Exit plan

Last weekend I visited an old folks home to visit a friend’s mother. The place is in a beautiful area and the drive was very pleasant. As we drove in to the car park, the first thing I noticed was the Ambulance, which wasn’t surprising, after all, most residents there would have some sort of medical issues. Then I noticed the well tended garden. There were so many different types of flowers. Such a nice place, I thought.

I stood outside an electronic gate that is as tall as me and waited for my friend to punch in the code. There was a very pleasant elderly man waiting on the other side of the gate and when he saw me, an unfamiliar face, he told me “Don’t worry about the gate, I will handle that”. My friend closed the gate quickly and ignored the old man. That was rude, I thought feeling pretty annoyed with my friend and he must have seen my face and he told me “That is Andrew ( not his real name), he has ran away from this place so many times and is waiting for another chance, that is why he wants to handle the gate”

I felt I was visiting a jail. I noticed a nurse coming and talking to Andrew and holding his hand and walking inside.

The hallway had lots of paintings and there were bouquets of flowers every where. The staff had big smiles and each of them said Hi to me. I could hear TV from the hallway. I entered the ‘living room’..I think the word is a misnomer..what I saw was three people sitting in front of the TV and sleeping. One was standing next to the sleeping ones, wearing a funny hat and was pretending to dance with an imaginary person. My friend’s mother was sitting at the dining table with a book in front of her and was nodding off.  My friend greeted his mother. she looked at him for a second and went back to the book that she was reading. 5 seconds later she was nodding off. My friend went on talking to his mother. He told her about all that is happening in his life..she just went on sleeping.

I heard one staff asking another if she checked on Alice ( not her real name) as Alice tried to run away again that morning.

I grew up hearing the usual dialogues Mallus are known to say . It starts with pathu masam chumannu, theettam kori, kashu chilavakki padippichu..it all lead to one single word Kadama( responsibility/duty).

The thing is, every mother does that.. taking care of children..I did too..carried my children for the duration of gestation, went through the labour pain, washed their butt, fed them, clothed them and educated them..but I feel it is totally unfair to expect my children to take care of me in my old age.

I also can’t imagine being locked up in a place where the only way I would get to leave is in a wooden box.

I want to be able to die when I can no longer take care of me. I think I will drive off the cliff when that day comes..

There you go..

Sometimes, the very simple things give the most joy. I completed ( almost) what I set to do and I feel so happy.

This is how it looked before.

24102012 009 24102012 010 24102012 011This is how it looks now. ( I haven’t added the cap for the blocks, forgot to order that)

The most important thing is, I planted a pomegranate tree in the far corner. Staff at Bunnings ( local hardware/gardening shop) insists that the pomegranate tree will not grow in wet soil. I think they may be right. But I always wanted a pomegranate tree and that was the place I planned to have it. So now it is a waiting game..to see if the tree will survive or not.

I have waited almost 25 years to have my own pomegranate tree. I read about Anarkali when I was 17. I have been fascinated about Anarkali since then and have read every travelogue/book written about her. I believe Anarkali was Akbar’s harem girl and fell in love with Prince Salim who later became emperor Jahangir. Akbar was supposed to have been the one who named her Anarkali because she had lips as red as rubies or like seeds of pomegranate. A harem girl belonging to the emperor having an affair with the emperor’s son would have been unimaginable at that time because the punishment for such a crime was death. Upon hearing the news of the illicit affairs, Akbar ordered Anarkali to be immured alive in a tomb. There are many legends after that. Some say Akbar’s mother feeling sorry for Anarkali got a soldier to smuggle some sort of neurotoxin that helped Anarkali to die quickly rather than the slow and painful death Akbar intended. Others say, she escaped through a tunnel. Was Anarkali a legend? Who knows? But, to this day, there exists a tomb in Lahore..with an inscription

Ta qayamat shukr goyam kard gar khwish ra
Ah! gar man baz beenam rui yar khwish ra
(Ah ! could I behold the face of my beloved once more;
I would give thanks unto my God Unto the day of
believed to have been built by Jehangir in memory of Anarkali.retaining wallFar back in the corner you can see my pomegranate tree.


