Every time I go to India, I make a list of things I really want to buy. This time I wanted to buy a replacement handle for the pressure cooker, a sumeet blender and glass bangles. I find it extremely difficult to shop in India. First of all I can’t stand the sales talk. I just want to be left alone. I know what I want and don’t need someone to extol the virtues about the item I am looking to buy. I hate bargaining as well.

There was one thing I really wanted to buy and it took all of my patience.

I wanted to buy a Naga shawl for my son. I went to the cottage industry outlet on MG road and the dude showed me a fake Pashmina and told me it is “authentic” naga shawl. Digressing a bit here.. When I was studying in UK, a young boy once told me “hey Pakki, go back to your country” and I stopped him and taught him  Geography in 2 minutes so the next time he will understand where Pakistan, India and Malaysia are located and won’t get confused. I was tempted to teach the sales person the history of Naga shawls. But Yaya was with me and you can imagine the amount of eye rolls I would have had to endure. So I let it pass.

I tried all the handicrafts shops on MG road and Commercial street and none have even heard of Naga shawls. I used to buy a lot of fabric from Gurjari and found that they moved from MG road to Koramangala. I made a trip to Gurjari, they didn’t even have any Kutch work products. But there was a tribes of India showroom in the same building and I found Naga shawls there.

I don’t remember much about Naga shawls. One of those times I wasn’t paying attention when Beautiful eyes told me about shawls. At that time, I didn’t think that he won’t be around all the time,  I thought I would let him be the keeper of those information. Ao tribe had their own pattern. I know black colour signified night, red for blood and yellow for sun. I don’t remember what blue and white colour signifies.

Although I hated shopping in India, finding this shawl was probability the one of the highlights of this trip. I gave the shawl to my son.


Things I was really worried about when I decided to take Yaya to India was our safety and falling ill. When I left India in 1994, even walking on MG road in Bangalore, men bumped in to me deliberately and copped a feel. Yaya has a personal bubble around her and hates anyone encroaching her private space and I was worried how she would cope in India. It was surprising that no one bumped in to us, no one stared at our boobs or attempted to strip our clothes with their eyes. I felt pretty safe walking in the streets.

What bothered me the most was a lack of proper phone connection. Before leaving Australia, I had asked a friend a to get me a phone number.  Somehow, with the Indian number, I couldn’t send any txt to my children in Australia and then the number suddenly stopped working on day 2. I couldn’t get it fixed. Then on the third day, it started working, but this time, it started sending me a message every nano second informing me ” you have used ‘x’ mb of your data” or ” you have this much of credit” It reached a stage, I switched off the phone.

I was going on a date to Hard Rock café in Bangalore. At 5 pm, I asked the hotel reception to book me a cab for 7.30 pm. At 6, they called me to say, I have to do it by myself and they connected me to ‘for sure cab’. They said they will send a cab FOR SURE at 7.30 pm. About 7:20, the cab driver calls me up for direction to my hotel. I have been in Bangalore for a day by then and there is no way I could give the direction. ( those who know me would say, even if I stayed in Bangalore for a decade, they will still not ask me directions, my friends here are still looking for a restaurant in Oxley where I organized a get together and the actual place is in Graceville, two different suburbs 20 km apart)  Besides, isn’t the driver supposed to know where he is going? I gave the driver the hotel number and asked him to get the direction from them. 7;30, he calls again asking for direction. I had a friend with me at that time and she tried to give him the direction. Whatever landmark she said, the cabbie had no idea. By 8 pm my date has already been waiting for me at Hard rock café for 30 minutes. I am pedantic when it comes to keeping time and I was going crazy. At 8:40, the cab finally arrives. I asked him to take me to Hard rock café, near LIC building on St. Marks road and he asked ” route gothakitha?” I contemplated strangling the driver before I got out of the cab. I was in no mood to chodichu chodichu povam :) I called the cab company and gave them an earful, they promised to send me a replacement cab within 10 minutes. After 20 minutes of waiting, they let me know that the cab they were meant to send had a breakdown. I had no choice, but to take an Auto, who charged me 120 RS for a 6 km ride and my date waited more than 2 hours for me. Fortunately he is a great guy and I had an awesome time. :)

I also took plenty of cold showers. I kept forgetting to turn on the water heater and even when I remembered, most places had the hot water tap on the right. ( any plumber will tell you cold on the right and hot on the left ) so I could never get it to work and ended up taking a cold showers.

So what worked? India is incredible. There is so much that works. I  met a lovely family in the train who upon noticing that I didn’t order dinner ( I was scared of getting food poisoning, so was planning to eat biscuits for dinner) insisted that Yaya and I share their dinner. A stranger found a hotel for me to stay because my phone wasn’t working. A hotel security guard walked with me to the auto stand early morning because he didn’t want Yaya and I to walk alone. A blog reader helped me get a train ticket and paid for it, even though she has never seen me and only knew me through the blog.

