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June 27, 2021


Dearest Antu,

Welcome to the teens! Though you have unofficially been a temperamental teen for a quite a while, you can confidently get away with it now. You are slouching more. Are more grumpy. Started wondering what's the point of school. More screen time. Less time outdoors. Fewer friends. More fights with your sister. The beginning of door slamming. Way more sensitive. Basically, the works. Thankfully, no big surprises there, thanks to you being the second born. Ashu paved the way well. While I was crawling on all fours trying to keep up with her, I am skipping and dancing along right with you. Hope to retain my sanity and sense of humor through all this. You are more vocal about your feelings and that helps. Every time we have an argument or a discussion, I get the feeling that you are trying to convince yourself more than me and you want to come out of the conversation feeling better about yourself. Which is a rare quality in our family. I hope you never lose it. Or I hope as a parent, I never squash it. 

We managed to travel within Swiss whenever we could in these uncertain pandemic times and you are a great travel companion. You love the planning, the houses we stay in, exploring hiking trails and trying new restaurants. For the first time, you said no to ski lessons and your sister and you went on your own this year. I was really worried. We just dropped you both at the gondola station and you girls just went off on your own without a backward glance. Scaling mountains. Skiing down. Finding a restaurant for lunch. And then meeting us back at the time and place we have agreed upon. So grown up! And trusting your sister implicitly even though she says that you are the bane of her existence. You will follow her to the ends of the earth and won't deny her anything. Long live sisters and the sisterhood of the traveling (ski) pants! 

You finish 6th grade which is the end of primary school here. So a big milestone. You are going to start in a new secondary school from August and none of your best friends are in the same school. You are both nervous and excited. School has been a little too easy for you this year and may be you were a bit bored because of that. Your stellar report card made me so proud and I hope the secondary school is challenging enough for you to keep you motivated. You enjoy your piano lessons and the Carnatic music lessons and very soon your digital piano is going to be replaced by an acoustic one. I have no music knowledge to speak of and all I wanted to know was how heavy the damn thing is going to be and how to make place for it in your room. I hope and wish you continue to learn music and enjoy this amazing world. 

Finally you are getting a proper phone with a sim card and I don't know how we managed to stretch it this far. Like I told your sister 4 years back, use it well. It's all downhill from here, I know that now. But its inevitable and I guess I have to accept it. You are lot like me in one aspect and that is to mould ourselves to fit in with other people. I used to feel like a fake sometimes and wonder if I am hiding my true self. But when I look at you, I know its because you genuinely care about people and want to make them comfortable around you. You don't think its weak to show love and kindness. You forgive easily. It's so difficult for parents not to see their own faults when they look at their kids, but a glimpse of strength here and there gives me hope and not succumb to the existential despair of parenting. Happy 13th birthday, Chellamma! Rock your teens!


April 27, 2021


Dearest Ashu,

STOP PRESS. You turn SIXTEEN today! How in the world am I supposed to cope with this? I can’t even drown myself in alcohol since I don’t drink! But wait a minute, you can!!! You are legally allowed to drink wine and beer in this country from today and if that is nt a sobering thought! Sixteen is special in many cultures and the only Tamil culture that refers to this age is in the movies and most of the time, girls this age fall in love with a stupid boy, lie to their parents and elope with the said boy. So please refrain from doing any of them. You graduated from middle school and got into high school this year and its a big deal in the school system here. You chose the school you wanted to go and the subjects you wanted to take and made so many important decisions in your life. I am so proud of you. This fierce independence streak is something I admire in you. Please do ask for help when you need it though. There is no shame in it. Help is always given to those who ask for it. Not only in Hogwarts, but at our home too. Anytime. Anything, Anywhere. OK?

Our long lunches together have rapidly decreased ever since you started high school and I miss them dearly. Weekends and holidays are the only time we got to spend time together and have fun as you have lot of school work. You are complaining that you don’t have enough time to read for pleasure anymore and its heartbreaking. You are listening to lot more music though. You are keeping at it with Violin and Tennis and Table tennis and all the stress-baking, of course! Due to the pandemic, we have been traveling within the country for the holidays. Since Swiss has no dearth of exotic places, there were many hikes, many lakes, a week of skiing and snowboarding, day trips and what not! They were sometimes accompanied by sulking and complaining and tantrums and resistance. Its a task to get you out of the house. You drag your feet, steal my socks, tease your sister, try your fathers last ounce of patience. But you relent. You listen. And I am thankful for that. You do you. We will get by. 

I call you selfish a lot of times. "Its always I, me, myself with you", I say to you. But when I actually sit and think about it, you are far from it. I know for sure I did nt do even a fraction of what you do when I was your age. Its not just doing the laundry. Its also folding the clothes into neat little squares and taking them to each persons room and leaving them on their bed. Its not just making two cups of tea for me and your dad. Its the perfect ratio of ginger to milk to sugar. Its not just baking a cake for each one of us. Its the personalized touch in each one of them. Its just not setting the table for a special dinner. Its the napkin folded into flowers and the exquisite taste in decorating. Its not just recommending a secondary school for your sister. Its the research you do and the pros and cons you list. I can go on. I am sure you get the gist. If and when you do something, you give your 100%. I am the selfish one to want more. I am sorry to be so greedy.

The other day we were joking about something and JK Rowlings name was mentioned as it invariably does in our household and you said, “I don’t like her that much anymore”. It could be because of JKR’s Transphobic comments or something else, I am not sure now. But it was a huge moment for me. I told you how this “cancel culture” is very prevalent these days and quite toxic. One can say, "I like JKR but I don’t like some of the things she says”, instead of a blanket “I hate her” comment. No one is perfect. People would nt be people without flaws. This strive for perfection whether its the physical look or the mental strength or that amazingly shot insta photo or the perfect grade in a school test, its impossible to expect it from people including oneself. We make mistakes. We learn. We forgive. We are forgiven. Life would be so dull otherwise. So please overlook the flaws and find the goodness in everyone. And forgiveness is so underrated. We forgive not because the other person deserves it, but because we deserve peace. I wish you all the peace and happiness in life, Kannamma! Happy sweet Sixteen!


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