Changes

I had a beautiful mother’s day with my children. I spent a bit of time evaluating my current and future role as a mother and this is what I think.

Until now, I spent every bit of my  time with my kids and everything I did was with them in my mind. And now they are tiny adults on their way to be full adults. It is time for me to do the things I wanted to do. It is my time.

Last Friday eve, I went out for dinner and walk with friends and came back home very late. In the morning when I got up, there was a note on the kitchen table. “Mom, good morning, we are going out to eat brekky and do a bit of shopping, your tea is in the microwave”.

Now that my son has his own car, he takes the girls out for brekky, drop them to wherever they want to go and fetch them after parties if they ask him.

My actual role as a mother has drastically reduced. I was a bit worried about how I will function when I have too much of free time. I go out to meet with friends more often, read a lot more, take the dog for walks a lot more.

It is actually so much fun to be a mom of three teenagers with half the load of work( to do as a mother).

Strength

I hate public speaking. 18 months of my masters degree, I avoided all the assessment that required me to speak/present one way or another. (Often asking my group members to present). In Manila, I did have to do power point presentations and I hated it very much.

Couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the Uni to meet with a Professor. I never take the lift as I really want toned legs and intend to wear short skirts in to my 70’s. Just as I was going up the steps, a staff from another department whom I know vaguely was coming down the steps. She was wearing a beautiful dress and I told her that.

10 minutes after that, I got an email from the Director asking me if I am free to meet him right away. So, I went to see him.

Turned out that they desperately needed a tutor for medical students as the current one had a family emergency and the person  whose dress I commented on  was heading to attend the crises management meeting  and she mentioned at the meeting that she just saw me and think I should be asked.

Long story short, I got a job as a tutor. I wanted to stick around in Brisbane this year till my son finishes his grade 12 and had declined the job offer in Manila. This job was perfect. But the only issue was public speaking. Apart from the fact that I never ever taught medical students until that moment. I heard from other tutors that it is a very hard job as most medical students think of themselves as high and mighty. Plus this was the middle of the semester and I have no clue what the students have already being taught.

Last Thursday was my first class and this morning my boss forwarded me a mail that was sent by a student.

My point is writing this point is about fear. We all have fear of not being able to do something. But there is strength in all of us. If you set your mind in to something, you can do it. I proved it.

 

My bubble

My best friend came to visit me last week. Apart from BE, he is the one friend I had kept away from my family, especially my oldest sister.

Silly as it sounds, my sister had this need to steal my friends. It started with the niece of our neighbor who was studying in Kottayam and used to visit my neighbor once in a while and  ended with my senior at medical college who was staying in the same apartment complex where I was living in KL. The last one was really a traumatic experience. She and I were good friends when we were medical students and imagine my happiness when I found her staying in the same apartment complex. Our children were good friends and I visited her often. My sister came and stayed with me and she and my sister became good friends and their friendship continued even after my sister moved out to her own place to such an extent that my own sister would come to the apartment complex to visit my senior and  not her own sister! One day I visited my senior and Yaya kept saying my sister’s name and finally I asked “is my sister here?” Hearing that my sister very sheepishly came out of the room she was hiding. I have never talked to my senior after that.

Sorry, I was digressing.

Anyway, my best friend had a meeting in Sydney and decided to come over to Brisbane and visit me. He bought me my favorite coffee and a slave.

I like to start my day with tea and then the rest of the day I drink coffee. By now you all know that I am very picky when it comes to the things I use. For coffee, I only use single origin coffee and insist on the bean, roast etc that suits my taste.  When I was visiting India, I loved Kalmane coffee and  my friend bought me a few packets of Kalmane coffee.

But it was the slave that I want to write about.

I had an extensive collection of music when I was studying medicine. I could only study if music was playing in the background. A lot of my music had events/memories attached to it. So every time I wanted to remember something, I played the music that was connected to it. When I was leaving for Malaysia, my mother told me that I can’t take my music tapes as they belong to the family as some of it was bought by my father. It was such a devastating blow. In one strike, she took all my memories away from me. I never ever could collect my own personal collection after that. Over the years, my friends have given me ipod, spottify account etc and I have never used them. I just couldn’t bring myself to start collecting music again. My friend knows about my inability to start a music collection again and how much I miss listening to music

He gave me an Amazon Echo (Alexa) and  linked it  to his account. Not sure how he has done it. He has even sorted out various playlists for me. This morning all I had to say was “Alexa, play my favorite music” and the first song was Dire Straits Money for nothing. It was one of BE favorite song. I remember him singing this song. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, white with blue prints, a Khaki shorts and his trade mark hat when he sang this song.

My family is totally screwed up, but I have wonderful friends who will do everything they can to make me smile.

I am happy today.

