Saturday, 22 September 2012

Lonely Twilight

An article in the newspaper today has disturbed me very much.  A mother of 8 children has been left abandoned on the streets by the very children she single-handedly brought up.

She is now 82 years old, frail & not in very good health.  The report says that she's not even able to remember all her 8 children's names, how sad is that!!  She could only name 3 of her 8 kids, but when the police called them up, none of them was willing to accept her in their homes.

It just makes me wonder, what is this world coming to?  What is happening to filial piety, or is there such a thing as filial piety today?  What are our kids being taught in school??  Is it just English, Maths & Science that is important?  What about civic consciousness, what about teaching kids manners & how to respect their elders?  Are our kids turning into brats?  I guess the answer is YES!

Come on!  Let's just face reality!  The kids of today are very materialistic and have lost all other sense of how to behave.  Who is the cause of all this?  I guess it's the parents.  If you ask the parents, there is always one very common excuse, it's always "The kids of today are not like us, they are different!"  What rubbish are you talking?  Weren't we ruled by the cane?  As the old saying goes, SPARE THE ROD & SPOIL THE CHILD!  I guess to a very large extent, it's a very true saying.  Those old grey hair are not there for nothing.  Old people don't just pull phrases from the air & say it, they are speaking from experience.

When I look at the Indian kids here today, (I can only comment on these kids as I'm not back home in Singapore!) I really feel sorry for the future of India.  As it is, India is already you know what I'm trying to say, but with brats like these running around, I'm not very hopeful of a bright future for this country.

Being born & raised in Singapore as an only child, my parents never treated me like a brat!  They were always very strict with me & never wanted a spoilt brat on their hands.  I remember that when I was a kid, I used to be very mischievous (like tell me which kid is not naughty?)  & my mum used to get so angry with my mischief that she would literally tie my legs to the legs of the chair (so that I can't run around) as punishment.  She would never spare me the cane whenever it was warranted.  She would not even bother if my friends & neighbours would laugh at the cane slashes on my legs & she would always cane me where it would be visible to people so that I would never commit the same mistake again for fear of being embarrassed in front of other people.  

That psychology worked!  I would always think twice before getting up to my mischief.  My parents also always taught me to respect my elders no matter who they were.  Until today, I still maintain this teaching.  I was always taught not to argue with my elders also, although I would sometimes argue with my mum.  But these are good teachings which kids are not taught today.  I once saw a kid not more than 4 years old literally whacking his dad & mum just because they didn't buy him a toy.  He was pulling his parents hair & was just hanging from his mum's long hair!!  It was a hilarious sight, but a sorry one too!  The parents finally relented and bought the toy for him.  If I was the parent, I would just leave him there to throw his tantrum and walk away.  He would quietly follow behind you after he sees that you are not acceding to his request.  I remember my parents used to do that with me too!  I used to roll on the floor crying for something I wanted, but my parents used to ignore me & walk away, after seeing that they are walking away without bothering about my tantrum, I would get up & start walking behind them.  That is how I learnt over time that my tantrums will not work with them & I would have to behave myself if I wanted an outing.

Can you imagine our parents throwing us out on the streets to fend for ourselves when we were born?  If they had done that to us, what would have become of us?  Instead they picked us up everytime we cried in the middle of the night disturbing their sleep and feeding us, changing us or just simply cuddling us & rocking us back to sleep, and in return what do we do to them in their old age?  We abandon them on the streets, we disrespect them, we leave them all alone when they are helpless or we leave them all alone because we are TOO BUSY!  Is it right?  I don't think so.

I'm truly blessed today because I looked after both my parents when they were in their last days.  I was always taught by my parents about filial piety.  There was once when both dad & mum were warded in the same hospital and luckily on the same floor & I used to wheel either dad to mum or mum to dad.  Looking back on those days, it's funny how I managed looking after 2 sick parents all by myself.  By the grace of God, I somehow did it.  

It really makes me wonder what will happen to us in our twilight years?  Will we be able to depend on our kids to look after us or will we end up in an Old Folks Home?? 


Friday, 14 September 2012

Rain In The Hills

The clouds had come down on the hills & we were heading there...

The rain coming down hard on the windscreen

It was a lazy rainy Sunday morning, I was huddled under the blanket enjoying the rain pelting down on our roof.  Then hubby turns around hugs me & suggests taking a drive to the hills IN THE RAIN!!  Crazy right?  Nah!  

