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Archive for May, 2011

May
31
2011

Why is it that baby counting books always start with the number 1?  You can’t have a number system without the number zero – so the omission does not make much sense.  Zero – called sunna in Telugu (and shoonya in Hindi and Gujarati) also happens to be both of my kids’ favourite number.  “Remember when I was zero years old, Mommy?” (referring to any time period before they turned one) and “I want zero punishment.”  There is just something silly about “nothing.”

I put this issue to rest when drafting our new Bindi Baby Numbers books – our first page spread is dedicated to the number 0 – with accompanying text translating to “There is nothing here.” The kids love it!  So much so that’s it’s hard to keep them from coming back to that page.  (We also have a full page about Aryabhata – India’s great mathemtician and astronomer who is credited with the “invention” of zero.)

In my quest for more ”zero” related things, I stumbled upon Numberjacks – a children’s TV series produced for BBC featuring animated superhero numbers who solve problems.  The show is aimed at 4- and 5-year-olds and encourages problem solving, thinking and early math skills.  The numbers each have their own personality and powers (4 is a mechanic, 2 has a “touch of the ‘terrible twos'”, and 9 is a good organizer)!

And yes, there is a Monsieur Sunna – he can make things disappear!  How cool is that?

So when are you guys coming State-side?

Learn more about Numberjacks on their website or their new Mission to Learn interactive website.

UPDATE:  Numberjacks contacted us and informed us they ARE available in the US – but only in Spanish.  Check out Los Supernumeros on VME.

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May
30
2011

Of course everyone has their own opinion, but how often do you hear music so beautiful that it makes you cry?

I had the pleasure of watching esteemed santoor player Ranjeet Pathak perform at a live concert last weekend, accompanied by his twin brother Ajeet Pathak on the tabla.  I cannot even begin to describe how exquisite the music emanating from Mr. Pathak’s santoor was – as though an ethereal magician had captured the sound of raindrops dancing on water.  I honestly felt my heart wanted to leap out of my chest to pay obeisance to those glorious sound waves.  To his credit, Mr. Pathak even accomplished what I had written off as impossible:  he got my freshly 5-year-old son to sit for 2 hours without so much as a peep (a feat that several members of the audience even commented on).

The santoor is a rare and unusual instrument. It is trapezoid in shape and has upwards of 70 strings which the musician taps and glides with wood mallets (hence the resemblance to the sound of raindrops).  The original Sanskrit name of the santoor – Shatha Tantri Veena (“veena of 100 strings”) – apparently has references back to the Rig Veda.

It’s hard to capture the music in a recording – but Mr. Pathak has a beautiful piece on the home page of his website.  You can also watch a video clip: (click image to play)

Top image:  Painting from Hasht-Behesht palace, Esfahan, Iran

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May
25
2011

Ek…do…teen…Let’s get the kids counting!

Introducing Bindi Baby Numbers – the latest in our book series.

From 0 to 10, kids will delight in counting everyday outdoor-inspired objects (and learn about forming and using plurals).  Numbers 11-20 are also included at the end of the book.  Appropriate for babies, toddlers and beginning readers of Indic scripts.  Available in Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil & Telugu.

Ship date is June 20 – but we’re celebrating the release with a Bindi Bundle Preorder Special:  enjoy both the Animals and the Numbers books for a Bindi-licious $20!

Click here to order.  This offer is for a limited time only.

includes chart of numbers 0-20

bold and colorful graphics

Includes a lesson on Aryabhata – one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers
in the history of India – and his discovery of the “number 0.”

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May
25
2011
Sit and Dance
Author: Gnaana

Called the Bharatanatyam Dancer, this stunning piece is by Sabiha Mujtaba – a  Karachi-born and London-educated woodworker who now works and teaches out of Atlanta.

The chair is made from cherry wood, paint, gold leaf and what looks to be an actual pair of ghungroos.

Any guess on those mudras?

Image via Chrysalis Woodworks

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May
23
2011

There are certain members of my family (yes, you know who you are) who are rather obsessed with Indian sweets.  So obsessed in fact that they could author an Encyclopedia of Indian Sweets – an effort which I’m sure would be greatly appreciated by food historians.  No surprise then that we recently resurrected an old family debate about the comparative tastiness of jalebi vs. jangiri – triggered in part by the kids’ recent epiphany that these delectable orange swirly things are, most definitively, better than even the junkiest of donuts.

Most people have heard of jalebi – this ancient Persian sweet is popular at celebrations and street corners all over India.  But jangiri is a little more obscure.  I thought it was a sweet special to South India, but I have come to learn that it also has a presence in North India – called imartiJalebi and jangiri both look like sugar-coated orange funnel cakes.

