To Manjiri, my daughter.
I am 25 years old. I have a daughter. I am unmarried. I have adopted her. I have written 20 emails to her based on the emotions she might feel in the future. I might not be here for her. I might be here but not with her. These 20 emails are my experiences and also a summary of all the mistakes that I have made in the last 20 years of my conscious life – half of which I don’t remember anyway!
Here are these 20 emails:
1. Subject: When you go to school for the first time.
Content: Schools are a boring place without friends. You are not going to school to read or write. You are going to school to learn. Learning happens outside your classrooms. Your friends are your best teachers. They will bully you, beat you but ultimately be with you. Share your lunch with them. Eat what they have got. Give them a pencil, sharpener and anything that they need. They are useless anyway. Most importantly, participate in activities with them. Be part of the group dance, group song or sports. Do anything that they want you to be in. Make them do what you want. Don’t take notes in the classroom. Don’t allow any teacher to touch you. Do your homework only if you like. Try to do good in exams – not because they are important, but just because that will help you make more friends. Always carry your water bottle. Don’t share it with others. Share your food, notebooks, stationary and time. Enjoy. Schools are meaningless yet one of the essential parts of your life.
2. Subject: When you want to beat or slap someone.
Content: Oh you are angry. Is it me? Or someone in the family? Or a teacher? Or some friend?
Go ahead. Slap him/her. Anger is one of the purest emotion. Do it. But do understand that the person can retaliate. He/She can further slap you, and you cannot control that. But if you are ready for that then go ahead and hit him/her. Take your best shot.
Just remember one thing though, if he/she doesn’t hurt you back, that doesn’t mean that she was weak. It might mean that she/he loves you more than you love him/her. So say sorry and don’t remain angry with her. Saying sorry is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of your strength.
3. Subject: You like someone. You have a crush.
Content: Wow! That’s beautiful. I had a crush on my teacher when I was in class 6 (10 years old). How old are you? Doesn’t matter. ;) Loving someone is a good thing – much better than the feeling of hating someone (although much similar to love).
You have two options here: First is to tell him. There is no point hiding this. Be gracious. Tell him why you like him – qualities, habits, looks etc. Make him blush. You will find many friends who will tell you that boys should make the first move. Don’t listen to that. You are a strong girl. Tell him. He might be waiting to hear from you. Take chocolate or a red rose or an action figure for that matter. Gifts are always a good idea.
4. Subject: You don’t want to study. You don’t like studying.
Content: Who asked you to study? Studying is not important. This world runs on money and connections. Go out and make good (and bad) friends. Keep doing things though. Sitting idle is not a good idea. If you keep jumping from one thing to another, you will eventually find something that you will love to do; and that lovely thing will give you enough money (and connections) to thrive in this world.
5. Subject: You want to run away from home.
Content: As much as I want to tell you to do that, I cannot. I am hesitant. Two reasons for that: 1) The world at this moment is not the right place to be in. There are mean people everywhere. They will hurt you, sometimes very badly. 2) We love you. We might have scolded you, but that doesn’t mean that we hate you. We want you to do good. But, hey, sorry! Please, don’t go.
Give us one more chance.
6. Subject: You want to steal something.
Content: Interesting. Even I had done that once or twice when I was young. It’s an exciting experience. You might be feeling very excited yet scared at the same time. But if you are sure and want to make this move, let’s do it. Make a good plan though, add your friend or one of us as a partner in crime. Try not to get caught.
After you have successfully done that, you will realise that there is no benefit to stealing something. You will never be able to use it. Everyone will be seeing you all the time, and you will have no option other than always hiding it. In such a case, accept that you have stolen something. Don’t name your partner in crime. Return that thing to the owner and say sorry. If you still want that thing, just let us know, and we will get that for you.
7. Subject: You just had your first period.
Content: That’s okay. This is how a woman body is designed to react after a certain age. Be prepared for it next time. Read about it. Lots. Work on your cleanliness. Eat less spicy home food, on these days. Drink a lot of water.
There is nothing to worry about. You’re alright.
8. Subject: You were sexually abused.
Content: I am sorry. I could not prevent it. I could not be with you when this happened. It must have been a quite scary experience. Why didn’t you tell us about it? You do not have to hide such things. Come to me or my parents or anyone in the family, who care for you and tell the name of that person. Do it now Manjiri.
