A letter to my daughter

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/03/letter-to-14-year-old-daughter

I owe a letter to my strong headed daughter and one to my happy little chatty cheeky son. No, I didn’t suffer like the woman in the article, but yes, I suffered too but differently. The differences between me and my children in terms of where we started and what we had were much higher than and may be just too different from what is described in the article, but that is what makes me think that I owe them a letter, sooner the better.

To my daughter:

Some say that I am this strong (I refuse to call myself “extreme”) feminist, may be because I suffered more gender discrimination. I thought so too. Then I observed others which made many things clear to me. No, I didn’t suffer more, but I could see the difference, I could reevaluate and reassess things constantly. Many accept what they get, what they see and what is around them. I don’t. That is what made me different. That is what made me who I am today. No, I didn’t suffer more, but yes, I suffered too.

Let us go back to where we started. My parents often commented that they had too little in their lives and we were given everything we wanted. I can smile now looking at you that now you hear us whinging the same words around you. My father didn’t have a bed to sleep in. My mother had to drop out of school to help  out her mother in childcare and then to help with her father in earning for the family, at a very young age. We were sent to school so yes, there were differences. I didn’t suffer the freedom as such, as I don’t remember any such suffocation, but yes, I was mostly housebound compared to my brother who was mostly street-bound, when growing up. I have to admit that I had been denied going to friends’ houses if I haven’t reevaluated the concept of freedom in my growing up. But, I am afraid similar levels of ground rules will be there in your growing up too, as it fears me when I see teenagers “hanging out” at take-away shops and similar “joints”. But the difference is going to be that the rules apply to you both, you and your brother. No exceptions.

I was constantly asked to be grateful for whatever I was given, which had its positive effects that I value things I get. I am afraid you will also be instilled to value things you get. I am very pleased to see that you are already learning it and working hard to earn every penny around the house 😉 .

I grew up without knowing any multiculturalism or any racism. We were the only people around. We were everything. Then I moved to the city were I faced a different world which baffled me such as fitting in, facing people who happily offended and idiotic boys, to name a few. You are growing up in a multicultural world. I hope to teach you about different races and things to be aware of. I hope to teach you to look after yourself, be strong and stand up for yourself. I see you now when you play with some dominating kids that you accept what they ask you to do. I hope you learn to stand up for yourself. I see you were looking forward to be with them and you are willing to do what they ask you to do. Nothing wrong with that. But then you have to learn to spot when they are bossing you around. But then, I am glad you are not mean like the other kid who deliberately did not give you what you liked and did such mean things.  I am sure those kids will do well in their careers. But look, your mother has not done bad herself. Your mother was never socially clever. But, it will make me happy to see you do better than your mother.

Yes, we didn’t have lotsa money to buy whatever we wanted. But the trick was, we didn’t know what can be bought if we had money.  You don’t ask for anything big yet. You had not remembered or did not complain whenever I had put the toys away when paying at the  check out. You had not asked us to get you what others kids are having. You seem a contented child. I am happy about that. I hope to see more of it when you grow up 😉

I know what your favourite colour is. Pink! Surprise, surprise! I do not know what my favourite colour was, or, is, for that matter. You have your own computer. You have a few boxes full of toys, some educational and some for play time. I did not have any. I did not have toys. I can’t remember having anything as mine except my school books. Wait, they were borrowed too. Oops! I had my own collection of seven little stones which we used in our little play – thattankal. I still have them.

I wanted to be a recipient of young scientist award to make my chithi proud of raising me. I failed her in that. I did become a scientist though. She was proud alright, which she seemed to have forgotten now. I will not forget your every little stars you get from your school. But your swimming certtificate last week was outrageous. I watched you enjoying the “floating” experience all the time in the class but you were given a certificate for swimming certain distance! That is outrageous and you have to forgive me if I don’t keep count of such “achievements”! Yes, I didn’t hide my feelings when I handed over the certificate without any awwwing and cooing at you. If you are going to blame me as a “hard to please” mummy, so be it. But, do know that you don’t have to make *me*proud. Do it for yourself. I hope to show that difference.

My family did many injustice to me (it still does), but it was not the family but the society that suffocated me. It still does. I hope you do not have to face that struggle. I will not take you back to your “roots” just for the namesake. I will, if you enjoy. I will let you go free when I sense you do not enjoy particularly. Tamil is a great language though. It will make me sad if you don’t speak Tamil ever. You do not now. I am partly to be blamed for it. But I hope to hear you speak in Tamil one day. Equally, it will make me happy if you make and eat food items such as idiyappam and paniyaaram.  I am sure you will enjoy too. You gobble up iddli and thosai now, which is a good start. Can you please learn to say “chutney”? I cringe when I hear you call it “idli dip”.

I grew up with girls wanting to prove themselves as “good girls” and boys constantly challenging girls to prove themselves as “good girls”. They are still around me. They are still bothering me. I am still fighting. Now that I am a mother there are mothers around me proving themselves as good mothers by drawing me as a chinna kodu just to make themselves as periya kodu. I hope you do not have to fight that, although it is universal and not restricted just to my bad bad Tamil culture. But, I have taken you out of that ugly caste system in that bad bad Tamil culture, although the local (local in UK) Tamils and the internet Tamils constantly throw such ugliness at us. I hope to teach you to protect yourself from that.

I grew up not knowing what an offense is and what bullying is. Not knowing what victimisation is and the victim psychology is. I blamed myself for everything. Bullies ruled and they still do in my culture. Bullying can be seen even in general social get-together in the name of “having fun”. You are growing up where it is at the least acknowledged and identified. That is a great help in itself. There are such differences I am glad I have provided you. I hope to provide you more. I hope to provide you a home to come to at any time in your life. Not like the one that my chithi has in which I was constantly told that I do not have any right in any inch of the floor or the wall, but now I am asked to “buy” to keep it in the “family”!  That is the difference I hope to provide you. Whether it has all your “roots” and communities around you or whether it has all strange different coloured people as neighbours, all I hope to provide you is a *home*. A home to come to at any time in your life. Same for your brother.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shyameds
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 00:46:19

    Wow, that’s a good letter for your daughter to read some day soon! I think she’s going to feel very lucky to have a mom like you, Prema 🙂

    P.S I’m afraid I had to laugh at the “idli dip” bit, though! 😀

    Reply

  2. chandra
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 11:49:39

    beautiful Prema. Wish both of them happy growing up

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Dear Daughter | The normal self

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