Kurakkum !

The opinion of ‘other’ people were the most important guidelines my mother used when she raised us. We were not allowed to do anything that gave “others” a chance to disparage us.

We had to study and get good marks, if not  we were told that vallorum kurakkum.

We had to wear itchy dresses with ugly frills, socks and ill fitting shoes and not to forget the gold chains on our neck ( which was secured to our dress with innumerable safety pins)..kochintey thala poyalum vendiyilla, vallorum kurakkathirunnal mathi ( between the chance of the child getting decapitated and ‘others’ thinking that we have no gold therefor their opinion of us might suffer, Amma picked the former)

When we visited friends/relatives, we were only allowed to take small nibbles of the food offered even if we were starving because Amma didn’t want the ‘others’ to think that we had no food at home. ( And the opinion/impression of the ‘others’ mattered much more than our empty stomach)

I never understood the need to leave a bit of coffee/tea in the cup after we drank from it. It was good manners.

Even if I only got mottas (zero marks), I was warned in advance to say that I was the topper in my class when ‘others’ asked.

My mother wrote my compositions, my speech and my cousin, the painter drew all the things that had to be drawn in the botany record book. ( actually, to this day, I have no idea what was actually drawn in my book. Amma dealt with all that. My  job was to submit it on time).

Amma told me what I must draw and paint for the annual painting competition held at the Kottayam YMCA and then she used to get all mad when I didn’t win and told me how useless I am, because I couldn’t even follow her ‘winning ideas’ and win the competition. If someone we knew won, then all hell will break lose at home and then Amma would resort to various spying technics to find out where the winner went for painting lessons..In between all these, she would  accuse the winner, for he/she has no talent and won because they knew the judge.

The crux of the matter was, you could never do anything that was slightly off the norm. At the same time, we had to be better in everything we do. We had to confirm to this imaginary high standards set by the great mallu society. In truth, Mallu parents created clones. If the neighbour’s child got more marks, then they send their child to the same tuition center where the other child went..It was a constant battle to create equality at the same time being the best. ( Do I make any sense?)

This was a Birthday party invitation Yaya received.

feb15,2013 150

I would have never been allowed to write something like this, let alone print it on ordinary paper.

But don’t you agree, the inviation was really awesome? Doesn’t it show the individuality and the creativity in the child who wrote it?



He bought flowers for her !

His school offers valentines day rose delivery and he told me

“Mom, I would like to buy a rose for her”

(He didn’t ask me , if he could buy flowers for her)

I could have said “flowers for valentines day is so over rated”, “waste of time”,” you are too young” and deep in my heart there was this little voice that was dying to say “son, please find a non Muslim girl, there are plenty of them out there, you just have to look”

When I was expecting him, I had a severe anaphylactic shock and was told that I will lose my unborn child and I was almost 8 months pregnant then. I thought of all the things I would miss if I lose my baby..His first smile, his first step, his first day of school, his first love…

But I didn’t think of the religion of the  girl. That was irrelevant then. I just wanted my baby to be born alive, I just wanted to have chance to see all those things that I would have missed if he didn’t survive.

So, I nodded my head to my son’s request. ( I am not sure if you could term his decision to buy flowers  as a request. But I wouldn’t have known if he didn’t tell me, the school wasn’t going to tell me, “hey Sarah, just a heads up, your son ordered flowers for a girl”)

Teenage love has very short expiration date..I don’t know how long this particular love affair will last. I don’t know how it will all end. But I believe that my son has a right to chose his partner. This is his journey. My job is to be there, to share his joys and support him when he needs the support..

12 years ago, I hoped I will get to see this day.. And I did.

Happy Valentines day..


He is gone !

The one thing I absolutely hate is getting stuck in a traffic jam. After living in KL with its bumper to bumper traffic, I shouldn’t crib about it. But I only have ‘x’ amount of hours to get everything done and the last thing I want is to sit idle in a traffic jam, when I have tons of emails to go through, kids to pick up from their various activities, dinner to cook etc etc. How much ever I try to beat the traffic, there is a roundabout 11 km from my home that always slows down the traffic and every single day, I get stuck in a traffic jam. And the only thing I could do is to look around ( vayumnottam). Often traffic comes to a standstill about two km from the roundabout and the first thing you see is an empty lot with concrete floor. The lot is secured with really tall metal fence. I think there  must have been a house there at one time and perhaps they are waiting to rezone it for commercial purpose. But the most interesting thing is that some kids have managed to scale the tall metal fence, there are plenty of graffiti on the concrete floors and pillars and new ones keep popping up regularly.Then there is a church by the side of the road. Yesterday there were signs  announcing the “pancake” breakfast for Shrove Tuesday. Every month, the church gardener  plants new plants near the signboard. Last month it was pansies. This month it is nasturtium ( orange colour). I always try to guess what he will be planting next. So far my guesses have been 100% wrong. Then there are rows of houses that were built during the 50’s. Most houses are occupied, but the inhabitants were never seen, except for the 3rd house. The first time I remember noticing the house was because of the yellow kolambi flowers ( trumpet flowers). It is one of my mother’s favourite plants and this particular one is laden with flowers. I always think of Amma when I see the flowers.That is where he lives. 3 years ago, when I first saw him, it was about 5.30 pm and I had only been to Australia for few weeks and hated every bit of Australia. It also didn’t help that I had been living in Canada before coming here and very rarely got stuck in a traffic jam. I was on my way back after picking the kids from swimming lessons, winter time, days were getting short and the evenings were getting colder.

