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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

October 26, 2017

London.

Hd and I lived in the UK for a few years long before the kids came along. It was my first "foreign trip" and first foreign home so it has always been extra special. That was 14 years back. In the last 10 years of living in Swiss, we have always wanted to visit London. Especially, to take the kids there but the visa was painful to get and so expensive. Not to mention, there were so many Schengen countries to visit so London had to wait. Finally it happened earlier this month. I was so excited to visit London and thrilled to take the girls. The spoilt brats were of course whining why we had to go anywhere at all not knowing that I had a huge surprise for them. I realized quite late that the Harry potter Studio tickets need to be purchased in advance and scrambled just a week before our trip and there were tickets only on one day, the first day of our one week trip. Managed to buy them in nick of time and kept telling the kids that theres a huge surprise. I had also booked tickets for Matilda musical which was supposed to be a decoy surprise. Yes, I take surprises very seriously! :)

We landed on Sunday afternoon, met an old friend for dinner and the next day, proceeded to Watford. The kids were dying to know where we were going and the excitement was building! When they saw the shuttle bus at the train station, their faces completely lit up! We had a great time at the studio. I don't know who was more excited, them or me! We 3 had good fun making fun of Hd who was the weakest Potterhead in the family. Wands were bought, butter beer was drank, props and costumes were seen, the sets were enjoyed,... It was truly a magical time. Then we rushed to a very special friends house who I met though this very blog! It was only the second time we were meeting face to face and the first time was when her family came to Zurich 4 years back. We had a scrumptious dinner at her place. Thanks, Rads. I finally made it! :)


I realized it was a bad idea for having planned the HP tour on day 1 because the girls did nt want to get out of the hotel room the rest of the week! All they wanted to do was stay in and read! It was a huge pain to get them out of the room every morning. Anyhow, we managed to see the touristy sights, the must see museums and my long list of restaurants. Matilda was excellent. Kids were thrilled to visit Hamleys and Harrods and were quite excited to see the bookshops because all the books are in English! Simple pleasures. But that meant, books were bought and were finished even before the train ride ended. Reminded me of the good old days when I would nag my dad to buy me a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys from the Higginbothams or one of the platform shops before our overnight train trips. A trip to Windsor and a visit to one of our oldest friends concluded the trip and the next day, we flew back to Basel. 

Loved this trip a little bit extra because it was nt a new place and I did nt have this obsession to see everything and it was wonderful to show the sights to the kids and enjoy it with them. Lots of andha kaalathula*... dialogues were used much to my chagrin. How I stumbled upon my first harry potter book in WH Smith while waiting for Hd and how we both waited in a long line to watch the first HP movie, how I used to pretty much live in the British Museum and National gallery, the shop where I bought my first winter jacket, that our first Swiss trip was from London, etc... etc... Ashu could nt roll her eyes any faster and Antu could nt ask questions any quicker! When their aunt asked them how London was, "its like India. Very dirty", was the reply! Sigh. Irony just died. Well, I will always love you, London! God save the Queen. Cant wait for Season 2 of The Crown! :)

* In those days...

October 20, 2017

Back in Basel.


Almost three months since we moved to Basel and finally I feel kinda sorta settled. We are still in Swiss and only an hour from Zurich but I have been whining as if Hd made us move to Antarctica! He is much happier with the 10 minutes public transport commute to work, occasionally coming home for lunch and having more family time. 

Ashu got the room upstairs and thankfully the stairs are in the living room so we see her come and go. If she had direct access from the front door, I doubt if we will see her at all other than meal times! She is cycling to school and back, has loads of free time and spends all of them reading or on her phone. Sometimes, both together! 

Antu is the second happiest after her father. Making new friends and enjoying school. She comes home everyday for lunch and does not have school 3 afternoons in a week so my ears are bleeding with her non stop talking! Ask me which teacher is getting married, why Jack did not come to school last week or what Sophia's favorite color is and I will tell you! 

