A Rant About Tipping Your Server

There was a period of time when I worked as a waitress in a quaint little breakfast place down deep in Scarborough. My overall experience there was pretty good, I had a great boss, the food was fantastic (who doesn’t love breakfast food) and the customer’s were great people. What really drives me nuts though is the fact that some people don’t think that servers should be tipped. Because of my time as a server, I make sure to always tip generously when I eat out. I have several friends who are currently or have been servers at one point in their lives, they probably understand what I’m saying here. Being a server is stressful. You deal with being on your feet for your entire shift carrying heavy plates back and forth. We carry drinks on trays praying that we don’t slip and cause a major accident. We deal with customers who think they’re high and mighty, and customers who are just generally mean people. There’s literally blood, sweat, and tears that goes into this kind of job. The entire industry is built upon sub-minimum wage and tiresome physical labor.

Being a server means being a master in multi-tasking. You’re constantly making sure that things are up to the standards of the customers. Everything has to be spotless and clean, the food has to be presented perfectly, drinks have to be served immediately, tables have to get their orders at the same time. You have to please the customers, laugh at their jokes and marvel at how great the weather is today. We are essentially the faces of the establishment we’re working at. Customers see us and they have to understand what it is that the restaurant is about. We’re family-oriented, we’re fun, we’re energized, we always have a big smile on our face! You can imagine how tiring that would get after just a few hours. Sometimes it’s actually fun to talk to customers, you get to meet some awesome people from different walks of life. With that being said, there are still those days where you just aren’t “on” all the time. Some days are worse than others, when it gets really busy and you’re not able to deliver as well as you are capable. The feeling of being so stressed out that you want to cry in the middle of your shift is not a fun feeling. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to my friends, it’s happened to nearly every server out there. We all have our horror stories.

A vast majority of servers don’t get paid the same amount as the most basic office job. Full-time employees in the service industry rely on tips to get by because minimum wage isn’t paying the rent. I myself was pulling two jobs at the time because the wages just weren’t enough to make my student loan payments. You don’t know which of your servers is trying to pay their way through school with their tips. You don’t know who’s there doing their best to feed their kids. You don’t know who is out of school and doesn’t have the education to get a better job.You don’t know who really needs the money, or who is just trying it out for the experience. Tipping is a standard practice and if you’re one of those people who don’t tip at the end of your meal, then please rethink your decision and understand that if the situation were reversed, your server would definitely tip you. I’m not ignoring the fact that sometimes the service isn’t up to par, and believe me when I say that no one is more sorry and embarrassed by it than your server. It frustrates me when people don’t think that servers deserve to be tipped, don’t demand a service and then belittle the people who provide it for you. That’s exactly what it feels like when we don’t get tipped. It feels pretty damn shitty.

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My Story

I grew up hating myself. I always thought that I would be the quiet awkward kid for the rest of my life. I thought that I would be alone, and that no one would love me because I didn’t love myself. I’m ashamed of the destructive thoughts that used to fill my mind, they were not pleasant. I felt ugly, fat, dumb, and like I wasn’t good enough to reach the standards of the people around me. Sometimes I think back to my childhood and wonder why I felt these things. I wasn’t bullied, I had plenty of great friends, but I realize that what I was missing was confidence and reassurance that I was okay the way I was.

My parents aren’t the sentimental type. I get it, they didn’t grow up in a self-obsessed generation like ours, so they didn’t really teach me how to love myself. When I was a kid I never really gave too much thought to how I looked or what I was doing, it was more until I hit puberty and became a teenager that I became more self-conscious, just like every other kid at that age. It’s normal to doubt yourself and to wonder why you look a certain way or why you don’t look a certain way. Maybe for some it’s worse than others.