I immediately jumped out of bed upon hearing his suggestion.  Being the absolute adventure junkie that I am, I pounced on his suggestion before he could change his mind.  I have always wanted to take a drive to the hills in the rain, but have always been afraid to suggest it to hubby because of the danger!!  Now that he's suggested it, why not?

Both of us quickly showered & changed and got ready for the wet drive up the hills on the newly constructed highway from Panchkula all the way up to Timber Trails.  

The New Highway

As we took the nice l-o-n-g wet drive up the hills hubby & I were just enjoying the almost empty roads & the rain beating down on our car.  We had the MP3 player on with some slow love songs & oldies (some in English & some in Hindi).

I was literally touching the clouds as we drove up

As hubby was driving up the winding road, I was enjoying myself "playing" with the clouds as we wound our way up.  I just felt like a little girl once again & hubby was enjoying himself just driving uphill.  For the first time, I really enjoyed the rain, the clouds & the drive so much.  We had always driven up on dry weather, never in the rain.
After the rains, u can literally see a small stream of water coming down the hill

Magnificent view of the hills

We finally stopped half way at McDonald's for our brunch as it was already nearly noon.  It was sooo nice & cold as I ran from the car into the restaurant.  We enjoyed our warm brunch of Spicy Chicken meal (for hubby) & Filet-O-Fish meal (for moi) with a side of hot coffee & some chicken McNuggets.

The main altar of Christ Church In Kasauli

 We really had a nice & FULL brunch and then made our way up to Kasauli.  The weather up in Kasauli was just AWESOME!!!  It was soooo cold, it felt just like early winters once again.  The rain that was coming down was really icy cold water!!  I just stood outside the church enjoying the rain drops on my face!!

The side altar where I lit candles
The church in Kasauli is really old school looking, or should I say old church looking!  It's got the traditional look of a church with it's stained glass windows, steeple & all, I really like that!!  I think this church was built somewhere in the 1800's when the Brits were still in India.  

Cute little monkeys we saw along the way...

I like the cute baby in the middle..

On our way down hill, the rain was beginning to stop and that's when the naughty monkey's came out to play on the road and I caught a few of them posing for the camera!!  Don't they look cute?  I understand they can be quite ferocious, so my advise to anyone wanting to cuddle them, is DON'T...  they carry diseases too, that's what hubby says.  But I just think they look quite cute, I wouldn't want to take them home.

I love the different shades of color on the horizon

The horizon looks just GREAT!

Friday, 7 September 2012

These R A Few Of My Favourite Things...

Maggi Assam Laksa is one of the few flavors unique to Singapore.  You don't get them anywhere else in the world except maybe Malaysia.  It's got a nice soury tangy flavor which I like very much.  Have been eating this since I was a kid, and when you have great friends who courier such simple things to you living so far away from you, it really does make your day, week, month or year.

Thanks to my dear friends Richie & Gen, I keep getting a constant supply of my favourite stuff.  Tastes from my childhood which I still remember & cherish till today.  These are tastes you've grown up with and will never forget.  For me, I'm a true blue SINGAPOREAN in every sense of the word, and that's why I miss such simple things so terribly.

When I'm feeling a little down & home sick or just mostly on Sundays, I will open up a packet of my favorite Singaporean comfort food & make it for myself.  On some days, the feeling just gets to overwhelming and tears will just well up in my eyes while I'm cooking in the kitchen.  I will always wipe away my tears as soon as someone walks into the kitchen...

I feel that food is the bond that binds us to our home & families.  How many times have we enjoyed funny & wonderful moments with our families.  Sometimes it may even turn out to be a lecture session from your parents.  I know I've had loads of lectures at the dinner table.  My dad was a loving but no-nonsense man who always believed in inculcating manners, ethics & discipline in me.  He was also a very religious man who would keep telling me to pray, pray, pray!!!  At that point of time, especially as a teenager, it used to be the most boring thing to do!  I would only go to church on Sundays to hang-out with my friends.  

As I grew, food became something that brought friends together.  Singapore is a food paradise, you can find any cuisine your heart desires.  We Singaporeans are "Foodies", we all love our food and it's a national past-time to eat & check out new places to eat.  The food business in Singapore is the best business to get into!  Do you know that most hawker's in Singapore are very rich?  Some of them can even afford to drive a Mercedes Benz!!  Something which is way beyond the reach of a normal office worker!!  