Found a Carnatic music teacher for Antu and she is continuing ballet and piano lessons too. So lots of driving around for me since not everything is nearby like in Zurich. Since we live close to the German border, the girls actually go to the music school in Germany for their violin and piano lessons. Go figure! And I also do loads of shopping there since its much cheaper and we also get the VAT back.

Deepavali is a bit strange without loads on invites to pick and choose from. But I had invited a few people for Navarathri Golu last month and I am getting to know people and making friends so it is not all bad. Thankfully, found a German course for my level as soon as we moved and it feels good to get out of the house and meet people. Basel is very bicycle friendly since its quite flat and we are enjoying biking here more than the old neighborhood in Zurich. 

We had been to London for a week earlier this month and the kids had a blast!  It was their very first trip there. I will write more about it later. But while coming back, I asked the airlines staff if our luggages are checked in until Zurich and she gave me a look and said "this is a Basel flight, M'am"! The girls and Hd dragged me away before I broke down and shared my sob story with the lady. Basel will surely grow on me but I will always miss you, Zurich!

July 14, 2017

End of Klasse. 6 & Klasse. 2 & a Move.


Another school year gone, just like that. Ashu finishes her primary schooling this year and joins the secondary school from August. The kids are separated into different streams after grade 6 in Swiss and she worked really hard and maintained decent grades to get into the more academic oriented stream. So proud of her. The swiss school system is fantastic for the students but then quite a shock to my system!

Antu danced and jumped and skipped through Grade 2 and is super sad that the year has come to an end. She scored the most points in reading in her class and is most proud! She had two teachers this year and both teachers told me in different occasions that they wish there were more Antus in their class. So Im most proud too!

And we are moving! After 10 1/2 years in good old Zurich, we are moving to Basel end of this month. When our USA move did nt happen 3 years back and Hd took up a new job in Basel, we thought we ll manage living in Zurich and he can commute to Basel everyday. The 100 Kms drive took a little more than an hour and he thought he can do it. But it has been tough and stressful for him and the whole family. So finally, we decided to move. Looking forward to new beginnings! And life in Swiss has come a full circle now that we are going to Basel where Ashu was born and where my blogging began! :)

June 27, 2017

27.06.2017

Dearest Antu,

It is that day of the year you look forward to eagerly. You start planning your birthday as soon as your sister's birthday is done in April. You loudly announce that its your birthday month on 1st June. You begin to wish for presents and finally narrow it down to three from which you know you will get one. And as usual, you ask if I have bought the present the previous day just to make sure! And nag your dad to take that day off even though you have full day school! We don't call you high maintenance for nothing and you prove it every day of every year. We do love that about you and life would be so boring otherwise.You are so excited about our special days too and you could be a poster child for Hallmark! Birthdays, anniversaries, valentines day, mothers day, christmas, navarathri,... Name it and you are there 100% into it. Your enthusiasm is infectious and we all bend backwards to please you. And looks like, we always will.

This year has been totally glamorous, travel wise. San jose trip, Alaska cruise, Corsica, Ski trip to Solden, Bombay wedding, Milan and Gardaland, .. you do live the high life! You have had a terrific time everywhere. And your ballet school has an amazing show once in two years and this year you performed in six shows over two weekends in June. It was a 2 1/2 hours show with around 200 kids and you were in three group dances with costume change and everything. You had rehearsals every saturday and sunday for the last two months. And on wednesdays and fridays for a couple of weeks. You missed loads of play dates, birthday parties, .. You were tired and you complained. But you did nt give up. You worked hard, you enjoyed the rehearsals, you loved dancing in the show and were so proud of your accomplishment. We all were. These are the times I realize theres life beyond school and the commitment and responsibility, hard work and accomplishment is a lesson well learnt. Kudos to you, my little Ballerina! 

