Few days ago, I went to pick up Yaya from her friend’s house ( mother is my best friend).

This is what I saw.

In the guest bathroom, 5 teenagers ( 3 boys and 2 girls) are sitting in the bathtub packed like sardines in a can. The weather is getting pretty chilly and the kids have created a teenage version of sauna. They jump in to the cold pool and swim for few minutes and run back inside the house and sit in bath tub ( hot water running in full steam !) The girls were wearing bikini and there was a lot of skin contact.

I imagined how my mother would have reacted if she was with me. All hell would have broken loose. If I was in Yaya’s place, Amma would have dragged me out, slapped me a few times and I would have been grounded for eternity, all because I sat semi naked next to two guys.

Sometime ago, a cousin of mine wrote to me to ask if she could stay with me while she writes the Australian medical council exam. she did MD in India and got married to a doctor and is desperate to leave India because her mother in law wouldn’t even let her hold her husband’s hand in public. ( apparently cinema style alla jeevitham)

Why are Indians behaving like this? What will happen if you make a body contact with the opposite sex. It is not like sperm could swim through the skin and impregnate you.

And why can’t a wife hold her husband’s hand in public? What has movies got to do with that?


Shut Up !

My friend ( the lawyer) told me to shut up  and I am still a bit shaken.

It is the same guy who told me that I am an awesome mother, so when he told me to shut up, it really affected me.

A bit of history. My mother loves maidenhair fern and during a trip to Ikea, I found drinking glasses with maidenhair fern design and bought them. Yaya broke the 5th one when my friend was home and looked visibly upset. I have never scolded my children for breaking something and don’t see the need for them to be terrified of something so trivial.

I told her ” Yaya, the 6th one will be very sad without its mama and papa and brothers and sisters, so you should break it too” Obviously my comments cracked her up and she was back to her cheerful self and helped me clean up the mess. My friend told me : “you really are an awesome mother” and my head grew few sizes big.

For dinner, I decided to make Russian cabbage rolls ( another one of my son’s favourite food ). But before that, I was already annoyed with my son. His room was a mess and he didn’t rinse the plates and cups and put in the dish washer, instead he just chucked everything in the sink. He also left his shoes in the hallway and I almost tripped on it. I didn’t want to go after my son in front of my friend and lose my halo.

When dinner was served, my son saw that I made cabbage roll, he came and hugged me and said ” Mom, thank you for always making something nice for dinner, I really appreciate it”

For which, I with a halo replied ” No, you don’t, you left the dirty dishes in the sink, you left your shoes in the hallway, you room is a mess, you don’t care how much I struggle” and so it went.

Then I head these words ” shut up Sarah, you really don’t know how to take a compliment”

There was only one word to describe my feeling at the moment. ‘stunned’, No one has ever told me to ‘shut up’

And I realized what my friend said is really true. I think years of living in India where you are taught to be a fake when it comes to compliments is still ingrained in me. I remember wearing a new saree and  a friend asked “is it new” my answer was ” No, it is very old” or if someone tells me ” you look gorgeous” the answer was always “nah, you need new glasses”.

All I had to say to my son was” you are absolutely welcome” and perhaps I could have got a bit more mileage by adding  “You mean the world to me and I enjoy cooking your favourite meal”

So like Gwyneth Paltrow, I am now consciously uncoupling my Indian “fake” responses to compliments.


The past few days I have been busy doing a spring (rather autumn) cleaning and went through a lot of my children’s school work that they brought home at the end of every term. I didn’t throw them out right away as I am supposed to because I wanted to read their work and amassed a huge collection of work and felt if I don’t go through them, it will only grow bigger.

My children often don’t show me their assignments and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but I really like to read what they wrote, for it shows me their thought process.

I found this among my son’s school work. I am not sure when he wrote it, I assume it is grade 6 or 7.

Those who grew up in India in the early 1990’s will remember MTV vj David Wu (man) playing this song over and over. I loved the song so much that I recorded the same song on one side of a 60 minute tape ( the other side had Sacrifice by Elton John), so I didn’t have to rewind the tape to listen to it. In fact when Amma was here and the song came on the radio and she told my children ” your mom’s song”.

