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June 27, 2020

27.06.2020

Dearest Antu,

You think that you have figured me out. That I am sad that you are one more year older and that I am going to flood the house with my tears that my baby is turning 12. But I refuse to be predictable. I am very excited and very happy, I would like you to know. 12 is a wonderful age. Just perfect. One year closer to the Teens. I cant wait! See? I can do it. I am smiling and NOT at all crying inside. I am NOT looking at your baby photos and its NOT breaking my heart into a million little pieces. In fact, I am so overjoyed that…. Fine! I give up. Who am I kidding? I am dying, alright? The world as I know it is coming to an end and I am terrified that I am gonna have two teens at home by this time next year. You have changed so much in the last one year. Unlike your sister with her devil may care attitude, you care too much and get hurt too much which in turn hurts me way too much even though I am the one causing the hurt most of the time. Go figure! Dysfunctional family, for the win!


You are very insightful and the topics of our conversations throughout the day range from favorite color to existential questions like “Who will tell your story when you die?” Sometimes I have to take a moment and reexamine my whole life just to answer a simple question from you. You are obsessed with all kinds of games like 21 Questions, Would you rather, What if.. and drive the whole family crazy with your non stop questioning and I do wonder if you would do well as a lawyer or a counsellor when you grow up! This one time you nagged your sister to play with you and she being who she is came up with “Would I rather play this game with you or jump into that pond there?” and you earnestly replied to her with a “jump into the pond?” half hoping you got the right answer and at the same time worried that she means that! Oh my poor little darling! Always worried about when your moms going to blow up, when your sisters going to get upset, when your father is going to stop making you pancakes! (The last one will never happen, you and I know that!) We all love you in our own way and would do anything to make you happy, got it?

You are majorly into paper crafts and make all kinds of awesome stuff watching youtube videos. The 3D and pop out cards you make for us are legendary in our family and I have no clue how you got to be so talented. Taken after your sister, truly. Also the reading. We have turned you into a total potterhead too. You finished reading all of the Harry Potter books multiple time in both English and German and and currently you are reading them to your dad. Interesting thing about reading books in two languages, I asked you the other day if you prefer to read in English or German and you said “I prefer German if they are originally written in German” and I was blown away by that information. Go forth and conquer, my girl! Music is also a big part of your life. You are very interested in what I am listening in Indian film music. You are learning to play Piano, you have made a huge progress in Carnatic music and can sing like a dream. (Though extremely shy to sing in front of an audience!) My favorite part of the day is when I am prepping dinner and you sit near the kitchen with your Shruthi box and practice your singing. I could nt be more proud of you.

School and friends are your raison d’être and the 3 months of lockdown this year was quite hard on you. But it also gave a chance for you to be glued to your father like you used to long back and its heart warming to see you both spend so much time together. That man has been a goner from the moment he laid his eyes on you, the exact second you took your first breath but he’s truly and deeply wrapped around your little finger now and I am equal amounts proud and jealous of that fact! You worship your sister and any praise from her is a gift from the Gods for you. You respect me but also afraid to disappoint me. You adore your grand parents and uncle and aunt and very much upset about the cancelled travel plans this summer to meet them all. You are kindness personified and almost always make the right choice. May be, you will tell our story, Antu. I would very much like that. Keep being you, Kannamma. Wishing you a wonderful 12th Birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.

June 05, 2020

05.06.2020


Yes. It's one of those mushy anniversary anecdotes. 20 years together and I think it deserves some reminiscing. The husband of mine is an enigma. And I don't mean that in a mysterious or layered way. He's just an unpredictable idiot with a side of adorable. You can put any two beings together for 20 years, throw in a couple of kids, privileged life, barely-there-first-world-problems and I ll bet my last Rappen that they both can live relatively happy ever after! Same goes for us, I guess. Nothing earth shattering there. Love, shove, death do us apart are all fine and good when ones young and clueless but if the art of loading a dishwasher is what makes or breaks a marriage, we are at a strong 8/10 after 20 years of training. (I mean how hard is it to try to fit one more spoon, I ask you?)



Hiking with the kids is always accompanied by some weird games Antu comes up with. Shes the master of Questions. So this one time, we were playing a mix of "Would you rather", "Two Truths and a Lie" and "What would you do if..." 


Question 1: Which one thing or one person would you take with you if you are stranded in an island?


Me (even before she finishes the question) - Your father!


The said father (after thinking about it for 2 whole minutes) - A dog!


Question 2: If theres one thing you would change about Appa/Amma, what would it be?


Me  (after thinking about it for a bit) - nothing exactly. No, wait a sec. I ll change something so that hes not allergic to pollen anymore. Hes really in a bad shape in spring.


The said allergic Wimp (immediately) - Her anger! I ll make her less angry!


Question 3: Two truths and a lie?


Me (Baring my heart and bringing out childhood trauma and untold secrets)


1. I had a crush on a boy when I was in 5th grade.  (True.)
2. Once I did nt talk to my father for three whole months (Also true.)
3. When I was 15, I went on a hunger strike for 5 days. (Lie. It was only for 4 days!)