If you knew me in high school, then you’d know that I had a ton of acne on my face. It was disgusting, to say the least. I cringe every time I think back to those days. There is nothing anyone can say to me now that will make me feel better about my face from that part of my life, and I’ve come to terms with it. It made me feel incredibly self conscious about myself, and I started to find other things about myself that I didn’t like. I hated how my front teeth were slightly larger than normal, it made me stop smiling wide. I hated my big thighs, they rub against each other and made holes in the thigh areas of my favorite jeans. I hated my small eyes, I always got huge framed glasses to make them seem bigger. I hated my hair, it used to be puffy and flat. There were many, many things that I wished I could change about myself. Like any other girl my age I wanted to be skinnier, to be smarter, to be cool, interesting, funny, social. I wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t happy with the way that I was.

Sometimes I would stand in front of my mirror and just stare at myself. Years ago, all I saw were imperfections. All the curves that I wanted to flatten out, all the scars that I wanted to hide. It was at some point in my post secondary career that I finally committed to clearing the acne off my face, I refused to be discouraged by things that I can’t control. Someone taught me that my odd teeth are endearing. Someone showed me how to dress to my body type. Someone showed me how to use makeup to my advantage. Someone helped me realize I didn’t even need makeup to feel pretty. Someone tells me I’m beautiful every single day. These people in my life have taught me to love myself, all of my curves and imperfections included. When I look in the mirror now, I see a young woman who’s on the way to loving herself in all her glory. I adore my love handles, I love my smiles, my wild curly hair, my slender fingers. I love my body, the way my tattoo wraps me in a hug and my curves that make me feel fantastic in a dress.

It’s important for people to start being confident in themselves. By loving yourself, you gain control over your life. Sometimes I still feel like I’m a bore, a bland wallflower in the background. That’s something I’m working on, it’s not shameful to admit your insecurities. I think that I’m a creative, beautiful person. I think that I’m a smart and caring person. I think I’m pretty awesome, and I’m proud of myself for coming such a long way from an insecure teenager to a confident young woman. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who’ve gifted me with pieces of confidence that have built up my self-esteem, and I hope that I can do the same for my friends who need a little extra boost. Just keep doing you, and along the way you’ll love who you are.

My Grandmother, The Queen

I’m envious of the people who have the good fortune of being able to live with their grandparents and grow up with that influence in their lives. A great many of my friends have their grandparents living here with them or with their family members. Whenever I visit my best friend’s house, I always say hello to her grandparents and accept the tea or the warm meal that they sometimes offer for me. I always feel a pang of yearning when this happens. I’ve only met my own grandparents a handful of times. I’ve met both of my grandfathers twice in my life, and my grandmothers three times. None of my grandparents had ever immigrated over to Canada, the harsh weather that we sometimes have is what deterred them from considering a life here.

One day, after her father passed away, my mom actually told me about how her parents were supposed to come live with us in Canada. Back when I was just a small child, my parents wanted my sister and I to grow up with our grandparents’ influence. All of their papers and passports were ready for them to immigrate here. Unfortunately, they decided last minute to stay in Sri Lanka because they didn’t want to be overly dependent on us and were afraid to take the leap and fly across the world. My grandparents were used to being independent back home after my mom and her siblings left their nest. After years of caring for their children, they became accustomed to their simple way of life with just each other for company. My maternal grandparents were together for more than half a century, they were life-long companions.

When I think about the decision that they made to stay in Sri Lanka, I wonder how my life would have changed had they been a bigger part of my upbringing. My sister and I would have been raised knowing the constant presence of our grandparents, their love more evident as opposed to the yearly phone call on our birthdays that we had over the years. My mom would likely have been able to enter the workforce a lot sooner instead of being a stay-at-home mom for the first few years of my life. At that age, I loved having my mom welcoming me home from school, but in another world I would have had my grandparents welcoming me home too.

Out of my grandparents, only my maternal grandmother is still alive. My grandmother suffers from what’s commonly known as Alzheimer’s disease. This is a chronic condition that slowly deteriorates memory and other mental functions over time. Alzheimer’s is a common cause of Dementia, a mental condition that will eventually cause the loss of the brain’s functionality as the brain cells die instead of regenerate.

