The wanderer

Ah..itchy feet..
Time to wander..
What is school holidays if we don’t go any where?

I am a follower of ” have car, will travel” So we are heading North.

Destination is Cairnes..

It is cold..and has been raining non I am not sure how this trip is going to go..
I can’t pack up my tent when it is wet..( mildew) So we probably may not make it all the way to Cairnes… but there is plenty of good places in between..

Song of the moment is

See you all sometime next week..

“You Asians !!!”

A colleague whose children are in the same grade as mine asked me about my children’s report card.
I do hate it when parents compete in a contest of “whose children are smarter?”
I also hate it that if your child got bad grades, no one says it is because the mother is stupid, but if she/he got a good grades it is automatically because the mother is intelligent!

I usually avoid being in a contest by saying “oh, they got the usual A’s and B’s”
“How many A’s?” I was asked again.
I honestly didn’t know.( I know my son got his first B this time. It was because of the Magna Carta incident and he isn’t happy. He wanted me to speak to the teacher/principal and be allowed to write another test, I refused. He was very upset. He is still very upset. But he needs to learn that life is full of surprises!)
When I told my colleague that I honestly didn’t  count the total A’s , he replied
“I am sure your children got all A’s, after all you are a brainiac!! and “you Asians” stand behind your children with a hammer and hammer them to study”

I was tempted to hammer my colleague!

I do agree that a lot of Asian parents push their Children to excel academically.

Currently India churns out 100,000 engineers probably 25000 doctors annually.
The oldest university in the world was in India
Yet, periodic table, steam engine, computers. etc were all discovered outside India.
From 1902 to 2009 India had total of 9 Nobel price winners. 2 for literature ( Kipling and Tagore) 2 for Physics( Raman and Chandrasekhar) 2 for medicine (Ross and Khorana) 1 for Peace ( Mother Teresa) 1 for Chemistry (Ramakrishnan) and I for economic science ( Sen).

Why is that a land of 1 billion people only has 9 nobel laureats and no invention worth talking about? ( Yes, I remember the mathematics contributions of Indians..but it happened in the classical period 400 to 1200AD)

I think it is because we push our children to rot learn. We start in vitro. listening to classical Music, mother eating specific food to encourage brain development, flash cards, early reader program, maths time tables..the list is endless..All in the hope of bringing out the geniuses in our children.

I refuse to be part of the race. Yaya learned to read when she was 7. Like me, she goes through an average of a book a day now. I can’t see any damage happened to my child because I didn’t send her for early reading programs.

I tried telling my colleague that I don’t stand behind my children with a hammer. But stereotyping is part of being an Asian!

For my children, I only have three rules.
My three R’s
“Respect, responsible, reliable”
Respect and behaviour goes hand in hand.
responsible and reliable for their school work/home work etc.

I am not a tiger mother. I am a turtle mom..slow and steady..

Magic spoon!

Last night I was laying down in my bed trying to sleep off a migraine attack. Yaya made coffee for me and came to my room while stirring the coffee with a metal spoon. I don’t know if I am the only one, but when I have migraine, every little noise is exacerbated ! The clanking sound was going on in my head as if it is the sound when the space shuttle takes off!. I was tempted to scream, but that would have made my head ache even worst!
She came and sat next to me.
I took the coffee cup from her before she spilled the whole thing on my bed.
“mom” she whispered
“hmm” I answered.
“Do you remember my magic spoon?” She whispered again.
“hmm” I whispered.
“Mom” She called softly again. It was the kind of a call that you know your child wants to tell you something.
I opened my eyes with great difficulty and looked at my beautiful daughter.
She grinned when she saw me looking and told me something I hoped I would hear one day.
She told me
“mom, do you remember the time we went to Langkawi? You know that is one of my best memories?”

