Dear Lord..

It all started with a phone call to the local council. The neighbour behind my house, whom I have never met (as the entrance to his property is from the main road) decided to be a bit cheeky and dumped all the garden waste on my property. I called the council on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning, someone from the council came to inspect the illegal dumping.

I admit, this guy from the council is drop dead¬†handsome with Azure blue eyes and he started to hit on me from the moment I opened the door. All he had to do was the inspect the green waste, accept that it isn’t mine ( it was mostly palm fronds and I don’t have any palm trees, whereas my neighbour has plenty of palm trees in his property), talk to the neighbour and get him to clear the mess or issue a fine.

He spend an hour, all the while giving me subtle and not so subtle hints about his interest in me.

When I was young, when a guy showed interest in me, it was exciting.. Handsome guy had a potential..( I am sure the previous statement is going to be considered very scandalous ūüôā¬† but I am sure, most women out there would have felt the same way)

I think I¬† can officially be considered “old” for all I felt with this unwanted attention was absolute annoyance.

Teaching children to cook.

If my mother was here, you would have heard her say ” thumpineyum kondu kallu eduppikkuva”¬† ( there is no direct translation, loosely translated it means that it is a sin to¬†make little children to do some work, when their body is so tiny)

I function better when I follow my routine. I am so used to packing¬†kids’ school lunch everyday before I leave for work, but I just don’t know what to cook for them when they are at home during school holidays. Sending creamy pasta in their thermos to school was no big deal. But if I cooked that and left it in the bowl for them to eat at lunch time, the sauce would get thicken, pasta gets really soggy and they won’t eat it. To make my life easy, I told the kids to fix their own lunch.

I warned them about leaving stove unattended, went through the fire drill (stop, drop and roll), and told them, if there is a fire, my house and contents are covered by the insurance, but I won’t get new children, so I don’t want them to do anything to save the house, I just want them to save themselves.

I know many of you would think I am really being stupid and children and stove shouldn’t mix. My niece ( step) started cooking when she was 4. It is her job to cook dinner for the family every Thursday. When she was 4, she made peanut butter and jelly sandwich and everyone ( including her grandparents) ate that for dinner. When she was 7, she knew to take the meat out of the freezer before going to school and¬†cook a roast when she came back from school.

I used to cook before Amma came home from work and knew to clean everything and leave the kitchen just the way Amma had left it in the morning.

Yesterday when I came back in the evening, there was a banana pineapple cake on the kitchen counter. My youngest told me that she noticed the bananas in the fruit tray are going off and that there was some left over pineapple in the fridge, so she decided to bake a pineapple banana cake.  ( She used 3 eggs, 1/2 cup butter, 3 eggs, 3/4 tin of crushed pineapple, 3 ripe bananas, 1 1/2 cup self raising flour. Mixed it all up and added a bit of fresh cream to get the batter consistency right and baked at 180 degrees for 30 minutes)

My son made Chicken peri peri for dinner. He mixed two tablespoon of chicken peri peri powder with vinegar and salt and marinated the chicken in it and then slathered some mayo over the chicken and baked it. Instead of adding oil to marinade, I prefer to use mayo, as it makes the meat very tender and moist.

Each day, as I leave home, a part of me is terrified of all the untoward things that¬†could happen. Then like Amir Khan, I tap on my heart gently and say “all is well”

730

Kids have two weeks of term holidays now and¬†on the last day of school, Yaya worked out and told me “Mom, I only have 730 days with you before I¬†go to University”

She will complete grade 10 in three months and another two more years, she will complete grade 12.

When she told me that she ONLY has 730 days more before she leaves home, I thought that meant, she is planning to spend as much time with me and cherish every moment. Read books, bake cookies ( she has a knack when it comes to baking cookies) do a bit of shopping, go to the beach, go for long drives, play few rounds of black jack etc etc.

I had everything planned.

