When I was a child and every time I brought ‘everybody’ to my home.. that is the ‘everybody’ got a new bag, ‘everybody’ is going for the school trip/camp…and my mother used to drive me insane by her most logical question. “If everybody jumped in front of the train, will you?” Trust me, of all the things my mother did, the above dialogue ranked the top when it came to the ‘most annoying’ What could you reply to that question? You couldn’t tell your mother that “Yes, if everyone jumped in front of the train, I will too” If you did tell her that, then you know you have just being crowned the king of idiots right in front of your mother?
And I promised, I will never tell that to my children. I kept my word. Seriously! You See, instead of saying jumping in front of the train, I changed to if everyone jumped off the cliff, will you??
And Yaya send this to me, telling me, “mom, this is so you !!” and I do have to agree.
I was 10 years old. The word ignoramus best described the 10 year old me. I can still see myself living in a world of my own. I didn’t have any friends and at home I only had Akkachi for company. Chechy was staying at the hostel. That particular day Chechy was home and she needed ‘stuff’ to take it back to the hostel, so Amma took both of us to the consumer shop near the general post office in Kottayam. In those days, there were huge display shelves in the middle of the shop that acted as a barrier between the customers and the shop assistants. At the back of the shop, there were shelves that reached all the way to the ceiling. The top most shelf held the most curious item for a 10 year old. White package with bright red writing across it. It was stacked like biscuit packets. But unlike biscuit packets, these were much bigger. I have been puzzled by those packets for a while. I have seen the ads for it on Vanitha magazine and I did ask Akkachi what are they and she told me, she doesn’t know. And that particular day, chechy told Amma “Amma, I need carefree” Carefree was the most unusual word I have heard and I watched the shop assistant climbing on top of the stool to get the mysterious packet from the top shelf” And it was my moment.. it was the moment I was waiting for. Without wasting another second I asked Amma “What is carefree Amma?” There was a pin drop silence in the shop. Amma was glaring at me, the shop assistant was snickering. But I waited all these while to find out what is carefree? So I asked again. “ee carefree enthuva amma, biscuit ano??” “Shut up” Amma said while pinching me. The thing about Amma’s pinching is, she has a knack to twist the epidermis and the dermis when she pinches you and you can actually see that part of your skin in a whorl! It hurt like hell, but the indignation I felt was worst than the pain.
Amma and my sister physically assaulted me that day because I embarrassed them in front of all the people in that shop.( mathai de mariyedey chedatheedey munnil vecha ee kazhutha ee vidditharam vilichu kooviye !!!)
When I had my children, I didn’t see the need to hide the sanitary pads from them. Periods is part of being a woman and what was the big deal? Why do we have to make it a top level nuclear secret?
When we were in Malaysia, we were at the Seven Eleven to buy the news paper and baby saw the packets of condoms on the display shelves near the till and asked me what they are? I told her they are condoms, then she wanted to know what are condoms? and I replied, they are a kind of contraceptive people use. ( and yes, there were other people at the shop and they were all staring at me. There was no way I was going to make my child feel what I felt years ago and I am not ashamed to tell my child the truth) We bought the paper and left the shop. I didn’t think much of it.
My son yesterday came to me and told me “mom, I am feeling guilty” “What happened?” I asked “I did something wrong” He replied. All my maternal antennas were up and I desperately tried to imagine what he could have done now. Apparently he was with his mates and they were talking about the most embarrassing moment in their life and he told them his was the time his sister asked about condom at the seven eleven shop in front of other people. so now everyone in the school knows. Baby goes to the same school. And yes, I am pretty annoyed with my son.
I do not believe in Miracles. But then again, there are times my beliefs are shaken a bit.Yesterday when I came back home I saw this parcel outside my door. I wasn’t expecting any parcels. I checked the postmark and noticed it was send from New Zealand. Quickly I ripped the cover to see what is inside hoping against hope that it is that one item that I really want from New Zealand ..
Indeed it was.
There was a note inside. The lady who cleaned the place where we stayed remembered my youngest child holding Leppy in her hand. She said she remembered my daughter because my child had said Thank you to her when we were leaving the place and left Leppy at the counter!
