Dear Darling Heart,
Today you are a 13 years old boy! And, you are such a big boy today. Happy birthday darling.
I know, you have opened all your gifts by now, and are you frowning that I only gave you a letter? But darling, read this letter, it is more important than, anything that you have received today.
You know, Darl, when I was 13, yes, exactly of your age, I used to ride bicycle to my tuition classes. For two years, a group of boys would follow me and Radha Maasi, each day. No matter what route we took, what time we walked out they would follow. That would make us so uncomfortable and scared. Beta, I loved cycling under the open sky. We have huge roads with hardly any traffic. Boys would cycle, I loved it too. But I always had that fear of being stalked. I wondered son, if all the boys, could cycle whenever they wanted and why could not I. As far as I knew, they never EARNED any brownie point to be free. That always enraged and confused me. So, right at your age, I learnt what fear of being harassed was.
Then the list continued. It happened in the bus I took to school after my 10th boards and in the streets of Delhi, which is the worst kind I have seen. I still have fear of a car slowing down, when I walk on the street. I often change my lane. That’s the fear still I live in Delhi. And darling, it’s not only my experience. It’s an Indian experience. 90% of Indian women go through it each day. Imagine, how bad we feel.
I often tell you, how beautiful this world is. And how important for you is to explore, travel and meet new people. In the same way, the world belongs to everyone and they have the right to live the way they want. That includes women too. The sky and the earth belongs to a girl as much as to a boy. Women venture less, because we fear our safety. Now that you are growing up and you will start taking on the street as a person of your own, remember you have no right to harass a girl, just because she is one.
You will see in the Hindi movies, how they show that it is okay to stalk a woman and how the woman finally falls in love with the guy. Here is a secret. No, dear, no woman ever like being harassed. And harassing a woman is never cute or romantic. It only tells what a bully that man is. Hindi movies got it wrong. Do not buy it. And most importantly, it’s okay when someone refuses your proposal. It can break your heart. But darling, let me assure you, rejections have to do nothing with you. It’s that person’s choice. That’s what rejection is all about. It does not make you a lesser human or a man. If a woman says no, it means a no. No you don’t bargain. You don’t froth. You move on. You might be heart broken. But that too is a phase of life. You can cry and listen to mushy songs, but trust me that will too pass. Daddy too had his heartbreaks, so did your Maa, but that has not made us any lesser in life. Every relation that you will ever have should be based on consent. Daddy and I are together because we consented to be together. From consent comes partnership. And only with partners, you walk a long fulfilled journey. This has stood the test of time. It will too with you.
Baby, now that you are growing, you will meet more women. Here is what women are. No, they are neither a mystery to deciper, nor a damsel in distress, they are people just like your male friends are. They might be different, but that’s it. They are always equals. Be a great friend to a woman, be a great lover, husband or a father, that my son is the mark of a man. Never ever force a woman to something she will not consent to. I have told you, that your body is precious and no one can touch you unless you feel right about it. The same apply to all girls too.
And when you learn to partner, you will learn so much from a girl and you will teach her so much too. That’s about partnerships. They are so amazing. I hope you travel, you find wonderful women, become great friends with them, travel, have adventure, learn, unlearn, laugh, cry and finally when you come home, you realize that, it was all worth it.
You are a part of my and Daddy’s heart walking in the world, please treat yourself well and so is the girl you will meet, extent her the same camaraderie, partnership and grace that you offer to everyone, you will see how life grows to beauty and what a wonderful journey you make.
No matter where you go, remember consent is sexy and what makes a boy, man is his sense of knowing that the best of everything comes in partnership and never in submission. May you be that man.
I love you and I know you know that. You are all Daddy and I have or can ever ask for. Make the best of this life.
Authored by Paromita Bardoloi
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women’s Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Co-Founder Aatish. Dreamer.
ShareYourStory is an initiative by Breakthrough in partnership with Women’s Web to bring the conversation around sexual harassment into families; to get women talking about the harassment they have experienced with their family members, especially sons (or other boys and young men.)
If you would like to be a part of the #ShareYourStory initiative and create more changemakers, share your letter to your son (or young friends, nephews etc.). You can write a post or send us a short video at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. More details here.