To my younger self,
I often find myself filled with amusement and occasional angst when I address your memories. I remember how you used to react when girls used to talk about boyfriend issues, threading, periods and movies. You were a teenage girl with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). In fact, I still cannot concentrate in any one direction.
I am writing to you just to tell that you made it through and that’s the reason why I stand stronger today. You made mistakes, but I make informed mistakes. Your experience was not a heavy learning exercise but a healthy process that helped me grow as an individual.
I remember how a heartbreak on your sixteenth birthday led you to find solace in books. Like any other young Indian introvert girl, you sought answers in books. I remember how you smiled, cried and was inspired by Maya Angelou’s poems and autobiography! Today when I am criticised or see an unfair system making its way to my self-confidence, I remember your recitation at the school assembly ground.
“You can cut me with your words,
You can shoot me with your eyes,
But still, like air
Today your boyfriend (my ex-boyfriend) is married. Yes! That’s true. He was in class 12th when you were in 6th. He meets me with a warm smile whenever I am in Delhi. His wife is the sweetest soul I have ever met. No! I don’t want to make it hard for you, because I know all these will bring you to tears. and you would live without food for days. But, as we say, time and knowledge both heal efficiently despite their slow processes.
You fell, you got up, you dreamed and you survived, but most importantly you made it! That’s why I made it. We still weigh 70 kgs, we still look the same, we still share the thick curly hair and we do not use any fairness creams because we still don’t believe in these beauty standards. You made a choice, the ultimate choice of liberating yourself. You were ashamed how you used to look! ‘Fatty’, ‘Baby Elephant’ were few names given to you out of ‘love’. Remember how your crush lovingly called you ‘Polar Bear’ made you upset? But you never compromised on your mango smoothie. You used to find some way to replace those self-shaming thoughts with self-appraisal, making a deal with your happiness. It was always, “Fries above guys” for you. Horror stories of losing weight from ‘Chicken Soup For The Teenage Soul’ made you stronger against body shaming. Look at me today: Because of you, I am healthy as ever and I have no regrets about anything in life.
Your strength was unusual, maybe your life as a child toughened you up for the future. Our father’s transfers taught you to respect inclusivity and adaptability at a young age. I remember when we used to shift to new cities, you used to leave your heart but then, once again you would set up a new life and make new friends.
I honestly have nothing that I want to change about you but yes, there is one thing I would like to address: Perhaps you pushed back less due to the fear of being judged by society, but that is completely fine. We are often more bothered about external validation, putting it above our feelings. I always wondered at my mother’s mental and emotional strength, the way she handled us with great patience and unbreakable resilience. I also want to tell you that I am still unable to convince our mother to allow a puppy or a cat at house. The love of animals is something we both recognised and cherish. I hope you keep residing in my memories, and I remember you with great joy. Little Mufasa. I love you and this name that you decided remains the essence of my identity.
This blog is a product of a series of workshops we conducted with young people aged 18-25 in Hazaribagh and Lucknow. In these workshops we explored writing, film-making and social media as well as exploring a large spectrum of gender issues. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed working with them!