My grandmother stubbornly refuses to get the help that her condition requires unless my family forces it upon her. She lives by herself in Jaffna and sometimes a housekeeper or nearby friends and family would stop by to make sure she’s doing okay on her own. My mom and uncle went back to visit her a few months ago to check in and make sure she is being taken care of. She was taken to a specialist for patients with Alzheimer’s to stay updated on her condition. It’s difficult to find a caretaker who is experienced or knowledgeable enough about the condition to take care of her on a full time basis. The disease had manifested itself sometime after my grandfather passed away. My family believes that her age and loneliness is what caused the disease to appear and worsen over time.

I remember when we went to visit her a few summers ago, my sister and I would sit with her in the kitchen and she would cut up vegetables while telling us stories of how she migrated to Sri Lanka from Malaysia when she was a girl and her stories of raising my mom and her siblings. I remember her stories very well, she would recite them several times in one sitting because she didn’t remember that she already told us the story a few minutes previously. My sister and I would exchange a quick, sad glance and pretend we were hearing them for the first time with each telling, our reactions as genuine as we can make them the fifth time around. We didn’t want to make her sad or scared of her condition.

In my eyes, my grandmother is a noble woman. She has several back problems that causes her to walk hunched over, her body almost at a complete right angle because she can’t hold herself up straight without any support. My most vivid memory of her from our trip was when I saw her stand up straight for the first time, with the assistance of her cane. She held it in front of her with both hands and slowly stretched out her back until she was standing at her full height. If you stood beside her, you could hear each joint of her spine popping as she straightened out. I was stricken by how regal she looked, she carried herself like a queen. I still see her as one, the queen of my family. I wish I could see her again, because I know that I won’t have many more chances to before she leaves this world to join my grandfather in the next life.

We left her house very early one morning, just before the sun came up so that we could catch our flight at the airport. She woke up early with us to see us off on our journey. She stood at the doorstep of her house crying as she watched us load all our luggage into the rental van. Finally, when we were all ready to go, she came up to us and pleaded with us to return. My sister and I could barely keep our tears in, we promised her we would return but we knew that it may or may not be likely. Despite her memory troubles, I think she knew deep down that she might not see us again. On some level she knows that she is sick, and when my grandfather passed away a few years ago, she was left to live on her own for the first time in decades. That mental strain is too much for someone who’s never been alone in her life. I wish I could bring my grandmother to Canada and show her all the luxuries that we have here, but her frail body can’t handle the strain and stress of travelling to a country that’s so far and so cold.

People don’t know what they have until it’s gone. In the few moments that I’ve had with my grandparents I’ve noticed how their smiles are always so pure with the joy of seeing the family that they don’t get to see often, but always with a hint of sadness when they realize we have to leave. I adore their eyes, so crinkled with love and dewed with happiness. Their faces aged and wizened by the years under the sun, each wrinkle being a part of a map that portrays the long life they’ve lived and the trials and tribulations they’ve faced. Grandparents are truly the guardian angels of mankind, I only wish I got to know mine.

Nature or Nurture?

I’ve been meaning to write my thoughts on this subject for some time now, so I figured I’d finally try to put my mental babble into words. We all know of the age old question of what really makes us who we are. Are we more influenced by what we are taught, or do we inherently have traits in our personality that have been there all along? Take me for example, I can be incredibly stubborn when I need to be, a trait that both of my parents also possess. So does this mean that their tenacious nature was passed down to me through birth or have I grown to be stubborn from watching and learning from them?

I am often thinking about my personality and who I really am, something I’m sure a lot of us have wondered about at some point in our lifetimes. Exactly what events had had the most change in my being, and how different would I have turned out if something in my life had gone differently? If I had never moved from Scarborough to Markham when I was younger would I be more introverted than I am now? Or less? If I had never taken Visual Arts in grade 9 would I have never been inspired to pick up a pencil and try to draw something? If I had never decided to start a Tumblr blog, would there have been another opportunity for me to pursue writing?

