First, let me tell you a bit of background for today’s post.
Every year, we used to have trainee teachers coming and teaching us for a few weeks in our school. When I was in 10th std and we had a trainee to teach us biology. One of my classmate asked during class, “teacher, how are twins formed”.
Teacher blushed, swallowed few gulps of air, blushed again and told us ” that is not part of your syllabus”
The question was pretty straight forward, all she had to say was there are two types of twins, fraternal and identical. When two ovum are fertilized by two sperms, you get fraternal twins. If a fertilized single zygote divides and forms two embryos for someone unknown reason, then you get identical twins. What was the big deal in telling 15 year old girls how twins are formed?
Yesterday my son came home and told me “mom, I am scarred for life”
“How come?” I asked
“I was with my friend A and few other boys from my class after school and somehow the topic went to ‘periods’ and A, fished out a tampon from her bag and wanted to show us how it works”
“And, What, we all ran away from her”
20 years ago, no girl would have even dared to utter the word periods. It was a topic not to be talked with anyone, especially boys.
I am happy that girls now don’t feel shy to talk about periods. That is liberation from taboos that were unhealthy and unnecessary. What is there to be ashamed of?
One of the critical requirement for a happy childhood is the presence of extended family. Sense of belonging happens when you are close to your relatives, especially grandparents/aunts/uncles and cousins. I am really concerned about the lack of family bonding with my children. Either I can cry about what is wrong or do something to fix it.
My neighbour has stepped in as a surrogate grandmother for my kids. She remembers their birthday and bake them a cake. She has my kids over at her place once a month for tea and sometimes join me to watch their drama/music performance at school.
My friend K has taken over the role of the aunty. She takes Yaya out for shopping and Yaya has plenty of sleep overs at her house. Last school holidays, K organized my son and her son to spend a week at her mother’s cattle station near Sydney.
I have always wanted a large brood of nieces and nephews. I am never going to see any of my real nieces/nephews, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being an aunty. I have an almost 5 year old nephew in California and his mom often posts photos of him on FB. He is so adorable. There is a photo of him holding his father’s hand and walking to the park( holding a kite) and it is my favourite. I have never met his parents or him. But for all intent and purpose, he is my nephew. I am also an aunty to a brand spanking new niece. She was born a few weeks ago. Yaya and I went for shopping to buy things for the baby. All those tiny baby clothes/shoes and those colourful toys..it was so much fun going through the nursery section at the malls.
Last Friday was supposed to be like any other Friday. Yaya usually go out with her friends either to South Bank or watch a movie after school. But until now, every Friday at 3 O’clock, she would call me and let me know where she is going and what time she will get home. I don’t have any problems with her going out with her friends, but I would like to be told where she would be, for emergencies.
There was no phone call from Yaya last Friday.
I contemplated calling her, but if she was watching a movie, then she will be really annoyed to answer my phone call. I also didn’t want to come across as a paranoid annoying mother. ( which I am)
Around 6 pm, she called me to tell me that she is on the bus and will be home shortly.
From 4 till 6, I imagined all the worst case scenarios. What I really wanted to do was to scream at the top of my voice and scold Yaya when she got back home, because only I know how much worried I was. But the thing is, about this time next year, she is planning to backpack around Europe on her own. I need to learn to let her go. The rule I had, that my children would call me if they are going to be late to come home is a good rule, so long as both sides agree to it. But as my children grow up, I have learned that, they have a mind of their own and are not going to follow all my rules. I must evolve.
Few weeks ago, my son wrote the scholarship exam for another school and was asked to come for an interview. It was on a Saturday morning and baby has basketball games on Saturday morning. My daughter couldn’t miss her game because two other kids were sick that day and if she didn’t go, her teammates would have had no sub. Without a sub, the girls will have to play the entire game without taking a break.
As a single mother, I can’t be in two different places at the same time, so I dropped my son to the school where he was to attend the interview and took baby for the game. There were few other kids waiting for their interview, all of them had both their parents with then. I hate moments like this and felt really upset. I wanted to be with my son and offer moral support.
My son was asked during his interview, ” where are your parents?” and he replied “my mom has to take my youngest sister for her basketball game”
I think the answer that got him the scholarship was , when they asked him “if you could change one thing in this world, what would it be?” and my son replied ” Hunger, we have enough resources for every person on earth, yet 7.6 million children die every year because of starvation. I would like to change that for I believe no child should die because they had no food”
I couldn’t be with my son when he needed me the most. But I think I did make an impact in his life, by opening his mind to possibilities at the same time being mindful of those around him.
He got the scholarship with the option that he can leave the school if he chose to at any time without having to pay back the scholarship money. ( so history won’t repeat 🙂 )
When Yaya and I were in Aurengabad, we saw a street vendor selling beautifully embroidered Taqiyahs ( Fez or Islamic skull cap). Yaya insisted we should buy one for her brother, which we did.
