The mother quotient

It need not have been like this.   Saying that it hurts badly now more than ever is an understatement.  This day marks over 2 decades of your leaving us, and we’ve stopped counting the years. It hurts ma. More than it did when we were still children.And of all the times, you had to visit your younger child in her dream just 2 days before your anniversary and smother her in kisses and hugs and just show a sample of what we have missed!

My stepping into the teens and the little sister into her tweens meant some milestones. But we were not prepared for the huge milestone you had set for us! Do you know how many friends it took us to tide the initial years and make those attainable ma? Takku, Geet, Sri, Vidya, Chitra, Janani, Gowri, Uma, Shoba, Aparna, and everyone in their family! If any amount of sanity prevails in our lives today, it is because of these gems. Thanking them is doing a great disservice. A note to you all dearest friends: you have grown too deep into us and we can never see you apart.

And to you ma, just want to say that I miss all of these and more and i can never find words to say it all:

  • The luxury of complaining and just letting go
  • Taking you for granted and expecting you to be always available
  • Looking up to you for a compliment when am clad in a saree and always getting more
  • Packing up bags a week ahead of the school vacations to visit you with my children, sister and her little ones
  • Just sitting back and waiting for that vadaam koozhu or getting you make that yummy Mysore Pak
  • Having you around to pack my maternity bags and rush me to the hospital to welcome the 1st grandchild
  • Taking sides with all the four grandchildren and making your daughters the villains
  • Pampering them with a secret lollipop and indulging them as your fancy leads.
  • Just to be able to leave the children with you and go shopping with sis.
  • Get admonished for not eating well or for poor hair care.
  • Being fussed over the smallest suggestion of a pain
  • And let your daughters fuss over you and take you to a doc and phone-up everyday to see if you’ve popped-in that pill!
  • Planning a nice vacation for you and generally taking you places
  • And in general, you would be the only person to unconditionally believe that your daughter is always right no matter how wrong she is.

As a mother of two now, I realize there are so many situations and people  that I could have handled differently.  We managed to come out unscathed, a little head-strong, a little too strong-willed, but are proud of how we have turned out to be..  Your not being around has imparted one strong lesson of not ‘knowing’ fear. But only till my own children and that of my sis came into this world. Now, there is just this one thing I fear and wish for. To live a long healthy life and be available when my children and grand children need me.  I will. Love you Ma, for all the sweet memories you have left behind. Your grandchildren love you too and they know every loving word you uttered back then.

The sinner!

IndianHomeMaker started this tag on listing 10 things you have ever wanted or done which your gender is not supposed to.

Well, Life_Refactored has tagged me in his post on the gender stereotype. Thank you sir!! The big truth is that I conform more to the ‘stereotype’ than not! Still, here is a small list of things where I think I ‘beat’ the stereotype.

1. Did not cry during my wedding:) I was so busy enjoying my marriage that I even failed to notice one of the priests disappear! My partner did his best to induce tears, but nay! ‘Kutthu-kal’ (or Gundu-kal), he said:)

2. With a 7-month pregnant belly, took the front seat next to the driver in a speeding ambulance that was driving my dad for an emergency scan, with my husband in the rear, attending to my dad. He was left worrying about 3 lives! And I ‘offered’ my father’s body during the last rites with my uncle ‘proxy-ing’ for carrying the pot and lighting the pyre as I was still pregnant.. Wish I’d done that too..

3. The expenses during our courtship days were shared! I foot the fuel or restaurant bill once, and the next time its him. Unromantic I know, but that is how it is:)

4. I shop for clothes or jewels rather quickly. And mostly shop alone!

5. Did not wear any make-up for my wedding.

6. Dealt with a group of 5 (40 + something year old) drunken bastards calling themselves well-wishers, mustering courage to throw them out. Verbally.

7. Threw an ‘eve-teaser’ off balance when he attempted a ‘bottom slap’. He missed and instead his hand brushed against my dupatta. I gave him my dupatta and asked if he wanted to take it! A blockhead of a fellow!

