Letters to Myself

When I was a kid, I used to write “Letters to Myself.” This may seem odd and no, I don’t have multiple personalities. I just wanted to make sure that as an adult, I didn’t forget about all the “horrible” things my parents did to to embarrass me while I lived under their roof. I figured if I could warn myself in the future and help prevent my children from suffering the same kind of embarrassment that I had been through, we could potentially break the cycle. Thus leading to less money spent on counseling sessions, which would be a win-win from any perspective, because even my parents would agree that we shouldn’t waste money. I didn’t start the letters until I was in middle school, but I think I covered my bases pretty well.

So without further ado, let me present you with the teenage Masala Chica’s list of parental “Dos” and “Don’ts.”

1)   Don’t wear saris when I pick my kids up from school. Try to be cool like the other moms and wear jeans.

She’s NOT wearing mom jeans = uncool

Mom Jeans = Cool

2)   Don’t send my kids to school with weird pickles on their sandwiches.

3)   Do learn how to make things like brownies and cupcakes. When it’s my kid’s birthday, make these things from scratch and don’t buy them in the plastic containers from Shop-Rite.

4)   Make interesting and exotic dinners, like Spaghetti and Meatballs or Fettucini Alfredo. Don’t serve rice and daal at every meal.

5)   Do not wear bindis. Do not wear anything resembling dots on my head.

6)   Do take my kids to fun places like Disneyland and Six Flags. Don’t wear saris. Wear cool jeans and shorts, like the other moms.

7)   Do let my daughter go to the mall on Friday nights to hang out with the rest of her friends.

8)   Do teach daughter about facial hair. And what to do with it. Teach her how to shave, wax, whatever. Don’t let her walk around feeling like a hairy gorilla.

9)   Do watch other movies with my kids other than Indian movies. Learn how to be comfortable with watching kissing scenes in front of my kids, like the other cool moms. Don’t make the kids leave the room if a kissing scene does take place.

10)  Don’t make my kid pray all the time. Pray less. Sometimes praying too much can give your kids a headache.

11)   Don’t yell at my kids if they say the word sex. Sex is not always dirty. Sometimes, sex is just a question on a form.

12)  Don’t take my kids out of school every year for a few weeks to see family in India.

My list of dos and don’ts was fairly black and white for me. Whatever my mother was doing was a “DON’T”. Whatever the other moms were doing was a “DO.” Apparently I had great respect for my friends’ mothers, their mom jeans and their ability to whip up a box of Duncan Hines baked goods at home.

I look back at this list and what’s clear is that I was obviously afraid of being different. I wanted, so very much, to be like the rest of my friends. I wasn’t thinking about how cool it was that my mom still embraced her culture so much. I wasn’t really thinking about how amazing it was to eat the sabzis and the curries my mother would make every night to go alongside the daal and rice.

So what if a few kids made fun of those differences? Buck up, I want to tell that kid now. Learn how to be different. Embrace those things. And for Pete’s sake, don’t worry so much about hairy legs. You will have a lifetime to worry about that.

Well, not really, if you get married.

In that case, you generally get most of the winter off.

Still, I want to tell that young girl that one day, she will be writing a post, much like this one, and will salivate at the thought of her mom’s homemade pickles on her sandwiches or eating her mother’s cooking that night. That it’s ok that her mom couldn’t bake and shake like her friends’ moms.

I will explain that she was comparing apples to oranges.

Or better yet, Apple pie to Ladoos.

My mom never had reason for me to question her cooking, especially when her samosas kick the Tri-State area’s ass.

I wish I could explain how precious it would be, that time when she is young. And how much it means to let her hold on to it for another day, another year. And if that means not letting her troll around a dingy mall so that she is less likely to get felt up by upperclassmen in the empty part of the parking lot over by J.C.Penney, so be it.

I would love to tell her how one day, those trips to India will teach her more than any textbook at home could. How those trips will inspire her to think beyond the world she lives in. To look beyond those walls and beyond the privilege she has been born into. How they will be the only way she would have had memories of her grandparents or cousins who are now gone. How maybe understanding the journey her parents took to get to the United States, might help her appreciate the ties they still cherish.

The customs they hope to keep alive.

I totally would back her up on the praying thing. Praying too much still gives me a headache.

But I would love to maybe give her a different point of view.

Maybe just a little perspective.