I am currently in to anything Italy, not really sure what piqued this particular curiosity and few days ago while reading Mark Twain’s The innocents abroad, I remembered Stefano. That is his real name.

I met him a few months after I returned from England. His uncle was staying in the unit next to mine and he was visiting his uncle. Stefano spoke very little English and I spoke very little Italian. While his uncle worked ( very long hours), Stefano stayed home alone. I felt sorry for him and used to take him out for dinner most evenings. The Malaysian idea of going out for dinner is to go to the nearest Hawker center and order Malaysian style fast food.. Nasi Goreng ,Mee goreng etc. It was a culinary journey for Stefano and I really looked forward to spending time with Stefano.

He must have been 15 years old, was as tall as me and that trip to Malaysia was the first time he left home. Though he was only 11 years younger to me, I felt very maternal to him and I really wanted a son like Stefanos..all cute and innocent..

By then I had so many false signs of pregnancy.. I was already taking folic acid suppliment. I ensured that I ate healthy food..even going to hawkers I felt wouldn’t use too much MSG. I wanted to ensure a healthy start for my baby..and each month my world ended when I got my periods. But that particular month my periods was already late by few days. I didn’t want to rush and do the pregnancy test, but I was sure I was pregnant. I walked carefully, so I won’t trip and fall down like the last time and caressed my belly gently..imagining the little baby growing inside..my baby. I didn’t want to go to my normal doctor because I felt he was bringing me bad luck and I decided to go to a new doctor. New doctor for new beginning.. On day 7 after I missed my periods, I made an appointment with the new doctor and as I walked in to the clinic, for some cruel twist of fate, I knew I was getting my periods. I couldn’t go back to work because I was planning to go back and tell my friends after seeing the doctor that I am finally pregnant. I called in sick and went back to my apartment. As I entered my unit, I could hear the music from Stefano’s unit. When I was growing up, amma used to hit me more because I wouldn’t cry. But at that moment, I howled. The pain I felt was so big, it came out like screams. A part of me knew someone might hear me. But I couldn’t stop. Soon I heard someone ringing the calling bell. I saw from the kitchen window that it was Stefano. I couldn’t be rude to him and so I washed my face and opened the door. He obviously heard me crying. He asked me something in Italian and I assume it was ” are you alright?” How was I going to explain to a 15 year old kid what I was going though. I shook my head and then after a few seconds he asked me “coffee?”

I almost laughed at the irony. For weeks before that day, I didn’t drink coffee or tea because I knew the baby that was growing inside my body was in the developing stage and I didn’t want to eat/drink anything unsafe. No one has done a study  if coffee/tea was safe during pregnancy. (anyone with sense would tell you that I was totally nuts.. but I really wanted a baby and was willing to go to the end of the world to get one).

Stefanos made me a glass of strong espresso..and we listened to Italian Music..

He went back home a week later. I never kept in touch..

But this was the song he was listening that day.

I also noticed that Lucio Dalla passed away a year ago..


Sometimes a public holiday feels like a working day..Before I went to bed, I informed my brain that it is ANZAC day and there really is no need to wake me up early.. The message didn’t go through. I got up at 5 !! I did a load of laundry, cooked breakfast, read the paper and then did a bit of gardening.. Then I remembered my blog..

so here I am.

until tomorrow Adios


The greatest lesson I ever learned

Is that in life the more of what you put in, the more of it you get back. If I worked hard, I got the full marks. ( The more you act out, the more you get back too !) I also learned over the years that some battles simply aren’t worth fighting.

