Sometimes !

Six months ago, I hit rock bottom..I felt I was drowning in a deep dark hole of sadness and reached a point where I didn’t want to get out, for I felt what was the point?

Then I remembered the person who taught me the greatest lesson of all..”Having choices doesn’t equate freedom. Making decisions sets you free” There is a small story behind the origin of this saying. This was said by a friend who was trying out to be a Jesuit priest for ten years. He wasn’t sure if the path he took was the right one and he tried it for ten years and realized that it wasn’t meant to be and this is what he said when he quit becoming a Jesuit priest.

I had plenty of choices and the only way I could set myself free was to make a decision.

It certainly wasn’t easy. I was terrified of loneliness.
Then I realized that in my loneliness is the greatest gift that I could ever get. Solitude.

When I became a mother the one thing I couldn’t have was few moments of solitude. I dreamt of the day I could have a few moments of solitude.

Dalai Lama said once ” Not getting what you want sometimes is a wonderful stroke of good luck” and 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have agreed to that.
But this morning, I woke up with such happiness and the first thing I thought was how miserable I would have been had I really got what I wanted. Sometimes I sell myself too short, but then again I think I have a  a guardian angel somewhere who seems to be getting me out of sticky situations.

And so here I am..perfectly happy !

Heart Broken

Yesterday we were talking about Franco and Spanish civil war during dinner time. Yaya mentioned that she read somewhere that some Spanish people still think life under Franco’s rule was still better.
Before I could say anything further she told me, “mom, your mother is a dictator” and the next sentence was ” mom, you are such a wonderful person and I can’t believe you are born of that woman”
That woman is still my mother and that woman adored Yaya more than anyone because Yaya is her first grandchild.
I don’t know how Franco and Spanish civil war and my mother are connected. I certainly don’t deny that my mother has her faults. But it hurts knowing the implications of the family feuds and how much it affects my children and that there are no solutions.


Rightfully, being the mother of four daughters my mother shouldn’t have to do much work at home. But that wasn’t the case. None of us ever did any work. My mother did everything.
She felt the chores were hers..hers alone..and allowed us a  childhood without chores. ( she also felt, we would be doing all the work when we are married and have a family of our own and therefor it is only fair that we be spared from doing chores at home!)

A very dear friend in his late 50’s still talk about how miserable his childhood was. His mother made him mop the whole  house everyday after he came back from school, only then he was allowed to go out and play with his friends.

My children’s grandmother often talked about the polished floors ! Every Sunday, she had to manually polish the wooden floors of the house, just so that everyone will say “oh how shiny the floors are!” and no one thought of  all the lost Sundays the child incurred ! She never had polished floors in her own house ! She told me, life is too short to polish floors every Sunday.

When I had my own family, I did have this image of a house like “little women” where everyone shared the chores.  Yaya was 22 months old when I gave birth to my son and every time  before I took my son to the washroom for his bath, she would bring her little stepping stool to my bedroom, climb on the bed, lay the towel neatly on my bed, then she would get off, get the powder and keep it next to the towel. I never taught her. I never asked her. But the joy of seeing her doing it..nothing can beat that. ( She couldn’t read the clock, but I guess she knew the needle position as I have always been pedantic with my routine!)

As I said before, I was hoping for a house like the “little women” But my children tell me that “You are the mother, it is your duty to cook, feed and clean”
And it is true, isn’t it?
I don’t believe that doing chores at home is character building or it is about teaching kids how to manage their own homes in the future. ( If that is true, then I would be a lousy cook and a terrible homemaker!)
On weekends while I juggle doing  the laundry, cleaning the house and cooking, all three of my children lay down in my bed and read.
Once when I asked Yaya to do something, she told me, “mom, I get up at 5 everyday and take 2 buses to my school and in the evenings I have tons of home work. I only get my weekends to chill out and it isn’t fair that you ask me to do chores when I have some free time.” ( and yes, I did try  ‘what about me?’ once which got the reply, you are the mother, it is your duty and responsibility!)