Question: What do the above things have to do with Nature vs. Nurture?

Answer: Everything, actually.

If I continued to live in Scarborough for my whole life, then of course the behavior of my friends at the time would play a role in my personality. Back then I was a much more carefree and spirited person. I was a rambunctious tomboy who loved to auction off snacks at recess and played epic games of red rover with the class. The move from Scarborough to Markham had completely changed me. I retreated into myself, mourning the loss of my friends and the familiarity of my old home. I was very shy at my new school, a trait that I know I’ve always had but never really became more pronounced until after the move. Similar to this is the art situation. If I had never opted to take Visual Arts in grade nine to satisfy the required arts credit, then who knows if I would have thought at a later point in my life to try putting pencil to paper. Is my artistic talent now a result of what I’ve been taught from class and various tutorials or has it always been in my genetic makeup? As is with my writing, Tumblr is my personal space for when I write poetry and prose, something that I know I’ve gotten a lot better at over time. If I had not discovered the site, would I ever be as good of a writer as I am now, or was I always destined for it through my DNA regardless of how I got there?

See what I mean? Nature vs Nurture is everywhere. It’s such a crazy thought when it really sinks in, that something as small as making an account on a social media site or as big as deciding to pack up your family and move to the next city over can have such a tremendous impact on who we are. That isn’t to say that I don’t love who I am now, I’m glad that whatever big or small decisions I’ve made have led to me becoming my current self. And I mean, I’m pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

Work & Mental Health

If you know me personally then you know that for a couple months last year I worked at a collection agency (who would have thought that peaceful ol’ me would go to THAT line of work right?). You may also know that I’m now working in a very different place than in collections. What I’ve come to realize is that there is a very stark difference between these two jobs and that the place you go to spend 40-something hours every week will have an effect on your mental health and stability.

Working at a collections agency was a crazy, yet interesting experience. I got to work alongside some great people who taught me a lot about stuff not even related to collections. I feel like the general public just assumes that collection agents are skeevy creeps who call you ten times a day. I’ll admit, yes we do call multiple times in a day (within the legal limit of course) but I can assure you that the employees are fantastic people. We often had potluck lunches at work, showed each other pictures of our kids/pets/vacations, you know, typical co-worker stuff. The job itself, however, was the single thing that I dreaded going in everyday. I really disliked talking to people who were miles and miles in debt. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been verbally abused and harassed on the phone. We get called every swear word in the English language, the women get asked what color underwear they’re wearing, I know one of my female co-workers even had a debtor ask her for some explicit phone services. This kind of behavior was normal for us, especially for the women. We also got a lot of prank callers who would call in to yell profusely into the phone and then hang up on us. The most extreme is probably the bomb threats and threats of violent behavior that we’ve gotten from angry debtors who call in. As you can see, it wasn’t the most pleasant of jobs.

Things eventually got to the point where I dreaded logging into my phone to begin making calls. I counted down the minutes to each of my breaks, then to the end of the day to make the time pass by faster. I’d get the newspaper every morning to keep myself busy and distracted between each call. I sometimes even brought a book with me to work to ensure I had a way to de-stress and wind down between the really bad calls. I often went home in a bad mood and climbed straight into bed with a book or my laptop. I still remember my breaking point at that job, it was the day when the volume of calls that needed to be made was close to 600-something as the month was ending and I needed to reach my target. The stress and anxiety had really piled on that day as it was just one bad call after another for hours and hours. I actually had to stop working for a bit to stop crying when my anxiety escalated and had to bring myself down from an impending panic attack.

Flash forward a few months, a friend tells me about an exciting opportunity to work a contract job at a bank in IT support. It’s something totally different from my university degree and from past job experiences, but I jumped at the chance and immediately gave in my resume to be considered for the job. A couple more days of anxiously waiting and I had managed to secure an interview, and later on was offered the job at the bank. The minute I was hired, I gave in my resignation at the collections agency – there was no way I was staying there any longer than I had to. I couldn’t deal with the bad calls anymore, no matter how much my co-workers distracted me with their stories of what they were up to on the weekends.

