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January 27, 2015

Sri Lanka.

This December we were in Srilanka for 8 days. It was an amazing trip and what a beautiful country! It was also a family/friends reunion with my parents, sister, brother in law, my In laws, sister's In laws, A's family and her parents. We were 18 people and had a blast! Hd,Sis and Bil had work in India and all of them flew to Colombo from Chennai while the girls and I flew directly from Zurich and came back with Hd. Organizing the whole trip was a nightmare with loads of ifs and buts and I still can't believe we did it. Adding to the confusion was to keep A's trip as a surprise to my sis! A's girls and Ashu and Antu were the perfect company for each other and it was heart warming to see them bond and give us parents a well deserved break! Ashu and Antu were like kids in a candy shop with all the attention from grand parents, uncles, aunts and friends! Not to mention feeding milk to baby elephants, touching a 2 weeks old baby crocodile and petting  2 days old baby turtles! That and the beach - they could nt ask for more!

Sis, A and I with our respective husbands went white water rafting and it was my first time and I loved it! It was an awesome experience and the highlight of my trip. It rained non stop the first few days and it was a total bummer! But that could nt stop us from visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage or climbing the Sigiriya Rock or going to the Golden Buddha Temple. Thankfully it stopped raining and we could enjoy the beaches later. Nuwara Eliya was so beautiful too with its scenic tea plantations and water falls. The hotels we stayed were lovely and the breakfast and dinner spread were unbelievable! Sometimes it felt that all we were doing were eating breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday and seeing things in between! We had a van for ourselves with a driver and a guide and on the long road trips, we did what else but eat more! Whether it was Rajaram kadalai mittai or Karachi bakery biscuits or Swiss chocolates - everything vanished in an alarming speed!

Sis was turning 40 on 18th January but we decided to surprise her on New years eve with cake and gifts and the hotel we stayed had a great party with music, dancing and fireworks. We brought 2015 in with loads of fanfare. Everyone but the four of us left for Chennai on 1st morning and the kids did nt take it well. "Its so unfair" they declared! End of holidays does that to everyone, I guess. Our flight to Zurich was late in the night and we just chilled the rest of the day. We reached on 2nd. From Tropical island to Winter Wonderland in just 24 hours. Sigh! Anyway, it was a great trip with great company. All I remember about the trip is the laughs. God, we laughed a lot! Here is to fun and laughter and wishing you loads of that in this New Year!

December 04, 2014

Confusion.

Before I know, its going to be a brand new year again! The second half of this year has been Crazy! Around June/July, Hd decided he needs a change in his job location and sent feelers out in his company and before we knew what hit us, it was Destination Chicago! (We are still in Zurich. Wait for the full story!) Antu was in tears because she was going to miss her teacher, her friends and the house! Ashu was in her "whatever" mode and I was having a break down! Come August, we told friends about our move,  informed the school that we were leaving in October, gave notice to our house, cancelled all the kids activities, started disposing/recycling/selling/giving away stuff and international movers were coming to give quotes! Friends were even planning farewell parties! And then everything came to a stand still mid october because Hd got another job offer here and he was keen to take it. For about three weeks, we could nt do anything. I was planning an india trip in Oct which did nt happen. Our house was rented to someone else already! I could nt inform the school yet because we did nt know what was going to happen! Sigh! It was pure torture! Hd was walking in egg shells around me because if looks could kill, he would have died a thousand times!

Finally, things fell in place and he accepted the offer and luckily we found another house to rent in the same neighborhood, the school was ok with our craziness, most of the kids activities could be renewed and the girls are extremely happy that we are not moving! But there was no time to rejoice as we were moving houses and the last few weeks were so stressful. It has been two weeks since we moved to this house and finally there are no more moving boxes in the house. Its a very nice, spacious house and Im slowly getting used to it. Antu who was crying buckets that she would miss our old house is much happier here since theres more space to spread her clutter! But everyday she crosses our old house to walk to her school and says hi to it! :)

Never a dull moment in my life but alls well that ends well, I suppose! Also, my friends are still throwing me a farewell party this weekend but they have renamed it "The Not Leaving Party!" Now who would want to leave such friends and move anyway? :)

August 29, 2014

Pillayar Chaturthi Special - 2014.

