Right to be right.

This was part of a comment I received that I felt was really ‘below the belt’ and didn’t publish.

I love the way you write and have been reading it for the past several years.I was under the impression that you were kinda unlucky for having a bad relationship with  mom, all your sisters, george and now you went to us and pointing fingers at your relatives there. Sorry, i don’t have a photographic memory, so i don’t remember anyone you had good relationship with except your paternal grandmother and that help, akkachi(and ofcourse your kids). enlighten me, if am wrong.

So kinda confused about who the issue is with?  whole world at fault ?”

There are the reasons I didn’t bother to publish the comment

1. Just because I come from a screwed up family and write about it, doesn’t give anyone the right to  insult me. Who I am is a product of what I have gone through. Unless you have been there, you do not know how much it takes to get up each morning as a normal functioning person.

2. I don’t need to enlighten anyone about anything. You are not God almighty to make me enlighten you. You are only a reader. You don’t own me and you don’t get to ask me to do things to please you.

It takes tremendous courage to admit what happened to you and it also takes tremendous courage to be the best mom on earth when your own was the worst.

I write, because it is the only way I can cope.

I saw this article about child sex abuse ( http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/toowoomba-child-protection-officers-words-at-sex-abuse-royal-commission-speak-volumes/story-fnihsr9v-1226836249286)  in the Couriermail yesterday and I have been there. I am almost 43 years old, I still listen to sounds of footsteps in the middle of the night, even though I live in my own home and know for sure I am safe.

Walk a mile in my shoes before you take that rock to cast my way.


Away until Monday.




Last Friday, I was at the basketball court with my son for his game and met the girls team I managed last year. All the girls except yaya and her best friend are still in the team and they played in court 2 while my son was playing in court 1. If Yaya was playing, then both Yaya’s and my son’s games would have been over at the same time and my life would have been much easier. I was really angry with Yaya for being irrational and I knew she was making the biggest mistake in her life. I imagined her frantically trying to do basketball next year to get the hours when she could have finished all the required hours this year and  concentrate on her exams next year.

As usual, I offered to drop Yaya at work on Saturday morning ( still annoyed with Yaya). without any warning Yaya said, “mom,For my CAS, I am thinking of running a marathon to raise money for charity and I spoke to my PE teacher and he said he will help me train, What do you think?”

Every felt as if someone hit your head with the biggest sledgehammer you could ever find?

I was stunned. It was such a brilliant idea. CAS is all about pushing yourself and learning from it, not just filling the hours.

I am  so glad that Yaya is more stubborn than me and I am relieved that she didn’t listen to me.

I am absolutely proud of my daughter.


When I was in the 10th STD, I decided on my own without consulting anyone that I was going to quit my piano lessons. My reason was pretty simple. I was called deaf, dumb and blind all my life and I wanted to prove everyone that I wasn’t dumb by getting higher marks than my sister. I felt I couldn’t handle the piano practice every day and my studies. When my mother found out, She told me, how so and so who happens to be the son of her colleague and scored the 4th rank for SSLC practices Piano every morning. I wasn’t so and so, I was Sarah and I hated Amma comparing me with someone else. I was even more adamant to quit and when my mother realized that I was as stubborn as her and there was no way she could change my mind, she told me ” Mark my words,one day you will regret  this”. She was right, to this day I regret giving up playing piano.  I am still hopeful that one day when all my children have left home and I have nothing else to do, I will hire a hot young piano tutor, yup hot and  young, you read it right and learn to play piano again. What is the fun in life if I am going to be a boring old woman?

Geez, I got distracted. Back to mistakes.

Few weeks ago, it was the sign on day for basketball and Yaya told me as I was leaving to register them ” Mom, I am not playing basketball this year”

“Why not?” I asked a bit stunned, for the decision was rather sudden.

“My friends are not playing and I don’t want to do it”

It is true her best friend had gone to S. America for her gap year. But the team has 9 players and there are still 7 other players. But most importantly, Yaya needs to play 3 different types of sports for a total of 50 hours as part of her CAS. (http://www.ibo.org/diploma/curriculum/core/cas/). Basketball is very easy on me, because the training center is about 18 km from home, often my son and Yaya has training one after the other and their games are also held in the same venue, most often on Friday evening. I don’t have to do too much driving around ! Besides a friend of Yaya who is doing the IB is also playing for the same team.

