as friends because of the nature of her work.(She works as a life model).  Satish (my husband--somehow I hate the word 'husband'.He is more my friend and confidante) chuckled and completely agreed with her. They went on to discuss the eccentricities  and oddities of creative people in general. I squirmed a bit inwardly, amused, tickled and at the same time slightly bewildered. By Jove, they were right! Whatever traits my friend described of her ex-husband were the very that were present in me! Satish and she had a hearty nudge-nudge-giggle-guffaw insiders laugh and I joined in too.

Later, I wondered how much of it would be supported by scientific evidence. Was it really true that creative people are difficult to live with and difficult to have as a close friend or have a close relationship with? Dr.Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi an eminent psychologist, and an author of many books and more than 120 scientific papers, has written a superb analysis about the ten paradoxes of creative people. (click on coloured words to read it). When i read it, i found myself identifying with nearly all the traits mentioned there. Perhaps those who know me well will agree.

Many a time I find that I simply have to paint that picture. If I don't, it goes round and round in my head and bothers me. If my family interrupts me at that time (I will not answer the phone if I am painting or making a portrait, so friends cannot disturb me) I get quite annoyed and I snap at them. If I am thinking deeply about something (most often it is about the character in my book) I absent-mindedly answer 'uh-uh' to whatever my family asks. By now, my children know me so well, that if it is important, my daughter will nudge my arm and say "Mummy, did you really hear me or are you simply doing uh-uh? " (yeah, she is a sharp little thing.)

The last three months, I have been living inside my new book completely.(and oh it is so hard! You really feel each character's emotions as you live their life) Today, I finally okayed the final layout, before it goes into print. I heaved a sigh of relief, but  at the same time I feel so emotionally drained.

It has taken me about two years to write this book. I have poured my heart and soul into it. My family has been so supportive, as have been my closest friends. They have listened to me complain, discuss, rant, vent, pour out emotions, be a general wreck and they have done it so sweetly and smilingly. I have picked up fights with them, (yes, even with my closest friends), argued , brain stormed, deliberated,trashed out and talked. They have all been really rock-solid and so sincere and understanding.(I feel fortunate to have them)

My biggest strength  and biggest fans have perhaps been my children. Today I told my son "Next month, mummy's SECOND book will be in  all the book-stores in India, can you believe it?"
"Wow Mummy." he replied. "I am so proud of you." And he gave me a big hug.

It was all that I wanted to hear.

This post is specially to thank those people who have totally stood by me in the writing and creation of this book. They know how difficult a journey it has been for me. I would not be exaggerating if I say that the book would never have got written without them.

Words truly do not suffice to express what I feel (maybe I should paint a picture) but I simply have to say :
A big hug and a thank you to

He has put up with my countless moods and irritated out-bursts. On top of that comforted me too! :P :)

He hates even being mentioned but I simply have to. He was the one who read each chapter as soon as it was written and who would keep asking "When are you writing the next one? What is the progress?" Sometimes, just because he asked I'd push myself and write even when it was really hard and I felt like giving up.
She is one sharp and intelligent woman and works as an HR consultant. She is one of my closest friends and I am so glad to have her in my life. She was so honest with her feedback and she helped a lot in early drafts.

When I was in U.K and whenever the phone rang, it would usually be Mayank. He has called me up countless times (and still continues to call me). Whenever he called, I would take a break from my writing and would pick up the toys and make beds an do the general cleaning of the house as I talked with him on the phone. On the days that Mayank called, the house would be sparkling clean!

Dr.Anubhav Naresh deserves all the credit for a superb cover that my book will sport. (It got finalised today and I will soon post a picture here.) He is a multi-talented person who is into many things including running adventure camps, soft-skill workshops apart from being a Dentist. Click here to get the links to all his sites.

And the final thanks of course is to YOU, even the silent readers and subscribers, apart from the ones who regularly comment. It is your words that truly propelled the first book and it is your encouragement that goaded me on, to write my second.

Thank you so much!
And for those of you who cannot wait to know the title, the title of the book is

Life is what you make it.
         ---a story of  love,hope and how determination can overcome even destiny

More details soon (including a chance to win signed copies of the book) :-)

Watch this space  or 'like' this page.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Trying to be equal

just let go Pictures, Images and Photos

It is a holiday for my children (my son who is 13 and my daughter who is 9) and they are playing with each other as I type this. A little while ago, she hit him playfully. He hit her back (not hard enough to hurt--just a small tap). She hit him back again. He hit her back. The volley of taps continued.