The said Enigma:


1. I like Jasmine
2. I like spiders better than bees
3. I like flying.


I swear on God, I was ready to kill the man in spite of his 8/10 dishwasher loading capabilities. No one is that desperate for perfection! (Fine! Who am I kidding? Perfection or death is my motto in life!) Anyway, the man is the Ron to my Hermione. Especially his "emotional range of a teaspoon"! Of course, hes also an ace strategist like Ron and got out of his murder situation by explaining that he would nt want me to suffer with him stranded in an island and he would always want the best for me and went all deep with Q2 "I like you just the way you are. But you are always upset with yourself about your anger and I want only what you want for yourself"! (Ahem. Where's the damn tissue? May be I am allergic to pollen too? *wipes tears*) But that still does nt explain his LIE. He does nt like jasmine, it seems?? WHAAAAA? Which self respecting Tamil Male does nt like jasmine now?? Whats the next big reveal? He does nt like (H)alwa also? Anyway, I digress. What I am trying to say is that you think you know a man after twenty years of being his jailmate out of which the last 90 days, you were literally his cellmate thanks to the lockdown but he still manages to surprise you!


Dear Enigmatic Idiot,


I would hate you if I did nt love you so much. I don't know what good I did to deserve you in this life, but I hope I am doing enough good to deserve you in my next too. Happy 20th! 
Never stop surprising me.

Always yours until the end of time aka the elusive 10/10,
S


April 27, 2020

27.04.2020

Dearest Ashu,

Yet another year gone by and you turn 15 today amidst interesting times. The last 6 weeks of being cooped up together in our house with the four of us with just a break here and there and we both have nt attempted to murder each other. As yet. I am so proud of both of us. Not just for these past weeks but the whole last year where I finally feel we have grown up in our tumultuous relationship. You are showing much maturity and I think Im inching towards being patient. A big phew and all that! That does nt mean you are nice or anything. You are the reputed snark queen in the house and sarcasm could be the lowest form of wit but its your choice of weapon to wield! Oh and how you wield it! I used to get so annoyed with your utter lack of respect and my oft repeated mantra "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything!" fell to deaf ears. But later I realized that a snarky, sarcastic Teen who is at least talking is better than one who keeps to herself and never shares anything! So bring it on, Girl! After all, you learnt from the best and I can give it back as good as I get it!  Challenge accepted! 


You are very creative and have such clever hands. Be it playing the violin or plaiting your hair or your sisters. Playing Table tennis and winning medals in school tournaments or baking and decorating delicious and stunning cakes. Solving rubic cubes or drawing and sketching. Setting up elaborate projects on domino effect or making and editing ultra cool videos. You are a true star! Your talent astounds me and the amount of hard work and dedication and creativity you show at this age makes me feel like I was a total Buffoon when I was your age. And if my ego would allow me to say it, I still feel like one! You still have nt met a book you did nt like and listen to music all the time! Billie Eilish is your current Queen and your devotion to her is up there with JK Rowling and that's saying something! Keep reading and keep yourself surrounded with music and do something creative every day of your life!


My second best moment of the past year would be our girls trip to Berlin back in October.  I had always wanted to go on a trip with just us three girls and decided it was high time for me to adult and we flew to Berlin for 4 days. To put it mildly, I was terrified! But we had such fun and you were so responsible and were so happy and had such a good time that we were planning another trip even before we landed back in Basel. Which has nt happened yet and seeing how the world is going right now, it might not happen again in a long, long time but we will always have Berlin, won't we? And in December, we 4 went to the Andalusian region of Spain and we had a fantastic 8 days in Seville, Malaga, Granada and Cordoba. You were in love with the choice of food there especially the churros and chocolate combo and wanted so badly to extend the trip. We walked close to 100 kms in those 8 days and had an amazing time sight seeing. Even if we are quarantined for eternity, I could look back at all our family vacations and be content knowing how we have such a wonderful travel history. Especially you at this young age.  Always remember that you have been gifted with this privilege and please pay it forward in any way you can.


Now onto my most favorite heart melting moment of you at Age 14! A little history first. So its a known fact that I love Harry Potter. And I have a love/hate relationship with a certain Mr. Snape. Both you and Antu cannot for the lives of you understand why I adore him one moment and call him a selfish B@$T@&D, the next second. And having watched the movies like 17 times with Alan Rickman portraying Snape as if he was born to do the role does not help my case one bit. And I am ALWAYS, ALWAYS (Get it?) attracted to these kind of grey roles. Good is boring. Bad is terrible. But the ones in between are just right and delicious to devour in fiction. I love to analzyse these characters to death. And there's one scene in the 7th movie which is my favorite scene in the entire HP franchise: the back profile of Snape against a huge window. I love that scene and the framing and keep telling you all that I would love to own a poster of this frame whenever we watch the movie.(which is a lot!) Its just such a melancholic and breathtaking scene even without a single dialogue. So what do I see when I open my birthday present from you this year? A handmade notebook with a cover of the above said scene. WHICH YOU HAND PAINTED! I cried. I ugly cried. I cannot begin to describe the emotions I went through when I saw your thoughtful gift. All I will say is, I love you Pattu. Have a wonderful 15th Birthday. Stay blessed. Always.

Love,
அம்மா. 
The gift.

April 13, 2020

Life in times of Corona aka Life goes on...

Exactly one month ago, on my birthday, the lockdown began in Swiss. Hd had a dinner date planned for me and we were wondering whether to go or not. Ashu who loves any chance to get the adults of the house insisted that we go. "Could be the last time", the ever morbid teen prophesied. And I am glad we did! At least I ll remember fondly my last romantic meal in an Italian restaurant when I am dying on a overdose of Rasam and Rice with a side of kids whining and not to mention Hds annoying zoom calls!

The first week was a breeze. The kids were happy with no school. Hd was working from home and relaxed. I was cooking and cleaning and generally grateful for life. The second week was a bit crazy. The kids got school work and were stressed. Hd was putting out too many fires at the same time at work and I was cooking and cleaning and slightly grateful for life. The third week was painful. The kids were spending too much time on screen and fighting like dogs! Hd was using too many coffee mugs to my annoyance and I was cooking and cleaning and cursing my life. I planned to set up a hunger games sort of thing for the fourth week to see who would come out of it alive but I did nt want the prophecy of the resident teen to come true because obviously she would come out on top because she has been  planning our murders for far too long! So I resigned to my fate and cooked and cleaned and screamed and yelled and all was back to normal. Amazing how we get used to things given enough time, huh? 

