Ah, the sight !

My son’s bedroom is next to the living room and anytime I have a visitor, the first thing I do is to close the door to his room, so no one sees the mess. Anything that you can think of can be found on the floor of his room. I have tried everything to get him to clean his room. Nothing worked.

Few weeks ago Yaya came to me holding her piggy bank and asking me if I could take her to the bank. She saved the 2.50$ that I give her every Friday for tuck shop and wanted to deposit the 60$ in to her bank account. Yaya is saving money for her gap year. It didn’t occur to my son until that moment that he too would have had 60$, if he didn’t spend the 2.50$ I gave him.

So I did what any smart mom would do. I offered  25$ each week  to whoever is keeping their room very tidy. Yaya decided to take up my offer. ( She also found a cockroach in her room and I convinced her that cockroach only lives in messy places. She is terrified of bugs, so that was another reason she decided to take up the offer)

On Saturday, while they were eating their breakfast, ceremoniously I gave Yaya her 25$, making sure my son saw the 25$…And the look on my son’s face was priceless. Needless to say, the past 4 days, his room is very clean. Nothing on the floor ( I told them, I will deduct a dollar for each item on the floor and 5 deductions = automatic disqualification).

I was never in to monetary rewards for good behaviour. But sometimes you got to do what you have to do. ( I  make regular deposit in to their account every month, so technically the 25$ is from that)


Yesterday, as I was driving home with the older two after their basketball practice, out of the blue Yaya asked ” Mom, what if I want to marry a Muslim boy?”

The last time, the same topic came up for discussion and her brother was the interviewer, I didn’t handle the issue well. After all, I am ( ok la not any more, so was is more appropriate) a Malaysian and I have seen the effects of non Muslim marrying a Muslim.  And the effect on their non Muslim children in the first marriage. ( http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/malaysia-court-dismisses-conversion-of-three-hindu-children-to-islam-397160) As I wrote in an earlier post, someone I know who married a muslim girl  was not allowed to attend his mother’s ( suriani Kristiani) funeral by his wife’s family.

But then I thought about it and felt, I am being unreasonable.

So this is what I told Yaya.

Ideally, I would like to have a son in law who will eat what I cook and I will not be very happy to change the menu to suit one person when the rest of the family consume non halal food. I also don’t know how you will cope wearing burqa, if the boy is an orthodox Muslim. However, all that is not important, what is really important is for you to know that from the day I gave birth to you, to my final breath, you will always be my daughter. It will not change because of whom you married. If you are willing to change who you are because you love someone, then perhaps, you found the right guy..who is worth changing for. And I will stand by you, because at the end of the day, it is your happiness that matters the most.

I do not deny that a part of me wanted to scream and say, please, please, please don’t marry a muslim boy…but the sensible one in my head kept saying “your child has the right to live with anyone she wants to”


Empty nest

My youngest is away on a school camp. The same camp older two went when they were in grade 6.

I am not sure what is with mothers and their youngest child..When Yaya went to the camp, I missed her terribly, same with my son. But with baby, it is not just missing her,I feel so lost, like a part of me is missing. Although the older two are home and are their usual self, my house is so quiet. No one is there to talk to me in Italian accent.. No one is taking an hour long shower and I can’t complain that someone is emptying the pacific ocean and killing all the whales. There aren’t a million drinking glasses in the sink. ( She takes a new glass every time she wants a drink, the concept of washing a used glass instead of taking a new one each time has skipped her completely) No one is singing all the latest  songs at the top of her voice. I miss sitting outside with her at night to watch the sky, especially the next few days. ( if you are in Southern hemisphere, you will notice the moon crescent is in the bottom like a U, not the usual C, shape because of the earth’s tilt and the light the moon receives from the sun)

6 years from now, my youngest will leave home and go to whichever country she is planning to study. When my children were little and the life I had known prior to having them vanished, I had promised myself that I will do all that I missed out  when they leave home. I was going to sail around the world, visit all the places I had wanted to visit, learn a new language..after all I am a firm believer of Gibran’s poem on children.. I have to let them fly out of my nest…But, if I can’t function a week without my children, how am I going to spend the rest of my life without them?


That is growing old gracefully.

I know my blog posts  always have something about my mother. It isn’t intentional, but that being said, I have gone through half of my life with my mother and have many issues that I need to deal with, so I won’t turn up like her.