Lack of time and last year's clay meant that we had to work hard on our Pillayar this year. Quite a team effort with Ashu in charge of the head, trunk, one tusk and two legs and Antu taking over two hands, a half trunk and the plate with laddus! Hd struggled with the thoppai, ears and the mouse and I, as usual, was the fixer upper - the Pillayar of this family! :)

I was thinking of my Thatha, paternal grandfather, so much as we were making the Pillayar. I remember I was Antu's age when I used to sit next to him in our village and he used the dark kali mannu (clay) to make the Pillayar. And I can't describe the beauty of it. The smell of the eera kali mannu (wet clay) along with the banana leaf it came wrapped in, the way his experienced hand shaped the Pillayar, the nearby kenaru (well), the whole house getting ready for the poojai,... such a heady memory! He passed away exactly 15 years ago today. This Pillayar is for you, Thatha. You would have been proud!

Happy Ganesh Chathurthi everyone!




August 18, 2014

4.Klasse and Kindergarten 2.

Five weeks of sleeping late and waking up late took its toll this morning as the entire household was in a frenzy! Antu who was so excited about going back to school got up at 4 am and then at 5 am and then at 6 am to ask if it was morning yet. And around 6.30 she was seen giving finishing touches to the cat she was supposed to color and bring to school! And at 7.30, we had to shake her and wake her up! She wanted to be the first to go to school since she wanted to choose the peg she wanted. (The one with the parrot picture in it) And we made it! Yay! Little joys of life!

Ashu was very independent and organized as usual and walked on her own to school and did nt want us to walk with her. Her new teacher has made a good impression on her and the teachers daughter is also in the same class, so there were funny stories to share. (The teacher said that we have to get a signature from our parents and the teacher in the homework, Amma! L needs only one signature, ha ha!) 

I spent the whole day trying to organize the after school activities! Antu is doing tennis other than ballet and swimming. (And she wanted to go to a painting class because her BFF is going but I said no way much to her disappointment!) And I cancelled Ashus swimming and soon I ll cancel Chess too after this term. So she will go for her violin and tennis as usual. She was also selected for an orchestra and I was very keen that she goes but that day did nt suit us so she had to let go of that too. Its all good because todays the first day and its 8.30 pm and she's still doing her home work! A fictional story half page or more is the requirement. So of course she will sit and write a 2 page fantasy story that Rama Narayanan would have been proud to direct! 

But seriously, fourth grade? I as well retire now!

August 04, 2014

Heidi Trail.

Last Friday was a holiday as it was Swiss National day and even though the weather was a bit iffy, we decided to get out of the house anyway and headed to Bad Ragaz to explore the Heidi Trail. We parked our car at the cable car station and took the cable car up to Pardiel. It started to rain a bit but soon the sun came out and all was well. At the ticket office, the girls got a Heidi passport and they have to find Peter's goats at each of the 12 stations and get a stamp on their paper and all the 12 stamps make a word (which I won't tell since it would ruin the surprise of future adventure seekers who might be reading this! ) Then they can post this on the Heidi post box and wait to see if they win any prizes! So the girls were thrilled with the whole thing. And instead of us motivating them to walk, it was them who were dragging us all the way! It takes around 2 to 3 hours to finish the whole trail since there are play areas on the way, fake goats to milk, hammocks to laze on, zip lines and swings with views to kill, water falls, bird houses, Heidi story boards and last but not least, so many photo oppurtunites! :) 


The trail was a bit uphill for about 10 minutes which the kids did nt mind but my knees sure did! The views were so amazing that the kids got very impatient with me that I was standing and staring. At one point, they went ahead of us, found the next goat, got the stamp and ran back to us because they just could nt wait! It all started as Team Antu and Team Ashu with me in Antus team and Hd in Ashus. But towards the end, it was the kids against us! :) I had packed some sandwiches to eat on the way. And then after the hike, we went to the restaurant near the cable car station and treated ourselves to ice cream and a fantastic apricot cake with fresh fruits and cream. Yum! The kids played in the play area nearby and around 5 pm, took the cable car back, posted the passports at the Heidi post box and headed home. A great alpine experience for the kids! 


July 14, 2014

Lawyered!

Me: Ashu, please go and fold your blankets on the bed. Yours and Antus.
Ashu: Ok amma.

5 minutes later, I pass the room and see that Ashus blanket is neatly folded while Antus blanket is not. 

Me: Ashu, why have nt you folded Antus blanket?
Ashu: Because she said she ll do it herself.

Me: Antu, why did nt you fold your blanket then?
Antu: I did nt tell her I will fold it. 
Me: Well?
Ashu: She said that amma. 
Antu: I did NOT!
Me: What exactly did she say Ashu?
Ashu: She said "I can do everything by myself. I don't need your help."

Me: *light bulb glows* And WHEN did she say this?
Ashu: She said it yesterday.
Me: Yesterday? When?
Ashu: When I asked her if I can help her with the puzzle and she said she can do everything by herself!
Me: !!!!

July 11, 2014

Bye Bye, Third Grade & KG 1.