She gave me a kiss and took the empty cup to the kitchen. ( and I can bet my last dollar that she wouldn’t have rinsed the cup, but would have left it in the sink for me to wash later!)
And I remembered the magic spoon..
Yaya and I went to Langkawi when she was 16 months old. I was expecting my son then and wasn’t allowed to fly. So I took the overnight train from KL to Arau, took a cab from the station to the Jetty and then took a ferry from the Jetty to Langkawi.
I did doubt my sanity then because the journey was a nightmare. She didn’t sleep at all during the train trip and I was exhausted by the time the train reached Arau.
Apart from my back pack and the baby bag, I also carried a cooler box filled with nutrigen..that too strawberry flavoured ones.
When I stopped breast feeding Yaya, she decided not to drink milk or water. Only nutrigen ( yogurt flavoured drink).
If it happened now, I would have let her starve ! cause I now know  that no child would starve to death on their own volition! But at that time, I became a mother after waiting so long and I was suffering from the ‘guilt’ of not doing enough !! If she was going to drink only the strawberry flavoured nutrigen, then that is what I was going to provide ! And I didn’t want to take a chance of not finding the strawberry flavoured ones in Langkawi.
We stayed in Langkawi for a week. Each morning Yaya and I would go to the beach and make sand castles. Then when she was hungry, we came back to our chalet, I made maggi mee for both of us. ( Yeah, I know,, what kind of a mother eh, feeding her child such unhealthy food!). That time, the maggi mee came with a free spoon that changes the colour when you dip in to hot water. Our magic spoon.
She had a small cup and I zapped the water for a few seconds in the microwave, she stirred it with her magic spoon and made innumerable cups of (pretend)coffee for me. Each time we pretended to be a different character from all the story books we read and  sat outside on the balcony and played with the magic spoon for hours.
My child doesn’t remember the train,taxi,ferry trip.
She doesn’t even remember her loving, kind, caring mother carrying a cooler filled to the brim with strawberry flavoured nutrigen!
But she remembers the magic spoon.
And to think that all the toys I spend money to buy didn’t create any special memories for her..a free plastic spoon that came with a packet of noodles is remembered fondly..

And just in case you think that I was crazy for travelling on a train etc with a toddler, there were people for whom such a trip was the only option!
When I was in India, during one of my ‘famous’ train trips, I travelled on the Kashmir Kanyakumari train ( not the full stretch) and met a Malayalee mother who was travelling to Kashmir with her two daughters aged 2 years and 3 months respectively. Her husband was an officer in the Indian Air force and has been posted to Kashmir.She had come home to Kerala for the delivery and was going back to Kashmir to be with her husband.   Imagine having to travel on a train alone with two kids, that too on a journey that takes more than 7 days!… time before diapers..bottled water..plastic feeding bottles..

another term

Another school term is over.

First the changes..
Beginning of this term, my son asked permission first before he went over to his friend’s house. Few weeks ago when I went to pick up the kids after school, he wasn’t there. He didn’t tell his sister either. He called me few minutes later to tell me that he is at his friend’s house and will be home around 6 or 7. ( By then I was already in panic mode!)
We had a huge row when he came back home for the reasons below.
I know he is growing up and desperately want to make decisions on his own. But till he is 18, he has to ask my permission first. I don’t have any issues of him going to his friend’s house, but I want to be told first because that is part of the deal of me being a mother!!!
I don’t operate an Inn where my children can check in any time. They have to be precise as to exactly what time they will be back home !! and if they are going to be late, they better have a good reason and call me and tell me the reason.

He wasn’t happy. As I have gone through the exact same thing with Yaya when she was in grade 7, I am confident that these rebellious acts of pushing boundaries part is temporary. ( keeping my fingers crossed)

Yaya does have occasional emotional outbursts, but I have learned to ignore her. Though I must say, at times I am  tempted to aggravate the situation when she argues for no reason.

Baby is still the same..Happy, contented, chocolate addict.

I also got their reports cards ( only the younger two’s. Yaya’s come by post)
I am pretty pleased with their reports.
There are two columns in their report. Achievement and Effort. I don’t so much care about the Achievement. But I do care very much about effort. I expect my children to give their best in everything that they do.
I also expect to see yes for Home work always completed and an A for behaviour.

This is the result of their hard work. Theirs alone.


 My son’s.

My pick of the week!

