Hmm

Brother of a very good friend grew up with the tag ‘slow’ till he was 12 years old.  He was beaten mercilessly by the teachers and mocked by his classmates every day of his life. He told me how he used to hide behind the trees and bushes so he didn’t have to participate in sports and how the gardener used to snitch on him and tell the teacher where he was hiding. Things changed when his sister completed MBBS and had a light bulb moment.. that her brother is actually short sighted. ( very very bad case of Astigmatism) He is exceptionally brilliant and missed out on schooling in his formative years and didn’t have the will to undo the damage and fight. Today he works as a special ed teacher because he believes that no child should ever go through what he went through..(We now know why he never participated in any sports.. he couldn’t see a thing)

My parents found out I had severe astigmatism when I was in grade 2. Their world practically collapsed..because of the amount of dowry they have to pay for me..already slow in studies..and now blind as well.. Elementary schools in those days practiced seating according to rank and me being the class idiot had the last spot…odukkam benchil odukkamatthey seat was mine..permanently. Now, when I look back, I know  for a fact that I never heard a word the teacher spoke..I was so clueless..even for homework because I didn’t hear the teacher’s instructions. The tag slow and stupid was forever imprinted on my own psychic. It was even more hard when everyone talked so high about my oldest sister and how brilliant she was..and then looked disappointingly at me.. The first time I wanted to run away from home I was 9 years old. I actually did. I walked all the way to the CSI church the only place I knew outside my home and beside the school..which for a 9 year old was really a far distance.. like almost to the end of the world.. but once I reached there, I didn’t know what to do or where to go.. so I walked back home.

When I was 10 years old, my mother registered me for summer classes at the children’s library.. Amma wanted me to learn dancing and I wanted to learn to play guitar. After begging and pleading, she relented. There were lots of kids in he class… and everyone had to sit in a large circle and the teacher spoke..obviously I couldn’t hear him.. and when everyone was playing the chords, I sat idly. Some people have an affinity for picking on the weakest..in this case the teacher loved picking on me. One day, in front of the whole class he asked me something.. and I couldn’t hear him.. I smiled and nodded my head..

What he asked me was “When you come tomorrow for the lessons, Will you forget the lesson I taught you today?” Happily I nodded my head and said Yes.. I can still hear the mean laughter that followed…. and after the class, the students pointed me to other students in other classes and everyone was laughing at me. I stopped attending the guitar classes after that.. and got in to bigger trouble because the teacher complained to my mother that I was skipping classes she already paid for..

When I was 11..it finally occurred to my mother that there was something really wrong with me.. I never heard her, when she called me from behind..and one day she took me to the district hospital from school, I can still see myself walking to the hospital.. wearing my school uniform..the ENT doctors clinic was on the first floor… it over looked the main road.. and a branch of flame of the forest was almost reaching the window..and I remember thinking how much fun it would be when the tree is actually blooming.. you could lean across and grab the flowers.. I sat on the little round steel stool.. and my mother explained the history and the doctor watched me.. and then he talked to me..and I replied..then he covered his mouth with his hand and I couldn’t hear him.. I still remember the shock on his face.. he told my mother, this was the first time he has seen a patient who could lip read without actually being taught to do so. He had warned my mother years ago to do the tonsillectomy cause associated adenoiditis was known to damage auditory nerve.. But my parents were scared to do the surgery.. what if I didn’t wake up after anaesthesia..

I remember walking out of the clinic.. I didn’t feel sad that I was deaf.. I was relieved that I finally knew what is wrong with me.. But the worst was yet to come.. When we went to the hospital we took an auto from the school.. As we got out of the hospital entrance.. there were autos parked on the left side and I slowed down.. thinking  Amma was going to take an auto.. but she was mad.. really mad..and she dragged my hand and started walking back to the school.. and then she said

“I had asked the doctor (I can’t remember his name) for an abortion and he told me that foetus was more than 3 months old ( when amma had mumps) and won’t have any damage.. If only I had the abortion.. “

My wings

As usual, my first instinct was to run away from my troubles. Unfortunately for me, running away was not really possible..