Hd and I go out for a walk almost every day. One of us go out to do groceries twice a week. We get almost everything. We are safe and healthy and relatively happy and still it feels like we are in a limbo. I stopped reading news except once a day. Not reading or clicking on any forwards unless and until a certain stubborn sibling calls up and yells at me to see it because I will like it! (I did nt!) I am reading like crazy. (Questionable content though! Don't ask!) I finished a 12 week coursera course I began in Jan as a new year resolution and am very proud of it. Began another short course three weeks back. I am so thankful for technology and all my privilege but still it does nt stop me from yelling at Hd when he comes back with Avocados from the grocery store. Current gen dudes are useless in the face of apocalypse or what? In his defense, it was on sale it seems! Like I said, we are doomed!

Jokes aside, I hope you and your loved ones are safe. I hope the totem stops spinning soon! (The kids are nt the only ones with too much screen time!)


June 27, 2019

27.06.2019

Dearest Antu,


Your birthday party is already done and I wept so much while lighting the ELEVEN candle that you did even have to blow it out! If I was telling the previous sentence to a live audience, here's where you would have chipped in with a "you are lying, Amma. That did nt happen!" Sigh. You and your being fair and always so righteous! Thats you in a nutshell! Whether tattling to the teacher about your best friend cheating in a test (Ashu and I gasped in unison when you came home and reported this incident!) or speaking your mind (I like my room the way it is ok? You may not like it. But I do!) or helping me around the house without a peep or going above and beyond to help people, you are your great grand father and grandmother rolled into one! Do not ever change and keep the world at its toes!

Friends and family are everything to you. Of course we have to compete with lego friends and sylvanian family and every other cute little plastic thingies! You have a long list of requests for toys, books and apps that you absolutely "need" at any given point of time! Slime is the word of the year. Various liquids in various stages and smells line your shelves and sometimes my fridge too! "Poison! Do not eat!", you left a note thankfully! (Which your sister removed and stuck it in my muesli!!) Your dads shaving cream, my contact lens solution, shampoo, baking soda, everything is fair game in your slime making process! One liter of glue is one of your birthday presents this year! Music is life to you. We went to Anne Marie concert in May and when we surprised you and Ashu with the concert tickets, you let out a ear piercing shriek and hugged me and started bawling because you were so overwhelmed! Its worth doing everything for you just to witness the sheer joy in your face. 

Its lovely to travel with you. Whether we are visiting a museum or a cathedral, a beach or a national park, you are 100% into it and you ask a million questions and enjoy the little things. You walk for hours without complaining or whining. And most importantly, willing pose for my photos! You eat like a bird and that's quite a problem when we travel. But you are healthy and growing, so I guess I have to count my blessings. You love animals and collect info and trivia about them like a passion. Getting a dog would be your dream come true. Wonder when thats gonna happen though! You know everything about everyone. Whats our favorite color, favorite food, our likes and dislikes and individually cater to everyones needs. Theres never a dull moment with you around and you are the glue holding us all together and I thank you for that.

You are a confident and independent kid and I'm always learning from you a thing or two about loving and giving. The kind of mother I am to you is totally different from Ashu and its a very bittersweet feeling. We spend more time together and goof around more. You and Ashu are like chalk and cheese and its very difficult for me to be kind and nice to her when she's grumpy and is not ready to receive my love and kindness. How to give when one refuses to receive? But I look at you being your loving self and never changing the person you are in any situation. While I become a screaming banshee and unkind and mean and rude. Says a lot about me, does nt it? I tend to blame Ashu for bringing the worst in me but the worst should exist to come out right? If I keep changing myself that easily, who am I then? This one time when Ashu was very mean to you, I told you to stop talking and interacting with your sister. And even though you were hurt by her, you pounced on me with a "But I want to talk to her, Amma. I don't care what she says or thinks about me. I will always like her!" I don't know how a spiteful me gave birth to this zen monk! You are also very emotional and empathetic and broke down and cried when we heard the news on 29th May that my paternal grand mother has passed away. You were affected by how much I was affected by the news and hugged me. How the tables turn! I would never forget that in my whole life. Thanks for being there for me, Kannamma. It means a lot to me. Happy 11th Birthday and keep spreading your love and kindness to the whole wide world!

Love
அம்மா. 

June 06, 2019

Pattamma. (1916 - 2019)

My dearest grandmother (Pattamma to me) passed away last week at the over ripe age of 103. We were all expecting this. Actually praying for it. But when my mom sent this news at 7.22 am on a Wednesday morning, the world stopped spinning for a moment. I could nt talk. And I broke down and bawled like a baby. Well, I have always been a baby for her. My grandpa who I was extremely close to, passed away 20 years back and Pattamma never really fully recovered from his loss. With 6 daughters and 4 sons and dozens of grand kids and great grand kids and half a dozen great great grand kids, its an understatement to say that she lived a full life. And here I cant seem to manage two kids! I am so happy Ashu and Antu spent quite some time with her and knew her and will remember her. Ashu has played many a pallankuzhi games with her, helped her to scrape coconut, interviewed her for her school project (Pattamma had a pet green parrot growing up and it talked and repeated her mothers scoldings!) and has generally been around her more than Antu. Pattamma was smitten by Antu from the first time she saw her and like me, she was babied by her a lot. 