You have this amazing world inside your little head and you live in that little world of yours. Everything has to be fair, everyone has to be nice, every little thing has to be perfect and its always fun, fun and more fun there. You are always humming or singing or dancing or doing cartwheels and sometimes I am afraid to call your name and pull you away from that perfect world. You imagine a new world in every mundane thing. Rescuing the good potato person from the evil rasam rice, saving the soap bubble from the bad shower head, building a house made of grass for the ants, the tiny baby spider trying to find its mom,... Theres an interesting story behind every bug you see, every toy you have, every twig you find and every place you visit. Oh to be as young and as carefree as you! Though I am the stupid adult now, its so heartwarming to be part of your wonderful world once in a while and I will always cherish it. Keep dreaming, little girl!

Your friends mean the world to you. Your dad is your hero and your sister the boss. I am your universe and you will do anything for us. You are a proper Swiss who likes only freshly made bread, gourmet cheese and dark chocolate. You are a recent owner of a brand new swiss army knife (you assembled it on your own with your name engraved on it) which you always take with you on your hikes. You play outside snow or sun and speak Swiss German with an adorable accent. You are so funny and so practical. The other day I was brushing your hair and you were screaming bloody murder as usual. I asked you why you scream like that and you answered that it hurts. "Is it going to hurt any less if you scream, Antu?", I asked. "No, Amma. But you might stop doing it!", you replied. Jaw, drop and all that. But it is so you. Love you to bits, Pattu. Happy 9th birthday!

 Love,
அம்மா.

June 02, 2017

Baahubali.

I don’t think I will have any kind of closure until I put my thoughts into words and sent them away into the Internet Universe. I fell for Baahubali 2 hook, line and sinker and don’t know what to do with all the built up obsession and craziness that suddenly has engulfed my life. Flashback to July 2015, the kids and I were in India when Baahubali 1 was released and the husband watched it in Zurich with his friend and told me I have to watch it. I was a bit skeptical but went anyway to watch it with my mom leaving the kids home with my dad. Mom and I loved the movie and that was it. I might have watched the video of Manohari song one too many times after that but that was for the choreography. I did nt know who Prabhas was at that point of time. (ahem!) Did nt know the older Bhalla was Rana until the younger Bhalla showed up and I had goosebumps at Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj and Nassars acting and the whole story and music was fascinating. And then early this year, the whole Baahubali 2 release fever began and I was eagerly looking forward to the movie. The trailer was fantastic and I could nt wait! I listened to the songs a few weeks before the release and they were ok. And then the big day came. Hd and I decided to watch the part 1 the previous day and my kids who have almost never watched any Tamil or Hindi movie were invited to watch with us. 

Side note:
Ashu and Antu have never watched an Indian movie in the theatre or at home. Hd has always wanted them to watch Tamil movies so that they can speak the language better, know the celebrities (Rajini!) and enjoy Indian cinema. But for me, no movie seemed appropriate to show the kids. So I was always reluctant.  Then a few years back, Hd tried to show them Anjali movie but Antu walked away after a while and Ashu watched the whole thing and did nt say a word. Many people think that if there are kids in a movie, then kids can watch it. Sadly, Hd is one of them! Then last year, I chose Kaaka Muttai and we 4 watched it together. My kids have no cinema sensibility (gee! i wonder why!) and kept asking stupid questions and I swore I ll never watch any more movies with them. Then early this year, we watched English Vinglish together and it was fun. Even though Ashu thought I chose the movie to teach her a lesson about respecting mothers! So yes, thats a grand total of 2 1/2 Indian movies my kids have watched.
End side note.


