Meera Sleeping

meera shanbhag

This tiny girl amazes me! She’s got me completely wrapped around her little finger – twice over. She only has to coo and I start babbling baby talk like a blithering blidiot. I love it! When she is a sleep, I gaze at her. What is she dreaming? Is she happy? I wonder at this miracle and our good fortune to be enslaved by her.

Here, she is napping after her bath, which as you have all witnessed is a chaotic experience. She smells of Mysore sandalwood soap which has bathed scores of the Shanbhag clan. I cannot help but breath deeply. I had to memorialize this. As I reach for the camera, M berates me not to use the flash – it might awaken Meera!

I agreed and proceeded to compose the pic. M, ever suspicious of my acquiescence, waits and watches, hands on her hip; ready to pounce and tear me to smithereens. What do I do? Of course, I don’t use the flash! My survival instincts are definitely honed!

I am glad, the natural light diffusing in the room cast Meera in a soft glow. M was right, but don’t tell her that!



Previous Posts on Meera:

Meera turns One

Meera turned ONE in her new home. We had a small gathering with cousins, nephews and nieces. Gorged on South Indian delicacies and helped welcome Meera. Here are a few pics.

One of our friends casually asked the other day. “Do you have any pics of Meera?” Then added as an after thought, “of course she is going to be the most photographed girl on this planet.” I was shocked.


The birthday girl; one of her aunts got this tiny dress stitched for Meera.
Here’s looking at you, kid. pssss! pssss! *anti-nazar spray*
pics of Meera's first birthday by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Meera turns One”

Lunch at the Shanbhag School


In 2007, the Shanbhag School in Kumta (and their parent, the Konkan Education Trust), started to provide lunch for all their students. In the midst of a long day, the students had previously rushed home during their lunch hour. There are no cafeterias or restaurants near the school.

The school made a significant investment in cooking equipment and prepares a nutritious, vegetarian meal for the ~ 850 primary and secondary school students. Lunch is simply rice, sambar or daal, a lentil curry or vegetable and pickles (see actual student plate above).

During my meetings with parents of Scholarship recipients, and listening to comments at the Parents Teachers Meeting, parents absolutely love the school lunch program. Parents are relieved of the pressure to pack a lunch every morning, or have it ready for the lunch break. Parents are also surprised (and glad) their kids actually eat the variety of vegetables and lentils the school serves. The school subsidizes the lunch and charges students Rs 80 per month (~$2 per month, Rs 4 per meal or ~ 10 cents per lunch!). Students not on the meal plan can eat occasional meals and drop cash in an unmanned donation box.

Kids love the food too. Meals are taken in the company of friends (and associated peer-pressure to finish their plate). Lunch is done within 20-30 minutes, and since they still have an hour break, they get to play around, gossip, or browse the library.

I showed up just before lunch time to “test the quality of the school lunch program.” I always have interesting reasons to be present wherever free lunch is served. Very delicious food and a primary reason why we included lunch as part of the scholarship package for needy students. If your travels bring you to Kumta, you are welcome to join in for a delicious lunch.

Note: In this post from 2014, you can see new pics and video snippets of students in the primary Saraswati Vidya Kendra, lining up for lunch and chanting the blessing.

See pics from the Lunch, below
Continue reading “Lunch at the Shanbhag School”

Scholarships for the Needy

I have previously written about the Shanbhag School, an academic beacon in Kumta and surrounding villages.

The Shanbhag High School, managed by the Konkan Education Trust does not receive any governmental aid. But it follows the state determined academic syllabus and guidelines. While we attract many students who can afford fees, our family wanted to make good education particularly accessible to the poor. Thus last year we gave 16 scholarships to very needy students to attend either the Shanbhag High School, or the affiliated primary school, Saraswati Vidya Kendra. At a new site dedicated to our Scholarship activities, (Shikshan.org), you can browse the list of Scholarship Recipients for 2007-2008.

You can also read about my personal challenges in identifying needy girls: Where are all the needy girls?

We did not rest, last December (2007) during my travels to Kumta I visited most of the scholarship recipients in their homes. The visit served two purposes: (a) to meet the families and convince them of our commitment to support their child’s education ~ and in turn expect them to make education a priority; and (b) to ensure that these were indeed needy families, which I could determine from their living conditions.