Everyone has dreams..some lofty,some simple..
Mine was probably the simplest of all. I wanted to be a mother ever since I was young.
Perhaps it was a coping strategy to survive the childhood abuses that I endured. For me then the future involved having children and doing all that no one did for me.
That was the only way to right the wrong.
No one hugged me when I fell down, actually Amma thrashed me so much when I fell down and broke my leg and instead of taking me to the hospital right away, she waited till the next morning. Her reasons
 I deserved the pain because I didn’t take care ( and perhaps she thought that I decided to fall down deliberately in order to give her more heart aches apart from being deaf, dumb and blind)

It costs money to fix a broken leg ( I don’t think so. treatment at district hospitals were free)

She wanted to be absolutely sure that I did break the bones, instead of wasting time and money to go all the way to the hospital and finding out that it was just a sprain. My maternal grandmother was a traditional medicine practitioner and she was home that day and she told Amma to take me to the clinic. Amma also didn’t let her apply herbal medicines, which my grandmother made after seeing me in so much pain, because Amma wanted to see the oedima to confirm that I broke the leg and felt the my grandmother’s herbal remedy might distort Amma’s diagnosis.

When you endure the abuses, you have two choices. One, you continue doing the same to your children or you right the wrong. ( trust me, only a fool will tell you that you can forget the abuses)
I wanted to right the wrong. Because all it takes is a hug when your child is in pain to remove that pain ( all I wanted from my mother when I broke my leg was a hug and for her to tell me that it is ok, it is nothing major, everyone breaks their bone once in a while! instead I spend the night listening for the sound of kalan (god of death) coming to take my soul because I was sure I was going to die)

I did that all through my children’s childhood. I hugged them every time they fell down and hurt themselves.

Yaya came and slept with me last night. She hasn’t done that for ages. ( she lays down with me in the mornings to ensure that she nags me enough to get me out of bed to make her lunch and in the evenings she would lay down with me to read. but she always preferred to sleep in her own bed)
I can only hug her.
But I can’t protect her anymore.
I am in this position
Because of the mothers who doesn’t raise teach their sons to respect women
because of the mothers who wouldn’t teach their sons what is right and wrong
because of the society that unnaturally segregates our children and unnecessarily distort their behaviour in the hope of creating virgins.
because of the society that pretends such behaviour doesn’t exists
because of the society that doesn’t react when they see such acts being committed daily in the buses and trains
because of each of you who forgets that the same can happen to your daughters and your sisters.

njarambu rogi..

Yesterday evening my child came home in full blown panic and this is what she told me.

“Mom, this dude came and sat next to me in the bus and was touching my legs ‘accidentally’ while moving his bag, then he asked me where I am from? I didn’t reply, then he actually put his hand on my lap to tell me that he is also an Indian and he likes me. I didn’t know what else to do, so I got up and walked to the front of the bus and the dude got off the bus. Mom, I am scared”

I was actually speechless for a while.
From the time I gave birth to her, I have been doing everything to make sure she wouldn’t have a childhood I had. I didn’t even trust anyone to take care of my baby. I took care of her myself. I child proofed my house, bought a car seat even though there was no such requirements to keep a child in a car seat in Malaysia. I walked with her to her school, even when I had full blown pneumonia. I taught her to be stranger aware. I taught her self defense.
The only thing I didn’t teach her was to be aware of Indian guys. Now before you all take up your arms in protest and tell me all Indian guys are not bad, read.
I have had my butt massaged, my breast squeezed, my hands grabbed in India by guys, all through my childhood and teenage years. ( not to forget the dude who stood by the corner and flashed his flaccid penis every morning when I walked to school and everyone as in the teachers, the parents etc knew about it and no one did a thing to stop it,)
The rubbing, touching and massaging  only stopped when my sister younger to me started to hit back, punch and scream at the guys and I learned not to suffer in silence, but to fight back,

I have never seen njarambu rogis outside India and never thought my child would go through this.