I was afraid Baahubali 1 would be too much for an almost 9 year old Antu. She enjoyed the movie but went to sleep during the climax war scene. And had dozens of questions and doubts the next day. I think Ashu enjoyed the whole movie because I did nt hear or see any groans or eye rolls! And thats high praise from her! But like a true Bhagyaraj fan, I sent them to brush their teeth and change into pajamas when the Pachai Thee song came! Well, sue me! (What were you thinking, Mr. Rajamouli?) On 30th April, Hd and I left the kids home and went for an afternoon show of Baahubali 2. I knew I was going to love it but did nt think how much! I had this stupid grin in my face the entire time Amarendra and Devasena were in Kunthala desam! Died at the duos archery scene! Oh God, it was so beautifully choreographed! The action scenes were mind blowing and the songs were so good. But the drama, oh God, the drama. Has any woman character so strongly written before in the history of Indian movies? Sivagami and Devasena were amazing. Rajamouli totally redeemed himself for that song in the earlier movie. And Amarendra is going to be my favorite character for a long, long, long time! Is it the same Prabhas I watched in Part 1? I mean, how did I miss THIS guy in that movie? He was born to do this role, I believe. His acting, his costumes, his action, his romance, his walk, his SWAG! Sigh. I was afraid my heart was going to give away before the movie ended! I have always been a big fan of historical fiction from Sandilyan’s Kadal Pura days. Not to mention growing up with our good old Ramayanam and Mahabaratham. The unmatched bravery, the promises that have to kept at any cost, that one does nt give their word that easily but once they do, they will die trying to keep it. Theres something to be said about these things. Raja thandhiram, Por murasu, Kottai vaayil, Vyooham,… these words give me goosebumps anytime I hear them thanks to Sandilyan! (side note- did u know Sean Rolden is Sandilyas grandson?)


Hd and I came out with a "did we just watch an epic” look on our faces. I came home and Antu wanted the entire story to be told. Gave her bits and pieces of the story while I downloaded all the songs and have been listening to them non stop on a loop since that day. (not exaggerating!) Take a bow, Madan Karky! And Maragadhamani! Dude! Where were you all this while? As a die hard fan of Sangeetha Swarangal from Azhagan, I salute you! And then I read every review, watched every interview, trailer reaction, poster reaction, movie reaction,… And watched Chatrapathi, Bujjigaadu, Pournami, Darling, Mr.Perfect and Mirchi in less than a week and came to the conclusion that its not Prabhas but Amarendra and just to make sure, went to watch Baahubali 2 again the next weekend! This time with Ashu. I still felt Antu was too young and Hd and I had to fight out for who will take Ashu. My love for Amarendra won over his for Devasena. I thought Ashu should be part of this movie making history and this had to be watched in big screen. And her first ever Tamil movie in Big screen! Could anything else be more perfect? I enjoyed the movie even more this time. I don’t think I have ever watched a movie twice in the cinemas back to back! I sent a text message during the interval to Hd which was not appreciated at all! Well, I had to try!  (“Can you take up archery?”)

I watched Baahubali 1 again a few times and the scenes where Shivu is running towards Devasena to save her and then sees her in the chains! Man, what a scene! I did nt appreciate it the first time. But now knowing what we know about Devasena, it was an Oh My God moment! How did Rajamouli even conceive this scene? And him cutting Bhadras head while Devasena gives that now familiar smile? I wish I could watch both the movies together in a chronological order! It would be fantastic! Anyway, it has been a month and Im down to looking at photos and gifs from the movie and reading every bit that has been written about this movie. I don’t know what happened to me.  For the first time in my life, I feel the need for someone to delete my browser history if I die suddenly!


April 27, 2017

27.04.2017

Dearest Ashu,

Twelve! You are twelve! Only twelve more months to hang on to this special age before the dreaded word "Teenager" is used to describe you! Sigh. Enjoy this year and don't be in a hurry to grow up, ok? This is the year you have gone very quiet and opening your mouth only to demand or complain. You must have rolled your eyes more than a million times and I wonder how your eyeballs have nt fallen out of their sockets! *insert eye roll* And a total homebody. "Can I stay home?" is your favorite question! Closely followed by "Where are we going?" and "Do I have to come?" But of course, you have no problem getting ready to go out to meet your friends or walking the neighbors dog. Who am I kidding? You are already a teenager!

On the upside, you have become quite handy around the house though. You assembled your new ikea desk all on your own without any help. I was amazed! And putting up the Xmas tree, arranging the Golu steps for Navarathri, fixing a tear in my dress, crocheting, buying milk from the nearby shop, putting away the groceries, unloading the dishwasher, taking Antu to her swimming,... It's unbelievable! You made a pasta lunch for yourself and your sister when I was nt well and the other day when I was expecting guests, you chopped loads of veggies for me. I realize I have been expecting a lot from you the last two years because of your dads long commute and returning home late. But you have come through full and full and I am so proud of you. 

