There it is…

One of the things I remember the most about my hostel days is, losing the novels I bought in the great reading circle that extends from ground floor to 4th floor and back. Sometimes I even get to borrow my own book from another student after a year or two, because no one really knows who owns the book once the book enters the hostel gates. The biggest bonus of this unofficial circulating library is that sometimes you get very old books that someone bought ( probably from the road side vendors on MG road) or sometimes left behind by foreign missionaries years ago and the book is being circulated around the hostel from seniors to juniors. One such book was a very old readers digest. There was a snippet about a teacher telling the students in some American school that if someone speaks with an accent, it means that they know one other language,

I studied in Malayalam medium and even the basic English that I was taught was fraught with mistakes, so was the translation of English words/names etc to Manglish. Karl Marx’s name was written as Karal Marx in my history text book. My classmates and I thought “widow Douglas” was the actual name of the person because no one taught us the meaning of the word widow.

I remember how much my Kannadiga classmates laughed, when I ordered  Masala Dosha at the restaurant.

And I was determined, even though I knew to speak a lot of other languages that no one will ever laugh at my English pronunciation. So I sat in front of TV, every single day and listened to Gitanjali Iyer and other English newsreaders on Doordarshan News. I was determined not to say eggu for egg.

When I had kids and while we were living in Malaysia, I made a conscious effort not to speak with ‘la’ at home and even outside if the kids were with me. If there was a word I didn’t know how to pronounce, I checked the dictionary for help.

All was well, so I thought.

During the holidays, we went to a fair and I asked my kids if they want to go for a ride in the carousel..I pronounced it as karousel.. None of my kids understood what I was saying. So I pointed to the ‘karousel’..and they laughed and they laughed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t laughing maliciously..they just can’t believe their mother didn’t know how to pronounce karasel !!

The time has finally arrived. .Before, I taught them A for apple…now they teach me when I pronounce a word wrong..Life is surely a great big ride!


another year

School reopened yesterday. Yaya is in grade 10, my son in grade 8 and baby is in grade 6. I actually can’t imagine that my oldest child is now going to patham class (10th std). Somehow it just doesn’t sink in !! Wasn’t it just the other day I went for Off roading and had a massive craving for cheese cake, that too in the middle of a rain forest  with no other human beings near by?

Yaya is in the IB ( international baccalaureate ) program. She is hoping to study in a US University and thinks that IB will help her get there. Queensland has OP ( overall performance) score system and it is cumbersome to get the score converted to something equivalent in US, where as IB scores are universal. Besides, she is fluent in Spanish and IB gives her credit for the second language. IB also means a lot of hard work and I worry for her. I don’t want her to cruise her precious teenage years without a social life and regret it later or burn out. She also volunteers at a local thrift shop because she thinks that with a rigorous IB curriculum, shewon’t be able to do much volunteering in grade 11 and 12 and is hoping to get all the referees etc now itself.  Sometimes I feel scared.. seeing how determined Yaya is to get what she wants. What if she didn’t get admission to an Ivy league Uni? Would she be able to handle disappointments?

As usual this is what I told my kids before they started the new school year.

I expect them to be responsible and reliable. They will do their homework, assignments etc and submit them on time. I will not go to the shops the night before to buy stuff, so they can make a diorama that is due the next day. ( my son grinned because his guilty conscious was pricking his mind!)

I  expect them to respectful to their teachers, friends and every other person they meet and interact every single day. I told them the story of the old woman who swept the construction site each day when they were building the Notre Dame Cathedral and when someone asked her what she was doing, she replied ” I am helping to construct the most beautiful Cathedral”  It is the same reason I expect my children to know  the first name of the school janitor  because each day they get to sit in a clean classroom because the night before the janitor cleaned up the place.

My youngest is in the school orchestra and she really wants to quit because she has to go for practice at 7 am once a week. When she was chosen in grade 3, I had explained to her how much time and effort she needs to put in and that once she agreed to all that, she needs to remember that she can’t quit till she goes to high school. So, the old rule still stands, she can’t quit. ( she isn’t pleased)

I also told them about doing one group sports/year. They  chose basketball.

