We wear stories

We wear stories

Little girl dressed in an adorable organic cotton natural dyed pink pinafore maxi dress smiling and twirling

Past year has been about dresses and skirts. With this intention, we bought the tie & dye, panelled pinafore maxi dress from Love The World Today for Noor’s 5th birthday. This soon became her favourite dress. I guess it made her feel fancy yet comfortable. This dress has been extensively used to dance and prance around in throughout the day.

Earlier this year, a friend loaned us The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat to read over the summers. It is the story of a thrifty tailor who uses his creativity and imagination to make something for each member of his family. He repurposes the same piece of fabric to make something for his entire family thereby creating a beautiful kahaani (story) that would never wear out. 

For me, this was a beautiful story of upcycling, of creatively reusing an item, to keep it in use indefinitely. 

A few days back, I noticed that the bib part of the pinafore dress was getting tighter. My daughter pulled the straps tightly and one of the buttons came off. My immediate thought was to retire this dress, maybe put it in the donation pile. In today's day and age, it seems easier to just go out and pick up new things.

My mother, masi and granny would often talk about how they wore each other’s clothes, borrowed baby clothes for the next child in the family. However, somewhere during our parent’s aspirational generation, the practice of repurposing (upcycling), exchanging and passing on items to others (swap or preloved) faded. Our generation grew up always wanting more, shopping for therapy and throwing away regardless of the environmental costs and concerns.

I was no different. I decided to donate the dress. I washed it and put it out to dry and started browsing for new dresses. However, little miss sunshine wasn't ready to part ways with her dress. She picked it up from the clothesline and tied the loose straps into a knot at the back, and happily got busy playing in her halter dress. I noticed that she wore her shirt on top of the dress to keep warm. The earthy mama angel took over my thought process and I started browsing Pinterest on ideas to upcycle the pinafore maxi dress into a skirt.

Originally, I thought that I could DIY myself around this upcycling project. But, I don't know how to mend, never bothered to learn it. In fact, mending as a skill isn't taught anymore in homes and schools. Repurposing, Repairing and Refashioning are becoming a lost art. 

The greater challenge that I faced was that this dress came with invisible pockets, and like me, my daughter likes her dresses with pockets. Usable pockets to sneak in her pretend house keys, her handkerchief or few coins, crayons and chalks. I wasn't about to lose these pretty pockets while trying to refashion the dress myself. So, crippled by my own lack of sewing and mending skills, I went to my local tailor. I explained to him my intentions with urgent passion. He smiled and said, "Madamji, yeh toh hamare roz ka kaam hai. Aap tension mat lo!" (Madam, we do this repair work on a daily basis. You don’t stress, we will take care of it)… And voila, in 10 minutes a totally rad skirt was refashioned with pockets and all. I call it the Super Speedy Skirt! 

 My daughter was over the moon with this dress to skirt refashion. She twirled around in her skirt for a long time, pairing it with different colors. This basic transformation came with a personal parental realization that being happy with what we have is an important lesson that we as parents need to imbibe and transfer onto our children.

Half year later, the dress that became a skirt and the skirt that had been worn way too many times, got a rip. My daughter still wanted to keep wearing her skirt. You know how well-worn clothes are softer and comfortable. They feel nice and warm against the skin. The same was the case with this skirt. We retired the skirt from outdoor box and made a space for it in the home wear box. However, months later she had completely worn this skirt out. So, taking clues from the book ‘The Clever Tailor’, I decided to get the skirt repurposed into a doll dress and some handkerchiefs. 

The best part about upcycling is that you are always giving a new use or value adding to an old item. It is essentially giving something old a new meaning! That’s exciting for sure.

Also, there is an indescribable feeling of reverence towards the workmanship of the tailor who helps one in making something broken, whole again. This time too, our local tailor stitched the doll dress with same patience, as he would do for any human garment. This time, Noor sat at his shop observing while he sewed Velcro patches onto her doll dress.

I have seen the LTWT dress go through these transformations, thereby extending the lifecycle of the clothing. I would like to think that we too were weaving a beautiful kahaani (story) with each upcycling idea with this dress. I have seen firsthand the joy that it brought to my daughter. I am documenting this so that when she grows up she can read this and relive the story and also in the hopes that it inspires readers to start and share their upcycling ideas and initiatives with their favorite LTWT clothes.