Pattamma was fit and healthy well into her 90s helping my parents around the house, washing her own clothes and climbing the stairs. But around 5 years back, she slipped on a step and broke her hip and everything went downhill from there. With every visit, I could see she was suffering more and more. Being bed ridden, being fed, having to wear a nightie instead of a saree, being helped by the nurse to take a shower, having to use diapers, .. everything was a torture for her. And she hated being a burden to her children especially to my parents and my uncle/aunt who took care of her between them. And when she turned 100, it was party time! All her 10 kids under one roof and all she wished was the sweet release of death. The last three years, that's all she thought about. "Naan eppo poven dee?", she will ask me and I would say I will pray for you, Pattamma. She was of sound mind and could see, hear and talk quite well until the very end. The last two years when we visited her, Antu would sing the carnatic songs she is learning and she enjoyed listening to her. Only 6 weeks back, Antu sang "vara veena" to her and Pattamma was mouthing the swarams and the lyrics along with her and her right hand was automatically tapping to the beat. It moved me to tears. The way our brain works is just amazing, no? 

I will miss her kind voice the most. The way she said "Take care of yourself" and "Take extra care of the kids" (Nee udamba paathuko. Kuzhandhela jaakradhaya paathuko). You knew she meant it. They were nt just hollow words. Only a grand parent can give you that kind of unconditional love. "Be kind to the kids. Talk to them kindly. They are good kids. Be patient" she repeated this to me every time we met! Its another story that I never listened!  A couple of years ago when she was talking to me and was complaining why God would nt take her away, I had a brilliant idea! "Why don't I take this pillow and smother you and kill you Pattamma? Do you want me to do it? Just nod your head and I will do it", I told her! Yes, we had that kind of relationship! Her reply is still echoing in my ears - "andha paavam unakku edhukku dee ma?" (I would nt want that sin in your hands!) I don't think I can love anyone like that ever in my life.

I love you very dearly Pattamma. And will remember you always. Your food. Your kindness. Our conversations. Your warmth. You suffered a lot in the final years and that broke my heart. If I could do one thing, I would like to see you now and tell you "You are gone, Pattamma. You have passed away. You got what you wanted. God did take you with him" and would like to see you smile one final time. "Neenga poitel, Pattamma."


April 27, 2019

27.04.2019


Dearest Ashu,
We celebrated your 1st birthday in India and now after all the years, we are here for your 14th birthday. From a Noddy themed birthday party where 100 people were invited to “I don’t want a party. I don’t want a cake. I don’t want any gifts, just get me a better phone. This one is dying”. May be you tried to say the same when you were 1 too and as usual I did nt listen! You are enjoying this trip and am glad I decided to come in this scorching heat because it’s so heart warming to see you so happy. When Thatha was driving the car from Kumbakonam to Chennai, you fought with me for the front seat and sat there and talked and laughed and enjoyed the trip with him. In contrast to Swiss where you put your headphones on and sit at the back and don’t say one word to me. You are so patient with both set of your grandparents and talk to them kindly and help them while you won’t even give the time of the day to your sister.  I guess I need these India trips to realize that the problem is not you, it’s me!


Your big wish came true this year. You always wanted to go to the USA on your own to your aunts house and I thought it won’t happen in the near future because why would nt Antu and I come too? But then the universe conspired and Antus passport did nt come back in time and we let you go first and we both joined a week later. My heart was in my mouth when I waited at the boarding gate and you walked to the plane. I came home and kept tracking the plane and thought I must be the worst mom in the world! You had a wonderful week and everyone had only good things to tell about you. We also went to Austria for the ski holidays, to the beautiful Croatia and then recently to Canary Islands which you loved! Mainly for the resort we stayed in. “ Will you promise we will come back here, Amma?”, you asked when we were checking out and I thought what spoilt kids I am raising and how hard adulting is going to be for you both! But then we sleep on a mattress on the floor in India and your grandmother drags you in an Auto to temples and you want to come back here too every year. So I guess all’s not lost. 

You have adjusted to Basel now and have made a few friends. You are very hard working in school and doing good. Come rain or snow, you cycle to school, do your laundry, leave the kitchen sparkling after your baking experiments, a little perfectionist in whatever you do and it makes me so proud. In school this year, the kids need to find a job for one week in May. And you sent out resumes to a dozen companies and none of them were doing this short internship programmes. You tried in book shops and libraries as it’s your dream come true job! Then desperately got in touch with our neighbor and went for an interview and got the job in their manufacturing department. What an amazing experience! I hope you enjoy and learn a lot! Good luck, Chellam! You also sneakily watch Netflix, listen to Ariana Grande all day long and read like your life depends on it. You are continuing to learn violin and play a little bit of tennis and table tennis. But would rather stay in your room than get out of the house. And these days I have to check with you before accepting dinner invites because “I have a test on Monday. I have to study for it. I can’t come out” excuses have begun!

Our fights have got more intense and more frequent much to my utter disgust but I don’t know what to do about it. There’s a thin line between letting you do whatever you want and making you do whatever I want and I seem to be struggling to find it. Please know that I am trying. I swear on your favorite Nutella that you are precious to me. It’s not easy to like you at this grumpy age but it does nt change my undying love for you. Please believe. In yourself and in your mother. Antus devotion to you and your fathers pride in you will never diminish. Not to mention the extended family which thinks the Sun rises and sets for you! So much so that my father plays the skip card to Antu but never to you in the Phase 10 card game much to all our protest! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! Though you are not touchy feely and vocal about your feelings, your love for everyone shines through when you bake for them or when you make something for them.  I miss the cuddles and kisses and I love yous and I guess I have to grow up and accept that you are growing up. But please don’t feel shy to compliment, to love, to appreciate and to say a kind word, Ashu. Live life and live it well. Happy 14th Birthday, Chellamma! 