8. I shamelessly oust men occupying ‘ladies seat’ in a bus.

9. Detest a public ‘show of love-and-affection’ for the partner. Despite sharing the workplace, we hardly bump into each other. I have never once been to his bay nor has he.

10. I don’t ‘nag’ my husband, specially when he is traveling out with his friends. He travels with his friends and I with mine. So we breathe peace:)

That said, I can be more easily stereotyped than fitting into the ‘sinful’ gang:)

I’m most comfortable in a saree or a salwar, like to wear elegant jewelry, love to cook, burst into tears of volcanic proportions when hormones wreak havoc. I am scared of getting behind the wheels and trust my partner the best. Am not comfortable on a pillion ride with anyone else other than him and maybe am old fashioned:) But that’s me and am comfortable in my skin!!

Now, I tag Rajendran, Lavanya, Jaya, Umavythi, Aparna, and Suganthi

Parenting gyan in a bus

Another of those ‘bus-conversations’ that I cannot resist posting here:)

This time a mommy instructing her daddy not to take her child to a birthday party. Ahem, and the party was in her S-I-L’s place.. I did not bother to find out if it was her hubby’s sis or or brother’s wife:-) Nosy, I know! But when people talk for the world to listen in to their parenting skills, I think there is no harm in contributing an idea or two!

So, our lady reasoned that the child (referred to through out the conversation as ‘adhu’ or ‘idhu’, the reason why I could not make out if it was a sad son or a deprived daughter), might end up eating chocolates, chips, cakes or pastries, or maybe even some fruit juice. So what snacks does one other-wise arrange for birthday parties? Tell me something other than veg sandwich and french fries please because the child cannot have these items too. The butter/cheese/veg/sauce filling is hazardous to the child’s health..

At which point, am assuming the grandpa on the other end was all empathy for the grand-child and seems to have mentioned there was dinner too and maybe he offered to take care to see that the child does not have any of these other than dinner. Rearing two brats at home, I know how hard it is to hold back a child from going to a b’day party (or from hosting one )if they already know its happening! And they have a blast! I’m restrictive too- chocolates, pastries, chips are not a part of everyday meal. No Lays chips, no Bingo/dingo, no cream biscuits. The regular variety of chips/wafers, chaat, tandoori, anything home-made, hotel-cooked is fine for me. Weekends, parties, when we have visitors, during travel – are all occasions to indulge… How can you deprive your child what every other child the world over loves and has? Well, I digress!

The biggest gyan was yet to come: “No dinner please. Am sure they’ll have a biryani and curd-rice and more chips. “adhu” cannot have curd rice because “adhu” can catch cold!” Give me a break!!

The grandpa made the mistake of saying ‘paavam kozhandai’ on the other end and there ensued a macro lecture that lasted a full 4 minutes. I’ll just give you the gist: “Paavam (sympathy)” will do no good. And she would go home and make ‘koottu (some dhal with veg- hopefully)’ and rasam and feed the child. Amending her ‘parenting’ style is not an option it seems!! Shabbbaa! ‘Paavam thatha and ‘adhu’, is all I can say!!


The journey – Day-3

Day1- Plantation, Elephant-ride, Kathakali
Day 2 – Tribal Village, Kalaripayattu, B’day celebrations

It was like I’d slept just for 5 minutes when the alarm on my mobile buzzed. It was already 4.00 in the morning! How did 6 hours shrink and fit into 5 minutes?!! Knocked the other 4 rooms- a double-up wake-up call just in case the alarm did not go off in any of the rooms. By 4.50 we all were ready and waiting at the gate for the auto-rickshaws to arrive. We had collected the numbers the previous day and gave one guy a wake-up call at 4.20 AM.

