Dress for less.

When I returned to Uni after the surgery, one of my TA mentioned that the Prof was trying to figure out ( after receiving  my medical note from the uni administration) who was I in a class of more than 160 students and another lecturer told him that ” She is the one who is always well dressed”

I take great care to be well dressed. However that doesn’t mean that I spent a lot of money on my outfits. I haven’t bought a single new dress since I came to Australia. Every single one of my outfits are from the second hand ( thrift) shops. I go to thrift shops in upmarket areas as most thrift shops tend to sell items donated to the store and upmarket areas tend to have upmarket items donated. I can find branded clothes for a fraction of the price in those shops. All my suit jackets and blazers are branded and I haven’t paid nothing more than 10$ for each. Some of it were still brand new ( with the tag still on it)

I know using second hand stuff sounds a bit mangy to many people. My point has always been, if you can happily go to a restaurant and eat from a plate hundreds of other people have eaten from while relying on their dish washer to do a good job, then washing second hand clothes before wearing them should be fine.

Sometimes you find a lot of treasures too at the thrift shop. I found an antique aboriginal woomera in a non-descript thrift shop somewhere in NZ for 1 $. My friend it is worth about $500.

Yesterday, I found a pair of beautiful earrings for 5$. It took me all night to search on google to find where it is from.

earrings photo (2)

earrings 2Someone somewhere spent a lot of time to handcraft this earring and I am now the proud owner.


Yaya turned 17 last week.

I can’t believe that I am a mother of a 17 year old. Ideally I should feel very old, but I don’t. I feel ‘slightly’ old. Which I think is a good thing. I still have plenty of things I want to  do and achieve and don’t really  have the time to grow old.

Her best friend whom she hasn’t seen for 6 years came all the way from Canada the day before her birthday as a surprise for her. When Yaya came home, her friend opened the main door. It took her few seconds to understand what was going on and then the screaming, yelling, jumping up and down etc started. She was so happy 🙂

And then she and her best friend left for a party and spent the night at my best friend’s house. Yaya’s friends baked her a cake and treated her for breakfast and I picked her up in the afternoon.

I was a bit disappointed that my child chose her friends over me. But then again, this too is a stage of her being more independent and that means having a life that doesn’t include me.

I bought her a Boss headphones ( blue tooth) so she could use it when she goes to Uni. Her sister bought her a gold earrings and her brother bought her a tiny diamond pendant.

I am proud of the woman my daughter has become.

Take fear by the horn!

I may have written about this incident, if so, bear with me. ( I hate having to read what I have already written, So I don’t want to go through past blog posts)

Some time ago, I had written that Yaya was going on a hiking trip with her friends.

First of all, she has the best friends on earth. They knew her dislike for moving her body and didn’t tell her that it is actually a 6 hour hike 🙂

By the time Yaya figured that out, it was too late to turn back. And so she whinged and whined and crossed the creak ( ice cold water) and  climbed the mountain. When they set up the camp, Yaya realised that she didn’t bring a mat to put the sleeping bag on. ( Without a mat, if you lay down on the tent floor, it will damage the tent as well as your back) And so it was decided that Yaya and a friend will sleep outside on the hammock.

Campsite was in the middle of wilderness with the nearest human habitat an hour away. And my child who is scared of anything that moves in the dark decided to sleep in a hammock outdoor.

In the middle of the night, she heard thumping sound that was coming closer and closer.. and then she saw eyes peering down at her from the tree top..

Eventually she must have slept off. ( after 6 hours of hike, I don’t think she would have been able to keep awake)

But the good thing is.. she is no longer scared. She tells me that if she can spend the night outdoor in the middle of a forest in a hammock, then there is nothing that can scare her anymore.

I am happy for her.

Behaviour modification

I had friends over last Sunday for my annual winter solstice celebration. For some reason, Yaya and Baby decided to argue and it progressed to insults. I counted to 5 and the bickering stopped.