I saw ‘this’ old man sitting in the portico in a rickety old chair drinking tea from a pinjaanam. ( the translation skips my mind today..at home,we had white colour pinjanaam cups with blue colour rim when I was little)Sitting next to him was ‘this’ old lady. She was covered from head to toe in various colours of fleece. They were talking to each other, while ignoring the traffic jam outside their house on a very cold winter evening. I did think, “don’t they have anything else to do?”. Of course a part of me was happy to see  that both of them were together and were enjoying their evening, but I had three hungry kids in my car and I just wanted to get back home and perhaps there is a Grinch in all of us!

I am a creature of habit and soon noticed that the old man too was like me. Every evening he sat in his rickety chair and drank his tea ( I assume it was tea) from 5 to 6 pm. Not a minute early and not a minute late. If I didn’t see him, I didn’t even have to look at the clock to know that mani ar ayi kanum ( 6 pm).

The old lady didn’t come and sit outside every evening and since last feb, I haven’t seen her. Somehow, I didn’t miss her presence.

I had often wanted to stop by and say my hi and often I told myself that I am crazy. But each evening as I drive back home,  I do try to reach the roundabout before 6 pm. for surely just as the sun rose each morning, so was my old man sitting there and drinking his tea each evening.

He has reached the tail end of his journey, yet each evening he gave me hope, that in this journey of life it doesn’t matter how much money you have or your title you have earned. What matters is that you live each day..that it is ok to sit outside on the portico and drink a cup of tea,even though life is slipping through your fingers..

I didn’t see him the last few weeks. Yesterday there was a for sale sign outside his house.


Sometimes you get somethings right..

My son was all smiles yesterday when he came back from school and he gave me a hug and told me “You were right, mom”

This particular journey to ‘rightdom’ was a very fiercely fought battle.

When my kids started schooling, I insisted that, when they do their homework ,they write the question and then the answer, instead of just writing the question number from the text book. It was something my father taught me. When you write the question again, you actually get another chance to read and understand the question.

With Yaya, it was fine. But not my son. “nobody cares about writing the question again, no one in my class does it, this is a total waste of time etc etc” were few of his response. But I was adamant. It took a while before he learned that his mother is really stubborn and eventually he gave in.

My son had handed in last week’s homework on Friday and yesterday his teacher, while giving the corrected work back to the class, showed my son’s homework book and said to the whole class.

“This is how you do your homework. You must write the question and then write the answer” ( apparently he is the only one who did that)

My son is hoping to be the dux in each grade..and every little brownie points helps him get there.

He is very happy..

Sometimes, I get somethings right.. ( and then I screw it all up big time)

Racist Pig

For want of a better name, that is me !

Please note, views expressed here are my own and I am not interested in starting a religious war.

It all started last Friday evening. I was cooking dinner and my son was sitting at the dining table and doing his homework. I want to keep the communications lines open between my kids and I and make it a point to talk to them all the time and since he was already in the kitchen, I asked him

“So, what is the best part of  going to high school?”

without any hesitation he replied “girls”

“found any interesting girls?” I asked

“A few, there is this Islam girl”

Before he could say anything further, I interrupted him and told him, there is no Islam girl, Islam is the religion and the follower is called a ‘Muslim’ and much to my own dismay, I said this ” I will not allow you to date a Muslim girl”

That one sentence was the opposite of everything I believed in and the way I raised my children. I have never told my children up until now that “I will not let them do something”, because I believe in teaching them what is right/wrong instead of being a dictator and herding them the way I want them to go.