We were at the check-post, 2nd in the queue, and the counter would open at 5.50 AM to issue permits. The auto drivers warned us that they’d speed into the reserve the moment the gate opens and that we should hold on to our seats as they’d not slow-down even at the speed breakers! Some of us had tea and waited for the heaven gates to open:) It did at the stroke of 6.10 AM and you must see it to believe it. The auto-race was one experience! They halt about 200 meters before the lake and from there we had to do a marathon to get to the queue quick! Jo and Aathrey were the ace sprinters who made it to the queue! After all the huffs and puffs, forms were filled and tickets were bought. KTDC issues two tickets per person and you need to fill-in a form with the contact details of the persons and Rs.40/- is charged per person. The forest department issues one ticket per person and is priced at Rs.150/- per person. We took the KTDC ones as per the advice of our expert consultants of the moment- the auto drivers!

All the trouble was worth the 1.5 hrs ride. We were lucky to spot deers, wild boars, elephants, turtles, bison, and a variety of birds!

The autos came back at 9.30 AM to pick us up and were back to the dhaba to break our fast. We packed some lunch too from the same place. At 12.00 noon, we checked-out of the resort and we were on our way to Kottayam railway station. Bookings were full for from Dindugal/Kodai Rd/Madurai and so we opted to make the return from Kottayam (its around 110 kms from Thekkady while Dindugal is around 140 kms). The ghat road was a beautiful drive.

We were at Kottayam station 3.5 hours later. The waiting room served as the lunch room too.. The train arrived a few minutes late and it was hard to believe that the journey was coming to an end…

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The journey continues

Day-1 Account here

The only item on our agenda for Sunday, the Day 2, was to go boating at the Periyar lake. My limited ability to ‘paranyu-fy’ in Malayalam was not enough to get across our queries to the dumb (otherwise amiable) folks at the resort reception. One, we wanted to find out how easy/tough it was to get a ticket for boating, the timings etc, and another information I was dying to get was a jeep-safari at Gavi. This wildlife habitat sounded exotic on the web and was located around 40 kms away from our place of stay. There was another safari at Periyar reserve but priced too high. We were still game if the forest folks guaranteed spotting a tiger or two but that was not to be:) Without any pre-arrangement for Gavi (lack of proper contacts), we dropped it.

We woke up without a hurry and the kids had a blast once again at the pool! None of us adults carried a swim-wear which was mandatory to step into the pool (not to mention our immense water-talents, the adeptness with which we can walk in the waters unlike the tiny swimmers in the group, will make you want to forget what it is to swim:)

The breakfast this time had a little Kerala in it – the famous ‘steamed bananas’! We all ate ‘shamelessly’. Really. It was a part of our stay package and decided to make the most of it!! There was another important item on the agenda for Day 2. We had to make arrangements for the birthday celebration of 2 people in the group, one, a lady soon-to-be-married (on the same day), and another was for 4-year-old honey-bee Harish (the following day). We decided to celebrate both together on Sunday night as we had to check-out of the resort the following noon.

Soon after breakfast, a couple of us went out hunting for a good bakery that could bake a birthday cake by evening and found one. We placed an order for the cake, promising to collect at around 4.00 in the evening, and joined the others at the resort in 30 minutes.

Then off we went to the Tribal Village at Thekkady. We were hopeful of seeing a handful of ‘adhivasis’ and we did meet them. Only that they have turned modern:) A very good thing. So modern that we saw a Sun Direct dish on a thatched roof!! We would have nearly walked around 6 kms to and fro and again the kids did well! JC, the honey-bee’s mom somehow kept him distracted and ensured that he too walked the stretch.. Which is quite a task for a 4-year-old!

