Help needed!


Update: I’ve made this email a sticky so that anyone who lands on this page will see it. If you’re open to being interviewed for my study on reading chick lit, please contact me via email (

So as most of you know, I quit my job to do a PhD last year. What I didn’t mention was what I’m working on. I’m studying Indian chick lit novels (the Bridget Jones’s Diaries and Sex and the Cities of India, such as the books written by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan and Anuja Chauhan), focusing on how a certain kind of Indian woman emerges in the novels. Cool no? Well obviously I think so.

As part of this project, I need to interview readers preferably based in India. So I’m putting out a call:

  1. Do you enjoy reading Indian chick lit? (Basically, the popular romantic fiction with a 30-soemthing protagonist looking for love).
  2. Would you like to talk about it? (ie. talk about why you enjoy/dislike the novel/s, characters you like/identify with, etc.) It’s easy peasy.

It will be fun, I promise! I need to do Skype/telephone interviews, and need limited personal information. You will be anonymous when I write up the research, though you will need to sign an informed consent forms and provide me with some general info about yourself.

While chick lit has now apparently expanded to include almost anything written by women, my working definition of the genre is  books that “feature everyday women in their 20s and 30s navigating their generation’s challenges of balancing demanding careers with personal relationships.” I should add that the tone of the classic chick lit novel is typically lighthearted.

Anyone willing please please please email me at

What I bought

So I have like one hour before my next tutorial, and I feel like faffing since I just finished my candidature exam (yay, but also it deserves a post). So I’m going to write something utterly frivolous, i.e. what I bought when I went shopping last weekend.

Shopping is now a new and exciting activity for me, now that I have a budget to control my impulses. While this has actually helped curtail the number of things I want, because I have begun to think about whether I need them (or whether that money would better be spent inhabiting the Fund for the Replacement of my iphone C which will inevitably break down one of these going by how often I drop it face down), there are still a surprising, according to V, number of things I need. And last weekend, I actually got most of them.

First, we went to Colourmix to exchange a perfume V had bought for me. So I had run out of perfume, but decided I could do without or use V’s Body Shop perfume that was lying around. However, that is almost over, but I was refusing to buy more perfume because it is low on my list of priorities (FYI I do use deo, but have decided perfume can be replaced by nice smelling lotion. More on that later). So V decided to buy me some. However, while he bought the brand I wanted, he did not buy the exact perfume I wanted, and honestly I was more than a bit pissed. However, he told me I could exchange it. The thing is I was not sure that Colourmix would have anything I wanted, and I’ll admit I got a bit stressed out and shouted at V for his not properly thought out gift. In the end, I found two DKNY perfumes that I actually like and got them instead (but later we found them for cheaper in the very posh DVF Duty Free in Causeway Bay. Who wouldn’ve thunk?).

Then we went to this place (called 360, but not the fancy schmancy supermarket but rather the opposite of that) in the same mall that sells discounted stuff and got a stash of chocolate because I have lost so much weight in India that I can reinstitute my post-prandial chocolate habit, which according to me is the main point of being thin.

Then in the evening, we went to Wan Chai to get our printer cartridge refilled, a dodgy practice that I’m not entirely sure is working out well. And while waiting for the guy to do the job, we wandered around and I mentioned how it is impossible to find an iphone 5C case anymore and V claimed he had seen a shop that sold the original covers, only we landed up in another shop where I somehow convinced myself to buy a cover that I realised was totally wrong only when the woman took it out of the box to put it on my phone. So I essentially spent HK$100 on a cover and screen protector that would not adequately protect by phone, and did not look as nice as I wanted also. And then I had to spend another HK$55 bucks to get a proper screen protector as the one that came with the case was not strong enough. Bleddy.

I was irritated as hell but calmed myself down over a nice Shanghainese noodle dinner. Then we schlepped to Causeway Bay to this shop called Dudes to buy Bath and Body Works body lotion because I have decided that this brand does it for me, though obviously I had to pick the one in thousand brand that does not have a store in Hong Kong and so I have to hunt around for secondary sources. The shop I bought Bath and Bodyworks stuff last time has shut down in typical Hong Kong fashion (thanks to rent hikes most likely, whereby only the most boring franchise stores can survive). Thankfully, this one seems to be a bit more long lived and they had a wide selection of lotions, from which I picked four. It was such a relief to have moisturized and sweet-smelling limbs again (Brown Sugar and Fig at the moment if you must know, because of course you must).

Then we bought Nene a pair of jeans and Mimi a pair of fleece-lined trousers from this cart on the street, which sells very stylish children’s clothes.

Then, we started walking through Langhan Place to the MTR when we went through DVF and started looking at perfumes to see if the original Bvlgari one I wanted was available. It wasn’t. The du vert, if you must know, because yeah.