Yesterday I went for the Parent teacher interview for both my older children. I always make it a point to see my children’s teachers and attend the parent teacher interview, even though I really don’t need to meet with the teachers because  my children’s academic progress is excellent and I have no concerns. But for me the interview is important because I feel  it is a very good way to interact with the teachers and also hopefully show them that I really care about my children’s education. ( Yeah, I know it is very superficial and a shallow, but a very dear teacher friend once told me, teachers always note the parents who made an effort to meet with them and talk about their children !)

I get 10 minutes with each teacher and they show me a sample of my children’s work and tell me how well they are doing. My first appointment was my son’s maths teacher. I wish I could describe the smile that was on her face when she saw me. She then took out my son’s exam paper and told me ” The world almost ended few days ago” I knew about it from my son. He got 39.5/40 for maths. He lost half a mark because he didn’t write one step in the calculation. His answer was right, so the teacher deducted half a mark and my son felt very upset that he didn’t get the full marks. It didn’t matter that he still got the highest marks in his class and this was a grade 10 exam. The teacher and I, we both had a good laugh. I adore his teacher because like me, she too believes in doing something properly. My son needs to understand that getting the correct answer alone isn’t sufficient..he need to show how he got there. He calculates in his head and finds it very hard to write all the steps and he doesn’t understand why it is so important to show the steps. Now hopefully, he will be careful.

His science teacher said that my son is very chatty in the class and so she started making him do grade 9 science and so far it seems to work. The rest of the teachers were happy with his work,

Then it was time to see Yaya’s teacher. I really wanted to meet her Spanish teacher. I have heard over the past two and a half years that this particular teacher doesn’t know anything and is pure evil. ( To be fair on Yaya, it wasn’t just her opinion alone, the rest of the class thinks so too)

The teacher told me that Yaya talks in the class and when she asked Yaya to stop talking, my daughter turned the chair to one side and continued to talk. I now know why Yaya got a B in Spanish.

One of my Anatomy Professor was an idiot.  I know I shouldn’t call my professors idiots and I should respect them. But he acted as if he knew everything when he knew nothing. He was wasting my time and obviously I wasn’t interested in listening to his lectures and he caught me reading a novel in his class. Things went downhill from then on. Everyday he came in to the class, called out my name and asked me to get out. It was a humiliating experience. It culminated with him giving me 74 marks for my anatomy practicals. You need 75 to pass. The only reason I passed Anatomy was because Bangalore University will not fail you if you passed theory and failed the practicals by one mark. My anatomy score is the lowest marks I ever received in my life and I can never undo it. I learned too late that sometimes some battles aren’t worth fighting.

I know why Yaya is talking in the class. The teacher has failed to relate to the students and capture their attention. But unfortunately, it is Yaya who is going to pay for this. I wish Yaya would understand how important it is to at least pretend that she is listening to the teacher..

I got the most unusual gift yesterday !!

First, I need to explain why the gift is unusual, for that we need to meet kushu ammachi ( fart ammachi).

Kushu Ammachi has been a legend in our family circle and I knew more about her even before meeting her in person. She was my aunt’s mother in law. There was no love lost between the two and every time my aunt came for a visit, we waited to hear the latest exploits of Kushu Ammachi.

Ammachi was a very strong willed woman with very strong opinions. She decided everything and my aunt was very resentful of her mother in law wielding such power. But ammachi was also ‘free of faults’ in the eyes of others. She was a respected figure, she helped the new immigrants to find their way, she loaned money to those who need etc. Everyone loved her.

Ammachi also loved good food and according to my aunt, she ate so much (valichu vari vizhungum) that at night while she was sleeping, she farted non stop and we the family from the other side ( in laws) named her Kushu Ammachi. We waited for my aunt to come for a visit to update us with the new adventures of Kushu Ammachi and we heard over the years how Ammachi never took the plastic cover that was on the car seat when she bought the car, how she kept a plastic sheet on top of the carpet to protect the carpet and then slipped on it, how she wrapped the kitchen hood with saran wrap to protect the hood from grease !