As for academic results, I told them I expect nothing less than A and the older two shouldn’t forget that they need 5A’s in the first and second semester to get the Academic gold medal. ( I need to clarify that I don’t kill them if they didn’t get an A, because I got plenty of motta , but the issue is that if they are looking at getting in to Ivy League uni, mottas won’t get them there!)

Smoking, drugs and alcohol, same rule as before, “try it, find a new home”. My home is drugs and cigs free and alcohol is restricted to adults.

That pretty much sums up my requirements..A part of me thinks that I have thought of everything and that all will be well, the other part of me, Trust me, I am  terrified ..this is all uncharted water..and I hate not knowing what is lurking over there..




Moving to Australia from Canada was part of my dream of living in all the continents. At that time my only concern was snakes and spiders. I am terrified of both and read all the books about Australian wildlife. I chose Brisbane because I have extended family here and the weather is nice ( not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter). And I honestly thought I really made a smart decision. a good neighbourhood, easier access to everything, a good school and though the nightlife isn’t really awesome, I thought it was not that bad ( surely I am aging!)

When I was in Canada, the first year it rained continuously for 29 days, the second year,temperature dropped to -17 and we often had snow storms plenty of times and . But none of those events really affected my life. When the temperature dropped, I added an extra layer of winter clothes. When the snow storm hit, I shovelled the drive way and within an hour or two the snow ploughs came and cleared the roads. Even the superstore outlet near where I stayed had bobcats ready in the car parks to clear the snow.

So moving to Australia was a walk in the I thought. All I had to worry about was snakes and spiders. I really spend time and effort to ensure that my house and the immediate surroundings will not encourage snakes to take up permanent residence and closed all the nooks and crannies where spiders could lurk..

Even in my wildest dream I never imagined a flood like what we have had in Australia. The flood of 2011, the river rose 19 meters high, and my local shopping mall was flooded to the rafters.  Last flood, we were told that it was one in 30 years occurrence. Some of my friends have only just moved in to their renovated home after the last flood and their house went under again this time.

An Aboriginal friend tells me that when the settlers arrived to the suburb where I live, they were puzzled that there were no aboriginal settlements. When they asked the elder why is that?, the elder pointed to the tallest tree..the debris from the previous flood was still on top of that tree.. But I never knew that story. I live in a exclusive suburb ( not trying to boast), and there was no mention that my house could go under it is in the flood plains.. surely, the council had the maps and knew the history of the place..Like the aboriginal people knew 150 years ago.

The creek behind my property breached the banks on the 2nd day of rain. My neighbours and I spend the past few days checking the flow of the water. if it was flowing backwards, we knew there would be no hope ! Luckily, it didn’t.

This time, the river didn’t rise as high as predicted. The local shopping mall is still open, but the shelves are empty. On the first day of rain, there was a massive panic buying and the new supplies won’t arrive from the the north/south for a while. The govt expects there will be water supply shortage soon.

But my troubles are nothing compared to what is going on in Bundaberg.. A lot of people have lost their homes and everything that they own..

I remember reading this

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”  The Penelopiad by M.Atwood

I hope those affected by the fury of mother nature will find a way to move on.. As for me, as much as I am glad that my house and my children are safe..there is still this feeling of fear..when is the next one coming?


In the middle of the Brisbane flood.

Roads out of my home are under water, 2 more flood peaks are expected tomorrow midnight and on Tuesday evening. At the moment the wind is very strong and it has been raining non stop for more than 24 hours.

The creek behind my home has already breached, however I think my house  will not go under the water( high)

i have enough food and water.

keeping my fingers crossed




Who owns an Indian woman?