Then, I realised I really needed sunglasses (I do! Mine got washed away into the ocean on my birthday, because I was smart enough to go swimming with my glasses on in really rough weather and at some level though my husband could rescue them again like he did the last time a wave took them). So I started trying on some, and honestly the branded ones are so expensive (e.g. Chloe: HK$2800), but I haven’t seen any cheapo one’s I like. Then, when V was asking about a pair, the lady at the counter pointed to a selection that were on steep discount, and I found a pair of DKNY with dark blue rims that were quite okay for the princely sum for HK$300. You’d think I’d grab them, but I was dithering because there was a more perfect pair of Tory Birch glasses for HK$1600 (yeah really). Finally, sense prevailed (for the moment anyway) and I bought the HK$300 glasses while telling myself that I could still get more ideal ones at some point down the line. Which hopefully will not come, but you never know. The thing is that I really use my sunnies a lot – the last pair lasted five years, during which time it was repaired once.

And that friends was my weekend.

Confident mothers

Have you ever encountered mothers of young children who seem to completely have their shiz together? As opposed to moi who constantly seems to be winging it?

For example, there’s a mother of two in Mimi’s class who never seems to be in a flap, and always seems to have sorted words of advice for other mothers who are panicking about something? Or there’s Mimi’s friend’s mum, who though less in control, seems to know what the fuck is going on and her approach to things. I normally put this down to being more experienced, but then I realised I have a child who is older than them so technically I’m the experienced one! So how come I always feel like I going from crisis to crisis, but they seem to be calmly floating on the ocean of parenthood?

It reminded me of this time when I was at the maternal health centre with Mimi and the nurse said to me, you’re experienced now, you know what to do. And I thought: “Er actually I don’t know what to do. I was winging it through my first kid and I’m still winging it, albeit with a teeny bit more insight, but unfortunately the things that crop up with each kid are not the same.” Maybe because I had my kids so close together,  I didn’t have the time to get to the “all shall be well” stage?

Then it struck me that the two aforesaid mothers are stay at home moms which means they have more experience in terms of sheer quantity of time spent with the kids which possibly accounts for their air of control of the situation or at least peaceable resignation to it. But then I remembered one of Nene’s friend’s moms who is a working mom who sports the same air, while I know other SAHMs who are as flustered as me. So it seems that it comes down more to personality than anything else.

I’m one of those people who cannot feel confident unless I’ve mastered something. I don’t think anyone (even the one’s that look confident) can say that they’ve mastered motherhood (if your kid is under seven). So while I chose to play up the lack of being in control, they play up the parts that are going well.

I don’t mean these people are annoying. I admire them. I really like the two mothers I mentioned earlier. I just cannot wrap my head around their confidence.

On the other hand, there are some people I find really frickin’ annoying. Like V’s cousin who thought she knew everything about motherhood because she even had a baby so you can imagine what it’s like now. I spent the whole conversation biting my tongue because I find her confidence jarring but also because we ideologically poles apart.


The Big Chill

So Hong Kong experienced it’s coldest weather in 60 years.* The temperature went down to two degrees. Buildings in Hong Kong are not built for the cold. Indoor spaces become like ice boxes and there is no central heating, so peeing at night is torture. Lessons learnt:

  1. I am not made for the cold. I cannot think properly and get all fuzzy. Also, I am one of those people whose extremities are cold at the best of times (there is a Chinese Medicine description for this kind of constitution, “damp” I think). So in cold weather, the tip of my (admittedly long) nose freezes (not literally, but it feels like it).
  2. Waving each item of clothing in front of the heater before putting it on is very helpful. Do not leave said item on the heater and wander off because: a) the heater has a warning on it that says not to b) the warning is there for a reason and that is that your shirt will burn and the room will smell and you won’t be able to open a window because it’s so frickin’ cold.
  3. Thermal underwear works. However, of course, you only remember you have some on the last day.
  4. Similarly, you only perfect the exact number of layers you need to wear to beat the cold on the last day. And then you forget, so next time you’ll have to start from scratch. Two layers of thick socks though.
  5. Kids will refuse to put on adequate layers because they just don’t understand the concept of cold. They probably feel weird but don’t realise it’s because of the cold. Instead, they argue with you about going to the park. The very thought makes you feel colder. Of course, one of them gets a cold.**
  6. This is not a good time to attempt sex. First of all, there’s the mere thought of taking one’s clothes off. How do people in cold countries have sex? Is there a way to do it with your clothes on? Strategic holes in clothing perhaps? But that would let the cold in. I know heating, but I mean before heating was a thing. Also, when your hands are so cold, do you want to be touching another person? Well, maybe to heat your hands, but that’s not very nice.
  7. Instead, one could take a hot bath. Except if you’re two adults, one fairly tall, in a not-fully-sized bathtub, it’s a bit of a squeeze. Still nice though.
  8. Weird things happen to the architecture. Like the lift doors won’t close properly, and the lift itself makes strange noises. You risk it nevertheless, because walking 20 plus floors is not an option. Your kids are apprehensive. You wonder how they sense the danger in going up in a rickity lift but keep leaping off furniture without narry a care.
  9. A number of air conditioning units allegedly have heating functions. I have never experienced a working one in Hong Kong, except once in the home of Nene’s wealthy friend.

