Thoo vella

To those of you who doesn’t speak Malayalam, Thoo vella means pristine white.

When she was growing up, she was told by her mother that her life was like a thoo vella saree..any blemish on it will be easily seen by others, so she should lead a very pure life. In other words all her mother wanted her to do was to keep her virginity for her husband. Don’t experiment, don’t sleep around and don’t be a woman with needs.

The interesting part of the above story is that her mother was the daughter of a woman who worked as cleaner/cook in a very prominent family and her father was forced to marry the cleaner’s daughter when the said daughter got pregnant. (political interventions)

But in true typical Mallu system of governance where the parents can do any thanthonnitharam, but the kids are forbidden to do the same, the mother watched over her daughter like a hawk.

Then got her married to a guy whose lineage can be traced to St. Thomas’s crew (so they claim). There was only a small problem. He is gay.

Her parents didn’t want her to apply for a divorce. They didn’t want to deal with the potential rumors and stigmas associated with a divorce. They told her, sex isn’t everything. I never understood how any mother worth her salt would ask her daughter to continue live with a man who goes out at night to sleep with other men.(plural, cause he was using the services of male sex workers)

After 25 years, she finally managed to get a divorce. Her parents haven’t talked to her since then.

When  I was talking to her, I told her. “You are now single, time to start living your life, you haven’t had sex, it is time to enjoy it”

And that is the problem. She is stuck in this ideological hell, where she thinks sleeping with a guy is the worst thing she could do.. She believes in love, marriage and sex as the only possible combination. But that is bollocks.

If I could change one thing in the Indian way of thinking, it would be this notion about sex. Sex outside the realm of marriage  is wrong according to Indians, yet everyone is sleeping around, but only behind closed doors.

Sex isn’t wrong. It is just a biological function. If you want to live in a relationship without sex, that is your choice. But don’t think that it is crime to think about your own needs. Marriage is just a piece of paper given by the state or church that tells you that you can now legally sleep with your partner. But the truth is, you don’t need the church or state’s permission. It is your body, your life, your choice.




Piqued your curiosity?

I saw an article in the Malayala Manorma about the horrible misfortune that happened to an Indian woman who was racially profiled and was asked to strip in Frankfurt airport couple of days ago. This horrible crime was committed in front of her 4 year old daughter.

I am not interested in what, why or how it happened. What I was concerned about the event was bringing a four year old in to the picture to portray the horribleness of the situation.

Question that needs to be asked is, What will really happen if your child sees you nude? Do you really have something that is so shameful that your kids can’t see it? Or if they saw it, are they going to be scarred for the rest of their life?

If I was asked to strip because the security wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t a terrorist, I will. My world won’t end because someone saw me naked  My children would be least bit concerned that their mother was asked to strip. They might ask me, if I at least had some decent undies on. (Which I do. After working in Emergency dept, I am always careful to wear proper decent undies, because I have seen what people wear under their clothes and trust me, it is not a pretty sight) Btw, if you can strip in front of a doctor, or for that matter give birth in a labor room, I don’t understand why stripping at the airport or the gaol be any different.

I go to the beach with my children. I wear a bikini just like every friend I have here. Most of the women you find at the beach wear bikini. In fact you don’t even have to go to the beach to find a bikini clad woman, My local swimming pool is near a grocery shop and on hot summer days, you will find women wearing bikini walking to the shop to buy ice cream from the swimming pool.

At home, often my kids walk in and out of my room and sometimes this happen while I am changing my clothes. I don’t have anything special that I must hide from my kids. It doesn’t bother them and it doesn’t bother me.

Coping a feel, stealing a glance, peeping etc are the phenomenon I have often seen in India where the mentality that human body that too of a female must be covered at all times.. or the sky might fall prevails.

Perhaps, we should be a bit more relaxed.



My son does tutoring to earn extra cash. Often he stays back at school and teach. But sometimes his students come to my house.

This particular student joined us for lunch and while we were having every few minutes his phone pinged. Turns out that his mother was texting him. Did you have lunch? what are you having for lunch? when will you finish? etc etc. She then called him, just to make sure that everything is ok.

My son and I are on the same phone plan that gives us unlimited texts. From January to now, I have sent him 5 texts, all 5 were the same message. I texted him to let him know that I have arrived at his school to pick him up. I don’t pick him up from school often. These 5 occasions were because he was doing his experiment for Physics and could only do after hours due to OSH regulations and I agreed to pick him up.

I probably called Yaya less than 10 times since she left home last August. I know if she needs me, she would send a message on FB and ask me to call her back.