Sometimes I do get annoyed, especially when I am cooking in a hurry and one of them  walk in to the kitchen casually and ask ” what is for lunch?” which usually gets the reply ” nintey ammentey thala” ( my head) and the child in question does the vanishing act  and without fail, I can hear the child going and telling the siblings ” I think mom has her periods” Often I am tempted to go after the child and scream and tell her/him that I am exhausted and they should get their lazy butt off my bed and come and help me. But then I think of my mother. If she could raise four daughters on her own, then there should be nothing that stops me from doing the same.

That being said, my children do vacuum their own room. One of them will always set the table before every meal. They make me coffee when I have migraine.

I think a house like little women only exists in books.

worth fighting?

Things have deteriorated so badly between a very close friend and her teenage daughter that my friend was forced to send her daughter to a boarding school in another state.

When I met my friend yesterday, she told me “how lucky you are”

Those words kept ringing in my ear all last night.


After being told that I would never be able to carry a baby and when I eventually had Yaya, I promised myself that I will be a good mother. It was only fair !

Before I did anything, I remembered how I was when I was a teenager and decided to fight battles that are worth fighting.

Yaya has an iq of 159. ( higher than mine). with her brain and near perfect eidetic memory, she can be the best in anything. She hates maths and science and still every ICAS test, she gets high distinction for both. And every time she has maths or science test, all hell will break loose here. She will not let me explain anything to her and then complain bitterly what a bad mother I am ! She insists that she will not be doing anything in science or maths at Uni.

She wears ‘outrageous’ outfits to school. This morning, she wore shocking purple jeans, fluro green
T-shirt, tie and dye scarf, purple shoes and my stetson. Yet, she never ever wears something inappropriate and has never been send to the office for wearing something inappropriate. Yaya’s school doesn’t have a Uniform, but has strict dress code and she follows the rules to a tee,
I was told by a friend ( indian) who saw Yaya in her colourful outfits very sarcastically that yaya dresses like a clown ! The same friend also told me that I indulge Yaya a lot and that I must ‘control’ Yaya. For me, so long as my child follows the school rules, I will not tell her what to wear. She is living her life and will not be in my shadows. Making her wear clothes according to Indian set of mind was not a battle I was willing to fight.

Yaya also talks to me freely about boys. I grew up in Kerala. My mother went through my school bag/books every day, She even went through all the letters I got,all in the hope of ‘protecting me’. Her efforts only made me a rebel and I found ways and means to beat her in her own game. I wasn’t going to do the same with my children. I trust them and taught them to make the right choices and decisions that affects their life. It doesn’t mean that they are flying free.. they are still my little kites, I still have the string in my hand and tug the string if I find them flying in the wrong direction ! But not covertly. I talk to them all the time. ( I follow talk don’t tell philosophy) A friend told me that she rather knows where her daughter is ( ie safe in her house with her boyfriend) than not know where her child is ! It rings true to me because I know my mother had no idea what I was up to all those teenage years and still think that she did a fantastic job raising me! if only she knew !
I haven’t yet had to face that part yet, but I do know that it is inevitable.

But in all these, there are things that doesn’t work.
First in the list is their identity. None of my children identify themselves as Indians. Even watching the Olympics is a bit tricky. Which country would they cheer for? India, Malaysia, Canada or Australia? I worry about their lack of roots all the time. I think there will be a time in the next few years when Yaya would start to find herself.. as who she is and what makes her tick..It would have been easier if she had some sort of base to stand on when she is searching for herself and I guess that is where Cultural roots come in. I failed in that.
K J Jesudas is coming to brisbane for a concert and I asked my children if they would like to go. They didn’t.  It hurts knowing that things I held dear means nothing to my children. The same with Malayalam movies. Every now and then the mallu association sends invite for the latest Malayalam movie show in a local theater. My children don’t want to spend 3 hours watching a movie that makes no sense to them.
Second is the constant battle of when to push them and when not to.
I love science and for me science make much more sense than any other subject. I know that if Yaya lets me explain things to her, she will like science, after all science is nothing but facts. She has a very high IQ and it wouldn’t take too much of an effort on her part if she was willing to give it a chance. And I see my friends and relatives pushing their children to study and almost all of them end up doing medicine/engineering etc.  I worry if I am failing my children when I don’t push them. Should I have arranged coaching or private tuition for Yaya to help her? I don’t know the answer.

