Meher… a letter to my daughter

You’re most probably on cloud nine when you write about your newborn child, and that’s precisely where I chose to write this—at 35,000 ft on a jet to New York, bouncing off the heavens and smiling at the angels. While looking out of the plane was ethereal, the inside of it seemed like an interval of a Gujarati natak, with the unstoppable sound of people munching on home-made khakras and theplas.


So here’s my letter; this is all I have to say (for now).

Thirty-two years ago, in the month of October, your grandmother lost a sister at the age of 21 in the infamous Handloom House fire. She was a tall, boisterous and charming girl. Her straight hair made heads turn. She was full of life but one fine day, she was no more. I was a year old at the time, and since then, have been raised listening to stories of her playful yet stoic nature, her unrelenting desire to help, and her carefree yet conscientious outlook to the world that unfortunately didn’t give her a second chance. And I remember thinking to myself that when I have a daughter, I would name her after her grand-masi Meher—the harbinger of the sun and a friend of the moon; astronomical and prodigious but at the same time elementary and uncomplicated—‘Me and Her’.


And one fine day you showed up at 2.53 pm, a time your ingenious grandma decoded to be her birthday—2nd June 1953. Without a second thought, we named you Meher. I apologise because it’s not one of those fancy names that Parsi parents give their children nowadays (Dastoorjis complain that they find it hard to pronounce these exotic appellations in the Tandorosti prayers). We run the risk of your friends calling you old-fashioned, but you can tell them you’re (Ahura) Mazda’s love and light. What could be more everlasting?


When little children are born, everyone is curious about whom they look like, and a detailed analysis of your anatomy began from the moment you were born. Does she have the fingers of a surgeon or a pianist? Is she going to be tall like her father or intelligent like her mother? (I like it when only the physical attributes are associated to the father while the emotional and intuitive ones apply to the mother!) And in the middle of all this pandemonium, you held your own. You have more hair on your head than I do now, and you smartly chose the correct parent to inherit your ears from.


In the hospital bed next to ours came a lady midway through her pregnancy who didn’t have enough fluid in her amniotic sac to support the child. The doctors gave her the option of going ahead with the risk of having an abnormal baby or decide on aborting it. The heart-wrenching wail of the mother as she stuffed her head into her pillow, trying to soften her despair, made my hair stand on end. Here we were, with a lovely one-day-old baby, and right next to us, someone was struggling to save her own. So, dear Meher, the first lesson to learn in life is this: what we take for granted, someone else is praying for.


When you grow up and go to a fancy school, where every child is competing with the other to have the gaudiest gadget and the most ostentatious outfit, please remember this story. It’ll save me a lot of money and earn you a lot of insight. I hope that when you grow old, the lovely Jame-e-Jamshed is still available in print like it has been for 183 years and isn’t accessible only on a kindle or something you’ve implanted into your fingertips to project onto a wall to read. The best way to live life is to combine ancient wisdom with modern technology, I believe. Someday, I will tell you the story of the three apples that changed the world—Adam’s, Newton’s and Steve Jobs’.


The next thing you taught me is that it takes a battalion to take care of you even though you indulge in the same activities as me—burp, fart, feed and poop. It is going to take you a while to be up to speed with your father in the first two, as I’ve mastered these traits over the last 33 years. Taking care of you at home is almost like going back to neurosurgery residency for me, architecture school for your mother and psychology practice for your grandmother. There was no guarantee when we’d get to sleep or eat next, and which body fluid was likely to awaken us from those precious winks we had begun to cherish even more since your arrival. I guess we will never again be our first priority.


It is true what they say: happiness isn’t bought, it is born. Meher, you were made with true love. Many will hold you but please let us do so, always. And remember, you must be your own before you can be another’s. In the first month itself, you began sleeping with your hand under your head in a dreamy yet pensive sort of way. Your mother says you’re pretty obliging and considerate, and don’t throw tantrums without a reason. It’s a quality she believes you got from her. Time will have its own ways of revealing if that’s true; all you need to do is be patient, and trust me, the revelation will come.


We pray to God that you live a complete life, the full circle of life, the Life of Pi—after all, it’s not without reason that when you were born, you weighed 3.14. As the author of the book, Yann Martel, believes, life is a story and you can choose your own story.


Thank you for choosing us.