I asked Yaya how old the guy is and she thinks he is in his 20. My child doesn’t understand the way Indian guys behave and thinks that the dude is a pedophile. I didn’t change her perceptions.
She wanted my permission to cuss and give him her middle finger if he comes any where near her.. I had taught my children not to cuss and now I have given my permission to do just that.
And now I worry.
This guy wouldn’t have simply sat next to my child to say he likes her. He must have seen her before.
I know Yaya will fight back the next time he tried the same stunt. But I worry about acid attacks..
My child is only 14 years old. She has a right to live a life without being harassed.

and the irony of it all, yesterday i was writing about the Indian shop keepers..and today this.


I have been living outside India permanently since I was 21.My first posting was in a remote area in Sabah and the first thing I tried to make was some yogurt. The only “Indian” food I could think of. Rather, let me rephrase that, the only “Indian” food that I needed that would have made a somewhat  complete Malayalee meal. The Chinese shop sold Green grams and all I needed was some moru (yogurt curry) to take me right back to my grandmother’s home!
I couldn’t get fresh milk, only the UHT.
I couldn’t find any yogurt starter either.
Years ago, in the helpful hint section in vanitha magazine I had read that green chilli stem can act as a starter to make yogurt !! ( of all the absurd things..and I believed it !!!)
I warmed the milk to blood heat. added green chilli stems from the chillies I managed to get after waiting a  week for the tamu ( village market) to come to the place where I was staying.
Then I wrapped the bowl with milk and green chilli stems in my sweater to keep the temperature constant and kept it aside..I was tempted to check the progress, but I didn’t want to slow down the process.After eating Chinese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all I wanted was some kanji, payar and moru..
The next evening,with a pounding heart and salivating mouth I opened the yogurt bowl cover..there in the bowl was a foul smelling liquid that no way resembled yogurt.
For a 21 year old, that was really a hard lesson to accept that I can’t live outside India and still expect all things Indians..
Months later I managed to get some yogurt culture when I visited my cousins. And learned to make yogurt using milk powder!
But by then I learned to eat the same food..every single day..and being a vegetarian my choices were very much limited..

I learned to make avial with just potatoes, carrots and beans!! (  you will too, if those are the only vege you find at your grocer!!)
There are few Indian grocery shops in Brisbane area. I went to one such shop few weeks ago because I wanted to eat “real” kuthari kanji ( porridge). After all these years of living outside India, there are times I crave for something that would make me feel like a Malayalee and trust me basmati kanji  doesn’t look or taste like real kuthari kanji!
Last Friday it was very cold and I decided to make myself a bowl kanji .  I took a cup of rice in the bowl to wash. Only then did I notice the amount of weevils. There was equal amount of weevils to the rice in the pot.
And so did the packet of Atta ( flour moth) and curry powder!
I took the stuff back to the shop yesterday because I was just so mad.
And the first thing the shop owner asked me when I showed him the weevils in the rice
“How do I know you bought the rice from my shop?”
I showed him the bill!
He didn’t apologize, instead he looked at me with so much anger and disdain as though he was doing me a big favor by running a grocery shop and I must act as an Indian accept weevils and moths as the weevils and moths are very much part of Indian life.

The thing is, I have adapted so much..and still it isn’t enough.

I miss you.

Yesterday, I took a photo of the books I borrowed from the library. It was Yaya who noticed that I actually don’t have a specific reading pattern. I read anything and everything including recipe books!!

I read Tom Clancy first as it is a seven day loan.It was boring, there was way too much acronyms for various government agencies and because I can’t bear to leave a book half read, I persevered..and obviously I missed something. There is a section, near the end of the book that presents an interesting twist and I didn’t get it.( When Samad was captured) There is no way I would read the book again to see what I missed..

I remembered all those times I forced you to read a book that I finished reading because I wanted to talk to you about it. Often you kept aside the book you were reading and read my book because you knew I missed something in the book and need your help. You were my back up.

Two decades since you have gone..and I still miss you every single day.( Some days I am just so angry,,because the void you left behind is so bloody huge and I just can’t fill it)

found this on fb

There was a girl…

I was feeling a bit guilty yesterday after I send a thermos full of hot water as lunch for my son. ( long story).
I took my son for his basketball practice yesterday. I always ensure that I spend some time alone with each of my children. Tuesday is my son’s day to spend time with me. As we walked to the court, we were playing ” there was a girl !!”
I am sure students from private schools in India know what I am talking about.