I remember that as adults, we would always meet up with friends over the weekend for a meal or buffet at some restaurant and we would sit there for hours just eating & catching up with each other.  Most Fridays would see me & my colleagues sitting at the coffeeshop under my block chilling out after work.  We would have our seafood "Zhi Cha" and enjoy ourselves talking, joking and just having fun with each other.  Sometimes we would have so many people joining us that we would have to squeeze together tightly round the table, but it used to be such great fun!!  

Edward, Prem, Mr & Mrs Chan, and all our other "kaki's", I must say that I really miss those days!!


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The First Year (Honeymoon)

The first year was as they say all wine & roses...., but in my case, it was more adjustment more than anything.

After our whirlwind wedding was over, it was time for me to settle down in a whole new country, people (family), culture, food, surrounding and of course my husband.  

Firstly it was weird for me to share my bed with someone else.  It didn't feel comfortable at all!  I was used to having the bed all to myself, now there was hubby next me & most of the time coming into my space.  It was hard fighting for space in the middle of the night!  There was a few instances where I even fell off the bed (sigh!)!!  Yeah, I have fallen off my bed & my cutesy hubby would only sit there & laugh at me on the floor.  The poor soul also felt quite helpless seeing me on the floor, so to lighten the moment, he would always burst out laughing & I would also rub my sleepy eyes & laugh along with him...

Enjoying Our First Few Months Together...

 Then there was the problem of adjusting to the new family and people around you.  I was lucky to adjust quite well because I have very loving and caring in-laws or mummy & daddy as I call them.  They are more like parents to me since I've lost both my parents.  Mum always says she treats me more like her daughter & not her daughter-in-law.  

She's a really wonderful mother in all ways.  She's the one who's cared, loved & nurtured my hubby so much that he's also a wonderful & loving person just like she is.  I remember that when I first came here, my clothes were not very appropriate for this country.  

As you may know, we are not at all conservative in Singapore.  And as Singapore is a very hot & humid country, most of us walk around in shorts & t-shirts.  We also don't think twice about wearing short tight skirts or anything for that matter, nobody bothers about what you wear & people don't pass rude comments or ogle at you!   

Mum would on the quiet make pretty Indian clothes for me just to help me blend in.  After I had got my wedding gown made at the tailor's he had my measurements, so mum used to buy pretty material & get suits stitched for me.  

Also, in those initial days, I was not working & hubby's salary was quite low, barely enough to sustain both of us & I had to curb all my spending & shopping.  Looking back, those were really fun days.  

We did not have the car then & we used to get around on hubby's "put-put" 3-wheeler.  It was specially designed for the handicapped and was presented to hubby by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation for which he was even chosen to give a thank you speech on behalf of all the handicapped people who received their three-wheelers on that day.  He proudly spoke at the President's house on 18.08.1994 (yes another 18!).   "Put-put had a seat for 2 just behind the driver & that's where mum & me used to squeeze!  It had a roof on the top which would "try" to keep us dry in the rains but it never really worked as we would always be drenched by the rains.  But I used to love riding at the back with my hubby.  

Hubby used to bring me out for a short ride daily in the evenings.  He knew that I would be bored sitting at home the whole day & he would make every effort even though he would be totally tired after work.  We would roam around in our unique looking bike all over Chandigarh and I remember that everytime we would end up in Sector 17 for an ice cream, all the street kids would run after us!

Then, there was this once when my most adventurous hubby took me for a drive all the way to Ambala which is about 100km away from Chandigarh on his 3-wheeler.  I was still very new to this place and I didn't know anything about the dangers involved.  Being the thrill seeker that I am, I very readily agreed to his proposal.  All I wanted was a long drive with my hubby on a nice Sunday afternoon.  Little did I realise that it would have been so dangerous had anything happened to the bike along the way!  Where would we look for a mechanic?  This is not an ordinary bike that most mechanics can handle, it was a little different in configuration also.

Luckily for us, God was with us and nothing happened along the way & we reached home safely.  It was only after reaching home did I happily announce to mum that we had just come back from Ambala did we both get a good dressing down!!!  She was sooooooo angry with Bunny!!  She kept scolding him in Hindi (I don't know what was being said!).  She then told me the dangers of venturing out all alone especially without telling anybody at home where we are.  I understood and never ever dared anything like that ever again.

Bunny bought a car just 3 days after I arrived in India, but was not able to drive it.  I remember that in the initial days, we used to depend highly on drivers to bring us around.  Also, some of the drivers were never punctual.  I remember on our first Christmas day together, the driver was supposed to come to our place and pick us up at 10am, but only reached at 1pm!!!  I was fuming mad!!  I was literally in tears by the time we had to leave.  I just hate it when people cannot keep up to their commitments.  I'm also a very punctual person, but over here, people tend to be very relaxed and are not in the least bothered about their commitments.  

