Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kindergarten admission is not a child's play.

Image Courtesy: Here
There is no right way to select students from a pool of application forms into a school which has limited seats. Every school has their own little algorithm they follow to ensure that quality students get selected. This algorithm can be biased, illogical or downright ridiculous but one cannot do anything about it. You don’t like it? Okay Bye.

My friends who are settled in different continents across the world gave me really interesting insights about admission processes they know about. Sadly for us in Muscat, the algorithm to selection of students to Indian Schools is a bigger secret than the secret ingredient in KFC chicken. All we could make out from this yearly unpromising ritual is that kids who have a sibling already enrolled in the school stand a better chance, which effectively means that we have gone back to the dreadful times from the Bible wherein first-borns are screwed big time. 
If my son came to know about this  he’d probably ask me ‘Amma why did I have to be born first? Why? Why?  WHY???!!’ and I will probably say ‘Excellent question’.

Some schools resort to customized skill tests and friendly interviews and rate children based on their performance in the same. This process starts a lot of stress and pressure on parents, because the chances are that the kid will refuse to disclose anything including his name at the interview. We all know kids do not give a damn about social norms. They also display extreme intolerance to interviews. They know all rules in the book to freak us out. Oh well we are all freaks anyway.

In some countries the authorities ask the parents to produce their payslip and tax returns with applications. Schools that are so concerned about the earnings of parents should also run a background check on them just to ensure that they are not smugglers or members of any underworld mafia gangs. After going through brochures of different schools and their fee structures, I am convinced that this is how normal hard working, straight forward individuals become business minded, tax evading people who usually end up above the law. I have also heard of schools that give preference to double incomes, so that hidden charges (without receipts) that crop up from nowhere can be met without too much fuss. Other schools do not consider kids whose mothers go to work, because some of the age inappropriate projects and assignments are meant for parents. Like we haven’t suffered enough already.

I am making my son continue in the same school where he went to nursery; however this school has classes up to KG-II only. The Indian Schools admission results (first draw) did not come in favor of him, so we are waiting for second draw results. This is not fun, I tell you.

The person who cares the least is none other than the primary applicant, my beloved son. He wants to go to a school which has a swing in the playground it seems. If only it could be that simple!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Corduroy trousers, tee shirts and other ultimatums.

There are few things my toddler can’t live without, one of which is his brown corduroy pants.  I remember buying it from a store at the mall on an impulse. My three year old instantly fell in love with the trousers and there was no looking back. Until then he never cared about his clothes but it was the corduroy that woke the sartorial devil in him. Stepping out of the house meant these very pants to Aaron. Other pants were worn when it went missing (I may have something to do with temporary disappearances), or if it was still wet from laundry.

 As I am a working Mom who loves to shop and hangout with him at every possible break, I took him everywhere since he was tiny.  I never had my parents or any relatives babysitting him, so I am used to going to trial rooms with him in a stroller, and as he grew older and started yelling ‘Mama shame shame puppy shame!’ I started trying clothes on top of the dress I wore. I involve him in my every shopping trip and seek his opinion about new stuff I pick up; he gives me honest (sometimes really brutal) remarks. Thank God, toddlers have a way of making everything sound cute. He always gave a close look at the dress or shoes and at me before voicing his professional advice and thus, he grew up being a little fashionista himself. As long as he is not tired or sleepy and if he is wearing his favorite pants, he is good company.

No compliment can be more genuine than the one that comes from a child, so he makes my day whenever he compliments me. In every crowd or TV show he identifies the shirts that look like those of his Daddy, or a bag that looks like mine. Wearing his father’s shoes when he is not around and looking at the mirror is only one of his favorite activities.

Like a lot of other little boys I know, Aaron is also a tee shirt lover. He does not like wearing shirts with collars and buttons. So today, I ironed his denim shirt and waited for the ruckus to begin. I paired it with his favorite corduroy strategically. However this did not go down well with the kiddo who understands strategies better than me. Usually hubby gets him dressed in the mornings, so as expected, arguments started between them over the shirt. Hubby gave up and left the scene. I tried to convince the predetermined toddler, but the water works had already started. Aaron walked across the room, wore a wrinkled red tee on his own and sat on the sofa happily, with his school bag, trying his best to ignore me as I walked past him. I made generic statements on how denim is cool but no favorable reaction was seen.