One such issue was Amma’s fear of growing old. My mother started dyeing her hair when I was 10 years old. Initially she used a comb that had hair dye on it. Her hair looked like it was painted with matt black paint. Because she was always in a hurry and was not careful, she always had bits of hair dye on her forehead.  My mother Is very pretty, but with all the goshti  she was fond of doing, she looked horrible ( cream blouse with all her sarees, rat tail hair tied with thiruppan (false hair) in to a weird knot that she thought showed everyone that she has ‘thick’ hair, badly cracked heel adorned with bata slippers completed the picture).

I still have weigh the same weight I was  20 years ago.and am always impeccably dressed. I promised myself that I will never dress like my mother and that I will  grow old gracefully. Unfortunately, though I have the figure of a 20 year old, my hair is that of a  50 years old. The grey hair seems to have won the war and I look like an old crone. I love to style my hair in to a punk hair style ( lots and lots of hair gel, but the looks I get from Indian crowd is worth it) in the weekend and my hair was a really sad sight. There was only one solution to my problem. Hair Dye.

I thought I would start with Henna. My neighbour in Bangalore was an old Sindhi woman who loved using henna on her hair,  and her hair was orange colour !  I didn’t want my hair to be like hers. After a lot of trial and error to get a perfect shade, I finally found the recipe to perfect Henna colour.I use the natural henna (without PPD), mix it with a bit of water and few drops of eucalyptus oil ( essential oils are rich in Terpenes and react with the hennotannic acid in Henna to release the dye) in an old rusted cake tin, keep it aside for a day and then apply it on my hair. Wash after 3 hours using shampoo and then apply conditioner. I repeat the process every 2 weeks. I get a lovely shade of copper to dark brown and my hair looks like I have gone to a salon to apply highlight. I do not use tea/coffee/lemon juice etc in the henna mix.

So, yes I am still growing old gracefully.. albeit with highlights in my hair..


Are you kidding me?

When Yaya was in grade 3, one evening, She came running to me when I went to pick her up from school, holding a piece of paper in hand ” Mom, I got 49 out of 50 for maths”

Without thinking, I asked her “Why only 49? What mistake did you make? Did anyone else get 50?”

Have you ever watched the sky during a storm? Have you ever seen massive dark clouds fly straight over the sun and block it? In an instant the smile from my beautiful daughter’s face vanished and was replaced with a ugly frown and I realized I am turning out to be a typical Indian mom. What surprised me even more is the fact that I myself got plenty of mottas ( zero marks) and still expected perfect results from my child.

I realized that I made a huge mistake. What my child expected from me was something totally different. She wanted me to be happy that she did her best and accept that sometimes her best is 49/50, not 50/50. I also remembered my grandmother teaching me that there will always be someone better/smarter than me, just as there will always be someone not as smart as me.

It is very tempting to ask each time when my children tell me how many marks they got for the exams, Did anyone else get the same/better score? But I don’t, because my children are my pride and joy, I am happy for what they achieve and my joy  is not related  to someone else’s achievement.

Now that the older two are in high school and a lot of their projects are group work, I get to meet a lot of other parents. Parenting is a very competitive industry and often my children are used as a yardstick by other parents. Mother of one of my son’s classmate asked me recently what grade my son for the Science assignment. He got an A+. She said ” You know what, my son got a B and I was so mad at him and asked him “Are you kidding me?” And in the next sentence she said ” He did his assignment in the last minute and I didn’t have time to read it and correct it, I think that is the reason why he got a B”

I know there is no point trying to explain to her that my children do not always get an A. My son got a B for history in grade 7, Yaya got a C for history in grade 9. I am sure both of them got few other B’s over the years. Of course they are smart, but they are not perfect and I don’t expect a perfect score. I have not scolded them for getting a score less than A. What I expect from them is that they give their best in everything they do.

To this day, I haven’t edited any of their assignments. I won’t do it because it is not my assignment, it is theirs and if they don’t know to do it, then they better learn and do it. If I correct their work, then it is me who is writing it and it becomes my assignment. I don’t want them to get an A, because their mother is very smart, I want them to get an A, because they  took the time and effort to learn and did their work well..

Yaya’s assignments are all in Spanish, so I don’t get to read it even after  it is graded. My son will bring home the work he did and was corrected and graded each term before the term holidays and I go through them.. It is such a delight to read his assignments. I love the way he writes. Sometimes the teacher will not return the assignments because he/she wants to keep their work as a sample for the next batch and I will never get to see those assignments. My son finds my behaviour too intrusive if I asked for a copy of the work the teacher kept and we go on this merry go round “why do you want to read it? It is my assignment, what are you going to gain by reading what I wrote?”. so I stopped asking.

My point is this..Each child is unique. Your job as a parent is to encourage them, not to clone them to be a perfect child following others. And if you do follow others, accept that those children are also not perfect.

