Language

Last time I spoke to my mother, she extolled the virtues of my nephew..and the most important of these virtues was the fact that he could say thakkalippazham for tomato. Where as my children will look at you and say “say what?” as if you spoke Latin if they heard someone say Thakkalippazham..they wouldn’t even know it is a Malayalam word.

I always get a lot of criticism for not teaching my children their mother tongue, not just from my own mother, but also from every other Indian I meet. It is like I committed a huge crime.

Years ago, I read somewhere that the language you dream your dreams is the language you are most proficient in. For me, I wanted my children to dream in English, not any other language. Their future depend on their ability to converse and write in English.

So what if my children do not speak Malayalam? What are they going to lose? Their cultural heritage? Learning Malayalam was not going to give them a head start in life, neither would it give them any monetary benefits. There is a unit cost to every activity in life. I was not going to invest my time, energy and money to teach my children a language that would not give them any benefit. The only benefit I could see was that my kids could speak to their cousins in Kerala in Malayalam. And since most of their cousins speak English, there was no real return of the investment (my time and money)

By making sure that my kids have a very good grasp of English also made it possible for them to get good grades. Now, that I consider a good ROI. As I wrote before, Yaya wrote her IB final English exam without reading the required books. She got a 7 for HL English. She could do it because she really has a good grasp of the language and can wing it even If she didn’t read the book.

I believe every child should learn a second language in High school. I know this sounds contradictory. Instead of confusing my kids with two languages in their childhood, I gave them a head start in English and then got them to learn the second language by sending them to complete immersion classes.  As I mentioned early, I am only willing to invest my time and money in to something that gives a good ROI. There are 4 languages I was interested in teaching my kids that I considered a good investment. French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. Since my kids were keen to study in US, I felt it is better to teach them Spanish. So I enrolled both my daughters for Spanish Immersion, in a school that is really far from my home. The school near my home offered German Immersion and I didn’t think unless my kids want to live in Germany or perhaps Switzerland or Luxembourg there was no real need to learn German. My son is terrible in languages, but is still learning Spanish as a second language, because he knows it will help him in the long run. He is going to Peru in a few months time for student exchange, so he can improve his Spanish.

No, my kids don’t understand what is Thakkalippazham.. My oldest child has already got admission to few of the top Unis.. and for me that is all that matters..

Note: There is plenty of research evidence that suggest that kids learn languages at younger age. As I studied in Malayalam medium till 10th and struggled learning English in Pre degree, I wanted to prevent my kids from going through what I went through. So I chose English as the only language we spoke at home.

Yaya

I have been meant to write this post for a long time.

So here it is.

She got 40 for her IB. Got an A for her all her subjects which resulted in her achieving  perfect GPA. Her grade was equivalent to OP1 in Queensland. (Highest possible grade).

She had two days off during her IB exams and she decided to go for work . The only time I got really annoyed with her. I wasn’t so much worried about her studying, but going to write the exam tired after working 7 hours shift the night before was not something I was happy about. It wasn’t that she needed the money that desperately. Besides she could work all the days when she finished her exams. She was worried that if she didn’t take the shift her employer might not give her any more shift and plenty of people want her job.. She gets 22.60$/hour. (minimum wage for under 18 is 10$/hour). So she went to work !

Last week, she reached her target of earning 10,000$. Pretty impressive for a 17 year old.

As for Unis

In Australia, she applied to Uni of Melbourne and QLD as plan C. She got admission to both with Scholarship to Uni of Melbourne. She declined both.

In Canada, she applied to Uni of British Columbia and Toronto as Plan B. Got admission to both.

In US

She applied to UC of LA, SD and Berkley. Berkley results will only be out next week. She got admission to both UCLA and UCSD.

She applied to Uni of Chicago. Got the admission.

She applied to Boston Uni, Got the admission.

She is waiting to hear from Princeton and U.Penn and Stanford.

She refused to apply to Harvard because my friend is the alumni co-ordinator for Harvard in Brisbane and she didn’t want any sort of favouritism. She also didn’t apply to Yale because the course she wanted to do wasn’t ranked high in the Times list. She didn’t want to apply to the other Ivy Leagues because she only wanted to apply to 10 unis. (8 in US and 2 in Canada)

She did all the applications  by herself. I only saw one of her essay where she called Tony Abbot (former PM) a boffin. I suggested she tone it down and  I guess she didn’t want any more input from me 🙂

The only thing I did was to fill out the Financial aid application. The rest she did on her own.