And for the first time, I was sad to leave India. I came home and told my children, I think I want to visit India more often. They were stunned.


Ideally, I should write about my trip to India in a Chronological form that would make some sense. But sometimes, the need to write something is so overwhelming that order of events becomes irrelevant.

I can tell you the complete history of Mughal empire, mostly because I read the whole thing and partly because of Beautiful Eyes. He has seen the places that I have read about and when we talked he would tell me in details how the place looked. Of all the places he described to me, the one that I have never forgotten was Khuldabad. It is where the tomb of Aurangzeb is.

Aurangzeb, ( Alamgir: world seizer) under his rule, the Mughal empire grew the largest and he was one of the richest Mughal emperor who earned about  £38,624,680 ( in 1690)/year. For a man with such great wealth and power, he could have built huge mausoleum for himself. Instead he made skull caps and wrote copies of Qur’an and earned the money for his own use and told his grave should only be built with the money he earned himself. ( If I am not mistaken it cost 8 RS to build his unadorned plain tomb)

Beautiful Eyes told me about the small walk uphill to the Shrine of the Sufi saint. shops on either side of the walk, the door to the shrine that leads to the room where people sit and read Qur’an and then you come out to the court yard and on your left is the tomb of the greatest Mughal emperor. You climb the marble steps, past the marble façade and find a large rectangle tomb, a plain simple structure.

When I went there, the place was exactly as he described and as I walked, the only thing that was missing was the warm soft hand that always held mine.

These places, we were meant to have seen together, at least that is what he promised me. One day, I will take you to all these places..

Sometimes, life doesn’t give you all that we really want.

I showed the tomb to Yaya and told her the story.

As I left, I turned to look, perhaps I could see him standing there?

I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to.





I had an awesome trip to India and I couldn’t have done this trip without my friends.

First in the list of my friends would be Thelma. When Yaya told me she wanted to go to India, I didn’t know what I was going to do with toothless and baby. It wasn’t the first time I have faced a situation like that. When my son was 2 years old, I was offered a job as a vice president of a big health care firm in KL and my mother was home. I also had a maid at home. Before I signed the contract, I asked my mother if she would stay with me and help me with the children. She didn’t have to do anything, but to have an eye on the maid. There was no way, I was going to leave my children alone with a maid after the previous maid slapped Yaya while I was at work. My mother declined and I didn’t take up the job. Few years later, the same company wrote to me and asked if I would be interested to work for them and asked me to come for an interview. By then baby was 2 + years old and my older sister was living in KL. I called my sister two weeks in advance and asked if she would take care of my children for two hours while I went for the interview and she said “no problem”, the night before my interview day, I called her again and confirmed with her  and she said “no problem”. On the day of the interview, I took a cab to my sister’s place with my children in tow  and just as I was about to reach my sister’s place, she called me on my mobile to tell me that she won’t be able to take care of my children because “she is having fever”.

The taxi driver saw me crying and asked me “Why are you crying”. Long story short, he took care of my children while I attended the interview. I really wanted that job and I knew the taxi driver. He was staying in the flats across my Condo. Yet, I couldn’t do the interview well. I was so worried about leaving my children with a stranger. I was a nervous wreck. Needless to say, that company never called me after that.

Only single mothers with no family support can understand the grief of never having anyone to help you when you need help the most. Life teaches you to be strong and once I accepted that I can’t really rely on my family, I found ways to cope. I became super independent, to such an extent that with a bad pneumonia, I still walked every day to drop and fetch my children when we lived in Vancouver. I hated to ask for help. ( if your own flesh and blood won’t help you, why would a stranger?)

So, I wasn’t sure what to do with my children.My next door neighbour was going on a cruise around the same time, so I couldn’t ask her help. So I asked Thelma if she would stay at my house for two weeks and have an eye on the kids. I didn’t really expect her to say “Yes”. I was mentally prepared for a “No”

But she said “yes”. She stayed at me place with my children while I was in India with Yaya. My children took over the cooking. My son made, spagbol, lasagne, salmon with crushed pepper ( all from internet) etc, baby did the salad, cookies etc and Thelma tidied up my garden. I was expecting to see my house in a mess when I returned. It was such a delight to come home to a clean house and find a plate of rice and a bowl of Dhal on the table.( my son made it)

The only thing is, I was always scared to ask for help and I think I was wrong. Just because your family is screwed up doesn’t mean that your friends will be too.


Mark Twain wrote

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

And so, Yaya and I are going on a two weeks trip to India. Part of her arts project is ‘expressions’ and she wants to travel as a nomad in India and capture the raw expressions of ordinary life.

