Acham illai acham illai (Be fearless)- Conquering fear with music and art.

P came home from school singing’Ekla chalo re’. It was the new song they were learning in their music class at school. He was super excited to learn a Bengali song. I asked him if his teacher taught him the meaning of the song and he answered negative. I thought it was a lovely opportunity to talk about the song and a similar song that I play in my head when I’m at crossroads – Subramaniya Bharathi’s ‘Acham illai, acham illai’ (Be fearless). I can still visualise my Tamil teacher singing this song to us with pride and telling us to imbibe the meaning.

We listened to the ‘Ekla chalo re’ song on you tube. I read out the meaning of the lines. Of course it was a tad difficult for him to fully understand the meaning. So I adapted it to facing our fears, head on and bravely moving ahead.

I also played ‘acham illai, acham illai’ and explained the meaning to P. The video of the song was set to India’s independence struggle and how Bharathiyar inspired common man with the song.P connected better to this song.

We then spoke about our fears and how we must bravely face it singing ‘acham illai, acham illai’. P said his fear is being alone in the dark. I prodded him to draw it and also think about how he will face his fear. He drew a self portrait of him alone at home at night. He drew his favourite God bappa (Ganesha) who will help him face his fears. He kept chanting ‘acham illai, acham illai’ and singing ‘ekla chalo’ as he painted.

A picture I will always treasure in my heart!



Origami Ganesha

As the city readies itself to welcome the elephant God, Lord Ganesha, P too is drumming up excitement, literally, to welcome his favourite bappa. Every year we do some art activity related to bappa, either a painting, a play dough version, making the procession with blocks etc. This year a newspaper article caught my eye and I knew P would love it too.

A few days back Times of India published a ‘DIY origami Ganesha’. It was too interesting to give it a pass. P and I quickly got to work and made the most adorable origami Ganeshas.

I had to practice it many times before I could teach P. It required a lot of patience and many messed up versions. But it was worth it.


P’s bappas



My version


Art, the healer

Art is a great healer and I believe it calms me down and helps me best during trying times. We recently lost my father-in-law (P’s paternal grandfather). While we were coming to terms with the loss, we had a greater task of making P understand the ultimate reality of nature – death.

This was P’s first brush with loss of a love one and hence it was an uphill task to collect our own thoughts and present it in a manner that a 7 year old can comprehend. While it is a moment of extreme grief, I wanted P to have a positive approach to the experience. So I explained the circle of life – of how to accommodate more babies, mother Earth and God calls back people who are old and ailing. And achacha (grandfather) was not in the best of health and hence was called back to join his parents who are now with bappa (his favourite God, Lord Ganesha). Of course P had a lot of questions which I tried to answer.

It has been few days now and P seems to be revisiting the experience and trying to make sense of it. That is when I thought I’ll teach my boy to use his strength – art, to express his emotion and feelings.

We spoke about his memories of achacha, the fun times he had with him drumming, pottering around the porch, sighting the squirrels and birds that came to eat the crumbs they had thrown etc. P spoke of the times when they competed about whose crumb the bird/squirrel would eat. I was glad he recounted all the happy times.

I then put out his art sheet and colours and told him to pain his best memory of achacha. P thought for a long while and then to my surprise painted this – him, achacha and our family dog Jocky. Jocky died couple of years ago and at that point we just told P Jocky’s parents came and took him back. Being smaller then, he was upset but soon got over it and busied himself with the other dogs, Droopy and Tiger.

When I asked him why he chose to include Jocky in the picture, he said ‘now I know Jocky and achacha are together and they will play together.’

I hope art has helped my little boy vent out his emotions and he will continue using it as a medium to inner peace, all his life.



Collaborative learning

I have been doing a lot of watercolour painting this vacation and P has been pestering me to do one on his own. His conditions were – ‘using your paints, your brushes and on handmade paper’. At the risk of my watercolour tray getting mixed and messed up, I gave in to his long standing demand.

So today he got up all excited, finished his morning routine at express speed and sat down determined to paint his masterpiece. When I asked he what he wanted to paint, he told me emphatically, ‘I have it all figured out. I want to paint an ulsavam aana (caparisoned elephant) – the one we clicked during the ulsavam (temple festival). You draw it for me and I will look at the photo and paint’. I was taken aback with the level of planning and so I just followed his ‘figured out’ plan.

With the photo in front of him, he started his work with a little prayer. I was surprised to see how much he has been observing me when I paint – I always start my paintings with a small prayer.

Since watercolour is a new medium for P, I had to guide him through it despite his protests. We worked on the art together, with me highlighting the edges and P painting as per my instruction. And just like that we came up with our first collaborative work.

The time spent, as always gave me a peek into my little boy’s head, a rare opportunity given the fact that his world is now infused with friends, sports, books, play and the likes. When we finished our painting, I told him how I loved our ‘art time’ to which  P cheekily replied ‘I think we should do this more often amma. I can teach you so many things!’


Hand made

It’s been a while since I have posted our activities – thanks to our various commitments. But P and I have been catching a few hours whenever we can to indulge in our favourite hobby – art. My boy has grown and how! He has a mind of his own and sees possibilities of life in every form around. This is seen in all his art and yes, school work too. Secretly I am loving every bit of it.

He took to drawing hands when he was over with his obsession of drawing elephants, planes and trains. He would constantly trace his hand on drawing sheets, imagining it to be all kinds of things from a rooster to a boy with spikey hair to a bird. It was tough to restrain myself from putting in my two bit – but knowing him he would hear none of it. The hand phase has currently passed but I am hoping the imagination is growing multi fold.




Temple festival and caparisoned elephants

A large part of my life, which was in my hometown, was spent waiting for the annual temple festival at the local temple. It is usually in January/February every year for a week. The whole town practically packs itself tightly in the compound of our Shiva temple to see the lord atop caprisoned elephants majestically walking to the beats of the melam (typical Kerala percussion art). The atmosphere is heady and the air so spiritual and magical that no one left the temple grounds before the Lord called it a day.

Ever since P came into my life, I have fervently wished he could witness the magic, more so because P loves the melam and elephants. However the timing always clashed with our work and school commitments that going to our hometown during the temple festival or ulsavam took the back seat.

Guess someone up there was listening to my wish, as this year we happened to be in our hometown as a family, for the ulsavam. And sure enough we made the most of it. P was initially skeptical about the crowd and all the hustle bustle and wanted to beat a hasty retreat as soon as we made it to the temple. But the minute the majestic caprisioned elephants came out with the Lord, he was wonderstruck.

He insisted on walking and staying really close to the elephants and the melam and went to the extent of following the elephants back to their shelter where they were fed and rested for the following day’s festivities. This became routine for us for the days we were there. I was thrilled that P could experience what I did as a kid.

When he transalated his experience to art, I knew my little boy came back with a big piece of my hometown in his heart.