I wish …

They say, If wishes were horses beggars would ride. I am not really in to wishes. If I want something I work to get it. If I can’t get what I want, then I move on..

That being said,this post is a wish.. this is something I wanted to tell someone and didn’t, because I knew I wouldn’t have been able to get my message across.

An ex classmate of my son is under psychiatrist care. The journey from a happy child to someone who doesn’t want to live didn’t happen overnight. It was progressive and much as I hate to say this, his mother is the main culprit.

His mother came to me and introduced herself 3 days after I registered  my children in the school here. She had already heard about my son being placed in advanced maths program. ( clearly news travelled faster than the speed of light). She told me her son is ‘gifted’. For me finding another gifted child is something I consider a blessing. At least my son would have a friend who is like him, I thought. ( Yaya finds it much easier to talk to me as both of us are very similar, whereas my son finds it very hard to accept that I really don’t find maths  exciting!) I invited them over for tea.

The entire conversation when the mother came over for tea revolved around how smart her son is. He knew all the capitals of all the countries before he was 2, knew to count up to whatever number before he was 3 etc etc. She wanted to know my son’s achievements age for age.

I didn’t teach my son to count or the capitals etc when he was 2. I was expecting his sister then and we were busy building twin towers with lego building blocks. My main job  around that time was to collect my shoes, his shoes, his drinking bottle etc from the neighbour’s house each evening when they returned from work. My son loved tossing stuff over the fence. We also had two chooks, Henny Penny and Cocky Locky and he and yaya chased them around the house. We baked cookies, read a million stories and when it rained, they played in the rain. But I didn’t teach them to count or the alphabets or anything like that.

Digressing a bit here, Perhaps the one thing that I think I did differently was to ask Yaya when she was about a year and half “What do you see?” I was printing colouring sheets for her and one had a red apple and I asked her “What do you see?” She replied “apple” and I told her “No, it is a picture of a red apple with a single green leaf”.  I was reading an architectural book about Oscar Neimeyer ( famous Brazillian Architect) at that time and he  had said, don’t do what I do, see what I see” and I felt, I should show my children what I see..because when I saw the picture of the apple, I saw a red apple with a single green leaf, both halves of the apple was symmetrical, something you will never find in real apples, I also noticed that the red colour was full, where as you will never find a pure red apples in real life.. I know I sound silly, but this is how my brain works.. Yaya and I used to play “what do you see” after that. Something I didn’t do with her brother and sister because both weren’t interested.

Then she wanted to know what books I am using to teach my children. I told her, I don’t teach my children anything and the only thing I ever did was to send them for a few months to Kumon. I explained to her that my kids were attending an inner city school in Canada and were going to skip almost a year when they moved here and I was concerned that they might find the transition difficult. Apart from  the extension program the school provided, kumon was the only other program my children did.

The next week her son started going to Kumon.

Every exam, she would ask my son about his marks. ( something that really bothered my son) She became this shadow that followed my son all the time. But that wasn’t the main issue..What she was trying to do was to create her son to be like my son. Everything my son did, so did her son. She pushed and pushed her son. She was relentless. But her son was struggling at school. He begged my son “please don’t tell my mom that you got A when she asks”. The mother even went to the school district to complain about the teacher who gave the students a surprise test without prior notice. ( the very same test my son got his first B)

I understood she didn’t believe me when I told her that I don’t teach my children at home, when another friend wanted my son to join the indoor soccer team and she told her that She is positive that I will not let my son join the team because I am forever teaching him at home and won’t allow my son any free time.

There is a big difference between gifted and non gifted children. Gifted children don’t need to be taught, they pick up things on their own. ( Yaya taught herself to read and write, whereas her sister learned to read and write at school)

Every parent want their child to be the winner, but to create an ordinary child in to a ‘gifted’ child is the biggest disservice you can do to that child.

I wish I could tell the mother, “your son is not gifted, he is smart, but not gifted”

End of my tether..

Couple of days ago I wrote that, now that I am older, I am more matured and more understanding. I take that back. Sure I am older and wiser etc etc. But I am also at the end of my tether.

I am well read and I think I am a good mother because I think before I react.

I have been a teenager once and I understand what my daughter is  going through.

However, there is a line that divides a very sane loving mother and one that would want to shake the child and get some sense in to her..

