Midden is defined as mound or deposit containing shells, animal bones, and other refuse that indicates the site of a human settlement. It is the debris of the past and we all have our own middens, some we carry on our shoulders as a burden  and some we step on and stand proudly for having lived through it. Sometimes, we see the middens of others that stands as a sign of victory and tells you that you too can do the same as they did and succeed.

When I left for US, I had taken my books with me to study, thinking that I could certainly study an hour each day. My exams are in March and I have so much to study, yet each evening instead of studying I watched Fa la la on Disney. ( I found motels based on the availability of a microwave, fridge and Disney channel)

I spend the Christmas eve with my uncle and aunt whom I haven’t seen for 35 years. My aunt was writing her board examination to renew  her medical license and even on Christmas eve, she was studying. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to study. I found one excuse after another why I can’t study.

I met her the next day at another aunt’s house for the Christmas day party. She came to US 9 years ago on family migration. She studied pre degree in Kerala. It was her dream to do a degree. she worked in a factory, while learning English as a second language, did a lab tech course (while still working in the factory), then did a degree and is now employed by an Ivy League uni and is doing her PhD. She was also on the dean’s list.

I can’t study in the evening, for I am exhausted by the time I fed the kids and cleaned the kitchen. I don’t even watch the news on TV anymore. I can only study in the morning, so I set two alarms one at 3.45 AM and one at 4 AM. I struggle each morning trying to get up to study. Sometimes I curse myself for still wanting to study, when I have everything and achieved all that I set out to do. Then I think of her and tell myself, if she could do it, then there is no excuse I can give. So, I get up at 4 am to study, even on Sundays..Her midden is my midden.



I don’t remember how it started, but when I was about 4, I was taught to say “no mention please” every time someone said Thank you to me. Over the years, more items were added to the list of manners. When we visit someone and they offer something to eat, however tasty it is, I was only allowed to take a tiny bit and never a second serve. Often if we were invited for dinner we had to eat dinner at our home, so we won’t pig out at the host’s place. I also had to leave some coffee in the cup ( which was really hard for me to do, for the sugar available in India was really granular and didn’t dissolve completely and  you always found a thick syrupy sugar at the bottom of the cup..my favourite)

I remember the time my sisters and I were travelling on Air India flight and we were put up an Centaur hotel in Delhi when our flight was cancelled. It was such an exciting time. My youngest sister being the most adventurous of us all, decided to use the flatware like all the other posh people who were eating in that restaurant. Unfortunately she chose to eat a fried chicken drum stick with a knife and fork. One minute the fried chicken was in her plate, the next minute, it flew across the table.

I met most of my cousins for the first time on my trip to US and since I was only in Philly for 4 days and didn’t have time to visit everyone, I opted to take everyone out for a meal in a western restaurant. ( I have been travelling for 5 weeks on the road and I was dying for something Indian and my cousins didn’t understand why I would want to go out and eat Indian food, when you can eat it at home ! )

This is what I found the person facing me doing. She ordered a burger. First she tried to use the knife and fork and cut the burger, she obviously didn’t do a good job, so she lifted the whole  burger with her fingers and tried to eat it, since it was already butchered with the knife, fillings started to progressively follow the law of gravity. It was such an unholy mess. She is 19, born and raised in US and can’t even eat a burger properly.

In my sister’s case, she spend most of her growing years in India where using a flatware was not part of our life. But if you are living outside India, especially in first world countries where table etiquette is really important, parents ought to teach children how to use a knife and fork.

( btw, just for the record, my cousin’s idea of cutting the burger is fine, you just need to make a neat cut and divide the burger in to 4 quarters or you can simply hold the burger in your hand  and eat)


This particular cousin of mine went to US when she was 14 years old ( family migration). She did her degree in US and is employed in a top position in a fortune 500 company. As soon as she graduated,her parents arranged her marriage with a suitable boy from Kerala. She calls her husband “country” and I don’t blame her. Though she grew up in Kerala, having studied in a US uni has changed her out look to life, while her husband still keeps his ‘country’ charms . She says, she can’t even go out for a meal with other couples ( colleagues) because her husband doesn’t even know basic table manners and refuses to learn. He says, Ethanentey reethi, enikku change cheyyanda avasyam illa. ( This is who I am and I don’t see the need to change).

Her daughter is 24 years old, born and raised in US and has never even been kissed by a guy in her life. ( I don’t believe in keeping the virginity as a gift for the husband and kissing guy isn’t a crime against humanity). My cousin watches over her daughter like a hawk, ensuring the purity isn’t tarnished. But what is most surprising is, my cousin is now looking for a suitable boy in Kerala for her own daughter. Her mission in the world as a mother will only be successful when her mallu son in law receives a pure, unadulterated bomma ( doll)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all the boys in Kerala are jerks. If my cousin herself found it difficult to cope living in US with a guy born and raised in Kerala, why does she think her daughter will have better luck?

Einstein once said ” doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity”

Mirror Image

Last Friday, Yaya phoned me after school to tell me that she is going to her friend’s house and that she can’t talk long for the train is just about to arrive. Later that evening, she called me to say that she is sleeping over at her friend’s house.

Her friend’s mom is my best friend, her friend is going overseas for her gap year next week, so all the kids are spending as much time as they can with her and their house is close to the place where Yaya works every Saturday.  Technically it isn’t much of a big deal sleeping over at her friend’s place and it is convenient too for I don’t have to drop her to work. ( She could take the bus from home, but I feel sorry for her having to walk 1.5 km from the bus stop to her work place and often drop her off at work), Yet I was so mad at her. When she came back from work on Saturday, I told her by telling her that “I don’t run an inn, so you can check in and out any time you want to”

Sounds familiar? That is exactly what my mother used to say to me. And  I made Yaya so upset and she ended up crying.

Later I asked myself ” Would I have said No, if she called me and asked Can I have a sleep over at my friend’s house?” I wouldn’t have said No. And I don’t know why I had to fight with her.

It was the same thing about washing her drinking glass. All my childhood, I heard my mom complain mokkittu thinnu kudichu nadakkan mathram kollam, kudicha glass polum kazhukathilla.. I have a dishwasher and I still complain that my child doesn’t wash her drinking glass.

Often I wondered how children who were physically abused by their parents continue the same abuse to their own children, don’t they know how they themselves felt when their parents used to inflict pain..and now I think, we reflect our parents, at least I do…

The little things

I apologize for the blog downtime. I have successfully managed to use up all my bandwidth and had to wait for the first of the month for the server to reset.. Thank you all for writing to me and asking if I was ok. I hope to find a new hosting site and any recommendations are welcome.

Last Tuesday was the first day of new school year. Thursday  ( The only day the shops are opened until 9 pm, the rest of the days, the closing time is 6pm) before the school opened, when I came back in the evening, Yaya was waiting for me with a list of all the things she and her siblings need. She had gone through the last year’s supplies that the three of them brought back from school at the end of the year, crossed out the ones we already have and made a list. We went to Officewroks and bought everything in her list. I had an assignment to do and I let her sort out everyone’s supplies.

The night before school reopened, I thought of how excited I used to be to go back to school and remembered Amma sitting down until midnight wrapping our textbooks and notebooks in brown paper and writing our names on the name label. Then it occurred to me that I haven’t written the name on Baby’s workbooks. Yaya had already packed Baby’s school supplies in her school bag and I took the workbooks out to write the name only to find that my precious oldest child had already named each and every item in Baby’s bag in a beautiful handwriting very similar to my mother’s.

I often complain that Yaya doesn’t even wash the drinking glass or help me vacuum the house or this or that. Yet, she does so much. I overlook the little things..