She found our address in the form we filled in when we stayed there and spend her own money to send Leppy to us.
I have always felt that children should learn to say please and thank you. The auto drivers in Kochi didn’t know what to say when each time my children told them Thank you, that too three times in a row, first Yaya, then toothless and then baby. ( and my mother was up in arms because no one says thank you in India and auto drivers were only doing their job, Besides by saying thank you, you are telling the auto driver that you aren’t from Kerala and he would charge you double!)
There are no words to describe my child’s happiness. She made a thank you card last night and gave me the money from her piggy bank to pay for the postage. I didn’t ask her for the money. She said, she is the one who lost Leppy and she must pay for the postage.
I am happy for two reasons. One, we got Leppy back. Two, my children have learned a valuable lesson that saying please and thank you does make a difference and they will remember to say their please and thank you because it is the right thing to do.
The other day, I was at the basketball court canteen and I watched two sisters bickering. Eventually the verbal fight became a physical fight and the older one pulled the younger one’s hair ( pretty hard) and the younger one ran to the mother screaming ” I am going to tell on you”. I heard the older one saying “Go ahead, I don’t give a damn” ( of course she doesn’t give a damn, she had already inflicted enough pain by yanking her sister’s hair and the mother isn’t going to come and yank her hair to make it even!)
If I close my eyes and think about chechy, the first thing I remember is her nails, Nah make that talons. She used to use her nails like claws whenever we had a fight and even if I went to my mother complaining, there was no point. How does Amma screaming at my sister take away the pain from the scratches my sister inflicted on me?
Older siblings have a physical advantage over younger siblings. From the time my children were little, I have had this rule “No physical fights” You are angry, you talk and deal with it. And if they did have a physical fight and came to me screaming blue murder, I didn’t take sides. They broke my rule of no physical fights, so the victim and the perpetrator had time out.
But there is another side of bullying that I have noticed lately.
Both my older children pick on baby. It started of with her love of chocolates. Baby love chocolates. I have read about chocoholics, but even then I had never imagined there are people who can eat chocolate like this. My child can eat a whole box of chocolate in one sitting. She will then ask for more. When we travel, she packs her bag with chocolates and books. She eats chocolate non stop. Yaya started calling baby “fat” Baby isn’t fat, But according to Yaya, eating so much chocolate is unhealthy and baby is on her way to be fat. Then it was her clothes. If Baby is given a chance, she will happily wear her pj and go to school. She forgets to brush her teeth, comb her hair, wear proper clothes..the list is endless.. and it is all true, And her siblings pick on her mercilessly. I have tried to explain to them that we live in a free world and that they can’t judge their sister using their yardstick.. It isn’t that Yaya and toothless are mean. But, they just don’t see how much their comments and criticisms affects baby. I defend my youngest child’s right to eat chocolate, right to wear clothes that she likes.. but I feel sorry for her. She has such big shoes to fill in to.
There are only 2 questions that I can’t answer and hate it when I am asked those 2 questions.
When I said only 2 questions without answer, I wasn’t trying to be a smartypants. The rest of the questions, if I don’t know the answer, I google it or go to the library and find the book that will give me the answer.
When we were in Rotorua ( Geo thermal areas), I was talking to my children about various sources of power ( Solar, hydro etc) and Yaya asked me a very simple question. Why is the center of the earth so hot? I didn’t know the answer. ( What did they teach me at school is still a mystery!) I have been reading various theories since we came back to find the answer. So it isn’t that I know everything.
But the two questions I hate the most 1. What book are you reading? 2. Have you read this book?
I read an average of a book every 24 hours.I stopped looking at the title and author because it is impossible to keep track. Years ago, I used to have a note book where I used to write the title, author and a short description of the book I read. But it didn’t serve any purpose and I stopped writing down the details. The libraries have all the new books on short term loan and that is where I get most of my books. I also visit the second hand shops every Saturday to go through their collection of books and also to donate the books I picked up the previous week. This year for my birthday I was given a Kindle. I love the ease of downloading books in to the kindle. But I am not fond of kindle. As I mentioned before, I have eidetic memory and when I want to look for something like a quote or a new word I read, I know exactly which page ( right/left) and often the page number where I can find what I am looking for. I can’t do the same in kindle and it bothers me very much!. I also hate when someone asks me “have you read this book?” Chances are I would have. But I do hate the interrogation that follows if I said Yes.