Finally, Bunny found a mechanic in Delhi who could convert the car into a hand controlled one for him to drive using his hands.  I remember the night before the car was due back after the hand-controlled device was fixed, Bunny had such a sleepless night as he was so excited about being able to finally drive a car!  

When morning came & the driver delivered the car, Bunny was just itching to take it out.  I was extra cautious & protective over him taking the car out on the road, I was also the first person who sat next to him when he took his first round in the car around our colony.  On the second round around the colony, he forced mum to get in the car also, although she was scared!  She finally relented and got in the car & Bunny took her around so smoothly although it was only his 1st day behind the wheels.

After 1 week, he was so confident that he was picking me up from work!!  It sometimes amazes me how fast he took to the wheels of the car after just one week.  He's now a perfect driver.  Nobody can ever say that a handicap person is driving the car.  In that old car (Maruti 800), we have gone up & down to Delhi about 4 times with Bunny behind the wheels.  

Another difficult adjustment for me was the food in India.  The very first week I was in India, I was quite sick!  I guess I was not used to the heavy masala they use in their cooking here, while the food in Singapore is still quite mild & bland.  I still don't really like the food here very much.  I really miss all my Singaporean food like Chicken Rice, Laksa, Duck Rice, Char Kway Teow, etc.  In fact, mum has had to change her style of cooking a little just to accommodate my  taste buds.  I still miss eating pork & sea food very much.  We don't get fish & seafood here, even if we do, it's not very fresh & I don't like the taste of stale fish or prawns!

Our first year of lovey, lovey flew by very fast in the blink of an eye.  I'd enjoyed every moment of it and I really miss "put-put", but had loads of nice rides in Bunjack (our Maruti 800)!      

Sunday, 2 September 2012

How Did It Start??

How did I end up here in India???  Good question!!  All I can say is LOVE is borderless!!  

As a kid I had only been threatened by my mum that if I don't do well in school, she'll send me to a boarding school in India where I'll have to milk the cow & make dung patties in a dingy & dirty village far from my parents & friends.

That threat used to "scare the living daylights" out of me!!  I used to fear India like the plague!!!  Anyway, that was ions ago,and now the so called nightmare has actually come true....

Well, I wouldn't actually call it a nightmare, it's more like my search for my better half has ended.  

 Yup, I guess I'm one of those lucky girls who has finally found her better half.  Yes, I can say that after 36 years, my international search finally ended in India with my darling husband Mr Vijay James @ Bunny.  

My Bunny & Me...
 Bunny and I had been communicating with each other for about 5 years before I agreed to marry him.  

We met each other on a matrimonial site and that's when our whirlwind romance started.  

Yeah, ours was surely a whirlwind romance that started when I responded to Bunny's interest in my profile.  I remember when I saw his photo on the site, my heart was filled with so much of compassion and respect for him.  I knew deep in my heart that differently abled people are genuine people with huge, big hearts.  I knew this as I was working with people with intellectual disabilities at that time.  My students were wonderful people with so much of love.  They were just special people who wanted everyone to just love them for who they are and not be misunderstood. 

My Sweet Hubby
Bunny is differently abled in the sense that he is 60% orthopaedically disabled.  Both his legs are polio affected and he walks around with the help of callipers and under arm crutches. 

After accepting Bunny, both of us started communicating with each other over Yahoo Chat.  I remember chatting with Bunny for hours, but we were not really "committed" to each other.  We decided to keep our options open as were also speaking to other people besides each other.

After a few months of knowing each other, both of us got marriage proposals from other people.  Bunny got a proposal from a French lady & I got a proposal from an American guy.  We conveyed this to each other and then decided to stop communicating with each other as we were going to get busy establishing our own lives.  We wished each other well and parted as good friends.

As fate would have it, both of us did not get married eventually as something or other happened and the proposals did not materialize.  

We then met each other online one fine day by chance.  That was when we realized that both of us were still single and we started laughing at each other and that's when we started chatting with each other again.

We were still not "exclusive" to each other.  I was still seeing other prospects and Bunny knew about it.  He would in fact encourage me to settle with someone else should I find another man who would love me more.  That's when I traveled the world looking for love, but love would always evade me as my true love was just like Richard Marx's song "Right Here Waiting" for me.  