I felt a bit guilty that I don’t do things like other normal mothers do. When his friend left home I told my son

“I must be a very irresponsible mother for not checking up on you regularly”

He replied

“No mom, it is because you know I am a very responsible son and that you don’t have to check on me every single second”

It is actually true.

I know my son attended plenty of parties organized by his friends where there were plenty of alcohol and weed. He lets me know in advance that there will be weed and alcohol. It hasn’t bothered me and I haven’t stopped him from attending. My point is that I trust my kids. If they are going to get drunk or smoke weed, I would rather let them do it with me knowing about it than behind my back.

I was a terrible teenager and did a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have done. Because of that, I am an awesome mom. There is nothing my kids could do that I haven’t done or thought about doing. The thing is, I have never forgotten who I was when I was young. The problem only happens when you forget your own past and try to create an innocent version of you in your kids that never really existed.

I don’t have to check on my kids every second of their life because I know they are responsible. I raised them well.

When you should be stressed!

So, my youngest has decided to get more experience as a Barista as she felt it would help her to find jobs when she goes to N America three years from now. I was watching footy on TV while she sat next to me and searched for jobs online. She wrote her own cover letter explaining why the company really should hire her. Occasionally she would ask me, ‘how does this or that sound’ and I told her it is good.

Her to be employer called her on Sunday and asked her to come for the interview giving her an hour’s notice. She told him, she would like to reschedule the interview on Monday ( as she didn’t want to waste her valuable weekend). I told her, one must never do that as the employer is looking for someone to jump to their tunes, not the other way around. She replied ‘plenty of fish in the ocean’ and I shook my head and was very sure she isn’t going to hear from the employer.

Yesterday she calls me up around 2.45 p.m. to tell me that she needs a ride to the restaurant as the employer has scheduled her interview at 3.30 p.m. Since I can’t teleport and can’t get to her school in such short  notice that too  driving in peak hour traffic, I told her she needs to talk to the employer and re-schedule the interview to 4.30. She did.

I picked her up and she looked a bit stressed. So I told her “Don’t get stressed” She replied “Easy for you to say”

I told her, “in life there is only one time you need to get stressed, it is when you think you are going to die.. because most of your affairs are not in order and you don’t get much time to sort all your affairs if you are going to die. Going for an interview is not going to kill ya, so why do you have to get stressed?”

For a few seconds, there was absolute silence in the car and then she burst out laughing.

“mom, only you can come up with silly wisdom like this”

She got the job. She is 15 years + 3 months old. Not bad eh?

Giving up

My friend  came to Aus as a student after completing his medical degree in his home country. He  is one of the smartest guys I have ever met. He wanted to stay on in Aus and it took 10 years to go through the bureaucratic red tapes.. Meanwhile, even though he passed both AMC 1 and 2 exams, he couldn’t get a placement to work as a doctor as the dudes in the medical fraternity have the power to not to hire you based on their whims and fancies.

After receiving letters after letters of how sorry a certain organization is not being able to offer him the job he applied for (in other words those rejection letters) he has given up applying. His wife is also a Doctor and is now working in an aged care home as a carer.

I want to shake him.. shake him really hard, so I can put some sense in his head.

Let me tell you about rejection letters. I should call Guinness book of records, because I probably hold the world record for the most rejection letters ever received. When we were living in Canada and I was so desperate for money, a neighbour suggested that I apply to the company she works for..domestic cleaning. I did. Even that company sent me a rejection letter. I was not even good enough to clean houses.

You have a choice.. when you have been hammered down.. you can stay down or fight. I chose not to give up.. even though it took years to get what I really want.

In hindsight I made couple of mistakes when I was in Canada.

1 As a newly arrived migrant, I should have used the services available that will help me get a job. I only used once where they wanted me to work as a tel operator in Granville. Travel and child care cost was more than the hourly wages. I lost hope. I should have persisted.

2. Volunteer. I should have called organizations/unis etc and asked for internship/volunteering options. The easiest way to get a job and career references was to get a volunteer posting.(I couldn’t have done this in Canada cause I had no money to pay for child care)

3 Go back to Uni. As a PR of Canada, I was eligible for student loan and I should have used it.

4. Ge t my resume professionally written. This was the biggest mistake I ever made.  I was idiot who didn’t want to spend 450$ to get the resume professionally written. I should have considered it as an investment for my own future.

Just to put in perspectives.. at one time I earned 10$/meal and my oldest child went to school wearing wet and soggy socks because I couldn’t even afford proper winter shoes for her and now I am in the process of buying my oldest child an apartment close to her Uni.. Yes, I am boasting. I have a right to..


I received the most unusual phone call few days ago. Unusual because I met the caller once for a few hours.

