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On claiming your space

Dear Kids,

So I promised to write more often and then disappeared- life happened. Among other news from the past two months, I attended both of your birthdays and had a lot of fun; you two seem to like me a lot better than several other adults and I can’t help but be a little smug about it. Perhaps you find in me a child that refuses to grow up, a child that still has wide-eyed wonder when it comes to several things- it’s been getting harder to keep that part alive, but I am trying. Or maybe it’s just because I only cuddle you when you want it and I know from experience that smothering adults are a pain in the…er, okay, no swearing.

I also went on a solo trip to Mussoorie (yes I’m going to fund yours if necessary, but only after you’re eighteen) and got an acceptance to a US university for my PhD which means I’ll be going away for five years in September. It’s going to be that much more difficult to actually watch you two grow up, but we’ll figure that out.

Amidst all of this, I’ve noticed in both of you something, that is to me, incredibly encouraging and positive. Most adults will try to tell you it’s not- but pay them no heed, because you two have an innate ability to claim your own space. To put it simply, you are conscious of what is comfortable and acceptable to you, and what is not- a quality you share with children in general. You cry if someone that you do not like forcibly tries to pick you up, you ignore your mother if she tells you to go kiss a relative you don’t like, and that is excellent. I’m not trying to teach you to be selfish, but all the same, it is very important for you to learn how to be focused on your self. Rather, you already know it, so it is important for you to not let anybody make you “unlearn” it as you grow up.

Animals generally have better instincts than ours, but humans come with instincts too, instincts that tell them what they strongly dislike. As the years go by, people may try and get you to suppress these instincts. They will plead, cajole, bully and even emotionally guilt-trip you into being good little girls. As someone who’s been a good little girl, I’m telling you that being “good” is overrated.

Being nice is a wonderful thing. Being pleasant to everyone you meet, helping people, listening to them- these will make you a fine human-being.  But losing the essence of who you are, and who you want to be, for anyone else- your parents, your friends, and in time, your partners- is not a nice thing. You do not owe being nice to people who make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

There are times when I wish I could do what you do now- cry out loud when someone’s intruding into my space to show them what they’re doing. They’ll tell you things will be easier when you can speak in coherent sentences. They are not entirely wrong. But they aren’t entirely right either. That is how most things stand in life.

Lots of love,

Nini

 

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On learning and reflection

Dear Kids,

It’s the beginning of the New Year. Who knows, maybe the hype will die down by the time you’re teens, but maybe not- we humans are an excitable lot. Right now the two of you are too young to understand most of it- although you, Sara, did have a lot of fun ringing it in at the amusement park with your parents and grandparents, and she was the cutest Santa a week ago. Sana’s been ill for most of the past fortnight- it’s officially the most helpless feeling that I can’t take on whatever illnesses you babies get so you can keep giggling and babbling. Anyway, I hope this new year brings you both the best of health so you can drive your parents up the wall with mischief (don’t tell them I said that).

So, the eve of the new year is a time for reflection, and there are a lot of things I learnt this year. I’m keeping some of them saved here if you two ever need it-

-If you can start feeling at home with your own self, you won’t *need* people to make you feel happy, loved or validated. You will then figure out who the people are that add positive meaning to your life, the ones you really want around you for the few times that you will fail to pick yourself up.

-It’s easier to cut out toxicity when you identify the way you want to treat “you” as a person. When you start talking to yourself like you do to your two closest friends, you’ll be much more protective of your inner Chi. (Also, if you don’t know what Chi is, we’re having a Kung Fu Panda movie marathon the moment you are old enough.)

-On some days you will write or create something that won’t make sense to more than five people, maybe fewer. Never compromise on your art for the sake of acceptability or popularity.

-Talk to people who’re nothing like you. In 2017, I’ve met people who prefer movies to reading, aliens to humans, texting to letter-writing, pink to black and blue, partying to staying in. Find out why. You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow merely from trying to understand opposite perspectives.

– Keep in touch with your core- the people you trust to love you through it all. Even if you sometimes have nothing to say on the phone, call them so you can hear them breathing, until the day you can sit next to them and do it again. Tell them you love them, with feeling and conviction, without cloudy metaphors. They may know it, but it never hurts to remind them.

-Read more. And more. And still more. If you’ve read three books of the same kind, pick one that’s completely unlike your “usual”. If you’re a non-fiction person, read a story. Write about reading, talk about what you read, get people hooked to reading things. Write more. There’s no other way.

– Open your heart and mind further. Breathe well. Drink more water. (I definitely need to work on this one )

I am also going to write more to you this year- I promise.

Lots of love,

Nini

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When things don’t go according to plan

They often won’t- and that’s okay, really.

Dear Sara and Sana,

Today was your annaprashan, Sana,  the first rice ceremony, and you fell ill, much to the dismay of all of us here. We’d been looking forward to witnessing your smiles and giggles, and the sight of you crying was worrisome and painful, to say the least. I now realize a little bit of what the adults in the family are trying to do when they forbid some activities based on the logic of “This mistake will hurt you.” It does hurt a lot to see a child you love suffer in any way.