The guide was a friendly chap, a tribal himself in modern attire, educated, led us through the village, the wild flora (no fauna barring the buffalo basking in a murky pond under the sun and some birds), their huts built of bamboo and straw, and an elaborate account of the customs followed by the tribal. Each ‘house’ has another separate room attached for the women who stay isolated for 7 days during the ‘female-blues’! Why this national obsession with a woman’s menstrual cycle is something I’ve never been able to figure out! A casual question to the women on how the men of their tribe treat them was answered with a sigh, a groan and oh-these-men! reaction:) That by the way is a universal phenomenon isn’t it?:)) The dwellers here, farm, make bamboo/straw crafts, work in plantations, sell produce from their village etc for a living.

It appears that there are 7 tribal leaders who are the Panchayat equivalents. They decide on the right/wrong of the ‘tribal-affairs’. A man or a women cannot marry for 3 years if the spouse dies. They re-marry after the completion of 3 years during the tribal festival (which is once a year). Like the Egyptian mummies, they bury food, ornaments, clothes etc along with the dead- presumably for use during the life after death! The tenements, which were once in the deep jungles, have now moved more closer to the town. A tiger strays into their dwelling once in a while (not sure how true it is. maybe, maybe not!). At this, Vyas, the Tenali of our house, became very alert and there started a series of questions on tiger trails, the verification of tigers count, and how many of the1411 tigers were in this reserve etc. He found relief when the guide told him that the animal is virtually powerless in a human habitat and an encounter at that moment will not be very eventful!!

The government has provided a lot of aid to these people by way of school, occupation, basic housing/sanitation facility etc.. The modern-tribal women, clad mostly in nighties, posed for photographs and requested for a copy to be sent. The address is waiting in my hand bag for we are yet to print the hard copies. A lot of huffs and puffs and jackfruits-seeing later, we headed back to the dhaba for a packed meal! It was awesome.

After lunch, about 7 of us from the group took the local share-autos to check for boating tickets as we were told that KTDC issues only 2 tickets per person and that you need to fill-in a form with your name, address etc. These stringent measures is following the mishap last year at the lake. On reaching the forest check-post, we were told that the boating was full. We retreated to the resort and on our way back, booked tickets for a Kalari show at 6.00 PM that evening close to the resort.

It was around 3.30 PM and few caught up on some lost sleep. At 4.00, I left the kids at the pool and went out with another friend to fetch the cake, while another one watched over the kids. Off we went to fetch the cake, balloons, chocolates, candles, thread, and gifts and were back at 5.00. The elves were still soaking in the cool waters and making merry. After they showered and dressed, we all had tea/bournvita and waited for the others to join. The balloons were blown and kept ready in one of the rooms (It was supposed to be a secret and Vyas has a reputation for keeping it well! To him, a secret is something that can be shared in whispers or into someone’s ears just loud enough for anyone within 10 mts to hear!). And then we scooted to the Kalaripayattu show.

It was a wonderful show of martial arts using a sword and shield, free -hand, a long and short stick (thadi). All was well till a performer lit two ends of a stick wound in kerosene-doused cloth and lit them. He stored some of this fuel in his mouth and as he was wielding the stick he blowed some kerosene from his mouth sending up a ball of fire. ‘That is it!’ decided our man Vyas. And yelled, “What an idiotic stunt is this!”. Fortunately or unfortunately, the crowd did not hear him as they were too absorbed to notice. He was virtually in tears and had his palms covering his ears. “Ma, take me out of here. I don’t to watch this silly show”.  I tried convincing him that these were only stunts like the ones he saw on movies and the performers are trained well and nothing will happen. Just then, two fire rings were brought in and he knew a guy was going to jump through the ring. He got up from the seat saying the folks must be stupid to do something so silly and risk their lives for a show and I had to take him out. I felt it was not the time to tell him how wrong it is to call people silly, stupid or idiotic and let it go. He was scared out of his wits and was almost crying. I would have failed to make a point. Besides, something inside me felt he was right…

It had rained outside when we were watching the show, and the evening was beautifully chill. There wasn’t a single stagnate pool of water anywhere on the road. The earth had soaked up every drop of rain! We all gathered at the resort 15 minutes later, and celebrated the ‘twin birthday’. The cake under a lamp-shade in the courtyard with an open roof on top, surrounded by our rooms, was kinda romantic:) The birthday girl and the birthday boy cut the cake together, fed each other a piece and there was lot of chasing to smudge the icing on the b’day girl’s face. The cakes and starters served as appetizers. We were ravenous and headed-out to another dhaba we had discovered on our way to the bakery. Had a decent dinner, but the lassi was pathetic! No regrets though!