And “it” happened

When my children were little, every Christmas and  their birthday, I used to pay and get my friends to send my children gifts purportedly from their grandmother ( my mother). I couldn’t change my mother and get a new one and I couldn’t bear to see the envy my children had whenever their friends showed them the gifts they got from their grandparents. How do I answer the question, “Mama, how come our grandmother never sends us a card/gift?” I wanted to be honest and tell them that unfortunately, they got the worst grandmother on planet earth. I just couldn’t tell them that, though that was nothing but the truth. So even though my sister younger to me called me a bitch in  front of my children, I lied and convinced my kids that No, she didn’t say bitch, she said Witch. I played this one sided drama hoping I could protect my children from harm inflicted by the members of my own family. To this day, I have never spoken evil about my family members in front of my children. I didn’t want my kids to judge them through my eyes. I may not get along with my mother and sisters, but that shouldn’t be a hindrance to my children having a relationship with my family.

My mother played this wonderful game called “always remember, you only have each other, your father’s side, everyone is like a ? palakkuru. ( I have never seen a palakkuru, apparently the seeds face opposite to each other, in other words no togetherness) Amma herself will instigate a fight, like the time I came back from Dubai after meeting my father. I had internal exam that day, so I didn’t have time to open my bag and give Amma the loot I got for my older sister. I told Amma very clearly that I will come back in the evening after my exams and give the stuff. Amma phoned my sister while I was away and together, they both went through my bag and took whatever caught their fancy, including stuff I bought for myself. I was just so mad when I came back to find that my sister took everything that I got and my mother showed such a sad face and told  me ” Pottey, saram illa, ninety chechy alley aval, ningalkku ningal mathremey ullu, ariyamallo, appanttey veettu kar palakkuru mathiri anenennu.. ( never mind, your sister taking all your stuff isn’t a big deal, after all she is your sister and you should never forget, how your father’s family don’t get along ) You need to be in my place at that moment to understand the unfairness of it all and how much I wanted to kill my mother for the way she did things. Was I not her child? Did I not tell her that I will come back and give chechy her stuff? The worst part is, my sister never ever had any relationship with us at that time and even then I didn’t forget that she is still my sister and even bought her a thermos lunch box, so she could take hot lunch to work.

Although I know for sure that my children only have me and each other in this world, I was determined not to play the same game Amma played. After Amma hid in the room on Yaya’s birthday and the way she was treating me, my children understood what my mother actually is capable of and I stopped sending gifts to them on my mother’s behalf. But, I still didn’t say a single bad word about my mother to them.

The past few weeks have been hectic here with the kids having their third term assignments and exams. General academic award is already decided ( you need 5 individual A’s for Yaya and 8 A’s for my son), but not the individual medal for the subjects. Three of Yaya’s classmates are fighting for the same medal and Yaya is one point ahead. Obviously she has to do the exams and assignments well and is under a lot of pressure. Last Friday, Yaya was very tired and crabby and was laying down on the couch to watch TV. My son came home with a bad flu and has 4 assignments to complete in the weekend. He too was very crabby. They decided to solve their crabbiness by having a territorial war.  How much space on the couch each is entitled was the issue. ( there are other places to sit in the living room.. an Ikea poang chair with foot stool, a day bed and a papasan swivel chair) Eventually it led to violence. I am very particular about physical fights. I don’t mind them arguing as much as they want to, but if I haven’t hit them even when they drove me nuts, then they shouldn’t be hitting/pinching/scratching each other. besides, only a fool will go and fight with a brother who is big and strong. My son pushed Yaya off the couch..and she scratched him. Both got 30 minutes corner time and no TV for the rest of the evening. But that wasn’t what bothered me. As Yaya went to sit in the corner, she said ” I hate my brother”

“Hate is such a big word Yaya” I replied.

“Like you could talk Mom, you hate your own family” she said.

What I wanted to do was to shake her so hard and tell her ‘you have no idea the years of abuse I have endured in my family for me to hate them, you only hate your brother because he is stronger than you and you are bitter because you lost the fight and ended up on the floor. Clearly, you are older and wiser and should have known he is stronger than you. All you had to do was to share the space on the couch, instead you claimed the couch is yours because you were the first to sit on it’

I am the adult here and I knew if I was going to get involved in this fight, it was only going to get worst. “what you said was uncalled for Yaya”. She wanted to continue with the argument, but I walked away.

Later that night, I shed bitter tears. I wished I was an orphan, at least I wouldn’t have had such a lousy family. In the morning, there was a card and apology letter on my dressing table from both of them. But the thing is, what Yaya said is true..but I just wish, it wasn’t so.