Religious Zealots

The first time I went back to Kerala after joining the medical college in Bangalore, my mother insisted that I accompany her to the church. It wasn’t because she was concerned about my faithless soul, it has everything to do with her ego and her need to show off … that her daughter is studying medicine..
So we went to the CSI church, the same church that denied me a scholarship though I was part of the choir from the age of 10 and represented  the Sunday school for the regional competitions for 5 years because my father is a Jacobite !!!
What I remember the most about that trip was the events that happened after the service. The congregation tend to hang around on the steps in front of the is ‘the’ chance to show off the latest saree or the gold ornament etc..and in my mother’s case “me”
And as I stood near the church entrance and was talking to  amma’s friends, one local preacher came to me and in a rather loud voice asked me “How could you?” and pointed to the black string bracelet I had on my wrist.
There was a reason for the black string bracelet. My mother wanted me to wear bangles because my arm is bare and it isn’t good for girls to walk with bare arms! I hated to wear gold. Glass bangles don’t last more than a week especially because if I see a handsome guy, I get distracted and won’t see where I am heading, often straight to the wall!! And so while visiting the market near my medical college to replace my ever depleting glass bangles supplies, I came across a seller who was selling thick strings ( probably meant for thali) and I bought the black colour string and made a bracelet out of it.. It was the same time Anchor threads were making an impact in the Indian market and they used to have articles in magazines about how to make friendship bracelets.. Does anyone remember making them??

The local priest was shivering in anger for he felt I was committing blasphemy.
“You are a Christian, you can’t wear a Hindu bracelet” He screamed
“Where does it say in the bible that I can’t wear a black bracelet?” I asked
My mother instead of supporting me was telling me to shut up.
And the preacher turned to my mother and started to scold her for letting me wear the bracelet. ( and all the way back home my mother chewed my brain for embarrassing her and I couldn’t get across to her that the preacher was wrong)

But the truth is, no where does it say in the bible that one can’t wear a black colour bracelet. Actually Genesis 38:28 talks about the midwife tying a scarlet thread on the hand of a newborn baby. There is also the story of Rahab and the red thread..
How does wearing a black thread on my wrist make me a Hindu?

Yesterday the local church had a light party, an alternative to Halloween,,Because Halloween is all about darkness, devils and witches..and the kids attending the light party could only wear nice costumes..angels and butterflies..because they are god’s children..In other words, what the church was trying to tell all those parents is “only the non believers celebrate halloween”
We live in the 21st century..but even now we are tied to the horrible  church sanctioned religious fanaticism..

If only religion was not used to manipulate people..

Did you hear that sound??

Few weeks ago my son asked me “Mom, can you teach me Malayalam?”
The above question came with no prior warning, it was one of those spontaneous question and much as I wanted to ask him “Why?” I didn’t for fear of jinxing the whole thing.
For you see, I was waiting for this moment.
Like I mentioned before I knew there will be a day my kids will start trying to find out who exactly they are and would be interested to learn about their background.
My son doesn’t have a center in his brain for languages. So it was really a shock to hear him asking me to teach him Malayalam..

I pictured my handsome boy wearing a kasavu mundu.. and  my imagination progressed to him marrying an Indian girl. ( Ok la, I admit, a mallu girl!!) and I thought how hard it would be to find a mallu girl who knows how to make traditional Italian Pizza.. ( My son’s one and only criteria concerning his ideal partner according to him!!)

There was so much I needed to teach him about Malayalees..because learning the language alone wouldn’t be sufficient for him to understand his background. My knowledge of Kerala history is pretty good, but still I didn’t want to teach him something that is not correct, so I spend most of my evenings reading about Kerala history..
I was so excited..
I made a conscious effort to speak to him in Malayalam..Now he understands basic mallu commands , sit, stand up, go etc!!
Yesterday he came to me and asked “mom, would it be easier to learn Malayalam if I learned to read it?”
I looked at him trying to think of a subtle way to explain to him there are 55 alphabets ( I think) in Malayalam and even I don’t remember all the alphabets! I really didn’t want to spoil the only chance I have to teach my child his mother tongue, but there was no way I could teach him to read Malayalam.
“Learning to read is going to be really tough” I replied
“What do you mean mom? I could read every signboard when we went to Malaysia last Christmas, it was all using English Alphabets”
“That was Malay” I replied.
“What is the difference between Malay and Malayalam?” He asked me with a total look of confusion on his face..
And I explained, “Malay is spoken in Malaysia and Malayalam is spoken in Kerala”
“So what were you teaching me all these days?” He asked
“Malayalam” I replied
“Why would I want to learn Malayalam when I want to go back to Malaysia, duh??”
Why indeed !
Oh yeah, the sound you heard just now is my heart breaking in to itsy bitsy tiny weeny pieces..
( I struggled all these years so my children will have a better life, migrated to Canada and now live in Australia and my one and only son wants to go back to Malaysia)


Bella ( not her real name) joined my son’s school middle of this year.
During one of our dinner table conversation my son mentioned that he thinks Bella has a crush on him.
“And?” I asked
“No way mom, she is huge” he replied.