Now, at my current job here in IT support, I find that I am happy to come in to work and excited at what new things I learn here. My co-workers are great people and I’ve created relationships that I know will last a long time. My mental health is a lot better, I no longer dread my work, and I’m happy to come in even on the craziest snow days (as much as I may complain about having to drive through the blizzards). I’m challenged in a healthy way here, and on average I make a lot less phone calls than I used to when I was in collections. It’s actually kind of funny, I really disliked talking on the phone and used to get major cold sweats when I needed to call someone, whether it was a friend or a pizza shop to place an order. My decision to even try working in collections was supposed to help me get over my fear of the phone, but it only made things worse. Now I’ve become a lot more confident and I don’t hate phone calls as much as I used to. I’ve even made some acquaintances over the phone with the technicians that I speak to on a daily basis.

In a nutshell, the moral of the story is that you need to find something that you enjoy doing so that you don’t go to work feeling like you want to shoot yourself. The work that you’re doing for 40 hours of the week is definitely going to have an impact on your emotional health, as will the people around you. I’m no longer going home grumpy, instead I’m going home excited for the next day. Despite my shifts being at odd hours, I still find myself relaxed and praying to all the Gods above that my contract here keeps getting extended. I feel like I really have a future in what I’m doing now, but I’m still young so who knows what the universe will throw at me in another few months!

Sunsets

There’s something about travelling that really brings people together. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re in a place where you don’t know north from south, or a rupee from a dime, that seems to make your other troubles seem irrelevant. The single most beautiful part of India was the sunsets. Whenever we were fortunate enough to be on the road come dusk, I would gaze out and admire the multitude of colors that adorned the sky. It was all really indescribable, like Michelangelo himself reached from beyond the grave and used his divine skills across the sky. The hot Indian air combined with the frequent cloud-less days showed me baby blues, coral pinks, soft peaches, and millions of other shades of colors shifting in the sky as the sun dipped behind the horizon. Sometimes I felt that the sunset represented my family. We were a beautiful entity at one time, caring and loving and happy as can be, but eventually the bright colors fade away to the darkness that comes with the night. It seemed like, as a family, we found our equilibrium every time we left the comfort of our house.

Home

I don’t know when it started, but when I think back, I remember when I started to notice. There was this ugly red sweater that I had when I was a ten year old, just when I was beginning to become conscious of what the other little girls in school wore. I began to despise this sweater for no reason at all, except for the fact that my mom chose it for me and obviously it was super lame if your mom shops for you. We went grocery shopping one day and despite my mom telling me to put the sweater on I continuously refused to and stormed out of the house without it. For the rest of the day neither of us would speak to each other. Now this was normal for us, I got my stubborn streak from her so we were always having silent fights with each other. But this time it was different. Perhaps it was because I was trying to prove a point, but I absolutely refused to concede like I usually do. Our silent fight was now a war, and neither of us would raise the white flag. It came to the point where my father actually had enough and made me apologize at the end of the day. After I shamefully asked for forgiveness, my mother simply rolled her eyes and told me to put the sweater on the next day. As a ten year old the matter was quickly forgotten, but looking back on it now I wonder if that tiny insignificant issue was a sort of foreshadowing for what followed.

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Constellations

Far atop the highest mountain, farther than the setting sun and among the stars that shine brightly, there lay the patterns created by the great almighty beings. These beings, which mortals call by many names, are the watchful eyes of the heavens, always observing the chaos that is mankind. It is of the utmost importance that they do not interfere in human affairs, for divine intervention can be either timely or wicked. The patterns that they create, the constellations, pave the way for humanity to learn the tragic stories of the heroes that fell before them. Stories of love, stories of death, and stories of betrayal and treachery decorate the skies above us. It’s no wonder that our people who live beneath this tapestry are destined to repeat history and befall misfortunes that are greater than those of our champions.