Last Saturday, when I was at the mall,  as I was going down the escalator, I noticed this young woman coming up the escalator on the other side. She was in her 30’s. Apart from taking my kids to the movies, there was one another reason I was at the mall. The temperature that day was 38 degrees and the humidity was too high. Malls are air conditioned and are really the best place to be on a hot summer day, plus I really couldn’t bring myself to cook anything at home and mall food courts are a saviour.

Back to the young woman. why I noticed her was, part of her outfit  ie dupatta was trailing behind her and was on the floor of the escalator. On one shoulder she carried a very heavy bag and on the other hand she carried her baby. The salwar must have been stitched before she had the child, for she looked really ‘stuffed’ in that outfit.. The heat, the tight dress and a heavy child.. I could imagine why she never cared where her dupatta was.

I did wonder why she bothered so much trying to wear such an uncomfortable outfit. I am not trying to belittle salwar Khameez. 30 years ago, young girls in Kerala wore short skirts and  long skirts in their teens with a matching blouse..Beautiful ( silk )skirts and well stitched blouses..Some of them in their late teens wore half sarees if they had bigger breasts. Then the  girls got married and they wore sarees and chatta and mundu/settum mundum in their old age. No one asked a girl to cover her chest with another piece of cloth when she wore blouse with the skirt. You even had the flexibility to stitch  the blouse a bit tight, a bit short, neck a bit low etc etc.

Poets wrote about women’s ankle that played a hide and seek game with the observer  as she walked wearing her long skirt..or the naval seen through the saree..As for sexualization of women as an object of desire..there wasn’t much to sexualize. The outfits covered pretty much all that was expected to be covered.

Now, this wasn’t the same in movies..there was the heroine who wore skin tone blouse underneath her dance costume that portrayed to the viewer that part of her torso was naked, but in reality it wasn’t.( Hema Malini). and then there were girls who wore skimpy dress (silk smitha) that exposed more than it covered and was only there in the movie to ensure that horde of male viewers watched it..The idea was that decent girls never exposed their body, because in the grand scheme of Indian culture, woman doesn’t own her body. Her body is a sexual object that is reserved for the entertainment of her husband.  Any girl who refused to cover up is asking for trouble, because she chose to flaunt her body, therefor it is the right of the male to ogle at her. pass lewd comments etc.

The trouble doesn’t end there. The said girl who is not willing to cover her body is not alone in her crime when it comes to the actions of cultural police. Her mother too would be considered irresponsible. It was the duty of every Indian mother to raise pious, gentle girls who would make pious gentle wives. This affects in all part of her life. Remember most Anglo Indians of my time were considered to be loose women because they didn’t wear dresses according to the Indian norm and were often portrayed as secretaries to powerful men with the insinuation that the those men got a pretty good bargain! Decent girls from decent families often didn’t work and if they did they only worked decent jobs..( My aunt was given admission to do nursing in Vellore 50 years ago and her family refused to send her!! )

4 generations ago, women in my family never covered their chest and now you have ‘tourists’ of (mallu) men going to the temple where women bath and pray naked ( can’t remember the name!) once a year.

If you do a youtube search for mallu movies, you will see that soft porn movies have a lot more viewers than the regular movies!

Most people associate westernization with less clothes. It is true in a sense..from fully covered dresses of renaissance time to now..the outfits have changed dramatically. The difference is that women aren’t considered to be a sexual object in the west. No one in the west bothers to go to the beach to ogle at the semi naked woman. The woman owns her body, not her husband, not her family and certainly not the society/church.

I chose to live in Australia. I wear a bikini when I go to the beach, not because I want to be like an Aussie. But because it is my body and I have the right to wear what I want. No one pointed their gun to my head and asked me to wear a bikini and no one had made me feel inferior because I wear a bikini. However, I do choose the beach  and the time I go to ( very early to catch the morning swell) because I do my darnedest to avoid Indian crowd.

I have seen Indian women in the beach. I am yet to see someone wearing the swim suit on its own. I have seen them wear boardies and rashi over their swim suit. Most Indian women wear half pant and loose shirts to the beach.