I fret about my belly fat even though I am only 52 kg and carried 3 babies. And I didn’t know what to say to my son for judging people for their size and appearance.
So, I didn’t say anything.
But I did hear over the past few months about how huge Bella is how she asked out most of the boys in the class and was rejected each and every time.

Yesterday while I was cooking dinner I overheard my son and baby talking.
“Do you want to hear the song Jake ( not his real name) composed?” my son asked baby and proceeded to sing

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago Bella started growing.. wait.
The Earth began to cool,
Cause Bella blocked the sun,
Neanderthals got scared,
They built a wall
Run boys run, Bella is on her way
She is coming  with the big bang!

I haven’t been this upset for a while.
I can’t even imagine how much Bella is taking each day she comes to school because boys like my son don’t see the damage they are inflicting?
It bothers me even more because my son knows more than anyone how it felt when he was called names at school.

I sat down with him and explained to him that no one choose to be fat. Sometimes it is genetic, sometimes there is a medical reason and sometimes people eat because for them food is their escape from whatever that is tormenting them.
“But I didn’t write the song Mom, it was Jake who wrote” My son replied.
“Did you tell Jake that it is wrong and that it would hurt Bella’s feeling”
Obviously he didn’t.

This morning my son told me “mom, I didn’t really think how our teasing would have hurt Bella, but I will tell my friends to stop teasing her”
My heart still aches for Bella.. She was new to the school and all she tried was to fit in.. I should have acted the first time my son said she was huge..


India = immaturity

My cousin is studying in a medical college in India.
Why that is a big news you might ask.

But first let me talk about saving “precious” years..a mentality seen among Indians.

My cousin’s father is a director of emergency medicine in a hospital outside India. He had to struggle to get his degree recognized by various authorities, write the IELTS, PLAB etc. He earns a very good salary. But when it came to send his daughter for higher studies, he chose to send her to India. The reasons being
I hate the culture here ( where he works, but he obviously loves the money and other perks because he has been living there for the past 17 years and even applied for the citizenship!)
She doesn’t have to do pre-med, which will save her 2 years.

Her father also knew “how bad” the education system in India is and downloaded over 700 hours of lectures of Anatomy, Physiology etc and gave it to his daughter.

But unfortunately my cousin is living in a prison in India and will not be able to hear any of the lecturers her father spend hours downloading. The principal confiscated all the laptops and smart phones because ” the boys are watching porn”. Actually the principal didn’t use the word porn, he said ” inappropriate websites that would harm their ‘mental’ well being”

In 5 years, my cousin will be qualified to prescribe narcotics!, She will see children as young as 12 getting pregnant. She will deal with patients who have sexually transmitted diseases. She will have to take care of rape victims..
Instead of preparing her for the life as a doctor, her college is keeping in a bubble all in the name of a bloody culture.

Charaka ( ancient Ayurveda scholar)  was supposed to have said “A physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases”

It is a shame that those who are entrusted with the job of guiding the next generation and help them to gain the knowledge and skills needed to do the job they are trained to are the ones that actually fail our children. 

Idiots like the principal in my cousin’s college are found in most colleges in India, because no parent would stand up to them for fear of repercussions. There are no checks and balances , no quality assurance, no professional development in any of these colleges ! Parents keep sending their children to such institutions because they want to save money and two precious years and teach their children the ‘culture’..
The culture that treats 18 years old   as a land that is known for Kamasutra!


Day for Daniel

Today is “day for Daniel

Daniel Morcombe was 13 when he was abducted and murdered. Day for Daniel is to raise awareness of Child safety.

Today I want to write about boys and sexual abuse.