When I was in India and my best friend was in  Beijing, I wanted to go to Hard Rock Café Bangalore and asked few of my best friend’s acquaintances if they wanted to tag along. Her husband  is an active member in the expat community and she said she wanted to come along.

She is in her 50’s, very beautiful, but terrible in her appearances.. I know I didn’t make much sense with what I have just written.. pretty and terrible in the same sentence.. Imagine a beautiful Tam Brahmin woman, flawless skin, almond eyes, beautiful wavy hair.. Eye brows thick and bushy that has never seen a tweezer and a matching moustache , wearing a deep blue salwar top that has seen better and younger body at some stage, cream colour pants that too has seen better days, onychomycosis of the toe nails, cracked heels, old bata slippers…

It was her first visit to a pub and what I noticed apart from her appearance was her sad eyes.

She told me ” I wish I could live a life like yours”

That was a bit odd.. I didn’t really like the life I am living, there is so much more I want, so I was a bit curious why she said that?

Turns out, she got married to an MIT graduate when she was 19. She was in the first year of her degree course. She never completed the degree. They lived in US for the next three decades. Now, his mother is old and she wanted to come back and live in India, so they moved back to India. He travels a lot for wok and only gives money to his mother. His wife has to ask her mother in law for money. They have no kids.

She is trapped in  beautiful gilded cage and there is no way out. So she thinks.

But there is always a way out.. always.

I cannot stress it more.. there is always a way out, you just have to find it.

During our conversation, I mentioned something about how much I love long  distance driving.

She replied ” I miss driving. Here my car is manual and I don’t know to drive a manual. In US, I learned to drive an automatic”

I told her “stop giving excuses to your dreams. You can ask your driver to teach you to drive a manual. It is not rocket science and it is not too hard.”

She looked at me as though I have just said something very poignant. It was such a simple suggestion and she didn’t even think about it. I know when you keep staring at the closed door for a very long time, you think of being trapped and don’t see the little window by the side that you could use to get out.. I just wanted to point the little window to her.

I gave her a list of things to do.

1. You don’t need money to do your eyebrow. All you need is a little tweezer and then do it yourself.

2. For the Fungal infection in the toe nails, ideally she needs to be on anti fungal tablets. If her mother in law doesn’t give her money, then the option is to use a solution of soda bicarb and hydrogen peroxide..

3. For clothes, take the mother in law out for shopping.. buy her a beautiful expensive saree by buttering her up and make her spend some money her son sends to her and then guilt trip her to buy you a few salwar kameez. (this may or may not work, I have not met the mother in law)

4. Fudge the bills and accounts. Find reasons for not taking the car and get money for auto..and walk..and save that money. You will also lose some weight. When you buy groceries, if the mother in law is not checking the bills, comment how ridiculously expensive things are getting and add a couple of hundreds to the bills. (by the way, the best place to hide your money is the money in few Ziploc bags and chuck it inside the cistern. The key thing here is couple of Ziplock bags….just to ensure that your hard earned loot is not water damaged)

5. Invite friends over and make sure the mother in law is treated with utmost respect in front of them, so it is easy to guilt trip her later.

6. Find a job. She doesn’t have the skill set to get a proper job, but she knows the expat community. She can be a baby sitter, she can run an Indian cooking class. she can teach the expats about Indian culture..She can organize tours and travels for the expats.

I went out for a few drinks and she went back home with crazy ideas..

I didn’t think she would act on any of it.

She called me to few days ago to tell me that she has learned to drive a manual.

There is always a way out.. so stop staring at the closed door and find the window and get out.

Back me up

When I was in India, my friend and I were talking about our fondest memories. Like me, he too has eidetic memory and because we have known each other for couple of decades, a lot of our memories are shared. Hence I had to find memories that were unique to me. One of which was something I had written before. When my son was about 2 years old, I convinced him that I have eyes at the back of my head. In order to prove this particular theory, I would sit in front of the balcony sliding glass door and my son would stand behind me. I had to tell him what he was doing  such as standing on one leg.. lifting left leg, hand etc…. pretty easy to do..I just had to look at the reflection on the sliding glass door. He used to search and search on my head to find where my third eye was.. it was so baffling.. and a mystery to him.

While I was describing this memory to my friend, my son came online on FB and was chatting with me and so I asked him

“What is your fondest memory of the time you spent with your mother”

My son replied, “mom, I have so many fond memories, but more than the memories, there is one thing that I appreciate the most”

“What is that?” I asked, a bit intrigued

He replied “Mom, from the time I was little to now, there is one thing I know, if I am right, you will always back me up, you will never let me down”

We all have choices.. a lot of us have gone through such horrific abuses that it is a miracle we are still alive. But the problem with being abused is that, it often continues to the next generation and then to the on till someone makes a conscious effort to stop the flow of abuse. I never had anyone to back me up. Everything that one could do to destroy another’s life was done to me. But I had the choice. To be the horrible parent like the ones I had or to be the best I could ever be.