Third is the messiness !!! Seriously. What I remember the most about Yaya in her younger days was how tidy she was. She wouldn’t even go to school if her pig tails weren’t equal distance from each ear ! She was a perfectionist, just like her mother. I find it extremely difficult to cope with the fact that Yaya doesn’t keep her room tidy any more. I  refuse to clean her room because she is 14 and is capable of cleaning after herself! And yes every time I have Indian visitors they are shocked to see Yaya’s room and I know they think of me as a total failure. The same doesn’t apply when I have non Indian visitors for it is the same in all their homes. Only Indians run around cleaning their house when they have visitors and pretend that their house is spic and span all the time!

And so back to the question, Am I lucky?
Depends on how you look at it.
If you are looking at three super intelligent, super smart kids who are on their way to conquer the academic world and be the pride and joy to their mother..not likely
or three socially adjusted children with a sense of humor?..most likely
Sign outside my son’s room

Money Plant ( pothos)

I really don’t know why I love money plant so much. I have always had a little plant sitting in a bottle of water. ( and as such there has never been a shortage of ones with long neck is my favourite)

The first time I saw a money plant was in Chengannur house. There was a huge one growing on the mango tree. The heart shaped, marbled green and white leaves were very pretty. My father taught me about epiphytes and I was fascinated.

The church we used to attend also had a money plant growing on some tree. What I remember the most is that my sister was a member of the choir and got to wear a scarf. I too wanted a scarf and instead of buying me one for no valid reason, Amma enrolled me in the choir. I was 6 and I couldn’t read. I also couldn’t tell the choir master ( a very close friend of my parents ) that I couldn’t read. The only way out was to hide somewhere during the practice. I chose the tree with the money plant growing on it. Suffice to say that I got in to so much trouble.

Aunty S, who was my neighbour loved growing money plants. She taught me to wind coir ropes on a broom stick and train the plant to grow on it. Every year, she kept aside a Balarama diary/notepad ( only meant for the staff at MM publications) for me and though she passed away, I still remember her fondly. (She also taught me that it is the number of the sarees/dresses you have that would make you shine in front of your friends, not the cost of the saree/dress. Something I followed religiously all through my medical college. Most of my salwars costs less than 100 RS and I had plenty even when I was dirt poor in the final year ! And now Yaya follows the same rule)

I don’t know who said to me that Money plant must be stolen from some one’s garden then only it will grow well. So I was on a mission to steal a plant when I was in Bangalore. Finally I found one in a house next door to Arjun’s. Most of the houses in that street were occupied by the Marwari clan and there was a sense of liveliness like joie de vivre in the street. Except this particular house. It was a huge house, but the windows and doors were always closed. Arjun told me why.
The house belonged to an Aristocratic family. Father, mother and two daughters. The oldest daughter was a top student, she did engineering and when the time came, they got her married to a very famous lawyer from another aristocratic family. He moved in to the girl’s family home. They had a daughter. There were always laughter in the house, till the younger sister got pregnant and gave birth to the lawyer’s child, The shame was too much for the parents. Mother committed suicide and father too died shortly. The older sister moved to another home in another town with her daughter leaving the younger sister and her child alone in the family home. The younger sister was 17 when she gave birth. She didn’t complete her schooling.
It was because of this story that I could forgive chechy and not judge her. I could accept the truth that we all make mistakes in our life..sometimes small mistakes cause such huge repercussions !!
And I stole the plant and it lived happily in my room in a UB beer bottle and I wish I could say it lived happily ever after ! Unfortunately I was too gullible and after reading the helpful hints in femina magazine where some idiot wrote that adding vitamin pills to plants would make them grow better. I checked my stash of physician samples and found the one that had 100% of USRDA of most vitamins ( my precious plant deserved nothing less!) and added it to the water. The next morning my plant looked like it was nuked !