I actually never knew that boys too could be a victim of sexual abuse till I started working as a doctor. It was never mentioned during my studies. I think it was expected that so long as we never talked or were taught, it doesn’t exist.
The first victim I know is someone very close to me. During the mid 70’s cargo shorts ( I think in Malayalam it was called valli kachatta) were popular and he used to wear them. He was molested by the bus conductor each morning on his way to school. Loose cargo shorts made it easy to shove the hand up the shorts and fondle the child’s private parts. The conductor also handed out cadbury’s. He  never knew what was going on and feel guilty even to this day for eating the cadbury’s. No amount of counselling has helped him.

As a mother I didn’t want to live hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that nothing would happen to my children.
I didn’t want my daughters to be the 1in 4 and my son to be the 1 in 6 of girls and boys who get sexually abused before they turn 18.
I also know often the perpetrators are the ones you know. ( friends, cousins, uncles etc)

It is my job to protect my children and the only way I could do so is if I don’t live in denial.

The first thing I did was to teach them the names of their body part. Vagina and Penis instead of ding dong and itchichi.
Then I taught them what is private. Any area covered by the swim suit is private and no one gets to touch it.
I taught them to say “NO” if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable.
I taught them to ” Yell and Run” if they find themselves in situation that are not comfortable.
I taught them to come to me and tell me anything even if someone threatens them that they would kill me if my kids told me something.

I allow them to have as many sleepovers as they like in my house, so I don’t have to send my children to other people’s house. ( It isn’t that I don’t allow my children to have sleepovers at their friend’s place, I do. But only after I have known the family for a while!)
I do not let my son join the scouts. ( Yes I know I am being unfair and there are good people just as there are bad people) Instead I taught my kids survival skills.
After the age of 7 when my son could no longer use the female change room, I cheated and got him to use the disabled change room. I didn’t have a male partner who could take my child to the men’s change room. I accepted the dirty stares from able bodied people who didn’t like me letting my son use the disabled washroom. It isn’t my fault that there are no other option for single mothers.

I am not trying to raise my kids in a bubble..but I do try very hard to make sure that they are safe. it isn’t always easy. But If I don’t protect my children from predators, then who will?

Protect your children from sexual abuse


Shocked with the title?

But then again you will see why I am writing about vibrators.

The year was 1988 and I was a 17 year old girl when I joined the medical college. Until then I led a very sheltered life and spoke very little English. In the first few months I was confused, dazed, home sick and scared. There were more boys in my class than I had seen in my lifetime until that moment. Some of the boys were already giving me ‘that’ look and I had butterflies ( tons of them) in my belly. It was scary and exciting. Scary because I knew nothing about sex, exciting because it was a new experience.
I was also barely passing the class exams and was beginning to get picked on by the anatomy professor. I desperately wanted to catch up on my studies, so I will continue to get “that” look from the boys and be the center of attraction.At the same time I didn’t understand a word of anatomy! I couldn’t learn something if I didn’t understand and anatomy is one subject that there is nothing to understand. You just keep learning the origin and insertion of each muscle, nerve supply etc etc.
Progressively I was getting in to trouble with the other departments as well..
And one fine morning we were told that there would be a spot test for physiology. I normally skipped all the physiology class and I don’t remember why I ended up in the Physiology lab and had to do the test. There were all sorts of slides and equipments on the table and we had to identify them. Obviously I couldn’t identify a single slide and I was getting really stressed. ( when you skip a test it is marked absent, which is much better than getting a zero !!) And then I saw the one thing I have known since the age of 10.
It was the tuning fork. The ENT specialist back home used it to diagnose my deafness when I was 10.  So I knew what it was. But at that moment, how much ever I tried, I really couldn’t remember the name. All I could think was it was something that vibrates. You are given only a minute with each item on the spot test, so I wrote “vibrates” on my answer sheet hoping I would be able to remember what it was and correct it at the end before handing over my answer sheet.
But the lecturer was standing near the last slide and I wasn’t given time to go through my answers.
I honestly didn’t think much of it either.
The next morning, all the guys in my class was giving me ‘that’ look. But it wasn’t the same look I got before.
Apparently, the lecturer told the boys that I am a ‘fast’ woman. I wrote vibrator for tuning fork.
Even then, I didn’t know what a vibrator was and why my reputation was in tatters!!
It took a while to figure out and I wanted to kill the lecturer.