I read Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer in 1988. I can tell you about the 2 portraits of Kane’s father and grand father that is hung in the board room. I can tell you about the silver bracelet. Why? Because I read the book laying down on beautiful eye’s lap and that moment was too precious, I was 17 years old, absolutely in love and the physical intimacy of laying down in some one’s lap has left an indelible mark on my being and I stored every bit in to my memory. I can remember the roughness of the cotton pants. I can remember his fingers running through my hair.. Some books have a reason to remember. Most books don’t. I read because I can disappear in to an unknown world and learn more things. But to answer those questions that follows if I said “yes” I read the book..Nah, I can’t be bothered.
My paediatrics prof used to say “Children are born to embarrass their parents in public” and when I was a child, I was told very clearly by mother that she will not tolerate any embarrassment however accidentally created. So it was a life, perfectly orchestrated. If I was to attend a wedding, it started of with the gold chain, a frilly dress( that itches), black shoes that didn’t fit, and socks that made my feet itch even more. And then there were safety pins to deter the thief who might be tempted to snatch the gold chain. ( my mother had a knack of pinning the gold chain to the dress as well as the petticoat!) So all in all, I was to act like a doll, even though I was itching all over and those silly safety pins were poking me. Oh, I forgot the hair. I had motta thala ( short hair) and to make me look prettier, amma would place an assortment of ‘gulf’ hair clips on the said mottathala and it was my duty to keep those clips on my head and not to lose them. I am sure my head looked like a beautiful Faberge egg. I also am blessed with silky straight hair and imagine the directions the clips would take the moment I move my head! I hated the pretentious childhood parents loved to force on their children. My entire childhood was for show..to show others what a good job my mother was doing in raising her 4 wonderful beautiful children !
When I had my children, I was determined not to torture them. No gold jewellery, no frilly dress, no ill fitting shoes ! All worked perfectly. So long as I let them wear what they want, and they didn’t cross the boundary to indecent outfits, there was no chance of embarrassing me. Yaya still wears necklaces as head gear, wear mismatch socks, even mismatch shoes. It is all part of her declaring her independence and I am fine with that.
Happily, we boarded the flight to Auckland. As soon as the cabin crew came to check the seat belt, my son asked her “May I please have a glass of milk”
Milk? My son wants to drink milk? That morning, before we left, I had to boil two litters of milk twice to make paneer ( I don’t have a bigger pot!) and I still had 3 two litter bottles of milk in the fridge because my wonderful milko insists on delivering the milk irrelevant to my needs. The air hostess served my son a glass of milk. He drank it in one gulp as though he has never seen milk before and was afraid that the hostess may not let him finish his precious milk. Then he asked for a second serve.
I am not sure what was happening..but I am only thick skinned to a certain degree of thickness. When my son tried to ask for a third glass of milk, I told him, I will make him drink the whole gallon that is currently residing in our fridge when we get back. But to think that my son has never been given a glass of milk until he boarded the Quantas flight.. how bizarre!
This is what I thought NZ would look like 20 years ago and it did!
Geo thermal areas
In the distance you can see the faint outline of the volcano in the white island ( 200,000 years old) ??
Lake Waikaremoana. It was a long drive from Gisborne. But I loved the lake . I have never seen the water sparkling on a lake surface until I visited Waikaremoana.
I taught my kids to skip rocks here ( again). They are getting better than me, so I had to resort to skip the rock when they were not looking and then scream and shout and say “oh mi gosh, did you see that? my rock skipped 10 times!!” BTW. it is lovely to see my son rolling his eyes!
Me, waiting for my kids to finish the luge ride at the Skyline ( rotorua)
I bought the cheap air tickets and only paid for one check in bag. Kids and I carried a backpack as hand luggage and we checked in our camping gear and rented the surf/ski gear.