I couldn’t find a money plant in UK, but I had ivy growing in water. ( It doesn’t, so every once in a while when the plant dies, I cut another one from the hospital garden!)

When I came back to KL, I bought a pot of money plant from the nursery and hung it in such a way that the aircon drain was pointing to the pot. ( saved me from watering it). It grew 4 feet long and it looked beautiful. I have always had friends over for meals and everyone used to admire my money plant ( not my gardening skills, but the sheer will of the plant to survive such a hostile gardener and didn’t die for 4 years.)
All was well till the Danish Ambassador came for a meal My mother chopped the plant completely, telling me that it looked ugly.( Not dropping famous names la, the plant survived the visits from Chinese, Malays, Indians even Nonyas, it wasn’t ugly then, but became an eyesore when the ambassador came for a meal)  The plant didn’t recover after such brutality !

I was given a money plant in Canada and because I used to grow them in water, I thought the plant needs constant watering ! I drowned it.

I bought a money plant from Bunnings when I came to Australia. It was a hot summer afternoon and I kept the plant near the drive away. I was meant to have taken it indoors and by the time I remembered, the leaves were burned to a nice shade of brown. I still have the plant and it has three leaves ! and I am still dreaming of growing it successfully like Aunty S. ( I already have a broomstick covered with jute rope in readiness for the day the plant will grow)
One day it will happen, I am sure!


Rajamalli ( Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Who can forget Rajamalli? 
The first memory I have of the plant was of my friend Raji. Her house was by the side of the main road ( also the school bus route) and from the distance you could see the Rajamalli tree laden with flowers looking at you over the laterite wall. I wait eagerly for the bus to reach her house for two things. One to see if there is any new cinema poster on the wall and two for my friend to get inside the bus, for you see, I had already saved the space next to me for her.
Then we both will be on the look out for “otta number vandi” ( cars with single digit number plate) and eratta vandi ( two cars of the same colour). Both are supposed to bring good luck and we both needed a lot of luck. We were both permanent residents of odukkam benchiley odukkamathu  ( the chosen ones who gets to sit in the last bench because there were none dumber than us!!)
Raji’s father passed away when she was very young and was raised by her uncle, whose daughter was also in my class. They were ( cousin) sisters and good friends, but her sister was a really good student and therefore didn’t care much to mingle with us, except at lunch time. She always took whatever was in Raji’s lunch box and not once I heard Raji complaining. Then I thought Raji was the most caring sister one could ever get ( unlike mine) and now I think, sharing the tiffin  was her fight for survival, after all she was indebted to her uncle and his family.

Rajamalli was also one of my mother’s favourite plants. She was on a quest to find the purple/crimson colour Rajamalli and managed to get the seeds once when I was 14 years old. she nurtured the plant and once it was big enough to be transplanted, she took it with us to Chengannur house.
Without asking my grandmother, she planted it close to the chamba maram by the side of the house.
It was one of the times I remember fighting with my mother, for I felt she was wrong.
My grandmother was still the owner of the house and though Appa will inherit the house eventually and therefor Amma will be the new owner, it was still my grandmother’s house. All my mother had to do was to tell my grandmother why the tree is special ( very unsual colour flowers) and ask her permission to plant it.
My mother being the wife of my grandmother’s son, and my grandmother being the mother of my mother’s husband was forever trying to show each other who was the boss and both lost so much in the end and my sisters and I ended up with no home to go to.
My grandmother cut and chopped  every bit of the tree and even the root was pulled out before amma and I reached the bus stop !! ( Amma was so angry and complained bitterly to my father and his relatives. njan evidokke thendi nadannitta oru ari kittiye, athu vetti kalayade vello karyamundo thallakku? I searched so many places for a seed and why did the old crone had to destroy the plant?)