I learned Arabic, so I could learn Qur’an in the original form. Much to the chagrin of some of the Malaysian religious leaders, I being a non Muslim could argue using the surah’s from the Qur’an I have done a full Ramadan fasting( It felt odd to eat in front of friends who were fasting and I thought I might as well join them). My best friend is a Muslim. I have nothing against Islam as a faith..

Someone I know is married to a Muslim girl and he wasn’t allowed by his wife’s family to attend his mother’s funeral at a church. And the thought of my bacon loving, free spirited child being dictated by a religious edict is something I can’t cope with. No doubt, my son is the master of his own destiny and I hold no control..and in hindsight I wish I didn’t tell him like that and should have told him ” I would be unhappy if you are forced to be something that you are not because you love someone”  That again is wrong because I am still trying to enforce my value systems on my child..Just because I gave birth to him and raised him doesn’t give me the right to tell my child how he should live his life..

Right now, I feel so angry at myself because I am so bloody confused..Is it too much to wish that my family will not be divided because of religion..Would I be wrong to protect the interests of all 4 of us?

Do I care?

Yesterday was parents info night for Baby’s class, where her teachers stay back after school, introduce themselves and talk about the curriculum for the new school year.

The only reason I go for the meeting is to ensure that my face is seen..cause I was told that the teachers note whose parents care to come for the meetings and the consensus among the parents is that if you care about your child’s future, you go for such meetings.

There were parents actually taking notes..about the syllabus, assignments etc.

That got me thinking. What exactly are my expectations when it comes to my children’s education?

Do I really care about the syllabus and worry that my kids are missing out on this journey of acquiring great knowledge?

I honestly don’t care. They go to school each morning, they learn a curriculum set by the government, which I know isn’t perfect. And honestly, half of what they learn in school is useless.

What I expect from the education they receive is that it gives them an opportunity to acquire ‘ some’  knowledge, get along with their friends and classmates, and follow rules…

I don’t fear that my children are missing out on their education..There will always be gaps in their knowledge..but they have a life time to learn..

And I sat there for one hour, while the teachers prattled on..and thought what I should cook for dinner etc etc.. Luckily I am no longer a student and didn’t have to worry if the teacher would ask me a question !


Ah, the guilt !

Few weeks ago, it was my son’s turn to cook a proper dinner ( in lieu of $10) and  he decided to make ginger beef. I didn’t want to stand next to him and watch over him, but at the same time, I really didn’t have the courage to leave him to do the cooking all by himself.

So I sat in the living room and within 5 minutes I could smell something burning. I went to investigate. The pot was on the fire on full heat, smoking away to glory. It was because, my son has seen me do the same from the time he was little. When I go in to the kitchen, the first thing I do is to turn the stove on and heat the pan ( medium heat) for you see I know exactly where I keep everything and by the time I slice the onion, the pot would be hot enough for me to continue with my cooking. ( I can’t stand getting everything cut in advance  and then wait for the pan to heat)


I have always felt that even though my children have their own personality, they will still pick up the good and bad from me. And I have tried to set a good example for them. I have never dieted in my life, never worried about my appearance etc. I have always talked to my children about eating healthy food and always ensured that I cook healthy meals. However, I am obsessed with my weight  (in a passive way) I check my weight everyday and if I have gained weight, I go for a swim. If the water is too cold, then I go for a walk. I never ever said I am fat, it is just that I have always been 52 kg and prefer to maintain it. .And now I feel terribly guilty about baby’s body image issue.I keep thinking,.Is it because of me?


When I was young, every time my father went out of station/country, I looked forward to his return. He always brought a bar of Chocolate..one single bar, that my sisters and I had to divide equally and share. ( It was no easy task dividing a ‘5 star’ chocolate in to 4 equal parts) Once we had our share, then we waited to see who ate theirs first, so we could torment them while eating ours slowly! This process of waiting and tormenting was what made me decide that, One day I will have a house of my own and I will build a Chocolate bunker underneath. The next time I remember is when Beautiful Eyes gave me a giant bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut Chocolate for my 18th birthday. He gave me the chocolate because he said building a chocolate bunker was a tad difficult, especially because he didn’t want to kill the ants, but if I really wanted it, then he will surely build it for me. And I remember laughing, thinking how silly my wishes were when I was young.,

But over the years, the cravings for Chocolate vanished. The only exception would be Daim chocolates. I can eat a full packet without any qualms.

When I had kids, I didn’t want them to act like manic wild animals when they see a bar of chocolate( typical Mallu kids behaviour..just like how my sisters and I were) and didn’t want to add a luxury value for something cheap. I always bought chocolate when I went to buy groceries. It was in my shopping list. I still do. Yaya and Toothless don’t care much for chocolates. But not baby. I remember buying her a giant hershey’s kisses for her 4th bday ( as usual the crappy last minute bday gifts we always end up buying for her) and she finished eating it before the morning was over. I know she is addicted to chocolate, though I don’t understand how the addiction works.