There is no validation greater than the appreciation your children have for you.. for being there for them.

I am happy.

Scandals and isolation

I don’t write about the past because I need sympathy. Whatever sympathy anyone feels for the events that happened a quarter of century ago is not going to make any difference to my life. I write because sometimes writing it out helps to quieten the beast that threatens my sanity.

When I joined the medical college, one thing that plagued me was my periods. I never had normal periods. It was irregularly irregular and I was suffering. In Physio, one of the first thing you learn is to check your Hb level. Mine was insanely low. I was tired all the time and I couldn’t even  concentrate. As usual, the first line of dealing with the issue was to approach my mother. She was unhelpful. I figured the only way to deal with the issue was to go to a doctor myself. I didn’t want to go to the doctors at the medical college for you see them everyday and this was something personal. There was a well known gynaecologist in Bangalore who stayed pretty close to one of my classmate’s house. He helped me make an appointment and took me to the clinic. I spent the night at his house, with his father, mother, three older sisters, one brother in law and a niece. His mother taught me how to make Phulkas.The reason why I spent the night at his house was that I was taking couple of days off and going back home and I only managed to get a reservation for the next day. Going back to the college and faking another dead grandfather was cumbersome. Besides I enjoyed staying at my friend’s house. It was a normal house where people talked and laughed, something I never experienced in my own house. In fact when I mentioned that I loved the gagra choli his sister was wearing, she gave me one of her set to wear. A few months later when the family went back to their native place, they bought me a mirror work gagra choli.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to me, my virginity keeper (my oldest sister) had come/called my college. Don’t know what exactly happened. Needless to say that she lost her marbles when she found out that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and was in fact didn’t have a grandfather that could die. He was already dead two decades ago.

So, imagine the fireworks that waited for me when I reached Kottayam. I tried to explain to my mother where I was, but to no avail.

Virginity keeper arrived the next day and in order to prove my innocence, I showed her the doctors note. I didn’t trust her with the note, so I made sure, I took it back and hid it my room. But she was a pro when it came to espionage and I never saw the doctors note again.

In the letter that George sent , one of the things he mentioned was that I had an abortion at the clinic. He mentioned the name of the clinic. Some of my hostel mates knew that I was going to the clinic. Because I had asked those from Bangalore about the Gynaecologist I was planning to see. Putting two and two together was not a difficult thing to do.

This abortion episode had stayed with me until I left the medical college. More so, because one of my seniors had joined the same  clinic that I went to after graduating and he claimed  that he checked the old records and it was true to his friends at the college (his juniors). Either he lied or my sister and George changed the record. But the truth is, I never had an abortion. If I was pregnant, I had the guts to carry the child and give birth. I wish I was pregnant because then I would have had something so beautiful to remind me of a great man.  Imagine a baby with his eyes..

For 4 1/2 years, I was not part of any gang. No one wanted me to sit with them while eating.  People went to the mess in groups (either based on their mother tongue or by room mates) I went alone for every single meal. I was never asked to join tour groups. Mallu Girls from my batch went to Goa, Ooty etc and I was never invited. They used to go together to restaurants, shopping trips etc. I was never even invited to any weddings of any classmates.

I went to mess everyday on my own, fortunately I had books to keep me company, so not having a conversation didn’t bother me. I used to go to the canteen and talk to the boys because they were less judgemental and sometimes I went to restaurants with them ( which incidentally tarnished my reputation some more because I was a flirt and went out to eat with boys!). Once I had a row with a classmate guy who wanted something more than friendship that I wasn’t willing to offer. He felt I was stringing him along and  abandoned me  at the restaurant. I ended up crying as I had no way of getting back home at 11.30 at night on my own and also the anger that just because I went out for a meal with this guy he expected me to warm his bed. The guy who was a chef at the rice bowl in Brigade road came to my rescue and we became good friends. After that I didn’t need any friends to drop in to the restaurant to eat. I actually tracked him down this time when I went to Bangalore to thank him for being a good friend.

Ps. I don’t think you would ever understand the harm you have inflicted on me. There will never be a day that I will ever forgive you. I am indifferent to my sisters younger to me, but for you, I save all my hatred.  I have said so many times to leave me alone and you still had the audacity to use your fake name and try to add me on messenger. For you, this is a game? to torment me? Keep creating your fake names on FB and I will keep blocking you. Just remember, that with each attempt, you increase my hatred for you a million fold.