Yesterday I had the parents teacher interview at the school. Few years ago, one of the teachers had mentioned that only the parents who are interested in their child’s wellbeing bother to attend the parent interview and much as it is really time consuming ( 2 kids, 7 subjects/teachers each) I always make it a point to attend. Every teacher said the same thing about my children. Great kids, works hard and are a dream to teach. But then one of the teacher said ” I didn’t know that you are a Muslim” ( to be fair on the teacher, she didn’t think there is anything wrong being a Muslim, she taught Yaya the past three years and was just puzzled )
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
It turns out that my son wears the Taqiyah during class and claims “it is against my religious belief to remove it” ( to be fair, he didn’t say what religion he is referring to)
Wearing a hat is mandatory whenever the kids are outside the classroom. ( skin cancer risk, no hat-no play rule is strictly enforced here) But inside the class, it really depends on the teacher. Some teachers allow, some don’t.
I came home and asked my son what is going on? He said he loves his taqiyah, but if he removes it, his hair will look funny, so he told the teacher about his religious belief. He also told me that when he went to UQ ( Univ of Queensland) to attend a conference beginning of this week, one of the panel member was a Muslim and asked my son when he saw the taqiyah on his head
” Are you a Muslim?” and my son replied “no”
“Jewish” and my son replied “No, I am an atheist”
“But you are wearing a taqiyah” and my son replied ” Yeah, I know, my mom visited India and bought me this and I love wearing it. I know it is usually worn by Muslim men and has religious significance, but I am wearing it because I liked it and shouldn’t be judged because I chose to wear something religious even though I am not religious”
I didn’t say anything.
I met Amma after having absolutely no contact with her for 4 years.
I went through so much emotional upheaval thinking about if I should meet her or not. My life was peaceful without her in it the past 4 years and I didn’t want to change the status quo, but at the same time, there was this nagging fear that when she dies, I will regret for the rest of my life that I didn’t make an effort to see her when I went to India. Plus the fact that Yaya is Amma’s first grandchild and they do share a very special bond. I do not think Yaya will make another trip to India for a very long time. She has already mapped out her travel plans for the next few years and India isn’t in her plans.
The first few days, I stared at her number on my phone and couldn’t bring myself to call her. I only had two days to make the trip to Kerala and so I had no choice but to call her. I didn’t know how she was going to react. It didn’t feel like I hadn’t talked to her for ages. Only when I saw her, I realized how much I missed her. If there is one word I can use to describe how my mother looked, it would be ‘evergreen’. She still looks exactly how she looked 20 years ago. I hugged her and told her I love her. ( which was odd, because I didn’t think I could love her)
That evening she was heading to my sister’s place and I was tempted to call her the next morning and ask if she reached safely. I didn’t. I don’t want to go through the dramas again.
My oldest sister had warned that Karma is a bitch and I must remember that I too am raising 3 children and that they too would treat me exactly how I treat my mother. It does bother me when people use Karma as a reason to force you to change your behaviour. I raise my children with no expectations. My old age is my own and I do not think my children should take care of me/call me etc because they have their life to live, just as I have mine. As I mentioned earlier, Yaya has already mapped out her future travel plans and not once has she mentioned coming home to Australia to see her mother/siblings when she is at Uni. I overheard her telling her youngest sister ” you need to learn to shop for your own clothes, you can’t expect me to choose dresses for you, I won’t be here forever” Yaya knows that, so do I and that is how it should be..
The other thing that bothers me about Karma is..Why is no one asking what has Amma done to her parents that gave her such bad Karma?
Anyway, I saw Amma and I am glad I did that.
Every time I go to India, I make a list of things I really want to buy. This time I wanted to buy a replacement handle for the pressure cooker, a sumeet blender and glass bangles. I find it extremely difficult to shop in India. First of all I can’t stand the sales talk. I just want to be left alone. I know what I want and don’t need someone to extol the virtues about the item I am looking to buy. I hate bargaining as well.
There was one thing I really wanted to buy and it took all of my patience.
I wanted to buy a Naga shawl for my son. I went to the cottage industry outlet on MG road and the dude showed me a fake Pashmina and told me it is “authentic” naga shawl. Digressing a bit here.. When I was studying in UK, a young boy once told me “hey Pakki, go back to your country” and I stopped him and taught him Geography in 2 minutes so the next time he will understand where Pakistan, India and Malaysia are located and won’t get confused. I was tempted to teach the sales person the history of Naga shawls. But Yaya was with me and you can imagine the amount of eye rolls I would have had to endure. So I let it pass.
I tried all the handicrafts shops on MG road and Commercial street and none have even heard of Naga shawls. I used to buy a lot of fabric from Gurjari and found that they moved from MG road to Koramangala. I made a trip to Gurjari, they didn’t even have any Kutch work products. But there was a tribes of India showroom in the same building and I found Naga shawls there.
I don’t remember much about Naga shawls. One of those times I wasn’t paying attention when Beautiful eyes told me about shawls. At that time, I didn’t think that he won’t be around all the time, I thought I would let him be the keeper of those information. Ao tribe had their own pattern. I know black colour signified night, red for blood and yellow for sun. I don’t remember what blue and white colour signifies.