One fateful night, Orion, the great hunter of the heavens, let fly an arrow from his bow – a shooting star that pierced straight through the belly of the mighty Taurus whose roar was heard echoing across the great night sky. All the constellations gathered and surrounded Taurus’ trembling body. They questioned why one of their own would harm another. Aquarius, the healer of the zodiac, poured his shimmering water over the great bull and a shower of stardust licked the wound clean. Libra, the fair judge of all the stars, called forth the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, and asked for their account of what they had witnessed. Among all the stars in the sky, they were the only ones who watched as the arrow flew across the blue. With a sigh and a deep breath, the twins began their story.

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Conditions For An Arranged Marriage

Whenever I tell my friends that I’ve thought about getting married to a guy that my parents will pick for me, I always get the same response.

“Wait a minute, an arranged marriage!?”

“But why? Aren’t you worried!?”

“Last I checked it’s not the 1900s.”

Etcetera, etcetera.

They’re right, it’s definitely not the 1900s anymore, times are changing and society is moving forward. I can see why it’s such a big deal to other people if I get married to someone I meet for the sole purpose of getting married. Of course, I would not meet my future husband on the day of the actual marriage; just the thought of that particular scenario makes me shiver with fear. Like any other woman, when I was younger I was adamant about being in a love marriage – falling in love and getting married with or without my parents’ approval was the dream, just like in the movies. Of course my parents continuously squashed that idea right out of my head.

I still remember one day a few years ago when we went out for a lovely family dinner like we do every few weeks. Of course I, being the petulant child that I sometimes am, brought up the topic of matrimony and asked my parents outright why they wanted me to have an arranged marriage. That’s right, I came straight out and asked them. Shocker, right? But I can tell you now that this was the most informative conversation I have ever had with my parents in all of my 20-something years of life.

“We just want a happy life for you.” My dad explained to me. I told him that I knew this. Every father dreams of a content life for his children.

“But it’s my life, Appa. I’m the one getting married, so I should decide who I marry.” I argued back. As a born and bred Canadian, the whole concept of an arranged marriage was unsettling to me.

What I did not understand was how much my parents truly worried about my future. They were concerned that maybe in my immaturity I would fall in love with the wrong guy, make bad decisions, and do something stupid that I would regret for the rest of my life.

In the Sri Lankan community, marriage is a big deal. It’s a sacred pact between man, woman, and God that is honoured for many lifetimes. Divorce is rare. Once you’re in it, you’re in it for life, so to speak. In a Hindu marriage, a crucial part of the pact is the parents. A marriage isn’t just the union of a man and a woman – it’s the union of two families. The parents of the couple are just as important as the couple themselves. After realizing this, I understood why my parents would be concerned if I entered into a love marriage where I chose the man I would marry. They were worried that our families would not be compatible. In an arranged marriage, they would be certain that the match would be good for all parties involved. It sounds very much like a contract, doesn’t it? Terms like parties, arrangement, and signatures are plentiful. I couldn’t believe that the sanctity of marriage was torn apart by something like a contract, so I delved into my own research.

The more I learned about the traditions of my culture, the more I realized that our marriages are both a contract and a sacred journey across lifetimes. In an arranged marriage, couples are matched based on their horoscopes and numerology. When you are born, every single element matters: the date of birth, the time of birth, the direction you were facing when you were born, the position of the planets, which stars were the brightest, every tiny detail was recorded. This data, after being organized into a chart, is kept with the family as the child grows and becomes a young man or woman ready to tie the knot. Their charts are then compared with others to be matched, and the best one is always a happy and prosperous union. I believe that these matches are the souls of two lovers from past lifetimes to be reunited again. The Hindu culture believes in reincarnation. So maybe God places us in a certain place at a certain time for us to be able to find our true match again in our current lives.