Neha Chopra aka Jugni

[believes that people around the world have an innate desire to dream, share and express. She is an earthy mama storyteller and lifestyle blogger at  Jugniology and a Birth Photographer & Filmmaker at Storiously. She is a prenatal and babywearing dance teacher at GroovaRoo with Jugni , it is her passion to spread the joyful energy of rhythm and movement to babies and their families in India.]

Upcycling and repurposing a little girl's dress into her doll's dress


Why there is music

Why there is music

[Photo credit - Nirmala Patil]

Sitting in the dark, my hand softly stroking my belly, I often whispered my love to the tiny infant blooming inside me. I think that’s when music in the form of a mother’s voice first dribbled into my daughter’s ears. That, along with the echo of my beating heart. It’s been four and half years since, and music still continues to fill her ears and our days in myriad ways. 

A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, thereby impacting a child’s intelligence and leading to improvements in other areas – an idea known as “transfer effects”. Repeated studies show that early music exposure and education in young ones ignites their intellectual, social, emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps in self-expression, strengthens memory, and refines discipline and patience. 
This wisdom acquired instinctively over centuries is perhaps why music is such an intrinsic part of our culture as a country, and is already present in many aspects of our lives - be it festivals, worship, seasons, celebrations and ceremonies - which naturally lends itself into a child’s world too. Then there are regional compositions like rhymes and lullabies, pass-down through generations, that respire through every child’s childhood. Thus, right from the time of birth, music is traditionally used to calm and soothe children, to express love and joy, or to simply engage and interact.

To us as a family, music translates into a more personal yet expansive, and a proximate daily experience. Although our daughter isn’t enrolled for a formal musical training yet, many sounds resonating around us weave to become our everyday rāga. Right from waking up to the song of the morning birds, which to my little girl is an invitation into a new day of playful adventure - to all the diverse tones we use to converse with her; loving, stern, or comical. Together with, the softly murmuring breeze between curtains, the orchestra of utensils in the kitchen, the gurgle of water at bath time, the melody of silence at sleep time, flapping of pigeon feathers in the balcony, the cacophony of construction on the hill, roar of an aircraft passing overhead, the chime of the doorbell when papa returns home in the evenings, crickets chirping at nightfall, and many more sound textures making music of our everyday. Each sound subliminally educating our daughter of our rhythmic alignment with nature.

Most mornings, she spends time with her Nani learning Kannada rhymes. And on our outdoor walks we love to play a favourite game, where I encourage her to close her eyes and identify as many sounds around us. We also include a good dose of music-listening, both Indian Classical and Western Contemporary, to evolve her senses. Some days, we sit with translations of Rabindranath Tagore’s extraordinarily beautiful children poems and marvel at its meaning and lyricism. All this seamlessly contributing to the melodious garland her days wear around their neck, thereby nurturing her heart and brain through osmosis.

But what truly makes music so indispensable to our family culture, apart from it’s developmental benefits, is the joy it brings. When I hear my daughter crooning her self-composed songs on the swing, when she glows with love on hearing her favourite ‘twinkle twinkle’ because it reminds her of her infancy, when she cascades with laughter at bedtime listening to my amusing version of an old rhyme, when she picks the manjīrā (Indian hand cymbals), softly clanks it and holds it against her ears to listen to it’s trembling song. Utter, limitless joy. Transforming our ordinary everyday moments into small musical celebrations, and gently reminding me of why there is music in this world. 

“When I sing to make you dance, my child
I truly know why there is music in leaves,
and why waves send their chorus of voices
to the heart of the listening earth”
- Excerpt from Rabindranath Tagore’s Crescent Moon