I spent the past few days contemplating my options. There were none.

I had to admit the simple fact that in 15 years I probably will be totally deaf. So I cried.. imagining the end of my dreams..my hopes..and ended with the mother of all migraines..to make my life even more miserable, I was also bitten by midges(sand flies) while I was in the garden. I am allergic to midge bites..

My plan of doing medicine in the next 4 years and then joining MSF and volunteering in any Spanish speaking countries is now not possible.

Since I was 17, I wanted to learn Spanish and read all the books written in Spanish, especially Latin American literature. I learn better when I am thrown in the deep end(living in a Spanish speaking country) than attending language classes. I now know why I hate attending classes. I could never hear properly in class and it affects my learning experiences. I have always been an autodidact and it was mostly because I couldn’t  hear anything and had to teach myself. But teaching myself a foreign language will be really hard. I now need to figure out how to get to South America and live there a couple of years and learn Spanish. Even if my world eventually is going to be a silent one, I still have books to keep me company and at least I will be able to live with myself knowing that I didn’t give up my dreams just because one door closed on my face.

And that was all I managed..in between tears, migraine and allergy..

So

This was something I should have known..perhaps of all the things I conveniently put under the denial title..this topped the list.

I failed the medical exam to join the Medicine program. I am more deaf than I assumed I am. ( actually my deafness has been increasing over the years, in 1988 I had 65% hearing in one ear and now it is 30%)

The past one year of studies should have given ample clues. I could hardly participate in group discussions because I couldn’t hear people sitting behind me. I have been lip reading since I was a child and accepted without any difficulty that if I can’t see the lips moving, then I can’t hear. I hated people sitting on the right side of me in the bus and talk to me. I am completely deaf in the right ear and I can’t hear a word anyone say over the noises in the bus. Often I just nod and laugh, not knowing what the person said.. If they said I was an idiot, I was smiling and nodding my head in agreement.. because I hated to tell anyone that I am deaf.

At home, kids have been getting rather irritated with me cause I have been asking them to repeat what they said..’ Mom, you don’t listen when we talk’ is what they say often.

One full year, I got up at 4 am everyday to teach myself organic chemistry..so I could write the GAMSAT exam. 99% of the students who wrote the exam were at least 15 years younger to me and even that didn’t stop me from writing it again and again till I passed.

I know I will find my wings again to soar high.. but right now, at this moment, I am devastated.

Little women

I think I have written before about how much I wanted a house like the Little women novel.

I never did any work at my mother’s home. According to my mother, she didn’t want us to help her because  she felt that we would be doing all the work in our own homes when we get married, so she wanted to spare us from doing the household chores when we were young. (Even when I tried to help her, it always ended in disaster.. she used to pick every tiny fault and turn it in to a big deal and made me feel so inadequate and stupid. So the safest thing to do was not to do anything, besides she needed reasons to complain to others about  how much she struggles..even when she had 4 daughters who did nothing to help her)

Last Sunday, I decided to go for a long walk. half way through my walk, I remembered I didn’t do the laundry. As it is almost winter and clothes don’t dry quickly, I planned to do the laundry as soon as I got home. School was starting on Monday, which meant I also need to cook some of the school lunches in advance..

This is what I found when I got back home.

My son was vacuuming the house. Baby was mopping the floor and Yaya was in the pergola hanging the washing. There was also a pan of  vegetarian Lasagne in the oven and a bowl of salad on the counter..( With mozzarella cut in to bite size pieces, just the way I like it)

I didn’t ask any of them to do anything before I went for the walk. I also didn’t check if my son vacuumed the house properly or if Baby mopped the house properly or if Yaya sorted the laundry like I do. I hugged each of them and thanked them and told them my heart grew few sizes big with pride.