Obviously, the worst of this is borne by homeless people. However, I did see the good side of Hong Kong people as many people organised collections and distributed blankets and warm clothes.

The Education Bureau closed kindergartens and primary schools for one day. I am on this mom’s group on Facebook and opinion was divided among those (presumably from cold countries) who thought it was ridix and others (more sensible in my opinion) who pointed out that infrastructure in Hong Kong is not made for cold, and that schools do not have heaters, even portable ones. Some complete noobs suggested all schools should be heated. Others rightly pointed out that public money couldn’t be wasted in anticipation of events that occur once every 60 years.

Are you a hot or cold weather person? Obviously, autumn is best.

* This statistic was rolled out like a mantra. My friend who was visiting was astonished at the number of people that said it to her as a greeting. She insisted that it was “not that cold”. However, she was staying in a hotel with double-glazed windows. Hmph.

** I know the (common) cold is a virus. However, (temperature) cold preserves the cold/flu virus and thus it spreads in winter. Hence, pre-winter is the reccomended time for the flu vaccine. There is a connection.

Language madness

Sometime in December I attended a seminar by a fellow grad student who is researching language and the group in Hong Kong called “ethnic minorities”. Largely, EMs as they we are called are “South Asians”, another appellation I had never heard until I moved here. South Asians/EMs are people from the Indian subcontinent, including yours truly, but in policy-speak they generally refer to people who had moved generations ago, as far back as with the British, but who have remained marginalised and economically backward. A big reason for this is blamed on langauge – that they are not adequately conversant with the Cantonese language and hence have failed to integrate and to gain better employment.

The issue of Cantonese is a vexed one for me. Since I moved to Hong Kong, I have felt the need to learn to speak Cantonese. While Hong Kong bills itself as a world city where East meets West, and it is true that there is a large expat population and the influence of British and later other Western culture, since 1997 it has become more and more a Chinese city where Cantonese dominates but is (officially) supplemented by English. Unlike Japan, where you cannot get by without learning Japanese, in Hong Kong, many expats live quite happily without going beyond the most cursory lei ho ma? (how are you?) in Cantonese. However, to do this is to restrict yourself to the expat ghetto, which is something I was not willing to do.

I’m also sensitive to the issue of language and belonging because I am not comfortable in any Indian language. My first langauge is English, has been so in my family for probably a little less than a century, and while I use Hindi words picked up from the streets of Bombay in my English and I can get by in Hindi, I cannot speak Hindi or anything else fluently. Obviously, my Hindi has deteriorated further since I moved to Hong Kong but it was never much to start with. Although theoretically English is an Indian language as much as any other, and moreover that language is not the only means of belonging, I know the vast majority of people do not agree and I feel their disapprobation.

So I brought this baggage of language to Hong Kong, where it was compounded by the fact that you are really restricted from interactions at a deeper level with locals if you don’t speak their language. Unfortunately, my attempts have been largely unsuccessful, though I have more Cantonese than the average expat.The whole endeavour of learning “Chinese” is complicated by the fact that one has to choose between Mandarin, which is the more widely spoken form worldwide and is easier to learn to boot, and Cantonese which I am stubbornly drawn to, more so after the political events of the past couple of years.

Then, my kids were born and I rehearsed the same anxieties – I wanted them to learn Cantonese and I knew they had a better chance of picking up the language than me, but if we weren’t going to be here forever, was it worth the effort of putting them through Cantonese schooling? I decided against it based on the personality of my first child, who was not inclined to like school in concept, leave alone the prospect of being at sea in the language of instruction. Then, in international schools, and weirdly increasingly in local schools, Mandarin is being taught as the Chinese subject. So now while I have some Cantonese, I have to help my kids with Mandarin homework.

Underlying all this is my fear belief that one cannot belong in Hong Kong without Cantonese (a feeling strengthened by the localists movements today) and that one cannot succeed without Cantonese/Chinese. However, attending the seminar was therapeutic in that it took on exactly those two assumptions.