I know Rajamalli grows in Australia, but haven’t found one in Brisbane/gold coast. I think it might grow in Sydney or probably FNQ. If you have seen one somewhere in Australia, let me know. I would love to find some seeds and grow one.

Gladiom kliom kliom

I am not sure if I ever wrote about Gladiom Kliom Kliom..

My school was an old missionary school. It occupied acres and acres of land at one time and over the years selfish management with vested interests sold parcels of the land to developers.
What I remember the most of my school days was the walk to my classroom. It was almost 2 km from the main road, the pathway was very wide with casuarina trees lining on either side.On a windy day, you can hear the leaves whispering in an unusal tone. I used to sit on the knobbly exposed roots and listen to the chula maram pattu during lunch break !
The gravel on the ground was so smooth after being trodden by hundreds of students every day for over 100 years! I was always on the lookout for specials stones. By the time I completed 10th std, I had a horlicks bottle full of ‘unsual’ stones, which my mother threw away because she was making pickle and needed a bottle !
 The pathway eventually takes you to an old house  ( the boarding school)constructed in an L shape. But it isn’t the house that fascinated me. It was the garden in front of the house . 6 raised garden beds full of all kinds of flowers you can imagine.

In a school of over 500 girls, with every single person having to walk past the garden twice in a day, no one ever dared to pinch a flower. The reason was the gardener.
He was a very short man. He was abandoned as a child, most likely because he had learning disability and was raised by the missionaries and was given the job as a gardener. He even managed to find a wife because in those times, if you had a secure  job, you could get a wife because the girl’s parents were happy to dispose another burden without having to pay dowry and also convince themselves that they aren’t doing anything bad because ‘he has a permanent job and what more does she need?’
If you as much as touched a flower in the garden, then you faced the wrath of the gardener. He would scream at you so much and then he would march to the school and complain to the headmistress. No one dared to go through so much trouble for a flower. The stories of how mean the gardener is was passed on from seniors to juniors !
I don’t know his name because he was always called Gladiom kliom kliom. The story is that when someone asked him the name of a certain plant, he couldn’t say it right and said  it was “gladiom kliom kliom” ( for gladioli)

I enjoyed going to him and pointing to the gladioli and asking him what was the name just  to hear him say Gladiom kliom kliom. I must have done it so many times that he thought I was fond of the plant and so one day as I walked to my class, he was standing there with a newspaper wrapped parcel. He gave me few bulbs of gladiom kliom kliom.
The walk to the school from the garden  that morning was probably one of the hardest I had ever walked. The bulbs felt so heavy in my hand. I regretted all the times I teased him and it was painful to know that he never knew the malicious intent behind me asking him for the name of the plant and instead felt kind enough to share the bulbs with me. It also didn’t make it easier that my mother tried many stunts to get plants from him and he never gave her any. ( he was not known for sharing the plants!)
It was a hard lesson to taught me to look at others without prejudice.

I did plant the bulbs he gave me and it did bloom pink and red colout flowers. They were so beautiful.It was one plant that I didn’t kill but met a sad end when the retaining wall collapsed and dumped a ton of earth on top of my precious gladiom kliom kliom.