And we ate the best Lasagne and salad for lunch and there was enough leftover for next day’s school lunch.

I learned that children will help you, if you don’t complain and appreciate it. That is actually the secret  to a happy home.

Satisfaction

I received a mail from one of the Unis. The name of the Uni is irrelevant and I have redacted it.  I felt a sense of satisfaction reading it for the reasons below.

I don’t know if any of you remember the vitriol laden comment Deepa (under various handles such as coorgi deepa etc) left on my blog few years ago accusing me of all the things I have written such as being abused and parents fighting, and went on to call my grandmother a nut case …and then telling me to get a life. People always say don’t wash your dirty linen in public and the reason for that is you give ammunition to others to hurt you. However I only had me to speak for me. I couldn’t keep all the hurt to myself and writing this blog has been cathartic.

If you could  imagine all that could go wrong for a woman, it happened to me. I had no role models to look up to, no family support and yet I was determined to be the best mother a person could ever be. Against all odds, I succeeded.

And here is the proof.

Dear Parent,

Please allow me to offer congratulations. To xxx, on her admission to xxx University, but also to you, for raising an extraordinary child and exceptional student. xxx  is truly one of the most accomplished students in our incoming freshman class; and we know her contributions to our university would be significant.

As the parent of two children who left home for college, I understand you’re very proud but also may have many questions. College can be exciting, scary, thrilling, confusing, intimidating, and fun for student and parent alike. Attending college today also is costly, so choosing the right school is more important than ever. For an accomplished student whose options include some of the most distinguished and celebrated schools, the choice can be especially difficult. Therefore, it is understandable that xxx will look to you for guidance on this life-changing decision.

To help her make a choice, we’ve created a brochure about xxx University  that I hope will help you and xxx discover the inspiring research and teaching activities that define the undergraduate experience at xxx. The details of daily life at universities are not often front-page news, so you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the things you learn.

Included within are stories of our amazing faculty and the ways in which their research is changing entire industries–and lives. You will also learn that, on the foundation of their xxx University education, our graduates are finding more than just jobs, they are forging impressive careers. This information highlights how a xxx degree opens doors and expands the global reach of students like xxx. We hope this helps your family make a decision about xxx University.

Should xxx choose to attend xxx University, I make you this promise: my colleagues and I will do our best to educate her to be reflective, resourceful, and ready to live, adapt, and lead in an interconnected world. We will endeavor to keep her safe and happy, and make available the resources she will need to gain an elite education. And we will most proudly call her a member of the xxx family.

Whatever institution xxxl chooses will be a fortunate one. We at xxx University wish xxx and your family all the best.

Sincerely,

 

Excitement

I was the first to arrive home yesterday. I opened the door to find Kirra literally jumping and shaking her body and then rolling down and asking for a belly rub. Until then I had not attempted to touch her. I tend to freeze every time she came anywhere near me and I think she understood my fear and left me alone. But when I saw her all excited to see me, somehow I couldn’t have just ignored her. So, very gently I gave her a belly rub ( and then I went to wash my hands!)

I guess I am getting used to having a dog.  The folks at RSPCA told me that Kirra would live at least 15 years, that simply means I will be 60!  I wondered about the next 15 years of our(KIrra and I) life.

She would say goodbye to Yaya in 2 months time. She would see Toothless going for his semi formal in a few months, then say goodbye to him when he goes to Peru for student exchange. Then she would see him in a tux attending his formal, his graduation etc next year. She would then say goodbye to him when he goes to Uni. Fortunately for us, Baby will be with us for another 4 years.. After all the kids leave home, perhaps the next major event Kirra would witness is their marriage. At this stage I have no hope that it would happen ..all three are career minded and don’t see the need to settle down. My mother became a grandmother when she was 60..I wonder if the two old biddies(again Kirra and I) will get to see a little baby in 15 years time..

Such is life.

This is what she did while we were away yesterday.

