Mystical history at the Ajanta and Ellora caves

Mystical history at the Ajanta and Ellora caves

Spent an outstanding weekend exploring the Ajanta and Ellora caves. The monuments outdid all expectations both in terms of their gorgeous paintings and sculptures, as well as the state that you find them in today. We’d had people tell us that they smell, have bats and more. The caves were incredibly clean – the main ones required that you take off your footwear before entering. The walls of these caves are books with the panels of paintings and sculpture holding a wealth of stories in them. You hear the stories come alive as you walk around the cave and follow the actions and expressions of the people portrayed. The panel on the Mahabharta and Ramayana cut into stone row upon row read as an Amar Chitra Katha comic would without blurbs. Ajanta is stunning with its location, detailed paintings and colours that have survived despite years of neglect and having been lost and forgotten in the forest. A Britisher named John Smith accidentally spotted them while out on a hunting trip in 1819. The caves at Ellora, made almost a 1000 years after Ajanta are more ornate. The paintings have largely been destroyed – the caves had villagers living and cooking inside them for years. Despite that, what has survived is truly extraordinary. The Kailasa rock-cut temple, cut into the rock with not a single joint, defies all understanding of how they visualised and created it. Spread over 25000sft, it is the world’s largest rock-cut cave temple and is dedicated to Shiva.  The acoustics in the Buddhist caves, where every chant reverberates through the hall and fills your senses,...

The Reading Raccoons on Ashoka and the Muddled Messages

Review time! ” History is not easily lapped up by kids. My younger one, at least, tries to avoid all references to the subject. So, when he picked up a book from Natasha Sharma‘s History Mystery series, I was pleasantly surprised. Two books from the series are out, and we have read Ashoka and the Muddled messages. The plot is hilarious with the king’s edicts ending up muddled every time he sends them out to his kingdom. When he asks everyone to turn vegetarian, his edict gets muddled, and ends up inscribed on stone, encouraging people to make animal sacrifices! So who is muddling up the messages, and creating utter chaos across the kingdom?  The Agramatya’s beard, that he colours in the most outrageous shades, the Tremendous Ten and their antics, the queen’s tantrums – all make the whodunnit fairly interesting. What we absolutely loved about the book was the brief, simple facts about the king given at the back , a page in the end for ‘My hysterical History notes,’ and the absolutely lovely illustrations by Tanvi Bhat.  Must read for the younger raccoons. In fact my ten year old also enjoyed it, so it is definitely not limited to that age group.” – Tanu Shree Singh on The Reading Raccoons Available in bookstores and online retailers including Amazon  flipkart  infibeam Share...

On my historically geographically challenged past…

Here’s a blog piece that I wrote for my publisher Duckbill’s blog regarding history, geography and more such. Ooty and Orissa Natasha Sharma, the author of the History-Mystery series, on her struggles with history and geography at school and beyond! There is one bit of history that I recall clearly from school – the Indus Valley civilisation. It intrigued me. The layout of their cities, the thought put into buildings and public spaces, the drainage system, the statue of the dancing girl, the seals … it all built up this world in my head that has stayed with me ever since. On my earliest visit to the National Museum, I remember heading straight for the Harappan section and getting goosebumps on seeing the relics from thousands of years ago. And that’s really where all my fascination with history ended back then. History, apart from that first chapter, was my most dreaded subject. Okay, probably second from the bottom of my list, geography being the lowest. I was extremely geographically challenged back and even at the risk of being ridiculed ever after, I shall reveal the moment that I look back at myself in utter horror… Read ahead here … http://theduckbillblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/natasha-sharma-ooty-and-orissa/ Visit the History Mystery series page to know more about the books and for links to buy the books or ebooks. Click on the book covers below to read the first chapter from each book.      Share...

History Mystery available as ebooks

I am super excited and delighted to post that Akbar and the Tricky Traitor and Ashoka and the Muddled Messages are now available for download as ebooks for Kindles and iPads.  The ebooks are available on amazon.com and flipkart. Here are some quick links to download the ebooks:   From Amazon.com: Akbar and the Tricky Traitor From flipkart.com: Akbar and the Tricky Traitor From Amazon.com: Ashoka and the Muddled Messages From flipkart.com: Ashoka and the Muddled Messages The History Mystery series in paperback form is also available in bookstores in India and online stores including Flipkart, Infibeam and Amazon. View my author page on Amazon and sign up if you’d like to stay informed of new releases of my books on Amazon. Share...