It is a nonsense rhyme with matching nonsense steps !!!

There was a girl, tall and fair and thin, her hair, her hair, was the colour of delicate ginger.

My sisters and I used to sing it all the time and I taught my kids as soon as they were able to walk.

I am sure when people see my son and I walk in steps and sing the rhyme, they most likely will wonder if I have taken my medicines!! But who cares? All three of my children love to sing the rhyme and follow the steps.

As I mentioned earlier I was feeling a bit guilty, so I decided to go on a ‘ego’ fishing trip..
I asked my son ” What makes you think that I am a good mother?”
He stopped walking, turned, looked at me and grinned..
And my heart started to grow few sizes big in anticipation of all the good things my son will tell me, about me..
And he replied
“Who said you are a good mother?”
My helium balloon went psssssssssssssssst..
But I wasn’t going to give up that easily.
So I pouted my lips, showed a very sad face and told him I am very serious.
He stopped walking again and rubbed his imaginary beard as though he was deep in thoughts..
Few seconds later, he answered..
“Mom, I can answer your question, but we have a problem”
Problem? What problem? How can such a simple question bring forth problems? I looked at my son to see what he is up to..after all I have lived with for 12 years!
He started to run and once he reached a safe distance, he answered
“mom, I can’t answer your question..cause the problem is, you taught me not to lie”
And  yes.. I lost my helium balloon totally, completely and all the other ly’s

Stick no bills

I loved walking to school in the morning, mostly because there was less chance of getting molested by the desperate male mallu desperados!
So I walked.
And my walk took me on KK road and I had to pass the Kottayam district hospital on my right side. The hospital boundary walls were built with laterite stones and were covered with peeling cement and green moss. And every few feet there were hand written signs that said ” Stick no bills” And every often you would find colourful movie posters stuck on top of the as you walk you see  stick or the end part of the bills written on the wall, the rest covered by the posters. It was the first act of blatant disobedience I saw in my life ( apart from what I practiced day to day at my own home).
I wasn’t much in to malayalam movies. What with Amma on her mission to save money for dowry? But the movie posters on the walls, the cousins who saw the movie and then tell me the stories and the write ups in the newspapers all helped me to keep abreast with what is happening with the Malayalam movies.
From Prem Nasir to Jayan to Mammotty..and then there was Sharada..
Years ago, When I was about 3+, Appa took the whole family to watch a Malayalam movie ( Murapennu). It was hot and muggy and I kept awake till intermission to get my glass of naranga vellam ( lemonade). The seller came holding a rack that held 8 glasses. each glass was covered with something like a wax paper. ( There was no way my father would have bought viral juice ( the seller holding few glasses using his fingers!)
I make good lemonade, but I have never managed to replicate the flavour of naranga vellam ( lemonaid) to this day. After drinking the juice, I slept happily. Occasionally I woke up, stared at the screen and went back to sleep. One scene in that movie is imprinted in my brain.

The house is a bit  elevated  from the road and there is huge line of steps leading to the house. Prem Nasir is walking up the stairs, meanwhile the camera pans inside the house and you find Sharada wearing a mundu and blouse ( sarong and top) and is running helter skelter.
Prem Nasir climbing the steps, sharada running here and goes on for a while..building up the suspence.
Eventually Prem Nasir reaches the house main entrance and surprisingly the door is kept wide open!Meanwhile Sharada finds a hiding spot, behind the clothesline, hung in the corner of the room. Prem Nasir enters the house and is searching for Sharada and notices her feet sticking out from all the clothes on the clothes line. He walks up to the clothes line and push away the clothes and you see a full shot of Sharada..and her eyes..I can still see the myriads of expression in those eyes..

In one of the Dosai Diner outlets in Mumbai, there was a huge poster of Sharada and each time I took my kids there to eat Dosai, I remembered the movie..and her eyes.

Of all the actresses, Sharada holds a special place in my heart..
Today is her birthday.
Happy Birthday Sharada chechy!