Friday, December 27, 2013



I walk into the local public library in my town, and I see a big red concrete chair, and in front of it these words of Richard Scarry, "The more you read, the more you'll know; the more you learn, the more places you'll go."

Once someone asked me from where do I get the ideas for my stories? I divulged my secret: If it's written, I read. I read story books, I read newspapers and magazines, I read scraps of paper and the words behind the receipts I get from stores. I may not remember all that I read, but I keep in mind the words and stories I like.

The concept for this story came from one of the random readings I did in a magazine.



Seven-year-old twins wandered into their brother, Sagar's room. 

Suchi said, "Bhaiya, we want to ask you something."

Sagar looked up from the mystery book he was reading, "Okay, ask."

Soori said, "What are M&M's?" 

Sagar frowned, he realized the girls weren't looking for the answer---chocolate covered candy. He put his fingers on the temples, "I am thinking, I am thinking."

The girls smiled at each other.

Sagar said, "I got it, M&M's is Mars & Murie's, the last names of the candy's co-owners."

Soori said, "I bet you don't know what CVS is."

"Hmm..CVS...CVS...I know, it is Consumer Value Store."

Suchi looked at Soori, "I guess he knows what is WD-40."

Sagar smiled, "I sure do. It stands for Water Displacement-40th formula."

Soori said, "How do you know all the answers, Bhaiya?"

Sagar nodded, "That's because I am smart, girls."

Soori said, "I guess, you are."

From behind a door to Sagar's room, Sapna joined them, "Suchi-Soori, Bhaiya reads whatever written things fall in front of his eyes---books, scraps of paper, newspapers, magazines and even the Internet." 

Sagar made a face, "Aw---Sapna, you gave away my secret."

They all burst into laughter.

A very Happy 2014 to everyone.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Holidays

Wishing Everyone Happy Holidays  ...............................


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Growing up by Yourself


Often we, the humans, feel that we created the social order, after all, we are the the most intelligent beings in the animal kingdom. I say, Ha, to that.

One wonders who taught ants to walk in line? Who taught honey bees to make a perfect honey comb? Who taught birds to migrate? It is the older generation- the parents, the grandparents, the elders and the adults who teach the younger ones. Children will copy what they see. 

Recently, I read about a herd of young elephants that lost all its elders a couple of decades ago due to culling. Their decision making ability remains impaired due to the disruption in their social order. The social abilities of the young elephants is severely compromised, they fail to differentiate between a friend and a foe.

Human order is no different. We observe disruption in the lives of children either raised by one parent or worse, after the loss of both the parents.


Growing up by Yourself

Bhaiya = brother
ears perked up = listened more

Six-year-old Suchi and Soori played with their dolls.

Suchi said, "Let's make this doll an orphan."

Soori asked, "Why?"

"So she can do what she wants, eat what she wants and go to sleep when she wants."

Soori smiled, "Yeah, she is free to do whatever she likes."

Their older sibling, ten-year-old, Sapna's ears perked up when she heard the conversation. She ran to their big brother, fourteen-year-old, Sagar. "Bhaiya, the twins are talking about making one of their dolls an orphan. I don't like it."

The brother-sister came to the room where the twins were playing.

Sagar asked, "Hey, daring-duo, what's up?"

Suchi said, "Nothing Bhaiya, we are playing dolls."

Sagar picked up a doll that was sitting by herself in a corner, "And why is this doll sitting in time-out?"

"She is not. She is just thinking how to mess up the other dolls' play."

"Why does she want to mess up someone's game?"

"Because she is an orphan and gets to do her own thing."

Sapna said, "That does not sound very nice, maybe she too wants to play."

"Maybe, but she does not behave and---"

The second twin finished the first one's sentence, "And she always interrupts and messes up. That's how an orphan is."

Sagar said, "And girls, what is an orphan?"

The twins said, "A kid who does his own thing."

Sapna asked, "Have you ever seen an orphan?"

"Yeah, this new boy in our class is an orphan and he's always interrupting the teacher and messes up our work."

Sagar asked, "And do you like that?"


Sapna asked, "What if everyone was an orphan in the class?"

The twins smiled at each other, "Our teacher would run away."

The other twin added, "And that would be so much fun."

Sapna asked, "Think again, you two, who'll teach you in the class without a teacher?"

The twins exchanged glances and shrugged.

Sagar asked, "How does that idea sound to you?"

The twins said together, "Not good at all."

Sagar said, "Yeah, not good at all. An orphan is a child who does not have any parent."

Suchi said, "Why would they leave him?"

"I do not know what happened to the little boy's parents."

Soori said, "Didn't they love him?"

Sagar asked the twins, "I don't know. But think, if no one told you bed-time stories or took you to a zoo or played with you, how happy would you feel?"

"We'd be miserable."

Sapna said, "Girls, do you disrupt your class?"

"No--- because we know better."

Sagar continued, "That's exactly the point. The orphan boy doesn't know any better, doesn't know how to behave and so he messes up other children's play."

"No one told him how to behave."

Suchi said, "Soori, let's get this orphan doll back in the play, the other dolls can teach her how to be nice."

Soori brought the doll from time-out back into the play and they played with all the dolls until their parents came home.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What's in a Name


The other day I had gone to a library and saw a little girl with a teddy bear. The librarian said hello to the little girl and asked her what was the teddy bear's name. The little girl did not answer. A boy who waited behind her in the line said that his dog's name was Scoobi.

I told the boy that Scoobi was a lovely name. The boy smiled and told me that his name was Victor. I said his name was lovely too. Victor liked to talk and told me that his name meant that he is a winner. I smiled and told him that he looks like a winner and I moved on.

This story comes from names.


What's in a Name

Five-year-old, Sapna came home from a birthday party one day and plunked down on a sofa in their living room. She opened the goody bag she had received at the party and then tossed it at the other end of the sofa.