My grand aunt is one among the first lot of Indian women who have come to Australia. She still wears sarees. Her daughters are first generation Aussies, they wear midi skirts/ salwars and her grand children are second generation Aussies who wear salwars to the Indian church and shorts when they are with their friends.

I have heard the story about One of the Indian import priest to Malaysia many many years ago who refused to serve the bread and wine to a mallu woman because she wore lipstick. He humiliated her by scolding her and then made her wipe the lipstick off. The priest considers himself to be the custodian of Indian culture and wearing lipstick wasn’t our culture and it was his duty to herd the women to the right direction ! so even though my cousins are second generation Aussies, they still wear salwars to the Indian Church.

So back to the woman who was wearing the salwar on the many more generations would it take before an Indian woman learns that it is really her body and it is ok to wear shorts and t shirts on a very hot summer day…but then again, it isn’t the woman who needs that lesson.. it is the Indian man!



There it is…

Last Saturday I took my kids to watch Les Miserables. The younger two weren’t keen to watch a musical.but I convinced them that they won’t regret it.  ( and a bit of bribe thrown in for good measure..popcorn for each..Normally I don’t buy popcorn because the cost of popcorn + drink is more than the cost of the ticket!)

Like I promised, my children didn’t regret watching Les Miserables. They loved it.

They talked and talked and talked about Hugh Jackman’s and Anne Hathaway’s acting on the drive back home. And I told them how important it is to not to have preconceived notions.. If they didn’t come for the movie because they thought musicals are boring, they would have missed out on a great movie. It would be their loss, no one else’s.

In the past few months we have seen a lot more Indians in Brisbane than before and I have noticed that my kids don’t even react when they see an Indian child of their age. Every time I see a lady wearing saree, I feel a sense of belonging,that we,the lady in saree and I share a common bond, even though I haven’t worn a saree for ages, the bond is still there, it will always be there. I constantly worry about my children’s sense of belonging.  There was an episode in Akkara Kazhchakal, where the father wants to introduce the children to Kerala, by getting Mallu TV channels. I too felt that it is my duty to introduce my cultural background to my children. I thought the easiest way would be to watch something in Malayalam.

I refuse to have a satellite TV and the only option for me to watch something in Malayalam in on Youtube. The mallu association here often arranges screening of mallu movies in the local theater. My shorts wearing, english speaking kids would stick out like a sore thumb among the pious, gentle, fully clothed mallu kids. I refuse to humiliate my children.

Being the ever resourceful mother that I am, I told my children that we are going to watch a mallu movie on youtube. .

On Sunday, we had early dinner and I warned my children, Mallu movies are very long, there are songs and dance etc like les misarables ( what a crock eh??). I made popcorn and being the idiot that I am, without reading the review, I chose to watch Casanovva..purely because Mohan Lal was acting in it.

“Mom, were those guys attempting to do PK ( Parkour)?” “Fail” said my son.

“who in the world would have an affair with this old guy?” “disgusting” said Yaya.

“Is he mallu or Italian? ( after the graveyard scene where mohanlal kisses the old italian lady), but mom you told me this is Mallu movie, I am confused said my youngest.

So am I..not just confused, I feel betrayed.

In the past few weeks, my FB wall page has been flooded with posts about respecting our woman..Everyone talks about Indian culture and how we should teach our children to respect our women.. And here we have a middle aged hero..portraying himself as a  womaniser and suggesting that woman are to be used and discarded..and a female idiot who fall in love because the boss has commanded!

I was trying to teach my children not to be prejudicial and then ended up  having to explain to them that what they saw in the mallu movie is not real, that is not India and that isn’t how it works…Yet, I didn’t have to tell my children that Les Miserables was not real or those things never happened during French Revolution ! How bizarre..




Whore and the cash cow.

She is in her mid 50’s. One of the most hard working RN ( registered nurse) I have known. She came to Australia many many years ago. They live in a sprawling mansion that befits the mallu status requirement. The house is fully paid for. Her older  children have completed their Uni studies and the younger one is just about to.