Food: Breakfast:Each morning the kids took turns to make breakfast. Toast with butter and jam. Each of them made extra special toasts. Yaya made toast with smiley faces ( and a smiley face with two horns for me), my son’s toast was with extra jam and baby made sure hers were overloaded with pure unsalted NZ butter! Lunch: Fish and chips, pies, pastries ( anything that caught our fancy!) Dinner: Sometimes I cooked, if I really was missing eating something spicy. I made butter chicken ( using store bought sauce) dhal, kichri etc. We packed the leftovers for the next day lunch. Sometimes we bought Chinese takeaway. ( which by the way is 1/4 the price in Australia) We also consumed tons of V8 to ensure adequate fiber intake. The best part of the journey was finding pineapple fritters in every fish and chips store. The nameless fish and chip shop on the other side of Napier isite had the best pineapple fritters. We also bought a lot of expensive strawberries ( not in season) incredibly sweet and juicy, made more juicy by adding more sugar. Wash the strawberries, put them in a ziplock bag, add more sugar, close the ziplock, shake it, keep it aside..eat after 20 minutes…It was soooooo good.
Every time I take the kids out for long trips, I am hoping to teach them something that they wouldn’t have learned from text books. This trip, we learned a lot of things. Captain cook and his journey. Them saying Hi to ‘Young nick’ was really funny. Watching the sun rise from the eastern tip and the setting sun from the western tip. I think they understood the sun’s journey, we also talked about equinox and solstice. We saw the geo thermal power plants and a hydro electric stations. So we discussed the energy requirements of a growing population and the safest source of energy. Yaya had a project to submit about Isotopes and we talked about the Japanese nuclear plants and effect of tsunami. We learned about pacific rim of fire, geysers etc. My children loved the buried village ( after volcanic eruption) We went to the glowworm cave. Also visited the museum.
We went to one of the Geyser attractions and I was looking at the family ticket. 120$. Yaya and toothless told me “mom, please don’t pay, it is a natural attraction and there is no reason to charge such an extreme rate. It isn’t like someone is sitting there and switching on the geyser!” For me, it is little things like this that makes it worth the while to take such long trips with my children. For their ability to think, to rationalize, to be able to say No and most importantly to understand the value of money. We did find a spot two blocks from the place where some smart/kind soul had kept wooden logs, you can stand on and see the geyser ( over the shrubs!)
For me the best part of the journey was visiting the Durie hill elevator and tunnel We went there in the evening and the lift operator was a wonderful lady. She spend a lot of time explaining about the tunnel etc and my kids adored her. Kids also loved the pedestrian tunnel and created a racket singing all the songs they knew and creating echos..One stranger told me that I am an awesome mother and another stranger admonished us when we were at the glow worm caves because my kids were talking while waiting for the guide outside the cave, not even inside the cave,which by the way made my kids talk even more and the stranger muttered loud enough for us to hear ‘bloody indians’ and my son promptly gave a rendition of O Canada in full throttle much to the surprise of the stranger and he left us alone. (I so wished I had taught my kids to sing Negaraku!)
The roads were well designed, there were no cops hiding anywhere to catch you making that silly mistake of going 10% above the speed limit, people were extremely friendly and we had a great holiday.
I am sure most Malaysians would remember the mild seven ads of the late 80’s and early 90’s on TV before Astro.
Blue sky, crystal clear water and lush green mountains..
It was my dream place.
In those times, some pubs used to hand out free mild seven packets to patrons and I didn’t smoke, so my smoker friends were pretty nice to me! It was one such beer fuelled night, some how we ended up talking about our dream place and I told them mine is the place where the mild seven ads were taken.
“Oh you mean NZ?” They chorused.
Then a friend talked about taking the ferry from North Island to south. Everyone knew something about NZ and how beautiful it is. ( that is everyone except me)
It took a while to figure out what NZ stood for, it took even longer to understand that NZ is made up of two different islands. ( I had to visit my cousin, borrow his daughter’s atlas and look up NZ..it was a long process..the time before internet!!)
My world until then revolved around Malaysia, Singapore, India, Middle east and US and UK..