Love
அம்மா. 




October 29, 2018

Croatia.

It was Destination Croatia during the fall break earlier this month. I don’t think I have ever visited a country and then not rave about it! So Croatia was no different. In fact, it will easily be in one of the top spots. What a spectacular place! We had a fantastic week and came back glowing! We landed in Split and rented a car and drove straight to Plitvice National Park. On the way, we made an unplanned stop at Krka National Park and one look at the view, the walk and the waterfalls and I was in love. I was wondering how Plitvice could be any more beautiful than this! But I was so so wrong! The next morning, we left early for the Plitvice lakes. Parked our car, bought our tickets and ventured inside. It was quite chilly until the sun came out. It is a huge park with 16 lakes and hundreds of waterfalls. Theres a wooden boardwalk all around the park. Short hikes. Caves. Stunning views. Boat rides. We spent about 8 hours there, walked about 12 kms and with barely any lunch as the choice of food inside the park was not great for vegetarians. But we did nt mind. It was a magical place. A slice of heaven on Earth. I was telling HD “Lets go back home now. Nothing else we see in Croatia is gong to match this!” Famous last words!


The next day we drove back to Split stopping in Zadar for lunch. It was a quaint little port town. We found an amazing Italian place for lunch. Then we reached Split, chucked our luggage in the house we were staying and walked to the Diocletians Palace. We spent some time at the sea side, walking around and then called it a day. The next day, it rained in the morning. So we left late and drove to Trogir. Thankfully, the sun came up and we had a great time in Trogir. Its a small town by the Adriatic coast. The historic centre of the town is part of Unesco world heritage sites and it was pretty as a picture. Small alleys, cute shops, loads of restaurants,… We explored a bit and found a nice place for lunch. Then we drove back to Split and walked to the palace again, visited the city museum and hiked the Marjan hill before stumbling into a vegan restaurant for dinner.


Day 5 was the highlight of the trip. Giving stiff competition to Plitvice was Brac Island. We took a ferry from Split to Supetar and then drove to the Bol beach. I swear that that was the most beautiful beach and the most beautiful spot in the world. White pebble beach. Bluest of blue water. So calm like a pool with no waves. Absolutely no crowd. Water was warm enough to go for a swim. And the most interesting fact is that the beach is V shaped with the Adriatic Sea on both sides and I have never seen anything like this in my life. I was going round and round like a dog exploring the small stretch with pine trees on one side, beach on either side. We swam for a bit and then I sat and kept looking at the water in a trance. I never wanted to leave. Hd and Antu had to be dragged out of the water too. We had a blast. Ashu was happy that she found a crepe stand and was stuffing her face with a nutella crepe. Not wanting to miss the ferry back, we drove back with a small detour for a breathtaking view of the beach from a cliff! The ferry ride back to Split with the spectacular sunset would be etched in my memory forever.

Day 6 we drove to Dubrovnik and usually I am not impressed with hyped up places and I was like “bring it on”! But clearly I don’t learn a lesson. After a pizza lunch, we walked to the old city and it felt like we walked into a movie set or went back in time! I also realized why Plitvice and Brac Island were almost empty. Everyone was in Dubrovnik! It was mad crowd everywhere. We explored a bit and then walked back to our house. Though it was about 15 mins walk, we had to climb like a million stairs! Every side street is  a staircase, I tell you! Am glad we went when we went. I don’t think my knees would take this in my old age! Which is not very far!!! On the next day, Hd and I woke up early and walked to the old city to look at the sunrise. With no crowd, the place was even more beautiful. We came back after breakfast with the kids and visited the Fort Lovrijenak, Rectors Place, a few churches, went for a walking tour inside the city and had lunch at another nice Vegan place we found. We also bought tickets to walk the city walls and it was a stunning stunning view from the walls. By the end of the day, we had walked 16 kms and climbed 78 floors. Kudos to the girls!


Our last day, we drove back to Split from Dubrovnik. We decided to drive via Bosnia and make a quick stop in Mostar to see the pictueresque medieval old bridge. The drive was long in narrow roads with no village or town in sight. And hardly any cars. Finally we reached Mostar, grabbed some lunch and took a few pics and were on our way to Split. There were like a million Pomegranate trees lining the road and a kind man gave me two for free! They were yummy! Our flight was early next day and I don’t know how one week flew by. For the first time, we stayed with Airbnb for the entire trip. Usually I hate to make beds and fix our own meals in vacation because thats all I seem to do in my life and always prefer hotels. But this was a pleasant experience. Lots of friends have warned us about food in Croatia. So it worked out well that we managed lunch outside and fixed ourselves a simple dinner almost every night. There was more space and character and it was nice to talk to the local hosts. So thats that! Croatia - I will be back!

 

June 27, 2018

27.06.2018

Dearest Antu,


You are 10 today. I feel like I am 100. People we meet in the parks and on the street used to give a big smile when you were a toddler with your chubby face and curly hair. And I did nt have eyes for anyone but you. And now I am longingly looking at other peoples babies and sighing. How did this happen to me? What is your hurry to grow up? It has taken me three years to accept that your sister hit double digits and before I could digest the fact that she's a teen now, you have to go and grow up on me. Not fair! And as if to make things worse, you have a sleepover tonight at your school and even your teacher said you don't have to stay since its your birthday. But NO!!! Whats a silly mother compared to a school sleepover?! Traitor!