Kirra1

Kirra

So, this is a post I never ever dreamt that I would write. As they say, one should never say never.

When I got back home, on my bed there was a folder with few printed pages inside. First of all, I must tell you about folders. I love Calvin and Hobbes. When my kids were little, I read all the cartoon strips for them. There is one strip where Calvin tries to score marks by presenting his assignment in professional clear plastic folder..http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/10/31 http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/10/31

You should read the rest of the cartoon to know what happened in the end. Anyway, kids have always known the importance of professional clear plastic folder. 🙂

Inside the professional clear plastic folder was this.

proposal1proposal2proposal3proposal4

I haven’t laughed so much for a very long time. However, I grew up in a family that never had a pet. I have never patted a dog in my life. I am terrified of holding animals and birds.

Kids have not only done the funding proposals, they also worked out the proper budget, including a spread sheet on the ideal breed, best pet insurance and the best pet food. They also called the RSPCA in Kingaroy (a cool three hour trip from my home) and made an appointment, So, We went to see the dogs and came home with one.

So here we are..

Announcing the arrival of Kirra Isabel

Kirra means leaf/ boomerang in Aboriginal language. Isabel is in memory of Isabel Gonzales, human rights activist..

Kirra

Hmm

When my youngest joined Spanish Immersion, Yaya had already completed the program and was proficient in Spanish. The teachers were under the impression that my youngest would get all the help she needs from her sister. Yaya refused. According to Yaya ” No one helped me and I had to stay awake until 3 AM most days to get my homework done, so baby will just have to do it all by herself”

I was a bit annoyed with Yaya, mostly because she reminded me of my oldest sister. I remember having to learn Hindi in 5th standard and I was struggling. I needed help and I went to my oldest sister who was doing pre-degree(she was home for some reason) and I will never forget what she told me ” if you had paid attention to what the teacher was teaching, then you would be able to do your work, so I can’t help you because you didn’t pay attention to the teacher” I had to stand outside the class as punishment for submitting incomplete homework and the teacher also gave me imposition because she taught my sister and knew I could have got help from her. She didn’t believe me when I told her that my sister refused to help me.

But then again, Yaya had a valid point and I felt my youngest will just have to find her own footing.. I met the teachers and explained that Yaya will not be helping her sister.

The past couple of weeks Yaya has been clearing out stuff from her room. Yesterday When I came home, there were 5 folders on my bed. All the past IB questions answered and filed according to subjects, with explanation notes at the back. She sorted them out for her youngest sister. (Her brother is doing different subjects)

I hate my oldest sister. I know hate is a very strong word. But I hate her absolutely. The things she has done to me are unforgivable and in this life time and then next million life times, I will never be able to forgive her.   I am always terrified of my child turning out to be like my sister. and her brother and sister hating her. But yesterday, when I saw those folders on my bed, my heart was full of joy..that my child did this without me asking her, because she cares for her sister. Loving your sibling is an art. You either get it or you don’t. My sisters and I, we missed it completely. Fortunately, my kids got it. As a mother, that matters the most.

I am going away for a very long drive to Uluru. My friend is taking the kids to her mother’s ranch for the Easter break.(With a family like mine, I have to outsource aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins, so this is part of the outsourcing.. every Easter my friend takes my kids and hers to her mother’s home and they spend two weeks there)This is the first time I am driving such a long distance on my own. I am worried about the big wet hitting the interior and the car getting bogged. If I am stranded, I will have no choice but  to wait it out till one of my friends organize a rescue mission.. so this really is a mad thing to do. But Bruce Monro’s filed of lights is something I want to see and so I am going. I should be back in two weeks. if you haven’t seen any post in two weeks, either I became croc bait or stranded in the outback..

Wishing you all a very happy Easter..

Speculative fiction

I had Uni late in to the evening yesterday and when I got back home, my youngest was standing by the door looking terrified.

My heart missed few beats, while I tried to quickly analyse what disaster had happened in my absence.