Finally, my daughter, tired of the game said "I will hit you once, then you hit me and we will stop. Then we are EQUAL." Of course neither was willing to stop and the tapping continued till the time I intervened and put an end to it. (Being an experienced parent who has gone through it all so many times, I knew that it would lead to a fight had I not)

It set me thinking, as to how many times we try to do this 'we're equal' business as adults. If a neighbour sends over a home-cooked dish, we feel a need to immediately return the favour. If we have called up a  good friend thrice and they have not taken the effort to initiate subsequent contact, we do not call back thinking "It is their turn. Why should I be the one to call all the time?" If someone has given  us a few really lovely gifts, out of genuine love and affection, we immediately feel a need to reciprocate and buy them something back. We consciously or sub-consciously always feel a need 'to be equal'.

Trying to be 'equal' is a never ending process. It goes on and on. At times, it breaks relationships.At times, it leads to misunderstandings. At times, it creates barriers where there ought to be none. The circle continues round and round.

Of course, if you feel like reciprocating expressed love, there really isn't a problem. All I am saying is that the need to 'compete' and 'be one up' (even if it is to reciprocate a gift given) is what needs to be thought about.

If we, for a moment, put our egos aside, if we learn to be gracious in our acceptance, if we learn to let go a little bit and express our love a little more, if we give in, if we put ourselves in the other person's shoes, if  we give a knock on the head to our big 'I' and change it into a small 'i' , then I surely think that there would be less discord, more harmony, more happiness, more peace and above all a lot more love.

Life is indeed so short. So very unpredictable too. By trying to 'be equal' one is only eating into time that should be spent in joy.

So let go and let it be.It really isn't that big a deal as our deluded egos imagine it to be.

Think about it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Magic happens on special birthdays-- Wordless Wednesday 26

There is  indeed something special about birthdays of loved ones.

The picture above was clicked by my son Atul,on his birthday in November when he just turned 13.
I was totally captivated by this picture.

This is my entry for Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Start of a half marathon

Blogging had indeed opened a new world up for me. My first book was published only because of my blog and the overwhelming response I got for my posts. If at the time of starting this blog, someone would have told me that I would make great friends solely through the Internet, I would have scorned them in disbelief. Whoever heard of real friendships, being made because of blog or Internet. Yet, fact is some of my closest friends today are the ones I made because of my blog/book. Of course, the friendship grew because we invested a lot of time and effort into it (like all other relationships) but the connect happened because of the blog/book. Incidentally,today happens to be the birthday of one such  very good  friend.

(Happy Birthday Mayank Mittal )

So many of you write in to tell me how much my blog has become a part of your life, and how eagerly you look forward to reading my posts. Truly I am flattered, honoured and humbled by the number of mails as well the emotions expressed in them. You all shower me with so much love and praise! (Yesterday too, there were three such mails). When I last checked, the number of subscribers were more  than 860.

Sometimes, I meet people who talk to me as though they know me really well.  (they tell me they are regular readers of  my blog). Perhaps they do know me well, as I bare so much of myself on the blog. But the thing is they would have never interacted with me--they would mostly read silently (for whatever reasons). Then when they meet me, they are all very warm and loving. I am usually polite but deep down, I feel uncomfortable with a one-sided relationship.Most people who have written to me will know that of course, I am interested in you. My replies will always ask what you do, where you are based and what your interests are.

When  I had started the blog, there were just  two people (apart from me) who would read everything I wrote. Yeah--TWO. Both were brothers, both were in UK. One of them (Tim Young) had stumbled upon my blog, by accident and then told his brother (Niall Young) about it. I was at that time in India and had never even been to the UK. I still remember the excitement when I got a comment on my post, that too from someone whom I have never met before, who was thousands of miles across the ocean, in a completely different part of the world. That was the start of a beautiful friendship.Over the years, we exchanged mails (a lot) and then finally we met when I travelled to the U.K.  Later, I moved to the UK and we met so many more times, each meeting as cherished and as treasured as the first.