Her nine-year-old brother, Sagar said, "Hey, sis, how was the party? Did you bring me some goodies too?"

Sapna picked up the bag, held it closer to her heart and said, "You weren't invited, it was for my friend's birthday." 

"That's cool, that's cool. May I have at least one candy from your bag?"

Sapna tossed the whole bag at Sagar, "Here, I don't really want any candy from the bag."

Sagar picked out a chocolate from the bag and peeled its wrapper. He popped the chocolate in his mouth and murmured, "Hmm...tasty. Why don't you want any candy?"

A tear rolled down Sapna's cheek, "They told me that my name was pretty and asked me what it meant?"

"So? What's there to be so grumpy about that?"

Sapna shed a couple of more tears. She picked up a tissue from the side table, " I don't know what it means."

Sagar said, "Big deal, at least you know how to spell it."

"Everyone can spell their name in my class. That's not a big deal. Nisha said he name meant 'night' and Faith said her name meant 'belief' and then they asked me, and I didn't know."

"Your name means a 'dream'."

"And yours?"

"It means an 'ocean'."  

"Everyone's name has a meaning?"

Sagar shrugged, "I don't know. Sometimes people make up names. I remember one day Dr. Melwani had come to our house and she said that one of her patients named her daughter, "Melwana'!

Sapna laughed, "So it's okay if your name has no meaning?"

"Well, it still is your name and what it means is---you. I guess Melwana means delivered by Melwani!"

"That's not the same as a real meaning."

"True. That's how new words are added to the dictionary. Besides, you don't name yourself, your parents do. Sometimes your friends can change your name if you are too tall or short, or smart or silly. You might hate it, and then the friends will use it even more, to make you mad."

"Bhaiya, I like my name, Sapna,  and I also like its meaning, a dream."

Sagar said, "I remember a story from Mom's class. She always called boys with a mister in front of it and girls with a miss. I would be Mister Sagar and you would be Miss Sapna."

"That's the story?"

"Sapna, learn to wait, be patient. Back to mom's class, once on the first day in her class, she welcomed a boy by saying, 'Good morning, Mister Michael.' The boy said, 'My name is Michael, not Mister Michael'. Mom smiled and said, 'I like your name, Michael, but in the class I'll have to call you Mr. Michael so that I remember it's you and no one else.' The boy nodded and went on to sit with the other children."

"That is a funny story. I know I am Miss Sapna."

"That's cool, that's cool. If you are from the south, the girls have two names, you would be Sapna Sargam (sargam = sir-gum, symphony). They have Lisa Marie, Dolores Rose or something like that and then people would call you by saying both your names together."

"Hey, Bhaiya, I'd like to be called Sapna Sargam."

"Okay, you can do that when you are eighteen, and that's the law. Just now you are Miss Sapna."

"Hmm...and I'll stay Sapna, I like it because it's my name."

Sagar gave a high five to Sapna.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What color am I?


Cooking and eating traditional meals with family and friends is very special. I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, This week I did not write anything profound to get the post out with "wise" words from my experience, instead, I wrote about a little conversation I had with someone, years ago, while watching a soccer game.

Most of the Indians have shades of tan in their skin tone, dark or light, depending on the melanin content. Some years ago a fellow-soccer-watcher asked me if I ever wanted to be white. I said, not really. She had a look of not believing me. She squinted and looked straight at me. I too looked back into her eyes and told her the following story. By the way, she was almost my color.

There is not truth in the following story, but it's fun to tell someone who questions you about your skin-tone. The story can be turned around to suit any color---white, black or tan.

Any skin color is the perfect color, since it is the color of your skin.


What color am I?

A long long time ago God created people. He didn't know how to make them. He baked them. The first batch that went in the oven, came out too light---he placed them in Europe, where the temperatures were cooler and the sun was a bit less hot.

God thought the temperature was not right. So he increased the temperature of his baking machine---the modern ovens with precise temperature control were not invented during that time. His next batch of people came out a bit dark. They were place in Africa where the sun was hot and there was lots of rain and lots of trees to shade them from the sun.

God thought, perhaps he should lower the temperature of the oven. I think by the third time, the temperature-control ovens were in the market. He baked one more batch of people. That third group came out of the oven with a perfect skin tone. They could tolerate the cold weather of Europe as well as the heat of Africa. He put them in a place where the climate in the north at the feet of the Himalayas, was very cold and the southern tip was very hot.

That place was called India and the people from India are Indians, with the perfect tan of their skin.

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Let's Make a Thanksgiving Tree


To learn to say "Thank You" for the favors, large or small, is a lesson in courtesy. It becomes a second nature to be aware of the help that other person offers, whether it's opening a door for you or helping you pick up the papers you accidentally scattered on the floor. The habit gets cultivated from childhood. It does not cost you anything!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday celebrated in the USA. You can always Google the whys and whens of the holiday, I have a story about what a family can do before this day arrives.

Recently I read a story about, Michelle Cannon*, a mom who has a tradition in her house of writing Thank You's. No, these are not the notes they write when someone gives them a birthday gift. The family starts writing their thank you's on the first of November.

The twins in the story learn to write 'Thank You'.

*You may find more of Cannon's ideas at


Let's Make a Thanksgiving Tree

didi = older sister
bhaiya = brother
parallel = two lines/planes that keep the same distance between them without ever meeting

Seven-year-old, Suchi and Soori came home from school with their school bags stuffed with books and art projects-feathers, pictures, dream catchers that they made for Thanksgiving. They ate a snack and finished their homework. They wandered into their older sister, Sapna's room. 

Suchi said, "Didi, we are bored. There is nothing to do in the house."

Soori suggested, "Didi, why don't you tell Bhaiya to take us to the park?"

