A letter to my just born child

Dear child,

I once wrote a letter to your elder sister before she was born (read here) and I wanted to do the same for you. But then I thought why do it exactly the same way? You are going to be different from your sister, even though both of you come from the same parents. I have seen so many siblings in my life and marveled at how 2 kids born of the same parents can be so different!

So I decided to write this post after you came in this world.



When the nurse handed you over to me, I held you confidently. I raised an amazing 2 year old girl, how could I not be confident? But I quickly realized, you could be a totally different kid. I want you to know that you need not be like Pranaya. Your amma & I, like all parents in the world, will love you regardless.

Love for me, simply put, is that your dreams, your comfort, your well being is more important to me than mine. Simple, no?

I am in deep love with Pranaya. The kind of love that I didnt know was possible. When I fell in love with your amma, everything became beautiful and I was 13 (yes, that little!) at that time & then 21, I think when I again met her. The love at 13 was the most I could love a girl, & at 21 it was even more strong. But nothing even comes close to the love one has for their kids. I am telling you this now, because maybe sometime in your life you might feel differently.

I want to talk to you about luck. You would read quotes about how luck is all about working hard, and that it is non-existent. I think it is real. I have no idea what did I do right to have such amazing daughters, first Pranaya and now you. I dont know why your amma thought it was a good decision to spend her life with me (I have asked her numerous times through thinly veiled questions). I have no idea what good I did to have the parents that I do. Luck is how I explain it.

On the other hand, I have no idea why I havent had the luck in work. Got into top schools at the last and got out at the top, mostly through sheer hard work. Dont understand why some of my less hard working friends have better jobs? I dont get why my hard work hasnt got its due. Luck is how I explain it.

Some things are not within our control. Media, newspapers, celebrities tell us that they are. What is within our control is to give our best. Newspapers print the names of the kids who top various exams. They then take their interviews, ask them for tips for aspirants. Why? What is so special about getting 750 marks our of 750 that makes it news? Shouldnt they cover stories of resilience? Where some kid living in sub par conditions who came 25th? Isnt that better news?

News is not of much use. Nobody is going to gain wisdom through a second hand account of what is happening in Syria, or the US, or even Vidarbha. Wisdom in our times is underrated. Information is overrated. Only follow this advice if by the time you are 8 years old, your daddy has made a name for himself. Else choose to ignore. That is true for this entire letter. Not everything that I say is correct. My knowledge is a culmination of what has happened in the last 30 years of my life. My biases, my fortune & misfortune colour my ideas.

The core of Human spirit is freedom. We all aspire to be free. But society has made systems that will reward you a little, every time you let go of a little freedom. You want food everyday on your table, give 8 hours driving a truck, or painting a wall, or making excel files and ppts. Want your teacher to praise you for that assignment, that is actually not going to add much value to your knowledge? Spend the night working on it and skip the planet watching that you had planned.

That said, do whatever you do with passion. Easier said than done. You can only do things with passion when your wants/needs dont plague what you want to spend time on. Trust me, if you want that latest iphone (hopefully they stop) or that Merc (guilty), much of your time will be spent on earning money and not so much on what you like. I havent learnt how to do that, hope you do, then teach me.

I am saying all of this as I am afraid that as time passes, I will no longer be able to make sense of your generation and maybe then, this post written by your dad at 31, might make some sense.

Staying happy is the aim of life I have found. Being happy is an art and good art happens when what you think, what you do & what you speak is in alignment. Everything I do for you would be directed towards this. If you ever feel that I am not being true to this, please remind me, I tend to forget.

In closing, I wish you find what you love, and find the courage to do what you love. I hope you find happiness in your life. Love, courage & a heart that seeks happiness, my child, will lead you a long way.

Lovingly,
Daddy

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The ideal life

I have been thinking about the ideal life. Everything that I could come up with directs towards total freedom.

1. Its a Tuesday and first rains. I want to go to Lonavala. Now.
2. I want to watch a late night movie and go to office by noon
3. I want to go home early today.
4. I want to work till late today
5. I want to hear a song while working and maybe hum it too
6. I want to have lunch out today
7. I want to play cricket/TT/badminton this morning
8. I want to have misal pav from Mamledars on a Thursday
9. I want to write a poem and its 11 am in office
10. I want to play on my Xbox at 4 in the evening on a working day
11. I want to buy a Xbox
12. I want to plant a garden and then take care of it
13. I want to wear shorts to office
14. I have an idea, it might be stupid, it might change the world, I want to work on it today, all day.
15. I want to come home for lunch. Everyday.
16. I want to live in Portugal for 3 months.
17. I want to drive a Mercedes
18. I want to read at least 1 book each month
19. I want at least 1 night out with friends each month
20. I want to live in pune for a week once a while.
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Do you have it in Red?