Her entire house was furnished with Singapore Airlines items. All the forks, spoons, glasses, wine glass etc were stolen from the flights ! Even the blankets were from Singapore airlines. Kushu Ammachi had a full set of Royal Albert dinner set, but never used it. If you were an esteemed guest ( like, Achan from the church) in her list, then you got the corelle dinner plates, the rest got Melamine plates. According to my aunt, Kushu Ammachi never wasted anything..she even saved the thread from day old kumbil appam/parippu vada. ( I never got this part.. apparently in the olden times where there were no fridge, after a day or two kumbil appam developed some sort of mycellium growth and you found out if the item was old by breaking it in to half and see if there were mycellium threads of growth. I tried keeping parippuvada outside for days..all it did was to get hard and dry, but no mycellium growth. I don’t know how to make kumbil appam and we don’t get chakka here..so this particular legend is totally hearsay !)

I met Kushu Ammachi in 1994. Her car was an old junk and it still had the original plastic cover on the seats..where ever the plastic was ripped, it was stuck back with duct tape. Her house was a living plastic museum. Everything was wrapped in a layer of plastic to protect it. And I thought what a loser she is.. What is the point of having things if you don’t want to use them?

I had friends over last weekend and as usual the same rules applied. I will only serve alcohol if my friends agreed that if they drank more than the standard serving, then they have to stay the night at my place or take a cab back home or have a designated driver who isn’t drinking. One friend ended up spending the night at my place.

The drama started in the morning about 8 AM. Both Yaya and my son were meeting their friends at 9 and both wanted to take a shower. They were arguing as to who takes the longest time to take a shower and they were practically having the yelling match. If you have had a lot of drinks the night before, you can imagine how my head felt hearing all these yelling..my friend too was in the same boat.

On Monday,my friend very sheepishly gave me a gift telling me ” you need this”

Without further ado, I will let you in the secret. It was a bottle of CLR. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_Lime_Rust). Those from Vancouver would know the annoying CLR tough ad that comes on during late night programs.

My house has 4 bedrooms and 2 bath. In Canada, we lived in a two bedroom basement suite with one bathroom and when we came here, kids and I continued to use the common shower.. I never used the shower in the master bedroom because I didn’t want to clean the glass doors. (If you have OCD, then you know how much time it requires to clean the soap scum from the glass doors..I am never happy till it is totally clean)

And I thought Kushu Ammachi was a loser..Ah the speck in my eyes..


Comment Moderation

There are many reasons why I have a blog. People collect a lot of unusual things. My aunt loved collecting bells, she even has a 300 year old Swiss cow bell and knows the history of each of the bell in her possession and display her collection in every nook and corner of her house. I collect memories. I worry that in the event anything happens to my brain, then my memories will vanish.. I needed a place to store my memories. Writing a journal was the only other options, somehow after finding my mom and my sister going through my journal, I can never do it again.

I  went through my life thinking that I was the “odd” one. When I joined the medical college, all my classmates had both their parents come to the college to visit them. My parents were already divorced. But I never told anyone that. Everyone has a ‘normal’ scale..where you evaluate what you have based on what others have and in my case I wasn’t normal because I was the only one whose parents were divorced. Everyone else had perfect families. Years later, I visited the parents of a classmate while I was attending a conference in their home country..The most unusual part of their family home was, her father never talks to her mother. Not a word. They had a falling out when the kids were younger, but chose to live together as strangers for the sake of the kids. But the 5 years I was with my classmate, she never mentioned that odd fact. She waxed lyrical about how wonderful her parents are and how much they loved her..

Today, I am part of the same deception. What my friends see is a very successful woman who dresses impeccably, lives in a posh residential area and drive a flashy car, who has friends among the who is who in the society. They see the smooth version of me. They haven’t got a clue as to the journey I went through to get all those rough corners smoothened.