Eleven-year-old, Sapna looked up from her homework, "Are you kidding? Bhaiya and I have tons of homework. Have you guys finished your homework and finished whatever art work you had from school? Besides, boring people get bored. Find something to do please."

Suchi pouted, "We did all the art for Thanksgiving at school. We don't want to do it anymore."

Soori added, "We'll say the things we are thankful for at the Thanksgiving dinner." 

Suchi said, "Let's go back to our own room, we'll find something to do."

Soori asked, "Didi, will you play with us when you are done?"

Sapna said, "Sure." She continued to do her work. 

Suchi suggested that they go ask their brother, Sagar.

Soori curled her lips and said that they go back to their room. She stopped at their door, "Suchi, let's make a list of things for which we are thankful."

Suchi nodded, and walked by a pile of construction paper on her desk. She picked out different colored sheets and turned to Soori, "I got it. Let's make a tree."

Soori raised her eyebrows, "A tree?"

"Let's get a huge sheet of paper for drawing a tree."

The twins walked out of their room.

Sapna looked up, "Hey, now what is the daring duo planning?"

"We want a big sheet to draw a tree."

Sapna gave them a huge sheet, "I'm glad you found something to do on your own."

The twins said, "Yep. We'll show it to you when we are done."

Sapna smiled, "Okay." 

The twins went back to their room, Suchi took a brown crayon and drew two parallel lines from one end of the paper to the other.

"This is a tree." 

Soori said, "It doesn't at all look like a tree to me, looks more like a road."

"We'll draw branches and put leaves on them---these leaves will have Thank You's written on them." 

Soori clapped, "I got it. We'll have our Thanksgiving Tree. I have an idea, why don't we cut out a lot of colorful-Fall-leaves and keep them in a box. Then..."

Suchi added, "We'll get everyone in the family to write what they are thankful for on one leaf every day and glue it on the tree."

Soori completed her sister's thought, "So, when the Thanksgiving day comes, we'll have a Thanksgiving Tree!!!"

They gave a high-five to each other and started cutting colorful leaves for the Thanksgiving Tree. They wrote.

"I am thankful for getting this sheet and a crayon to draw."

"I am thankful for my sister who gave the idea for making this tree."

(In Fall, you can find a dry branch of a tree and hang the 'thank you' leaves on the "tree". Children can punch holes and learn to tie knots with yarn to acquire a skill that's gobbled up by Velcro)

Happy Thanksgiving!


© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Let Us Accept the New Ways


America, the USA is a country of immigrants. They came here to get more education, and then decided to stay, Often they come to the US as refugees. The immigrants say that they want their children to have better lives. At the back of their minds, they pine for the country they left behind. They want children to hold on to their, the parents' dream.

Recently, I read a story about a Somalian family which fled Somalia and settled in Norway. The parents talked about their Somalian roots with the children. Some years later the family made a trip to Somalia; except for the older child, the rest of the children aborted their Somalia trip to return to the comforts of their home in Norway.

The first generation immigrants stay connected with their country of birth as well as with the country they adopted.

In my last post a reader reminded me that descent and heritage are different---yes, sir, I stand corrected.

After writing this post, I thought of Britain, France, Portugal and other countries who went into other countries for economic as well s political gains and then stayed on. Talking about India, the British left behind their language, the railways, the postal system and the parliamentary system, lots of monuments and history. I wondered, if the British who were born in India but went back to their ancestral country, Britain, ever pine for India? Well, they took Chai and spices, a few words of Indian languages, a taste for Indian foods, and a lot of immigrants to their country. The English have made movies with Indian themes and actors. India remains a place to visit to rekindle memories.


Let Us Accept the New Ways

unison = together
diya = lamp with a wick that is dipped in oil 

Seven-year-old twins, Suchi and Soori changed into their pajamas and talked about their day.

Suchi said, "It was fun to take part in the Indian play at the India Society's function."

"Yep, did you hear the claps we received after the skit ended?"

Suchi agreed, "People liked our play."

Soori went under her warm covers, "They better like out stuff, they were all the parents." 

Suchi sat on the bed by Soori's feet, "Are you tired of all the Diwali stuff we have been doing?"

Throwing the covers off, Soori sat up, "I am Diwali-ed out." 

Both the girls burst into laughter.

They heard a knock on their door, Suchi rushed back to her bed, the twins slipped under covers. They looked at the door as it slowly opened.

Their older sister, eleven-year-old, Sapna peeked in, "Hey twins, what's the joke?"

Suchi sat up in the bed, "Didi, we are Diwali-ed out."

Soori joined her, "That's right, we want to be Americans."

Sapna said, "True, we are all Americans with Indian descent."

"With an Indian Heritage."

"Nope, heritage is of things, remember?" 

Sapna smiled, "Now you know two new words, heritage and descent, cool."

Suchi said, "Yeah, but Soori made a new word, we are Diwali-ed out."

"Are we going to do more Diwali stuff, Didi?"

Sapna sat on Soori's bed, "No Soori, not until next year." 

Suchi plopped down on the same bed, "Wheeeee--let's all celebrate by jumping on Soori's bed." She saw the frowns on Sapna and Soori's faces, "I guess, that's a bad idea." She sat by Sapna on the same bed. 

Fifteen-year-old, Sagar heard the commotion, "Hey, girls, what are you cooking now?"

"No cooking, this is not a kitchen."

Sapna said, "Suchi, he wants to know what are we discussing?"

Sagar pulled a chair by the bed, "What's going on? Mom and Dad have gone out, I am in charge, don't make any trouble for me or yourselves."

"The twins are Diwali-ed out."

Sagar counted on his fingers, "Diwali-ed out, huh? Let's see what did we do, we had the Lakshmi pujan-we prayed for the ability to use money wisely, we saw an Indian uncle start a new book of accounts, we lighted fire crackers, we lighted diyas to spread light everywhere, that's the light of knowledge, we had more fire crackers and loads of sweets, to celebrate a Diwali-party with our friends, we had a skit about one of the stories from the Hindu mythology and---"

Suchi and Soori said in unison, "Enough. We are Diwali-ed out."