My friends were stunned and asked for an explanation as to how I managed to do it.

I hate bickering. If you are not happy with something, you can say what is bothering you, but not insult each other to get a point across. From the time my kids were little, I have had consistent rule. If they bicker and start to insult each other, I count to 5, whosoever voice I hear after the 5, they get corner time, irrespective of who started it.  I consider 5 seconds is plenty of time for them to stop. Couple of times each of them tried to be smarter than me and tried to speak quickly before the 5 seconds were up and I counted the numbers really quickly so the person who was trying to be a smart aleck got corner time.

I don’t remember when was the last time any of my kids had corner time. I think the last person to have had corner time is me. ( for swearing). Even though they are 17, 15 and 13 years old and technically  too old  to worry about corner time as a form of punishment, the behaviour modification plans still work. They still shut up before I finish counting to 5.

Not bad eh?

Gender inequality

Coming from a misogynistic cultural background, Gender inequality is something I am very familiar with. It is ingrained in our culture.

But for the fear of losing my ability to read and understand Malayalam ( a language I use the least in my everyday life), I force myself to read Malayala Manorama.  If you ever attempted to read Malayala Manorama, you need to braze yourself for crappy journalism, mispronunciation of names where Katy Perry became katti pari. ( Somehow Malayalam font doesn’t work here ).  and innumerable amount of pop up ads. There are not many options available to me to make sure that I don’t forget Malayalam. Last year, I did subscribe to Vanitha magazine e edition and stopped reading after the first month because every other page was an ad and it was next to impossible to read it without having to go through all the ads. So once  a week I read Malayala Manorama online.

Sometime last week there was an online poll..Ammamarude madi ano maggi popular akkiyathu ? ( Is it the laziness of moms that made maggi so popular?)

I don’t know where to begin to write a response to such a misogynistic statement.

First of all, does the father play no role when it comes to the food his children eat? Is it written somewhere that only women must cook food for her family? appanmarkku madi onnum ille?

Secondly, how dare the editor of a leading ( questionable)  daily  even attempt to ask such a question?

There are times, I get home at 11.30 at night, especially when one of my kids have late night basketball matches. Often I do have something  ready in the slow cooker, but sometimes, I just wouldn’t have the time to even do that  and on those days the first thing we do is to boil water.. to make maggi mee.  Children and I love Maggi Curry mee ( Malaysian version) and we add some lettuce, carrots and an egg for myself and meat balls for the kids. It is quick to make and very satisfying.. especially on cold winter nights. I would wring the neck of anyone who would dare to accuse me of being lazy. I do my darnedest to make sure that this business called running  a household  and raising healthy and happy children efficient and sustainable especially for my mental and physical health.

The thing is, Indian society is so used to blaming the women for everything. When will we ever have gender equality, if the women  are blamed for the popularity of maggi noodles?


This morning my son wore a tux to school. ( He bought one for 20$ from the thrift shop). He is doing a business presentation at his school. His ( fictional) company came out top in a group of 18 companies.

First of all I am thankful that the school provides opportunities like this for the kids. 18 groups ( of ten students each) were given as part of a project to teach them business management skills with three million dollars ( not real)  and I million shares and they had software that tracked every decision the CEO made and the share values fluctuated like in real life. My son made the decisions backed up with mathematical calculations and his company did extremely well.

The journey to this moment was not easy. The last three years of our stay in Vancouver, there was a bar of chocolate in our fridge with his name on. He got the chocolate in Kindergarten for Easter and was so tormented to make the decision to eat it. Apart from that, he also had the notion that if he couldn’t eat it, no one else could either, so he wrote his name on the bar and kept it safely in the fridge. Every now and then I reminded him that his chocolate is still in the fridge. I didn’t throw it away because this was a good opportunity for me to teach my son a valuable lesson. So I kept in the fridge. When we were moving to Australia and while emptying the fridge, I showed him the chocolate and told him, ” you can eat it or it goes in to the bin” He didn’t want to eat three years old chocolate and it went it in to the bin and I explained to him that , if he had made the (right) decision to eat it on the day he received it, like his sisters did, that would have ensured that he enjoyed the chocolate, by delaying the decision, he gained nothing.