My mornings are awfully busy and I always ensure that I pack a healthy hot lunch for my kids. I had baked almond cake yesterday for tea and thought my youngest might like to take a slice for lunch.

“Baby, would you like me to pack a piece of almond cake for lunch today?” I asked, while I was packing three lunch boxes.

“What do you think?” was the reply.

What I really wanted to do at that moment was to hold her really tight and tell her “my question has an Yes or No answer and you will not answer my question with another question” I also wanted to throw the whole bloody cake in to the bin, because I baked it for her, knowing how much she loves almond cake and the only reason I asked her if she would like to take a piece to school is because she usually has a fruit and a small bar of chocolate as dessert and if I was going to send cake, then I won’t pack the chocolate.

It is really not hard to say yes or no, instead she chose to give a cryptic answer.

Obviously, I didn’t pack the cake for her lunch. She asked me what do I think and I think she has been pretty rude and doesn’t deserve a treat.

I feel that my child is walking dynamite that is already lit..like a thotta pottunna english motta.. She gets mad at me if she can’t find her basket ball shorts and when I find it in her closet that she already searched, she still gets mad at me because according to her, I hid her shorts in her closet. ( She is the one who hangs her clothes in her closet) There is no rationality here. I can argue with her till the cows come home that, it is she who hung her clothes in her closet and I will still end up as the horrible mother who hid her daughter’s shorts in the closet..

Of course I know she is hormonal and I should be more understanding.. I have realized that there is really a limit to how much understanding I could be..and it is scary.


When I was little, we owned a bound copy of Bobanum Mollyum. It was older than me and I think Amma used to collect the cartoon strip from the manorama magazine and once she got a sizable chunk, she made them in to a book. I remember reading them before my sister younger to me was born. I must have been 4 then.( I knew to read before I went to school, it is one of life’s mystery!) I read the cartoons over and over and read them even when I came home for holidays while doing medicine. This particular strip was about Kannada ( sun glasses). Boban and Molly was raising funds for something by selling raffle tickets and the first price was a Kannada. Motta won the first prize and when he asked for his price, Boban and Molly closed their eyes and blinked..kannada.. ( sorry you ought to be a mallu to get the punch line) and I laughed and laughed. ( Still do)

As I grew up, there were many things one learned to do as part of the initiation in to a teenager. if a boy liked you, he would rub his finger across his upper lips. I was not supposed to look at boys, amma would have killed me, but still I managed to steal a few glances every now and then and  I felt so funny, when a stranger rubbed his upper lips to let me know that he likes me!

Then there was tan tadang..I think it was actress Lizzie who initiated the tantadang craze. Boys used to say tantadang, as we walked to school everyday.. But eventually, it all progressed to pure Winking. You liked someone, you winked. Plain and simple. I was in 10th std then and all my classmates ever talked about was boys. One particular day, a classmate who lived very far away from school, came to the class with one eye partially closed. “What happened to your eyes?” Everyone asked. She replied very casually ” This boy got in to the bus near my home and you know it takes an hour to reach the school. This, she points to her partially closed eye, is what happens if you wink for an hour”

I have never winked at anyone until then. Everyone else talked about their winking episodes. I really really wanted to know how it feels to wink at someone. I didn’t have the guts to wink at my neighbours..( mostly because if Amma came to know, I would have been history and apart from kappalanga, there weren’t any good looking ones worth the effort)

Saturday morning I had maths tuition. The way to the teacher’s home is through innumerable by-lanes and as I was walking, I found this dude walking in front of his house holding his book and reciting something like “rama killed the snake, the snake was killed by rama” In other words, he was studying. But I did notice weeks ago  that he has been studying every time I walked by. ( kala valu pokkumbazhe ariyamallo!). Just as I reached the gate to his house, he stopped studying, and we looked at each other. It was the perfect moment and my upper right eye lid did a quick trip to meet the lower eye lid that was on its way up to form a perfect wink.

I was expecting thunder and lightning..at least that was what my friends made me think would happen to me when I winked at a boy..But I felt nothing. I was disappointed. Winking isn’t for me, I thought.The episode was forgotten before I reached the math’s teacher’s house.

The very next week, as I walked to the math’s teacher’s house, I noticed that there were way too many people in front of our Hero’s house and then I heard him say ” Ammey, eval aa enne kannadachu kaniche” (She is the one who winked at me). Our hero had roped in his whole family to mock and humiliate me. Being Methran Thambi’s grand daughter, I did walk holding my head high. But I felt so betrayed. It was just a wink.  ( Amma did find out about it and gave me a lot of grief as well)

When Yaya returned from Spain, she told me “mom guess what happened?”

“What ?” I asked

“We were visiting a museum and I found this hot security guard. He was really hot and I winked at him and told him “marry me” thinking that he won’t know English”


“Turns out that he is an Exchange student from US and he asked me if I am an American after hearing my accent”


“And what? It was so humiliating mom, I really didn’t think he would know English,and I spend the rest of the tour hiding from his sight”

I know I am supposed to say ” how could you do that? How can you wink at someone?” Perhaps, I should have slapped her couple of times like my mother did?

Instead, I closed my eyes like Boban and Molly and remembered, I too was once a teenager..this is another part of growing up.

Not alone

I love to read agony aunt columns. I find it a good way to evaluate where I stand in the grand scheme of things. In other words reading other people’s struggles is a way for me to tap on my shoulder and say “there, there, you are not the only one who is going through this” It helps me cope.

But until now, there was one thing I never found anyone writing about/asking advice. Last weekend , I found this in Courier mail.

older sister

My sisters are beautiful, rich. successful and well known in their fields of work. I remember going for shopping with my younger sisters to Suria KLCC. It was a few months after I gave birth to my son and I had already quit my job.  My sisters are a head taller than me and I was the size of the mini elephant after I gave birth. It was not just my roly poly stature that bothered me, As we walked in to MNG shop, with me pushing Yaya in her pram and my sister younger to me carrying my son, in the eyes of the shop attendants, I didn’t exist. They exclaimed “how cute” the baby is ( the one my sister is holding, which happens to be mine) and I was relegated to obscurity. I think, they assumed I was the maid.

And then the horror of all horror thing happened. My youngest sister asked me, “Chech, do you want to buy anything?”

I looked at the price tag and noticed that it was just a few cents short of the cost for a full tank petrol. Three tshirts = petrol for a trip to penang and back. That was not all. The shop attendants looked aghast, that a frumpy old woman like me wants to wear MNG and I felt like the fox in the Aesop’s fable, staring at this beautiful top  ( grapes) that was too small for me and I shook my head and said “No”.. My sisters bought clothes from that shop and paid the equivalent sum of my monthly mortgage that day. Before I had kids, I did wear designer outfits, once I had my children, my priorities changed, but it still bothered me..that I am such a loser.. I felt my sisters planned their life well, they knew what they wanted and got it.

My youngest sister’s 21st birthday was spend sky diving at Victoria falls..her birthday gift from her boy friend. My 21st birthday was spend trying to pass final MBBS exam without failing. I had internals that week and didn’t even think of celebrating my birthday.

Sometimes, I find life is very unfair and I am a colossal failure..

But then I think..”there there, you are not alone”

Mother’s day..

At about 5 AM yesterday, I heard the bead curtain in Yaya’s room rustling. Child 1 is up, I thought. Then I heard the foot steps going to my son’s room. I really wanted to know how this was going to pan out, cause the night before my son went to bed at 2 AM and he hates waking up in the morning..and after 3 hours of sleep, the person who is trying to wake him up need to be well armoured to survive the flying kicks..But nothing happened..no drama and no kung fu.I heard one set of foot steps going to the kitchen and another going to child number three’s bedroom.

The next hour, I heard a lot of mumbled conversations from the kitchen. I imagined the mess I need to clean up. Then I heard someone opening the pergola door..”dear lord, there goes my flowers” I thought.

Truth be told, I also made a silent wish that my children won’t douse the sandwich they are making for me with tomato ketchup.  First thing in the morning, I can’t eat half a bottle of ketchup, but I can’t break their heart by not eating what they loving make..so I crossed all my fingers and wished fervently !

The hardest thing to do is to lie down in bed and pretend to sleep. I really wanted to read or at least play words with friends. But I didn’t want to spoil the surprise..And so I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep..Every now and then I could hear the youngest coming to check if I am sleeping and I closed my eyes really tight and hoped I will pass the inspection..

Eventually, the moment arrived and all three came to my bedroom and jumped on my bed and wished me Happy mother’s day. I got up from my deep sleep, with all the shock and surprise I could muster, fluffed my pillow and sat up on my bed and got ready to eat my breakfast in bed.

“Mom, I set the table” Yaya said

I felt bereft of the one thing I looked forward to each mother’s day..even though the sandwich is full of ketchup, it is the breakfast in bed i looked forward to the most. I am a creature of habit and I wanted my breakfast in bed.  With a heavy heart I got up from my bed thinking that how fast my babies grew..and how everything is changing..

My house is in the shape of an inverted L with my bedroom on one end and the dining hall on the other end, and as I walked to the dining hall, I passed by the kitchen, I was expecting to see flour on the floor, meassuring cups strewn every where, milk bottle kept opened etc..and I was suprised to see that my kitchen looked exactly as I left it the night before.. What is going on, I asked myself.

This is what I saw on the dining table.


high teaMy kids organized a high tea for me..Yaya baked the scones, my son made my favourite egg salad sandwich and baby made my favourite cucumber sandwich. They bought the cupcakes and lemon slices from coles and smuggled it home when I was away.

They used my fine china..the cycle like thing at the back of the photo is my mother’s day gift..it is a plant stand. The tea pot that is hiding behind the cake tray is what Yaya gave me two years ago. Flower vase on the right of the cake tray is filled with Chrysanthemum flowers from my garden ( plant was given to me last mother’s day and I haven’t killed it yet)

And to prove that I no longer can pout my lips and show a very sad face to get what I want because it is my special day, Yaya gave me this card.

Yaya's card

She didn’t clean her room, but that is OK..I had the best mother’s day ever..

Stereotype !

I grew up learning that one of the most important part of being an Indian is to respect my teachers. After all it was said that matha, pitha, guru, daivam (father, mother, teacher and then God). As a child growing up in a staunch Syrian Christian family, it was really shocking to accept that my teachers were more important than God himself. But I had to and my teachers were almost like god to me.

I remember going to Chengannur house with my father and as we were walking on the bund road, Appa noticed his teacher walking towards us. Appa, stopped walking, unfolded his mundu, held my hand firmly and told me to behave and then moved to the side of the road. This particular bund road was wide enough for a bullock cart, but still my father stood to the side. His teacher was a very old man and yet he wielded such a tremendous power..to make a 6 foot 2 tall guy to stand like a little lamb ! Appa greeted the teacher the traditional way by folding his hand and said “namaskaram, sir”

I can still see the joy in the teacher’s eyes. And they talked, not like friends, but as a teacher and student. After we said good bye to the teacher, as we walked home, my father told me about how strict this teacher used to be and how many times he caned my father. I was 6 years old and I never understood then how you could respect someone who physically hurt you. But my father did. He even paid for his teacher’s medical bill another time when we went home.

A few weeks after we moved to Canada, the school had a Pyjama day, where the students came to school in their Pyjamas. I wasn’t sure, how to handle that, so I packed spare clothes for Yaya in her school bag for that ‘just in case’ scenario. But the biggest surprise was, as we entered the school  we were greeted by the principal..and he was in his pyjamas. It was such a shock for me..Until then, the teachers in my life occupied a space that was bit above human. No teacher of mine would ever wear pyjamas to school.. even if it is a pyjama day.

Yesterday, Yaya had musical at school and halfway through, the Principal and the teachers came to the stage dressed like rock stars. The principal wore skin tight leather jeans, wig etc and did a gangnam style dance. She is in her 60’s. ( I swear)

I am actually very confused..Why is it that my teachers never did anything different?

Keshavan !!

I was making  pancake for school lunch this morning and while spreading butter on the hot pancake, I ended up thinking about my maternal grandmother. My grandmothers from either side differed greatly even though both were strong willed and extremely stubborn ! Both were very good cooks, however it was my maternal grandmother who loved to cook all sort of things. We always had a standard menu in Chengannur house consisting of fish/meat curry, thoran and moru where as my maternal grandmother loved to cook pasta and noodles.

Souring milk to make butter was considered a waste in chengannur house, as milk was to be used only to make coffee or yogurt and any excess was to be sold.  whereas my maternal grandmother loved to make butter at home because she used the butter to bake cakes..(cake was considered a luxury in chengannur house!)

My earliest memory of my maternal grandmother is  of me sitting on the kitchen floor, which I wasn’t allowed to do normally as only servants sat on the floor. But in this particular occasion, I was allowed to sit on the floor as my grandmother was worried that I would fall down from the bench while she the churned butter. ( perhaps, she knew that I never sat still and she must have been more concerned about the pot than me!) The pot that held the soured milk didn’t have a flat bottom and to prevent it from toppling over, Ammachi kept it on top of a ring made of coir. At some stage, there was a rope holding the pot, but I can’t remember how it was tied. The reason I liked sitting on the floor was because,every now and then Ammachi would stop churning and scoop a bit of butter with her fingers and give me to lick. Her butter churner was plastic and I think it would have been a red colour one when she bought it. Over the years, it faded and became a very pale pink colour paddle and the handle was very oily.. after she finished churning the butter, I got to lick the paddle clean ! But it wasn’t just the butter that made me cherish those moments. It was the songs. Ammachi always sang songs while she was cooking. My favourite was

Alappuzhakkaran Keshavan Angiley,

enikkoru kudam thoda venam..

neram velukkumbol, muttam adikkumbol

koode adikkana thoda venam..

ammayi ammayum, njanum pinagnumbol,

koode pinangunna thoda venam..

This was a very long song.. I don’t even know if thoda was the right word..It is meant to be the huge/heavy   earrings older Malayalee women used to wear in the early part of 20th century that used to make the ear lobes stretch and touch the shoulder ! It was supposed to be very fashionable at that time.  I remember my great grandmother with a huge hole in her ear. I don’t remember if she wore the thoda all the time because I only met her once and I must have been about 3 or 4 years old and she wasn’t wearing a thoda then. I do remember seeing the thoda in my grandmother’s jewellery box years later and the places where the gold was worn off, you could see the black lead filling. I assume eventually the thoda was melted and made in to something else.

So, does any of you know the Keshavan angiley song? I have asked so many of my family members, none of them remember the song..


I first saw him last year when I was at my son’s basketball training. He is tall and handsome. ( shocking, I know.. I am 42 and am not supposed to look at guys any more, let alone admit that he is hot !)

What really fascinated me was the fact that he always joined and played the game along with his son and his team mates. Normally, parents like yours truly, stand by the side and watch.

This year, he is my son’s team manager. He is the one who cheers for my son and he knows how many goals my son scored. He brings lollies and juice for the kids after the game. After the game, I always see the father and son walking towards their car. They are always laughing.

Meanwhile, Yaya’s team manager has no idea even the names of the players in her team. She actually disappears as soon as she handed in the t shirts to the kids and paid the game fees. She sits in her car and read instead of cheering. At least she could cheer for her own daughter !She never brings lollies or drinks.

But the society thinks, Yaya’s team manager is better. She can marry anyone she wants..she can have any number of kids..It is all good. For you see, Yaya’s team manager isn’t gay, but my son’s team manager is.

I am Yaya’s team manager and I feel sad that even now we judge a person according to their sexual orientation.

Circles !

My cousin once told me about an incident that happened 45 years ago and how he can never forgive his father. His dad was to pick him up after choir practice, which he forgot. My cousin waited and waited for his father to come and pick him up. His father waited for him at home and was getting angrier by the minute when his son didn’t return home on time. ( I am sure, he must have panicked too) Eventually he remembered that he was supposed to pick his son up from the church and instead of apologizing, he slapped his 15 year old son in front of the whole congregation who were in the church for the evening Qurbana. According to the father, the son should have used his common sense and taken the bus home instead of waiting. My cousin is 60. His father is in his mid 80’s. Father obviously misses his son and wants to have some sort of relationship with his only son. But the son won’t.

Yesterday was a really tough day for me. I was running late and had so many errands to.