I refused to back down. After all, I ironed the denim shirt and I did not want my efforts go wasted. I lured him back to the bedroom and told him a little secret. What followed was a smooth and happy change in clothes, and his father was shocked to see him in front of the mirror checking out the denim shirt and looking happier than ever.

Dulquer Salmaan, my son's
favorite actor.
Image Courtesy: Here

Hubby asked me, ‘Oh My God what happened here?’

‘I told him that Dulquer has a denim shirt too and that he looks exactly like Dulquer when he wears it’.

Thus potential rampage was effectively evaded, and our week began on a happy note, thanks to Dulquer.

On a different yet very valid note, I wish all my readers a Happy Women’s day. I don’t want to brag or anything, but only a mother can get something like this done without declaring war or offering bribes! Cheers to all women!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Between the lines!

I got the Oman driving license in November which was already announced from the rooftops, I can almost hear it still echoing from the mountains. My trainer bid me goodbye, his role handed down to the guy who had been trying to speak louder than me since 2008– my husband ;-) 

I must admit I miss my trainer.

Trainers in car driving are the ones whose jobs, by any means is no less hazardous than that of a suicide bomber. They have to focus, be patient, behave, teach and stay alive at the same time, not necessarily in that order. To achieve the staying alive part, one may forego at least one of the expected skill set – patience. My trainer’s voice and the subsequent reverberations can actually cause an accelerator to push on its own. However every time I had to be blamed. How mean is that?

Car training sessions are also the times one is expected to cry internally. The guy terrorized me to such an extent, that even tears were scared and shut themselves in. I held on to the steering wheel like one would hold on to a piece of slab just before falling off a 17 floor building. The suspense thriller may make one sit at the edge of the seat, but if I did that, there would have been more reverberations which could have resulted in opening a dam of tears.

My trainer taught me during the office lunch break, which was coincidentally his lunch break too. I’d have my lunch only after the session, which meant that I’d be dying from starvation during the session. However, my trainer prefers on-the-go lunches and juice. Which is chicken shewerma wraps with mayonnaise and salad. Drooling was not allowed. This means I had to stop two types of fluids from erupting 1.Tears 2.Saliva. I should also be alert and set my eyes on the road and play the traffic signs book and roundabout rules in the background. There are no prizes for guessing who gets paid at the end of this session.   

Image Courtesy: Here

However when the vacancy of a trainer was occupied by the husband, I did not expect that things could turn around for worse. This time I dint have to worry about stopping tears. It has been my strongest weapon since 1932. Now I have to keep my eyes on the road, focus, reach the destination alive AND talk back. I mean how is this expected from me? A little chat with my friends revealed the shocking fact that all husbands go crazy when women drive. I fail to understand this overreaction, because we do not get paranoid if they don’t move even a single muscle when yelled at or even if something is thrown at them when there is cricket on the TV. The situation is in control because I stopped listening a long time ago. I can feel the drama inside the car but can’t take it serious enough. This is a guy who cannot notice a change in hairdo or a dashing new dress but can pass a comment about the strand of eyebrow hair on the carpet.

The real challenge while driving in Oman is the basement parking in our building. Parking here is like taking a driving test every single day of my life, because 1. Basement is really dark and creepy 2. The lines between which we are expected to park = total width of the car.3. After lines there are pillars to ensure that we pay for our mistakes. Guess what, the husband makes me reverse park there. This is exactly like going to the labor room and telling the doctor that this procedure is not painful enough, I want to do it in a way I can actually feel it. The silver lining is that there is a reverse sensor, which has kept me sane since the whole ordeal started. I cannot even begin to think of the times people drove without reverse sensors. How is one supposed to see what is behind the car, when managing whatever is in front of the car itself is so hard?

It has been three months, the pillars are fine, and the car has survived some scratches. The building maintenance guys maintain that it is not ‘dark’ it is called ‘ambience’.  The scratches stand testimony to the days I reverse parked in this snake and ladder maze.

And in life, you cannot escape the lines. You will end up reading or parking between them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hypocrisy has a new identity.

