Pics from Sandy Hook Elementary School, CT

Sandy Hook Elementary School

My cousin attended a vigil at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last night. What a senseless tragedy. Also getting emails from Meera’s School about all the precautions they have in place to protect the tiny ones. Right! We are indeed living in a crazy world. Continue reading “Pics from Sandy Hook Elementary School, CT”

Thankful for All

Pics of an older woman cooking on the sidewalk in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Meera and M are doing superbly well and healthy. Our lives have been enriched in so many ways: great family and friends, satisfying careers and fulfilling “dharma”. We are thankful for all this and more! ~ Arun

This post by Preena reminded me of this older woman cooking on the sidewalk in South Mumbai. It was a simple, charred metal can she used to boil a little bit of rice. That was all she had for dinner. Continue reading “Thankful for All”

Don Meera

Pictures of Don Meera, Mumbai 2010
When Meera was a baby, every time I wore my shades, she would reach for them. I would then mime Main Hoon Don, Don, Don! Soon, Meera came to associate dark glasses with Don!

When we passed stalls on Colaba Causeway selling dark glasses, she’d point and say, Don, Don, Don! SO I had to get her these oversized shades. She’d wear them all the time.

Here is Meera at a gathering in Mumbai. It was well past her nap time and she was super tired, but she persevered and did not get cranky. Verily Don Meera! Continue reading “Don Meera”

Talking with Children About Upsetting News Events

News of the Haiti earthquake and related photographs have been so disturbing, that I skip headlines and scroll down to more mundane news.

If we adults can be so disturbed, what about children who are exposed to the same repeating news casts? Fortunately for us, Dr Paula Rauch, a child psychiatrist who heads the “Parenting At a Challenging Time” program at the Massachusetts General Hospital, (Boston, MA) gives us several tips on the best ways to engage with children of different age-groups.

Dr Rauch kindly gave permission to share this entire article with you all. Please share this valuable resource with other parents.


Talking with Children about Upsetting News Events

All children are exposed to news via newspapers, radio, the Internet, and especially television. And they naturally turn to their parents with questions about what they have seen and heard. For a child whose family is impacted by the earthquake in Haiti, news about the tragedy can raise concerns about their own family’s safety. Discussing these issues poses a special challenge for parents to listen, understand, and answer their children’s questions in a manner that is both honest and reassuring. Meeting this challenge successfully strengthens your child’s inner strength, sense of security, and trust in you.
Continue reading “Talking with Children About Upsetting News Events”

Meera: Father’s Day Wishes

Meera Mumbai

With Meera and M in Mumbai, I can only reminisce about Meera’s favorite anecdotes. Here she is exploring the Kumta train station enroute to Mumbai on the Konkan Railway. She thoroughly enjoyed the train ride. Continue reading “Meera: Father’s Day Wishes”

Kids Who Bring Joy

Since they were infants, I have shot pics of all our friend’s kids. They are a joyous bunch and I love showcasing them. Now, with Meera on the scene, some of my friends wonder if I’ll ever be as passionate about taking their pics. Well, they do have a point :-E|

But for now, here they are.
They make me laugh and they make me cry;
and in turn I spoil them (with Lindt chocolates) ~ while their moms give me the evil eye!

Here is Meghana and Navya. Here they are, the week Navya was born. Time sure flies by.
pics of Meghana and Navya kids by Arun Shanbhag

You have also seen Vibha before A tiny toddler she was, now a shy young girl.
Continue reading “Kids Who Bring Joy”

Meera’s Bath

Meera’s day starts with a tael malish (oil massage) by Suvarna maushi. We routinely use Dabur’s Lal Tael, for the massage, but have also made our own by infusing a red bark (ratanjyot) in coconut oil.

For about an hour, while Suvarna maushi cleans the rest of the house, Meera waddles around, impervious to her body slick with oil.

Bath is usually a long drawn out process with Meera sitting nicely on a traditional wooden paTh (a low wooden seat) while Suvarna maushi pours scorching water and takes turns soaping. Meera is understandably not in good spirits and bawls her head off. I disappear to an inner room.

M couldn’t stand it and has now taken over bathing Meera. Using merely hot water, Meera enjoys the experience. She plays with the soap and rubber duckies while M painstakingly cleans every toe and sq inch of her body.

Here, Meera bawling as she is bathed by Suvarna maushi.
pics of Meera's bath by Arun Shanbhag



Meeras Posts:

Meera in Red!