It’s not normal when an old or mid-aged guy/girl is touching your private parts for any reason whatsoever. He/she is wrong. You are not. What happened, cannot be changed. But that does not mean we cannot do anything now. We can throw him/her out of our house. We can ensure that he is outcasted from society. Also, remember that this can be perpetrated by a lady too. So without hesitating, come to one of us, and we will ensure that this never happens to you again.
If however, one of us is not responding correctly or is unavailable; move to another person. Keep moving, keep hustling till this stops.
I am sorry again that this happened to you. It cannot change, but if you say it now loud and clear, we will act firmly and in the process, you will overcome this like a bad day in your life.
9. Subject: You are attracted to girls more than boys.
Content: I added this mail at the last moment. I don’t know at what age you have realised it and how much you are sure about it, but I anyways can tell you that it’s completely normal and okay.
It’s a natural thing (the way you are born) and not something in your hand. Its called Homosexuality. Read as much content about it as you can. Read stories, Mythbusters and experiences of other people. Not all cities in India accept it right now, but it’s changing very fast in India and abroad. I would recommend you to move to a city which gives homosexuals equal rights. I know it means a lot of movement and change, but this movement will provide you with freedom and sanity.
Don’t worry about what people have to say. It’s possible that someone in the family will resist it. Don’t listen to them either. Have a wonderful life. Girls are anyway more humanlike than boys.
10. Subject: You had your first sex.
Was it good? It can be addictive. Go with the flow but do exercise caution. Do keep the balance. You will have more of it. You should have more of it.
Sex before marriage is also not a big deal. Sex is an essential aspect of a healthy life. But keep it safe. For almost a decade, I have worked in this area to ensure that people can have safe sex. Ask your partner to use condoms – good quality ones. Enjoy the moment.
11. Subject: You are feeling depressed and can’t sleep.
Content: Depression is terrible. Extremely bad. It’s not going to help you anyway. Depression generally happens because of loneliness. But sometimes you may feel alone in spite of a crowd around you.
The best way to come out of this is, share what you are feeling right now with someone you feel comfortable with. If you cannot find someone at that moment, choose a random person or call an old friend. Don’t put yourself in isolation at this moment. Silence is not recommended in such situations.
People will recommend you various things at this moment like going out, meeting new people, do something that fascinates you. Try it out if you want. I am not sure what, though.
The best way is to be with someone who cares. She/he can be your friend, family member or just a random anonymous person.
In cases when you could not find such a person, go out and see a doctor. Seeing a doctor doesn’t mean that you have lost your mind. It just means that you need some medical help right now and you will be okay soon :)
Take care. Eat good food. Watch some good movie. Feel energetic every day.
12. Subject: Today is your first day at college.
Content: These are the best days of your life. You are not here to study and get a GPA or CGPA. You can choose to do either one of these:
1) Make teams and do projects: That’s what I did in college. Working in groups will help you to understand yourself better. It will give you more chances to communicate, collaborate and celebrate. That’s what life is all about, anyway. The trick here is to choose random (and tricky) projects and work with a new team every time.
2) Chill: Party hard, Drink, try chemicals (in the limit), dance, date and celebrate. Ensure that every day is a party and you are a party animal. I, sometimes, regret not choosing this path. But that’s okay as you will be only picking one of them anyways. In case you find time to do both of these, I will be a proud father.
13. Subject: Today is your last day at college.
Content: How did it go?
Did I tell you that it doesn’t matter? I am sure that you had made some friends and you are feeling terrible today because you have to leave them all.
Don’t worry. If you are good friends with them, it will be a longer run. One of the friends that I made in college eight years back – Vikas Kumar – is still one of the best friends of mine.
The separation will teach you what love means actually.
14. Subject: You are in love with someone and want to marry him/her.
Content: That’s awesome, right!? The feeling would be so new and exciting. He/she is a lucky guy to have loved you. But don’t take him/her for granted.
Love is a mutual feeling. Nobody can define how it will be for you, but love does have some prerequisites. Caring for someone, respecting someone and then valuing his/her presence are the very first steps.
You will know this when you love someone. It’s very common to have the same feeling for multiple people at one time. In such cases, look for the person who wants you more in his life than the other. A person who loves you more is always better than the person whom you love more.
There is not much science in it. Do what you feel like. But remember, try not to hurt someone in the process.