I needed a place where the real me exists. This is where I can be who I am. I am not seeking any ultimate glory ,neither do I care for anyone’s opinion. For me it doesn’t really matter if anyone reads my blog or not. I need to write and for me that is the most important thing. Also, if you think like I did all those years ago that I was the odd one.. that you are all alone in this world, then I hope that perhaps reading my blog will make you understand that you are not alone and that you are strong even if you don’t think so yourself.

When I was in they 3 yr MBBS, I didn’t collect my marks card for about 6 months. ( I knew which subjects I won the gold medal from my professors, but I didn’t know my marks and I didn’t want to know either.) I didn’t collect because I noticed that for a lot of my classmates, especially the ones who are barely scrapping through, they were more interested in finding out my marks..it somehow made their life a lot better if I scored less than the one they were voting for. The fact that my marks reflect my intelligence and the amount of hard work I put in didn’t factor in at all. Then there was Geroge. Every gold medal I got was because of George. I don’t know why it is hard for people to give credit where credit is due. But it hurt a lot.

I  work with gifted children here during my spare time. One of the things the children that I work with complain often is about getting the due recognition. Some time ago, the mother of one of the child that I work with came to me with tears in her eyes and recounted the reaction of the women in her temple group when they found that her daughter scored high distinction for ICAS english. “Of course it is easier for your daughter to excel in English, because she was born in England Nah.” they said. The child was born in England and did spend 2 years of her life in England before moving to Australia. The children of most her temple friends were born here in Australia. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can see the flaw in that argument. He daugher heard the comment and told her mother she will never write another ICAS test again. Children notice little things and eventually they will start to underachieve just to fit in. I have been there and I know how it feels. I was accused that I was holding on to the gifted tag. I do hold on to it because majority of the gifted children will drop out after high school, not because they aren’t intelligent, but because the schools spend all the time and energy to help a child who under achieves than the one who over achieves. Eventually most of the gifted children get disiilusioned and becomes failed gifted. I am one among the failed gifted and writing my experience  as well as that of my children, I am hoping that another gifted child will not go through what I went through. And Yes, I will fight with all I have to ensure that my children don’t go through the same.

So, About comment moderation. I know my blog is in the public domain and I am liable for the reactions that are positive or negative. As a (former) Malaysian who always preached for freedom of expression in Malaysia, I felt I was betraying myself if I didn’t allow freedom of expression in my blog. ( One ought to practice what they preach)

I didn’t ask all my blog readers to follow UFAS “United friends and Associates of Sarah”. I do respect your right to your opinion.

However, there are things that bothers me a lot.

I have written over and over that I have eidetic memory. When you write a comment, wordpress captures your IP and I can remember your IP. It isn’t that I sit here and memorise every IP. All I need is to see the IP number and my brain sees the pattern and it stays forever. I noticed that when people want to berate me or take a jab a me, they morph to Divya Unni or Manju Warrier or Pratiksha etc. from their original handle. If you are not comfortable to be who you are, but still wants to take jab on me using various other ID’s, it bothers me. It makes me think that you have something to hide and I don’t wish to support that.

My children mean the world to me. Whatever they achieve in their life is because they have worked for it. Today my son owns his own company and he also works with a lot of leading scientists in the Robotics industry. He is hoping to patent his invention end of this year. Yaya will get a diploma in Spanish Language end of this year and will start going to Uni to continue with her degree in Spanish next year.. I don’t know anything about robotics, neither do I know Spanish. It is unfair to judge my children and assume that they are where they are because A, their mother in intelligent. B. their mother pushes them. I do push my children in some areas, I want them to clean their room, learn to cook, do the laundry, play a group sport, volunteer two hours a week etc. But beyond  that I don’t push them in anything because I know the more my mother pushed me, the worst I became. I only did what made me happy, not anyone else. ( weird, I know) And I know my children will do exactly the same. So, I don’t push them. Never did, never will. If you can’t accept the simple thing that my children are intelligent and are good in what they do, then that is your issue. Freedom of expression starts with respecting your right to an opinion, but it stops when your opinion hurts the people who did nothing to you.

