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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!