Thoo vella

To those of you who doesn’t speak Malayalam, Thoo vella means pristine white.

When she was growing up, she was told by her mother that her life was like a thoo vella saree..any blemish on it will be easily seen by others, so she should lead a very pure life. In other words all her mother wanted her to do was to keep her virginity for her husband. Don’t experiment, don’t sleep around and don’t be a woman with needs.

The interesting part of the above story is that her mother was the daughter of a woman who worked as cleaner/cook in a very prominent family and her father was forced to marry the cleaner’s daughter when the said daughter got pregnant. (political interventions)

But in true typical Mallu system of governance where the parents can do any thanthonnitharam, but the kids are forbidden to do the same, the mother watched over her daughter like a hawk.

Then got her married to a guy whose lineage can be traced to St. Thomas’s crew (so they claim). There was only a small problem. He is gay.

Her parents didn’t want her to apply for a divorce. They didn’t want to deal with the potential rumors and stigmas associated with a divorce. They told her, sex isn’t everything. I never understood how any mother worth her salt would ask her daughter to continue live with a man who goes out at night to sleep with other men.(plural, cause he was using the services of male sex workers)

After 25 years, she finally managed to get a divorce. Her parents haven’t talked to her since then.

When  I was talking to her, I told her. “You are now single, time to start living your life, you haven’t had sex, it is time to enjoy it”

And that is the problem. She is stuck in this ideological hell, where she thinks sleeping with a guy is the worst thing she could do.. She believes in love, marriage and sex as the only possible combination. But that is bollocks.

If I could change one thing in the Indian way of thinking, it would be this notion about sex. Sex outside the realm of marriage  is wrong according to Indians, yet everyone is sleeping around, but only behind closed doors.

Sex isn’t wrong. It is just a biological function. If you want to live in a relationship without sex, that is your choice. But don’t think that it is crime to think about your own needs. Marriage is just a piece of paper given by the state or church that tells you that you can now legally sleep with your partner. But the truth is, you don’t need the church or state’s permission. It is your body, your life, your choice.

 

 

Nudity

Piqued your curiosity?

I saw an article in the Malayala Manorma about the horrible misfortune that happened to an Indian woman who was racially profiled and was asked to strip in Frankfurt airport couple of days ago. This horrible crime was committed in front of her 4 year old daughter.

I am not interested in what, why or how it happened. What I was concerned about the event was bringing a four year old in to the picture to portray the horribleness of the situation.

Question that needs to be asked is, What will really happen if your child sees you nude? Do you really have something that is so shameful that your kids can’t see it? Or if they saw it, are they going to be scarred for the rest of their life?

If I was asked to strip because the security wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t a terrorist, I will. My world won’t end because someone saw me naked  My children would be least bit concerned that their mother was asked to strip. They might ask me, if I at least had some decent undies on. (Which I do. After working in Emergency dept, I am always careful to wear proper decent undies, because I have seen what people wear under their clothes and trust me, it is not a pretty sight) Btw, if you can strip in front of a doctor, or for that matter give birth in a labor room, I don’t understand why stripping at the airport or the gaol be any different.

I go to the beach with my children. I wear a bikini just like every friend I have here. Most of the women you find at the beach wear bikini. In fact you don’t even have to go to the beach to find a bikini clad woman, My local swimming pool is near a grocery shop and on hot summer days, you will find women wearing bikini walking to the shop to buy ice cream from the swimming pool.

At home, often my kids walk in and out of my room and sometimes this happen while I am changing my clothes. I don’t have anything special that I must hide from my kids. It doesn’t bother them and it doesn’t bother me.

Coping a feel, stealing a glance, peeping etc are the phenomenon I have often seen in India where the mentality that human body that too of a female must be covered at all times.. or the sky might fall prevails.

Perhaps, we should be a bit more relaxed.

 

Responsible!

My son does tutoring to earn extra cash. Often he stays back at school and teach. But sometimes his students come to my house.

This particular student joined us for lunch and while we were having every few minutes his phone pinged. Turns out that his mother was texting him. Did you have lunch? what are you having for lunch? when will you finish? etc etc. She then called him, just to make sure that everything is ok.

My son and I are on the same phone plan that gives us unlimited texts. From January to now, I have sent him 5 texts, all 5 were the same message. I texted him to let him know that I have arrived at his school to pick him up. I don’t pick him up from school often. These 5 occasions were because he was doing his experiment for Physics and could only do after hours due to OSH regulations and I agreed to pick him up.

I probably called Yaya less than 10 times since she left home last August. I know if she needs me, she would send a message on FB and ask me to call her back.

I felt a bit guilty that I don’t do things like other normal mothers do. When his friend left home I told my son

“I must be a very irresponsible mother for not checking up on you regularly”

He replied

“No mom, it is because you know I am a very responsible son and that you don’t have to check on me every single second”

It is actually true.