The researcher pointed out that while government policy, and the general commonsense, often places the failure of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong to learn Cantonese, or rather Chinese (in its written form) as responsible for both their failure to integrate and their poor economic condition (because they cannot access good forms), this line of thought is riddled with contradictions. First, that many of the economically disadvantaged ethnic minorities do speak Cantonese, but apparently not well enough and they cannot read and write. So it is not speaking that is the issue, but level of proficiency, and the bar keeps getting raised. At a practical level, since university’s require a high score in the Chinese exam for entry, ethnic minority students never manage to get in, and now the good jobs require Mandarin proficiency too. So the government policy has been to lift the level of ethnic minority students’ Chinese, though they have only started doing this. Ironically, government policy towards Chinese students is to focus on their English, which everyone knows is the first ticket to success. Many ethnic minorities speak better English than their Chinese counterparts but noone seems to care. In fact, might not the focus be on improving their English so that they can join the other (elite) expat kids?

The answer I think lies somewhere in between. The government cannot provide international schooling to ethnic minority kids because the locals who also would like the same would complain. Moreover, neglecting Chinese is an option for those who have a ticket out of Hong Kong like most expats do, but if you’re here to stay, you’d better learn. However, actually, many ethnic minorities do speak decent Cantonese…so the issue of their failure to both integrate and get better jobs seems to be more complicated than language alone, and possibly has a lot to do with class and race.

The point is that listening to the seminar was therapeutic for me. I realised that I had internalised a lot of the (flawed) conventional wisdom, undergirded by my own insecurities from India.This is reflected in my yelling at Nene during this Chinese homework, and insisting he write in the correct stroke order, until at a PTA meeting his Chinese teacher told me to ease up or risk him hating the language, and while that was the traditional way of teaching that was not her way.

While I had previously felt that speaking Cantonese was the ticket to belonging, I realised that race would prevent one from ever completely belonging. (This is not to deny that speaking Cantonese would make daily life easier.) Moreover, that it was unlike that Chinese proficiency of non-local kids would ever get to the level of proficiency of locals, since apparently even Chinese kids increasingly struggle to attain the required level (though I still think it’s importantly to learn for long-term stayers).

In the meantime, I still want to learn Chinese, and I’m trying to convince myself to learn Mandarin this time. Here we go again.




Did I have an arranged marriage?

Okay so this is somewhat facetious. So take it with a pinch of salt and hear me out.

I just read this book Hitched, about women in India and arranged marriages. It’s a topic I’ve been intrigued by, because till quite recently no one in my immediate family or friends circle had had one to my knowledge.* The whole idea of meeting someone briefly and getting married based on barebone facts made me very curious, and okay, uneasy. I wondered how it worked, and why educated, modern women continue to (sometimes) choose this route. As my friends and I hit our mid-20s, I saw more people in my immediate circle flirt with the arranged system but no one I knew went the whole hog, so I only got the most superficial glimpse.

The book is a series of interviews with women about their arranged marriage, mostly the whys and wherefores. I enjoyed it because I enjoy listening to jab we met stories. As expected, even though all were arranged marriages, each one was different. And yet, there were some commonalities:

  1. It seems that 23 is the golden age at which the hunt begins, possibly so that the “girl” will be married by 25?
  2. Many met in person only a couple of times before the engagement, and only after that did they meet more often, and were married within a year. In between, there were conversations on the phone or on chat/email.
  3. They usually moved to the husband’s place, if not his parent’s home, when married. Though there were refreshing exceptions, I’m speaking in generalities here.
  4. They selected their spouse based on instinct, a general sense of how he felt right.

When I was telling V about the book, and mentioned point 1, he said, “oh that’s like you.” And that got me thinking.

I met V when I was 23 and was married when I was 25. That’s a longer courtship than the typical arranged marriage, but a major part of it was spent separated because V had to move for his job. So we essentially spent one intense month in the same place. Then, like arranged marriage couples, we did a lot of telephone calls.

Okay admittedly, we visited each other once a month, and then I moved to Hyderabad so we could be nearer and we’d see each other every week, but then he moved to Hong Kong so it was long distance for a good 10 months again.

The point is, we knew each other for a couple of months before we decided to get married. And when we decided to get married, I was happy to get married the next week or the next month or whatever. And I decided to get married based on very little information and not a long association.

When V asked me to marry him, I said yes immediately based on a gut feeling that I had never had about anyone else. The same feeling a number of arranged marriage couples spoke about, about feeling right about the person. This is not a love at first sight feeling. I did not love V or even think he was perfect at first sight. But on third sight, I figured he was a solid bet. And he came closest to my ideal type.**

However, like some arranged marriage couples, I still felt the need to ask V if he could afford a house. Because at 23, working as a journalist, I sure as hell couldn’t. When I told a friend that I had agreed to marry V, she said, “What? What do you know about him? What does he do exactly? How much does he earn?” Urged by her, I asked V his salary. It was embarrassing, but although I was 23, I knew I couldn’t marry on love and fresh air. If I had dated someone from our neck of the woods, we’d be able to peg him somewhere. But V was from a different social milieu, my friends had barely met him, and so it became necessary to ask things one might not have someone from our neck of the woods.