She showed me the offer letter from UCLA which stated, Congrats, you have been chosen from 97000 applicants because of your excellent results (something to that effect), I

All this is her own achievements. She knew what she wanted and she worked to get it. My mother once told me, you must dream achievable dreams. I wanted to give my children the best education the world could offer. Was it an achievable dream?

Yes it was. For someone who studied in Malayalam medium and was nick named deaf and dumb and blind..it is really awesome to watch your kids aiming for the best and getting there..

I can’t describe the joy I feel..

 

 

8.30 and 9.45 pm

Yesterday Yaya came home at 8.30 pm and my son at 9.45 pm. (Yaya will be 18 in June and my son 16 in a couple of weeks)

I had written about staying with my cousins in US and how they went after their 25 year old daughter who came home at 10 pm. She had gone for a birthday dinner with friends and her parents expected that she should be home before 9 pm.

Yaya finished work at 2.30 pm, so technically she should be home after that. She didn’t tell me where she was going, with whom or what she was planning to do. Parenting books would tell you that you need to know every second of your child’s life.

I should, but I don’t. Exactly 123 days from today, my child will be backpacking alone in  Europe, after that she is going to Uni. I am not going to know every second of every minute of every hour of her life.  There is no point in trying to be in control of her life. My job was to teach her to be responsible for her own actions and I just have believe that my child will be safe.

I was cooking dinner when she came home.

“What cha cooking?” She asked

“Falafel” I replied.

“You are an awesome mom, I love your falafel” She replied

“Where did you go today?” I asked

“Oh, I met T after work, it is cheap Tuesday at the movies, so we went and watched How to be Single”

“Did you like the Rockefeller Christmas tree?” I asked

“Yup, that was magical eh? Remember the Santa on the Harley?” (Kids and I went to Rockefeller centre on Christmas eve and we saw a guy in Santa suit riding a Harley)

My son was still not home and we were hungry, so we didn’t wait for him and had dinner.

My son came at 9.45 pm. In his case, I knew where he could be till then. He gets his weekly homework on Tuesday and uses my ID and book a room at the UQ library, so he and his friends could discuss and do the homework and get it over with. He told me, he would be doing it beginning of the school year. So he could still be doing it. Or perhaps he decided to go for a movie with his friends. Either way, it really doesn’t bother me. He came home, gave me a kiss and said “Mom, I am famished, can you please warm up my dinner while I take my shower” and I did. While he ate his dinner, he told me where he was (at the library) and that he finished all his homework.

There was a time I was really paranoid about my children’s curfew. I have now learned to let it go. It feels good to be not so paranoid.

 

Sexist

There are two things that would bring out the most beautiful smile on my son’s face. Homemade Pizza and or dosai for dinner.

Every time I grind the batter for dosai, I make a large batch and divide in to few ziplock bags  and freeze them. In the morning before I leave home, I take one of the frozen batter packet and leave it in a bowl outside to defrost. The dosai batter will be ready to cook when I get back in the evening. I usually rely on frozen Dosai batter if I have to work late and don’t have time to cook a proper (healthy) dinner.

My son likes to eat dosai with yogurt and while waiting for me to make really crispy dosai, he mentioned

“My kids are going to be totally weird like me and eat dosai with yogurt”

“Well that would depend on if you marry an Indian girl” I replied

“What do you mean?” He asked

“How else are you going to get Dosai? It is an Indian food. Unless of course you teach your prospective partner how to make Dosai”

“Mom, What makes you think I can’t make Dosai for myself? Why should my wife make Dosai for me? If I want to eat it and I will make it, simple”

He has a point, doesn’t he? Why do I think that his wife has to make dosai for him? I have been living outside India for most part of my life, yet the old Indian values are still in me and it creeps out when I really am not looking.

I am so upset with myself.

Propaganda

My son hates to write English essays. He took English standard level for IB as opposed to his sister who took Higher Level English and got a 7 (highest grade) without even reading any of the required books. (She read spark notes instead of the actual books and wrote her exams)

As a general rule, I never go through any of my kids school work and don’t help them either. Usually I only get to see their work at the end of school year when they bring all their stuff back home. Even that doesn’t happen in High school as all their work in done online. So I am usually clueless.

