This is the letter I gave my son Shubham who turned 16 today .  Normally , I would pen down a few sweet and sentimental   poetic lines but this time it was this long essay which surprised him. I must thank Hetal  ji as its from him that I borrowed this great idea. Shubham imagined that I am trying to pen a book “Letters from Mother to Son” following JL Nehru’s  lofty example – and advised me to first increase my stature before attempting something similar (No such idea in my head though)

Dear Shubham

Wish you a very happy birthday, my dear son. May Sri Krishna’s grace always protect you and may the divine bless you with great health , tons of joy and more success than you have ever dreamed of. So you are turning sweet sixteen or is it sexy sixteen or nerdy sixteen these days? You know you are the apple of my eyes and my favorite son (yes ahead of  your cute little cousin Sibba too!)

I, however, do want to confess today, that it wasn’t always so. It just seems like yesterday when you came into my life – with a loud cry . It was just about a year post my marriage . Neither me nor your father were  sure about parenthood then. You arrived when we were just settling into our careers and had not even known each other so well. My uncertainty vanished the moment I held you in my arms – your father on the other hand  took months just to hold you. 

 I  thank God for his blessings and grace every day – for bestowing me with a loving , responsible , self driven mature intelligent and kind son- that you are .

Your health deteriorated rapidly as asthama caught up with you , when you were just one and a half . Weeks were spent in Nanavati and Lilavati hospitals in Mumbai – nebulizing you and giving you steroids .  Staying with you in ICUs .You could not sleep lying down and I had to hold you on my shoulder all night – day after day and  month after month . Those were tough times . we sought refuge in astrology . But one after the other astrologer told us you won’t live beyond 4 years with the only exception being my Tataji – who gave me hope and strength and an assurance in your longevity . And woah – today you are studying astrology yourself and you can see for yourself – why the sordid predictions were made due to the multiple arishta yogas  and why the notable exceptions were ignored . It was your condition that inspired me to study astrology seriously and scientifically. I hope you would learn it and use it well too – to light up hope and inspiration in the hearts of those who come to you.

I am ashamed to admit that I cursed you and blamed you, when I had to leave my job at P&G to take care of your health – but it gave me a golden opportunity to see you grow, take your first steps, play pranks and develop into a cute little boy . You loved to read then as you do now – but now your reading hobby tires me out for I have continuously look out for good books as you devour them so fast . Read more my son but read good stuff – books that inspire you to be the best version of yourself .

My heart swells with pride when I see your accomplishments – the 100% in Boards Term I , the multiple Olympiad medals , the numerous certificates in inter school competitions – you have truly evolved from a shy introvert and hesitant boy into a confident teenager . While I have always pushed you to do well in competitions , today I want to tell you something different . Be comfortable in your skin  and do what you think is right .Let peer pressure or parental expectations not dictate the course of your life  or your beliefs for that matter . Allow me to illustrate with two examples . Just yesterday we were arguing fiercely on what you should do in class XI and XII and beyond .Your father being from IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore naturally wants you to aim for these crème de la crème institutions in the country and develop problem solving and competitive skills . Your friends too are going to slog for the next two years for IIT . But I would tell you to follow your heart. I did science too  but I never wanted to be an engineer – and unlike your father today, you have the freedom and the opportunity to pursue a different path . So explore , find what  you are passionate about and then dive in . Mastery and a state of flow comes from doing what we really care for. We cannot be just aiming for the goal – we need to be in love with the process – we need to enjoy the journey .  Because we will fail and fall many times and its only when we love the journey that we will have the strength to get up and walk again. Taking a risk and going against the flow is difficult but worthwhile if you truly believe in what you are doing . Don’t carry the burden of parental (or grand parental) expectations either. Our happiness lies in yours .

The second example and a controversial one is one of Religion and Spirituality . I know these are taboo topics in your peer group and you have argued with me so many times on the supposedly ‘illogical’ faith in god and interest in spiritual activities . I know you admire Richard  Dawkins and his brilliant  arguments . All I want to say here is faith goes beyond logic and arguments .  What matters isn’t just the  dry argument but the experience . I have now known several brilliant rationalists(including my Tataji) who turned bhaktas or atleast very spiritual meditators . They didn’t go crazy – the spiritual path offered them the answers and the peace they were seeking .Also, having ideas or beliefs different from those around you doesn’t make you a freak or an outcast . Conformity may make you popular and cool but standing for your beliefs makes your life truly meaningful .

Life will be a roller coaster ride. What you think is a disaster sometimes turns out to be a blessing (You are one example , as a I wrote above ). Find that silver lining in every cloud – the ray of hope that you can hang on to . Ignite that lamp of hope if you can, in others .Be authentic and stand by your own beliefs . Walk your own path and discover your own truth .

Lots of love


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Divya Vanshika

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