"Sir.... Sir?" she said pushing the pen towards him, "Will you take it?"

He looked at her and smiled.

xxx

He peered inside the Fiat 118ne window to look at the dashboard. He had a fight with his friend the other day that 118ne was faster than a Maruti 800. He stood on his tippy toes to see clearly what the speedometer said - Aha! 140 kmph! Much faster than the 120 on the Maruti speedometer. He was correct. He was all of 6 years... The life long love affair with cars had just begun.

xxx

Those were the 90s, the economy had just opened up and new things, for the first time for a lot of us, were now available. Liberalization brought with it shiny Hot wheels toy cars. These were small models of mostly American cars that could now be bought even at the local kirana store, well , at least few of them stocked up.

He was 7 years old and liked helping his mother with groceries. Every time he went to the store, he looked at the Hot wheels placed in a glass shelf which quite innocently came up to his eye level. That was the time when middle class parents only indulged their kids out on their birthdays, sometimes not even that. He knew his parents weren't rich, but every time he went to the store, there it was, a gleaming hot wheels right at his eye level. One day, he just went ahead and asked for it. His mother asked the man behind the counter for the price. 25 rupees.

"That is too expensive. Do you know how many Wibs bread would come for that money?"

They started walking, he started calculating. She was right. 5 loaves of Wibs Bread. That was too much bread for a 7 year old to handle. Not that their family was living hand to mouth. No. But he was being taught the cost of things, and what better way than Wibs Bread.

The next time they were at the grocery store, he threw a fit, a very rare tantrum, he really wanted that Hot wheels. His mother took him away kicking and screaming. He had seen tantrums work with his friends and their parents, she knew what he was trying and she knew that he had to know that it is not okay. Gave him the thrashing of his life once home.

And that was that.

xxx

It was the 90s version of a party. His parents were invited to a dinner and he tagged along. Unlike today, house parties actually had home cooked food. They were doctors, with two very well behaved sons, who even had a bunk bed. This is 1995. This is when Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was considered entertainment! They had their own room and a bunk bed. In 19-freaking-95.

Post dinner, as the men settled down to discuss politics and the women were busy exchanging recipes, the 3 boys, were sent to the kids room.

The room was painted blue and the curtains matched the paint. The bedsheets matched as well. In a corner a basket ball was placed and they had a season ball (the kind Tendulkar plays matches with!). The room was spotless. It looked like a girl had made a room for boys.

His parents werent poor by any stretch of imagination, sure they werent doctors, but they had decent jobs. They both worked for the government. Father for LIC and mother for a bank. Government bank, of course.

"What do you want to play?" The elder one asked.
Surely, they might have one hot wheels, he thought. They have all this awesome stuff.
"Do you have a hot wheels?" He said 'a' hot wheels. One.

The younger one ran to the cupboard and pulled out a plastic bag, with some saree name on it, Paneri or something.

He then sat on the bed and unloaded the contents of the plastic bag. Hot wheels. So many. Probably 20 or 30. This was Heaven.

"Come play with us!" the elder one said.

He just stood there, calculating how many Wibs bread could these many hot wheels buy.

145.

And that was that.

xxx

They had just come out after watching the 6 to 9 show. Shahrukh was good, but how had he reached so far in his career he wondered. He hadnt liked the movie, a 10 year old boy wasnt the target audience of a romantic muscial anyway. It was July, and like it normally does in Bombay, it was raining when they came out of the single screen theatre. They had a scooter, they had to wait for the rain to stop, the car wallas pulled out of the parking one after the other.

Then it happened, a red car pulled up in front of them. It was just like the car in the song (Ho gaya hai tujhko toh pyaar), with the three pointed star and the red paint that gleamed even in that rainy night.

"What is that car?" he said pointing to it, a little too loudly. His dad gently pushed his hand down. Back in the 90s, you did not point at things, you did not point at people, you did not point at anything.

Then maybe because he was in a good mood, or because he liked the film, "That is a Mercedes." he said. "You see that star? That is the logo of the company"

"Just like in the picture!"

"Yes. Just like in the picture"

Those were the times when you only saw Maruti, Fiat and Ambassador on the road. Seeing a Mercedes roll by you was like meeting a film star or something.