I have tried to restrict her chocolate intake and decided not to buy chocolate one time and found her baking a chocolate cake that evening. She baked brownies the next day and when the cocoa powder was over, she used milo in lieu of cocoa to bake muffins. I bought her chocolates on day 4 because I realized that I couldn’t beat her in this game and might as well give up. I got my GP friend involved and the doctor explained to baby that eating anything in excess is detrimental to health and baby and the Dr agreed to a truce, where she is allowed to eat 3 squares of a chocolate bar each day. She follows the rule religiously and I bake her a tray of brownies every Friday as a treat.

I was going to write about how I was planning to deal with baby’s body image issues..and much as I try not to think.. I can still see the Beautiful Naga holding the giant fruit and nut bar in his hand.. Sometimes, memories is all I have


Few days ago, my youngest came to the kitchen while I was making dinner and very casually mentioned that ” Mom. I think I need to lose some weight” And Actually if it wasn’t for Yaya, I wouldn’t have heard that sentence, for you see I have mastered the art of blocking out. I was thinking of something else and nodded my head.

“What did you say Baby? Mom, Did you hear what she said?” Yaya asked.

Obviously I haven’t and Yaya repeated what baby had just said.

There are better ways of handling a child’s insecurities. But at that particular moment, I wasn’t in the best state of mind and I did what I am really good. I told her off for being silly. For goodness sake, she just turned 11 and her BMI is right for her age.

In hindsight, I should have known where the insecurities are coming from.. From the time Baby was young, Yaya has always picked on her telling her that “you will be fat” because baby eats a lot of chocolate, I am not exaggerating, she can eat a whole chocolate cake all be herself in one sitting. The same with a bar of chocolate. And I have told Yaya over and over to lay off, but being the older sister, Yaya thinks it is her responsibility to ensure the health and well being of her siblings.

Yesterday evening, I saw baby going to the washroom to weigh herself. Then she came out and said “I don’t care what my weight is” and before I could ask anything she asked “mom, can I go for a walk”

“Why?” I asked her. She was very agitated and didn’t bother to reply. Instead she just took off for walking.

When she came back I showed her how to work out her BMI, I showed her the growth chart and she herself checked her weight vs height and noticed that her weight is normal. ( It took a mammoth effort to get her to sit and look at the chart, for she kept on saying “I don’t care, I don’t want to see etc etc”)

For dinner, she wanted only one dosai..( It is her favourite meal and she usually eats 3 at least)

This must be a temporary state..she might outgrow this insecurities..I am so worried..




I have written about Amma using my discounted( student) train season ticket and buying me a daily student ticket when we travelling from chengannur to Kottayam. (Initially Amma and I had a season tickets. Amma’s expired before mine)

When the TTR came for inspection, Amma pretended that she thought it was her season ticket and hence she bought me a student daily ticket. Her “ aiyyo saareey” performance was worthy of an Oscar.

The TTR was very considerate of Amma’s “genuine” mistake and didn’t fine her. All in all Amma saved my daily ticket cost minus the cost of Adult  ticket = probably 2 RS. For my mother it was a big deal. Every penny counted. naalu penkuttikale kettikkan ullathalle…

I promised myself that I will never do what my mother did. And I can honestly say that I have kept my promise all these while.

This month has been a rather expensive month for me. Christmas vacation, back to school expenses and two traffic tickets for speeding (600$). The last one is of course my own doing. Both times I was caught for not noticing the 70km zone has changed to 60km.. ( road sign nokkunnathinu pakaram valloneyum vayum nokki irunnal inginey okke sambhavikkum!!!) In addition to all these expenses, I also need about 50.000$/year for each child if my children get admission to an Ivy league college. I do have education policies, but it won’t be enough and am now frantically saving every dime.

Yaya needed a haircut and off we went to salon. Like me, Yaya is a midget. She still wears kids size 4 shoes!  Most of her Aussie classmates are a head taller than her. The salon has two different rates for primary school and high school kids. ( abt 7$ difference) As we were at the till, the staff looked at Yaya and asked her “primary school?”  I was just about to say “Yes” and before I could open my mouth, I heard Yaya say, “No, high school”

There goes my 7 $ I thought and then I remembered amma’s money saving adventures. I felt ashamed that I for a second I too fell for the mallu quest for money saving called kalippeeeru..

But deep in my heart, I am proud..that even though I am totally screwed up, my children are honest to the core.