It was understood that I’d move to Bangalore after we got married, mainly because V loathed Bombay, and I agreed partly because I realised I could not afford the lifestyle I’d like in Bombay. After we were married, I lived in my in-law’s place. Only for four or five days, after which V went back to Hong Kong and went to Hyderabad, but I’m trying to stretch an analogy here okay?

Now, obviously V and I did not have an arranged marriage. We met in a nightclub, our families did not know jack about each other until we presented them with a done deal and even then they didn’t know much because we are from different communities, we spent only over a month together in the same place, but we spent practically every moment we were not at work with each other even though I worked a night shift.

But the fact that V was a complete and total stranger when I met him, and I agreed to marry him at the age of 23 after knowing him for little over a month made me think that what we did had some similarities to an arranged arrangement, even if we did arrange it ourselves.


*Possibly the odd aunt or uncle, but even they were introduced and then sort of dated which is more liberal than some arranged marriages today sound like, even though they got hitched more than 50 years ago.

** An interesting thing someone in the book said: In your 20s, you seek out someone who is a replica of you – who shares your taste, your interests, etc. And when you’re older, you look for someone who is different from you but complements you. I’d like to think I was unusually mature in this respect, because even in  my 20s, I never dated anyone who was similar to me which is where there is a dire absence of men who read in my life. V was different from me in positive ways, he was organised, sorted, calm under stress, good with numbers.

The great India voyage

So as mentioned earlier, I was dreading our annual trip back to India. Well, I’m elated to announce (spoiler alert) that in a historic first, the trip was awesome! That’s the short version. The long version is the rest of this post.

It helped that I got my period before the trip, so I didn’t have the usual immunity drop during which time I’m susceptible to any bug and the two days of pain.

It helped that the kids slept through the flight and so did we, and then they slept at home for a decent amount of hours again so that we were reasonably well rested at the start of our trip.

It helped that the kids were older, did not wake up at night for a feed (or to pee even, and never wet the bed once), went off happily with relatives and entertained each other. Although they had dropped their nap, V and I could alternate and handle both the kids if either one of us wanted a nap in the day, though a good night’s sleep meant that we could survive without.

It helped that one of us, or my parents, or V’s sister could take over all the kids and the other person could go out and hang with friends. As a result, I met Curly, not once, not twice, but three whole times this trip! Credit goes to Curly for persisting on this, because I was too chicken to even imagine that this could be a possibility, and to V for gamely taking over the kids while I had those much-needed catch-ups.

It helped that I insisted we all sleep in the least dusty room in in-laws house so at least V and I never got a cold (Christmas miracle!). Also as suggested by 30in2005, I took Vitamin C, gave the kids their multivitamin, and later started on enterogermina. The kids did fall sick, but just for a day at a time.

Our hopes for a peaceful trip were kindled on the first two days we spent in Bombay that went by surprisingly peacefully. My kids were obsessed with the numerous cats and one dog in our building compound, and going for car and auto rides to Bandstand and Carter Road. Our building Christmas party happened at the time, and the kids got their gifts from Santa (ironically played by my dad, who the kids did not recognize, though they commented on Santa wearing dark glasses at night). The party happened at Indian Standard Time which meant that it was supposed to start at 7 pm (an absurd time to start a party for kids IMO) but actually started at 8.30 pm after numerous appeals on the microphone for residents to come down. Then once enough people had gathered, the choir that was supposed to sing was late! I could only laugh, but Mimi fell asleep in the waiting, and awoke with a start only when Santa arrived in our neighbour’s car. We left the party after doing the birdy dance with some of our old neighbours. It was a sweet start to our trip, giving me the opportunity to chat with neighbours and give my ex boyfriend’s wife the side eye. After that one day, Mimi asked me if grandma had 89 friends and I had 50 friends. I don’t think they have said hello to so many people in their entire lives in Hong Kong.

We left for Bangalore after two days, and V expressed the (premature, I thought) belief that Bangalore would be even easier. I shushed him, partly superstitiously but also because it has never been so. But it was! My in-laws house has a yard and now the kids are old enough to run around in it with us only vaguely watching them from indoors. My FIL has two cars parked in the yard and Nene spent hours in them pretending to drive. Then nieces came over and basically it was a riot. Then FIL bought the kids a mini electric car and bike, and we basically saw them every few hours. (“This from a man who never bought us a pin when we were little” commented SIL on the expensive purchase for the grandkids.) The in-laws house was less dusty than usual and the new maid seems better. We spent the whole day of Christmas at one SIL’s and then two days at the other’s house, during which time we finally went to Cubbon Park and it was lovely. V and I also went for the Star Wars movie with BIL, leaving SIL to fend for herself with four kids. Weirdly, I’ve never been into Star Wars but I might be now. I also managed to get a haircut I’ve been hankering after but never able to get in Hong Kong.