What a school year this has been! Every year, I tell myself that time flies and things work out and I should nt worry too much. But I worry! Will the girls be happy in school? Will they make friends? Will the teacher be nice? Will my German ever improve? And most importantly, will there be English speaking moms I can befriend?  :) But as always, things worked out. 

Antu had a fantastic year and made loads of friends and loves her teacher. She will be in KG 2 from August with the same teacher and friends, so she's looking forward to it and to boss around the new KG 1 kids! :) She invited 8 girls from her class for her birthday party this year and more than all the planning I had to do for the party, I was stressed about understanding Swiss German!! (which is different from the High German!) The kids start with High German only from Grade 1 and speak only in Swiss German in KG. My German failed me when faced with little girls fighting over a red balloon, I tell you!! 

Ashu had a much better year than last year. Made more friends, was happier and her German is so much better too! She did not even want a birthday party last year but had school friends over and had a bollywood themed party this time. :) She had lots more home work, projects and reports this year and she managed to do everything without any major help from us except a big project at the end of the year for which parents were supposed to help out. It was a lot of work for all of us and she did a great job and I am so proud of her! Their class had a sleepover in the school on Tuesday and they had loads of fun and said bye to their teacher of three years! 

And yes, I managed to find a group of English speaking moms! :) Have a great summer, everyone! 

June 27, 2014

27.06.2014

Dear Antu,

My heart weighs a tonne as I write this and its not only because I have to start buying train and bus tickets, swimming pool and other miscellanious entry tickets now that you are six and they are not free anymore! Well that too! But mainly because you are SIX! The first thing you did today after waking up was to go and stand against the height chart and see how much taller you have got now that you are six! :) You have had the most exciting year but then being Antu is always exciting! You are always singing or dancing or living in your fancy pretend world! We are all mere servants who exist to fulfill your every little wish! A simple "no" from me will make you cry buckets and declare "You don't even like me!" and stomp off! Your dad though is a big fan of your extreme drama and laughs at the most inopportune moment making you even more mad! Will the man ever learn, you think?


First year of Kindergarten is almost done and you are in love with your school, your teacher and friends. You walk to school and back on your own and so very responsible with your things. You notice everything thats happening around you and come home and tell me everything! You have started reading a lot and progressed to chapter books now and its heartening to see you follow your sister in this regard. I found you reading while walking to the car the other day and I had to ask you to stop doing that but not without a secret smile in my face! :) Its so sweet to hear you talk in German to your friends and please forgive me for taking secret videos of you doing that! Almost every video begins with you asking me "Are you taking a video?" and me lying "Of course not!" I know. I am awful like that!



You have a birthday party tomorrow at home with a few friends from school and you have planned every last detail! Your excitement is infectious and even Ashu, who could nt care two hoots about her own party, is planning stuff for you! But then having seen how awesome you were to Ashu on her birthday and the multiple birthday parties she had this year, its not surprising. Got to give it you for being so fair! You make everyone around you feel special and make sure everyone treats you special too! You even demand it! Which is something I can learn from you! At heart, you are a total daddy's girl but include me once in a while so that I don't feel hurt. Its the same with the Thathas, Perippa and Maama too! You have figured out that men are lot less complicated and most of all, they don't tell you what to do which is all you ever want!



You have a beautiful singing voice and know all the "Frozen" songs by heart and keep singing all the time. You love puzzles and origami and playing dolls. You love to dress up. You are cycling and roller blading already and go to swimming and ballet classes. You have said you want to learn the Piano and not Violin! You are Miss.Chatter box! Whenever we talk about moving out of Switzerland, you say "no way" and are almost in tears. Its touching how connected you feel to this place and the people. After all, this is the only home you have ever had. Today your aunt called and I was faking to cry on the phone and you were quick to tell your Perimma "Amma is crying because I am not a baby anymore!" Well you will always be my baby and no number can change that ever, got it? I love you loads my little baby and have a great birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.

June 19, 2014

Friends, Romans, countrymen,...

It was our 14th wedding anniversary on June 5th. It happened to fall on a long weekend, so packed our bags and went to Rome and Naples for 4 days. Was a fun trip. The girls had a blast eating Pizza in the birthplace of Pizza. The two days in Naples, we hunted down the oldest pizzeria, the best pizzeria, the famous pizzeria and ate pizza like it was going out of fashion! According to Antu, the best trip ever! And we also got two rooms with a connecting door in our Hotel which was the highlight of the trip for Ashu! She would nt let me use even the bathroom in their room!!! :)