What is the difference you say?  First, they are made with different flours:  jalebi is made with maida (all purpose) flour and jangiri with ground urad dhal.  Jalebi batter is also supposed to be left to ferment (giving it a faint tangy flavour) while jangiri is not.  There is also a difference in their appearance – the swirls of jalebi are more chaotic, while jangiri resembles a more organized flower pattern.

Those with a trained palate will also notice the slight crunchiness of jalebi, distinguishing it from the chewy, gooiness of jangiri.  In most sweet shops, jalebi also appears a little shinier and more on the brown side (and jangiri more orange).

I am thinking it would be super fun at our next party to do a blindfolded taste test – to see who can distinguish between these two sweets.  Or have a sporting match:  Jalebis vs. Jangiris.

Which team would you be on?

Images via Google Images

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May
20
2011
Paper Pankaj
Author: Gnaana

We’ve never properly introduced Pankaj – our adorable lotus-character logo.  The story is we just found him floating around in our papers, so we decided to adopt him into our happy home.  We suspect he’s a distant great grand-nephew of Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and learning.  Whatever his origins, he makes kids smile!

Why the lotus?  It was a rather obvious choice.  This beautiful flower is an important symbol in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism – representing Supreme Knowledge and total mental purity – ideals which we’d want to steer kids towards.

If you’ve been fortunate to receive a package from us, you know to expect that little orange envelope with a Paper Pankaj attached – our special gift of handmade whimsy that sets us apart from the average shop.

Paper Pankaj is very easy to make (and very fun for kids).  All you need is a square sheet of paper and a few minutes to view this video tutorial.

Happy folding!

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May
18
2011

Curious?  We were, so we looked it up.  The following comes from Babycenter.in – the Indian counterpart to the immensely popular baby resource site.

The site reports that the trend for girls is towards unique names that are short and sweet – and that long, traditional names are “now passé.”  For the boys, traditional Sanskrit names inspired by the Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and by nature seem to be the focus of attention.

So here’s the list – with meanings of the names (to the best of our ability) in parenthesis.

Top 20 Indian Baby Girl Names in 2010

  1. 1.  Ananya……(incomparable, unique, matchless)
  2. 2.  Sara……(most likely a short form for Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge/learning)
  3. 3.  Aditi……(Goddess of the sky, Mother of all Gods)
  4. 4.  Riya……(graceful, singer)
  5. 5.  Jiya……(heart, soul)
  6. 6.  Saanvi……(Goddess Lakshmi, knowledge pursuit)
  7. 7.  Khushi……(filled with happiness)
  8. 8.  Anika……(Goddess Durga, beautiful, graceful)
  9. 9.  Anya……(inexhaustible, extraordinary)
  10. 10.  Anushka……(ray of light, lightning)
  11. 11.  Pari……(beautiful woman, fairy)
  12. 12.  Diya……(lamp)
  13. 13.  Navya……(fresh, modern)
  14. 14.  Sree……(Goddess Lakshmi, radiance)
  15. 15.  Kavya……(sonnet, poem)
  16. 16.  Avni……(the Earth)
  17. 17.  Prisha……(beloved, loving, God’s gift)
  18. 18.  Aashi……(smile)
  19. 19.  Ahana……(day, first rays of the sun)
  20. 20.  Sahana……(Goddess Lakshmi, endurance, patience)

 

Top 20 Indian Baby Boy Names in 2010
  1. 1.  Aarav……(peaceful, calm)
  2. 2.  Aryan……(noble, kind, honorable)
  3. 3.  Krishna……(Lord Krishna, dark-blue)
  4. 4.  Arnav……(ocean, wave)
  5. 5.  Sai……(flower, everywhere)
  6. 6.  Aarush……(first ray of sun)
  7. 7.  Ishaan……(Lord Shiva, the sun)
  8. 8.  Neel……(blue, sapphire blue)
  9. 9.  Om……(primordial sound)
  10. 10.  Vihaan……(morning, dawn, beginning of new era)
  11. 11.  Pranav……(sacred symbol OM)
  12. 12.  Aadi……(first, beginning, most important)
  13. 13.  Atharv……(Lord Ganesha, the first Vedas)
  14. 14.  Rudra……(Lord Shiva, one who roars)
  15. 15.  Ayush……(long life)
  16. 16.  Arjun……(white, clear, son of Lord Indra)
  17. 17.  Abhinav……(fresh, innovative)
  18. 18.  Vedhant……(Hindu philosophy)
  19. 19.  Vivaan……(Lord Krishna, full of life)
  20. 20.  Shaurya……(bravery, heroism, valor)

  

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May
16
2011

There’s been a lot of press lately about Forks Over Knives – the new food movie claiming that a vegetarian/vegan diet is the answer to better health.  As expected, it’s being lauded by vegan camps and dismissed by others as propoganda.