“What happened?”  I asked her and she answered “how bad was it?”

“Huh? How bad was what?”

“My report card” She replied

“You did well, No Mottas, so we can’t make any omelette” I replied. (My children consider the motta and omelette the lamest joke their mother could ever say, but I just can’t resist saying it)

“Then why didn’t you tell me? All the parents texted their kids and let them know what they got and you didn’t”

I really don’t understand this need to let your child know their grade as soon as the parent gets it. What is wrong in coming home and going through the report card together in the evening? I do not think I was wrong in not texting her results. I didn’t even think of doing it. I was at Uni when I got the report card by email and I thought I will show it to her when I get back home, least expecting that my actions caused my child few hours of misery.

“What did I get for English?” She asked

“A”

“Oh Goody, then my teacher liked my essay”

“What was the essay about?”

“Speculative fiction” She replied

“Can I read it?” I asked

Surprisingly she sent to me. If only I could write like her !

The sea spray hit his face like a slap, remnants of the salty droplets falling and catching into the tangles of his beard.  The  sunset was resting behind the horizon, the moon only just starting its journey through the night sky, surrounded by the splattering of stars, as if a white-tipped paintbrush had been flicked upon a black canvas,

“Captain, we are cleared for the course, the iceberg was a false alarm.” His co-      captain shouted, trying to let his voice carry through the tough winds tearing through                          the freezing air.

He nodded, staring into the endless churning of the cold waters, captivated by their serenity.

He knew the iceberg was of no danger to the ship. It was the instinct of the captain to know the dangers of the sea.

He did the last final checks of the ship, making sure everyone was underdeck, making sure that everything was in order before heading down to the mess hall for dinner himself.

As he walked through the long oak tables, surrounded by the hundreds of passengers munching on the exquisite foods, he received looks of respect and admiration, and with each he returned an equally-respectful nod.

He took his seat at the end of the room, his co-captain seated beside him. By the time he had finished his plate of food, people were already shouting for a toast.

He stood up, raising his glass of champagne.

 

“Honest people, do you know what ship you are on right now?” he shouted, his voice carrying through the large ballroom.

Choruses of shouts and cheers resounded, urging him on.

“This ship is the mighty Titanic,” he roared, “The mighty ship that will never sink. The mighty ship that God himself would never strike down!”

The boisterous cheering and applause only died down when he sat down, a smug smile embracing his aged face.

Later that night, when he was lying down on his bed, staring up at the wooden ceiling that creaked with each wave that hit the side of the ship, he swore he could have heard a faint roaring in the distance. It did not sound humane, it sounded monstrous, but it was just in his imagination. No such thing as monsters existed in this ocean, and so with that thought in mind, he closed his eyes, drifting off slowly into a calm sleep.

A clamorous ringing sprung through his head, shocking his half-asleep brain. Shooting his body forward he ran out of his room into the corridor, looking around at the other passengers who were searching the hallway, terror clear as daylight shining in their eyes.

“What’s happening?” A young child said, her eyes desperate and terrified, before her father ushered her behind him, her face disappearing amongst the mass of people.

 

Lights were blaring red, warning signals going off the charts. A sudden crash hit to the left of this ship, causing the ship to tilt with enough force that he slid and hit the side of the wall.

Pushing himself up, he ran into the control room, looking wildly for his co-captain.

He was at the wheel shouting directions to the crew.

He ran to him clapping a hand on his shoulder to turn him around.

 

“What the hell is happening?” he screamed.

 

“There was an attack on the left side of the ship! The crew said something about a massive creature but… how is that possible?” he said, his voice laced with fear as it shook,” It punctured a hole and water is leaking in fast. We need to get the passengers into the life boats before we sink.”

His eyes widened, a monster? That couldn’t be possible. But whatever it was he had to take care of it, he was the captain, and the captain takes charge.

 

“William, go above deck, help the passengers onto the life boats and then get on one yourself, and make sure the crew get out too, if this ship sinks, I’m going down with it.”