For someone as naturally curious as I am, though, this logic has never held- I’m far too in love with the idea of making my own mistakes. And one of the things I’ve learnt along the way is, there will be mistakes, and the best laid plans won’t work out on occasion. You can put in all the effort and love you want, and yet, there will be bad days, sometimes for no fault of yours, or anyone else’s. One of the things you’ll find most difficult to understand, if you’re anything like me, is to not always relate the depth of your effort to the outcome that you achieve. Your job is to put in the best that you can into anything, be it a school art project, or life in general. And more importantly, your job will be to learn not to link your happiness and peace to the grade you receive, and the success or failure in that funny little game called life. Maybe we’ll learn together- I still have some way to go.

Among other news, I met your grandma today, Sara and was so proud to hear that you’re already picking up bits and pieces of the local language. I had a good laugh imagining your baby babble in a mix of Hindi, Kannada and Bengali. You kids are already so smart, it amazes me at times. I hope not to become the outdated aunt by the time you’re teenagers, though I suppose that’s quite inevitable.

With all my love,

Nini

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On crying at 2 a.m.

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Dear Sara and Sana,

I wish I could tell you that your toddler years would be the last time you cry your eyes out. Truth is, if you’re anything like me, there will be cloudy days. As you grow older, your reasons will change, but mostly, you will cry because you have a soft heart and sometimes, the going gets rough out there. I hope and pray that most of your reasons for crying will be relatively non-damaging ones- I also know that I, and no one really, can promise you that. You will make your own mistakes, and be just as sassy and unapologetic about them, as I have been and I hope to be around, looking at you in mingled pride and exasperation as you learn from them.

Sometimes, people will make you cry. Often, they will be people who are really close to you and you might say- Aren’t they, of all people, supposed to make sure I don’t cry? Well, yes and no. Your expectations from people are something you’ll have to learn to manage on your own. But yes, no one, absolutely no one, has the right to make you feel bad about being yourself. So if you feel hurt, don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Examine it, cry if you want, and then see if there is anything you can learn from it to take along with you. Because at some point you will leave the hurt behind. All you’ll carry are the lessons.

You can be anything and anyone you want, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Life, of course, won’t be all fun. You will have to work, earn money and do some of those grown-up things that you’ve seen your Mum and Dad and me do (including boring stuff like washing clothes). But it’s not a bad thing- you’ll learn who you are, and who you don’t want to be, and also how both these ideas can change throughout life. People will try to tell you to figure things out really fast. Here’s a little secret- as long as you’re happy, and growing in your ideas, and at peace, it doesn’t matter if you go fast or slow. I will try my best to make sure that you never have the burden of unnecessary worldly things to stop you from exploring and dreaming.

Never stop believing. Our ability to work and uncover new mysteries that make us one with the universe is all we have. That, and hope.

Lots of love,

Nini

 

 

 

*Art credits: Ulyana, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/79024168435237930/*

 

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Dear Sara and Sana,

IMG-20170219-WA0010You’re one and a half years and five months old respectively and at the risk of sounding like a very biased aunt (which I am), you are so, so perfect. I’ve been meaning to write to you both ever since Sana was born in February this year. But, hey, better late than never, right? After all, you’re still some time away from being old enough to read this, and laughing at me. Or maybe you won’t- you’re both such perceptive children. Yes, even you, Sana- even though you fake-cried to get your mother’s attention the first time I tried to pick you up, you made up for it later by flashing a cute,toothless grin when we were on our own. Sara, you were all smiles the first time I met you- you were Sana’s age then. You came straight to my arms like you’d known me forever- who knows, maybe you have. In fact, it might sound cheesy but every time you both grab a finger or my entire hand in your tiny little grip, it’s something that is much beyond the grasp of this little world.

I am not yet sure if I’ll be giving you little cousins somewhere down the line but I can see why people love babies. In case I haven’t mentioned it, you two are precious. I loved you from the day I knew there was a possibility of you existing. And yes, my mother, your grandmother might tell you that I give you special treatment because you were both born under the zodiac of Aquarius- well, she might just be right. But I would have always loved you, irrespective of when you were born. Sharing my zodiac just makes it a special secret society kind of thing that all three of us will share some day. Or maybe, you both will say, Nini, how unscientific is that? Well, that’ll be a fun discussion either way.

You’re both so young now, so fragile, and yet so happy as long as your basic needs are being met. This state of yours teaches me so much each day, even though I don’t get to see you very often. You are my reason to work well each day, not because I wish to inspire you in the sense of choosing your careers or your life paths, but because I want to be a person who is capable of being there for you at all times when you’re growing up. I will love you no matter what you do, and in spite of them. You have wonderful parents and grandparents but I think you might, when you grow up, need a member of the family who doesn’t judge you for anything that you may do. I shall try my best to be your lighthouse, if ever you should find yourselves lost at sea. Although my prayer for you, my brave little girls, is that you learn to ride the waves as much as you learn to love the shore.

Yours in love,

Nini