V and I celebrated 10 years of marriage and it was sweet. We had a screaming fight on Christmas day over V shouting at me over a towel, or the absence thereof (I had made off with his towel while he was in the bath, but the reaction was not warranted), but we made up, and I guess that is what is different in our relationship now. We make up fairly quickly. We celebrated our anniversary with the in-laws (whose anniversary we share)  at their farm and it was a lovely day, with the kids going gaga grabbing sundry chickens and goats and feeding cows. They also did a round of fireworks at the end.

 Back in Bombay, I’ll admit I missed the freedom of just vegging (I read a two whole novels in Bangalore), and the kids got a little stir-crazy in the smaller house, especially the first day and a half when we were mostly at home. However, after New Years I started the round of visits to my relatives and it was fine. This Bombay trip was a bit of revisiting my old childhood haunts – our building, but also horse and mini Ferriss Wheel rides at Almeida Park, Juhu Beach (where I confess I paid a guy to make a monkey dance and then felt terrible about it later, and the kids didn’t even enjoy the performance), and Joggers Park where the kids spent so much time talking to the geese that they didn’t even get to climbing frame.

Did I mention I saw Curly thrice? Once over coffee, then we got a pedicure together (something I can’t recall ever doing) and then dinner and drinks with a friend, who shared some news that made me so happy. I also met another friend for a very long coffee.

The trip going well made it easier for me to imagine us living there, but after eight days, I kind of wanted to go back home to Hong Kong. I was actually missing work. I guess it helps to have work you actually want to do (though now that I’m back home, I’m showing no inclination to do any work).

Food wise, we binged on Indian Chinese, ticked the Nagarjuna box (I did not enjoy the meal because the kids were exhausted and Mimi kept kicking me), tried Bangalore’s version of fried chicken, ate at Peshawari in the ITC Maratha Sheraton, ate a superb Goan meal at my aunt’s, ate a variety of dosas and idlis, finally tried Candies (where I giggled at a bunch of old Goan aunties and uncles telling their trendy niece “what? No, I don’t want an omelette!”, ate a fabulus Gujarthi thali (at Raj Bhog, Khar).

Is it any wonder that my stomach collapsed? I had one bout of puking and diarrhoea mysteriously after the coffee with a friend and then dinner at home. I rested my tummy only briefly before going off for a five-star lunch. I was fine, except I pushed it and had squid again at dinner and a drink with Curly and another friend, and the next day I was puking non-stop. This might have been okay had I not been travelling that night. I was puking half-an-hour before we left for the airport nad completely dehydrated when we got there. By some miracle, V managed to get me a wheelchair, a blessing because then Nene started puking so I could have him on my lap while V carried a sleeping Mimi. My limbs had gone numb and leaden and I was convinced I had dengue (a paranoid fear of mine, not eased by the fact that I had just heard that our BIL’s cousin had shockingly died from two days earlier on a family reunion in Goa). Thankfully, a couple of hours into the flight, the leaden feeling eased and I didn’t puke at all. I dined only on Pepsi with ice, the first time I’ve ever flown and not eaten a meal (I love airline food.)

We are back in HK, Mia is reunited with her Tita, Nene is whizzing his toy trains off to Bandstand, and we are sleeping like logs (I slept till 9 am today, something I haven’t done in years). It’s a little quiet, but it’s good to be home.





So in the middle of my post-PMS pre-India trip grumps, I had an epiphany.

Well, actually first I had a meltdown, but isn’t that always the case? (Not in Mimi’s case, but for adults). The meltdown was because I had scheduled a trial football lesson for the kids, the coach a few hours before the class sent me an email asking if we could do it earlier, I said okay, and then when the kids came up from playing realised that time was tight and Mimi chose that moment to have a meltdown about putting her tracks on. Instead, she insisted she wanted to wear her favourite Indian dress, which is basically an anarkali without leggings. This meltdown was preceded by a meltdown because I told Nene he could eat a gingerbread man which apparently V had told her she could have. So then V ticked me off for saying yes to Nene, and I got totally flustered. V was lying on the couch groggy as he had been woken up from the nap in the confusion, and I just lost it and started yelling. V told me to calm down, Nene told me to stop shouting, Mimi kept yelling and I just worked myself up into a fury.

And then I realised it was too much. That from a person that was very controlled about expressing my feelings, I had become someone who flares up at the drop of a hat.

If I have to date back the start of this behaviour, I think it was about two years into my marriage when I felt like talking to V was like banging my head against a wall. He would stonewall at the least sign of discomfort, while I got hysterical trying to get him to listen, to really listen. And then I landed up with a kid, Mimi, who was the other extreme, who would dig her feet in for the long fight and scream her head of while at it. And the part of me that had learnt to shout in frustration took over.

But I realise now it’s time to stop.