Sagar said, "I agree, I am too."

Soori said, "Let's do something American."

Sagar said, "Girls, we do these things to learn about some of the Indian ways."

Suchi said, "But we live in America."

"True. It's always a good idea to learn about where the parents came form.""

Sapna said, "Okay, girls, let's be Americans. Halloween comes in three days. Have you thought of your costumes?"

"I want to be a pirate."

"I will be a witch." 

Sagar said, "I'll wear suit and wear my glasses to be a professor."

Sapna said, "Hmm..I am already thinking about Thanksgiving."


© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I am an Indian


You probably know that I was born in India, but I have spent more than half my life in the USA. The children I taught in a school, did not know that. They could tell that I was not white and I was not black, but never questioned me about from where I was.

In school, I introduced the country of my birth when we traveled around the world and made a trip to India. We went to India in an airplane---we arranged the chairs in rows and columns, had a pilot on the intercom and flight attendants telling us to fasten our seat belts, also gave us snacks. In those days, airlines offered passengers free snacks. I explained the concept of how long it took me to get there by discussing the number of meals and naps I took on the plane, all in one seat that was assigned to me before I took the flight.

The children wanted to know why I was called an Indian!

This story is about Indians from India.


I am an Indian

bhaiya = brother (Hindi)
heritage = things that are passed on from one generation to the next

It was early November, Suchi and Soori, the eight-year-old twins came home upset by what had happened in their class at school. 

Suchi complained, "Mom, you said we were Indians but Tommy said, I was telling a lie."

Soori inquired, "Mom, aren't we Indians, you said we were Indians, you told the truth, didn't you?"

Mom told them that they were Indians just like their didi, Sapna and Bhaiya, Sagar. And that even their parents and grand parents were Indians. 

Sixteen-year-old Sagar looked up from his book and met his younger sister, 12-year-old Sapna's eyes. He mouthed the words, "Skit?"

Sapna shook her head and pointed to a pile of books, mouthed, "Home work."

Sagar shrugged and called out, "Hey, Suchi-Soori, I can tell you something about our being Indians."

Suchi-Soori ran to Sagar and pulled two little chairs to sit by him. They munched on the snacks from the snack-plate in their laps. Sagar told them to hold their horses for a couple of minutes and he trotted off to his room. He carried back a huge globe on a stand and placed it between the twins. 

Sagar said, "Okay, guys, do you remember the names of the seven continents you memorized when you went to sleep every night?"

Suchi swallowed a bite, "Do you want us to recite them?"

Soori chimed in, "We can show you all the countries and those continents on the globe if you wish."

Sagar said, "That..."

Suchi interrupted, "We can even tell you all the capitals of those countries. Sapna didi made us learn those also."

Sagar said, "GUYS, LISTEN. I don't want to know the names of the countries or their capitals. Please be quiet and answer only when it's your turn."

The twins acted out zipping their mouths and kept quiet. They continued to eat their snack.

Sagar smiled, "Okay, then. Tell me, what exactly happened in school that made you so upset?"

Soori said, "Tommy said that we don't wear feathers in our hair and don't ride horses to school, so we can't be Indians. But mom says we are Indians."

Sagar said, "He's right, and mom is also right. Tommy was talking about the Native Americans, we used to call them Indians. Now we see them riding horses and wearing feathers only in movies and in some parades, maybe. Some of them live in special areas called Reservations."

Suchi and Soori spoke together, "But Tommy..."

Sagar raised his hand in a 'stop' gesture, "Let me tell you a funny incident that happened in mom's class. Once a Native American came to talk with the kids in her school. When mom told him she was also an Indian, he wanted to know the name of her tribe. She told him that she was the Indian that Columbus was looking for, instead, found him."

"Columbus was looking for Mom! Why?" 

Sagar didn't have a good answer, "Never mind about Columbus." He called out, " Sapna, can you help here?"

Sapna shrugged with a smile and said, "Nope, you opened a can of worms, you deal with them."

Sagar pursed his lips, pointed to the globe and said, "Well, Suchi-Soori, a long-long time ago all the continents were closer together, do you remember the Himalayas story? Perhaps due to earthquakes, the continents drifted apart, and so the people who lived on those continents, drifted apart too."

Suchi said, "I got it, Columbus was looking for mom when the continents fell apart."

Soori wondered, "Was it her fault that the continents fell apart or his?"

Sagar continued, "Uh, kiddos, the continents DRIFTED apart. Remember, Columbus was NOT looking for mom, he was looking for India. By some error, he ended up on the shores of North America. When he saw the Native Americans with their tanned skin, he thought he was in India and called them Indians." 

Soori said, "So, because of their color, he called them Indians?"

"That's right, we are darker than the whites, but often lighter than the African Americans."


Sapna jumped into the conversation from her chair, "Twins, you've taken enough of Bhaiya's time, I need his help with my homework. There's another story about people's color, we'll tell it to you at some other time." 

The next moment, Sagar was up on his feet, "Thanks, Sapna, I'd love to help you with your homework." With ten brisk steps, he reached Sapna and picked up one of her books.

Suchi and Soori dragged the Globe to Sagar and asked, "Why did you bring this out of your room?" 

"Oh, that was just to show you the continents and countries, nothing special."

"Oh, we know all the continents and countries." Smiling, the twins dragged the globe back closer to their chairs and started pointing at different  places. 

Mom came by and sat with them. She said, "Suchi-Soori, you know that we, your parents, came to the US from India for education and then stayed here for jobs, got married and then you came along. We still have relatives in India whom we call over the phone, and visit every few years."

"But why are we called Indians?"