Image Courtesy : Here
During my teen years, I was such a die-hard fan of Aamir Khan that I had posters of him on my bedroom walls. It was a magical time before bad boys became cool, so yeah we liked chocolate boys then, the ones with pink lips and lesser facial hair than a new born baby. Aamir kept doing his goofy acts Mills & Boon romance and slapstick comedy and all the girls were happy. Slowly but steadily, a strange wind of social reform blew over him and there was no turning back. Aamir Khan got enlightened under the game changing tree of Bollywood when he realized that his role in this world is to impose his opinion on a nation he thought had no persona of its own.

I don’t distinctly remember when I stopped being a fan because his focus was diverted and with each passing day he looked more and more like some sort of a Bharat Ratna wannabe.
Meanwhile, in a parallel but steady track, SRK was scoring with his signature pose and coy smiles and like millions of girls in India, I shifted loyalties too. Well, what did you expect I did not sign some kind of YRF contract with Aamir Khan fan club. Aamir Khan's opinions and his movies with morals kept instilling in our nation, a feeling that he is an intellectual. Everyone else who made movies for entertainment looked like complete morons.

When he wore only a transistor in the poster of PK, he was getting into the skin of his character, but he is entitled to his royal opinion about Sunny Leone who usually wears more clothes than him. He did a whole movie about idol worship and thinks he can change an entire nation, its ancestors and a religion that was born a million years ago.

I did not like PK for two reasons. One, it was preachy. Two, I don’t care about what Aamir Khan thinks about my religion; so why like a movie that propagates Aamir Khan’s opinions and enhanced lips?

Basically everyone is entitled to their opinions. Aamir Khan voiced his utterly hypocritical view on AIB roast as well. Next thing you know he will make a movie about humor that is not his type. I watched the three videos of AIB at least three times each. I shared it to everyone I knew who’d appreciate a good laugh. But my opinion on MY blog after watching each of the videos three times is nothing like Aamir Khan, the self-proclaimed voice of young middle aged India judging it without even watching it once. If Monica Geller’s parents can coin the term ‘pull a Monica’ we have every right to call ridiculous hypocrisy ‘pull an Aamir Khan’.

The house maid who does not turn up regardless of giving a speech earlier about how she never misses work, the friend who betrays after building up a lot of trust, that girl who scores record breaking marks despite promising that she dint even open her book, the girlfriend who cheats after threatening her boyfriend of dire consequences if he cheats on her – are all different shapes of Aamir Khan.

How to deal with the Aamir Khans in our lives, you ask? Let’s take a hint from Shah Rukh Khan. IGNORE and keep doing what you are doing. It is pretty much working for him; I think it should work for us too.    

Monday, February 9, 2015

The only plausible explanation.

The cool mornings and windy winter evenings continue to pamper us sun-burnt people of the Middle East. We make the most of this climate, which visits us only for a brief period and later gives way to THE SUN (and not summer as they call it in other parts of the world).
So on a cool sleep-worthy weekend, we went on a walk at the Muscat Festival grounds. I sacrificed my precious afternoon nap for this, so this festival better be worth it, I thought. Luckily for them, it was. It was also good to see families laughing away the stress and spending quality time with each other without those lines of stress on their foreheads… they may have applied anti-ageing cream, we’ll never know. And there were also people in Disney cartoon costumes walking about the park posing with the kids which was a blessing to all parents who had come just to let their hair down. The kids were also overwhelmed in knowing that they had come to the same place that Mickey Mouse chose to spend the weekend. My son accepted the bribe and even agreed to eat dinner.

There were donkey, horse and camel rides. Donkey rides were available for toddlers and young children. My son was terrified of the donkey, but agreed to take the ride if I joined him. He probably didn't notice the tired face of the malnourished donkey which could die the moment I even think about sitting on it. Camels looked too tall for a smooth (peaceful) ride and I refused to take it so we were even. No animals were harmed at the festival grounds.   

Of course there was a place where we could shop for authentic stuff that are usually not available at malls and branded stores. This time I skipped that area because experience has taught me that if I buy something, I’d have to pay for my sin by carrying the bag myself hours inside the festival grounds resulting in sore hands and thus bringing back the lines on the forehead. I missed my son’s stroller. I used to dump all my shopping bags in it. Sigh. Around forty five minutes later I started craving for a stroller myself.