School closed on Friday and she went Bush camping with her friends. She came back home yesterday afternoon, slept for a few hours and went for a sleepover at another friend’s house. This evening, I am to pick her up at 7 pm and am sure, she is only coming home to eat something spicy for dinner and tomorrow she will be visiting her friends, the same to be repeated till the end of school holidays.

Sometime ago, She had asked me “why do parents have kids when they know kids will leave home one day?” I answered “It is the moments that I had with each of them that forms my memories, that makes it worth the while”

Today, I am grateful that at least I managed to spend those precious moments with them when they were young, for that is all I have. Now my children are making their own memories and I am not part of that.

Control

The reason behind today’s blog post is the movie ” English” Malayalam movie. There is a scene in the movie, where the father goes berserk and screams and threatens¬†his teenage¬†daughter with physical harm, if she doesn’t tell them where she¬†is going and with whom.

If there is one word that could have saved me from making a lot of mistakes when I was a teenager, it would be “trust”. It was something my mother lacked totally and I found myself in difficult situations because the one person who should have trusted me, wouldn’t.

My mother’s dream was to see her daughters getting a professional degree. Her idea was that, she was the puppeteer and I was the puppet and she decided what I can or not do, while my job was¬†to study and get the degree.

Party invitations were part of normal life in a professional colleges. Ideally, I would have liked to tell my mother that I was invited to a party, but then again why would I do it when I know ¬†she wouldn’t¬† allow me to go? There was never any valid reasons why I shouldn’t go, it was Amma’s decision and it was final.

Often, party meant, few games of dumb charade, some dancing and if someone knew someone in Army or Air force, then a bottle or two of alcohol ( to be shared with 30 to 40 students!) and food. While my mother assumed that party was another name for orgies and drugs,¬†things like that¬†only happened in her imaginations. None of us had the money to buy drugs and imagine the chances of having physical acts of intimacy in front of the party giver’s family. ( You had dark corners in the campus for such things)

The lucky girls with smart parents were safe, for their parents or brothers came and picked them up after the party.¬†I couldn’t go back to the hostel after the gate closes at 9 pm, so I¬†bought a platform ticket and lied my way through ( Often used George’s name and title for extra power and protection)¬†and spend the night in¬†Railway stations. I would have been safe in my own home, but my mother didn’t get that. She thought, she was too smart and was in control and that her daughter was safe in the medical college hostel. If only she knew the truth. If anything had happened to me, everyone would have blamed me, for I disobeyed my mother and attended a party. Would anyone blame my mother that she was the reason why it all happened? All she had to do was to allow me to go and I could have got a ride home from one of my classmates and would have been home by 9.30 pm.

So the question of the day is this ” Why do Indian parents want to control every move their child makes?”

Me.

I am sure many of you who have been reading my blog has a mental picture of me, and I am sure you would love to see how I look. Today is your lucky day.

The last assignment before the term holidays for my son was to do a power point presentation about his family in Spanish. He also had other assignments to do and wasn’t feeling well, so he postponed doing¬†his Spanish assignment to the very last minute.

On the day his assignment was due, while he was in the bus (on his way to school), he¬†worked on¬†his assignment. He had a photo of each member of his family and he had to write a description in Spanish. Somehow, he accidentally deleted my photo. Quickly he send me a txt asking me to send him a photo of me. Unfortunately, I am still using a brick ( old Nokia) and I had given up of trying to figure out how to use it and didn’t see the txt.

In the evening, Yaya was giggling a lot when she¬†told me ” Mom, please ask toothless to show you his Spanish assignment”

“Why?” I asked, which resulted in massive episodes of laughter from all three of my kids.

Obviously my curiosity was piqued.

Apparently, there were visiting dignitaries ( student exchange groups)¬†from foreign countries who were given a tour of the school and some were in my son’s class while he¬†and his classmates were presenting their¬†assignment. My son had a photo of each member of his family and talked about them in Spanish and when it came to his mother, this is what he had.

