Someday, Mira, ask me about how you ended up like how you are.
There are decisions that we took, are taking, and will take, that will end up shaping you into who you will turn out to be. We are aware of it, intensely.
Your American passport, for example, might be a mundane legality that you might not even have to think about in-depth in life. But to us it is momentous. We wanted to give you the power of travel, of political legitimacy. We wanted you to have direct access, as it stands now, to a safer country, a larger economy, a geographical and political hedge in 20 years, instead of taking the easy route of getting you an Indian passport.
Your favorite barista, Ashanti, has no passport. Learn to recognize in people what you wouldn’t ever have to worry about. That is your privilege. We, as parents, are working to buffer your life with privileges.
We did not want you to go through what we are going through in pursuit of money and freedom.
That is why your mother braved her pregnancy here in the US, far from India. That is how you came about to be brought home to Brooklyn in a rickety car. The car you will never see. It was a Volkswagon Passat. A deep blue car that gamely helped us through your gestation period and first year. You owe that car a debt, wherever it ended up.
Actually, we gave it to a colleague of your mom’s who in turn purchased it for her daughter who just had a kid. In many ways, that car is an unforgettable hero.
Today, as I write this, you are home with your grandparents in Bangalore, I am here in the USA and your mother in the Philippines. We speak every day. Your mother checking in from the East, me from the West, hoping to catch your attention and watch for the smile of recognition that shoots slivers of joy into our hearts. Then we call each other up about how guilty we feel having to let you waddle around in your grandparents’ care.
The second decision we are trying to execute, Mira, is to find a good country to stay. Wherever we end up, it will not be a destination without deliberation.
Why do I say this? Maybe it is because I realize how much growing up in a country would shape you. Shape anyone. India is not my country of choice, but if it ends up so, remember it is only after having exhausted the other options. There will always be some guilt and some anger at how I could not wrangle a better space sooner in the world for a home.
Somedays when we sit back to think about life, your mother and I talk about how we had to battle the same battles your grandparents battled. I am convinced they failed as parents in fundamental ways. Both sets of your grandparents. I shall let your mother shape the story of her lineage.
I shall concentrate on mine.
The failures are multifold. They failed at providing a safe and loving home as I was growing up. They failed at recognizing they have a son who was anything other than a financial provider. They failed at being there when needed for anything. I have a tenuous relationship with them. I have seen them constantly fight; I have seen them distrust their kids and instill in us the toxicity of their ill will till it seeped through my veins. They have aged and buried their venom in mellow age, wanting to forget, or maybe they really did, their parenting failures. In very real ways they have failed at apportioning their time, trust and help between their two children.
I have a very real dread at how my relationship has unfolded with my parents. I do not respect them. After decades of neglect and fighting, they are unable to sufficiently bridge the distance, because it requires wisdom and empathy. Something they don’t have, and something that I withhold, irrespective of whether I have any.
Having grown up without an authority figure, without any support emotionally, and with just transactional financial support in my earlier years, I have been told I design my own role as a parent a little too deliberately. Understand that from where I stand I do not have the basics. Maybe someday I shall write in depth about it, or better yet, ask me.
None of which matter now, but it took me time to unwrap my understanding and bafflement from these dysfunctional familial behaviors, valuable time that, had I reclaimed a little earlier, would have helped me and your mother be with you together as you grow. This lost time with you is the first time I rage at the faults of my parents.
That is the past and I have my privileges. Understand our past, and you’ll understand us better.
Today, we (your mother and I) have given ourselves a year to leverage into a better space to come together as a family. A better state of finances, a better country, stable careers for BOTH of us, and, most importantly, an environment of freedom for you. It is our duty to ensure that you grow up where your identity can bloom into whoever you want to be. To explore. To live a life as free from shackles as possible. We do not for one-second doubt you will find yourself in trouble and confusion and fear, but let those be ones we don’t anticipate.
Go make beautiful mistakes chasing happiness.
Ask us, even if we forget, how we always talk about how we want you to stand on top of our shoulders. We do not want you to learn the lessons we learned by repeating them. You do not have to struggle through your childhood years dealing with petty adult egos, among distrusting adults, and in cold marriages only to learn about love and kindness in your middle ages. We do not want to instill in you fears of failure and deprivation when you should be discovering your true passion and pursuing it with a vengeance to excel. We do not want you to be saddled with irrevocable and time-consuming decisions about studies, young adulthood, sexuality, careers, love, relationships, marriages, conformity, that take years to play out and even more years to unlearn.
Stand on our shoulders of experience. Ask us. Learn to ask honest questions, and I promise, we’ll answer truthfully. Hold us to it and grow.