Yesterday I planted few gladiom kliom kliom bulbs. ( I should have planted it few weeks ago in the beginning of winter, but then again…..)

apple again

Few days ago, I was a bit early to pick up the kids from school and managed to get a spot at the school car park. ( trust me, it feels like winning a lottery)
When the bell rang the kids came out like a giant wave of penguins, all looking similar in their uniform and hat and it was hard to find my children in the crowd. So I waited.
And then in the distance, I noticed Baby’s classmates and knew for sure she would be among them. And that is when I noticed this child wearing pants with the hem riding at least a feet from the shoes !
( In my mind I said, vellapokkam ano? ( is there a flood?) You need to be a mallu to understand the context) I also saw that the said child is wearing fluro green socks. So this is how it looked. Navy blue pants that are too short, fluro green socks and black shoes.
It didn’t take too long for the shock to settle in.. for you see, it was my youngest child  !!!.
And it was her to turn to sit in the front seat and that is when I noticed that she is wearing her uniform polo inside out.
“You are wearing your T-shirt inside out” I said
“Yeah, I noticed. But I couldn’t be bothered to change it. Mom you know about the intention and the action. ( ie she didn’t deliberately wear the T-shirt inside out) and there is no law saying that wearing a T-shirt inside out is an offence”
Before I could say anything further, my son reached my car. He was fuming ! He pointed to his sister and said ” I am not related to her, all my friends saw her wearing her T-shirt inside out”
And I knew if I said anything it would have made things worst.
But the truth is, I am known to wear my clothes inside out ( it does happen once in a while and unlike my child, I find it so humiliating and run to the nearest washroom to change it!) I also made my oldest sister’s life a living hell when she was studying in the same school as I. She survived only a year before my mother pulled her out and enrolled her in another school. ( In that one year, I humiliated her so many times, including walking in to her class, holding my undies and telling her ‘the elastic broke’. I was 5 and didn’t think it was a crime to go to her class, what else was I supposed to do?)

My child has enough pants. But she insists on wearing the old pants which are too short for her. In the morning she was wearing her jumper and that is why none of us saw her wearing her T-shirt inside out. .
And much as I would want to say, I can’t believe she did this, I also know that apple couldn’t have fallen too far.
The only consolation is that my son will be going to high school next year and won’t have to deal with his youngest sister for 2 years. By then hopefully she will change !  ( I did)


Few weeks ago, my son told me, “Mom, there is a new kid in our school”
“From where?” I asked
“really? Which part?”
“What do you mean which part? He is from India Mom !”
The look on his face was that of someone who thinks his mother has gone bonkers.
He had a point !
He did tell me new kid is from India and why does it matter to me which part of India he is from? I guess I am still a slave to the years of cultural divide practiced in India!
I learned a lesson.

He also mentioned that most of his friends found the new kid’s accent difficult to understand and that is one reason why no one played with him at school.  ( there were other reasons too, like not knowing how to play hand ball, AFL, etc)
And before I could say what I was going to say, my son said” Yes mom, I know when someone speaks with a different accent than me that means they know at least one language more than me”
I smiled, cause it was something I taught my kids when they were very young ‘ not to judge someone because of their accent’.
I added another feather on my maternal crown !!!

Yesterday, my son looked visibly upset when I picked him up from school.
Before I could ask, he said “Mom, I am very upset”
“What happened?” I asked
“Last Monday, someone called the new Indian kid F word bloody Indian and he was very upset. I told him to tell the teacher and he was scared. So I told him to tell his mother”
“And?” I asked
“Can you imagine what his mother said? She told him ‘just forgive the boy who called you F,,@$$ bloody Indian”
My son is upset because he knows that he can come to me anytime and I will not let him down and he felt his friend was let down by his own mother.
Last year when a classmate of my son told him ” to get off the barbie” in other words, my son was burned in the bbq and hence his skin is brown, I went to the school authorities, ensured that the school teach the children about racist taunts and why it is not acceptable.

I am so angry..

I don’t understand the subservient mentality of Indians. Why do you fear standing up for your self? Why do you have to kowtow to others when you are a human like everyone else?
Why do you not stand up for yourself and for your children?
Why do you accept racism?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, No one can make you feel inferior without your consent and when you don’t react instead accept racism, you are telling others, hey I know I am inferior, go on, walk over me..I hereby lay down at your feet !