His co-captain looked conflicted, but he knew exactly what he meant. A captain always goes down with his ship. He nodded, turning around and shouting instructions at the crew to get overboard.

A few minutes later, as the last few members of the crew trickled out of the room, he stood alone at the wheel, staring at the glass window of the front of the ship, the glass window that was now underwater, the dark stormy waters all that he could see.

He could feel the distress of the ship, but he stood standing, his hands clutched tightly against the wheel, the pressure bleaching the blood out of his fingertips.

The glass was cracking rapidly with the pressure of being underwater.

He only had seconds.

Water was sloshing beneath his feet. But before the glass cracked fully, he saw something huge and sleek, a large brown body swimming in front of the window, until he could see one giant, beady, monstrous eye staring at him. And that was the last thing he saw before the glass smashed, water streaming inside as strong as the bottom of a waterfall, hitting him fully in the chest with enough pressure to break him, until all that was left was a void of darkness.

 

“What do you think that was Will?” A passenger said, his eyes laced with fear and disbelief.

“I have no idea. But I sure as hell hope it was a real monster.  Just think about it, the front page of the newspaper, a captain died defeating the dreaded creature of the sea. To make sure that he goes down in history as one of the bravest captain’s ever.”

 

“They’ll never believe that.” The passenger replied, letting out a wary chuckle.

Language

Last time I spoke to my mother, she extolled the virtues of my nephew..and the most important of these virtues was the fact that he could say thakkalippazham for tomato. Where as my children will look at you and say “say what?” as if you spoke Latin if they heard someone say Thakkalippazham..they wouldn’t even know it is a Malayalam word.

I always get a lot of criticism for not teaching my children their mother tongue, not just from my own mother, but also from every other Indian I meet. It is like I committed a huge crime.

Years ago, I read somewhere that the language you dream your dreams is the language you are most proficient in. For me, I wanted my children to dream in English, not any other language. Their future depend on their ability to converse and write in English.

So what if my children do not speak Malayalam? What are they going to lose? Their cultural heritage? Learning Malayalam was not going to give them a head start in life, neither would it give them any monetary benefits. There is a unit cost to every activity in life. I was not going to invest my time, energy and money to teach my children a language that would not give them any benefit. The only benefit I could see was that my kids could speak to their cousins in Kerala in Malayalam. And since most of their cousins speak English, there was no real return of the investment (my time and money)

By making sure that my kids have a very good grasp of English also made it possible for them to get good grades. Now, that I consider a good ROI. As I wrote before, Yaya wrote her IB final English exam without reading the required books. She got a 7 for HL English. She could do it because she really has a good grasp of the language and can wing it even If she didn’t read the book.

I believe every child should learn a second language in High school. I know this sounds contradictory. Instead of confusing my kids with two languages in their childhood, I gave them a head start in English and then got them to learn the second language by sending them to complete immersion classes.  As I mentioned early, I am only willing to invest my time and money in to something that gives a good ROI. There are 4 languages I was interested in teaching my kids that I considered a good investment. French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. Since my kids were keen to study in US, I felt it is better to teach them Spanish. So I enrolled both my daughters for Spanish Immersion, in a school that is really far from my home. The school near my home offered German Immersion and I didn’t think unless my kids want to live in Germany or perhaps Switzerland or Luxembourg there was no real need to learn German. My son is terrible in languages, but is still learning Spanish as a second language, because he knows it will help him in the long run. He is going to Peru in a few months time for student exchange, so he can improve his Spanish.

No, my kids don’t understand what is Thakkalippazham.. My oldest child has already got admission to few of the top Unis.. and for me that is all that matters..

Note: There is plenty of research evidence that suggest that kids learn languages at younger age. As I studied in Malayalam medium till 10th and struggled learning English in Pre degree, I wanted to prevent my kids from going through what I went through. So I chose English as the only language we spoke at home.