Meera

Wishes you all,
A Beautiful Valentine’s Day!


Dress stitched by one of our aunts! The banner was made by one of Meera’s cousins.
Here, she’s checking; she can actually reach and play with the banner and, … no one is screaming for her to stop!
meera in red
Continue reading “Meera in Red!”

Sahana & Suneel in the Boston Public Garden

Suneel and Sahana in the Boston Public Garden Arun Shanbhag
Earlier in the Fall, we joined friends for a Dim Sum lunch in Boston’s Chinatown. After a belt-loosening fiesta, we ambled through the Boston Commons and Public Garden for nature’s Fall color show.

There I took pics of their kids, the eminently cuddly Sahana and her adorable brother Suneel. Over the holidays, Sahana showed me with great pride, her newly painted toe-nails and secretly whispered in my ear: “I love you!” I want two, just like her!

Suneel has a knack for stumping us with a question for everything. For eg. when noticing the signs, “Stop on Red!” he asks why there are no signs which read, “Go on Green?” He is a riot, and leaves his school teachers and even his karate instructor scratching their heads. When Suneel is asked to do a side kick, he retorts, “Why should I kick on the side, there is no one there!” Thankfully during our Dim Sum lunch, we were able to satisfy some of his queries.
Continue reading “Sahana & Suneel in the Boston Public Garden”

Leopold Reopens, Mumbai Bounces Back!

See Previous Posts Related to Mumbai Terror Strikes



Picture Update from ~ 5:30 pm onwards Indian Time; Monday Dec 1st from the Leopold Cafe!

Met fellow twitter organizer Netra at the Leopold Cafe, Mumbai. After the shooting on Wednesday night, it had opened for the first time. It was not as raucous inside and much fewer foreigners (understandably). Many onlookers had to be kept out by guys manning the several doors. Several media folks were inside taking pics as well.
Leopold Cafe Reopens
Continue reading “Leopold Reopens, Mumbai Bounces Back!”

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”

Pushkar’s First


One reason for our recent trip to Bharat was to help my nephew Pushkar, celebrate his first birthday. He is a true champ. For more than an hour, cousins, uncles, aunts, grand parents and all relatives, took turns hugging, babbling to him and asking him to smile and do this and that – did they really believe that he understood and felt any need to oblige? And during the entire festivities, he maintained his composure, did not moan, groan or wail! A true champ!

In the opening pic, he sits on his mother’s lap while his grandmother performs the traditional aarti. Look how fascinated he is with the tuup diyas, but does not try to reach for them. For the curious, even though this was his first birthday, an aarti is never performed with only one diya, and thus the two on the plate.

Curious fella, this Pushkar!

Continue reading “Pushkar’s First”

Make Way for Katrina and Brandon!

pics of kids with Make Way for Ducklings in Boston Public Garden by Arun Shanbhag
Last Fall, our friend H asked me to shoot pics of her kids for their holiday greeting. Katrina is such a delight; ever since she was a toddler, every time she saw me she’d run over screaming “alun! alun! alun!” and give me a big hug. And Brandon is such a champ! No doubt I eagerly agreed. We walked over to my favorite place – The Boston Public Garden. It turned out to be a dreary day. While the rains stopped just in time, we missed the golden burst of magnolias, cherry and chestnut trees you see in this post. However, the radiant kids lit up the garden with their own light and color! Here are a few from that day. Enjoy!

Dahlings on the mother duck! Make Way for Ducklings is a bronze sculpture by Nancy Schoen, memorializing Robert McKloskey’s picture book.
Continue reading “Make Way for Katrina and Brandon!”

Kids on a School Bus

When I asked folks at the Shanbhag School the best way to travel to Kodkani (about 15 kms from Kumta) to see Shilpa’s parents, they recommended that I ride the School bus. On Saturdays, school ends at noon and the bus drops off students in Kodkani. Riding the bus would thus bring me in Kodkani in time for lunch. And another experience to notch!

Leaving the school, the bus was packed! I felt guilty as a seat was saved for me. But gave me a chance to take a few pics.

Little kids from the adjacent primary school got the pride of place next to the driver. At each stop, the conductor would literally carry a little one and hand them over to one of their parents waiting at the stop. Then joyously they would scamper away.