We have travelled a lot this year too and you loved Budapest and Corsica. Not to mention the Alaska cruise with your grand parents and uncle and aunt and the India trip to attend my cousins wedding. And we are in Verona on your birthday this year and I don't know about you but I feel you are the luckiest girl in the world. Every time you complain or whine about anything, I can't help but wonder what more can anyone want? But I guess whatever a parent does, its never enough for the child. You don't understand why I won't let you watch screen during school days. Why I won't let you buy chocolate from the nearest bakery even if its "your" money. Or the mother of all "why can't I have a phone!" Well, you are getting your dads old iphone this year finally and I can't think of anything to say other than, I trust you and use it well.

You got braces this year and took it in your own stride and even going to the dentist on your own when I could nt accompany you to some of the appointments. I ask you to proofread my written German and you have quite a laugh hearing me speak the language. Karma has strange ways to get back at you, I guess. If it was my moms English then, its my German now. You watch it girl! You are addicted to reading and Minecraft. We both enjoyed watching The Series of Unfortunate Events together on Netflix. You loved snowboarding this year too and continued your tennis and violin lessons without too much protest. You quit swimming lessons though you enjoy going to the pool now and then. Like I said, you are such a lucky girl. But I am luckier than you and feel blessed being a mother to you! Happy 12th Brithday, Chellam!

Love,
அம்மா.

March 13, 2017

How do I solve a problem like Ashu?

Every year Ashu does something really special and touching for my birthday and I tell myself that I should remember that moment of overwhelming love whenever I am upset or angry with her. But that never happens. 364 out of 365 days, I am impatient, angry, upset, mad, disappointed, etc...etc.. about one thing or the other. Things have been so bad with Ashu these last two years that I even told her 2 days earlier that I don't want her to do or give anything for my birthday and theres no point doing all these fake gestures when she has no respect for me and does nt listen to me and I even doubt if she likes me! (I am a harsh women. There, I said it!) I also warned the husband to make sure she does nt do anything for me. Yes, I spoke in anger but I somewhat meant it too. 

But since she does nt listen to anything I say anyway, as expected she shut herself in the kitchen and was doing something secretly during the weekend. I suspected she was baking a cake because Hd used to sneak out and come and ask me very quietly "what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder", "How many grams in 1 cup of butter", etc.. etc...!! Nambalaukku dhaan vandhadhum sari illai, vaachadhum sari illai!


So this morning dawned and Ashu was already in the kitchen and finally at 7.30 am a cake appeared on the table with fancy looking toast and I thanked them and then the kids went off to school and Hd to work. A friend took me out for breakfast and I had fun and came back in time to make a simple pasta lunch for the kids who come for lunch from school at 12 and go back again at 13.30. I told the kids I am not eating lunch since I had two breakfasts this morning and was going through the umpteen whatsapp groups to see who remembered and who forgot my birthday! (I am also a shallow woman!)

Ashu finished her lunch quickly and shut herself in the kitchen again and I was really curious on what she was doing now! She would nt even allow her sister inside when I sent Antu to spy on her. Uff! Finally 45 minutes later, she set the finished product on the dining table, said bye to me and ran off to school. I took one look and my jaw dropped! 










I hope this overwhelming feeling of love lasts more than 24 hours.

January 09, 2017

Winter Holidays and Another Year Gone By.

Half a school year is done and the girls are growing up too fast for me. Antu, who is into all things Christmas, made sure we buy a decent size Xmas tree this year and there begins a tradition! And she also kept nagging my sister and Bil to come visit us during Chirstmas and they landed exactly on 25th. We had fun skiing in Austria for a week. Ashu chose snowboading over skiing this year too and had loads of fun. Hd and I were much more comfortable skiing this year than the last but still I had this gripping fear of falling and getting hurt. Bil, the expert skier liked Solden very much and the girls had loads of fun skiing/snowboarding with him than their boring old parents!

Heres to a happy and fun 2017! 


August 22, 2016

Summer Vacation & another School Year.