For me, the highlight was Mt.Vesuvius and Pompeii. Man, Pompeii was amazing! A city which was destroyed by the volcano 2000 years back and then discovered intact 200 years back! Its like The Mummy meets Tomb Raider! We went to the Mt.Vesuvius first and walked along the rim of the crater and Ashu was all "we are walking on a volcano! which is active! which is very dangerous!" And in the afternoon, we went to Pompeii. Ashu had read a Magic Tree House book on Ancient Rome and Pompeii so she was fully prepared! We saw the houses, ovens, baths, port, temples, ... even the chariot marks on the roads! Water fountains, scribbles on the walls, frescoes, plastered dead bodies, pots, furniture, Forum, Amphitheatre,... Even a Brothel! I took a candid photo of Hd coming out it and have threatened to use this evidence against him! ;)

We also went to the Capri Island from Naples and it was so beautiful! We went quite late though so could nt go to the Blue Grotto which is supposed to be amazing! Next time, perhaps! Since Hd and I have been to Rome before, we did not do much except walking, walking and more walking and showing the sites to the girls! Poor things cooperated well without complaining too much. There was always the Gelato break whenever we were too tired or or making Ashu tell some trivia about the ancient Romans and traumatize Antu! (Did you know that they washed their clothes in urine, they ate Flamingos, etc... ) I, for my part, traumatized Ashu by describing the battles in the Colosseum and she just could nt understand how people can watch people getting killed and be entertained! ( Did you know that sometimes the Romans flooded the Colloseum and had boat battles?!)

Italy has become truly out favorite destination! So much to see and so much to do. Relatively cheaper, great food. Its hot and dirty and but the place is alive! I guess its a lot like India! :)

June 08, 2014

"People who create their own drama deserve their own Karma".

What goes around, comes around! Nothing makes you believe in Karma like when one becomes a parent! Today around 2 pm, Ashu gets a call from her friend, Az asking if she wants to go to the pool with her. Ashu looks at me and I nod my head and she excitedly says yes to her friend, packs her bag and leaves the house. To the pool which is 5 mins walk from our house. At least thats where I assumed they were going and thats what Ashu told me as well. Cut to 5.30 pm - no sign of Ashu. At 6 pm, I am worried. Hd who was watching Nadal making history was worried enough to take his eyes off the TV and look at me. He then walked to the pool to see if she was there or in the nearby park but the pool was closed already and no one in the park. Then I started calling Az's home number, her parents mobile number but no answer. So I walk to Az's house which is 2 mins walk from our house. No ones home. I call three more of Ashus friends who are all in the neighborhood asking if they know where Az and Ashu went but no one knows. At 7.30 pm, my sister calls and asks if Ashu is home because I told her at 5.30 that she's not home yet. Now she's worried too! I knew Ashu would be fine and she would come home soon and safe but the not knowing where she was, was driving me crazy. And the fact that the girl did not think to call from her friends moms phone and tell me where she is and when she will be coming back. Not to mention the guilt trips I was taking. "I am an irresponsible parent! I should have checked with Az's mother. I should have told Ashu to call me if theres any change. " sigh. Anyway, Ashu got back at 8 pm. She had gone to another pool which is a 10 minutes drive away.  "I did nt know you will be worried, Amma. I was having so much fun that I did nt know it got so late. I did nt have my watch." Simple. And she got so upset that we were all worried for her. Sigh. 

The entire 2 hours when I was worried and looking out of the window every 5 minutes, there was only one thing I was thinking about. My Thatha. My Paternal Grandfather. I was 20 years old and in college. Usually I would be home around 5 pm. But on the day I would come late, I would find him standing outside the house, near the gate looking into the direction I would come from. If it was after 6.30 pm, then I can bet on my life that he would be standing there waiting for me. Sandhikaalam (dusk) was the curfew time according to him and in the morning when I left home, he would say "sandhikaalathukulla vandhudu" (Come back before dusk) and that was his way of saying good bye. Even when my parents did nt care, I knew Thatha would be waiting for me. And the most interesting part is that when I arrived late, he would see me and smile and walk back inside without asking me even a single question. I do not think I made him wait every other day but I do remember that in a span of 18 months, at least once a week I would momentarily forget about him because I was busy talking to the boys (what else!!) and would get home late and there I would see him in his white veshti and a mel thundu, waiting near the gate. And I don't remember he ever asking me why I was late. Not even once. And the next day, he would see me off with his usual send off. 

In those 2 hours, I was thinking about Thatha and his unconditional love and support and how patient he was with me and wowed to be the same way with Ashu. You give your child all the freedom they need and hope they are responsible with it. Thats all one can expect. And after all the careful planning on what to tell her and how to handle myself, I failed miserably! Guess one has to be a grandparent to achieve that kind of Zenness and a mere parent just won't do. In other words, Thatha did not slap me in my face because he knew Karma would!