Continue reading “Kids on a School Bus”

Girl in Saga

Enroute to Saga [Elevation: 4,600 m (15,091 ft)], a Chinese army outpost on the Tibetan Plateau


After a long drive from Nyalam, past the Sishapangma Base Camp office, we had stopped literally in the middle of nowhere, for a lunch break. Our team of cooks had left a few hours earlier, so they could find a half-way place, pitch tents and cook warm food. At this point of the trip, I had lost my appetite and while the rest ‘enjoyed’ lunch, I sat in the car and munched on ladoos and granola bars. Continue reading “Girl in Saga”

Meeting LJer Zigma_an

Last month we travelled nearly 8,000 miles to Alaska and met an LJ friend – diffdrummer. On Sunday, we travelled 3 miles and had coffee with LJer Zigma_an (aka Suman) and her wonderful family. Suman had recently bought a house nearby and when I mapped the address, noticed it was next to a farm place we shop at regularly. When I mentioned this to Suman, she promptly invited us over for a Sunday morning coffee! Now you know how to get a coffee invite! 😉

In addition to the rest of her family, we were entertained by the delightful Atul, who is running on two and a half. He loves chocolate and has a ready smile! Here he’s making sure his mother is nearby.

Continue reading “Meeting LJer Zigma_an”

Oh Alaska!

I sure do like to keep folks guessing. When I posted my Innsbruck pics from an earlier holiday, we were already leaving for our vacation to Alaska. And what a holiday! BTW, Alaska is far! Even from here in Boston, it took us a whole day to get there and another to get back! But what a land!

We both wanted to see glaciers calving into the bay. With the furious pace of global warming, we were not sure how much longer these would be around. We certainly saw glaciers to our hearts content. The rest of Alaska was a bonus; what a bonus it was.

On the waters, we gazed at bald eagles as they surveyed the terrain and took flight; were enamored by dozens of fabulous bird species, and seduced by the endearingly clumsy puffins attempting to take flight. Humpback whales performed graciously on their ocean stage and sea otters lolled lazily on the waves of the deep.

In Denali, we were treated to several mother grizzlies teaching their cubs the finer art of hunting; herds of caribou grazed the tundra; a mother and two fox cubs played peek-a-boo with us; and other wildlife.

But before all that, we met the wonderfully introspective, Deepti and her welcoming family. They graciously showed us around the neighborhoods and introduced us to the terrain and local lifestyles. And along the way, we seem to have cured Deepti of her lj block!

The wonderful Om and mom Deepti

We were treated to glaciers even before we landed in Alaska. Our plane approached Anchorage along Prince William Sound. My eyes were glued to the scenery unfolding outside the window and it was only a bit later I thought of capturing the views with my camera.

See a couple of the views outside the window; and M preparing to fend off a Grizzly attack!
Caution, may cause an intense yearning to travel!
Continue reading “Oh Alaska!”

Wave Back to the Kids in Kodari

During my travels to Nepal and Tibet, it was such a delight to photograph kids; even when they were simply waving at our passing bus. This is on my return trip through the border town of Kodari, Nepal. Eleven cute kids in these two households!
… feel free to wave back at them!

Kids watching the bus in Kodari
Continue reading “Wave Back to the Kids in Kodari”

Kids at the Baudhanath Stupa

One of the joys of traveling is taking spontaneous photographs of complete strangers. Our interaction is only for a few seconds, or at most a few minutes. But through their pics they leave a lasting impression. In the comfort of my home, those few moments get stretched, not unlike Einstein’s time. I recall every blink of an eye, every body shrug and every word that passed during that brief interaction. And it sticks in my mind, sprouts, grows and nourishes; and subtly transforms me too.

I particularly enjoy photographing kids hanging out on streets. They are not scared of strangers, invariably smile and are willing to pause for a photograph. And once they see their likeness on the camera LCD, they jump in glee and are thrilled to pose forever. Despite their posed smiles, their inner joy seeps through the screen. These kids usually have very little material things at home, certainly no gameboys to keep them from throwing tantrums. Instead, at a young age they are observing and learning from strangers. They learn to rely on their siblings and friends. To trust them, for so much depends on trust in this part of the world. And above all, they know how to have fun with nothing more than a place to hang out. Theirs is the purest of joys.

I saw these girls on the steps of the Baudhanath Stupa (In the opening pic you see them playing by the elephant on the left). As they saw me approaching with my camera, they cuddled together and smiled. I think these were all from an extended family. When I asked if they were brothers and sisters, the oldest girls brought everyone together and kept repeating – ‘family, family!’


Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue: Onwards to Kodari
To start at the beginning: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

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