I met my son’s English teacher during a function at his school. She mentioned that she was really impressed with his latest essay.

“Ah” I said for I had no idea what to tell her. I didn’t know that he had an assignment to do, let alone what he wrote.

“That comparison with Trump and Stalin was brilliant” She said

“Ah” I said

She looked at me as if I just landed from Mars. So I had to finally tell her

“I am sorry, I have no idea what he wrote because I don’t usually go through his work” I admitted.

She was a bit taken back. I guess I probably have looked like a really irresponsible parent.

It turns out that the assignment was about Media and how language is used to manipulate the mass. My son wrote about Trump and his Freedom kids and compared that to Stalin using young kids (Young pioneers/ youth group etc) as a propaganda tool. My son got the highest mark because his Grammar was excellent and he wrote about the current event and linked it to something really interesting.

I do remember talking to the kids couple of years about Stalin’s propaganda. Other than that my contribution to this particular essay is Zilch. However, I can assure you one of the reason my kids do well in school is because from the time they were young, I refused to help them. They have had years of practice honing their writing skills and it has helped them tremendously.

Justice of the peace.

Recently there was an article in Malayala Manorama that an Aussie achayanu Justice of the peace padavi labhichu.

My Malayalam sucks, I am going to assume that padavi in Malayalam means Honorary title.

So this must be a big sambhavam.. And require an announcement in the newspaper ( with such details as the recipient was a bharavahi of various Mallu associations etc) along with a photo of the said Achayan attending some conference..

So, what is the Justice of the Peace? The name sounds all posh and pompous eh? Can you picture the fanfare, elephants, trumpets etc and the Queen awarding the our Mallu knight the Honorary title?

Well not so.

Although our recipient must have imagined  that he received the Order of  Australia award, in reality our Mallu knight in shining armour is now  in charge of attesting the Photostats after checking the original and placing the chop and his initials on the document. It  is a free service.

How do you become a Justice of the Peace? Attend a course, send your details to the local member of the parliament, who then will nominate you and you become one. There are hundreds of them and the service of JP ( as they are known here) is available free of cost in most libraries/malls. There is also a website where you can find a JP near your home in the event you need to find a JP after hours. The service is free.

Since our achayan has gone to all these trouble to get his padavi announced in the newspaper, let us Congratulate him..

Big sambhavam..indeed it is.

Cross roads

Before I begin, I want to reiterate that just because I write difficult things about my kids, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love them or that they don’t love me. We are still a family and we love each other very much.

Yaya and I are in a cross roads right now. She is 17, working and earning 22.60$/hour. She in strong willed and independent like me and I respect those traits in her, for she sure has inherited those genes from me.

Early Jan Yaya had to submit Scholarship application and it required that her school send her official transcripts to the Uni. She mailed the school counsellor to let him know. I told her to go to the school and check and make sure they have sent it and she came after me like a ton of bricks.

“Madre, (she calls me Madre when she is really pissed) I know what I am doing, My school has been around for the past 6 decades and I am not the first student going overseas to study. They know what to do. You make everything seem so difficult, you need to learn to trust people to do their job and you need to stop nagging me”

All of Feb, she drove her siblings to the school to get her on the road hours and twice I asked her, if she would go to the admin and check, it takes 1 minute of her time. She rolled her eyes and said No.

Yesterday she found out that the guidance counsellor only sent her grade 12 school results, not the IB diploma, not the past 4 years of records that the Uni wanted.

This morning she had to take leave from work, go to the school and meet the principal and sort it out, 8 weeks after the submission deadline. She looks like a nervous wreck.

As far as I am concerned, I did my job. I told her to check and reminded her twice. If she didn’t get the scholarship, she will just have to live with the consequences of not being able to study in the Uni she dreamt of going.

I didn’t rub it in.. I wanted to.. but there is no point in making her more miserable..

But I do know that from now on, she will not trust other people to do their job well..She will make sure that they did what they were meant to do.

Painful lesson to learn and a heavy price to pay.

Just when you think..

Just when you think that you know something..y ou learn that you really know very little.

Yesterday while taking my kids to school, I had to give way for an ambulance. My son noticed that we could hear the siren louder when the ambulance was behind us compared to when it was in front of us.