The regulars here would know that in the past, I have done two blog marathons--blogging every single day for 30 consecutive days. Each day I had to write a new post (and it is truly not easy especially when you have a myriad other commitments and all my posts were 'solid posts' not merely fillers.) Some of you committed to leaving a comment on each and every post. (I was happy for the support and encouragement) So many of you have written in asking me to do it again.

Well--it is blog marathon time again! But hold on--this time I am commiting myself only to a half marathon. My second book will be out next month, and hence there is a lot of work regarding that. ('Like' this FB page to be notified for update about launches). In fact, to commit to a half-marathon itself took a LOT of thinking.

Starting today, for a month, this blog will be updated with a new post, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (count this post as Monday's post). Wednesday is likely to be wordless (But I haven't decided yet).
But a new post, you shall see thrice a week.

Thrilled? (See I have cleverly given you only three options, cheeky ain't I? :-) )

Then please tell me so in my comment box :-) ( Well, I am  making time and writing , am I not?)

See you around a lot more often now!
Love and Sunshine

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A little toy story

Small little colourful tops, rattles that are made so precisely and scientifically that they produce a pleasing sound on rotating (not shaking) as the flawlessly carved little grooves turn with a clackety clack much like the prayer wheels found in Buddhist monasteries, perfectly carved little Russian nesting dolls, vibrant stacking counters, all of them made of  wood, eco-friendly, non-toxic, lacquered with brilliant colours and oh-so-hard- to-resist! This was the site that greeted me on the mat of a toy-seller, who had spread out his wares on the side of the  pavement, on the road leading to Infant Jesus Shrine, in Viveknagar, Bangalore, as I walked to the Church , last Thursday.

Years ago, when my son was an infant, I had visited Channapatna, the 'toy town' which is located 60 kms from Bangalore. I was fascinated and mesmerised. These toys I was now looking at, distinctly had the Channapatna stamp on them. I used to love these toys and seeing them suddenly took me down the memory lane. I stopped and picked up a wooden top and ran my hands around it. Definitely, I was buying it. My inherent curiosity  made me strike up a conversation with the toy-seller. I mentioned to him that they looked like 'channapatna toys' and he answered that they indeed were and that he was an artisan and he carved all of them himself! Then he proudly took out his ID card, issued by the Channapatna Artisans society and showed it to me. I learnt that his name was Syed Imtiaz Ahmed. I started talking to him and discovered that he travels 60 kilometres by bus, twice a week from Channapatna to Bangalore, with the toys that he makes. He sells them on the pavement, and returns back home at the end of the day. I mentioned to him that I am a writer and asked if he would mind if I wrote about him and clicked a picture to go with my piece. He did not mind at all and was very happy to pose. He wanted to know which newspaper I write for. I mentioned that I used to write for Times of India, but I now write books and this story about him, I would be writing on the Internet (somehow I don't think he would have understood what a blog is).

I bought some lovely stuff from him (mainly wooden tops and also a very realistic looking wooden snake)  and my children were delighted with their gifts. I was happy that I was helping to support an ancient tradition of toy-making,which had its origins during the rule of Emperor Tipu Sultan, who had invited artisans from Persia, to train the local artisans to make these toys.This tradition does need our patronage and support, especially if they have to compete with the modern toy industry with its smart advertising and movie affiliations
(Remember Toy-story toys?) which is a multi-million dollar industry.

If you live in  Bangalore, and happen to be around viveknagar, do look out for Syed Imtiaz Ahmed. He is there on Thursdays from 11 in the morning to 7 in the evening and on Sundays from 3 in the noon to 7 in the evening.

By buying such hand-crafted toys, we can do our bit to preserve tradition and a slice of history and also encourage the artisan who spends more than two hours hand-crafting one single piece.

And so what if you don't have kids? You can always gift it to the children in the neighbourhood or the children of your domestic help or any child for that matter. It is a sure shot way  to spread smiles and boost your own happiness. :-)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

On role of right questions in raising a child

Sometime back I had written a post (On role of a whiteboard in raising a child) which had got a huge response asking me to write more such posts on parenting. This is the fourth in probably what will be a series. Please read the disclaimer in the above mentioned post if you're new around here. If you already know me by now, read on!

