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This letter, written by Kani Kusruti’s father to her when she turned 18 demonstrates how we need to see our children as independent, rational individuals once they are of age.
Rakshabandhan is around the corner. But while brothers may say they “promise to protect their sisters”, is this what sisters really need? Don’t sisters need support from brothers for their choices, their thoughts and feelings, their voices?
This letter, written by a father to his daughter, should be read by every male in any role, or for any individual seeking validation in a society that brutally trolls and stereotypes.
Because on the surface, the sisters, the daughters, the wives and mothers… and any other woman, might bubble with excitement on receiving that chocolate hamper or any material gift, but deep down they harbour a secret desire to be understood and respected. The way Maitreya Maitreyan, a human rights activist expresses, in his letter to his daughter Kani Kusruti, an Indian actor and model, hailing from Kerala.
The contents of this letter reflect the feelings of a father who understands that his daughter, now an 18 year old adult officially, is all set to face the big, bad world.
Is the world really big and bad? Well, the beginning of the letter doesn’t hesitate to postulate it as such. What do you expect from a system that has been existing from time immemorial, and which now has spread its roots so deep that it seems almost impossible to break.
But with his letter full of love, the father gifts his daughter a ray of hope. Yes, the world indeed has entitled males who have created a system that works as per their convenience. But the letter goes on to explain that though unjust, the world is hers as well. That if she so desires, she has the right, and the means to mend it as she needs.
The father through his words clearly speaks of his respect for all her choices starting from her career/ professional front to her sexual orientation and life.
He relieves her from the burden of societal pressures – of marriage at the ‘right time’ and then having children at the ‘right age’. Rather he acknowledges her freedom to decide her relationships herself, and also the manner in which she conducts them.
She as an individual is only answerable to herself, and is not to cage or chain herself to the opinions of others.
Right from the time a girl is born, she is prescribed a list of do’s and don’ts that she needs to follow, to justify her existence of being born as a girl, by a society that is quick to judge but never there to support. This letter by a father is a breath of fresh air.
It speaks not only of freedom – personal, professional and even sexual, but also encourages her to keep her faith in herself, and the belief that she can be strong even in adverse circumstances.
Women all over the world face issues of gender discrimination and stereotyping. Every now and then we come across all the trappings of our rape culture – victim shaming, body shaming, and how she deserved ‘it’. The letter explains what she ‘deserves’ as an autonomous human being, and that she is not expected to adhere to the usual norms of a patriarchal society.
In a world so ruled by many negatives, this letter speaks and asks her to see all that is positive. Detailing her rights point by point, the letter stands for its essence: that regardless of what the world might say “Only she can decide, for it’s all her choice.”
To say she has only rights but no responsibilities, will not do. But here the responsibilities are listed down as a series of requests. And that is what enhances the beauty of this letter.
For example, the father categorically requests her to see the act of rape (if it ever happens to her) as an act of violence that has nothing to do with her ‘sanctity’. Instead she has all the power to rise above the cruelty and trauma inflicted upon her.
Think about what I have just said – imagine a father going to speaking openly about such extreme violence, (one that society actually blames the woman for), and telling his daughter that it is not a reason to begin to hate herself. This shows the very real respect he has for her as a human being, not as a body in whom the ‘honour’ of herself, her family, or society may reside. That’s feminist.
By urging to follow moderation in smoking and drinking, the father tries to put forth the idea of understanding the limitations of freedom. That it is not freedom that encourages self indulgence and leads to self destruction.
The letter asserts her right to live the kind of life she desires openly and not confine herself to any closet.
By asking her not to do things in hiding, the father encourages her not to worry about public opinion but follow her heart and nurture love and compassion for herself and fellow beings.
And in a world ruled by fairy tales, with damsels waiting for their knights in shining armours, to come and rescue them for a happy ending, it’s all about being that hero herself. That in the fairy tale of her life, she is the only hero she should look up to and in any circumstance, she is the only one capable to emerge out victoriously.
Love in any form is the purest of all emotions and capable of forgiving.
A heart that harbours love can never be unjust or hurt anyone. Being capable of loving is a privilege not all enjoy and if she does, she is bound to be successful. Love is the supreme force that lends credence to all emotions and values. A heart full of love can never oppress or be unjust.
And so is the request made by the father to the daughter. Though mentioned towards the end, the whole letter speaks of the feeling of love in volumes. Love for others and most importantly love for thyself.
Such is the ending note of letter. Pure and unconditional love that surpasses all emotions and is the guiding force.
Dear Kani Kusruti, the letter that your father wrote to you is not just a note, but a mirror to our society, and how as parents we need to see our children as independent, rational individuals once they are of age.
A letter I wish you had shared earlier, when you received it on your 18th birthday, and secretly wish my father would have read it, or any father will read it now, to understand what must be their duty and responsibility, and even their right is, vis a vis their children.
That as children, the only real desire we harbour is of their love and support without the burden of judgements. And how despite all the flaws that we might have, we still remain and will always be their children.
In essence, we as women need to understand that the only limitations for us that exists are as much as we allow them to exist in our minds or our souls. We need to free ourselves of all the clutter that our patriarchal system glorifies from time to time, and channelise our actions in fulfillment of our personal and professional goals guilt free and unabashedly.
With Raksha Bandhan around the corner and brothers asking and arranging for that perfect gift for their sisters, this letter is for you to read, ponder and reflect upon.
Image source: twitter and a still from the film Pisasu
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