For one, V has made a lot of improvements, and it’s time for me to make some myself. He is more communicative, and he’s acknowledged the error of some of his ways, and I can’t keep resting on old baggage and using it as an excuse.

And then, yelling at Mimi doesn’t really work. Sure, her tantrumming touches a raw nerve that makes me want to blow my top, but going at her head to head just doesn’t work. Ignoring her when there’s time, or compromising with her if there isn’t is the way to go for now.

And much as I hate to admit it, I need to model calmness.

I looked at my resolutions for the past two years, and both times it included “shout less” or “count to 10”. So clearly this has been going on for a while. I hope 2016 is the year that I will break the habit, even if it means some severe biting down on the tongue.

End of year

This year has really sped by hasn’t it? Or at least the last semester has (I think in semesters now, maybe that’s why things seem to speed by so. Though even the summer went by in a blur).

I like to take stock, but the danger of taking stock is that you only remember the things that happened fairly recently and are fresh in the mind. Luckily, I have this blog and so I can go back and read posts for the year, and luckily, I didn’t post much this year so I assume those are the significant things that happened in the year. Soooo:

  1. Biggest improvement of the year: My marriage

One of the big things that seems to be on the mend towards the end of this year is the marriage. It surprises me sometimes when the cliches turn out to be true, because I always think I’m more complicated than the cliches. But in all honestly, a big stress on our marriage was having two kids in quick succession coupled with a more stressful job situation for V. And the thing that seems to have helped me get over the years of assholery was him actually apologizing for being horrible. As I said to him, I’m not sure this will do the trick, that I can or even want to be the person I was, but if you keep apologizing, out of those many times, you may sound sincere in a few of them and I may believe you. The next step is to actually change the obnoxious behaviours and he has done that to a great extent, though it never really felt real until the apology. Of course, we have both changed in this process, the slate can’t entirely be wiped clean, but we have rediscovered how to enjoy time with each other and how to fight less, which is progress.

2. Biggest zen of the year

My holiday to Dublin and Cork, Ireland. I have not traveled for ages, and I have never traveled entirely alone. Ireland is also a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Apart from the visa drama, the whole trip was beautiful. The place was as beautiful and friendly as I imagined, I loved my little room in the B&B I picked after much drama, I met some nice people at the conference, and I came back refreshed even though I had flown some 20 hours each way.

3. Biggest low of the year

The debacle at the conference in Indonesia and being told my project was pointless. I recently gathered up the energy to tell my supervisor about it, and she was very nice and encouraging.

4. Biggest challenge of the year

Mimi’s tantrums. I have turned into a mum who loses it and yells. I’m often at my wit’s end with this girl, though at the start of the year, I accepted that  I was going to bear the brunt of her intense personality. MinCat tells me that from her niece’s experience, this too shall pass and I hope it does. In the meantime, we don’t have a strategy, but challenging her head on is not working.

5. Biggest change of the year

My attitude to money. I have pared down my spending a lot, and particularly in terms of eating out, I am very sensitive to value for money. Last night, we went to an Indian restaurant in Central, which itself should have tipped me off, but I checked their menu online and the prices seemed ok, but when we went there, it turned out to be one of those overpriced chi chi places which made me feel really stupid because I’m going to India next week.

I also can usually walk by shops without feeling the urge to buy anything. I do have my shopping binge moments, but once a year is acceptable I think. The next one will come on in India.

6. Biggest achievement of the year

Fitness and weight loss. I lost a tonne of weight thanks to being ill, and then I followed up by starting a running-yoga-swimming routine. While the swimming has stopped because it’s too cold, I’ve kept up the running and once-a-week yoga and I’m pleased with how I look. This month, V finally got on board and started exercising a couple of times a week with me, which is something I’ve wanted him to do for ages.








So while we were traipsing across town to get prezzies for people back home, I insisted V and I eat in Central. Which we rarely go to now, so I get all excited, and then usually irritated when I realise that everything costs an arm and a leg. Okay 100$ for a mediocre meal, and 200$ for something that would be 60$ across the harbour.

Anyway, I digress.

Immediately, V started looking at Openrice which is addicted to. And then started suggesting some dai pai dong, and I was like no. And I am not going to Central to eat soup noodles. Then I suggested a Korean Taco Place but the more we looked at it, the more I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t be one of those hipset moneysucking mediocre food places, then we looked at other options, and by then I was getting hangry so said “what about cha siu faan” which is my staple Cantonese go-to food, and V perked up but then I changed my mind again and voted for the Korean taco thing.

Which is called Takorea, by the way, and while yes, we did spend 100$ a head, it was very very good and substantial quantity. In fact, we kind of overordered a side of Kimchee fries with beef. I liked the spicy pork taco but V was all about the Korean chicken burrito.