And finally

My aunt was one of the pioneer women from my ancestral town who had a nose piercing. In those days there was a clear cultural line that separated adherents of various religious practices. Christians didn’t wear pottu and certainly didn’t wear nose piercing. I was so fascinated to see my aunt breaking cultural ties. And I too wanted a mukkuthi.

After relentless nagging/begging/pleading my mother finally relented. I had just completed MBBS and I wanted something to mark the occasion. We went to Josco jewellers and I picked a tiny diamond mukkuthi. And then my mother had second thoughts. She said ” you know, you are now of a marriageable age and will soon get married, What if the boy doesn’t like you wear a mukkuthi? So, I think it is better to wait until you get married and get your husband’s permission”

It was my nose and I was not married at that time and why I asked my mother for her permission is still something I never understood. Somehow you are supposed to listen to your elders and follow their advice even if you know it was flawed and baseless.

Few years ago, when Yaya and I went to India, she got her nose pierced. I had thought of getting one done, but it was Yaya’s big day and I felt, it should be just hers and not something she should be sharing with her mom.

Plus there was an age concern, although I am a firm believer of ‘you are not old and it is not too late’ dogma, I was still a bit concerned. Especially when I am working for International Organizations.

This time I went to India and had that phone conversation with my sister younger to me, it actually reinforced why I walked away from my crazy family. Since my sister told me that I should consider my mother is no more, I felt I needed something to remind me not to ever have anything to do with my mother or sisters.

So I got my nose pierced. I also bought a emerald nose ring, which matches the earrings my youngest gave me as a gift.

My best friend is convinced that the next in line is a tattoo and I have learned to Never say Never.


When I talked about my room in the last post, this was something I wanted to write, but couldn’t do it last week.

It was the second half of my pre clinical subjects. A year and half after I joined the MBBS program. After this, you start clinical subjects. For me, this was the one semester I wanted to get it over with because this was the last time I was ever going to do Anatomy. I aced in Biochem and Physiology. I hated anatomy.

We were having study holidays.That particular morning one of the hostel mates bought sabarjilli from the local market and they were all laughing at me when I said we call it sabarjilli in Malayalam. Come to think of it, why would anyone call pear sabarjilli?

Later that morning,some of the students decided to hike up a small hill nearby to go to a temple and I joined them. BE had gone back to his place because he wanted to attend the Sekrenyi festival. In those days telephone calls were very expensive and  he had to pretend to be my father when he called the hostel in order to avoid suspicion, which was not easy with his very typical Naga accent. So he didn’t call me from his home that often. He was only away for a couple of weeks and I was busy studying for my exams.

I had worn a navy blue skirt(from my guiding days) and a light blue top that day. I didn’t go inside the temple. I sat outside and watched the monkeys making a fool of themselves. We came back in time for lunch.

As I entered the hostel foyer, I noticed everyone was looking at me. It was really strange. Then I noticed my room mate was whispering something to the group I was with and I knew there was something wrong. Then I noticed one of the temple trip group member opening the letter she was given by my room mate and I went to her and practically snatched the letter from her hand. I remember the whole world coming to a standstill. I didn’t read the whole letter. I couldn’t.

The first few lines that I read said that I was a famous call girl in Bangalore and that I charge by the hour and  have a large clientele.

I don’t remember how I got back to my room. I remember one of the lecturers coming and giving me a Valium injection. My anatomy uniexam was next morning. I wrote that exam without studying. I couldn’t open my eyes let alone study. That was what George wanted. I think it was a pay back for escaping when he came to visit me. He somehow expected that by sending an anonymous letter to every single student, lecturer, even the cleaning ladies that I will not write my exam and will fail and perhaps quit medicine.

4 days after the letter was received, my mother and George came to visit me at the hostel. Of course his highness wanted to see it for himself how his little plan affected me. I showed the letter to my mother and told her to tell George that I know it is he who sent it. My mother took George’s side.. enthoru nalla manussyan aa..ninakku vatta kind of dialogue she said. I didn’t go out of the hostel to see George. That was the second last time I ever saw him.

I passed.

George did send another batch of letters a week after college reopened. Amma would have let him know that I passed..By then I had learned to play his game. I paid the postman extra money and told him to let me know if there was another bulk mail sent out to the college, I should be told. (this was also reinforced by the classmate who was not staying in the campus) So when the next lot of letters came, my classmate and the postman collected every single one of the letters and burned it.

I had a mother, a father, an older sister and two younger sisters at that time and I had no one to lean on. I survived because I felt if I gave up, then George  would have won.

I was always alone..and that was the hardest truth to accept.