Thursday, September 13, 2007

calling the mothership

Dearest Ma,

Happy birthday!

I wish I had a suitably illustrative story to start right off the bat, since birthday letters are always about some kind of transmission of wisdom from the giver to the recipient, but I'm not well-schooled in this whole wisdom business, and anyway, you have always had a firmer grasp of matters of common sense than most people your age. So let me start by declaring that I'm not going to bother telling you about exactly why I believe life is a precious gift, and that it is not a curse to live in interesting times, and how you should seize the day with both hands and live each minute you have to its fullest. You have probably already figured that out for yourself, and, knowing you, have also figured out that sometimes it’s also really, really rubbish, and boring, and hell is by and large just other rubbish, boring people. It’s true, unfortunately, and I’m afraid that as you grow older it just goes on being truer. There’s nothing we can do about that, and the sooner you learn to accept it and just lie low as the bad parts rumble past, and take up the good stuff as and when you come by it, the better it will be for you and everyone around you.

I remember what it was like being young, you know. I don’t know how much I’ve told you about this – we never seem to talk anymore! – but I had a wonderful, idyllic childhood. The nineties were an exciting time to grow up in India. Things were just pouring into the country; money, jobs, global brands, urbanity, international recognition. Good time to be a child. Of course, I had the opportunity to grow up in a big city, with big dreams. And I had the fantastic good luck to have enlightened, encouraging parents. Surely you’re not unfamiliar with the idea of growing up just wanting more; more of everything. Every generation of children does. And at some point of time we all wonder what we are doing to improve on the legacy our parents have left us – how we can go ahead and do something bigger and better than they, and how we can use the good things they taught us and escape the constraints they passed on to us, to prolong the glory of our world and time for a little longer.

Now whether we can or can’t is a matter of opinion. Perhaps you will not like to hear it, but Homer said, in the Odyssey, “Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers.” Depressing thought, even if it comes from a blind and bitter old codger, isn’t it? [Do forgive me my old-fashioned habit of quoting the Classics; I’ve become rather set in my ways now.] But from the depths of my long endeavour to try and make this world a safer, happier place for generations of children to come, let me share with you a few handy hints to surviving in this rather dangerous new world we now seem to be inhabiting.

+ Drink at least three litres of water a day.
+ Waste a little time whenever you can reading. I know this will seem absurd to you, but trust me, you are at an age where you can afford to let go a little bit. I’m still around to run the show, you know. Make sure that it is excellent reading, though: life is too short for bad books.
+ Make sure to get yourself some regular exercise, even if it feels like too much to cope with.
+ Don’t spend too much time on the phone.
+ Side-partings, like horizontal stripes, are ugly. Never wear either.
+ Respect differences of opinion. [But not too much.] [This may be the foolishness of a doting daughter but please remember that you are still smarter than most people. It’s one of the things I made sure of before I let you go.]
+ Always remember where you come from. There is a long line of women behind you who, we now know, excelled at making the best of a bad lot and facing each of history’s challenges with an iron will and a determination to get and give happiness and self-respect at all costs.
+ Always remember where you are going. There is no such thing as getting ahead of yourself.

While I’m at it, I may as well also remind you that cheekiness is the province of truly small minds, and it is the mark of an excellent character to take a joke in good humour and sporting spirit. [It’s what the English colonialists taught us. That was all before your time, though.]

How strange it seems to see you growing up. It feels like just yesterday that you were a young woman, so carefree, so happy, so ready to be amused at everything I could say and do to provoke you into laughter. How time flies. I could, of course, have celebrated it the way I did last year, with random pictures of aesthetically pleasing young sportsmen, but since we’ve already established that, unlike other daughters, I am a Cool Daughter, I feel like I have nothing left to prove to you anymore. We no longer live in the same house and eat the same food and wear each other's saris [okay, admittedly I only ever did that once every three years] and laugh as one at the inimitably lame humour of the man of the house. [if you are reading this, hi, Dad! Your jokes are excellent and not lame in the slightest! I love you! Bye!] It may feel to you like we have grown apart in the last two years, but I assure you that this is not so. I have been there for you from the first hour of our acquaintance, and even as the years and miles grow to separate us, I will remain yours.

Among the many things I have learned from you, though, is that the times change, and we with them, and the only way to cope with the fact is to ignore it when it’s convenient, and embrace it when otherwise. We are not a race bred for consistency. So if you promise me that you will keep on going the way you’ve started, Mother, I promise that I will do my best to leave no stone unturned in your quest for a wonderful, happy, fulfilling life ahead of you.

Have a lovely day, and a lovely year ahead.

Never be afraid to tell me of anything that’s on your mind. Remember, I love you no matter what.

Yours in [really quite overwhelming] affection,
the filial unit.


  1. shobha5:43 pm

    Thanks a million doll. We will never grow apart:):0 and I know you love me!! When you get back we will argue about who loves whom more:P Huggies and cuddles and all the mommie mush mush:D

  2. No clue whether to be embarrassed by your shameless PDA or proud of the fact that you are one of the few people on the Internet who acknowledge that 'whom' is a real word, much less use it correctly. I guess I learned from the best, heh. Kisses to you too.

    [Seriously, will you stop, people will think we do this all the time.]

  3. The cuteness! Overwhelms!

    (Happy birthday, Supriya's Ma :))

  4. Shobha5:32 am

    Thanks Aishwarya:) We must meet.

  5. Happy Birthday aunty.
    Super post, Swups.
    I'm in great danger of weeping at the Cornell Library.

  6. Awwwwww
    I love you girl!!
    You make us proud

    Belated Happy Birthday aunty :)

  7. shobha7:16 pm

    Kate!! Thanks:) Will miss you very very much when she is back home.

  8. shobha7:17 pm

    Thank You Lil Arl:)