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June 27, 2019

27.06.2019

Dearest Antu,


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

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

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

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

Love
அம்மா. 

June 06, 2019

Pattamma. (1916 - 2019)

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

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

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

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


April 27, 2019

27.04.2019


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


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

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

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

Love
அம்மா.