One commenter even took a jab on my children having to grow up without a father figure. I found that insulting. Why is it that some can’t accept that not everyone is as lucky as them and some of us do the best we can with whatever we have. I refuse to allow such comments to be published because there are plenty of sigle mothers out there doing a fantastic job and it is unfair to judge them because of the absence of a man in their life.

So, much as I hate to do this, I have resorted to comment moderation.

Sarah’s folly

First Kellie’s Folly. My father was very much interested in William Kellie Smith and his folly and it was he who got me interested. Kellie was a Scottish Civil Engineer who arrived in the then British Malaya seeking his fortune. ( 1890, the same year Cecil Rhodes, founder of De beers reached Harare/Zimbabwe). Kellie made his fortune clearing the land (forest) for plantations. He then went back to Scotland and married his sweetheart Agnes. I don’t know where they lived when they came back to Malaya. Soon, Agnes gave birth to their daughter Helen. Kellie wanted a son to carry on the family name. 10 years later, Agnes gave birth to their son Anthony. It was after Anthony’s birth that Kelly decided to build his castle. He was very fascinated with Indian Architecture, especially the temple designs in South India. Being a civil engineer, it was easy for him to plan his castle. He brought Tamil labourers from India ( as indentured labourers) as well as all the building supplies. There are many versions of what happened next..Some say he was a good boss and even allowed his labourers to build a temple in his land and others say that he was very mean to the labourers and even got them to make a statue of himself and place it next to the idol in the temple the labourers built for them. Eventually Kellie lost a lot of money and also lot of his labourers died during a flu epidemic. My father thinks Kelly went to Europe to look at the Moorish architecture for inspiration and also to buy supplies and I think it was more to do with looking for further business opportunities. ( Franco became a general that year and Europe was in the throes of massive political changes) Kellie  died in Portugal in 1926 ( Pneumonia). His castle was never completed and Agnes sold the castle and went back to Scotland with her children.

Few things about the castle. It is still there in Batu Gajah ( Ipoh), it was so huge that Kelly was going to have full size tennis court in the second floor. The castle was also to have the first elevator in Malaya..

And now Sarah’s folly.. When I bought my house, in one corner there was a scraggy looking shrub that did nothing. The area was a slope and the plant looked like it was tired of standing and was practically prostrate on the ground. It wasn’t pleasing to the eye, it didn’t attract birds and I thought I will plant a native shrub. It took me weeks to chop the shrub and get rid of the roots. I planted a bottle brush tree, the Lorikeets love the nectar and I love lorikeets. All good, so I thought. Within a few weeks, I noticed that the weeds seem to love the area and one day while pulling the weed I fell down the slope. That is not good, I thought. So I bought mulch and hoped that the mulch along with a weed mat will prevent the weeds from growing. Unfortunately, I forgot that mulch really doesn’t have any anti gravity properties and the smooth surface of the weed mat just encouraged the mulch to slide all the way down. Weeds seems to have loved my jeopardy and started to really grow fast. Earlier, only the scraggy shrub looked ugly ( and I realised it actually helped prevent the weeds from growing only after cutting it) and now the whole place looked unsightly. Then inspiration struck. I thought I will build a two level steps, that will take away the slope and I can even place a garden bench there..so when I am old and bored, I could sit outside on a sunny day and twiddle my thumb. So I did..

What I didn’t know was that there was a lot of underground water in that area (ozhukku). If I had a bit of common sense, I would have noticed that the land is sloping ( it is actually the lowest point in the neighbourhood) and water always find the shortest route to where ever it is heading.. in my case to the stream by the side of my house. The past few weeks it has been a nightmare..At one stage, water was flowing over the blocks that I placed, like a natural water fall.. I did place the drain pipe ( followed all the protocol, geo fabric, aggregates ect)behind the wall that I built.. Every time it rains, I have a mini water fall..and now, I need to continue to build up the wall to the side with the drain pipe behind it..All of this just to have a native plant.

wallFrom where the fence from either side meet ( I hate that pink board the previous owner had nailed to the fence, I still don’t know why it was done and I don’t know what to do with it), initially the land sloped all the way to where the agaves are. What I did was to build up two levels. And now where the bird bath is, the whole area is muddy and I will now have to continue to build to the left and drain the water.. Vazhiye poya vayya veli thalelottu eduthu vechu..