[Nirmala Patil]
Summer, a one word poetry

Summer, a one word poetry

Summer, a one word poetry
[Photo - Nirmala Patil]
Summer, like one word poetry, stirs so much in the heart. It comes, making its intense presence felt in its very coming. Nothing about this season spells subtlety. Mornings feel like the kindling of a fire, noons are fierce and parching, even the evenings and nights are unruly, furling earth’s dust in their wake. But they’re kinder than the day. And fleur-scented. I love summer’s abundance of flowers and the peals of laughter that fill the air as little children frolic outside all day and late into the night. It always brings back my own childhood summers. Of long school holidays spent wandering with friends and playing in aangans (tree-lined courtyards), hot afternoons relishing melons and mangoes, freshly plucked guavas and berries, and painting our tongues and fingertips purple with wild jamuns. Of going to summer fairs, visiting the zoo and having picnics in the park. Of eating ice creams and sweet dripping popsicles wearing summer flowers in our hair, taking up small jobs of making paper envelopes from used book pages for local shopkeepers to earn a little and save for the coming school year, and every night dining under starlit skies and ending our days with songs and stories.
I wish such summers for my daughter too; wild, carefree, brimming with friends and amidst the heart of nature. Nevertheless, I’m aware of its rarity in today’s world. Although children still flock outside more this time of the year, playing extensively and making the most of their end-of-the-school-year holidays, summer feels a little bland without its many-hued indulgence. Instead of whiling away most of their precious, untethered summer hours in front of the screen or wandering aisles in city malls playing electronic games and eating fast-foods in over-crowded food courts, I wish we could see more of our children playing hopscotch by the wayside or sitting under the shade of a tree making a sticky mess from a ripe mango. I wish we could reintroduce our young ones to traditional homemade refreshments, fragrant of summertime, like nimbu pani (Indian lemonade), chaas (spiced buttermilk), lassi (sweetened yogurt drink), shrikhand (strained yogurt desert), aam panna (raw mango sherbet), kulfi (frozen dairy desert) and falooda (sweet basil seeds and rose syrup drink); letting them help us cut fruits and stir as we make, in lieu of store bought aerated drinks and processed treats. And instead of frequenting cafes and restaurants, I wish we could gift our children habitual visits to the parks and gardens, have afternoon picnics on the grass and alfresco dinners under the canopy of stars. 
Summer… the season of blossoming branches, bees and butterflies, of flower-carpeted grounds, of long light-filled days to make merry with family and friends, of sweet-nectar fruits, of waking up to the song of the morning birds, and sometimes, if the sky’s in the mood, of summer storms anointed with rainbows to look forward to. Isn’t it a glorious picture to behold? A perfect antidote to the season’s unforgiving heat. The very thought of it comes to echo in me the notes of a koel (Indian cuckoo) singing from the deep shade of a neem tree and leaves me yearning to initiate my four-year old into the art of making summer memories. So this year and in the summers to come, there will be an abundance of seasonal fruits to stain her hands and heart, summers flowers to perfume her tresses, picnics with friends and dinners in the balcony drinking in the far-scented evening breeze. We will be splashing in the pool, gathering fallen flowers from bejeweled trees, going on evening rides to watch summer sunsets and savoring unthinkable amounts of nariyal pani (tender coconut water), and when night falls, we’ll garnish our brimming day with a sweet dose of storytelling.
What memories do summer awaken in you? And how do you hope to guide your children to live and celebrate its poetry to the fullest?
[Nirmala Patil]
New born mango leaves and You

New born mango leaves and You

[Photo - Nirmala Patil]

It’s the first day of phalguna, the last month in the Hindu lunar calendar. she comes running to me in the kitchen and taking me by my hand, she ushers me to the balcony and exclaims excitedly pointing her finger towards a lone mango tree faraway on the hill, ‘ma look, there are new leaves being born on that mango tree! It means it’s soon going to be spring, isn’t it?’ Such a small observation, but when my little girl of four makes it, I’m filled with joy and sweet pride. Because this is the kind of relationship with nature I’ve always hoped to cultivate in my daughter. The kind where she can learn to understand it’s language and realise that life is most beautiful when lived embracing nature. Especially in our present world that desperately needs us to care and retrace our unmindful ways.

And as we attempt to mend our damaging habits with simple sustainable practices, it is deeply essential that we raise our children with the same thoughtful awareness. And this, I believe, is only possible by encouraging and nurturing a genuine love for nature in the heart of our little ones. As an urban family living in the thick of high rises (as I think would be the case of many families dwelling in cities), bringing in nature inside our home and lifestyle has been the most organic way of sowing that seed of love into the core of my daughter’s being. 
Even if only limited to visiting a society garden, or simply wandering the tree-lined streets in the locality, here are a few gentle rituals we’ve included in our everyday that helps engage our little girl with nature. 

Outdoor play
Making regular trips to the playground and letting her play and frolic among the green and growing things is an intrinsic part of a her small world. The wind in her hair, the grass under her feet and mud between her fingernails are not only health boosting and a fun way of introducing good bacteria into my child’s system, but is also the most organic way of nurturing a growing friendship between her and the natural world. 

Seasonal walks
Going on slow seasonal walks is both educating and therapeutic to a child’s mind. We go in search of frogs and moss in the rains, and look for pale new shoots sprouting through the earth during springtime. As my little girl observes and takes note of all the changing details, her inherent curiosity is beautifully exercised too. Carrying a basket or a cloth bag on our walks to gather and bring home an abundance of nature treasure is always an additional delight. Older children can also be encouraged to bring along a camera or book to document/journal findings. 