I’m happy that there is more education and awareness about vegetarianism these days – although I still meet plenty of people my age who hold their nose at the mention of veggie burgers.  Really, there’s no need to attack the food I eat.

I’m old enough now to defend myself – but what about my kids?  Although my son has company in a handful of other vegetarians in his preschool class, I’m sure he will encounter veg-ignorance at some point (if he hasn’t already).  To arm him with defenses, I naturally turned to books.  It was actually very difficult to find a quality book on the topic – most were either too gruesome or too preachy, with a message that killing animals is wrong and no one should eat them – NOT what I teach my kids.  I want them to know that different people believe different things, just like religions, and that people who eat meat are not “wrong.”

The best I found was Benny Brontosaurus Goes to a Party! – a story about Benny (an herbivore dino) who gets invited to a T-Rex birthday party.  The text is very simple, but the message really hits home:  there are all kinds of dinosaurs (herbivores, carnivores and omnivores) and all of their food is delicious just the same.  Ty the T-Rex even joins Benny in eating a nut burger.

Slightly utopian, yes, but a good starting point.

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May
13
2011

It’s called the Khamba – stackable terracota compost bins marketed by Hyderabad Goes Green – a group of “Hardcore Hyderabadis” with a mission to educate about eco living and encourage green entrepreneurs.

Their sister site Daily Dump gives a great tutorial on how to compost (which, if you’ve ever tried, is a science unto itself).

At 1,600 Rupees, they’re not cheap – but I’d have these front and center in my garden.

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May
11
2011

 

We’re still watching clips of the Royal Wedding, and my daughter perfects her princess wave while we do so – all the minor nuances of Kate’s hand movements.  Honestly I did nothing to usher in the princess infatuation (she hasn’t even watched a single Disney princess-y movie yet), but lately every headband is a tiara and requests have been made for a princess toothbrush and princess vitamins. 

And of course princess books.  Our collection right now is very limited (I censor for brattiness), but one of her favourites is her Princess Sita Book (also known as her brother’s Scary Ravana Book) – a very brief Ramayana picture book.   Forget Rama, Hanuman and Ravana  – the Ramayana as far as she’s concerned is all about Princess Sita:  “Princess Sita beautiful” (when she marries Rama), “Princess Sita scared” (when Ravana kidnaps her), “Princess Sita sad” (when she’s imprisoned in Lanka) and “Princess Sita happy” (when Rama rescues her).

So this list is for all the little girls:  6 Indian Princesses who are not only beautiful beyond belief, but who are also intelligent, inspirational and legends in their own right.

1. Princess Sita

From:  The Ramayana
Her Prince:  Rama
Notables:  Daughter of Bhudevi and wife to Lord Rama, she’s the embodiment of the ideal woman.

2. Princess Shakunthala

From:  The Mahabharata; also subject of a famous play by Kalidasa
Her Prince:  King Dushyanta
Notables:  She grew up in an ashram in the forest, surrounded by birds and nature, until one day a king spotted her while traveling.  It was love at first sight…

3. Princess Damayanti

From:  The Mahabharata
Her Prince:  Nala
Notables:  One of my favourite princesses – and one that I’ve written about before.  So beautiful that even the Gods wanted to marry her…and so intelligent that she could outsmart them!

4. Princess Rukmini

From:  The Mahabharata
Her Prince:  Krishna
Notables:  She convinced Lord Krishna to rescue her from an unwanted marriage – and Krishna was smart enough to let her take the reigns of the chariot.  See, the woman should always be in control!

5. Princess Subhadra

From:  The Mahabharata
Her Prince:  Arjuna
Notables:  When you are exceptional enough to captivate Arjuna (during his exile no less) – you make the list.

6. Princess Samyuktha

From:  A real-life Rajput princess
Her Prince:  Prithviraj
Notables:  Chief protagonist of one of India’s most famous medieval romance stories – and one that eventually led to the end of Hindu rule in Delhi.

And what of Draupadi or Jhansi ki Rani?  I suppose I think of them more as “queens” – with stories perhaps a little too complex for the toddler set.  Just a minor qualification.

Images (top to bottom):  Google Images, Sita: Daughter of Earth (Graphic Novel), Artword, Damayanti and the Swan print from art.com, Yadukul, Google images, Rajput Princess print from dollsofindia.com

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