 

 

toothless's momAfter not getting a reply from me, he decided to draw a portrait of his mother. He didn’t forget the henna highlights ūüôā

80

Thelma is 80 today. She is celebrating her birthday with a game of tennis and a lunch at the local tavern.

Her daughter’s house has a massive pool, but Thelma never goes for a swim, even on the hottest day because she¬† can’t swim. But she has won many competitions for sailing. She loves sailing even though if she ever fell in to the water, she will drown.

Many of us don’t take a chance in our life because we are afraid.

Be like Thelma.

Away until Monday

Have a jolly good weekend

S

 

Colour blind !

I was 10 years old¬†when my aunt had her first born. The entire 9 months of pregnancy, she consumed herbs and spices, some of which were shipped from Kashmir ( it looked like popped corn, but¬† dissolved in warm milk) and Iran ( pure saffron), so her unborn child will¬†have ‘fair’ complexion. My aunt is well educated, but nothing stopped her from trying for a child whose skin colour would¬†be her most redeeming quality. ( unfortunately, genetics had the upper hand !)

My room mate, the daughter of two senior doctors used fair and lovely every single day. She hated her¬†dark¬†complexion and was desperate to become fair, so when it was time to find a suitable partner, she could fit the criteria of the required “fair complexioned” girl.¬† (How many of you remember the ad that was often at the back page of all popular magazines in the 80’s and 90’s that¬†showed about 14 photos of the same person whose skin toned lightened from very dark to very fair after using fair and ¬†lovely? I have often wondered if India ever had an advertising standard that companies had to follow.)

But the best was my mother.¬† As soon as I gave birth to Yaya, the first thing Amma checked was the baby’s earlobes and she walked quickly to my bed (still in the labour room getting the stitches) and told me “Karambi aa” ( she is a darkie)

Yaya came after 5 years of wait, my first born and Amma’s first grand child, but somehow her skin colour was more important. When I held my¬†darling new born baby¬†for the first time, the only thought I had was ” She is perfect” . I don’t deny that I was not worried after hearing Amma’s comment, for I felt my baby will be judged for the rest of her life because of her skin tone.

Yaya and baby are the opposite when it comes to their skin tone. Yaya is¬†moderately¬†dark¬†and baby is¬† extremely fair and I am glad I don’t live in India. Imagine all the taunts Yaya would have received and how much she would have been compared to her sister’s fair skin and mocked. I have always been mindful of the barbs Malayalees are known to inflict on the dark skinned and have ensured that no one ever calls Yaya ‘Karambi’. I also made it a point to tell Yaya from the time she was little that she is beautiful ( She really is) and have the best complexion in the world, for she can wear almost any colour clothes ( it is true) and that she won’t suffer as much as her sister does every time they go out in the sun ( no freckles, no sun burn etc).

When I saw the news article about Ms Nina Davuluri winning the Ms. America 2013, I was so happy.  I hope her victory will give hope and confidence to all those who feel they are judged for their skin tone.

 

Keeping score.

In 1994, after I graduated MBBS, I learned the hard way how useless an Indian degree is. I¬† wanted to do my master’s degree and every single University ( in Canada, US and UK) denied me admission only because my basic degree was not up to their standard. And then there was the international student fees, I never understood the rationality behind calling me¬† a person from third world country, yet¬†making me pay exorbitant fees in the ten thousands, yet the students from first world paid fees in the thousands.

Two things I learned then. One, I will never let my children suffer because of where they studied, two, I will never pay International student fee for them.