I thought about the pitfalls of this method. What if the match that my parents found for me wasn’t truly my soulmate? What if the man who is truly my other half isn’t from a family that would be compatible with mine? I argued with my parents for a long time before I realized that they were right in their own way. I have made terrible choices before, so what prevents me from making more in the future? Or perhaps a part of me doubts my abilities to find the “right” guy.

Arranged marriage used to be a huge deal for me until I had this discussion with my parents. That was when I realized that an arranged marriage isn’t the end of the world. So what if I don’t like him? I can just say no if I realize that we’re not well-suited for each other. I’m sure that I would be allowed this freedom, even if our charts were a perfect match.

After a few weeks of chewing the idea over in my mind, I brought the subject up again with my mom.

“If I go with your whole arranged marriage thing, I have a few conditions,” I said to her. Firstly, I wanted plenty of time before the wedding to get to know the guy I would be hitched to for the rest of my life. Secondly, I wanted to at least have a few options, in case one doesn’t work out. Thirdly, I definitely did not want a huge age difference between us – this scenario has happened so often in my family history that I was frightened of it being passed down to me. As I stated these conditions out loud, I realized it made me sound a little shallow – it was like picking the best cow of the lot to make the most delicious burger.

“Of course all of that goes without saying.” My mom replied without even batting an eye. I felt like I had misunderstood them all this time. Whenever I thought of an arranged marriage, I had this grotesque image of me being forced to wed someone who didn’t respect or love me. I thought that my parents were being unfair and stifling. Only then did I realize that I was just being an idiot.

My parents told me that their own marriage was an arranged one, but I know that they have grown to truly love each other overtime. To this day, I sometimes catch them holding hands while taking a walk in the warm summer evenings or snuggling on the couch paying idle attention to a made-for-TV movie. Their marriage has given me hope and their love has given me faith. Now, I wonder if I should completely trust my parents and place my future in their hands. And yet I can’t help but wonder, if I’m ever in the situation where I happen to find my soulmate myself, would they understand and learn to accept him too?

The Trip That Saved My Family

There was a time when I thought that my family was too dysfunctional for me to continue living in the house for longer than the 21 years I’ve been on this planet. There was a time when I thought that the yelling and the arguing was too much to bear, times when I thought that my parents were one more fight away from getting a divorce and leaving my sister and I to choose between them as if we were picking our favourite flavour of ice cream on grocery day. Sometimes I wonder how we ever reached the place where we are now, how we managed to fix every problem from a 25 year marriage over the course of one month in a country on the other side of the planet. India, in its own way, fixed my parent’s marriage and saved my family in ways that I don’t understand, and maybe never will.

You would think that being stuck in a car with the same people for two days would drive you crazy, but for us it really seemed to work. The time that we embarked on a road trip from the city of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu to the town of Alleppey in the state of Kerala was certainly a time of family bonding and adventure. As amazing and wondrous as India is, there are some things that absolutely drove me crazy, from the intense heat to the swarm of mosquitos that decide to have a feast while you sleep to the people who immediately sense a tourist and won’t quit trying to sell you their merchandise at frightening prices. Possibly the greatest source of insanity came from the entire bathroom situation that arose while we were on this road trip. I was always baffled by how people are able to use the toilet when it’s literally a hole in the ground, the amount of squatting that they do on a daily basis must give them great legs. Every time we stopped for a bathroom break, we would ensure that there were western style bathrooms with an actual toilet like the ones we were used to. There was one time when I urgently had to use the bathroom and so being the spoiled first-world citizen that I am I demanded that we continue driving until we found a rest stop that had western toilets. After driving for what felt like eternity with the urgency to relieve myself growing stronger and stronger with every passing second, we finally reached a rest house, but alas my prayers for a toilet were not answered. At this point I was too crazed to even consider holding it in any longer and, much to my parent’s amusement, used the bathroom like a real native south Asian. The incident will forever be humorously referred to as the “bathroom incident from India” with my family.