As usual, I haven’t planned anything and I am terrified. I have stayed alone with my three children in a remote mountain cabin in the middle of winter when the temperature was -30 degrees C, but going to India scares me. I worry about our safety. The first thing I did when Yaya told me she wants to visit India was to look for a hunting knife. I am not joking. I always carry a Swiss Army  knife with me, but I could so totally see myself trying to find the right knife when I am in trouble like the girl in an English movie ( can’t remember the name) trying to rob a man in the subway and when she flicks the Swiss knife, the can opener flips out instead of the knife !

I wanted Crocodile Dundee kind of knife.


It turns out, switch blades are illegal in Australia..So we are back to Swiss Army knife.

So much as I am worried about all that can go wrong, I look forward to spending time with my oldest child, show her all my favourite places and create more memories..

She wants to eat Dosai, get her nose pierced and travel in the trains.

I will be in Bangalore from 12th to 14th of July. If anyone would want to join me for a meal, do send me a mail. daofto at gmail…

Back on 17 th July

Until then, Adios..


This morning Yaya came to me and told me ” mom, can I skip the sports this arvo because none of my buddies are around and I can go the library and work on my EE ( extended essay for IB)” Her sports buddies are away on a trip to Melbourne.

For Yaya to skip her sports lesson, I have to call the school and tell them that she has an appointment and please excuse her from the class. The school authorities obviously don’t care if my child attends the class or not and the process of signing her out is very simple. I call the school, tell then Yaya’s class number and full name and the magical word ‘appointment’ and it is done. She can leave the school. I don’t like to lie and I hate being put in this kind of situations.

Most of her classmates skip the classes regularly by getting the parents to call the school. I only had 17% attendance for Anatomy, but I was an adult and making my own decisions. ( I also had to bribe the staff at the post office where the letters from my college were sent to be posted, so I could confiscate the Principal’s letter warning my mother of woefully inadequate attendance record :)    )

Would you lie to the school if you were put in the same situation?


Yaya will be 16 end of this week.

How fast time flew..

I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said ‘nothing’. She apparently has everything she wanted. Initially I thought I would buy her a car, mostly because I am terrified of her wrecking my baby. However, I didn’t want to set such a high standard for 16th birthday gift, because I will have to buy the other two something just as good. I have no intention of buying three cars and am not going to go through comparisons between siblings.

So this year, I bought her an Infinity ring.

She has reached the age of consent and as her mother, I am worried about all that can go wrong. There are things I wished my mother told me when I was 16..

So this is what I am going to tell her.. the love that I have for her

Infinity is the possibilities of all that she can do with her life.

No guy is worth your tears, so wear the ring always and remember to be with someone who won’t stay mad at you, who can’t stand not talking to you and who is afraid of losing you.




My youngest is away on a school trip to Canberra.

The evening before she left, Yaya went to her room and asked “where is the list?” ( of items she needs to take with her). Together, they went through the list, sorted what she would be wearing each day, rolled each day’s clothes in to a bundle. ( rolling the clothes to small bundles saves space, I learned it from a Army friend) It took them about 30 minutes to pack the bag. I didn’t check if she took everything because I trust Yaya  and know very well that she will not miss anything.

Her flight was at 7 AM  and we had to leave home at 5.15 to get to the airport on time. Both Yaya and my son wanted to come to the airport even though both watched the world cup on telly and didn’t have enough sleep.

As it was a school trip, there were lots of parents at the airport. Some helping their children to carry their hand luggage, some helping them through the security check and some are actually travelling with their children to Canberra.

Baby carried her own bag and did the check in  and security check all by herself and didn’t even bother to turn and look at us or wave a bye. I took a deep breath and told myself, I will just have to accept the fact that this is life and soon I will start making more of  these early morning trips to the airport and that end of this year, I am done with elementary schools and in 4 years, I will be 47 and will live alone in a 4 bedroom house in Australia and my children will be on the other side of the planet.

I strongly believe as a parent, it is my responsibility to teach my children independence. I can’t hold their hands forever and guide them through life. Although I am a bit disappointed that my child didn’t even wave a goodbye. I know, I did well to raise a capable, independent child.

I  am also very happy to see siblings stepping in when there is a need without being asked to.

Life in times of world cup

Last night all three of my kids woke up at 1.30 AM to watch Germany vs Portugal game with me. 4 years ago, I tried to get them to watch the world cup final. They were 12, 10 and 8 years old then and slept through most part of the game. This time, they knew the names of all the German and Portugal players, they knew the statistics etc.

Next world cup, I will only have my youngest child home. ( Yaya will be 20 years old and my son will be 18)

I am feeling miserable..