As they started to walk to the parking, he looked back at the car in the distance, it's tail lights lighting up as it went over a speed breaker, he thought - One day....

And that was that.

xxx

He did not leave any chance to ask for Hot wheels. Whenever he saw his father in a good mood which was rare, he would slyly slip in the topic of how great those toy cars are and how all his friends had at least one.

"Why dont you come first, in class? If you come first, I will buy you one."
"Promise?" He couldnt believe it. All he had to do was to study hard and come first!

He came third in the unit test, then 3rd again in the Semester, then 2nd in Unit test II and then finally.... 3rd again. He went to his dad, hoping for some consolation prize. After all he worked hard, what could he do if he couldnt come first.

"No. The deal was for you to come first. No first, no prize. Life is tough."
Maybe Life is tough, and maybe it is unfair, but maybe a 10 year old boy doesnt have to know it yet.

And that was that.

xxx

It was Diwali, his Dad had moved up to the Manager position in LIC and the LTA was good enough to take the family out of the country. Which was obviously going to be Nepal. It was off season as it gets quite cold but Diwali in Kathmandu but it is worth experiencing so off they went.

Someone suggested they visit the local bazaar, there was memorabilia there, products by local artisans and even some chinese products. Back then, Chinese products hadnt taken over the world and the Indian mentality still put imported stuff above Indian made, even if it was made in Nepal, or china for that matter.

As they were walking through the bazaar, he saw it there. A gleaming Red colour Hot wheels Mercedes. "How much?" he asked.

"100 for the pack" the stall owner pointed at a packet with Chinese looking inscriptions and 6 cars in it. 6 cars for 100? This was a un-freaking-believable. This was a deal. This was a no-brainer. There was a Merc in there, a Ford, a Chevy, and a bunch of brand names he didnt even know. Remember this is before Hyundai even set its foot in India.

He ran up to his dad-
"It's only 100 rupees" He said with eyes that reeked of desperation. He had let his self respect go. This demand could very well be turned down like all his other demands, but he had put himself out there. This was once in a lifetime. He was never going to come back here again, even if it did, would it be during Diwali, even if it was, would 6 cars come for only 100 rupees? It was worth a risk, it was worth getting his self respect get a little more maligned.

His father looked at the stall that was 20 yards away, in his excitement, he hadnt even said what that 100 rupees was for, he just stood there, his arm pointing towards the stall.

Dont know if it was the spirit of Diwali, or something in the Kathmandu air, his father pulled out a 100 rupee note and handed it over to him. It felt great. He bought the chinese knock off and came home.

And that was that

xxx

He looked at the 6 cars placed on his study table. It made him feel guilty. 20 Wibs bread loaves he thought. This is what happens when a 11 year old boy spends half his life calculating the cost of things. He learns the cost, but misreads the value.

He took the cars to play with his friends, who were floored with the chinese graphics and the imported tag.  11 year old boys are idiots.

"I like these cars. They are imported, no?" A friend said.
"Yes. You dont get this stuff in India. This is not metal, this is top grade plastic. This will never rust, you know?" He said. Sales came naturally to him.
"Can I buy one?"

Why not, he thought. That way he could give back the money to his dad and get rid of his guilt.
"You can buy the ford for 50." He would sell 2 cars and then get to keep 4 cars. This was a windfall situation.
"No, I want the Mercedes," the kid said.
"Mercedes is not for sale. You can pick up any 2 of the rest."
"No, I want the Mercedes. You take 100 if you want."

For that kid, the one that got pocket money, 100 was 4 days pay. For him, however, for him it took 4 years to get here. But 100, for 1 car. That was clearly a profitable deal. There was value in this transaction.

And then, that 11 year old boy, who had spent 4 years, fighting, crying, justifying that he deserved a hot wheels, even if it was a cheap knock off, with what would have dented the hearts of the hardest men, handed over the red toy to his friend.

And that was that.

xxx

He looked at the pen and the well dressed girl who sat in front of him. He thought about the well behaved boys, what are they upto nowadays? He thought about the friends, what are they doing? He thought about the boy who bought the car from him, wonder what car does he drive?

"Sir?" she smiled, "any problem?"

He looked at her, then at the Silver Mercedes behind her, the 3 pointed star shining.

"Sir.... Sir?" she said pushing the pen towards him, "Will you take it?"

He looked at her and smiled.

"Yes.... Do you have it in Red?"

And that was that.

XXX
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