I felt so small..that I, an inhabitant of this great world had not really lived..
and travelling around NZ has been a dream
We travelled total of 3580 km.
First disasters.. I was once told about the story of the egg.. This particular egg fell down from the 25 th floor of a building, guess what happened to the egg? “Nothing” “how?” “sheer luck!” This particular egg fell down again, guess what happened to the egg? “Nothing” “how?” “Experience!!!” This particular egg fell down again. guess what happened to the egg? You guessed”nothing??” Not the correct answer! This time, the egg was broken in to one million piece.. “how?” “Over confidence !!!”
When I took the kids to Yukon, I had planned every little detail. When I took them to Yellow Knife, I planned a bit When I took them to NZ, no planning.. It wasn’t really a case of over confidence..I really didn’t have time to plan. First in the list of disaster is my own doing. This is something my children will never forget and will use it against me till my last breath. I, the smart one, left my back pack behind in one of the places we stayed. How it happened, I have no idea. It is not like me to actually forget to take my bag. It happened. I then had to stay 2 days in the new place, get the manager of the previous place to courier my bag to the new place. 2 full days with no change of cloths..How much my children laughed!!!
Then, we lost Leppy !! My grand daughter !! ( It is a long story how I am a grand mother to a stuffed animal). But Leppy is an integral part of my youngest child’s life. She is like Mary’s little lamb..goes where ever my child goes.
And the tears !!!!! There is nothing more traumatic than to hear your child’s heart breaking cries.
What is odd is that, her previous favourite stuffy was a lamby, which her siblings bought for her when they went to NZ for skiing years ago and we lost her in the sky train in Vancouver. Leppy was bought in Vancouver to compensate the lost lamby and was lost in NZ!
I guess my son comes first. Honestly I am still in shock. I never expected him to get the scholarship. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know he is a very intelligent child. But still, to get a scholarship that too in one of the top school in Australia is simply incredible.
For me, I feel vindicated for all the wars I fought for him.
My son was already in a maths acceleration program in Canada and when we came to Australia, though he had only completed grade 3 in Canada, he was placed in a grade 4 and 5 split class, so he could continue with advanced maths. We arrived in Australia in the last term and he completed the grade 5 maths by the end of the term. In grade 5, he had the most laziest teacher on earth, who refused to let my son do the grade 6 maths. She had the audacity to tell me that, she doesn’t want to let him do the grade 6 maths, because it is extra work for her!! I had to go all the way to dept of education ( which obviously made me the least popular mother in the school) and got an assessment done for my son ( WISC 4) . My son was identified gifted and the teacher was not pleased. It was a constant battle.
One thing I always believed that was, the only advocate my children will ever have in their life is me and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that they get the support they need. I need to mention that, I was not trying to push my son to do more maths. It is he, who wants to do it. He absolutely hates repetition. There was no way he would have gone to school, if he had to do the grade 5 maths again. I was alienated at the school. ( I still am) Because most mothers find it really disturbing that I allowed my son to grow his hair, I took him out of religious lessons, he reads novels during class etc and to make matters worst, he is still a straight A student. If he wasn’t good academically, then they could point their accusing fingers and blame me. A day before the new school year, the School puts the new class list out and I noticed that the principal had placed my son in a grade 6 and 7 split where only he and another child is from grade 7 and the rest of the kids in grade 6. I hate to think that the principal was holding a grudge. But there is no reasonable explanation to explain why my son who is already in a maths acceleration program has not been placed in a grade 7 maths acceleration class ( with a class teacher well known for being a maths guru), instead he was demoted to a grade 6 and 7 split. ( where a teacher spends half her time teaching the grade 6 and other half for the grade 7 in the same class!) Apparently, the Principal’s decision is final. Again, I had to fight for my son. The principal finally moved my son from the split class to a standard grade 7, not the maths acceleration class. Which was fine by me. My son hates repetition, there was no way he would have sat through grade 6 lessons in a 6 and 7 split. He still reads novels during class, but at least he is willing to go to school. I know I have plenty more battles to fight.. But today, I am just so relieved..that all the wars I fought till now was worth every bit.