When I was studying in UK, I worked for a project called ethnic minority school achievement. Most first generation Pakistani students had trouble doing their homework because their parents didn’t speak English and couldn’t help them. So a group of us who spoke Urdu started going to various schools after hours to help these  kids do their homework.
I met a lot of interesting girls. One was S.
She came from a very orthodox family. She wore a burka.Her father dropped her to school each morning and her brother waited for her right outside the school gate each evening. Her father even managed to keep her out of the sex ed class by telling the school authorities that “my daughter is very innocent and we don’t want you to corrupt her moral values”

When I met S, she was wearing a figure hugging top and a very short skirt ! She had so much of garish make up on her face that she looked ghastly. She only stayed back for the homework programme because she didn’t want to go back home early. 15 minutes before the program ends, she goes to the washroom, change her clothes, remove the make up and wear the burka.

She reminded me about the bird in a cage..

When I had Yaya, I wanted to raise her “free” from cultural taboos. Happily I gave consent for the sex ed classes when she was in grade 7.
Yesterday while we were having our dinner my son said ” man, we have sex ed this term”
“Oh, Poor you !! I skipped it” replied Yaya.
“What do you mean?” I asked and I heard an “oops”, followed by “darn” followed by a very sheepish smile.
“Mom” She mumbled.
I looked at her knowing very well that I had given her the consent to attend the program.
“Go on, explain” I told her.
“Well, Mom, I really didn’t want to attend it, so I ‘conveniently’ lost the consent form”

Ah.. the progress!!

What changed?

I live next to a park and gazetted 40 acre bush land. I chose the location carefully because I like a quiet neighbourhood and wanted the assurance that there wouldn’t be any future development in the area.
All has been well until my next door nieghbour bought a new dog few days ago. The dog has been barking constantly all through the night and day. ( She is keeping the dog unleashed in the back yard and the past few days had been very cold and probably why the dog is barking so much)

I am so angry..

Yet I remember spending my childhood in Chengannur house. The first sound you hear at crack of dawn is the thim sound of the bucket hitting the water in the well. Then you wait a little while and can hear a slightly heavier thim sound when Ammachi keeps the water filled kalam (pot) on the kitchen counter.
The sign for me to get up is when I hear her opening the door to the pathayam (granary). The door is kee koo  ( no real translation, ?crooked) and you can hear Ammachi struggling to move the wooden latch at the same time cursing my father for he was supposed to have fixed that door long ago.By then I know Ammachi would have made coffee and it is  now is getting the food ready for the hens and cows. Ammachi would only drink her coffee after she fed the animals. I get up when I hear her closing the bottom half of the kitchen door. It goes tup followed by a bigger tup when both half of the bottom door meets! My timing is perfect. Coffee is ready and I didn’t have to help Ammachi with feeding the stinking chickens and drooling cows.
I liked to sqaut and sit on the bench while I sip the hot coffee and would sit like a lady when I hear the thim sound of the bucket hitting the water in the well. Ammachi is washing her feet and would come inside to cook breakfast.

Once she enters the kitchen, there were too much of various noises..pots and pans being moved, coconut being husked, cracked, scrapped,giving directions to the farm workers etc etc.. In between someone ( often me) would forget to close the bottom half of the kitchen door and the chickens would come a visiting and you can hear Ammachi cursing and chickens clucking simultaneously along with pots and pans being dropped when the panicked chickens try to find their way out of the kitchen!

This goes on till evening tea. Once the workers leave around 4.30. it gets quieter as the day light goes. By 6.30, the chicken coop is closed, Ammachi and I had our shower and there is absolutely no sound except our own breathing. It was very eerie.
By 8, we would have had our dinner, washed the dishes, closed all the doors and windows and head to the bedroom. Ammachi and I would wait patiently for upadeshi appachan ( preacher) to start his sermon, so we could curse him and say.”da thudangi avantey vattu, evaney ennano vellorum ooolan parayil kondu povunney”
i think the dogs knew when to bark. As soon as Upadeshi Appachan start to preach using the megaphone, the dogs in the neighbourhood begin to howl. Appachan speaks even more louder and the dogs increase the tempo to match and Ammachi would mutter “patti kkenkilum vivaram undu” ( at least the dogs are smarter) and I would ask Ammachi which patti (dog) is she talking about. We both would laugh.
Upadeshi Appachan preached and the dogs barked till midnight. Not once it bothered me. Both noises were part of my childhood.
Yet I am annoyed when a single dog barks now that I am older and supposedly wiser.
What changed?