"People who are from India, are called Indians."

"Then, we are Indians?"

Mom said, "You are Americans, born in the US and carry a US passport, but you are of an Indian descent."

"Do we have an Indian Heritage?"

"Nope, heritage is of valued things, buildings, from the previous generation."


"We are of an Indian descent, our parents and grand parents and many before them lived in India. Girls, except for the Native Americans, all the people in the US have migrated from different parts of the world. Some came over two hundred years ago, some may have come yesterday!" 

Sushi said, "But we did not migrate from anywhere, we were born right here."

Soori added, "Yep, we are Americans of Indian descent."

Suchi said to Soori, "That was a lot of history, but why is India called India?"

Soori shrugged.

Sapna joined them, "That word came from another word, the Indus Valley. It's a name given by the Western historians. And, the word, Indus comes from---"

Soori said, "Too much information, we got it, Indus valley people are Indians."

Sapna said, "Okay, but do you know why America is called America?"

"Uh---" The twins shrugged.

Sapna said, "It is named after an Italian navigator, Amerigo Vespucci. Seven years after Columbus landed, Amerigo realized that Columbus did not land in India but it was a new continent!"

Soori said, "That's cool. He finds a new land and gives it his own name."

Sagar said, "Not true. It was a German clergyman and a geographer who suggested the name America and people liked it."

Suchi said, "That's too much information. We're done here. Let's play."

The twins put their snack-plates in the sink and played with the globe a little longer. Later they dragged the globe back to their brother's room. When they returned to the kitchen, the older siblings had gone to another room to do their homework. The twins went to their mom and asked, "Why are we so tan, mom?"

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Friday, November 1, 2013

Some thoughts on Comments


I am going ahead with my blog today since I may not have time to do it over the weekend.

Last week I postponed today's blog-post, and published "Weavy...".

Here are some thoughts on the comments I received.

It delighted me to hear from you about my posts. The story about the Himalayas was going to a child's school. I wonder what happened---Did he read the story to the class? Did the teacher read it? Did they discuss how mountains come up? What, what, what....?

Another reader made a comment about choices.

I derive my answers from my teaching, observing and dealing with children---my own as well as many more; this is how I handled some situations.

I'd say that you, as an adult, have to make a choice of what is acceptable and what is not, to you, in your house, in your child's school, in your society, and in your world in general. There are rules for each segment. You can not make a choice of driving your car on the wrong side of the road. In good conscience, you make a choice of recycling to lessen the trash for the coming generations to clean. These are easy choices that a child makes from observing the adults and learning from them.

You give your child two crayons- a red one and a green one. He wants a blue crayon. Is there a blue crayon available? He likes neither. Well, he needs to make a choice, from what you have, red or green!

A child wants to eat his dessert before dinner. Do you give him a choice---What do you really want, ice cream or dinner? You, the parent, have a choice---give in to the child's demand or feed him first? I hope you choose the second one and offer him his dinner. He shoves it away, you give it back. He throws it on the floor. You pick it up and trash it, "Sorry, I had to throw away your food, we don't eat things that fall on the floor (the five second rule is a myth). You can sit at the dining table or do your home work/sulk, if you wish." The child screams for ice cream. You tell him, "It was for dessert and since you did not eat your dinner, you get no dessert. I'd be happy to share my dinner with you, would you like that?" If the child declines the dinner, you eat yours at the table, quietly and let him be at the table.

It is said that no child or an animal ever goes hungry if there is food around. I suggest, keep an extra serving of dinner handy, perhaps a slice of cheese with bread.

It's your patience against his.

After a whole day's tedious work, you have no patience for this. You'd rather give in to him and let him have ice cream. Easy, isn't it?

At that point, be an adult and ask yourself, is this a wise choice?

To continue with our crayon story, "If you don't use the green or the red crayon, you can't color. We don't have a blue one, perhaps you can find another activity."

If your child doesn't want do his homework--- he may have to stay extra at school, do more homework or he may be sent home, but you won't be home, staying outside the house is not be a good idea. Staying at a friend's house is not appreciated by the friend's parents nor by you and going alone to a mall or anywhere else is dangerous for a child....many scenarios.

So, it's your choice--- homework or no homework?

Freedom without limits is anarchy. Giving choices without being aware of the consequences is no better. The adults in a child's environment have to show the child right from wrong by examples and stories.

Adults do not make a choice for children but arm them with the knowledge of the consequences of their actions.

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll have a story about Indians---the people from India.


© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, October 27, 2013

This is Not Your Home


Chemistry and Embryology (study of embryos) were subjects for my degrees. So, somewhere along my teaching career, I taught science also along with reading and math---to the preschoolers, no less. I often picked up dead bees, crickets and spiders from my walks, and brought them to my class the next morning.

I used this story to teach children about insects. And yes, we saw some of these insects-dead or in pictures, or live ones too.

For 5-7-year-old children.