We all crashed and maybe snored after cleaning -up and packaging our baggage as it was a long day ahead. The alarm was set for 4.00 AM the following morning. We had to tick that one item on our agenda!! And that can wait for the next post! Till then, here are some pics from day-2..

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Its the journey, not the destination

Yet another magalir mattum (only-women) plus kiddos trip, this time to Thekkady. This time around, it was a coffee-toffee decision unlike the carefree Yelagiri trip. Should I join this time or not? If I do, will Varun go with me or stay behind? I know some mommies out there are ready to throw your daggers at me! Confining Varun to a couple of seats in the train, carrying him for the most part of the trip besides the travel bag, the fear of losing him in a crowd, the power to hold him back when he sees a lake or pool etc, were a few factors that I had to consider. The daddy pitched in here helping me make the decision. He thought the trip would do me good and so I should go with Vyas, and he, with the grandparents, would take care of Varun.

And so, Vyas and I joined my friends on this wonderful trip to Thekkady without Varun, my first stay away from the little one. I’m told, he was fantastic; ate, played, and slept without a fuss! Though I felt a little relieved, there was another side that was disappointed! My baby did not miss me? Felt like leaving for work the first day post the maternity break:) And counseled myself with – ‘No one is indispensable. Face it. You could stay away from your baby and so could he! Move on!’

The bookings were made nearly a couple of months back and none of us were sure if we will make it owing to official and personal priorities. Being a holiday season, we did not risk postponing the booking. We decided to cancel a couple of days before the journey date in case there is huge drop-out. A couple of friends dropped out at the last minute owing to sickness. Finally, we were 8 women and 6 kids (aged 11, 9, 8, 6, 5, and 4!) on the trip and a very fulfilling one at that!

We alighted at Dindugul junction and headed to Kumbakarai water falls. The original plan was to hit Suruli falls but dropped it as a friend who had visited a week earlier told that there wasn’t much water. Kumbakarai was a superb experience. What looked like a light fall from a distance, came with a huge thud on us. The kids got to take one more loooong dip at a stream leading to the fall. As it was shallow and safe, there was a lot of splashing and screaming!


After nearly an hour and a half at Kumbakarai, we were back on the road to Thekkady. The road was one long silk ribbon with a view of the Kodai hills at a distance.

Kodai Road
On our way to Thekkady
On our way to Thekkady
On our way to Thekkady

We reached the resort at 10.15 AM on a Saturday morning, parked our luggage, and had a sumptuous breakfast. A tad disappointed at the menu as there was nothing ‘Kerala’ in the breakfast menu:). Half-an-hour later, the kids were at the pool for yet another round of splashing and swimming. We had a hard time yanking them out of the pool:)

At the pool
At the pool
At the pool
At the pool

After refreshing, we visited a spice plantation at Kumily and the experience was enriching. Despite the hot afternoon, the kids walked without sulking. Vyas had to make a scrapbook of leaves collected over a nature walk as part of his holiday homework. This visit was a blessing and we collected the leaves from a few spice plants. There was this unique plantain tree in which the plantain flower and the plantains grow upwards, facing the sky! See this beauty!

At the spice plantation
At the spice plantation

There was another flower that resembled a golden fish! Here is the pic!

The fish-like flower
The fish-like flower

The lunch following the plantation visit was a disaster. We should have done at least a 10 minutes research instead of trusting the driver’s suggestion! Happens! Again, the kids did not fuss. We proceeded straight to the elephant ride. A few of us stayed back while most of the group hopped on to the elephant and took a 30 minutes ride into another plantation (there are quite a few plantations in Kumily-Thekkady). We were in time to catch the sight of an elephant being bathed.