FB status update!!

Toothless is now Single !!

Have you ever played minesweeper? You know that sense of feeling when you dodged that mine? I feel the same!

Day 1 of the relationship. The skype was ringing non stop. My son didn’t even want to come out of his room to eat dinner. He didn’t want to talk to any of us ( his sisters and I). He ignored us and told us we are annoying when we did nothing!

Day 2: Skype non stop. Her mother cancelled her fb account and I told my son that I will be forced to enforce timeouts if he sits in front of the computer 24/7. He went for a 30 mints cycle ride and came back and skype was back to ringing non stop. He was still angry with the three of us.

Day 3: He decimated my garden to make a bouquet of flowers for her. Skype was ringing non stop. He was still ignoring me!

Day 4: He started to walk her home. Skype was ringing not so often!

Day 5: She baked him brownies. He wrote her love letters. Skype was quiet.

Day 6: He finally came out  of his room and sat with me outside and stole my tea when I went inside to get a book. It was the first sign that my son is still the same boy I knew the last 12 years and not the one who stayed in my house the last 6 days.

Day 7 to day 14: He was back to normal. He helped me in the garden, started annoying his sisters and the skype was off. I was worried what was going on.

Day 15: I was reading and he came and sat next to me. “Mom” he called. I looked at him.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Sure” I replied.
“mom, do you know that feeling when you fall out of love?”
“What happened?” I asked
“Well, I don’t know how to explain mom, it is like, I can’t breath. She haunts me. If I go down to the bottom oval with my friends during the break, she is there. top oval, she is there, morning break, she is there. She won’t leave me alone for a sec”
“But you did the same too. You even walked her home” I answered
“Yeah, I know. But it was fun then, but it isn’t now”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know mom. I don’t want to hurt her. I like her. But I don’t love her. I would like us to be friends.”
“Ok” I replied.
He wasn’t asking me for my opinion. So I didn’t offer.

Two days ago, he told me he broke up with her.
“Is she ok?” I asked
“yes” he said.

I hope so. I thought.

My mother used to tell me, life is like the guy in the paddy field who work on the water wheel( chakram). You step on one pedal, press it down and the next one is right there in front of you to step on and press down!

Yaya came to me last night asking if she could have an eyebrow piercing!
My first thought “over my dead body”
Try telling a teenager that!
“Why do you want an eyebrow piercing? I asked
“Because it is cool, mom”
“How so?”
“Well, even Senor T has one” ( Senor T is her favourite teacher. He doesn’t wear the eyebrow piercing to school, only during week ends and school hols) She hasn’t used my sisters as a reason and it was only a matter of time before she used that card, cause both my younger sisters have body piercing.
So I deflected the direction
“But, piercing is like mutilating the body” I replied, though I very much wanted to ask her if Senor T jumped in front of the train would she?
“Mom, couldn’t you find some other arguments? She looked at me with total disdain. “And like you to talk about mutilation, when you have already got my ears pierced without even getting my consent.”

She has a point there. I did get her ears pierced when she was a year old !

“but it would hurt, eyebrows have a lot of nerve supply and the pain is excruciating!” I tried my last trump card
“Then may be I will get a belly button piercing”
Darn, I thought.

“Medically, it will be advisable you to be on antibiotic cover before you get any piercing. You also need a tetanus booster shot”. I know the previous two statements are full of bull.. but I am not ready to see my child with body piercing..
She is thinking about it !

But I know the is full swing.

Bloody Indians !!!

Read first before you take up arms !

I am one of those rare species among women who hate shopping. I go to malls only when it is absolutely necessary and I have never ever gone for window shopping. ( I don’t have the patience for it).
I had to buy birthday gifts, acrylic paint and some iris bulbs ( killed the last ones!). The only place I can get all of them is Kmart. “Happily” I went to the Kmart near my home.

I think, there really is an evil designer out there somewhere whose speciality is designing shopping trolleys that goes ‘one direction’ when you are pushing it the other direction. I had to push the trolley the other direction to get it go the way I was heading. Not an easy task.
I got all the stuff and was really glad to find white acrylic paint on clearance. 50 cents for 250 ml.