Four glorious weeks were spent in sunny california and this trip coming after two years was a lot different. Girls are older, sis and bil have moved to a bigger house, parents were also there and it was nothing but fun. As always, we had a big jingbang group of 18 people flying from different parts of the US for an Alaska Cruise for 7 nights. Hd flew directly from Zurich to Anchorage, Alaska (where the cruise began) and flew back from Vancouver, Canada (where the cruise ended) If California was fun, this was mega fun! Kids had a blast. They did nt want to jump ship at any of the ports and wished the cruise was longer when it ended. Except for the trip in a Sea Plane, God knows why I chose to get in knowing my motion sickness, I had a fabulous time! The whale watching tour was the best part of the cruise for me. We saw a pod of humpback whales bubble netting and a humongous one breaching twice and it will be etched in my memory forever! Bil took a fantastic photo so I can see it in my old age to remind myself! Theres something to be said about animals in the wild! Sigh. I could spend the rest of my life whale watching, I tell you! Even the sight of a tiny bit of tail fin or the blow hole sent me into a frenzy and screaming "Whale Whale" on top of my lungs. Which will invariably matched by a even louder "Vetri Vel" from my annoying sister and an "Arogara" from the hubby! Idiots!



The other three weeks went in shopping, eating, more shopping and more eating. Kids were totally heartbroken to leave the two sets of doting people and came back on the plane with grumpy faces as if Im taking them as prisoners! Anyway, while still trying to beat jet lag for the past 3 days, kids began school today and Ashu is in 6th Grade, the oldest class in the school campus much to my shock! When and how did that happen? Antu moved to 2nd and suddenly I felt that she has grown up too much while she was standing next to the fresh off the boat first graders this morning! :( Another year of madness begins. And in this circus, I fell like I am the prisoner!

June 27, 2016

27.06.2016


Dearest Antu,

My 8 year old baby! Now I get why in almost every family, theres always an aunt whose nickname is Baby whatever old she is! The youngest in the household never gets old. Its a blessing and a curse. Ask me! But however annoying it is for you to be called a baby by everyone in this household, I will never stop doing it. So be warned. Whether you like it or not, you are special. Sometimes you complain that you are the odd one out in the family. "Why am I the only one who is left-handed, Amma?" "Why am I the only one who does nt wear glasses?" One day, I even found a note under your pillow begging Ganesha to make you wear glasses, being the drama queen that you are. This year, daddys girls kind of sort of leaned towards her mother and it felt like a sweet victory to me though it breaks your fathers heart. Well, no one can certainly take you for granted, thats sure. You sure keep us working. 

You are learning Piano this year and you love it. You love to dress up, sing, dance and read. And you are extremely imaginative when you are playing. You have a very nice singing voice and since I could nt find any suitable vocal music class for you, I signed you up for the local Choir group for kids and you had loads of fun this year with that group. Your school teacher also told me what a good singer you are and that you pick up lyrics very easily. Since your ballet school danced for some Mary Poppins song last year during the recital, you have listened to that soundtrack a hundred times and have memorized all the songs. You get deep into everything. You can’t just skim through books, movies, music, friendships,… You get into the bottom of it. You have a dozen follow up questions. You discuss it. You explain it. My god, its exhausting to just listen to you every day. I love it but its exhausting.

If theres one thing I will remember about you this year, it would be your laughter. You find everything funny. Every joke is hilarious. And your laughter is infectious. Your friends mean a lot to you and you tell me everything about them. “Don’t tell anyone, Amma but I have decided R is my BFF not A.” “I have a had a bad day today, Amma. R said she won’t play with me.” “Why are boys so mean, Amma? I hate them!”  “I like D and N though. Those two boys are ok”. And A who lives downstairs and her little sister are your constant playmates. You pretty much spend almost every evening in their house. As usual, Ashu means the world to you and even with all the fights, you can’t live without her. The one week she was in a school trip, you were miserable. You will do anything for your sister and Im amazed how strong your feeling are for her at such an early age. Tread softly, my dear.