Nature corner
Creating a small dedicated place either by a corner, windowsill or a table space can be a lovely way of letting our children display their gathered nature treasures and engage in creativity. An assortment of pebbles, seed pods, feathers and fallen leaves arranged by little hands makes for a happy, colourful art on our nature window. And it inspires hours of imaginative play indoors.

Tiny garden
For our little ones, having a tiny garden of their own to tend to is something quite special. Be it a small patch on the balcony, a dedicated container/tray growing a few easy to tend plants, or only a single pot, it a most intimate and tender way of teaching them to care. We recently gifted our daughter a succulent. And every time watching her excitedly watering and holding conversations with it, is a thing of joy. 

Nature gifts
Learning to create with natural things and giving it as gifts to others will perhaps be the fundamental of all the environmental friendly things our children will grow up to do all throughout their lives. Leaf and rock painting, weaving floral garlands and wreaths, making pressed flower cards for friends and family, however imperfect are all small acts of thoughtful creating and giving. Encouraging this, gives them the right roots early on.

Outside on the hill, as those new born leaves herald spring and a sweet anticipation for the coming mango season, inside our home, and I hope in every home, our little ones are  blossoming into nature lovers and learning to live an echo-rich life.

[Nirmala Patil]
A mother cuddling her baby

Here's a small wish for you....

A mother cuddling her baby

As bed time nears we have a negotiation ritual each day.

‘Mama can we please have one story today?'

And as I am a little strict about A sticking to her bed time each night, some days I have to decline. She is getting better at her negotiation skills though. Last night she said, “You know, right? I will not always ask you to read me a story and I will not always need a torch light, I will grow up some day”


With THAT dialogue and some drama not only did she manage one, but two stories from me!  

When I look back now, I realise I have actually learnt a lot from her in the last five years. Today being Children’s day, it just seems like the perfect opportunity to thank her for this gift of motherhood and a lot more. 

So here's a letter to you dearest A,

Thank you for all the little things you have made me relearn over the last few years! 

  • To wake up with a smile- Right from the way you wake up each morning with a big smile on your face and so much cheer, and no agenda really:), makes me realise we must slow down and enjoy each day as it comes. Smile and spread the cheer. Each day is a new day and we need to start afresh without carrying any baggage from the day that went by! 
  • To value the small things in life - The way you tell me your endless tales each night right before sleeping - makes me realise the little little things that are so important for you. You make me want to pay attention to all the small things and the little conversations I have around me. 
  • A lot of patience, A LOT! - Well, your endless conversations that happen at your sweet (read: very slow) pace have made me very patient too! 
  • The ability to laugh unfettered - Laughing at the silliest of things and being unfettered and not just be able to do this after downing 3 glasses of wine! :P. Laugh as though no one's watching you :) 
  • Being kind - The other day when I came back home, this little one left a note on the fridge for her nanny saying that she missed her and was glad she is back from her leave. She also said I love you didi. Made me realise how important it was to express how you feel towards other people. We rarely get the time to tell others how we feel these days! Leave aside just expressing how much you love them. I hope you never stop saying goodbye to me each morning with a small kiss and that sweet I love you mama! That truly makes my day.
  • To be happy, joyful and excited about every thing you do. Even a mundane task like cleaning up or laying the table is done with much enthusiasm. You make me see the joy in doing the most mundane tasks. 
  • Learning to express my feelings. How you feel about things around you, about things you felt bad, about things you enjoyed each day. About the laughter you shared with your friends or the joy you had in playing a prank! Being able to express what you are feeling and voice it out is something I have learnt from you!
  • To be inquisitive. The whys can be annoying at times, am sure all moms will agree. But it’s amazing how you will always ask me things you don’t know and not be ashamed of how silly the question might be! 
  • To go that extra mile for my friends. Childhood and friendships are precious. I think as we grow we become these humans who are so absorbed in their life between work, home and kid. Thanks to you, I would have reconnected with a couple of my older friends and may be made that effort to pick up the phone and make that pending conversation.
  • Letting go! This one I still need to master :). I think with the ease I ask you to let go of that Elsa doll at the toy shop or the little pony, I too should train my self to let go that one dress I really want :D

Well, the list will go on! But here’s a small wish for you on this special day, I hope your life turns out to be such, that each day you get to do something that makes your heart sing!