I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 3rd in the list is a letter to ‘Your Parents’
This is going to be a long one. So I suggest you collect your reading glasses, get yourself something warm to drink, some snacks may be and settle down in your favorite chair. Ready? So here I am, writing you a letter. Not that I haven’t done so earlier. I have, in the past, from the hostels I stayed in, from the places I lived in after my marriage, long, newsy letters about what was happening in my life. In fact I particularly remember the time once I neglected to write for a long period of time (teenagers have different priorities) and, you called me up at the college hostel.
When I came running to get the call, you asked me without any preamble, injecting your question with that right note of sarcasm you were good at, which I should have been used to by then, but unfortunately I never was,
“So, are stamps and envelopes not being sold in the post office there?”
My face fell. But how would you know? You were on the other side of the phone. Probably patting yourself on the back for what you considered a witty question. You know what strikes while I write about it after all these years? I myself am a parent now. If I don’t hear from my own children, it is worry that fills my heart. The first question I ask is, ‘How are you? Is everything okay?’ But then, I am not you. I took great care not to ever be.
You as parents, gave me life, food, shelter and home, an education, and also married me off at the ‘right’ age as society demanded. But is that all? I understand that there is another ingredient essential to a growing child. It is called ‘love’. I don’t remember ever knowing what that was. I know the arguments people put forward, that the food, shelter and all the rest are all about love. Really? I mean like r.e.a.l.l.y? So then the children in orphanages would lack nothing if provided food, shelter and clothing?
You know, you are my teachers, but not in the way you think. I picked up each and every point of what NOT to do when I grew up and had a family of my own, from you. You compared me unfavorably to my siblings, not once, not twice, every single time till I started believing that I was indeed a dunce compared to them. I could never do anything right in your eyes. You went out of your way to tell me I was not good looking enough. At 12 I hid my report card, too scared to show it to you because my ranking had dropped to a two figure number for the first time ever. You blamed ME for the loafers who roamed the area to gawk at the young girl living in the neighborhood. You came down on me heavily when I stood in front of the mirror and innocently remarked how I was going to plait my newly cut shorter hair when I would be joining the new school. Small things, eh? I cannot bring myself to talk of the bigger ones. I am not yet ready you see. I don’t think I will be, even on my deathbed.
I don’t know if you have heard of the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He was born looking like an old man and then aged backwards. That’s my life, except that it is not in looks that I felt old. It was the way I was treated, like someone your age, who should have come with all the knowledge pre-loaded. I was never allowed to be a child of my years. I felt weary and much older than my age. It is only when I had my own children that I realised with a shock that I never had a childhood so to speak of. But somewhere along the way, I learnt to snatch happiness from wherever I could. And also to smile.
I firmly believe that there are some things that if we take up, we are obliged to do justice to it, parenthood being one such. So I went out of my way to live my life as an example. Of course, I did make mistakes in spite of the care I took because I had inadvertently imbibed some wrong lessons from you. Still, I tried hard to not repeat the major ones I recognized. Mostly, I accept that I have not been a perfect parent, which is a far cry from the attitude you have. You have done everything perfectly, you never forgot to repeat at frequent intervals to me, much to my indignation and also amusement. Yes. After all I am older now and capable of amusement at yesterday’s wrongs done to me.
All my life I have blamed you as parents. But now, I have to apologize. No, it is not what you think, that having brought up children of my own I have come to understand you have always been right. That’s nothing but nonsense trotted out by fools, a foolish notion fit only to be shared on Facebook every now and then by those with herd mentality. Having a family of my own only underlined the stupidity of what you kept saying. “You will know when you have a family of your own.” How wrong you were. So what has changed now, you wonder?!
The truth I realised, is that, you have been victims of a society that thinks marriage and family are the be all and end all of life. You were forced into a life that the society thought fit for you, without ever getting a chance to think for yourself if that is the life you wanted, a life with which you went along quietly because you knew no better. You married simply because your parents said so. You had children because that was supposed to be the next logical step to marriage. No thought went into anything. It was just a matter of running with the herd, a run which you did automatically without really having any interest in it. I feel sorry for the talented people that you are, destroyed by society’s dumb rules, and how your offspring (I became your favorite punching bag. What unity you displayed in this one matter!) had to bear the burden of your subconscious frustrations. What amazes me is how you still cannot ‘see’ and how you still uphold the same life as a good example to follow. I rest my case. What else is there to say?
I will not end this letter with love and what not. Those are alien words for me. Don’t let all this bother you into thinking I will not care of you. I will. I do set store by duty.
Your daughter, who always grew up thinking she was adopted.
©Shail Mohan 2014