P.S. Although the following letter is addressed to my two daughters, it's message goes out to all my nieces, nephews and all the children whose lives I may have somehow touched.
Dearest Isha and Amisha,
It's that time of the year again. Another year is drawing to a close. You are busy making plans... your friends will be here for a sleep-over and your minds are full of the TV shows or movies you will watch late into the night. The approaching exams are far from your mind and that's exactly how it should be. As the year ends and a new one begins, there is a sense of new beginnings, expectations of much happiness in the new one.
I sometimes sit and think how quickly time has flown. I can still see you being born, bringing you home, those sleepless nights, those first days at school, those bright smiles that awaited my return... you gave my life meaning, opened up a world of possibilities that hitherto I did not have. When we went partying you would cry and cling to our feet in an effort to not allow us to leave. It's been years since you've done that...nowadays you are happiest when we are out and you can do what you please.
I just saw an old picture of your twin cousins as they slept holding on to each other and it is a real "aw" picture. I shut my eyes and was transported back to when you two tiny souls too could not do without each other. When one woke crying, the other would cry. When one was frightened, the other would call for help. When one was out, the other would moon around, bored, eyes searching for that familiar face. There have even been times when one of you would come crying to our door wanting to get into bed with us. Soon as you were allowed, you'd run and get your sister as well!
Those days are gone, you do not come to our room anymore and a sister is a good punching bag for all your raging teenage hormones and you are fighting most of the time except when you have to gang up against me. I am so used to all your bickering that it's like a constant background noise, much like traffic, only it's indoors.
You both have other friends and shall keep making them. Those friendships will remain, but I also know that one day surely you will look around you and find that your sister's friendship too is one of the most treasured joys because no one really knows you quite like your sister. And you will realise how fortunate you are, to have her by your side.
Coming back to where I was, it's been sixteen years. Yes, Sixteen years that have passed in a flash. In another three years you both will hopefully be leaving home, poised as you are on the threshold of board exams and thereafter college when I hope you will test your wings.
I know you don't do resolutions. A new year is just a time to celebrate, not make weird promises that no one keeps! I do not do resolutions either but as you grow older I just wanted to share some thoughts to live by, (I call them the 5 Cs), some things that may help you if you can fit them into your lives, especially when I won't be there by your side.
1. Compassion. Be kind to others, specially people who work for you. You know the mess you left your room in? When you returned, everything was back in place. The table and your books were organised too. Someone obviously did that. Appreciate it. Can't find a book? Do not scream at the maid, remember she cannot read. And it's not her job anyway, she did it to save you from a scolding. It's your job. Just as it's your job to get a glass of water when you are thirsty. Not sit at one place and scream for the maid to bring you water. The servants are not your chattels. Remember they are here to serve only because they are less fortunate than you. There is no need for you to order them around. Or be rude. And there may be a day when you will not have any maid running circles around you, no driver to take you places either. learn to be self-sufficient. Yes, walk home from school, wash those clothes yourself, clear up after yourself! Once you start doing these yourself, you will find compassion is easy.
2. Candidness. Above all else, be honest. Speak your truth clearly and do not think that lying will get you anywhere in the long run. In all your actions and dealings be true to yourself. Only then can you be true to anyone else. Ensure you can always walk with your head erect and look everyone in the eye. If you are dishonest, you will not be able to do that. We all make mistakes, learn to apologise for them. No one died of saying "sorry". Accept responsibility for your mistakes. There is no shame in being wrong but there is shame in lying. But let that not blind you to the fact that there is a time and place for everything. Do not gossip or feign affection. Many a time you will be faced with a situation when so-and-so will want to know what so-and-so says or is doing. Hold your counsel, choose your words wisely, so that you do not end up hurting anyone. How other people choose to live is none of your business. Live and let live.
3. Condone. Everyone makes mistakes, learn to forgive. It is not easy, but there will be times when you will have kept a relationship alive by a simple acceptance of a softly spoken "I'm sorry." And never make the person saying sorry feel small, tomorrow you may be wearing those same shoes! Most of all forgive yourself. Learn to accept yourself, warts and all. Curly hair is not a flaw. But if you keep using harsh straighteners each time you wash your hair, pretty soon there won't be much hair left to straighten! In any case at the end of the day, remember, what you look like does not matter. It's the person behind those curls that people will care for. People will come and go from your life. But there's one person who will always be there with you: Yourself. So be good to yourself. You will have your bad days and there will be times when you will fail. Face them and make no excuses. One can live with failure but not with excuses that take away your right to fail. Learn to laugh at yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.
4. Consistency. Be sincere in all you do. Whether you are studying or just making a card for a friend, do it well. Whether you are at work or at play, sincerity is the cornerstone to success. There will be times when you will find less hard-working or less-deserving (in your eyes) people will do better than you. Let that not deter you from putting in your best effort. At the end of the day, you will sleep better.
5. Contentment . One does not need Gucci handbags or Prada shoes or a Lamborghini to be happy. if you can get those, it's good for you. But if you can't, remember happiness can be found in the smile of a friend, a hand to hold, a warm bed to return to at the end of the day. The quality of your life does not depend on the brand of the shoes or clothes you wear. The quality of your life depends on you. You alone can find happiness from your life, be it in a small shared apartment or a mansion by the sea. The key is contentment. A lot of motivators will criticize me for this, "dream big", they say. By all means, dream big... but do not make your dreams your masters. Strive to be happy. Appreciate and be grateful for what you have, the rest of the world will fall in place.
Go then, may 2016 bring you every joy and happiness you deserve.
May you always have enough.
Always and forever,