Elephant ride
Elephant ride
Elephant bath
Elephant bath

We were back at the resort by 4.30. After some sandwiches, coffee and tea, we went to a Kathakali show where an artist enacted the ‘navarasas’, the nine different emotions expressed using the eyes. This was followed by two artists performing an episode from ‘Narakasuravadham’, depicting the killing of Nakrathudi, the demon (sister of Narakasura) by King Jayantha. The overall quality of the performance was okay only that Vyas jumped out of his skin towards the end when the slain demon really looked and bellowed like one!

Kathakali- Narakasuravadham
Kathakali- Narakasuravadham
Kathakali- Narakasuravadham

We discovered a nice Gujrathi/Marwadi dhaba just two blocks away from our resort and compensated for the poor lunch. Despite the splitting headache, we managed to gobble up hot panneer parathas, phulkas, yummy curries and lassi!

This was Day 1 of our rendezvous. More to follow!

Day 2
Day 3

Role reversal

Last night, Varun fell asleep even before his sleepy mommy finished telling him a story. Vyas was waiting for the little brother to fall asleep and the moment I turned to his side, his arms were around my neck and it was to be the usual mom-son hushed hushed talk to catch up on few stories from the day!

We both fell silent after about 10 minutes when suddenly I felt a butterfly flutter against my cheek. It was a very familiar ‘feeling’. Vyas’s face was pressed against my face and it was his eye-lashes that were brushing my cheek. I planted a kiss on his forehead and told him that this was exactly what I used to do to my mom when I was like him or maybe a little older! And she used to kiss my forehead the way I did!

And then, I told him I miss my mom dearly. He was listening to my heart, for he pulled me closer, held me in a tighter embrace in reply. He was my mom at that instant…

Women and work

A couple of years back, a senior colleague in a responsible position, during a casual talk, observed that a lot of support systems need to be in place for a woman to be able to pursue a career. This statement has somehow stayed with me and I was impressed with the unflattering, matter-of-fact tone with which he made the observation.

It is very encouraging when there are men around you with such sensitivity, who not only make the work environment women-friendly and ‘light’, but also give a gentle pat on the back every now and then to convey that all is well, ensure that (if in their means) opportunities are fairly distributed based on merit and not gender, empathize with the women on a trapeze and see that petty politics do not get in the way of a woman’s growth. All these without much ado.

Compare this with another kind who think twice about recruiting young women just out of college because marriages and babies come in the way! The types who do not spare an opportunity to take a woman on a guilt-trip for not staying late into the night to complete an assignment, or take a call from home! The ones who cannot pass up a note of appreciation without acting as if they have bestowed a favor. If such people are not thwarting woman’s progress, what are they doing?

Girl, Woman, Mother

I sent up a silent thanks to my parents for letting their two daugthers bloom into mothers and live to see the world ‘celebrate’ Women’s Day!

Something inside me turned on reading this poem by my sis!

Girl Child

    Compulsory imprisonment in the gaol called womb,
    Undeserving definitely,
    Yet no voice in uproar.

    The day of release announced,
    Creation of Tiny Mother known;
    When arrival assured, milk from creepers ooze!

    Merely a-day-old Mother,
    Her tears run in parallel streams
    Her lullaby termed ambiguous.

    And finally the day of doom postponed
    For the arrival of Unholy Monk.

    Oh Monday, How unfortunate!
    He clutches her pale tiny fingers,
    She’s dazed; Her long lashes flutter. . .

    Her pale pinkness hides behind blue
    As though poisoned sugar in purest milk.

    A loud cry let out by the mother
    In reply, the Girl Child lets out her breath. . .

    Mankind! Don’t nip her as a bud
    Or, you have murdered a mother.

    -by Nithya Chander