One of the most breathtaking moments of the whole trip was when we reached the border between the two states, in a town called Kanyakumari. The entire Indian sky in general is just otherworldly, there was something about the way that the sun rays streamed down through the clouds while we drove around mountains and through valleys, and the way that the fog painted hidden peaks and filtered the sun light as we finally drove in to the town. We reached Kanyakumari just in time to catch the sunset, which is an event that many travel to the town to witness as it’s rumoured to be one of the most beautiful sights in all of south India. There’s something about the sunsets there that I really cannot do justice by describing. The way that the soft pastel colours lit up the sky as the sun slowly sets, hearing my parents talk about trivial things as they held hands, and the sound of the ocean waves as the soundtrack to a flawless view, all combined to create the perfect moment. We pulled up a seat on some rocks and simply enjoyed the view, sitting in a comfortable silence that was only broken by what was possibly the funniest moment of the trip.

It’s not uncommon for people to mistake me for a north Indian woman, since my skin colour is much fairer than the darker Sri Lankan tones of the rest of my family. My parents found it extremely amusing when a street seller, who was claiming that his particular set of stone necklaces and “holy” bracelets were the only ones in the whole town blessed by God, approached me and started speaking in Hindi (a language that I definitely ­do not understand) trying to convince me to purchase some of his goods. My mother and father were practically rolling on the floor laughing when they saw the confusion and discomfort on my face at this man who was rapidly marketing his items in a foreign language while I kept shaking my head and awkwardly saying “oh no thank you, no please, I’m good” over and over again. After that whole encounter, my parents continually made jokes at my expense, laughing at how I was so baffled by what the man was saying.

My favourite thing about Kerala is that it’s so green, more so than anywhere in the state of Tamil Nadu. All of the flora that lined the roads and grew in the fields were so vibrant and looked incredibly luscious, like someone had used Photoshop and somehow made the colours more vivid and perhaps a little luminous. We had reached Alleppey and rented a boathouse to take us on a tour around a lake for two days and a night, so that we could experience the natural setting of Kerala and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with a body of water. There was something ethereal about being cut off from the world even further than we already were just by being on the other side of the planet from Canada. When you’re on a boathouse, there’s nothing to distract you but the stillness of the air as the captain navigates the boat around the lake, with the trees hanging over the shore and huts with residents fishing from their porches and bathing in the lake water.

My sister and I were delighted to find a Carrom board in one of the bedrooms while we were exploring the boathouse. Carrom is a very popular game in the South Asian region, and we knew that our father was an expert at the game. Upon finding the board we immediately set up a game on the dining table, put some Tamil music in the background, and just sat down as a family to play the game. We split into teams, with my sister and father being on one team and my mother and I on another, and proceeded to play while sipping on tea (a favourite beverage of the family) and nibbling on cream biscuits. When I say that my father is skilled at the game, I mean that he was the champion in his younger days when the boys in his hostel would hold monthly tournaments. As the game wore on, it got more and more intense until my dad and sister completely threw my mother and me out of the water and triumphed over us. It was certainly a learning moment to never challenge my father to a game of Carrom.

The entire boat ride was incredibly peaceful (apart from the fiercest game of Carrom I have ever played) and it was one of the most memorable moments of silence that I have from the trip. My sister and I were on one side of the boat lounging by the edge, me admiring the great view while my sister read a book with our favourite Tamil songs still softly in the background, setting a comfortable mood for the whole ride. My parents were on the other side of the boat, snuggling together and enjoying the tranquility of the crystal clear lake and the soothing lull of the boat over the waves. There were moments when I would hear my mother’s twinkling laugh or my father’s deep chuckles as they spoke about whatever made them happy.

It was like my parents had somehow mended over twenty years of disagreements in that one conversation, on a boathouse cruising on a lake in India. When I looked over at my parents I saw the smiles on their faces and the way they held onto each other like they were making up for lost time. Maybe the movies were right when they said that the country of India had some sort of healing abilities, after all it did heal my family in ways that I won’t ever truly comprehend. I turned back to the lake and smiled to myself, wondering how it all happened and thankful for the Indian air that breathed a new life into my family.