My Bunny is a man with a huge heart.  His love is endless and boundless.  He never once tried to force his ideas or opinions of me.  He would always listen to all my escapades with much interest and tell me to search for my happiness and that he would always be there for me.  

Then I had to face a very trying patch in my professional life.  It was at that point of time that I craved for someone to be a shoulder to cry on.  I needed someone who would just hold me tight and comfort me and be there for me.  I found that in Bunny.  In my desperation, I called him up in India one day.  He just gave me all his time and listened to me.  That was when he told me "I'm here for you baby, just close your eyes and jump, I will catch you."

That started me thinking...... was this man to be believed?  Would he be like all the other men I had met?  Would he also desert me after some time?  I didn't have the answers, but it didn't bother me either as I was too busy solving my professional problem.

Finally when the problem was solved, I took some time away to re-evaluate my life and that's when I realised that was living a very lonely life.  I had already lost my parents some time ago and I am an only child, I don't have any siblings to call my own and then it hit me that I actually had nobody in this world to call my own.  Where is my life headed, what will happen in my old age, who will be there for me?  I didn't have any answers and that scared the hell out of me! 

I really wanted to belong to somebody and that's why I'd been around the world looking for love, but love always eluded me.  I used to wonder why?  Why was I always so unlucky in love?  If u ask me now, I know why all those relationships ended because my true love was still waiting for me behind the scene.  Silently watching over me like a guardian angel, and that's what Bunny is to me MY GUARDIAN ANGEL.  

I then made up my mind, I DON'T WANT TO DIE ALONE!!!  I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life.  I decided to give Bunny a try and both us had a heart to heart talk.  Again he told me the same thing, to jump.  I told him that I would and he was delighted!!

The day I booked my tickets, I called Bunny to inform him about the date of my arrival and he was over the moon.  That was the day he told mum that he would give up all his vices (smoking, drinking & chewing pan) just for me.  Yup, he totally changed himself just for me.  I'm truly the luckiest girl on this earth!!  All because one day when we were talking, I just commented that I don't like smokers or drinkers.  I never knew that Bunny smoked or drank, but just because of my comment, he gave it all up for me.  Till today, my dear husband has kept his word and is still free from all his vices.  It's now been 4 years!!

The day I left Singapore for India (29 September 2008) was again another day filled with turbulence, not only in the air, but also in my heart.  My flight was delay 8 long hours and I had to sit it out at the airport and kept updating Bunny about the situation.  My heart was turbulent because I kept questioning myself if this was God's way of telling me not to leave home and go into uncharted territory!!!

During my last call to Bunny, I told him that if I don't see him at the airport when I arrive, I will immediately turn around and take the next flight back to Singapore.  He again assured me that he would be there waiting for me no matter what!!

When I finally landed in Delhi, it was already 1 am Indian time.  I was dead tired, but still had to collect my baggage & go through custom.  When I finally got out of the airport terminal, I didn't see any Bunny, but just a guy who came up to me and asked me if I was Jacqueline!  I had been warned before coming to be careful in India.  There are very smooth operating pick-pockets and thieves who will steal from under your nose.  I was very conscious about my surroundings.  

So, as I was saying, this guys just asks me if I'm Jacqueline and he just walks away with my trolley fully laden with 2 of my suitcases and my lap top on the top!!  I was just about to throw my high heeled shoes at the guy when I felt and warm hug from behind!!  It was mum! I didn't recognise her as I'd never seen her, but she introduced herself as Vijay's mum.  Boy was I relieved!!  Finally I can relax and stop being paranoid.  She then took me to the other side to meet my Bunny!!  He was standing there with a pretty bouquet in his hands.  I was more relieved to see him than anything else!  

We immediately got into the taxi and made our way to Chandigarh.  Oh, by the way, the guy who walked away with my trolley was none other than the taxi driver.  As there were 2 exits, Bunny sent him to the other exit to "catch" me.  

When I finally settled down in the taxi, I just didn't bother about anything.  I knew that I was in the arms of my beloved who said he would catch me and he did.  That's when I threw all caution to the wind and just went to sleep in my Bunny's strong arms.  I slept for 5 whole hours all the way from Delhi to Chandigarh.  

After 18 days of falling into my Bunny's arms safely, we were married!!  I know it was super-fast, but both of us didn't want to waste much time.  We knew that we loved each other unconditionally and only wanted each other for the rest of our lives.  As they say in fairy tales, we are living happily ever after...