Normally I watch the screen at the check out counter to ensure that they scanned the correct prices. Yesterday for a few seconds I was distracted. ( in other words, I saw a handsome guy and was vayum nokkifying!)
I always check the bill after I come out of the shop. (It is my money and I hate to waste it)
And the Poirot in me noticed that I was charged 2 $ instead of 50 cents for the paint. I went to the customer service. There was a couple in front of me ( white), they were returning a Playstation. The lady at the counter ( Indian) was polite, kind and very understanding. She didn’t even ask them why they are returning the playstation. She processed the transaction quickly and returned the money and with a 70 mm smile, she thanked them. ( for what? returning the playstation?)
Then it was my turn.
She looked at me and asked
I explained. I bought a tube of paint and it was supposed to be 50 cents and I was charged 2 $ and showed her the bill.
“where is the item?” she asked.
I fished it out of the plastic carry bag.
She took it, observed it like a surgeon checking the tumor that he just removed!
“Did you check, if there was a yellow clearance label where you picked up this paint from?”
“Yes” I replied.
“Did you check that it was for the white paint?”
“Did you check that it was for the 250 ml tube?”
All this for a bloody 2 $ tube of paint.
By then I had lost my patience. Before she asked me the 4th question in her list of questions to ask an Indian customer, I told her ” I suggest, you go to the shelf where the paint is and check the details” i was pretty stern.
“You don’t have to be rude ” she said.
Grudgingly she returned the money back.
The only thought that I had in my mind
“Bloody Indians”
She was polite to a white customer who returned a 350$  playstation and gave me the third degree. Why? Because I am an Indian like her?
Oh BTW, the icing on the cake? Her daughter plays basketball with my youngest child and we meet every monday and sunday!


I was a very weird student.

George and my sister came with me  to enroll me at the medical college. As the car entered the hospital drive away, the one and only thought that was in my mind was ” I will not stay here a day more than the 5 years and will not fail a single subject”
By then, I had two years of education in English medium ( pre degree). I couldn’t speak English well. All I knew about Kannada was that all mallu words starting with pa can be changed to Kannada by substituting pa with ha and that the rule didn’t apply for patti ( dog). But I wasn’t worried about any of that. I just didn’t want to fail and be held back.

I attended the classes I thought was interesting, bunked the rest. I had 17 % attendance for anatomy. If I wanted to, I could have got 100% score for Anatomy. But I didn’t want to. I hated anatomy. All I wanted was to pass. 75 was the passing mark. I got 77. I can still remember sitting at the exam hall trying to see which question I must attempt to get the required 75 marks and I answered one extra question for that just in case scenario.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew the answers to all the questions. I didn’t care about getting the gold medal for a subject I didn’t like.

Now that I have children.. I was thinking about competitiveness.

Both Yaya and Toothless are gifted. Yaya has eidetic memory like me. Toothless on the other hand is a mathematician.
If they have a doubt, they come to me and I explain it to them. But other than that, I don’t teach them.

The truth is, if I sit with my children and go through their work and teach them like they do in India, my children will get 100% score.  But is that what education is all about? Does it matter that one must get A in all subjects?
Have I failed my children because I refused to encourage competitiveness in them?
I don’t think so.

This is what I taught my children.

Life isn’t a race as to who comes first.
Life is a journey.
In every race there is a winner and a loser. What matters is not that you won, but that you gave your best.
There is always someone smarter that you, just as there is always someone not as smart as you.
Every record you set forms the guiding mark for the next person to better your score!
All the medals and certificates you get only adorn the walls of your home and act as an extension of your ego and popularity. Life isn’t about decorated walls.
Life is about living each wake up each morning with a happy heart, glad to live another day and sleep at night with thanksgiving to have had the chance to live another day on this earth.

Did I miss not getting the gold medal for Anatomy? Not at all.


At the end of each school term, my children bring all their class work back home. I found this article in my son’s bag. ?