Few weeks ago, I had a FB invite from a friend of a friend. I didn’t recognize the name and asked “How do I know you?”
He replied ” I taught you Physiology”
The guy I wanted to kill all those years ago..
He doesn’t remember the vibrator incident.. but he tells me that he had a huge crush on me and was looking for me for the last 2 decades..
Such is life

Home work

Growing up in India, the one thing  I remember the most about my school days are the homework I had to do, especially the ones that were supposed to ensure that the student had perfect penmanship. Special exercise books, some with double lines and some with 5 lines were used in this quest for beautiful handwriting.
Handwriting exercises certainly was beneficial in my early childhood as it taught me fine motor skills. But what was the need for me to do those exercises  when I was in grade 10?

It was not just handwriting exercises I had to do, There were also maths, science and english home work. It was a never ending cycle of work that actually did nothing good for me!

And the worst thing is, I still have a lousy handwriting..( and sometimes, even I can’t read what I have written..especially those recipes that I collected in my teens.. tbl spn and tspn all look same) and I don’t remember much of what I studied in school. But I remember every story I read !

When Yaya was 5, like every mother, I too thought it was time I send her to school. ( Yaya never went to nursery school). We were in India at that time and my friends recommended this particular school that was supposed to be the best. I called the school and they wanted to interview Yaya first. I refused. I wanted to know if the place was ideal for my child before they interviewed my child to see if she was  ideal for their school, after all I am the one who is paying the fees!. They weren’t happy, but my friends’ children were attending the school and I ‘managed’ to get the school to give me an appointment.
The principal talked about the famous alumni of the school, which bollywood actress’s kid is currently attending etc etc.
Then she talked about what is expected of my child.
And finally I asked her the one question that mattered to me, “what about homework?”
She replied ” we do tons of home work and we even have extra classes in the weekends”

My child was 5. There was no way I was willing to send Yaya for extra classes during the weekend and I didn’t see the need for Yaya to do homework at such a young age.
So Yaya stayed home.

The one year Yaya attended the school in Malaysia was really nothing short of hell. I send her to the private school hoping that she would be spared from the tons of homework the Malaysian schools force up on the kids. No such luck. She used to sit down and do her homework from 4 in the evening till 9 and often she couldn’t complete it and I had to wake her up early the next morning, so she could finish her work and wouldn’t get detention.

The first year in Canada, I had actually bought text books from India, because I was really worried that my child wasn’t learning anything at school. She had no text books, no work books and hardly any home work. It took sometime to accept the fact that the Indian/Malaysian way of educating the young do not work. All it encourages is rot learning.

Baby is in grade 5.
This is her homework for this week.

She is given this sheet on Monday and has to complete it by Friday. As you can see, she still hasn’t started doing it. She will start working  on it on Thursday about 8 pm, just about 30 minutes before her bed time!!
My son’s home work is due on Wednesday. He had forgotten to bring it home during the weekend. He went to school early today, so he could do his homework!

I read this article this morning.. and I have to say, I agree with it fully. I don’t understand why my child should bring work home when I don’t and I am really glad that my children are spared from the homework torture!



Few weeks ago, my son had to do a project with 5 other students. They had to make a video presentation  “back to the future” and they were told that the grade for the final term will be based on this assignment!
This particular project was very hard, for the school didn’t allow the students use their own camera, they couldn’t take video shots outside the school etc etc and the school video camera wasn’t compatible with the media player..And finally they completed the project after working on it for 3 weeks and he submitted the project on USB.

Last Friday morning, I noticed my son frantically looking for something on his computer and he looked really stressed.
“What is going on?” I asked
“Mom, The back to the future project saved on the USB given to the teacher isn’t working and I saved the project on each of the 5 classmate’s USB. Now none of them have it”
“What about your own copy?” I asked
“Mom, remember my hard disk crashed?”

Honestly. I wanted to scream..
Because I know how much time and effort my son put in to that project.

All through my childhood, the one thing I remember my mother  doing was to make me feel even more miserable when I did something wrong. She would go on and on and I had promised myself I wouldn’t do the same to my children. We all make mistakes in our life..

I am not a saint ( and my temper is legendary!)..but I had to try.

“Did you send it by email to any of your friends?” ( at least it would still be in his send mail!)
“No, mom, I might have send it through Skype” he replied
“Look, there is no point in getting stressed. The worst that can happen is that you will have to do it again. I will talk to your teacher and ask her to give you an extension. Meanwhile you check again, you must have saved it somewhere. You are my son and I know you aren’t that silly not to have saved it”
He hugged me..

It is actually possible to be screaming and yelling at him, what would I have gained? Who in their sane mind would have deliberately lost a project that took 3 weeks to complete?

As for the lost project, my son did save a copy on the school computer and his group got an A..