History and mystery at my book launch at the Kala Ghodha festival

‘Pa-pa-papa-pa-papa-pa-paaaaa!  Dham-dham-dhadha-dham-dhadha-dham-dham!’ sounded out Kitab Khana bookstore yesterday at the launch of my new History Mystery series with Akbar and the Tricky Traitor and Ashoka and the Muddled messages. About the trumpets and the drums. Bring together a bunch of enthusiastic kids, make them jump into history with the makings of a mystery and they’ll trumpet and beat out the rhythm anywhere. As we pa-paaed and dham-dhammed together, it was time to reveal the strange ways of a writer’s mind. It was time to bring on to stage … THE THING! Kept carefully in a wooden box, covered with a regal red cloth, a brave soul came forth to hold the tongs (for it was rather doubtful whether THE THING had been washed in a  while) and pulled out … … THE SOCK! (At this crucial point, the photographer froze in shock and missed clicking the all important photograph. Be thankful … for the stench, even over the web, might have made you faint.) Ques: Where did the sock come from? Ans: A bag full of props at a Duckbill reading workshop. And then? Well … socks relate to feet that relate to footsteps that connects to the mystery in the Akbar book. I cannot say more for fear of giving the mystery away, but you can learn more about the books by clicking here. The children giggled through the introductory video to History Mystery. We followed it up with trick questions on the Super Six and the Tremendous Ten investigators and I read out the first chapter from Akbar and the Tricky Traitor. We then went on to the...

KALA GHODHA ARTS FESTIVAL takes over!

Every year, February comes around with the promise of much excitement. Chock full of birthdays and anniversaries in my family, it is a month of celebration. The weather is always brilliant. It is still early enough in the year to hope to stick by new year resolutions. Then of course, there is the Kala Ghodha Festival. As with many Mumbaikars, the festival takes over 9 days of my life and has been doing so since the last few years. Be it readings I am conducting, sessions I am ferrying my kids to, attempting to jostle my way through increasingly maddening crowd to get my fix of a kala khatta or a khao suey on Rampart Row, admiring the many installations or oohing and aahing over the quirky merchandise on sale, the Kala Ghodha Arts Festival is really like no other. I do hope that if you are in Mumbai you are planning to head that way on some days. And for those with children, the Children’s Literature Section has really come into its own over the last few years. Do bring your children to be a part of the fun that the black horse whinnies in every year! If you would like to attend any of my sessions, here are the details: Writing workshop: Punctuation fun Wednesday, Feb 5th, 6:00pm, Kitab Khana.  Join me with your kids for an interactive writing workshop. There are no papers or pencils in this writing workshop! Listen, laugh and enjoy the fun. Get the first peek into my soon-to-release book ‘Squiggle takes a walk’. (Age 7+) Register by sending an email to litkidskgaf14@gmail.com with...

Rooster Raga at Auxilium, Carona- Aldona

Rooster Raga at Auxilium, Carona- Aldona. Found this post about an absolutely fabulous session around Rooster Raga conducted at Auxilium in Goa. Thank you Sheena for selecting the book and to bookworm for sharing the details of your session. I am going to take pointers! For teachers, librarians, book clubs – here is a quick recap of the session: As the children entered the library, each had to pick a chit with a sound word written on it. They had to find other children with the same word and form their group. Imagine a class full of meows, quacks, moos and grunts! They sang a song, ‘I am special’. Here’s the Rooster Raga song ready for use at the session. [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123479546″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /] She read out Rooster Raga accompanied by the many animal sounds all through the book. My favourite part – each child then wrote out what they think is special about themselves and what they are good at. I’d even create a class list and have them put down a word or line about what they like about all the other children in the class. The teacher could collate it for each child. What a lovely list to have! A few years ago, my father wrote this for my son. It is still on our board, and probably time to make a new one, but what better way to celebrate your children and the wonderful things they do each day. In the spirit of saving the best for last, it had to be his hugs that we so look forward to. Share...
A curious connection …

A curious connection …

My first post in 2014, as an apple crumble sits baking in the oven. Happy new year! I grew up in a home that on most days had the smell of a freshly baked cake wafting through it. Gooey brownies, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth fudge and cinnamon-ey apple pies vied for our undivided attention with peach crumbles, tarts and jammy sponges. My father’s fast growing pot belly was testament to the awesomeness of the goods prepared by my mother. Surrounded by all this culinary greatness, I hadn’t till the time I got married, really ever cooked. I could make tea and a frothy cup of coffee. The only dish I could claim to have ever put together was a chicken curry. Turns out, I decided to marry a vegetarian. My mother handed me a cookbook as a part of my wedding present – Cooking for brides, bachelors and those who hate cooking by Rohini Singh. A life saver if ever there was one, as I struggled with curries in my little apartment in New York in the days of no skype and limited connectivity to ma. Once my mother gauged that I had it in me to feed others without possibly poisoning them, she handed over what can only be described as The Most Marvelously Magical Treasure Trove of Baking Recipes. Here then was the world of cakes and pies and more such revealed. Did I do anything much with it? Well, just a little fiddle here and a tiny fiddle there, every now and then. That is till I began writing. So here is the rather curious connection. The moment I...

Going rooster crazy

Ruru Rooster has me thinking, seeing, dreaming up roosters everywhere! Here’s an adorable breakfast rooster and rather wonderful chicks that I came across on the blog site Little Food Junction. Eggs, corn, cucumber seem to do the trick. You’ll have the kids pecking away in no time! Share...