I made my first mistake by pointing out to Yaya that So and so is also doing IB and is getting her required hours certified by the coach, my second mistake  was to tell my child that, I know all the coaches and I can get them to sign more hours for you. ( I think there is a gene mutation for corruption and most Indians have it)

She stared at me for a very long time..you know the cold hard stare and said ” I can’t believe that you want me to cheat and get the coach to cheat and sign my hours. I also can’t believe that you compared me to someone else.”

We argued back and forth. My points were simple. She is my child and I know she doesn’t like to do  any sports that involves sun or water. I don’t mind jumping in to the pool on a hot day, but I am not inclined to join a swimming team or want to go for practice early in the morning. I like to drink my tea in the morning, not the chlorinated pool water, thank you very much. She has to do 50 hours minimum and there are not many sports that doesn’t involve the sun or water. I find it easier to drive her to basketball training and we get a family discount too. So all in all, basketball was the safest, smartest, easiest and cheapest sports option available.

“No, I am not playing basketball this year” she said.

Eventually I told her “fine, I respect your decision. You are old enough to make your own decisions and make your own mistakes. My mother told me I will regret quitting piano lessons and I do, my job as a mother is to make sure you don’t make the same  mistakes like I did, but if that is what you want to do, it is fine by me”

To be very honest, I thought Yaya would change her mind after hearing about how much I regretted quitting the piano lessons, and how one should listen to their mother’s advice.

She didn’t and I learned a valuable lesson from her..

more tomorrow



Perhaps it was the reality  that with each year that goes by, my mother has one less year on earth and I have one less year with her and my inability to forgive her, so I could cherish whatever little time she has on earth makes me feel miserable every year when Amma’s birthday approaches. This year was no different. Last weekend when I went for Indian grocery shopping, I noticed a packet of Aval ( Beaten rice) on the shelf.

When I was growing up, if Amma was home when I returned from school, She would make Aval nanachathu as a snack. I am never known for my patience and Amma used to get irritated with me because I refused to wait a few minutes for the Aval to soak up the moisture from the freshly grated coconut. She would mutter “Appante makal alle, jathya gunam thoothal poovumo?) ( like father, like daughter).

I haven’t eaten Aval since I went to Bangalore to do medicine. I thought I will make Aval nanachathu and at least I could smell the familiar smell and feel close to my mother.

I came home all excited. I opened the aval packet, took it out, put in a colander to wash. A part of me knew you don’t wash Aval, There was no way I could eat something without washing it. Beaten rice now looked  soaked rice. I wanted to salvage it, so I quickly placed the soaked sad looking aval in my muram, hoping to dry it in the sun. I now own something that is neither beaten rice, nor soaked rice. I don’t even know what to call it anymore.

I am not sure why is that I could eat unwashed aval  without any qualms as a child, yet as an adult I can’t.

Right to be..

When I was in 7th Std, I attended a Sunday school camp organized by the CSI church. The preacher was talking about friends and asked those who do not have friends to lift their hands. I almost did, but noticed that no one else had their hands up and chose not to be truthful. I have always liked my own company and I am fiercely independent. I talked to my classmates, but that was it. I didn’t share any secrets or visit their homes.

However my older two children are very popular at their school and have a large group of friends. I often have 4 to 6 kids in my home for sleepover most weekends. My youngest on the other hand never has a friend over. Her siblings think her lifestyle is very unhealthy and how many ever times I explained to them that I was just like her when I was growing up, they constantly pick on her.

Few days ago while we were having our dinner, my son asked baby ” So, what do you do during lunch break?”

She replied ” I sit in the library and read”  ( I know why she is doing that, library is air-conditioned and why would you want to run and chase a lame ball when you could sit in the comfort of an air-conditioned room and read to heart’s content)

The older two practically pounced on her and went after her saying ” only those with learning disability/social interaction disability stay in the Library during recess, how could she spoil their reputation? Her behaviour is not acceptable, blah blah blah they went on”

I tried to get them to leave her alone, but my attempts were futile. Baby waited for them to finish ranting and then spoke

“You know what, I have right to be a loner. I was born this way. It is like being gay. You know gays have a right to be gay because they are born that way and I have a right to be who I am”

The look on Yaya and Toothless’s face was priceless.

I thought baby handled the issue very well.


Today is Amma’s birthday. For a person who loves numbers, I don’t know Amma’s year of birth. I will be 43 soon and I was born when she was 35, so she must be 78 years old.