Over the years, I refused to make decisions for him. He wanted a computer, he needed to do the research and choose. He wanted new t-shirts, he had to go to the shop and buy. (that was something he struggled with the most because there were too many to choose from and he couldn’t do maths to figure out which one suited him the best)

I also started making him pay a bit of money regularly to charities and made him volunteer at the Thrift shop so he learns to share. ( He made the decision to donate money to a charity as part of one of the decisions he made for the business project and his teacher was very impressed)

He ironed his business shirt ( Blue stripes)  and polished his shoes last night. He tried a few neck ties before deciding which one he was going for. ( he went for a grey silk tie, I would have preferred an earthy/red tone, but he will learn to figure out what works eventually).

It is such a delight to watch my boy grow up to be a capable man.

I am very happy.


She is my classmate, the only daughter of her parents. She knew that to have a better future, she needs a good education. So she started learning English as a second language and then eventually came to Australia as an International student to study nursing. She passed nursing and decided that she needs a master’s degree..

She works in a sushi restaurant for the maximum hours she is allowed to work. She saves every single penny. Her parent help her with the tuition fee, but her living expenses are all on her own.

Last month she bought a beat up car with the money she saved working the last three years. She hasn’t been once since she came to Australia.

In one of the group assignment we worked, she spent 8 hours to write 800 words. ( She still struggles with English, but was determined to do a good report)

In exactly 6 months from today, my oldest child will leave home.. She knows she is on her own ( financially)

I meet so many international students who work and support themselves  and I was one of them..

But still it feels really weird..to send Yaya out to face the world on her own.


Yesterday morning, first thing I did was to go to the library. I haven’t read any serious  novels since my classes started. I am a creature of habit and having classes at odd times, having to take the public transport etc has knocked my carefully laid out, perfectly planned to the very last second life in to  chaos. Thursdays I had classes until 7:30 pm and  it took more than an hour  get back home and often I didn’t even have time to grab a cup of tea before taking my kids for their basketball games. ( And I still had to do my assignments after we came back home at 10 pm).

I haven’t had a dinner party at home and I missed having my friends over.

I haven’t taken my kids for holidays.

I haven’t done any gardening, not even watering the plants ( automated it)

My house is a mess.

I read Hwan Sok-Yong’s The shadow of arms until 2:30 am last night. Today, I will work on my garden, tomorrow I will clean the house and on Sunday, I have friends coming for dinner..

I am so glad for the few days of time off from Uni.




Yesterday, when I wrote about studying here is like a walk in the park, there is one thing I forgot to mention.


While it is acceptable and often required to write exactly what is in the text books in India, Plagiarism is a big offence here. Before starting the course, every student is required to attend mandatory lesson about plagiarism and the libraries conducts regular classes about how to reference your work properly.

Few weeks ago, another one of my (Indian)classmate has been hauled up to meet the academic integrity officers for plagiarism. If the integrity officers find the offence a serious misconduct, he will be asked to leave the program/University.

Plagiarism rules are very simple. If you copy something word for word from another source, cite it. If you copy the content/ideas reference it. Uni also provides access to turinitin, a program that checks your work for plagiarism

I understand some of the Indian students find it difficult to write in English, yet you find Chinese students who learned English as a second language and struggling to use google translate from Mandarin to English and  spending hours at the library trying to write 800 words essays and they do it without plagiarising.

I think it is the attitude of the Indian students about plagiarism (I am smart, my work is better because it is straight from the text book) that is causing all the trouble. Perhaps it is time Unis in India took active role in stopping plagiarism, a daunting task when some of the Vice chancellors themselves have been accused of plagiarising their entire research topic.