I remember playing this song often when I gave birth to my youngest. My son was 22 months old then. I certainly haven’t played this song after we left Penang because CD’s were becoming more popular and I gave away all the music tapes to our driver.  My son was three when we left Penang.

I am touched by the fact that of all the songs he could have picked, he picked the one song that was really meaningful. I am also terrified of the impact of my role as a mother. If a song that I used to play when he was 22 months old made such a huge impact on my son, what about all my other actions? Have I been a good mother?







PS:My apologies,  I know the photo can only be enlarged to be able to read on a smart phone. Anyone knows how I can post it, so everyone will be able to read it?


As I mentioned before, I host a tea party once a week for my elderly women neighbours. It started purely as a selfish motive from my part. I needed the presence of a mother figure in my life and a grandmother for my children. It started off with two and now grown to 18.

Last weekend, I met Edna ( not her real name). She stays 4 blocks away from my place and heard about the Sarah’s Mad hatters party ( Thelma named it ) and decided to come and check it out.

To be frank, I have never met a person like Edna. To start with, she is 91 years old and visits Australia every year to stay with her son. She grew up in a farm in South Africa and only studied till 9th standard and reads medical journals for fun. She  survived 4 major cancers, the first of which was breast cancer in 1957 and underwent radical mastectomy. ( Surgery has advanced so much since then and they don’t mutilate a woman’s body like they did in 1957)

It was not her medical history that fascinated me the most. While we were talking, she mentioned losing the family farm that has been in her family for 6 generations to the black people few years ago. She talked about how the new owners chopped all the fruit trees that her grand parents and great grand parents planted for firewood. What surprised me the most was there was not a tinge of bitterness in her voice.

I asked her how did she cope with seeing the destruction of her family farm and she replied, “you can’t stop tides of change, but you can learn to live with it”

When my father cut the jackfruit tree my grandmother planted years ago for  timber, I felt murderous. I still do. Perhaps Edna was right,  I really can’t stop the tides of change and I should stop fretting and accept the change.

It is the rich tapestry of life, all these women weave that makes my life beautiful.

Long weekend..3 more sleeps before I can open the bottle of vodka. See you all on Tuesday.

Quick question. Does any one know how to make pezhaha appam? My great grandmother used to make it every Pezhaha. It was unleavened, steamed and had cashews and raisins on top.


She is incredibly gorgeous and very intelligent. She was my son’s classmate in elementary school and both of them represented the school for all the maths competitions and won every single time. They don’t go to the same high school and for her birthday, my son was the only boy she invited.

Few weeks ago, Yaya told me, “Mom, did you see what so and so wrote on toothless’s wall for his birthday?”

I didn’t.

Yaya continued, “it is so good that I took a screenshot of it”   she showed me the screen shots. ( It was so long that it took three screen shots )

Obviously, the girl is head over heels in love with my son and my son has no clue. He considers her as his best friend, nothing more. I wish I could shake my son, so he would see it, mostly because I was that girl many years ago. Falling in love with my best friend and hoping he would notice me, never having the guts to tell him my feelings for fear of losing my best friend.. Watching him falling in love with one wrong girl after another and supporting him each time someone broke his heart..

I don’t understand how love works. Why can’t my son see the gem in his hand?

Such is life.


Other side

Up until now, you have read my take on side of the story as a parent of two teenagers and an almost teenager.

Today I am posting a letter I received with the permission from the person who wrote it.

It is not her story alone.. It was my story growing up in India, just as it is the story of countless ABCD’s ( American Born Confused Desi’s).

Parents, are you  listening to all these children’s  cry for freedom?