I know my son attended plenty of parties organized by his friends where there were plenty of alcohol and weed. He lets me know in advance that there will be weed and alcohol. It hasn’t bothered me and I haven’t stopped him from attending. My point is that I trust my kids. If they are going to get drunk or smoke weed, I would rather let them do it with me knowing about it than behind my back.

I was a terrible teenager and did a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have done. Because of that, I am an awesome mom. There is nothing my kids could do that I haven’t done or thought about doing. The thing is, I have never forgotten who I was when I was young. The problem only happens when you forget your own past and try to create an innocent version of you in your kids that never really existed.

I don’t have to check on my kids every second of their life because I know they are responsible. I raised them well.

When you should be stressed!

So, my youngest has decided to get more experience as a Barista as she felt it would help her to find jobs when she goes to N America three years from now. I was watching footy on TV while she sat next to me and searched for jobs online. She wrote her own cover letter explaining why the company really should hire her. Occasionally she would ask me, ‘how does this or that sound’ and I told her it is good.

Her to be employer called her on Sunday and asked her to come for the interview giving her an hour’s notice. She told him, she would like to reschedule the interview on Monday ( as she didn’t want to waste her valuable weekend). I told her, one must never do that as the employer is looking for someone to jump to their tunes, not the other way around. She replied ‘plenty of fish in the ocean’ and I shook my head and was very sure she isn’t going to hear from the employer.

Yesterday she calls me up around 2.45 p.m. to tell me that she needs a ride to the restaurant as the employer has scheduled her interview at 3.30 p.m. Since I can’t teleport and can’t get to her school in such short  notice that too  driving in peak hour traffic, I told her she needs to talk to the employer and re-schedule the interview to 4.30. She did.

I picked her up and she looked a bit stressed. So I told her “Don’t get stressed” She replied “Easy for you to say”

I told her, “in life there is only one time you need to get stressed, it is when you think you are going to die.. because most of your affairs are not in order and you don’t get much time to sort all your affairs if you are going to die. Going for an interview is not going to kill ya, so why do you have to get stressed?”

For a few seconds, there was absolute silence in the car and then she burst out laughing.

“mom, only you can come up with silly wisdom like this”

She got the job. She is 15 years + 3 months old. Not bad eh?

Giving up

My friend  came to Aus as a student after completing his medical degree in his home country. He  is one of the smartest guys I have ever met. He wanted to stay on in Aus and it took 10 years to go through the bureaucratic red tapes.. Meanwhile, even though he passed both AMC 1 and 2 exams, he couldn’t get a placement to work as a doctor as the dudes in the medical fraternity have the power to not to hire you based on their whims and fancies.

After receiving letters after letters of how sorry a certain organization is not being able to offer him the job he applied for (in other words those rejection letters) he has given up applying. His wife is also a Doctor and is now working in an aged care home as a carer.

I want to shake him.. shake him really hard, so I can put some sense in his head.

Let me tell you about rejection letters. I should call Guinness book of records, because I probably hold the world record for the most rejection letters ever received. When we were living in Canada and I was so desperate for money, a neighbour suggested that I apply to the company she works for..domestic cleaning. I did. Even that company sent me a rejection letter. I was not even good enough to clean houses.

You have a choice.. when you have been hammered down.. you can stay down or fight. I chose not to give up.. even though it took years to get what I really want.

In hindsight I made couple of mistakes when I was in Canada.

1 As a newly arrived migrant, I should have used the services available that will help me get a job. I only used once where they wanted me to work as a tel operator in Granville. Travel and child care cost was more than the hourly wages. I lost hope. I should have persisted.

2. Volunteer. I should have called organizations/unis etc and asked for internship/volunteering options. The easiest way to get a job and career references was to get a volunteer posting.(I couldn’t have done this in Canada cause I had no money to pay for child care)

3 Go back to Uni. As a PR of Canada, I was eligible for student loan and I should have used it.

4. Ge t my resume professionally written. This was the biggest mistake I ever made.  I was idiot who didn’t want to spend 450$ to get the resume professionally written. I should have considered it as an investment for my own future.

Just to put in perspectives.. at one time I earned 10$/meal and my oldest child went to school wearing wet and soggy socks because I couldn’t even afford proper winter shoes for her and now I am in the process of buying my oldest child an apartment close to her Uni.. Yes, I am boasting. I have a right to..

Hmm

I received the most unusual phone call few days ago. Unusual because I met the caller once for a few hours.

When I was in India and my best friend was in  Beijing, I wanted to go to Hard Rock Café Bangalore and asked few of my best friend’s acquaintances if they wanted to tag along. Her husband  is an active member in the expat community and she said she wanted to come along.