This year was a big change for all of us with the move to Basel but you were the one who truly took it in your own stride and has already made a beautiful life here. Friends in the neighborhood - check. BFFs in school - check. Ballet class - check. Piano lesson - check. Playdates and birthday invites - check and check! And we also found a carnatic music teacher for you and you are enjoying the lessons quite a bit. You have a sweet voice and a good musical sense and memorize songs so quickly. Its amazing to watch your progress in the last one year. I have zero knowledge in this subject and your father is worse than me so good job overcoming our genes. We celebrated your birthday last weekend with 4 of your school friends. Thats 4 more people than what I had on my birthday, so good job there as well! 

You still love traveling and the great outdoors. You enjoyed your London trip last year. And every park and every museum. I love your company and picked you to go with me when I got two tickets free for the Foundation Beyeler Art Gallery recently. Not that I had anyone else to go with! (Monet was good Amma but I did nt like Bacon. Why is his self portrait so ugly? He does nt look that ugly in his photo!) We have an ongoing bet in our house that you can't last longer than a minute without laughing! You laugh all the time. Everything is funny. You find mundane stuff hilarious! Please don't ever change. And your love for animals is ever growing. You would do anything to get a dog. The other day we found a small dead bird in our balcony and Ashu would nt even step into the balcony and I was feeling very weird too. But you were the one who moved it into a bag and threw it away. My big little brave girl!


One day you decided you were going to cook an entire meal and baked bread. Made soup. Cooked pasta. And made these pretty little dessert with puff pastry. Only with little help from me. Another day you saw the yoga mat on the floor and created this elaborate set up with all your stuffed toys and we were nt allowed to move anything for a week! Like I need an excuse not to exercise! For your sisters birthday, you decided you wanted Harry Potter decor on the cake and did all the research. Shopped for the decor items and patiently decorated it too. Your sister who is not that easily impressed was simply stunned. And you were so happy that she was happy. Yet another day you decided you were going to be a part time DOG and named yourself Yoyo and would answer me with a bark whenever I called you. How can you be so annoyingly cute? Keep enjoying your life, Kannamma. Happy 10th Birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.


May 08, 2018

Gopala Gopala...


Antu and her Perippa FaceTiming.

Antu - Did u see the chicks? 🐤
Perippa - Cakes aa?🍰
Not cake! Chick! 🐣
Check aa?🤑
NO! CHICKS!!!🐥
What?🤔

Me - *singing* kozhi kunja thedi vandha gopala? 🎶
Perippa - Oh!! Chicks aa?? 🐤🐣🐥
Antu - 😡

Antu's class is raising chicks. The eggs hatched last week. Highlight of her life!

April 27, 2018

27.04.2018

Dearest Ashu,

13. 13. 13. Give me a second. Let it sink. THIRTEEN. Fine. I have officially a teen living in my house. There. I said it. You are celebrating your birthday in Basel for the first time after you were born here so I am extra nostalgic and emotional this year, if thats possible. We both went shopping yesterday to get you some summer clothes and when we got back home late evening, I had this acute deja vu. How thirteen years back, your grandma and I were coming back from grocery shopping and I was lunging a heavy bag and Paati said I don't look like I will deliver anytime soon. But of course, you arrived the same night proving her wrong. This wee little thing I was expecting to meet. I get the possessive mothers and the arrogant fathers now. How this little thing we gave birth to can make independent decisions? How can they talk back to us? How can they tell us what to do? How can anyone be more important to them than us? I am so glad I don't have sons. I would make a horrible MIL. Just keep me in check and warn your future partner, Ashu!

This year was very hard for you since we moved to Basel from Zurich and you hated us for that. You have not made a single friend here in the last 9 months and it is very worrying. When I bring up the topic you have a very clear answer. "I have friends. They are in Zurich" and of course the eye roll and the groan and the accusing glance all accompany that statement. Sigh. But you say you are happy and ask me not to worry. So I won't for now. You have become super independent.  You wake up on your own, dress up and do your hair, pack your snack and your lunch and cycle to school which takes 6 mins. You take trams and go to your various classes. You even took a tram and went to a shopping mall to buy a gift for your friend (zurich friend, of course!!) when I did nt have time to take you. You really wanted to go to the USA on your own and see your uncle and aunt. But baby steps, ok? 

Even though you hate to step out of the house, you like to see new places especially the food! When I was looking for photos of you from last year, the only photos you let me take of you were the ones with food! Crepes with nutella and banana, Ice cream sundaes, cakes, any dish with paneer in it, nachos, pizza, pasta,... Now that the summer is almost here, I am making banana milk shakes for you every other day and sometimes I feel the only reason you even tolerate me is because I cook! You have this fiercely independent streak right now and you can't bear it that I am bossing you around and you have to be dependent. That you can't binge watch season 2 of series of unfortunate events. That you can't eat read all day and all night long. That you don't have a mini fridge in your room!!!!! Slow down dude! I would like to be alive and kicking at the end of your teens too, ok?

We made a big deal this morning. You got a denim jacket, the harry potter illustrated book, cash, your father made you nutella crepe for breakfast and I made you lunch and dropped you at school. You were all smiles and thanked us so many times and looked so happy. It pains me that you are so grumpy most of time and thats mainly because of all that we expect from you. Growing up sucks. One wants all the freedom that comes with it but not the responsibilities. When I was a teen, I remember all I wanted to do was skip physics tuition and watch Doogie Howser MD (from Doogie to Count Olaf, I see a pattern here, Neil Patrick Harris!) But now that I am the parent, I have to police you. Its hard for me too. I hate to have become this monster mom. I will try to tone it down though. I promise. Anyway, welcome to your teens! Happy 13th Birthday! Enjoy the best years of your life. You will always be my baby girl, Kutti!