Sarah, I’m not sure if I’m asking for advice or some reassurance or whatever, but I think I just need you to tell me how to survive a year or so more at home before I get to be a free bird. I love my parents and they have never done anything to harm me intentionally and even if I’ve thought most of their actions are plain harsh, I’ve always understood that they never grew up in the same environment as I did so their way of thinking must be different. I was an only child until the age of 8, and we moved here from Delhi. In Delhi, my parents were very lavish and spoiled me a lot. It was the same here too until my sister was born and I was no longer the baby or the center of attention. This grew worse when a brother came along too. I’ve never been allowed to go to parties, including the ones in primary school where we play on bouncy castles and eat fairy cakes. I’ve never been allowed to go on school trips that include spending a night away. No sleepovers, even at my Malayalee friends’ houses as it’s a “bhudhimuttu” to their parents. As I grew older and transitioned into secondary school, house parties were an absolute no-no so I don’t even bother to ask. Birthday meals at nice restaurants too and the reason being, “ividethe polle avande avisham illa nammalku”.
When it comes to boys, be it my personal preference (which may have been influenced from childhood), but I prefer Mallu boys because I just feel like I’m more comfortable with them. Boys have been a complete ban in my house. I’m seen as the only Malayalee teenage girl in the whole world who has had anything to do with boys. I used to like a guy back at the start of secondary school but it was always one-way and I wrote stupid notes, texts, diary entries etc which were later found out and I was obviously punished to have feelings as “appa’ku nannakedu ondakum”. He was the only guy I personally feel I’ve loved but my parents think I’ve had many relationships, haha I wish!
I was always told to never get Facebook and even though I was given a phone as I used public buses to travel to school, I was never given any money to top it up as Appa said I only needed to ever answer his calls, and if I needed to call him, I should send him a missed call and he’d call me back. I obviously broke both of these. I got Facebook and made sure to block every single family member, aunty, uncle, cousins, everyone even mildly related to my parents so they never found out. Then, I used to do odd jobs here and there, lie and get money from my parents saying it’s for other stuff, when I actually used it to top up my phone. They’ve found out I had Facebook many times, as the computer was always placed in the living room so someone could always see what I was doing. Many deactivations, many reactivations. Then, I made another Facebook- just for the eyes of my parents and my relatives where everyone thought I had no social life and never went on Facebook. Anyway, after a long while, just under a year ago, I plucked up the courage to delete my fake one and added my parents and family members to my real account- but many things like friends, statuses etc were always hidden from them. I became a pro at hiding and lying. Still am, shamefully. But, again, more doubts sprung up when they had my phone and saw my conversation with Appa’s distant friend’s son who we’d just met on our holiday to Delhi. My parents thought by him being a teenage lad from Delhi, he’d had me hooked on to him and was convincing me that we’re in a relationship, and then he’d make me send nudes and then stick them up everywhere and blackmail my parents and then sabotage any marriage proposals. WE WERE FRIENDS. He was always a sweet, decent guy and we talked like friends. However much I said we were friends, the louder the shouts became, esp about Appa’s abhimaanam. I’m a stupid, naive girl who has no understanding of the world, and yes, to an extent, that must be right because I haven’t lived half the life they’ve lived yet, but as a 16 year old young woman, do I not know to spot if a guy is being inappropriate? Apparently not. Things have gone downhill since then. Appa took my Facebook account and changed its’ password and deactivated it himself. I love taking pictures and I used to upload many on Facebook as it acted as a kind of back-up, but apparently the pictures of me pulling funny faces with friends were again, a punch in the face of Appa’s abhimaanam  as I had family members on there.
Since then, we’re back to square 1. Always bickering. I’m not doing enough in the house, I’m not looking after my siblings, “all other children” clean up and tidy up their house and teach their siblings, it’s just always such a negative environment. Even the other day, I was saying how I support gay rights and my god, I was this close to getting a slap on the face by Amma- “Velliya aalu ayi aana vijaram, swantham ellam chindikanum cheyanum ariyannu. Ellam ariyam ennu oru bhavam. Ninte appan-ammekaalum bhuthi vechu enna”. Am I not entitled to my own opinion?
They’ve always wanted me to go on to Medicine and however much I say I’m not into it as I can’t handle pressure, stress or anything gross, the reply has always been, “Cheythu thodangumbol, ishtapetollum”. Never about what if the odds are against my favour and I end up not liking it. Luckily, I’ve partly changed this idea and put them on to Pharmacy which is something that meets us both halfway. I have exams in May and June and I apply for Uni courses in October, then more exams the following May and June, and then, hopefully Uni. Whatever my parents do, I will not stay home and my parents are trying everything to make me stay. I’ve refused and I can only hope they accept it.
When exam stress or worries get to your head, you always need someone to go to and Mums are usually the number one people that come to mind. I can’t do that and I think I kind of consider you as one through your blog, as if you’re sharing something with me every day, and like I know you. It’s really nice. I’m sorry to have blabbered on so much but when I started writing, it was hard to not let everything out. I don’t think you know how much your blog helps and I can’t thank you enough for just being there to talk to. Thank you, Sarah.