The best way forward was to migrate and the migration agent wanted 10000RM as fees. As a government servant, I had to work few years to save that much money. so I opted to apply directly without using an agent. This was before internet era and there was no one to help me. I chose Australia because it was closer to Malaysia, I have family here and I was worried about winter in US/Canada. ( I had never seen snow then)¬† The application form had to be filled in manually and every mistake I made was costly for I had to get a new form photocopied. I then had to get all my documents certified true and I remember the gleefulness on the China man Commissioner of oath near my home. My salary then was 1350 RM¬†and he charged me 250RM to certify true all the documents. I do remember that application form to migrate to Australia was kind of elitist. There were two pages for you list out all the club membership you have. ( Malaysia’s 5C’s of success, Cash, Car, Credit Card,Condo, County Club membership)

Along the time, I applied to migrate, I also got admission to do my master’s degree in England. I informed the Australian High commission In KL and they transferred my file to England.¬† A week after I completed the degree, I got a letter from the High commission, letting me know that my application was denied because my degree was not recognized in Australia. When I called them to let them know that my master’s degree is from England and is recognized in Australia, they had the audacity to tell me that ” you didn’t have your master’s degree at the time you lodged your application” That decision was so flawed, because had I had a major illness after I lodged the application, they would have denied the application, even though at the time of lodgement of application, I was hail and healthy.

There are certain things in my life, I keep a score. I can never forget spending 250RM to certify true the documents and scrimping through that whole month. And I was determined to live in Australia.. ( after all I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter).

Today, I am an Australian Citizen. I don’t feel any patriotic love¬†for Australia, but it felt good when the officer at the DIAC ( department of immigration and citizenship ) asked me “Why don’t you put your children’s name in your application, so they too can get their citizenship?” I replied “Nah, they are not interested”

At one time, they didn’t want to give me the Visa and now they are offering citizenship to my children.. How the tides turn.

Slipping away

Growing up in India, I ate rice for lunch and dinner every single day. When I went back to Malaysia, like the rest of my family, I opted to cook traditional breakfast items for dinner and only had rice for lunch. There was no time to make dosai or appam in the morning before leaving for work, instead, I cooked them for dinner. But I couldn’t survive not eating rice for at least one meal a day. A plate of rice with a bit of dhal, pappadam and pickle defined who I was. If I had gone out for some fancy pansy lunch devoid of rice and dinner was not rice, just before going to bed, I would eat a small serve of rice, not because I was hungry, that little bit of rice was needed to make me feel alive as a¬†malayalee.

I have not had rice for the past¬†2 weeks and it has not bothered me at all. Even if I felt the cravings for rice, there isn’t any in the fridge either. 20 years ago, if someone told me that there will be day I wouldn’t have a container of cooked rice in my fridge, I would have laughed my heart out.

If I tell my kids on Monday that today is onam, then they will ask for the angpow ( kai neettam) and that will be it.¬† They don’t think it is a big deal to have a sadya.. They don’t understand the joy of getting onakkodi..the wait for the reduction sale in Seematti and hoping against hope that Amma will buy me a new dress/pavada and when she didn’t, the envy I felt seeing my friends in their new outfits. Onam was about thinly sliced banana chips fried in coconut oil..( not the¬†chunky chips available¬†at the Indian grocers¬†made by ‘grandma’ that looks like banana chips but¬†taste like plastic) Onam was about visiting family , They don’t understand travelling in a very crowded bus from Kottayam to Chengannnur and even though you can hardly take a breath while being packed like sardines in a can, you are not angry, because it wasn’t the journey, but the destination that mattered. (¬†while¬† here, my children wait for the next bus or the one after until they find a bus that is not full because they don’t like anyone encroaching their personal bubble)

As the years go by, I am becoming less of a Malayalee, but on Onam day. a¬†part of me can be seen walking on the bund road, holding my father’s hand, looking at all the athapoos in front of the houses, giving way to Thomachan who is carrying his prized ethakkula¬† on his shoulder¬†from the market for those last minute upperi ¬†and swaying side to side balancing the heavy load ( or was it the kallu he drank the night before?), imagining all the goodies awaiting me at home, wondering if Kutten¬† got the oonjal (swing) ready?

To those who still keep the spirit of Onam alive.. I envy you.

Onam Ashamsakal.