PS: This wasn’t a one woman project. I had lots of help from friends and family.


Ah the look.

Mothers are partial to the youngest child, at least I thought so, for the rules were different for my youngest sister compared to us. My mother let her do a lot of things she didn’t let us do. And I have always been careful that my children don’t think so and always had the same rules for all three of them. But if you ask my older two, they will tell you that I am very partial to the youngest. For eg, I asked Yaya to carry her own bag when she was in grade 2, because I had to carry her brother’s bag. The same when the brother was in grade 2 because I had to carry baby’s bag. But I didn’t ask baby to carry her own bag when she was in grade 2.  The only reason I didn’t ask the youngest to carry her own bag was because I didn’t have anything else to do. Was I wrong? Absolutely. Did I notice doing that? Not at all. I only noticed when the older two complained how unfair I was ! And over the years there were plenty of occasions where I was told over and over how unfair I was to the older ones and how partial I am to the youngest. Much as I hate to admit it, I do let baby get away with a lot of things that I didn’t let the older one do. But she was the one who spend the most amount of  time with me. ( Being January born, she only went to school when she turned 6) I was also a lot more mature than I was when Yaya was little. Until last year, baby used to come and lay down with me ask me to read a story. She still believes in Santa and tooth fairy ! Her world is all about Belugas, fairies and chocolate. If we have any discussion about sex, she says excuse me and leave the table. She was still listening to Rafi’s baby beluga song last December.

If I could use one word to describe her it would be “Happy” She has been a bundle of happiness from the time she was born. She never got angry, always have a smile and never asked for anything but chocolate !

Perhaps knowingly or unknowingly she remained as a little baby in my eyes.

Two weeks ago, she downloaded Shazam on my iphone and every time an unfamiliar song was played on the car radio, she was looking it up. I haven’t heard her playing the Baby beluga song for a few weeks. All of a sudden she seems to be interested in the “Feel this moment” ( Christina Aguilera)song and I can hear her humming it even when she is doing her home work. She never wore jeans until recently. She used to say Jeans fabric is itchy. Last week when we went out for a drive, I noticed that she wore Yaya’s old jeans.

A part of me said “wait for it”.. wait for the impending explosion that announces puberty.. but the other part of me still didn’t want to accept that my baby is no longer a baby..It can’t be.

Last sunday, I asked her to take her clothes from the laundry line and hang it in her closet.  It is a straight forward job. Having OCD, I can’t stand if the clothes are crumpled or of the edge isn’t straight. So I do spend a lot of time and energy to hang them properly to ensure that everything is picture perfect. In the evening as I passed by her room, I noticed on the floor a tangled heap of all those clothes that I hung so carefully on the clothes line.( not even on her bed..the floor!) She was laying down on her bed and was reading. I asked her to pick up all those clothes from the floor and hang them properly. She looked up from her book and gave me  ‘that’ look. If her eyes were laser, I would have ended up as heap of ash on the floor. It was that mean and vicious.

“oh dear” I said realizing that we have reached that stage, where I am now the mortal enemy..

“Baby, why are you angry with me when you are the one who is wrong? You know I hung all those clothes properly and now you crumpled all of them” I asked gently

And I heard Yaya telling her brother “Look how nice mom is to baby”

So to make it all even I said ” pick up your bloody clothes from the floor and hang it NOW”

She actually was grinding her teeth with anger and I stood there trying to figure out where this will all end. And the truth is, I don’t know.