Imagine, how I would have felt if I had yelled at him and then learned later that he did save his work at school and got an A?

Listen !!

My grandaunt is an incredible woman. She lost her husband when she was in her mid 30’s, migrated to Australia in her 40’s.
There are 9 doctors in her family. She, her son, daughter, their respective partners and 4 of  her grandchildren !

She suffers from memory loss and every time she calls, I have to repeat the same things and without fail each and every time she would ask ” Why did you do that? How would she be able to join medicine?”
The previous question is to my answer what Yaya is doing.
My grand aunt is very upset with me that I send Yaya to Spanish Immersion ( spanish medium). According to her, my job as a parent is to ensure that my child is given all the opportunities that would help her to get admission to do medicine. Learning all the subjects in Spanish is of no benefit especially because you need to have OP1 ( overall performance) as a minimum to get admission to do medicine.
My grandaunt is not alone in this kind of thinking.
This year 18 kids of my seniors joined medical college in various states of India.

N was my classmate. His father was a very famous surgeon. He  surrendered his green card after learning about US govt linked radioactive experiments.  most probably in St Louis. I can’t remember which incident..I also remember him talking about some studies in India among the slum children who were given ‘contaminated’ food. I have tried the last 20 years to find information. Never been lucky).
N didn’t want to do medicine. N wasn’t given a choice.
He fainted the first day of anatomy dissection. He never attended the dissection after that day. Everyone adored his father and hated N. How could he be such a jackass? Most importantly, how can the son of a famous surgeon faint in an anatomy class? What kind of a ninny was he? How could he bring so much of heartaches and shame to his father?
His father tried so hard to help his son to study anatomy. But N could never even enter the dissection hall.
The more the lecturers, professors and even the attendants tried to force N to attend the classes, the more he rebelled.
N wasn’t dumb student. He was incredibly smart. ( that is why he got admission to do medicine)
N died in a car accident 10 years ago  ( drink driving). He never completed medicine.

Yaya is very much like me when it comes to her eidetic memory. With a brain like hers, she wouldn’t have to even work hard to get admission to do medicine.
But she hates science. I don’t know how anyone can hate science, for I find science really fascinating. She loves learning languages. She loves graphics and art, but not science. She wouldn’t even let me explain science theories to her.

Yes, it is true that my job as a parent is to provide my child with all the opportunities that would give her a head start in life.
But there is a small part that my aunt didn’t see.
My job also involves listening to my child.. to force a child to do something that they don’t want is the biggest disservice a parent can do to their child.

I read somewhere that a famous musician saying how thankful he is that his parents forced him to learn music..if they didn’t, he wouldn’t be where he is now!

Between the choice of forcing Yaya to study science the next 4 years, so she could do medicine or letting her study what she likes, I chose the latter. The world may have lost another great doctor..but that is a chance I am willing to take. The world doesn’t end just because one is really smart and chose not to do medicine.


Finally..I reached that age..wearing pearls

Pearls have always fascinated me..Mostly because of Gibran’s story

Said one oyster to a neighbouring oyster, “I have a very great pain within me. It is heavy and round and I am in distress.”

And the other oyster replied with haughty complacence, “Praise be to the heavens and to the sea, I have no pain within me. I am well and whole both within and without.”

At that moment a crab was passing by and heard the two oysters, and he said to the one who was well and whole both within and without, “Yes, you are well and whole; but the pain that your neighbour bears is a pearl of exceeding beauty.”

And then there was Cleopatra..

Pliny the elder wrote about the wager Cleopatra had with Marc Antony, that she could host the most expensive dinner party in the world.
She gave feast after feast, but it was just like every other feast and Marc Antony told her, your feasts were indeed nice, but anyone could give do the other words he was asking her to pay up the wager.
Cleopatra asked her servant to bring a glass of wine ( probably red wine vinegar), took one of her earrings off, dropped the pearl earring,( not any pearl earrings..according to Pliny it was the biggest pearl ever found on earth and cost 10 million sesterces) in to the glass and drank it when the pearl dissolved, thereby hosting the most expensive feast ever!
The story continues that when she died, her other pearl earring was chopped in to half, so a pair of earrings could be made for the statue of Venus in Pantheon.

I kind of felt Pearls were to be worn when I am older..probably because Grace Kelly in the movie “rear window”.. She looked so elegant..

I enjoyed my hippie youth, wearing colourful dresses..and now I am enjoying my middle age.. single strand of evening dress..and a glass of wine and a great company..

It is all good !