“Doppler effect” I explained.

He was pretty impressed and I added one more feather to my crown..

Few minutes later, we were behind a bus that had the sign for solar power with the tag line “make energy fresh every day”

I read that aloud and  said  “that is not possible, energy can neither be created nor destroyed” (first law of conservation, thermodynamics)

“Mom, you are wrong. Universe is expanding, that simply means the law is wrong”

I had never even thought about that. My son will be 16 soon and he has already thought of all that!

Btw, I was reading about what he said about expansion of universe..and some of the writers talk about stored gravitational energy is being used for the expansion.. This is beyond my ability to comprehend.. so if you know something about it, do leave a comment.

 

Sigh

One of my Prof at the Uni has been hitting on me all of last year. It was even obvious to my classmates.. He sent me 8 emails, all casual, like checking if I have a book of his etc in December alone.( When Uni was closed) I didn’t respond to any of his emails, hoping he gets the message that I really am not interested.

Yesterday was my first day back to Uni. He must have known what classes I was taking, plus he also knew I am a creature of habit and that before going to my class, I always go to the campus coffee shop to buy  Cappuccino with extra chocolate.. and he was there at the Coffee shop..

I  only had 10 minutes before my classes started and  in that few minutes he let me know that he and his partner of 2 decades are separated.. as if that was the final act from his part..that should swing my feelings for him..

As I walked back to my class.. it occurred to me..

You can choose where you want to study, what you want to study, even where you want to live. But you can’t chose who you love.

So even if the prof is well renowned in the academic circle and is exceptionally intelligent and well read, I don’t love him. I will never be able to love him. Because I love someone else.

“When love exists, nothing else matters, not life’s predicaments, not the fury of the years, not a physical winding down or scarcity of opportunity.”
Isabel Allende

Risk taking

I shudder every time I think of all the things I have done as a teenager. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I still did it anyway. I certainly knew there were consequences to my impulsive decisions, but I was also willing to live with those consequences.. My logic then was, The biggest disadvantage being born is that you are going to die.. everyone will die one day, so what is the big deal if whatever I was going to do might end up killing me? I think the most risks I took were between the age of 18 and 20. Around 21, the things that gave me so much excitement ceased to interest me and I found myself thinking of consequences before I did something.

Since apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I was very mindful about my children following the exact path I took. I read every research paper about Adolescent risk taking behaviour. There has to be a reason why mortality and morbidity rate are exceptionally high in the adolescent age group, despite kids in that age are in their healthiest state of development.

One of the most interesting paper I read was this

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445337 (/http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445337/).

Evidence clearly points to the delayed gratification  of prefrontal cortex in the adolescent brain , the area responsible for making choices, impulse control etc.

When my son was about 6, I noticed that he loved speeding in the ice rink. I watched the instructor telling him over and over about how dangerous it was and he still did it. Even after he completed the full Skate Canada program, I still put him back for skating lessons. It was very  expensive and his instructors were really puzzled as to why I registered him again and again when he had already completed the program. My reasoning was simple, my son seemed to  have an affinity for impulsive behaviour compared to his peers of the same age and I wanted him to be safe and be able to enjoy the risks..I would rather he did it in a skating arena than behind the wheel of a car  I knew there will be  day he will be bored with speeding. where it doesn’t really excite him anymore. .. It did. If I am not mistaken it took almost  9 months.. and he started talking to the kids in group and skated alongside.  I stopped the lessons soon after that.

Yaya on the other hand was very rational  till she was 16. While her brother was speeding around the skating arena, she was calm and composed. She even went for figure skating..

When Yaya was in grade 12, her school organized safe driving classes for the kids, they also organized for people who ended up in Wheel chairs after accidents to come and talk to the kids about risk taking.. especially when driving. She lost two school mates and three former students (who were in first year Uni) to accidents when she was in high school. So it is not that she isn’t aware of the risks. She knows the risks.. but so long as her brain hasn’t developed, she is going to make impulsive decisions and take risks..

Like every parent of a teenager, I am terrified of all that can go wrong. I can tell my children over and over of all the dangers out there..I also know if it wasn’t for some guardian angel somewhere, I wouldn’t have survived my teenage years and writing this post today..

So I wait.. hoping that my children will survive without harming themselves and others.. because as a parent, that is the only thing I am left with.. hope..