Love,
அம்மா.

April 10, 2018

Antu's First School Trip.

May 2013 - Ashu went on her first school trip. I worried about it for a month. Wrote a blogpost how worried I was. Hd, my dad and I walked to her school and sent her off and came back home with a heavy heart.

Today - Antu went on her first school trip. I kind of remembered about it only this weekend. Hurriedly helped her pack last night. Forgot to even mention about the trip to important family members like my dad! I walked her to school this morning and said goodbye and left even before she got into the bus. The only consistent thing was my question to her if she really wanted to go on the trip. And she consistently rolled her eyes and walked off!

March 05, 2018

Solo Trip to Iceland.

A solo trip before turning 40 has been in my bucket list for the last 5 years and finally it happened in the nick of time. Even though I have lived alone for a while during college and later for a couple of months when Hd was abroad, I have never traveled to a new place and stayed in a hotel all by myself. I was a bit scared and kept putting it off and there are not many options in winter and I decided to do a trip in spring or summer. But the trip was meant to be, I guess. The dear husband thought he can't miss this opportunity to get rid of his wife and surprised me with flight tickets to Reykjavik! One week in Iceland in February! Any more proof needed for his evil plan? I shopped for new hiking boots, new winter jacket, new cap and new gloves. I even practiced taking a good selfie! I was like a kid on first school day! I was also extremely nervous and the thought that I have to take decisions on my own without consulting another adult was petrifying. I never realized how dependent and spoilt I am! Not to mention, I can't use my kids as shields! Wont have parents or friends or sister as buffer. Who am I going to be on this trip?

I planned and planned and decided to do Reykjavik on my own for two days and a 5 days trip with a tour company. Booked hotels after double checking with the husband. Booked the tour after triple checking with him. Found out that I have forgotten to book hotel for one more night and did that after talking to him. Currency, R? Do I need to take the big suitcase, R? Should I buy a sim card there, R? Airport shuttle bus, R? Im sure Hd was extremely confused at this point on how his super independent, bossy wife has turned into this scaredy cat! I even tried to bribe the girls to come with me but they would nt fall for it. Oh yes, about the girls. A cousin of mine asked how were the girls reacting to my solo trip plan and thats when I realized there was no reaction! Hd and I kept talking about it and planning and the kids knew about it but did nt really say anything. Except that I saw Ashus eyes gleam with happiness whenever I mentioned how I am going to be away for a week! With a family like this, who needs enemies? 

9th February arrived and Hd dropped me at the airport at the crack of dawn and then I was on my own. I had this huge smile on my face during the flight sitting in my window seat without the girls on my either side. It felt like I was out of prison on parole! Reykjavik was fantastic. I could walk everywhere and see everything and the walking tour was the best way to explore and to get an idea of the city and what interests me. Had an early dinner and went to my hotel. The next day was the beginning of the 5 Day Tour with the Arctic Adventures travel company. I had a great time with the other people in the group and we all had dinner together every night and got to know each other. And this was so refreshing for me since we never do that when we travel as a family. And the whole point of going solo is to go through these new experiences. Day 1 of the tour was excellent. We visited the must see in the South coast including a lava tube and it was total winter wonderland and freezing cold!

A storm hit Iceland the next day and all plans were cancelled and we reached Reykjavik by noon and I spent the day watching 3 movies on TV and stepping out only for dinner. It was extremely windy and I could nt walk more than 5 minutes. The next day was was the beginning of the SNAEFELLSNES peninsula tour and a few new people joined the group and we also had a new driver/guide, Maria. She was amazing and I would strongly recommend this company to everyone. Thankfully the weather was nt crazy that day and we could do the Golden circle, black sand beach, see icelandic horses upclose and also two stunning waterfalls. I might have lost a few fingers and toes but it was totally worth it! Going from Swiss, I had completely under estimated how cold it would be in Iceland. Its never this windy in Swiss thanks to the mountains and since Iceland is completely open to the elements, it was crazy windy with snow flying everywhere and theres no way in hell a tourist could drive in such conditions. Renting a car in Island is perfectly safe and a great idea in summer but extremely dangerous in winter. 

The sun was out the next day too and it was the best of all days! I fell in love with the diamond beach and the glacier lagoon and the Glacier cave tour and the monster truck drive in the glacier. It was like being in a different planet. The black sand and the ice crystals shining like diamonds. The bluest of blue glaciers. The stunning views. I did nt want the day to end. It kind of did nt because two girls in the group and I stood out for 3 hours in the freezing cold that night to look for the northern lights as it was the first clear night sky since we got there and though we saw like a million stars, the aurora forecast was nt great for that day and we finally gave up around midnight. Every night before and after were cloudy or snowy and that was a little bit upsetting that I could nt see the northern lights in this trip since I was so looking forward to it and believed that I will get lucky at least once in an entire week. But Ms.Aurora had other plans. But I should nt complain. Iceland is amazing in winter and jaw-droppingly stunning!

Day 5 of the tour hit bad weather again and the roads were closed. We waited the storm out and started driving towards Reykjavik around 2 pm only and reached around 9.30 pm and I said good bye to the group with a heavy heart. The next day went in walking around Reykjavik and catching the sights I did not see the first day, shopping and ending the day relaxing in a thermal bath. The next day on 16th Feb, I had a morning flight back to Basel and when I got home at 4 pm, the girls opened the door for me with a huge bouquet of flowers and also yelling at each other for some random thing, so it was straight back to reality! I heard from Hd, my sis and my mom at different points of time that Antu was uncharacteristically quiet and that she missed me. At least, some one still needs me! And when I asked Ashu if she missed me at any point of time, she answered "only this morning, Amma. When I baked a cake for you and it got stuck in the tin!" My poor little darlings!