Image Courtesy: Google Images.
One of the iconic crowd puller shows at the festival was the motordrome,  otherwise called the ‘Wall of Death’ wherein four motorists rode their bikes at high speed in a metal dome structure, defying gravity and senses of the onlookers.  My son got so excited that he wanted to ride his tricycle inside it. Sometimes the motorists rode so close to each other and sent waves of ecstasy through the crowd but it left me rather terrified. I told hubby ‘I may not be looking sometimes, okay?’ (I think he chose not to hear me). 

I covered my eyes with my hands. Watching through the gap between my fingers was reassuring. That was when one of the motorists started waving at the crowd with both hands. I watched him with sheer disbelief and exclaimed ‘Look at this guy…don’t you think this is too much? May be he lost the will to live or something’.

And hubby replied ‘Yeah, he is married’. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

With love, from Thiruvananthapuram.

One lazy day, as I browsed through channels on TV I came across this white guy on an international food channel, probably on his first visit to Kerala, saying that kappa(tapioca) and red fish curry is his ‘comfort food’. I almost laughed aloud. Comfort food it seems. That is MY comfort food my friend, yours is bread, I thought, with a typical bigheaded grin. And this grin is typical of Mallus, as we are known to take immense pride in our food. And our ego comes from the fact that even though the world eats bread for breakfast, we Mallus eat bread only when we are sick or dying.

You may think that on a map, Kerala looks like an strand of onion that fell out of your Biryani, but remember, this is God’s own ‘country’ and we have diverse slangs and cuisines across districts. I was brought up in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, and had a tough time communicating to an earlier housemaid from Calicut. There was nothing common in the Malayalam we spoke to each other; sometimes I had to use Google Images to make her understand vegetable names. Not to mention the number of situations Google decided to get naughty when I searched vegetable names on it:-/

I married a guy from Cochin and that turned out to be something like ‘2 States’. This household makes me question my proficiency in Malayalam. When Cochin people get angry or frustrated, they say ‘Manga Tholi’ and scratch their heads/bang their fists. ‘Manga Tholi’ translates to mango peel, and why they swear with a reference to the harmless and actually delicious mango we’ll never know. But for me, this is highly amusing. :D I still laugh when I see Cochin characters in movies tearing their hair apart and saying ‘Manga Tholi’. Another distinct feature of people in Cochin is that they look down on Thiruvananthapuram, our slang and food.  They also migrate to Thiruvananthapuram in large numbers for jobs, to attend good colleges, schools and for better living in general. Because Cochin has only malls, more malls, and a whole load of Manga Tholi ;-)  

Seafood, especially the red fish curry traditionally slow cooked in a mud vessel brings us all together, despite our differences, which is a feat accomplished earlier by the Janashatabdi Express. Even hard- core non-vegetarians (majority of the population) enjoy the purely vegetarian sadya on the banana leaf, complete with four payasams. A true blue Mallu will lick his fingers when he finishes the last payasam. And that is how it is done. We also intend to invite Oprah Winfrey for Onam to eat a full-fledged sadya with fork and spoon.

Image Courtesy: Here
Sadya in Thiruvananthapuram is different from other places as we have a special item called Boli with Aripayasam (Paal Payasam). My husband hadn’t heard of Boli till he married me. And he claims to have eaten Sadya! How ridiculous is that? Pity, I say. Firstly, living up to age 27 without knowing the awesomeness that is me, and secondly, not knowing Boli? Sigh.

Now Boli is a traditional sweet, served with payasam for Sadya.
Boli and Payasam: Image Courtesy
This is a unique item mostly known and enjoyed only in Thiruvananthapuram. And that is my idea of comfort food, my friends. I eat it with my soul. I have attended innumerable Hindu weddings for it, without any idea about the bride or the groom. 

This Christmas, Mummy Boli and Payasam at home and needless to say, it was the best thing about Christmas. I invite all my friends reading this, to try this delicious dish, if you haven’t already. 

We forgive you for hating Thiruvananthapauram.