I remember taking him for shopping that day. We went to  Carrefour in Cheras. When the kids were young, shopping for groceries were a nightmare. I couldn’t leave the kids alone at home. When I took them with me,I couldn’t take the stroller because when I push the youngest in the stroller, the older two will run away. So I used to carry the youngest in one hand and got the oldest two to hold the belt hoop in my jeans ( one on the left side and one on the right side) and with my free hand pushed the shopping cart. 
I had bought a red tartan print shorts for my son and he wore it that day. Any time we went out, he would pick the tartan shorts. He wore a matching red t shirt with an airplane print.
When you enter Carrefour, all the toiletries/make up were on the left side of the main aisles. I was a mom of three kids, all below the age of 5 and make up was not part of my life then. And I was going to bypass the section, till I noticed my son standing right in front of a twin pack of Shampoo and conditioner with a little bear ( percuma/free) in the middle. Kao brand, honey and royal jelly. It wasn’t a brand I used. My son pointed to the bear and said he wanted it.
Years ago, my sister in law had told me about going for shopping with her mother when she was 4 years old and getting her mother to buy a packet of pink colour hair rollers. She said, the only way to get her mother to buy the hair rollers was to have a tantrum at the shop and she did just that.She rolled on the floor, screaming and crying till her mother bought the hair rollers. She also told me that she knew she was going to be severely punished once they reached the safety of their home. She wanted the hair rollers and she was going to get it, irrelevant of the beatings she was sure to receive  later. ( she was also aware that she had very short hair and couldn’t use the hair rollers..her mother had explained it to her, but to no avail)
I explained to my son that I don’t use that Shampoo. I am a creature of habit and have been using the same shampoo for years. My son didn’t budge. not a bit.
He stood there right in front of the shelf, like a statue.
I bought the shampoo and my son still remembers it and still has Gibby.


Years ago, I read about Colonel Charles Sturt’s journey to interior Australia and his team getting stuck in the middle of no where and having to abandon their journey.
Depot Glen, from the journal of Charles Sturt.
I found it extremely difficult to imagine the scenario described by Sturt.
As such I grew up in Kerala, where water was every where..Same in Malaysia..And the picture of Australia in my head could never be what Stuart mentioned..
And I am a well healed traveller..
I stayed with my children in a remote mountain cabin ( 2 hours drive from the nearest main road!!) with no electricity when the temperature outside was -30.

So I wasn’t really worried about dying in Australian outback!

On our way back we decided to go to Bunya mountains, 250 km away from Brisbane.The idea was to eventually reach the Nanango go cart center as my youngest is now 10 years old and is allowed to go on go cart on her own! I could have driven straight to Nanango without going to Bunya..but when  have I ever done anything simple?

We left Bunya mountains around 12 noon..
And then my GPS got flu. There is no other explanation as to why the sat nav that I used all the time suddenly decided to take me off road. Initially I thought the GPS found some short cut. We soon found ourselves driving on dirt track. I wasn’t too worried till I reached a creek crossing. Water level was high and there was no way I could cross the creek.
I turned back.
Put my home as destination in the gps hoping it would find some other way. It always does!

All the dirt tracks look same!! same gum trees..same cactus..But I still wasn’t worried. I could always get my gps to recalculate..soon enough we found ourselves back in the same creek crossing..
and yes, panic was beginning to rise from my belly all the way up to my chest..
I took my phone out to call my friends..
No network.
Normally, I can trace the route I travelled by the dotted lines on my gps map. But by that time we had been going in circles for a while and I couldn’t figure out where I was or how to get back to the main road.

I am not Bear Grylls. But I can survive in the wilderness for few days. We had shelter, enough food and water.
Surviving the few days weren’t the issue.
I had no idea where I was.
I wasn’t willing to go round in circles and finish the fuel in the car.
I had no network connection.
and to make things worst I told my friends I am going to Cairns and if I didn’t get back in time, my friends will search for me in Cairnes, Not in Bunya !

I drove my car to the nearest cross junction, guessing that the chances of finding someone was higher at a cross road than at a creek crossing..which proved to be right.
Soon we saw a farmer riding a small buggy and herding cattle.
He never stopped laughing when I told him how I ended up where I was..and perhaps he didn’t trust me enough to follow his instructions as to how to get to the main road. So he asked me to follow him.
He couldn’t leave the cattle behind.,
So he herded the his buggy and I followed my car at 3 km/hour.
And it was the most pleasant drive.. driving with the knowledge that I was still alive and not another casualty in the Australian outback..
When we reached the main road,my son said
“Mom, That was the best ride ever.. following cattle and a farmer in a buggy”
I could only nod my head!