Suck up.

When you are a student, often  you will find at least one teacher that you just can’t get along. I used to  skip the lectures given by teachers I can’t stand and get someone to give me a proxy attendance. I also lost a gold medal because I was at war with one of my professors and he deliberately didn’t give me the 20 marks that I should have got my internal exam.

My son hates one of his teachers. Couple of weeks ago, a very dear friend had come for visit and was home when my son came back from school. As usual, I asked my son “how was your day?”

“I hate my Mrs X, she did this and did that” my son started to rant.

My friend did Law at Harvard ( Obama’s classmate.) and he listened to my son’s ranting. Then he asked my son to come and sit down with us and told him

“Toothless, in life remember always, only honey can get you the flies, not vinegar ( for which my son replied, manure too will work and my friend was ROFL, but that is not the point for today’s post) and you will always find a teacher/colleague you just can’t get along. However, what matters the most  is your grades. Your teacher will only be with you for a short while , but your grades will have much bigger impact on your life and if you are going to be at what with her, you are going to get a bad grade. so my advice to you is  just suck up to her. What you need is good grades and focus on that and suck up to her royally”

My son followed the advice. He has been sucking up to the teacher and the teacher has chosen him to  represent the school for the STEM ( science technology engineering maths) project.

Ideally, I didn’t want to teach my son to suck up to someone to get something. You shouldn’t have to do that if you are capable of doing something well on your own. But my friend had a point and it looks like his advice worked..




After my exams were over, my friends organized a party to celebrate. All of us are in our 40’s and have children of similar age. One of the mothers whose daughter ( same age as Yaya) is currently travelling in South America spoke about how one day before the school closed she felt She lost her daughter. She said, that day was like any other day, but she could sense the difference in her child. It was like her daughter suddenly evolved in to a new person. I didn’t understand that. How can your child change just like that?

Friday was the last day of school. Yaya wanted to spend time with her friends and asked if she could sleep over at one her friend’s place. I said fine. Saturday she works and usually come home after work. She send me a txt to let me know that she is going for a movie with her friends and could I pick her up after that?

I felt  like a drowning person trying to grab whatever I could get. So much as I hate to shop and that Yaya doesn’t need any more new clothes (she bought enough from US), I asked her on Sunday morning if she would like to go for shopping?  I just wanted to spend some time with my daughter. We went to the mall and decided to have breakfast first. The usual Macca’s breakfast didn’t interest her. ( There was a time, we used to get up early and catch the train to Vancouver and then the seabus to Lonsdale Quay to eat McDonald’s breakfast.. there were plenty of Macca’s near where we lived, but the train and sea bus was much more fun 🙂 )

Yaya asked me what I want for breakfast and told me to find a place to sit. she went to the coffee shop and ordered for both of us. ( It was always the other way round). While we had out breakfast,she talked about her travel plans. She is going to Mexico in September and after grade 12, she is planning to take 6 months off and travel around Europe. I told her about wanting to take all of three of them for a camping trip this school holidays and she told me ” Mom, I don’t want to go camping any more. It is so boring”

And I knew that instant, my child is gone..Replaced by an independent confident young woman..the outcome I hoped to achieve when I had her. Somehow I feel empty.