This is Not Your Home

Weavy, a baby spider decided to go home after a long walk in the woods.
He reached home.  “I’m home, Mama. Please let me in.”
A cricket answered, “This is not your home, and I’m not your Mama. I am an insect, I have six legs, and I live in holes.”
Weavy counted his legs. There were eight. He hung his head down and walked on.
He reached home.  “I’m home, Mama. Please let me in.”
A grasshopper answered, “This is not your home, and I’m not your Mama. I am an insect, I have four wings and I live in grass.”
Weavy looked for his wings. There were none. He hung his head down and walked on.
He reached home, “I’m home, Mama. Please let me in.”
A ladybug answered, “This is not your home, and I’m not your Mama. I am an insect, I have two antennae on my head and I live in shrubs.”
Weavy wiggled his head. There were no antennae. He hung his head down and walked on.
He reached home. “I’m home, Mama. Please let me in.”
A butterfly answered, “This is not your home, and I’m not your Mama. I am an insect, my body is divided into three parts, and I live under leaves.”
Weavy counted his body parts. There were two. He hung his head down and walked on.
He reached home. “I’m home, Mama. Please let me in.”
A honeybee answered, “This is not your home, and I’m not your Mama. I am an insect, I have an exoskeleton, and I live in honey combs.”
Weavy felt his body. He had no skeleton at all. He hung down his head and plopped down on the ground. He saw an ant scurrying around.
Weavy mumbled, “Please, don’t say anything. I know, you’re not my Mama and I’m not an insect.”
The ant nodded, “That’s right, Weavy. But you don’t know that insects lay eggs, not young ones.”
Tired Weavy shrugged, rolled his eyes and cried out, “Mama, I want to come home.”
The mama spider, dangling by a thread, scooped up Weavy. She took him home, “Weavy, this web is your home and you are an arachnid.”
Weavy smiled, “Mama, I’m happy I am not an insect and that I live in a web. Mama, what is an arachnid?” 

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Himalayas Did Not Collapse

Here is my story for this week. 
Natural calamities change the landscape in a matter of hours. 
Man's choice is to accept Nature's fury and work around it after it has occurred. One can prepare for it by leaving the area when there's a previous warning, as it happens in tornadoes and tsunamis. At such times, doing nothing wastes lives and property.
Today's story is about Mount Everest, in the Himalayas.


The Himalayas Did Not Collapse!

 Sa                         Sapna frowned as she faced her mom and said, “Mom, Bhaiya says, the Himalayas are the tallest mountains in the whole world.”
Sagar, at twelve, who was four years older than Sapna, said,  “They are, Sapna. We studied about it in our geography class.”
                     Mom agreed, “Sapna, Sagar is right. The Himalayas have Mount Everest, world’s tallest peak.
                     Sapna wondered, “How did it get to be the tallest?”
Sagar smiled when he said, “Perhaps because the other mountains are shorter.”
Mom also smiled, “Well, long, long ago a big earthquake made the Himalayas.”
Sapna, “An Earthquake made a mountain?”
Sagar jumped in, “Dear Sapna, once a small island came up in Pakistan when there was an earthquake.”
Mom agreed, “That’s right, just like that the Himalayas came up thousands of years ago.
Sapna frowned, “You still didn't tell me, how can an earthquake make a mountain!”
Sagar said, “Mom, I know how it happened.”
“Okay, go ahead explain it to your sister.”
“Well, Sapna, when there is an earthquake, the earth moves and the land cracks.”
Sapna said, “If the land cracks, things drop in the crack! They don’t get pulled out of the earth.”
Sagar nodded, “Good thinking, Sapna. That also happens, things can drop in the cracks but often in an earthquake, things from deep inside the earth, move up.”
Sapna, “I get it, like the lava from the underground, cool. And, you have a mountain! But where will the things from the top go?”
Sagar added, “Sapna, it’s not just one piece of the land that moves, everything moves on land---buildings, bridges, and trees fall where the earthquake occurs. Things shift around.”
Sapna put her hands on her mouth, “Oh, no! That’s horrible. When things fall, do people get hurt?”
Sagar shook his head, “When little girls fall, do their knees are scraped? What do you think happens when a building falls on people? Don’t be such a dim wit.”
Sapna knitted her eyebrows together, “You don’t have to call me names just because you know more.”
“That’s enough children.” Mom said. 
Sagar kept a straight face and continued, “Sapna, do you know how an earthquake occurs in the first place?”
Sapna shook her head, raised her hands and shrugged.
Sagar smiled again and said, “Well, the earth is made of huge, flat pieces of rock called the tectonic plates. These slabs are way bigger than our house or your school.”
Sapna’s eyes widened.
“Yep, they are huge. They move ever so slow. They bump into one another and they pull away; they go past one other; they go over and under. They create lots of friction, rubbing against one another, and boom, you have an earthquake!
Sapna said, “It sounds like toppling a building made of blocks by moving a couple of blocks at the bottom.”
“Exactly. The tectonic plates’ movement is slow, smooth, and constant. You move one block from the bottom and the one on the top falls!”
“That’s awful.”
“One tectonic plate moves with a great force and makes the other plates shift from their place with even a greater force.”
Sapna wanted to know, “You said ‘constant.’  If it happens all the time, why don’t we hear about them? Why don’t we see them?”
“Well, there is just one answer to both your questions. All this occurs deep down below inside the earth. So we don’t see it nor do we hear it! Also, the shifting of tectonic plates does not always bring about an earthquake.”
“How can that be?”
“Simple, by the time the movement comes to the top, its force is gone!”
Sapna had her hand on her chin, “Bhaiya, you learned all this in your geography class?”
“Nope, four of us are doing a science project on earthquakes, so we have to study. Sapna, there’s more.”
“More? I don’t want to learn about the earthquakes anymore. ”
“Okay, you’ve got to hear this last thing---“
“I don't have to. I can’t shut my ears! Maybe I could walk away, my choice.”
“Don’t be silly. Listen, the earthquakes that we see, occur only on earthquake fault lines.”
“It is a weakened line between the tectonic plates, deep in the earth.”
Sapna got up from her chair and said, “Well, Bhaiya, for your project, you better find these fault lines and erase them.”
Sagar also got up, “Yeah, right. I am the big scientist, a seismologist, who can tell where these fault lines are and erase them. You don't understand anything. You can predict an earthquake, you can't stop it.”
Sapna walked to her room.
Sagar decided to eat a banana with honey and think about earthquakes.
Sapna ran back to the kitchen, “Bhaiya, how can I save myself if there is an earthquake here?”
Sagar thought for a moment, “You can go under some huge furniture---the dining table or stand by strong walls on the inside of our house, but never near a window or doors that swing.”
Sapna said thoughtfully, “That's good. Anyway, the Himalayas did not collapse due to an earthquake, actually, an earthquake made them!” 
Sagar agreed, “You got it, the earthquake created the Himalayas.”
Sapna clapped, “With the tallest cliff in the world! Yay…”
“Uh, the tallest peak.”