On the other hand, I went to the highly recommended Brickhouse and while I wouldn’t say it was bad, it was 50$ for a exactly one small taco which was so ridiculous I could only laugh. I ordered another, and it tasted exactly the same as the first only a different meat. The vibe is very cool, though the music is quite loud, so if you’re in the mood to be hip, then by all means go there, but really, it was just so overpriced.

Speaking of overpriced, in a fit of madness considering we are going to India this week, I agreed to go to dinner to a new place in SoHo called Juhu Beach Club. Even more insanely, all of us were labouring under the illusion that it would be a hole in the wall with plastic cutlery and concomitant prices. Which is utterly stupid because it was after all located in Soho. And indeed, it turned out to be one of those chi chi places where a “vada pav slider” if you please costs $68 and is even less substantial than an actual vada pav, plus not even the correct bread. Which I know wasn’t the point, because they are putting a spin on Bombay street food, but really. I was so angry, not with place, which is is free to do whatever the hell it pleases, but with myself for not doing more research.

It has not escaped my attention that I have suddenly begun to take V’s position on these matters. He has long been rolling his eyes at the overpriced hipster madness of restaurants, particularly those on Hong Kong Island, and now after a year of tracking my expenses and as a result avoiding those restaurants, I can see them for the trap that they are. Obviously, if I had money on tap, I might still go there, but they are actually very avoidable and once you’ve avoided them, they almost completely lose their charm.

Kind of like chips, which if you’ve stayed off them long enough, when you actually break out and eat them again, you’re not that impressed? Okay, actually I just chomped through half a bag, so I’m a fat one to use a chips analogy, but you get my point right?

Not related to food, but we went to the costume shops on Pottinger Street to buy a Santa costume, and boy, they are fabulous. Though not exactly cheap, they have a huge variety of costumes that beat the prices and range in your average Toys R Us.

The grinch that stole Christmas

Is me.


I am so grumpy. Have been for the past couple of days.

And finally, this morning I admitted to myself it’s because I’m dreading our impending trip to India. Which is on Saturday by the way. I realised this because this morning I found myself doing anything to avoid starting to pack for the trip.

Yes, it sounds ridiculous. I am dreading going on holiday. Except really our annual trip to India with the kids is not a holiday. It’s so much work.

This is not me being disparaging about India. I am extremely excited and happy to go to India without the kids. But with the kids, it’s us falling sick, them being clingy, us not being used to handling them 24/7. And it’s so depressing because in India there are 10,000 things I want to do, but I can’t do because the kids are there. It’s like being in a candy store but not being allowed to eat anything. Hmph. The way to solve this is for me to do a separate trip myself, which is most likely going to happen this year, except, I can never be 100% sure (remember Bali) so I’m resentful in advance. And of course, the inevitable illness doesn’t thrill me.

(Yes, I know I’ve said all this before. I say it every year. Just in case someone here doesn’t quite get why I’m so negative about the whole thing).

I also realised that I am reacting not just to the coming trip but to the prospect of moving back which is a looming real prospect. So each horrible trip with the kids becomes a premonition of my whole life a couple of years down the line which makes me want to just lie down and give up the ghost.

Just last week, or was it a couple of day’s ago, I was telling MinCat that I’m actually feeling a bit excited about the whole thing (i.e. the holiday not moving to India permanently. I’m not going to be exited about that, until something dramatic happens like Harvard offers me a job and Harvard sets up shop in India). But this morning, with just a couple of days to go, I found myself dragging my feet to get going with the innumerable chores related to the trip.

And maybe that’s part of it. First the packing, and just not being sure whether I’m packing right. You’d think I’d have got this down, but somehow ever since the kids, I don’t think I’ve got a handle on my own packing. Like either I land up overpacking, or I run out of clothes when I’m there, and I now realise it’s because with the kids, I never know what I’m going to be doing – am I going to be stuck in the house all day? Or will I actually go places where a decent top would be needed?

Then there is the whole rigmarole of buying presents for people back home. Weirdly, this year my mom has not said a word about it; usually, she calls and nags me to ‘just get something for [insert random aunt or neighbour]’. Or maybe by now she knows I’m well-trained enough to get appropriate amounts of chocolate for people. Or she’s given up on me, no scratch that, my mom doesn’t give up in these matters.

Also, people’s requests will come in at the absolute last minute. So today we traipsed across town to buy a sexy Santa costume. Which was still okay because the person it was for also did the same for me though I urged her not to.

Then, to places to buy chocolates at a discount. And I found myself thinking, all the people I buy chocolates for actually get a regular supply of imported chocolates anyway and are so damn wealthy, I wonder if they even appreciate it. While I am calculating the cost of it all in my head. Only after I had dragged myself to a second shop which I hoped would have better selection did I realise that I could have just given the kids money and saved myself the time and weight.

Dammit I am so grumpy.





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