This morning as I was watering my ferns in the pergola, I noticed the lorikeet painting on the floor, wind must have pushed it off the window sill.. Amma loved the lorikeets that used to come and eat the birdseeds in the feeder and I bought that painting for her as her birthday gift. She hid it among the towels in my linen closest when she left, so it will be the first thing I will see when I returned. I couldn’t bear to throw the painting out and didn’t want it inside the house, so I kept it on the window sill in the pergola.

I used to think, children who abandon their parents are ungrateful.



When I was doing my master’s degree, one of my professors talked about power of positive manipulation. Instead of telling your child “Don’t run”, say ” please walk” and you will see the difference in their attitude to your command !  I also made a conscious effort not to say “no” all the time and explained why they can’t do what they are about to do.

This was all well, till my children became teenagers and started to question every single decision I made. When I tell them why they can’t do something, they ask me ” why not?”

End of last year, Yaya came to me and said “mom, Avicii ( http://youtu.be/6Cp6mKbRTQY) is coming to Brisbane, May I please go?”

My first reaction was ‘No, effing way, you are too young’. Yaya is a teenager wired like a dynamite that goes off without much provocation from my part and if I told her what my first reaction was, we could have easily started the next world war. I was pretty sure most concerts have an age limit and since she is 15, I was hoping that I won’t have to say No, instead the concert promoter would say No on my behalf. So I asked her. Any age restrictions? for which sadly ( for me) she replied “open to all ages”. I am a firm believer of if one door closes, try the next one. “Anyone else is going from your class” She recited the names of all her friends. “Do you have money for the ticket?” I asked again hoping that she won’t have any and I can use our impending trip to US as a trump card to say why I can’t foot the bill.. ” Yep” She replied.

Since there were no other doors left for me to open, I asked myself, Why she shouldn’t go for the concert. The question she was sure to ask me if I said No and I needed valid reasons. I couldn’t say, I am your mother and I said so..My reasons were 1. She is my baby girl, I don’t want anything to happen to her. And I tried and tried to think of other reasons, there were none. Then I thought to myself, in 2 years, she will go to college and will have to make all these decisions on her own. She is going with her friends and I was sure she will be safe.

So I said “yes, you can for the concert”. Don’t get me wrong, I was not at all happy  to let her go.

On the day of the concert, she and her friends decided to take the public transport to the venue. ( Another sign of independence). Yaya wore a dress and high heels and I asked her “Are you planning to dance tonight?” “Of course”, she said. So I suggested “Wear your boots, after standing/dancing on high heels for a few hours, you will curse the day you chose to wear them, besides, don’t forget there will be other girls wearing high heels and your feet will be sore when people in high heels dance and start to stomp on your toes..” I also told her to take a plastic bottle of water and gave her money to buy more water. ( Most concert venues do not allow you to take bottled water with their caps on ( which can act as a missile when thrown on to the age) and I didn’t want to buy a new water bottle if the security tossed the cap of Yaya’s water bottle. Very rarely my children and I use disposable plastic water bottles)

Then I spend the rest of the day twiddling my thumb and  being cranky. I expected disasters. I sat next to my phone, so I won’t miss my daughter’s desperate call for help.

Her friend’s father dropped her home at 11.50 pm. As soon as she came inside the house, she gave me a hug and spoke to me in a very hoarse voice ( she lost her voice after screaming for 4 hours! ) ” Thank you for letting me go Mom, I had such a good time and thank you for telling me to wear the boots”

I didn’t tell her how I scared and terrified I was while she was at the concert. She will not understand now..but  one day when she becomes a mother and her daughter goes for her first music concert she will know..

I also did better than my mother. I was doing my internship and stood in the line for hours to get the ticket for  Jethro Tull’s concert  ( Feb 1994) and Amma told me ” You can’t go”. She didn’t have any valid reasons why I shouldn’t go, but created so much drama and to keep the peace, I didn’t go.