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Taking a Break :-(


No, I did not miss a story for this week. I think my blog is not being read, so I am holding on to my stories and taking a break until I know someone reads my blog :-)



Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Always Have A Choice


Here I am again, presenting one more story. 

It is about making a choice in life. 

A person can always choose. Make a right turn or left, keep going forward or return, exercise today or not, eat right or not, study, finish the work or procrastinate. 

Do I continue with this blog or do I drop it? I still have a few more stories, due to circumstances surrounding me, I have not written anything new, just rehashing what had been sitting on my computer. 

Getting back to the story, a person has a choice to help or not help another person. 

Enjoy the story written for six-seven year old children. 


You Always Have A Choice

Grandpa sat in their living room with a book. 
Billy hobbled in, tears spilled from his eyes.
Grandpa left his arm chair, picked up his cane and walked towards Billy, "What happened, Billy?"
Billy bent over his leg, "It hurts. I fell down and Robby did not even help me." He flopped down on the nearest chair.
Grandpa, "Uh, oh. Let’s see. How did you fall?" Grandpa sat on a low stool by Billy's chair, Grandpa touched his leg gently. 
Billy, "We were running a race and I fell down. My ankle feels sore and I can’t walk. Tommy’s dad saw me.
and carried me here."
Grandpa moved his hand on Billy's ankle, "Hmm.  I see your sore ankle. How about we ask Grandma to drive us to an emergency room."
Billy hid his leg under his chair, "They'll make my ankle hurt more."  
Grandpa, "Nooo, if I remember it right, the doctors make you feel better."
Billy and his Grandpa sat in the backseat. Grandma drove the car.
Billy continued to pout, "Grandpa, why didn’t Robby help me? I called out for help, but he just ran past
Grandpa patted Billy's hand, "Well, sweetheart, a person always has a choice."
Billy looked up at Grandpa, "What do you mean?"
Grandpa said, "It's simple. You have a choice of helping someone or not helping."
Billy frowned, "Well, he didn't."
Grandpa smiled, "Hmm. Let me tell you a story and you can figure that out for yourself, Billy."
Billy said, "Tell me your story only if it helps me feel better."
Grandpa nodded, "Well, unless you hear the story, we will not know."
Billy crinkled his nose, "I guess you can tell me the story."
"It happened in the year 2006, in the month of June I think."
Billy smiled, "I finished second grade in June and my birthday is in June!"
Grandpa, "That is right. In June that year, an Australian mountain climber climbed Mount Everest. Then He started his descent."              
Billy's eyes opened wide, "Wow!  Did he actually climb the highest mountain in the world? Was he climbing
all  by himself?"
Grandpa patted Billy's hand, "No, they always climb in twos of more. And yes, I am talking about the tallest of the Himalayan peaks. He had climbed Everest. He looked around.
Billy's eyes grew even more wide, "Did it look different?"
Grandpa smiled, "I am sure it did. How do things look from your tree house?"              
Billy grinned from ear to ear, "Really neat. I can see things that are far-far away. I love it."
"Well, this mountaineer also looked all around from the top of Everest. Then he started to climb down.  Unfortunately, soon he felt disoriented!"
"Yes, he did not know where he was and what he was doing. That can happen when you are tired, if you don’t have enough sleep, and especially when you don’t get enough oxygen."
Billy, "Grandpa, people and animals die if they don’t get oxygen, right?"
Grandpa said, "Correct. Well, this mountaineer was so disoriented, that he just sat down and refused to climb down!" 
Billy wondered, "Didn’t his friends help him?"
"Of course, they tried.  But the mountaineer resisted all attempts of help. They soon gave it up because they started to run low on their own oxygen."
Billy, "Oh, no. that was bad. Did the poor mountaineer die?"
Grandpa: "Well, the Sherpa, that’s the guide, and the others felt his pulse, and listened to his heartbeat. There were none. They decided that the man was dead! They left him there and came down the mountain."
Billy, "Then?"
Grandpa continued, "Well, on the next day, an American was climbing the same slope with two other Americans and a Sherpa."
Billy, "Good for them. So the Americans brought the dead Australian down!"
Grandpa nodded, "Yes, the Americans brought the Australian down, and he was not dead!"
Billy, "Cool! How did they bring him to life?"
Grandpa said, "Billy, nature is fantastic. In cold temperatures, the human body turns on its defense mechanism. All of the body functions slow down to save the body heat." 
Billy, "Wow, the Australian's body protected itself!"
Grandpa, "So it would seem. Billy, this guy sat in a lotus position, on the snow, without any gloves, without a hat, without an oxygen tank, with his jacket unbuttoned, and without a sleeping bag to keep warm."
Billy, "That's crazy."
Grandpa answered, "Right, but the Americans saw the Australian did not really know who he was nor what he was doing there!" 
Billy, "Didn't they see he was disoriented?"
Grandpa replied, "Perhaps. Well, the American wondered: Do I keep on climbing or do I help another human being!" 
Billy, "I got it, Grandpa. If the American continued to climb, the Australian dies, if the he helped, the
Australian lives! What did he do Grandpa?"
"Well, he asked his fellow climbers of their opinion---whether to help a fellow climber, another human being or make their dream come true and reach the peak in two hours."
"What did they choose?"
Grandpa said that they let their dream go and …
Billy interrupted, "And they decided to save a life. They made a good choice, right?"   
"Yes, Mr. Billy, that’s right. There is always a choice: You can either go this way or that."
Billy nodded, "I guess Tommy made the wrong choice."  
Grandpa said, "Right or wrong, that the choice he made, son."
Grandma braked the car when they reached their destination, "My dear fellows, we are at the hospital."
Billy held his Grandpa's hand, "We made a good choice by coming to the hospital. With your cool
story, I did not even think about my ankle! I am ready for the doctors. Let’s go."