Although I hated shopping in India, finding this shawl was probability the one of the highlights of this trip. I gave the shawl to my son.
Things I was really worried about when I decided to take Yaya to India was our safety and falling ill. When I left India in 1994, even walking on MG road in Bangalore, men bumped in to me deliberately and copped a feel. Yaya has a personal bubble around her and hates anyone encroaching her private space and I was worried how she would cope in India. It was surprising that no one bumped in to us, no one stared at our boobs or attempted to strip our clothes with their eyes. I felt pretty safe walking in the streets.
What bothered me the most was a lack of proper phone connection. Before leaving Australia, I had asked a friend a to get me a phone number. Somehow, with the Indian number, I couldn’t send any txt to my children in Australia and then the number suddenly stopped working on day 2. I couldn’t get it fixed. Then on the third day, it started working, but this time, it started sending me a message every nano second informing me ” you have used ‘x’ mb of your data” or ” you have this much of credit” It reached a stage, I switched off the phone.
I was going on a date to Hard Rock café in Bangalore. At 5 pm, I asked the hotel reception to book me a cab for 7.30 pm. At 6, they called me to say, I have to do it by myself and they connected me to ‘for sure cab’. They said they will send a cab FOR SURE at 7.30 pm. About 7:20, the cab driver calls me up for direction to my hotel. I have been in Bangalore for a day by then and there is no way I could give the direction. ( those who know me would say, even if I stayed in Bangalore for a decade, they will still not ask me directions, my friends here are still looking for a restaurant in Oxley where I organized a get together and the actual place is in Graceville, two different suburbs 20 km apart) Besides, isn’t the driver supposed to know where he is going? I gave the driver the hotel number and asked him to get the direction from them. 7;30, he calls again asking for direction. I had a friend with me at that time and she tried to give him the direction. Whatever landmark she said, the cabbie had no idea. By 8 pm my date has already been waiting for me at Hard rock café for 30 minutes. I am pedantic when it comes to keeping time and I was going crazy. At 8:40, the cab finally arrives. I asked him to take me to Hard rock café, near LIC building on St. Marks road and he asked ” route gothakitha?” I contemplated strangling the driver before I got out of the cab. I was in no mood to chodichu chodichu povam 🙂 I called the cab company and gave them an earful, they promised to send me a replacement cab within 10 minutes. After 20 minutes of waiting, they let me know that the cab they were meant to send had a breakdown. I had no choice, but to take an Auto, who charged me 120 RS for a 6 km ride and my date waited more than 2 hours for me. Fortunately he is a great guy and I had an awesome time. 🙂
I also took plenty of cold showers. I kept forgetting to turn on the water heater and even when I remembered, most places had the hot water tap on the right. ( any plumber will tell you cold on the right and hot on the left ) so I could never get it to work and ended up taking a cold showers.
So what worked? India is incredible. There is so much that works. I met a lovely family in the train who upon noticing that I didn’t order dinner ( I was scared of getting food poisoning, so was planning to eat biscuits for dinner) insisted that Yaya and I share their dinner. A stranger found a hotel for me to stay because my phone wasn’t working. A hotel security guard walked with me to the auto stand early morning because he didn’t want Yaya and I to walk alone. A blog reader helped me get a train ticket and paid for it, even though she has never seen me and only knew me through the blog.
And for the first time, I was sad to leave India. I came home and told my children, I think I want to visit India more often. They were stunned.
Ideally, I should write about my trip to India in a Chronological form that would make some sense. But sometimes, the need to write something is so overwhelming that order of events becomes irrelevant.
I can tell you the complete history of Mughal empire, mostly because I read the whole thing and partly because of Beautiful Eyes. He has seen the places that I have read about and when we talked he would tell me in details how the place looked. Of all the places he described to me, the one that I have never forgotten was Khuldabad. It is where the tomb of Aurangzeb is.
Aurangzeb, ( Alamgir: world seizer) under his rule, the Mughal empire grew the largest and he was one of the richest Mughal emperor who earned about £38,624,680 ( in 1690)/year. For a man with such great wealth and power, he could have built huge mausoleum for himself. Instead he made skull caps and wrote copies of Qur’an and earned the money for his own use and told his grave should only be built with the money he earned himself. ( If I am not mistaken it cost 8 RS to build his unadorned plain tomb)
Beautiful Eyes told me about the small walk uphill to the Shrine of the Sufi saint. shops on either side of the walk, the door to the shrine that leads to the room where people sit and read Qur’an and then you come out to the court yard and on your left is the tomb of the greatest Mughal emperor. You climb the marble steps, past the marble façade and find a large rectangle tomb, a plain simple structure.
When I went there, the place was exactly as he described and as I walked, the only thing that was missing was the warm soft hand that always held mine.
These places, we were meant to have seen together, at least that is what he promised me. One day, I will take you to all these places..
Sometimes, life doesn’t give you all that we really want.
I showed the tomb to Yaya and told her the story.
As I left, I turned to look, perhaps I could see him standing there?
I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to.