The other day, I was in the middle of cooking dinner and you came to tell me something and I shooed you away. “But its very important, Amma”, you said. I panicked, switched off the music, switched off the stove, washed my hands and came and sat at the dining table and asked you to tell me what it was. “I have swimming class tomorrow at school and my teacher asked me to tie my hair for the swim class. Otherwise my hair comes to the front of my eyes. So tomorrow morning, you should tie my hair, ok? Don’t forget!” I just gave you a look and was about to yell at you. But the way you kept such a serious face and how sincerely you told me this information brought a smile to my face. Every little thing is extremely important to you. Whether its your stuffed toys feelings(!), or a slug on the walking path, they are equally important to you. Love you, baby.  Never change. Happy 8th Birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.


June 10, 2016

Budapest.

It was our 16th wedding anniversary on 5th June and we went to Budapest to celebrate it. A dear friend has lived in Budapest before moving to Zurich and she said 3 days will be perfect for the city trip and off we went. I know I am easy to please when it comes to places. Give me a museum, a cathedral, a park bench with a view and I am sold. But still I can't describe how beautiful Budapest is. I was not prepared at all and I fell head over heels in love with the city. As always, I had this unbelievable look in my face and wondering why we did nt plan a trip ages ago! Sigh. How is one to see all these beautiful places in one life time?

We reached our hotel in Buda on Saturday afternoon. Freshened up and got out to take a boat trip. We had a wonderful two hours taking in the sights. Found a cute vegan restaurant very near our hotel and ate an early dinner. And called it a day. Day 2, we would have walked about 10 kms and covered the castle hill with the Mathias church, fisherman's bastion and the castle. At the castle, during the changing of guards exactly at noon, one of the guards got on his knees and proposed to his girl friend with a ring and she said yes! A collective awwww from the huge audience. Of course, being our anniversary on that day, I got all romantic and locked eyes with the husband only to be getting a blank look back and he asks, "Whats happening? What is he doing? Who is that girl?" Sigh. 


Then we took the funicular down and walked on the historic chain bridge to go to the Pest side and visited the St. Stephens Basilica and climbed up for a spectacular view of the city. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant nearby with amazing food and the food was much much cheaper than the uber expensive Swiss! It rained a bit on that day but thankfully not much. We walked around some more and got back to our hotel. Ate a late dinner at a pancake place nearby and paid less than 10 euros after stuffing ourselves! Another reason to love the city, I tell you.

Day 3 was bright and sunny. We finally decided to try the public transport and bought a 24 hour family ticket and took the metro to Heroes Square. It was beautiful with a huge park nearby with so many statues, play areas, restaurants, etc... Then we took a metro to the Pest side and did a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue which is one of the largest in the world. It was an interesting tour even for the kids. Then we had a late lunch at a Hungarian restaurant nearby and tried the famous Langos. The classic langos is fried dough with cheese and sour cream. Here, they served it with vegetables too. It was yum like bhatura. Only the chola was missing! :) 

After the heavy lunch, we decided to walk it off and walked to the Parliament. My god, what a beautiful building! It was even more breathtaking up close and after a million photos, we walked to the Margaret bridge and to the Margaret Island. It is a quiet hideaway from the city with a huge garden, a big fountain, lots of trees, cafes and lots of entertainment. There was a bubble making guy there and Antu had a blast catching bubbles. Ashu was busy eating ice cream cones one after the other as if there was a contest going on! We ate the classic Langos at one of the restaurants there and the kids loved it. Then we walked back to our hotel as it was getting dark and my God, what a magical view once the lights comes on! I had to be dragged to the hotel. I could have just stood at the Margaret bridge and looked at the spectacular view all night long!

Day 4 dawned and we took the metro to the parliament to see if we could visit inside but they were fully booked so we just walked around, went to the cathedral again to do some souvenir shopping and walked back to to the hotel to get our luggage and got to the airport and were back in Zurich for dinner. One more anniversary done and dusted. Blank looks not withstanding, I would travel to the end of the world and back if its with you, R. Heres to many more! :)