The End

Discussion:  Do we have a choice in our daily lives?  Choice in what we wear?  Choice in what we eat?  Choice in what we do?  How does our choice affect us?  How does it affect other people?

(The Australian’s name was Lincoln Hall and the American was Dan Mazur)

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Andres, Do You Want to Build with Me?


Today's story could be a graphic story, but here it is only in words. 

It happened in my preschool class. A student came to me with a problem about another student rejecting to play him and calling him black.

My assistant and I had the following conversation, after I told the children to be quiet so the teachers could have a special talk with each other. Of course, we had a pin drop silence in the class---the little ears wanted to listen to our conversation.

After that we never had a problem of discrimination in the class. I guess an Indian teacher with her African American assistant do not offer much to discriminate. 

My story, with a few changes appeared in the Stories for Children in one of their 2007 issue.


                                              Andrés, do you want to build with me?

Miss Joyce was working with her preschool class.

Andrés came to her with an unhappy face.

Ms. Joyce asked, “What’s going on Andrés?”

Andrés sounded very upset as he said, “Johnny says, ‘I am black’”

Ms. Joyce said,  “Hmm.  What did you tell him?”

Andrés extended his arm in front of me, “Nothing…...I am brown.”

Ms Joyce put her arm next to Andres’ arm and said, “Guess what? I am also brown.  Sometimes people

call me black.”

Andrés looked up at Ms. Joyce and smiled.

Ms. Joyce said,  “Let’s talk to Johnny.”

Ms. Joyce took Andrés by hand and they both walked to Johnny.

She said, “Hello, Johnny, Do you know this boy?”  She pointed to Andrés.

Johnny looked up and said, “Yes, that’s Andrés.

Johnny went on building again.

Ms. Joyce said, “Johnny, Andrés has something to tell you.”

Johnny held on to one of the blocks and said, “What?”

Andrés said, “I am not black, I am brown.”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders and went back to his blocks.

Ms. Joyce asked, “How about calling him by his name?”

Johnny said, “Okay.  I’ll call him Andrés.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Thank you.  I think people like being called by their own name.”

Johnny concentrated on his blocks.

Unhappy Andrés stood there, with a crestfallen face.

Ms Joyce put one hand on Andrés shoulder and she put the other hand on Johnny’s shoulder as she asked, “Johnny, what do you do when you are hungry?”

Johnny replied, “I eat when I’m hungry.”

Ms. Joyce asked Andrés, “And you Andrés?  What do you do when you are hungry?”

Andrés said, “I eat.”

Andrés sat down on the floor, next to Johnny. 

Ms. Joyce said, “And what do you gentlemen do when you are thirsty?”

Johnny said, “I drink milk in the morning.  I also like drinking juice and water too.”

Andrés said, “I also drink milk in the morning.  I drink water in school.”

Ms. Joyce asked, “Johnny, what happens when you are unhappy?”

Johnny said, “Everyone cries when they are unhappy.”

Ms. Joyce said, “I think you are right, people cry when they are unhappy.  Now

Johnny, have you ever tasted your tears?”

Johnny, “Yeah, they taste like salt.”

Ms. Joyce asked Andrés, “Are your tears salty, Andrés?”

Andrés moved closer to Ms. Joyce, he whispered, “Yes.”

Ms. Joyce asked him again, “Okay, do you smile when you are happy, Andrés?”

Andrés smiled, “Yes.”

Ms. Joyce asked, Johnny, “And you, Johnny, do you smile when you’re happy?”

Johnny answered, “Yep.”

Ms. Joyce asked again, “When you scrape your knee, what happens?”

Johnny touched his knee and replied, “Sometimes it bleeds.”

Ms. Joyce asked the same question to Andrés.  He said that sometimes he also bleeds.

She further asked, “What is the color of your blood?”

Andrés answered, “Red.”

Johnny smiled and said, “Mine is red too.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Do you think everyone has red blood in their body?”

Johnny said, “Ms. Joyce, everybody has red blood.  Even dogs and cats.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Oh, that’s good.  Everyone has red blood.  One more question.”

Johnny asked, “What?”

Ms. Joyce said, “Boys, when you get a cold, what is the color of the stuff that comes out of your nose?”

Andrés replied, “It is called film, Ms. Joyce.”

Ms. Joyce said, “That’s right, what is the color of your phlegm?”

Johnny said, “Yuck, it is white and yellow. Gross.”

Andrés said, “Yeah. Gross.”

Ms. Joyce continued, “Yes, it is gross. All right then gentlemen, one last question, what color is your pee?”

Johnny said, "You said a potty word."

The boys answered together, “Ms. Joyce, it’s yellow.”

Ms. Joyce said, “That’s right.  Tell me now, are you more the same or different?”

Johnny and Andrés said together, “We are both the same.”

Johnny smiled as he said, “We are different outside, but the same inside.” 

Ms. Joyce said, “Ah, you boys are so smart.  You are right, we look different outside but

we are the same inside.”

The boys started grinned at each other as Ms. Joyce said, “What would I do if Andrés, Johnny, Rachel, Rina, Cathy, Tommy, Martha, Ashok, Keisha—looked exactly the same?”

Andrés said, “You are so silly, Ms. Joyce.”

Johnny said, “Yep, you are so silly.  We can’t all be the same.”

Andrés said, “We can be the same inside, but not on the outside.”

Ms. Joyce smiled as she said, “And I thank you for being different.”

Johnny said, “Andrés, do you want to build with me?”

Andrés said, “Okay.”

Andrés and Johnny palyed together.

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah