Where are you?

When I started my blog, Yaya was 7, Toothless was 5 and baby was 3. We lived in a small 2 bedroom basement suite in Vancouver. Now they are 15, 13 and 11 and we live in Brisbane. My journey from then to now is there in the blog and many of you have been with me from the time I started the blog.

They say people come to your life for a reason and stat for a season. Still there are people I have known through my blog and haven’t heard from them for a while.

First would be Starrynights. Her name is either Lalitha or Latha. Every time I read her comment on my blog, I felt a connection with her..Her last post on her blog was about a CT scan and she was hoping for a normal report and that was years ago. I keep thinking about her and wondering if she is alright.

Then there is Inji pennu..Most Mallu bloggers would know the trials and tribulations she had gone through as blogger.Then she vanished. For a brief period she had an English blog and there was an article about a college shooting ( probably Virginia Tech) and she mentioned how she looked at the list of dead to see if there were any Indians for which someone left a nasty comment saying so many kids died in that shooting and you worry about Indians ( something similar). The funny thing is, every time there is a  natural calamity or man made disaster, I always look for Indian names among the dead. It is an inherent behaviour that has no rationality whatsoever. And every single time I find myself doing that, I think about Inji pennu.

Anitha from my treasures, my pleasures. The one food blog that I love absolutely and I still go through her blog every now and then. I have even written to her cousin @ Marias menus asking about What happened to Anitha. So far no luck.

I hate going through my old blog posts. I already suffer with my amazing memory and if I read what I write, then I feel the pain even more. ( I know, I don’t make any sense). I can’t remember your name. You had a good grasp of English and you used to comment frequently in the first few years. You were the first to understand why I was very insecure when it came to my English grammar and spelling and you actually wrote a comment about that.

Then there was Jiby, dew drops, thanu’s rambling, Nilu, Dhanush, Q8techdrive, YASJ, Visithra. Except for Nilu, no idea where the rest have gone..

But you are all thought of fondly and it was a pleasure knowing all of you. Do drop a line if you are still reading my blog. daofto at gmail dot com.

I am looking forward to spending my first weekend without any basketball games…Imagine beautiful Spring days..clear blue skies, garden in full bloom.(.My Chinese star jasmine is so full of flowers that you can hardly see the leaves) a trip to the beach, few good books and few bottles of red.. It is all good.

Wishing you all a great weekend..

Mother tongue

There was a group of guys named Daddy 1, daddy 2 etc in the medical college. They have been studying medicine for a while and are considerably older than the ‘normal’ students. Daddy 3 has been doing medicine for well over 10 years and no one knows how he managed to get the admission. Every year he came to the college a week before the exams ( apparently, no one in his family knew that he didn’t pass medicine and he was already working as a doctor in a clinic set up by his father in their village..that was the rumour, I don’t know if that was true or not!) and his roll number was before mine. We were all waiting for our Anatomy viva and it was daddy 3’s turn. Obviously he didn’t know the answer to any of the questions and the examiner was getting frustrated with him. Finally the examiner asked : What is your mother tongue?” for which daddy 3 replied ” sir, I have never seen my mother’s tongue”

Jokes aside, today I want to talk about mother tongue. A friend, whose daughter is in the same grade as Yaya is frantically looking for an English tutor, because of poor grades. ( it doesn’t help that Yaya’s grades are better) Her daughter is very smart, but unlike primary school, teachers in high school expects a lot more from kids and her report/assignments do not reflect her intelligence.

Mother is a firm believer of cultural roots and mother tongue and insisted that they only speak their mother tongue at home and the child was taught to read and write their mother tongue at home and learned English as ESL at school even though she is born here.

None of my children speak their mother tongue. They don’t identify themselves as Indians either. I would have loved to see my daughters wearing silk pavada, lots of glass bangles in their hand and them having beautiful long hair adorned with jasmine flowers, or my son wearing kasavu mundu.. If I really wanted that, then I should have stayed back in Kerala. It would have helped them tremendously, if they knew their mother tongue and we lived in Kerala. There would never be any cultural shock for them. But what is the point in them learning their mother tongue, if they are never going to live in Kerala? How would the Continuation of language and culture benefits them? It is not a crime against humanity that my children don’t identify themselves as Malayalees.

Learning a language doesn’t give you a cultural connection. I speak fluent French and Mandarin, that doesn’t make me Chinese or French. My cousins in Mumbai only speak in Hindi. Apparently it is really fashionable among the Mumbai mallu crowd to speak only in Hindi, but they are still Hindi speaking mallus.

If you are living outside India and are raising your children there, what are the chances that your children would want to go back to India and live?  Besides, you can always learn a language anytime in your life, but wouldn’t it be much easier for your children that they are proficient in English?


The first time I met her was 4 years ago when I attended a fundraiser. Her brother is an accomplished cellist and was walking on to the stage to play the cello. She ran across the aisle, screaming at the top of her voice. Everyone was looking at her, that didn’t bother her. She was screaming and screaming and saying something totally incoherent and only stopped when her brother kept the cello on the stand, came down from the stage, held her hand and walked to where their parents were sitting.  Lovingly he patted her hair, said something to her and she nodded her head. He went back to the stage and played the cello. He was 12 years old then and she must have been 8.

Most of my friends think that I am totally nuts for driving long distance to eat good food. I think, you will understand this quest for good food if you are a Malaysian   When my children were little, I used to drive from KL to port Klang to eat seafood dinner. ( 40 km one way) My son loved to eat crab and a restaurant there served the best Singapore Crab ! There were plenty of seafood restaurants within walking distance from my home, but I still preferred to drive to all the way to Port Klang to get the best !

There is a Chinese restaurant ( Lucky Corner ) in Oxley that serve the best Char Kway teow. The place is tiny, looks run down, but the food is exceptionally good. So, even though it is very far away from my home, I still drive all the way there to eat Char Kway teow. I was surprised to see her family there. Apparently, I am not the only crazy one who drives such a long distance to eat good food.

While waiting for my food, this is what I saw. She mumbled something incoherent, her brother gave her pieces of chicken from his plate. Another mumble, he filled her glass with water. then she screamed and ran out of the restaurant, her  brother got up to get the toilet keys from the staff and run after her. When they came back, he pulled the chair out for his sister, made sure she is comfortable before sitting down to eat his meal. In the half an hour they were at the restaurant, she ran out thrice, each time her brother ran after her to take her to the toilet or even just to watch the cars. Not once he got mad at her.

Pottan surely had a real name, but I don’t know what it is. He lived next door to my mother’s ancestral home. I heard him, even before I met him. Amma’s ancestral home was at the bottom of a hill and as  we  got off the bus and walked down the road to her home, you could hear Pottan’s cry. It was not like any cry I have ever heard in my life. It felt like someone inside Pottan is screaming to get out. All through my childhood, I knew the existence of Pottan by hearing his screaming. I also knew Pottan was mad and his family chained him to the wall at home all day. I have heard his mother and his brothers cursing him and  thrashing him when his screaming got louder.

I was in the 10th standard when I actually met him for the first time. He was chained to the coconut tree and was given a spade to dig around the tree. Scrawny looking man with sunken eyes and his  ribs were sticking out. He saw me and mumbled something. He could hardly lift the spade. His brother was sitting outside in a cane easy chair and when he saw that Pottan is not doing his work, he got up from his chair, walked to where Pottan was chained and slapped him hard. I ran inside the house and even then I could hear the brother screaming at  him and threatening  him with bodily harm, if he stopped digging. Years later, when I read Nazi history and saw the photos of the prisoners of war, I was not shocked, for I had seen a human being in worst form in my own hometown.  Everyone knew what was going on in that house. Everyone kept quiet. Human rights are only for those who can fight.

What happened to Pottan after that is totally hearsay. Apparently someone forgot to lock him up one day and he escaped. Unfortunately, some neighbour saw him running away and called his brother..he was caught and beaten. No one has seen him after that.

There is no moral of the story here..when I heard the little girl screaming and running out of the restaurant, I remembered Pottan and felt his story should be told.

the best

Few days ago, Yaya came back from school and gave me a hug and said ” guess what mom?”

I do hate the guess what mom scenes, especially the ones that follows a hug. Usually, the hug is a pre-emptive strike and I imagined all sorts of trouble that she could be in.

“What?” I asked

“My friends and I were talking about mothers today and everyone agreed that I have the best mother on planet earth”

I was a bit surprised to hear that and I looked at her to see, if she buttering me up to get something from me. She didn’t look like she was joking.


“Yup, all my friends adore you and think you are the best”

When I was expecting Yaya, I hoped I would be the mother I had hoped I would have, the one who is understanding, loving and supportive. I also wanted to stop the cycle of abuse. It takes a lot to undo the damage my mother inflicted on me and I know I will always have the scars. It feels good knowing that I didn’t turn out to be like my mother and that, even though I come from the most dysfunctional family on earth, I am still the best mother.

Double standard.

As I wrote sometime before, my father stopped financially supporting me when I completed 3 rd year Medicine and I didn’t even have money to pay mess bill and survived on bread and bananas. However, lack of money wasn’t an impediment for my style or fashion. I bought cheap fabric whenever there was a Khadi exhibition and got the tailors in the rural areas who charges very little to stitch my salwars. Often, I would wait at the shop while the tailor was cutting the fabric, not because I was worried that he would steal the fabric, but because I wanted my salwars to have looooooow neck, especially at the back because no one ( ie professors) would see the low neck and get scandalized because it is covered by my lab coat, but I didn’t need to wear something different to scandalize my friends and foes when I wore the same salwar for parties. Win win situation if I must say !

The hardest part was to get the tailor to cut it low. He himself was scandalized and refused. The first time, I told him, I want the back to be cut in a tear shape with strings attached that I could tie and hold it in shape. My idea was a huge tear shaped opening in the back, what I got was a tiny opening that closed automatically when you tied it, so I ended up waiting at the shop to make sure that the tailor cut it the way I want. Anyway, long story short, all the good girls from good family were totally scandalized seeing my outfits and I looked like a good girl from a good family only when I wore my lab coat.

I do have a good figure even now and I don’t wear anything that hides my figure !

Yaya is getting the academic award this year and wants something “totally cool” to wear when she goes up the stage to collect her award. I am so fine with that.

She plans everything in advance and asked me if I would take her for “academic award dress shopping” I am so fine with that too and took her for shopping.

“What do you think?” She took a dress from the rack and showed me. It looked beautiful, tiny white and pink flowers in navy blue silk fabric..

“Very Pretty” I said

“Shall I try it on?” she asked.

“Sure” I said.

She wore the dress and walked to where I was standing. My first instinct was to grab a jumper from the nearest rack and ask her to wear it over the dress.

“So?” She asked, giving me a full 360 degree turn.

“the neck is too low” I replied. I actually can’t believe I said that.

“Mom” She said, It sounded so much as if she called me a  hypocrite.

“It is true” I said.

“Mom, do you like the dress?” She asked.

The truth is, she looked gorgeous..

We bought the dress..but I, who wears low neck dresses without any qualms, am not happy. This is nothing but double standard.


Right round like a record.

There is a time in every child’s life when they start to identify and like certain genre of music. Yaya started her love of music with the song Black horse and Cherry tree by KT Tunstall. She was in grade 2 then and played that song over and over.

My son’s music discovery started with Owl city’s fireflies. He played that song over and over for months

When baby was 4 years old, she sang “you spin me right round” by Dead or Alive all the time.

She was in to Dora at that time and even had Dora hair style. I remember her wearing her favourite purple colour Dora shorts and tee shirt and sitting on the floor in the living room, colouring yet another dora colouring page and singing “You spin me right round baby” over and over. It was a song from my youth and I felt a connection between me and her.

Yesterday, as we were driving back home the radio station had songs from the 80’s and the DJ played “you spin right round” I looked at baby and said ” Do you remember the song?”

She had no idea. She doesn’t even remember singing it. Yaya said from the back of the car ” I remember baby singing it all the time Mama, we found that song in Alvin and the Chipmunks and she was crazy for it.”

I know not everyone is like me and Yaya who can remember everything. I know baby is normal..Yet I feel sad..that she doesn’t remember it.

Away until Monday

Have a jolly good weekend




empowering your children

Last Saturday morning, I was laying down in my bed and reading when my youngest walked in to my room holding a steaming cup of tea in her hand.

“Good morning Mama, I made you tea” She said.

I can honestly tell you, it was perfectly brewed with the right amount of milk and sugar.

“So?” She asked

“Absolutely perfect” I replied. and  very casually  she mentioned “By the way, I spilled some sugar on the counter, but I cleaned it”

But the trip to this perfectly brewed cup of tea was not something that happened overnight.

In the beginning, we used to have pretend tea party with those tiny plastic teapot and cups, then we had cold watered down tea and then in the last few years I drank tons of tea with too much milk, too much sugar and sometimes too strong.

As a child/teenager, I only cooked when my mom wasn’t home, because I couldn’t stand her criticism. She expected perfection, even though I have had no experience in cooking and she was a lousy cook herself. I would have loved to make a cup of coffee for her when she came home from work. The only time I ever made coffee for her was when she was down with flu and even then she  berated me and asked ” ethu chappi ( chaya + kappi) ano atho otta vellam  ano? ( is this coffee or did you just grab a cup of drain water because what I made only looked like coffee) And if I spilled a microscopic portion of sugar, all hell would have broken loose and my mom  would have chanted the rest of the day “kashu marathel alledi valarunney” ( money doesn’t grow on trees)

I believe it is my job to empower my children. It is unreasonable to expect a child to do everything perfect. I am a perfectionist. My son used to make so much spelling and grammatical mistakes when he was in grade 1 and 2 and it used to bother me a lot. I will never forget his teacher telling me ” he has a life time to learn, don’t fret the small things”. Today, he is giving a talk at his school. He only told me that as he was leaving home this morning. I do not know the topic and I don’t even know what it is about and I don’t think he wrote a speech. I have a feeling he is going to wing it like he did last weekend  when he gave a talk at a local university about his robot. He was the youngest speaker. Ideally, I would have loved to sit with him and make him write his speech, after all he was talking in front of academia. But I didn’t, because he is only 13 and he doesn’t need to talk like a 42 year old.. He has a lifetime to learn..

I saw this article and thought I would share it here

Empowering children ( http://blogs.kidspot.com.au/villagevoices/how-to-help-your-kids-own-their-life-from-the-very-start/)


Funny thing happened on my way home.

Few days ago, Yaya and her friends decided to join the Race around Ekka film competition and was busy filming till night. I was supposed to pick her up from her friend’s place at 8, but they got delayed.

Meanwhile, I am hoping to run the Bridge to Brisbane and thought I will go for a cross country run around my neighbourhood. A friend of mine had drawn the course for me working out the distance, incline, decline etc..all in the hope of getting me in to shape.  I had this image of me as well toned, fit and active woman. The truth is severely different. 10 minutes after my run, my legs chose not to move and every second after that was a struggle. I walked, ran a few cms, back to walk and  ended up cursing my own delusions… I wished I had taken my phone, so at least I could have called a taxi back home.

By the time I got home I was exhausted.

I don’t know about others, but I feel very sleepy after a strenuous exercise. At 8 pm, I got a txt from my child telling me, they are running late and could I please pick her up at 10.15?.

I struggled to keep awake. At 9.40, I was feeling tired and drowsy, but still had to drive to Yaya’s friend’s place to pick her up. As I couldn’t leave the younger two at home alone, I had to take them with me. Baby was already sleeping and I had to drag/carry her to the car, wishing they all stayed young and small, so at least I could carry them.

Yaya’s friend lives in a very posh area of Brisbane with really snotty neighbours who write nasty letters to them for things like, if the mother hung clothes to dry on her clothes line on Christmas day. Apparently hanging your clothes to dry, that too on Christmas day bring down the value of the properties in the neighbourhood. ( in other words, you are really cheap to use the free sunshine and because it was your decision to live in a posh area and then the least you can do is to use the drier even if the temp outside is 37 degrees)

My car headlights are automatic and shuts off when I open the car door. I didn’t want them to get another letter because the light and engine was on while I was waiting for Yaya or that  I was slamming the car door in the middle of the night, so I turned off the engine and manually switched off the light.

Yaya got in to the car, I drove back home, adding the odd numbers from 1 to 30, so I won’t sleep off. Baby was sitting in the front seat, snoring away to glory and her snoring was making me even more sleepy. It was then that I noticed the flashing lights behind my car. “Oh my god, Ambulance, how long has it been behind my car, oh my god, I didn’t give way and am now I am responsible for someone not getting the care they needed on time” I thought.

I quickly moved to the left lane. Few seconds later, the blinking blue and red lights were behind me again and this time there were more lights, like floodlights. I also noticed that this particular ambulance was not very big and there was no sound. It took me a few seconds to understand that it wasn’t an ambulance, but a cop and it was for me.

I am one more offence away from losing my license. My hands were shaking. I have never been pulled over in the past 20 years of driving. ( I only get love(ly) letters from  the police with a photo of my beautiful car and the speed I was going when  they lovingly and very kindly took that photo)

I got in to the side line and waited. I didn’t even know the protocol as to what to do when the cops pull you over. I frantically ( mentally) traced back my driving up to the time I got pulled over. I was sure I didn’t run the red light, go above the speed limit etc. By now all three of my kids were awake and they all looked at me accusingly

“What did you do mom?” Yaya asked.

“Shut up” I replied. How do I know what I did?

The cop got out of the patrol car, I could see the drivers that are driving by giving me the same dirty look I used to give those who got pulled over by cops.

“license please” he demanded. I carry my license in a little punch along with my car keys, so even if I change my handbag ( to match my clothes of course 🙂 ), I don’t have to worry about not taking my license. I tried to pull the car key out, but it was stuck. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking and I was fumbling. The cop looked impatient and I also realized what an Impression I was giving the cop. Here I am, in my ( sexy) pyjamas ( I was planning to straight go to bed when I got back home and thought who is going to see me in the middle of the night), looking pretty dishevelled and fumbling with the car keys. Slowly realization came to me that in my hurry to pull over and park, I forgot to disengage the gear and until I do that, the keys stay in place. Slowly I disengaged the gear, got the key out and took out the license. The cop flipped my license back and forth and then very kindly told me “You have been pulled over for RBT ( random breath test) because you are driving without your lights on”

I could hear Yaya trying to control her laughter..of course, she can go and tell her friends the next day how her mom decided to drive in the middle of the night without headlights and got caught by the cop.

I never drink and drive, so the RBT was negative..Though only idiots drive without the lights at night time, it still isn’t an offence, so the cop let me go.

But the good thing was, I was wide awake the drive back home..and I know I will never drive without the lights on ever.

Ah ! My son.

I send hot chocolate in a coffee mug for my kids to take it to school during  winter time and keep it ready on the kitchen counter. As they leave home, my children would take their respective cups. Few days ago, Yaya stole a few sips from her brother’s cup and forgot to close the spout. My son didn’t check and chucked the cup in his school bag.By the time he walked to the bus stop, there was hot chocolate everywhere. He had tears in his eyes when he came back home with hot chocolate dripping down his bag, soaking his books and clothes. But he was more sad that he missed the bus all his mates would be in. I offered to drive him to the nearest major junction knowing that  the bus stops at every stop before the junction, so if I drove him there,he would be able to catch the same bus.

He quickly changed his clothes and I gave him a spare bag to put his books and drove him to the nearest major junction.

My neighbour was also travelling in the same bus. He called me to say What happened when my son got in the bus..

The bus was crowded..usual bunch of students and office workers..My son, after his usual Rajnikanth style of touching the go card  to the reader by flipping the wallet and uttering “wapao”, walks to where his sister is sitting, looked at her. grinning widely. asked her “Missed me?”

Yaya apparently was speechless and gave him her famous death stare.

Last evening I made tacos and mince and my son took a huge serving of mince. Seeing the amount of mince in his plate Yaya very sarcastically told him “That much of mince can feed an army”

Without missing a beat my son replied “yeah, army of ants for sure”

Yaya warned him that one of these days she will get him, for which he replied “Yeah, then we will have bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner”

Neiher I nor Yaya got that joke, so we looked at him for explanation..

“The day she gets me  is the day pigs will fly and we will get free bacon” He explained..

Yaya gave him more death stares..

As for me, I am still laughing…