Seems like everybody writes to daughters (or grand-daughters). Is it because the relationships with daughters are more emotional? Or is it because daughters value letters? Or is it because they are special or is it because they need to be protected, cautioned, prepared, coached for a life to come? Or that they need reassurance, to dream, to live and to not bother with the world. Assuming sons do not need any emotional connecting or advice of that kind. They have their lives made as soon as they are born. They do not need a letter on dreams and inspirations or length of their knickers.
We have had a tradition of this. From mothers, fathers, grand-fathers, politicians to corporate leaders to actors, they write to their daughters, grand-daughters. It’s well intention-ed. It’s a lot of dos and don’ts. Its life’s learning made crisp for a quick “do-not-reinvent-the-wheel” crash course.
I am a daughter. And I used to be an avid letter writer. Am known in my family for writing letters. When I went to study from a small town to a place as big as Mumbai over two decades back, I missed home, I missed friends and I wrote letters. So much so that the despatch section would tell people who complained their disappointment in not getting letters, “write like her. Then you will get letters like she does.”
So here is a daughter who wants to reply, to all those mothers, fathers, and grandfathers.
Thank you for writing. I may not have seen all your struggles when you were bringing me up and am grateful for you so eloquently, poetically, writing to me. And publishing it, youtube-ing it, letting the world know that you wrote a very important letter.
When I look back at my childhood and what I struggled with while growing up, I could have done with some more conversations. Some topics which you, and only you could have spoken to me about. This is not a complain, but an honest request. I am old enough not to blame my childhood upbringing for anything.
I know, for most parents their daughter is the most beautiful. Princess, we are often nicknamed fondly. While that was lovely, it would have been good to know that the world wears different lenses to scrutinise beauty. That the world follows a different standard of measurement to judge you by your skin colour, the built of your body, the length of your hair, the shape of your eyes, nose, teeth. You were wonderful as parents, to never discriminate or make me less in your eyes, but I could have known what the world thinks. I could have known how to handle how the world thinks.
It’s likely that you would have figured out my academic and other strengths. You were wonderful to encourage me to work hard, study hard, reach for the stars. I would have liked to know that am average. Am good at some things, great at some and just average in some others. I can and I must always try my best. Instead of discovering later that am not the brightest, we could have talked about being average and to make the best of every opportunity that comes my way. I may try very hard, but there would be failures. I would not get everything I want in life. And that’s not a very bad thing. That am still very privileged. There would always be people much better off than me and much worse off than me.
That honesty, truthfulness in its absolute sense would not work. While I must be honest with myself, and value honesty in others, I could have known honesty is often not appreciated, and it’s often not necessary. That there is a need to gauge a situation and its requirement of the truth. Somebody stole and ate a friend’s chocolate and I saw it, or a parent lied about her child’s achievements, or a relative’s discriminatory attitude, or someone’s anti-minority communal views. All of these require different levels of honesty and truthfulness.
To apologise for a mistake I made, is a must, you told me. You could also have told me that most people would not think of it as a great thing to do. They are likely to make use of that mistake and that apology and cite it as an example forever.
And that I will be misunderstood. No matter how much I try and what methods I try, written, vocal, or by doing things to clarify a point, there will be times when all these efforts will fail and there will be misunderstandings. I could have known that’s okay too. It would be a sore spot but it is not the end of the world.
That I would be able steer my own life. Whether in my education, or my work or my relationship, I must have the confidence to take it in the direction I want to. That I could live some bit for myself and that is not being selfish.
That I would evolve as a person. My understanding must always be open to layering as I grow, I see more, I travel more and as I comprehend complexities, my sensitivity must always grow and not decline. I must never give in to “that is how it is.”
And now a most delicate one, since for many of us our parents are infallible, you could have told me about times when you were unsure, told me that you thought it was a mistake, that your judgement of a person or a situation might have been wrong. Being able to say that is a victory and not a failure of a parent.
In your attempt to present a world to me in the binary of black and white, I could have done with some grey. Which I later found out, in bits and pieces, through my struggles that a large chunk of life is about grey.