When Yaya was in grade 3, she was selected for the gifted and talented program and the mother of one of her classmate went all the way to the Ministry of Education complaining that the teacher was partial to Yaya because both of them are Asians! There was a review, followed by the WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children ) and it was agreed unanimously that Yaya was the right candidate for the program and there was no partiality.

Having studied in India, I know how partiality works. Teacher’s pet always won. You don’t really need to be outstanding, sometimes, all you need is to have a parent who is a teacher or a really smart older sibling  and under his/her glory you can bask and shine and you are all set to achieve glory. I used to feel so bitter seeing how easy it was for some students to get the highest marks while I worked my ass off and still got the second best. Eventually I learned that there was no point in fighting a losing battle and worked to ensure that I did well in  the exams that aren’t controlled by my teachers ( externals)..to such an extent that I gave empty answer sheets to all the class exams. Of course it was a sure way to ensure that the teachers hated me and my guts and would do anything to make my life miserable, but still it felt good knowing that I wasn’t letting them win by showing partiality to the kids who sucked up to them.

Living outside India with all the rights the constitution is supposed to grant to ordinary mortals, one would expect that at least there won’t be any partiality. Not so.

I learned from my experience that although there are so many checks and balances to ensure that the system is fair to all, there are many ways teachers can make children’s life miserable. We came to Australia when my son had just completed grade 3 in Canada and was placed in the last term of grade 4 ( in a 4/5 split class) in Australia. He was already in advanced maths program in Canada and in the three months of grade 4, he completed the grade 5 maths here. The normal way is that the kids who are excelling in a subject continue to the next level and in my son’s case it would be grade 6 maths in grade 5 class. But his grade 5 teacher refused and wanted my son to do the grade 5 maths again. ( She was just lazy and  didn’t want extra work). My son said, he didn’t want to go to the school if he has to do the grade 5 maths again and I had no choice but to go to the Dept of Education and the teacher was reprimanded. ( there were other issues as well). But in all these, what I didn’t know when I went to the dept of education is that the said teacher is the union representative and is the sister in law of the school principal. And the principal went on a two year witch hunt and my poor child was picked on for every little thing. There is no way I would claim that my son is a paragon of virtue, but at the same time a lot of things the principal picked on him was unfair to him. During recess, one of his classmate ‘girl’ kicked on his shin and my son had Osgood Shlatter ( growing pain and swelling of the knee) and  it hurt a lot ( emotionally and physically)and he told her I will tell on you. Apparently, that is bullying..not the kicking part, the ‘I will tell on you’ part. According to the principal, it was an accidental kick and my son shouldn’t have emotionally bullied a girl !

Then she placed my son in a grade 6/7 split when he was in grade 7. There were 4 other grade 7 classes, two of which had teachers who are in charge of the maths acceleration program. But the Principal chose to place my son in the lower class ! and according to her minion and the union representative, the principal\s decision was final..and I threatened to sue the school ( I would have, it wasn’t an empty threat)and eventually the principal moved my son from the grade 6/7 split to grade 7 ( but still didn’t place him in the class run by the maths acceleration teachers). I told my son to just grin and bear because this witch hunt was taking a toll on both of us and also told him to watch his back all the time. The checks and balance was there, but it doesn’t work when the people who are in charge of the balance manipulate it to use it to their advantage.

And now the problem is again for Yaya. Her current teacher has favourite students and yesterday she gave Yaya a B+ for Spanish and A+ for her favourite student. According to Yaya, both of them have made the same mistakes. ( and I do remember her grade 3 incident and know there is probably another side to the story, however, Yaya wouldn’t tell me something unless she is absolutely sure that she is right) For Yaya, the grades she gets the next two years will have a major impact on her future and I know how she feels. I even tried to get her to suck up to the teacher and as apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, like her mother she too refused.

I don’t know how to deal with this. If I go to the authorities, then I am scared that Yaya will suffer the consequences like my son did. If I don’t, then I failed my child.