When I picked Yaya up, she asked “mom, can we please go to the library, I have no more books to read” I needed to get back home, cook dinner and also drop my son for his badminton. I felt sorry for Yaya and decided to quickly go to the mall where the library is and thought I will pick up something as a mother’s day gift for my neighbour. I told Yaya, I will meet her at the library. I have been in Australia for more than 3 years and I still haven’t gotten used to the shops closing at 6 pm. By the time I walked in to the shops, they were already closing and I cursed and swore at my decision to live here! Then I thought, Yaya might be hungry and I will buy her something to eat from the food court and I called her mobile wanting to know what she would like to eat..She wasn’t picking up. I send a text, no reply. I tried again and again. There was no response. Ideally, there should be a rational explanation..but Yaya and her phone are inseparable and she keeps her libary card inside the phone case. Panic was beginning to rise in my belly. I ran back to the library..only to find that library too closes at 6. I knocked at the glass door till one of the library staff opened the door and She said, they have already checked the library before closing, there is no one but the staff inside the library. I could see Daniel Morcombe event happening right in front of my own eyes..I felt so sick that I thought I was going to vomit. Where was I going to find my child in a 4 storey mall with most of the shops already closed? I ran back to the car park to see if she is waiting for me there..in between I called her mobile a million times. Still no answer. I went back to mall and I saw my daughter coming up the elevator.

I understood the panic my mother felt, when I didn’t return home on time after my french lesson. I missed the usual bus, because the driver didn’t stop and had to wait an hour to get the next one. It was time before mobile phones and I couldn’t let my mother know what was happening.

In my mother’s case, when she saw me alighting from the bus,she slapped me in front of all those people ( some were parents of my classmates) who were waiting for the bus asking me “evidarunnedi nee ethrem neram?” ( where were you until now?)

I wanted to bite Yaya’s head off. I was that mad, more so because it was she who asked me ” where were you?” She forgot to take her phone and the library card from the car, so she was walking around the mall looking for me ! We both glared at each other. But I didn’t hit her.I didn’t see the need for it.

Writing about the past doesn’t help me.. I know that. but I do know that, I have the power to change my children’s life.. I don’t have to be like my cousin’s father or like my mother. I can make a difference.


Sho !

i have been away from Kerala for so long that I have forgotten the regional changes in Malayalam language. Sho ! is either Kottayam or Chengannur version, where you sit down somewhere with your chin resting on your palm and sigh deepily and say “sho”, not shoo, where you shoo away the birds, sho is a simple word that says a lot more than a single syllable sound!

It all started when I was in grade 6. I love plants and flowers and with my uncanny ability to kill them. Amma banished me from her garden. Amma used to have Cannas ( she even had double colour cannas), gerberas, wood rose,gladiom kliom kliom etc in her garden. I too wanted a garden, but growing flowering plants proved to be a big challenge, so I resorted to Cactus. I filled empty Nutrigen tins with sand/gravel and grew cactus that I had to beg and collect from  cousins neighbours etc. They actually survived ! ( eventually the tins rusted and I left home). It was during one of those begging trips to collect new cactus that I found the most amazing plant in my cousin’s garden. Fleshy leaves and absolute symmetry, a plant that actually looks like a flower also known as Hens and Chicks..I could almost see my dreams come true, a garden with flowers !.. My cousin being the ever generous one , gave me a microscopic sized baby plant and under my tender loving care, it eventually grew to the normal size. It was my pride and joy and it needed a prominent place. I kept it on top of the gate post. So, everyone who walked up and down the road would see my plant.

Idiot..I called myself that when I found an empty pot one evening after coming back from school. Someone kindly stole my plant.

The next time I saw hens and chicks was in Canada and I had a huge pot of hens and chicks and even  under a foot deep snow, it survived !

Coming to Australia was really an eye opener for me. I am on a mission to collect  ( and kill) succulents. I have so many different varieties in my garden.

Last Saturday, I couldn’t find a car park anywhere near the basket ball court and had to park in a residential area. After the game, as I walked back towards my car, I noticed an unusual variety of succulents growing in front of one of the houses.

If you have never had an out of body experience, read on..

My daughter had already reached the car and was looking at me annoyed, she was not too happy to walk all the way from the court, she was tired and was waiting for me to press the remote and open the car. I was still a bit away from the signal range. The normal Sarah, would just walk quickly towards her car and unlock it. but this particular one, looked left and right, quickly walked back to the house where she saw the succulent and pulled one out and then walked towards her car..

The look on my daughter’s face..it was exactly the same I had, each time my mother stole a plant. Sho !

ps. Not nutrigen, that was Yaya’s favourite drink . It was nutramul, cheaper version of  bournvita