* Iceland is SO expensive. And thats saying something living in the Swiss! Everyday, I ate the complimentary breakfast and packed a fruit and 2 slices of toast for lunch. And carried some snacks. Dinner was the only meal I spent on and that too only because it was nice to meet new people and also I was really hungry!

* Reykjavik is the northern most capital city in the world and street art was quite big there. The streets were so pretty. People are extremely nice and kind.

* Except in Reykjavik, all the other hotels I stayed in were in totally remote places in the middle of nowhere and the views were fantastic. 

* Theres this one ring road which goes around the island for about 1300 kms and the only way to explore the country is by driving on our own or through one of the travel companies. Theres no public train system.

* I created an Instagram account finally before this trip to upload photos and keep in touch with folks. Heres the link -  https://www.instagram.com/mail2subha/ All the white, grey and black photos are taken in Iceland. A good friend who visited Iceland last summer refused to believe my photos were taken in the same places she went to!


* This trip was so liberating for me. I did nt wake up in the morning with the list of things to do. I was not charge of anyone but me. When I wanted to step out, it took 5 minutes from the the time I had the thought to actually get out. Every meal time was so peaceful and in the moment and every time I was looking at a spectacular view, I was nt worrying if the kids are enjoying it the way I want them to! Its very difficult to explain in words. I actually wanted to go for a 3 or 4 days trip and when Hd said one week, I was shocked. But it was a perfect week and I could nt have asked for more. Thank you my dear husband for the greatest birthday gift this stay at home mom could ever have, whatever your intentions may be! :)

January 16, 2018

Madras, Margazhi, Music & More.

Hope 2018 is going good for everyone. We were in India for two weeks for the christmas holidays. The day we landed, we attended the Ranjani-Gayatri concert at Narada Gana Sabha and nothing we did in the rest of the trip matched that high point. Antu and I had the privilege to sit in the very first row and completely drowned in the duos music. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks during "charnam charanam Raghu Rama". Something totally magical happened the entire 2 hours 45 minutes and I can't put it in words even if I tried. Just a heartfelt thanks to the Universe.

The kids had a blast though Ashu never wanted to leave the house even there! Was hooked to the star movies and HBO channel and she watched like 4 movies a day! I kept my mouth shut. We went to Kumbakonam for two days and the kids were so upset that we were nt staying longer. It was good to see my grandmother who is 101 years old now. Good and heart breaking at the same time. Antu sang a few songs to her and it was such a sweet moment. It was so strange to go home when my mom was nt there. (She's in Canada.) I felt grown up finally! Adulting is hard.

Otherwise, the entire trip was one Food Marathon. Hd came with us on an India trip after like 5 years so we made the most of it and ate our weights worth! We also went for morning walks in the beach to balance it out a bit. New years eve dinner at Rain Tree was fantastic. Nothing like Indian hospitality. We were waited on hand and foot and the staff were so thoughtful and nice and surprised the kids with a gift, it was a memorable dinner! Hd and I left the kids and managed a dinner at Hamsa, which was out of the world! The decor, the plating, the staff,.. everything was extraordinary. The food was heavenly! But I don't understand the appetizer portion sizes in India. They are huge! Hd and I got greedy and ordered three starters and we could nt even finish them between ourselves and went straight to dessert after that. I think I have to go again next time to try their main course. But the Raw banana and pomegranate tikki and the apple jalebi (again 4 huge pieces which we could nt finish!) were sublime! Its best if we are at least a group of 4 people to go to any restaurant in Chennai. However do lone diners manage?


Wishing everyone a belated Pongal and hope 2018 brings all things wonderful!

December 11, 2017

My Daddy Strangest!

There is this riddle about two fathers and two sons and there are three seats in a train and all of them get a seat. How? Antu asked me this once. I gave her the simple answer that there was a grandfather, a father and a son. But I guess its deeper than that simple answer. My father is visiting us. My mom visited us in May and exhausted her visa and finally dad agreed to come after lot of nagging and whining and complaining. (all by Antu!) Anyway, Mom also gallivanted to Canada to visit my cousin (her peraadha pullai*, in her own words!) and is kooch-icooing with her grand niece much to Antus jealousy. (fine! I am jealous too! But only a little.)

Anyway, back to my fathers trip. He has been here for a few weeks. Antu is over the moon and spends every waking minute with him. Ashu smiles and laughs a lot more than usual and is so patient and so nice and kind to him that I am both proud and sad at the same time. Things were all fine for the first two weeks when I kept my mouth shut and ignored everything and did nt say a word against Ashu, the only person my dad would save even if its her against the rest of his entire family! The one day I lost my patience, all hell broke loose. I was the mother, no longer the daughter. He was the grandfather, no longer the father. Ashu was nt sure what she was at the moment. Hd regretted the day he said yes to this dysfunctional family and went to sleep! And Antu picked up a book and shut herself in her room. 

Long story short, it was very, very awkward. A 68 year old man yelling at his 39 year old daughter because she yelled at her 12 year old daughter. He just does nt get the irony. I wanted to be his little girl and cry on his shoulders but I was afraid I would strangle him instead. God knows what he was thinking because the man does nt believe in talking. Shoving everything under the carpet is his speciality. And here you think you are doing so much better than your parents only to find out that theres no pleasing when it comes to your children and they hate you no matter what! Yes, yes, I get that irony too. Do you get the riddle now?

* the son she did nt give birth to