They lived in simple 1 or 2 room homes, or with relatives, and it was emotionally overwhelming to experience the gratitude of these families. Below, I share with you some of the scholarship recipients in their home settings. Appropriately I have omitted their names.


We supported the boy in the center, flanked by his father and cousin sister. Being poor, the girl was enrolled in the local government run Kannada language school. She wanted to attend our English school, but being in 8th std (grade) it would have been academically disastrous for her to switch the language of instruction a year before the State Board Exams. This was an important reason why we started giving scholarships to students in primary school!

Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy”

13 Dangerous Days of Monsoon

Following a newspaper tip:
The US Embassy has identified 13 days most likely to lead to flooding in Mumbai, during the monsoons.

This info is important for all Mumbaikars (not just US citizens), and the City Government should have been disseminating this info in the first place, rather than planning and sniping about a statue in the sea!

Excerpted from an email sent to registered US citizens. See the entire note from the Consulate here
Continue reading “13 Dangerous Days of Monsoon”

THIS is a Saree

A bit dated, but saw this recently on a forward.

Arun Shanbhag Silk Saree

Chennai Silks, India has woven the world’s costliest silk saree worth Rs. 40 lakhs (96,000 USD). The weavers incorporated gold thread as well as precious stones into the saree. Not only will it lighten the wallet, wearing the 8 kg saree (17.6 lbs) may cause the wearer to lose weight.

The exceptionally stunning sari is woven with 12 precious stones including diamonds, ruby, emeralds, yellow sapphire, topaz, pearls and corals. Gold, platinum and silver threads are used in the weave and together with the gems depict 11 of Raja Ravi Varma’s popular paintings. Woven on the “pallu” is ‘Lady Musicians’, one of Ravi Varma’s famous works paying tribute to women of diverse cultural backgrounds. It took 30 weavers, seven months to make the saree.

This Reuters video has more images and details of the saree (Reuters)

I am thankful that during M’s saree shopping binge in Chennai, we did not come across this saree!

Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms

After five years of research and writing,
Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms
was released on Ganesh Chaturthi, September 15, 2007.

This was my second book. When you see both my books juxtaposed on Amazon, you will nod: yup! only a Gemini could pull this off!

I am grateful that I was given this gift of compiling Prarthana in this form. With that also comes a responsibility of taking this message of our dharma to a wider audience. So I ask you to support this by purchasing a copy for yourself and your family.

With the festive season of Diwali soon approaching, you may want to pick extra copies for your friends and colleagues. Prarthana makes an excellent gift!

Get more details of Prarthana, as well as text excerpts at http://www.arunsprarthana.com
There you can also see details of the special pricing and how to buy it by credit card or check.

Prarthana is also available at Amazon for the List price.

I leave you with part of a review from Ellen Duranceau

… these prayers speak to something common to all of humanity: a spiritual impulse for light to dispel darkness; for connection to nature, to other people, and to the universe itself; for the courage to rise above our anguish or fears, to find hope and the best within ourselves, and to share our best selves with the world. In a time of great divisions, it is heart-warming to dip into another faith tradition and find common bonds, rather than alienation.

Live Well, Today

M napping on the train in Austria

Today is what you will be nostalgic for, in a few years.

Occasionally, I am overcome by fond memories of childhood in Mumbai; visiting cousins, relatives and grandparents in the rural Karnataka towns of Bhatkal, Honavar, Hosad and Kumta. From what I remember, then I was busy running around, chasing dragon-flys, seeking bird eggs, stoning mangoes, or herding cows.

Now I miss my grandmother – I see her working the orchards, taking care of the household, and scribing “shri ram jaya ram jaya jaya ram” in her notebook every evening. Even when the power went out – which it did most evenings in the summer – she'd light an oil lamp and continue writing. Once more I'd like to peek up at her and see her furrowed brow, the violet bindi and reading glasses perched on her nose. Once more I'd want to be scolded by her. Continue reading “Live Well, Today”

Custom Google Page


Thank you Larry Page and Sergey Brin for making a Google Home Page for MEEEEE! 😛

A little narcissism never hurt anybody! Indulge yourself. Get one here. Thanks to David Pogue (NYTimes) for the link.

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