When Yaya’s Samsung Galaxy phone stopped working, I did all that I was supposed to do. I called the Vodafone tech support and followed their instructions and nothing happened. Then I was asked to take the phone to the Vodafone outlet to send for repair. The screen had a tiny crack on it and Vodafone customer service officer very kindly informed me that the warranty is void and even if they send the phone for repair, it will not be repaired. I felt I should take my chances and insisted that they send the phone for repair. A week later, I got a call from the outlet to let me know that they send the phone for repair and some major parts needs to be repaired and since they couldn’t contact me, Vodafone returned the phone back to the outlet. ( There was no way they couldn’t have reached me. It was pretty obvious that the phone never left the outlet)

Brother of one of my colleague  owns a phone repair shop and I send the phone to him. He told me the repair costs would be in excess of 300$.

I am very stingy and didn’t see the need to invest 300$ on something that is only worth 200$ ( current market value).

During all these dramas, my son kept asking me, if he could have a look at the phone and I kept saying No. He is 13 and smartphones are extremely complex. I didn’t trust him enough to handle such complex instruments.

Last weekend, as I was just about to leave for the airport, he asked me ( perfect timing), if he could have a look at Yaya’s old phone.  I couldn’t think of any valid reason why I shouldn’t let him, so I said “yes”

He was waiting for me when I got back home that night.. Yup. you guessed it right. He fixed the phone. All he did was to resort to factory setting. ( He tried to explain how he did it, but after such a long trip, my brain was not working )

If I had given the phone to him the first time he asked me, I wouldn’t have had to use an old Nokia and could have kept in touch with my friends ( whatsapp). Instead, I kept pressing the screen to do the word correct and simple things like putting a full stop was so time consuming that  I ended up not using the phone at all.


How far I have come.

In my childhood, travelling (air) was all about what all we can take from the aircraft. The stainless steel knives and forks were carefully wiped and wrapped in  tissue after each meal, those little sachets of salt and pepper, those tiny packets of jams were all squirrelled  away to be taken home. We even took the blankets from the aircraft. Amma loved serving visitors juice ( aka Rasna) in  Singapore airlines glasses. It showed the visitor that we are no dookily mallus. As I grew older, I collected wine bottles. ( wine was too expensive in Malaysia and I loved cooking pasta sauce in wine. I still do, but now a days I often end up with few opened bottles of  wine left over from each party I host and I don’t like to drink stale wine, so I use them for cooking ). I remember the time I was flying from Mumbai to London and the flight was delayed. We were given food vouchers and I was so excited to eat free food.

My flight to Antarctica was delayed for 4 hours due to engine troubles and the passengers had to disembark and wait. Qantas offered 15$ food voucher. I didn’t even collect mine. I preferred to sit in the Qantas lounge ( the benefits of being a frequent flier !) and read my book. Qantas lounge too served a decent breakfast, I looked at the array of cereals, fresh fruits and pancake and I didn’t feel the excitement I felt the time I was given a food voucher many many years ago. I took a cup of coffee.

They say age does that to you.

A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Oh yeah ?

I hated Geography as a child but loved history. I can still tell the date/year of most historical events, I probably can tell the capitals of most countries, but not their borders, not even where the International date line is. But there are things I remember from my Geography student days. I can still see myself sitting in my STD X division B classroom  and my geography teacher Molly Kochamma teaching us about the Earth’s magnetic poles and  why magnetic south pole is actually a north seeking pole.  I remember thinking, how wonderful it would be If I visited all these magical places. But Amma was a firm believer that, one should only dream achievable dreams . Then,  I was living in a tiny rented house in Kottayam without a father and there was not much I was allowed to dream. But I read every single book published about Antarctica, ( Amundsen, the first person to fly over the North Pole  ( 1926) and was the first person to reach the South Pole( 1911)  and the legendary Mawson. ( those from Australia would know who he is.  http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/history/people/douglas-mawson) were my heroes.)

Though I wasn’t allowed to dream much as a child, I learned over the years that you can dream really big. It is true that sometimes your dreams don’t happen, but  I learned that it is better to live with a few disappointments in life than a life lived with no dreams.

Yesterday, I was part of the Qantas first inaugural flight from Brisbane to Antarctica ( 11737 km trip), I crossed the south Magnetic pole, saw my first icebergs ( I laughed thinking about my community medicine answer to iceberg phenomenon question and how I was called Ms Titanic for a very long time), current Antarctic base, Mawson’s hut and a great expanse of ice.

I will be 43 in March and I have crossed both the North and the South Magnetic poles, crossed the arctic circle, swam in  all the 5 great oceans and lived more than a year in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia and visited Antarctica. I now only have South America and Africa to do in my list.

Not bad for a town mouse eh?