She is in her 50’s, very beautiful, but terrible in her appearances.. I know I didn’t make much sense with what I have just written.. pretty and terrible in the same sentence.. Imagine a beautiful Tam Brahmin woman, flawless skin, almond eyes, beautiful wavy hair.. Eye brows thick and bushy that has never seen a tweezer and a matching moustache , wearing a deep blue salwar top that has seen better and younger body at some stage, cream colour pants that too has seen better days, onychomycosis of the toe nails, cracked heels, old bata slippers…

It was her first visit to a pub and what I noticed apart from her appearance was her sad eyes.

She told me ” I wish I could live a life like yours”

That was a bit odd.. I didn’t really like the life I am living, there is so much more I want, so I was a bit curious why she said that?

Turns out, she got married to an MIT graduate when she was 19. She was in the first year of her degree course. She never completed the degree. They lived in US for the next three decades. Now, his mother is old and she wanted to come back and live in India, so they moved back to India. He travels a lot for wok and only gives money to his mother. His wife has to ask her mother in law for money. They have no kids.

She is trapped in  beautiful gilded cage and there is no way out. So she thinks.

But there is always a way out.. always.

I cannot stress it more.. there is always a way out, you just have to find it.

During our conversation, I mentioned something about how much I love long  distance driving.

She replied ” I miss driving. Here my car is manual and I don’t know to drive a manual. In US, I learned to drive an automatic”

I told her “stop giving excuses to your dreams. You can ask your driver to teach you to drive a manual. It is not rocket science and it is not too hard.”

She looked at me as though I have just said something very poignant. It was such a simple suggestion and she didn’t even think about it. I know when you keep staring at the closed door for a very long time, you think of being trapped and don’t see the little window by the side that you could use to get out.. I just wanted to point the little window to her.

I gave her a list of things to do.

1. You don’t need money to do your eyebrow. All you need is a little tweezer and then do it yourself.

2. For the Fungal infection in the toe nails, ideally she needs to be on anti fungal tablets. If her mother in law doesn’t give her money, then the option is to use a solution of soda bicarb and hydrogen peroxide..

3. For clothes, take the mother in law out for shopping.. buy her a beautiful expensive saree by buttering her up and make her spend some money her son sends to her and then guilt trip her to buy you a few salwar kameez. (this may or may not work, I have not met the mother in law)

4. Fudge the bills and accounts. Find reasons for not taking the car and get money for auto..and walk..and save that money. You will also lose some weight. When you buy groceries, if the mother in law is not checking the bills, comment how ridiculously expensive things are getting and add a couple of hundreds to the bills. (by the way, the best place to hide your money is the cistern..place money in few Ziploc bags and chuck it inside the cistern. The key thing here is couple of Ziplock bags….just to ensure that your hard earned loot is not water damaged)

5. Invite friends over and make sure the mother in law is treated with utmost respect in front of them, so it is easy to guilt trip her later.

6. Find a job. She doesn’t have the skill set to get a proper job, but she knows the expat community. She can be a baby sitter, she can run an Indian cooking class. she can teach the expats about Indian culture..She can organize tours and travels for the expats.

I went out for a few drinks and she went back home with crazy ideas..

I didn’t think she would act on any of it.

She called me to few days ago to tell me that she has learned to drive a manual.

There is always a way out.. so stop staring at the closed door and find the window and get out.

Back me up

When I was in India, my friend and I were talking about our fondest memories. Like me, he too has eidetic memory and because we have known each other for couple of decades, a lot of our memories are shared. Hence I had to find memories that were unique to me. One of which was something I had written before. When my son was about 2 years old, I convinced him that I have eyes at the back of my head. In order to prove this particular theory, I would sit in front of the balcony sliding glass door and my son would stand behind me. I had to tell him what he was doing  such as standing on one leg.. lifting left leg, hand etc…. pretty easy to do..I just had to look at the reflection on the sliding glass door. He used to search and search on my head to find where my third eye was.. it was so baffling.. and a mystery to him.

While I was describing this memory to my friend, my son came online on FB and was chatting with me and so I asked him

“What is your fondest memory of the time you spent with your mother”

My son replied, “mom, I have so many fond memories, but more than the memories, there is one thing that I appreciate the most”

“What is that?” I asked, a bit intrigued

He replied “Mom, from the time I was little to now, there is one thing I know, if I am right, you will always back me up, you will never let me down”

We all have choices.. a lot of us have gone through such horrific abuses that it is a miracle we are still alive. But the problem with being abused is that, it often continues to the next generation and then to the next..so on till someone makes a conscious effort to stop the flow of abuse. I never had anyone to back me up. Everything that one could do to destroy another’s life was done to me. But I had the choice. To be the horrible parent like the ones I had or to be the best I could ever be.

There is no validation greater than the appreciation your children have for you.. for being there for them.

I am happy.