And she is looking forward to dying.. each day she hopes it is her last.

Before you name her depressed ..this is her story.

Her parents were farmers. But they had big dreams for their children. They send their  daughter  to study nursing and within a year or two after graduation, she managed to get a job in the mid east. Being farmers, her parents didn’t have enough money to pay dowry and in the marriage market at that time, there were plenty of useless, good for nothing guys who wanted a visa to mid east. Pretty good trade off..a nurse with valid working visa sans dowry for a useless guy with equally useless degree who wants visa and can overlook the dowry part.

She worked and worked. He loved investing their (her) money in to various mallu get rich scheme.

You work now, soon we will go back home to India and settle down he said. She agreed, for she really wanted to go back home and help take care of her aged parents.

Some of the younger nurses were migrating to Australia. He worked out the AUD/INR exchange rate, much bigger than Dinar/INR.

They came to Australia.

Just a few more years and we can retire and go back to India, he said.

She agreed.

First it was the car, then the second car, then the house, the children’s education…

She is still working.. and he keeps moving the goal post.

She wants to work less hours, because she is tired. But her husband won’t let her.

“You work, money doesn’t grow on trees” that is his command.

Her mother passed away few years ago. She knows India is a distant dream and she tells me that she no longer cares if she ever go back to India. She just want to die in peace, because she is just tired.

Oh, her husband hasn’t worked for many many years, because he couldn’t work under a white man, it was below his dignity..but while she is at work, he is busy watching porn and expect a whore in his bed when she returns after a hard day at work.


Lepak ( ing)

I don’t know how to translate the Malay word lepak to English and do it some justice.

In the mid 90’s, Malaysia underwent a drastic socio economic change..From TV satu ( crappiest tv station) to Astro ( satellite TV). From tiny shop lots to twin towers and not to forget the Felda settlers that became millionaires overnight

The changes in the cities also brought a massive rural urban migration. All of a sudden the malls in KL were full of youth who were just Lepaking..( hanging around and doing nothing) because they had no skills to be employed and whiled away their time doing nothing.

Restless youth is detrimental to any dictator and soon there was a propaganda against Lepaking..Editorials started to appear in the newspaper and I began to notice the youth hanging around in the malls in groups. Teenage son of my staff nurse even coined a new meaning for the acronym LRT ( light rail transit). He said life is all about LRT,Lepak, Rehat and Tidur ( hanging around, rest and sleep)

And I felt, Lepaking is a waste of time and most importantly,  I will never let my children Lepak. After all what is the fun is going to mall and do nothing all day? That is how children got in to drugs/alcohol etc etc

This morning my son woke up at 5 AM. If you are wondering why that is news, Yesterday he woke up at 1.30 PM, the same the day before and the day before…. Even on school days it was difficult to get him out of bed before 7 and he is the reason why I am late for work most of the time!

He got up early because he and a few of his friends are taking the bus and going to the mall, watch a movie and grab a bite. He will be leaving at 8.30 and coming back home at 5pm.

He did ask my permission..and remember the part about never letting my children Lepak?? The truth is, I didn’t even think about it. All I asked was who is he going out with, what movie are they watching? Is he willing to cook a healthy dinner for the family for every 10$ that he takes from me and spend.

I also reminded him about what happened to his uncle G..

Uncle G was a very naughty boy and one day he and his friends decided to be a bit more naughty that the usual because they were all in their teens and the world owed them everything, They went to the corner shop near home and shop lifted. The shop owner caught uncle G and because his mother shops at that place all the time, instead of calling the cops, the shop owner called the mother to let her know that her son has been caught shop lifting. Have you called the cops? Asked the mother. She insisted that the shop owner should call the cops because that is what he would have done if it had been someone else’s child. Uncle G wasn’t going to get any preferential treatment because of his mother and to this day he hasn’t forgotten the lesson of being interrogated by a cop. ( He is a vice president of the one of the biggest  pharmaceutical company now). I have told my kids from the time they were little that if they break a law, I will be first one to dob them to the cops and because of what their grandmother did to their uncle, my children are pretty convinced that I will do the same.