Upto a  few years back, before I became a full time writer and artist, I used to conduct workshops on developing thinking skills in children, which were hugely popular and successful with kids and parents alike.
My workshops had three parts--the first was for logical and critical thinking, the second was for creative thinking and third part of it  involved a group discussion and then enacting a story (which usually reinforced a value) which would have been chosen with a lot of care and thought. The last part really helped the children get over their inhibitions. More than anything, it was a forum for the child to be heard, to be treated as an equal and the children loved it.

If we need to raise free thinking children, I do think it is very important that we treat them as equals, when it comes to discussing things. (Of course, they cannot be treated as equals when it is bed-time and they need to get into bed. We all know how children are master strategists for delaying bed-times :-)). Their opinions need to be valued. They need to know that what they have to say is important and will be heard and considered.

How do we ensure this? One of the ways is to introduce a 'thinking question'. These questions would be such that have no 'right answers' but can be answered in anyway you like and think right. One of the questions I asked my children a long time back was ' Would you rather be extremely wealthy (think private lear jets and indoor heated swimming pools in your home) and live all alone by yourself with absolutely no friends or family  or would you rather have to work  harder living for a living, but have lots of friends and a loving family?

Questions like the above really make one think. There are a lot of resources which offer such thinking questions.But you can easily make up your own questions too.

The thinking process in children can be stimulated to a large extent by asking the right questions. Sadly, in India, most schools discourage free thinkers. But that can be easily rectified by the parents at home.

To illustrate, my daughter has a Hindi test tomorrow for which she was asked to memorise the poem below. (My non-hindi speaking friends will have to kindly excuse. If you know to read Hindi, please do read the poem) Click on pic to enlarge even more.

After my daughter had memorised it ( I explained the meaning of each word to her), the free thinker in me still wanted something more. (Heart of hearts, I find the poem perpetuating the Indian obsession with 'fair is beautiful' which I totally do not agree with) The thinker in me, wanted to stimulate my children's thought processes and I wanted them to think out of the box.

So I asked both (my son is 13 and my daughter is 9) of them " If you had to use this poem to advertise three products, what products would you choose, how would you make the ad and what ideas would you use?"

We had a lively discussion as we brainstormed and came up with so many ideas and so many products (ranging from soaps to bathroom accessories to an exotic holiday location)  that could be advertised using this poem. :-)
A simple memorising exercise had been turned into a fun, creative one--but most importantly it made them (as well as me) think creatively.

If you want to join in the discussion  on 'How would you use the above poem for an ad?', you are most welcome to join in. Feel free to let your thoughts unloose in my comment box :)

If you have your own methods to make children think creatively, or if you as a child, were particularly impressed by any individual who made you think, I would love to listen to what you have to say.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Riders on the Storm

People often ask me how I get the inspiration for my paintings/portraits. The truth is inspiration just strikes, like a thunderbolt from the stormy skies {or a sudden power surge when the voltage fluctuates, if you are the  mechanically (or electrically) inclined kinds}. And once there is a picture/idea inside my head it has to be captured on paper/canvas. Else it irks me, annoys me, drives me crazy till I sit down and put it on paper.

There is no reason as to why I want to make someone's portrait. It is just what I feel. And honestly, as you probably know, feelings are beyond logic. Once, I saw a display picture in google chat of Janani who blogs at Pretty woman and I simply had to make a  portrait. 

My portrait commissions are going extremely well now. (I have now completed  four more commissions and they do make truly personalised and wonderful gifts). To read about my first commission  and to know more about the process go here.

The pencil portrait you see in this post above ,was completed by me a few hours ago. It easily took me more than ten hours to make it. I started last evening and I worked (like someone possessed ) up to 2.30.a.m in the morning. Then today again, I worked at it for nearly the whole day, and I finally completed it. The actual picture measures 30x20 cms. (so it is fairly large).

Whenever I work on a piece of art, I do need music and of course, when I was making this portrait, I kept playing their songs over and over, especially 'Riders On the Storm'.

If you still have no idea whose portrait this is go here.

And while you're at it, I suggest, listen to this song too :-)

The Doors - Riders On The Storm New Stereo Mix .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

For my other portraits click here .

[ If you want a pencil portrait  as a unique  gift to that special someone, I do accept commissions.  I work from high resolution photos  which can be e-mailed to me. I use Extra smooth Bristol Board 100% acid free, A3 size paper which is of the highest professional quality (and it will last for centuries). You can mail me (on ps at preetishenoy dot com ) for rates and other details, if you are interested.]