Good people love you for what you are and not because of what they expect from you. But even if they expect something from you, like your time and attention or love, that’s not wrong.
Love and marriage are two very different things. You will often hear that nothing can be better than marrying the person you love. The answer to this would be – It depends! Marriage is all about staying together. You cannot stay together for 30–40 years just because you love each other. Everything has a threshold, and so does love. Look whether you are comfortable spending time with that person. Look whether you can talk to him/her for hours. Look whether you can be silent with that person for hours and still that doesn’t feel weird. Look for things that don’t change. Looks, money, love and sex; all are temporary.
Time, food, care and work are eternal necessities.
If you are sure or don’t want to look for further options, go for it. Today marriage is a one-time affair. Tomorrow it might change. What will not change is how are you as a person and what you are looking for.
Don’t allow your reel life to interfere for real life. Don’t stop looking for.
And one last thing, be in love. That person will take care of you, more than anyone of us.
15. Subject: You understand the word “Adopted.”
Content: This is the scariest question for me. I wanted to run away and completely ignore this question. But I would not have done justice to you if I have done that.
Yes, you are NOT my biological child. I have not given birth to you. Manjiri, I have never met your father. There is a disease called HIV/AIDS. Your father was suffering from that. There are several reasons this disease could have been transferred to your father – one of them being unsafe sex. But remember “unsafe sex” is just one reason. I was (and have been) working in this area to remove all the stigmas associated with it at that time.
That’s when I met your mother. She was a brave Punjabi woman. Her name on the records (the false name is put on the records) was Daljeet Kaur. She was pregnant. This is the year 2011.
She had HIV (transferred from your father). She had you in her womb. But she fought to save you and to ensure that you can see the light of this world without that deadly disease. Ultimately it was too much struggle for her. She died right after giving birth to you. You were not responsible for her death. That’s the choice she made. HIV hampers the immune system of its patients. Not many women have that courage in those times (and even now) to take that decision. She had. Always respect her for that.
In her last moments, she asked me to take care of you in her absence. I am merely fulfilling the job assigned to me. But I love you. I always have. You don’t have my blood in your body. But I do have half of your soul inside me. And you have mine.
There are hundreds and thousands of mothers dying each day because of one reason or another. If you wish, you can work towards one of these movements.
Thank you for being such a darling. We love you.
16. Subject: The job doesn’t interest you.
Content: There are a lot of uninteresting bad jobs these days. I think you are stuck in one of ṭhose.
Remember one thing though. Jobs are not exciting or boring. People are. Always look for working on something, where interesting people are involved. Don’t chase money. Once you stop doing that, you will feel that life is less complicated.
Money is vital to run a household and to do a lot of other things. But money cannot be and should not be your centre of attention.
Work on things that matter. Or just put, work on things only when you want to live with people involved in that work.
And coming back to the topic, leave this job.
17. Subject: When you are a mother.
Content: Congratulations. I know its a wonderful feeling. To tell you I have not experienced that yet. You were given to me readymade.
Today, you will start to understand better, how much we love you.
Today, you will understand, why we worried so much when we don’t see you for a while.
Today, you will contemplate the meaning of life and death.
Today, you are going to be the proudest woman.
Remember not to differentiate between a boy or a girl (you were a girl raised by a man). Remember not to discriminate based on colour. Every life form is beautiful.
Experience the moment and take care of yourself and the baby.
18. Subject: I died today.
Content: I love you, and I miss you. These letters are with you anyway. Don’t cry for me. Go out and do something nice today.
I love you, and I will miss you.
Glad I could find you in this life. Thanks for being my daughter.
19. Subject: Your partner died today.
Content: It must be hard for you. You will be alone today. I am sure the kids are doing fine, and they have their own family. Try being with them for some time. Travel, if you are interested. Join some social clubs.
If you are at home, ensure that you always have a caretaker around you. Do things that you could not do all this while.
If you can find love somewhere, don’t hesitate.
Love makes life lively.
20. Subject: It’s all coming to an end.
Content: You have done well. You have fought all this way. Your mother, father and I are proud of you. Each one of us is proud of you.
If you have got some time and if this is not an accident, please find some time to go to Irwin hospital at Amravati. That’s where you were born.
Pay tribute to your mother from my side. You have been a gift to me.
Thanks for being a wonderful daughter.
Manjiri is my daughter. She is six years old.