Still, I will be spending the rest of my day worrying..for it is a mad world out there..


In the late 90’s and early 2000, lot of IT professionals from India came to Malaysia to work. One could always tell the Malaysian Indians from Indian Indians. ( Aside from the tendency for Indian guys to hold each others hands while walking,love for stripped t shirt, bata sandals with trousers etc!!) You just have to see where the  guy is looking. If it is aimed at your breasts..surely he is from India.

I am not trying to paint the whole lot of Indian guys in a bad light. There are good is just that they are pretty rare. The guys I am talking about are the descendants of the guys who took weekend trips to kovalam to see the bare skin of the madamma.. You could even see these guys in Vancouver ! I know a mallu in his mid 30’s who  visited Whiterock in Surrey and got all excited after seeing bikini clad women  ( nokkeda nee kando..entey daivame !!!!)

I wear shorts all the time.

If a Mallu woman sees me in shorts..I am sure she would be denigrating me the moment she sees me. I would be considered ash poosh, fast, cheap etc etc. Then if the said  woman is married and is with her husband, she would look at her husband to see if he is looking at me!

But the same woman wouldn’t mind if an Aussie woman is wearing shorts and even if she minded, the Aussie would tell her to take a hike !

To this day, not one Aussie has ever stripped me in public with his eyes.

When I was in India, One time, I was wearing a saree and went shopping with the dude I was dating. The item that I wanted was in the bottom shelf and I bent down to get it. ( remember that I am wearing a saree). The dude I was with chewed my brain for showing my posterior to the staff at the shop for he was sure they were all looking at my butt and was ‘you know the rest’.

Here, I see women coming to the shops wearing bikini top and a towel wrapped around their bottom..often with their boyfriends, husbands, children etc. They don’t get hassled by their own kind.

It is only the Indians..

Why do Indian guys behave this way? Why do the Indian women insist on covering their body..and denigrate the ones who doesn’t?


The woman…

During my last visit to Sabah ( East Malaysia), while waiting to collect my baggage, I noticed a young couple.

Before I go any further, I do need to mention that I don’t look like a Malayalee. I look like a confused desi of undetermined origin! ( more so because of my choice of outfits!)

Anyway, back to the couple, the reason I looked at them was to see if they were the kids of someone I might know. Sabah has very few Indians and everyone knows everyone else! Even though I haven’t gone back home for a very long time, there is still this bond that connects me to my past..through the people whom I have known and their children..

Soon it was obvious that this particular couple is an Indian import ! ( no offence meant). She wore a very tight salwar with the duppatta hanging around her neck like a dog chain. He had the usual striped t shirt and shining white sneakers. ( I never understood the logic of wearing the duppatta around the neck like a dog chain for I always thought Duppata was meant to add another layer to make the outfit more respectable by hiding the boobs from public display.)

Soon I heard them talking in Malayalam and they did take covert look at me to see if I understood what they were talking..

I didn’t want to tell my whole family history to strangers and I did what I always do. Pretend that I am from Mars.

When the bags started to arrive  my son took over the job of lifting the heavy bag off the conveyor belt. He refused my help saying ” I can handle it mom”

Meanwhile our Mallu guy spotted his bag while his wife was busy looking at the people around and I heard him scold his dear wife pretty loudly and say

Edi Kazhuthey, vayum nokki nilkathey bag inte attam pidikaddi” ( You dumb nut, instead of standing around and doing nothing, help me lift the bag). He got her to carry one end of the bag to get it off the conveyor belt.

And I thought to myself, who raised this Idiot? How is it that he is not even capable of lifting a 20 kg bag by himself?

Chivalry may be dead, but the least a mother can do is to teach her son how to be a man. ( and no, he didn’t appear to have any physical deformities that prevented him from lifting a bag, he was just a spoiled brat)