18 Comments on Letters to Myself

  1. Kristen
    January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm (2 years ago)

    I am trying to do things a little bit more like my mom than I ever thought I would. She has a big heart and was always the first person to bring a smile to a room and she can talk to anyone. When I was teenager I didn’t like the attention she brought to herself. It made me cringe. Now, I get it. People wanted to be around her because she made them feel happier, better. I want to do the same with the people in my life.
    Beautiful post on perspective! It takes so long to see things clearly sometimes.
    Kristen recently posted…What Happened To Sportsmanship?My Profile

  2. Ila Rosengarten
    January 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm (2 years ago)

    This could have been my letter, Kiran!
    I loved it.
    Please don’t ever stop writing, sister.

  3. Nelson
    January 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm (2 years ago)

    Another home run Kiran. I really enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work. :)

  4. Sisters from Another Mister
    January 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm (2 years ago)

    What a great perspective – looking into the future and then looking at the past.
    How much I would change and how I would want the same.
    Great writing.
    Sisters from Another Mister recently posted…Fork in the roadMy Profile

  5. Elaine
    January 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm (2 years ago)

    Great post, Kiran. Funny and sweet at the same time. As a child I wished my lips weren’t so big and I thought my eyes were too slanted. I used think I should definitely get some kind of surgery on my eyes when I get old enough… My mom is a white lady, so at least I felt good about that…with her mom jeans and muffins and all. But I was self conscious about my Filipino culture too esp. in a predominantly white neighborhood. As an adult, I so wish I could speak Tagalog, or cook Filipino dishes- which I love!
    I do love where we live in NoVa, because I feel like it’s pretty diverse… At least compared to what I grew up with!

  6. Venassa
    January 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm (2 years ago)

    We’re all basically the same, aren’t we? I also hated everything my mother did, and wanted to be nothing like her. Oddly enough, I’m friends with my mom now, and in some ways I’m JUST like her. Kids will be kids. As long as when we grow up we realize the difference. The things our Mom’s do aren’t as embarrassing as we thought.
    Venassa recently posted…Blurbs: New phone, birthdays, and random.My Profile

  7. Fran
    January 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm (2 years ago)

    Very good post. It is indicative of the immigrant children’s experience. All you have to do is change the daal and curries to kim chee and Kalbi and it could be my family. Of course I never had an issue with facial hair as even though I wanted it, Koreans aren’t really hairy. Told you I keep up with your blog.

  8. Renee Schuls-Jacobson
    January 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm (2 years ago)


    Of course, I wrote something similar to this a while back. Just substitute lots of Jewish stuff. And don’t use Yiddish in front of people. And don’t say “Oy” so much. I recently had the same revelation that you did — especially now that I seem to be horrifying my son, even though I am skinny and don’t have a house filled with stuff from the 1960s.

    So what is left if we are just in the mom jeans?

    No spice. No special. No different.

    My mom is an amazing cook.

    And even when we were at war, she always fed me.
    Renee Schuls-Jacobson recently posted…The Happy House: A Gift I Didn’t Think I DeservedMy Profile

  9. MomWithaDot
    January 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm (2 years ago)

    Just this evening, my son asked for spaghetti (yet again) without even looking at what’s for dinner. I slog my butt off conjuring dishes every night, bring in color, flavor and nutrition of foods from all parts of the world (Google, of course) and just when I’m excited about bringing it out, I see a sulking child pleading for pasta. ‘In fact, you don’t have to make it ….we can just buy it’ (And I tell myself, b-r-e-a-t-h-e ……..one….two…three…)

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you!
    MomWithaDot recently posted…Domestic Diva II – Healthy OptionsMy Profile

  10. Alison
    January 17, 2013 at 1:24 am (2 years ago)

    Gosh, I want to eat Indian food now.
    I wore a sari once, to an Indian wedding. I felt so beautiful and womanly.
    Love your perspective now.
    Alison recently posted…Tasty Thursday: Gingerbread LoafMy Profile

    • masalachica
      January 17, 2013 at 1:25 am (2 years ago)

      It’s sad that as I go to bed, you are just waking. :-)

      • Alison
        January 17, 2013 at 1:29 am (2 years ago)

        I’ve been up for HOURS. Nearly 8 hours. That’s practically a whole day. :)

  11. Manisha
    January 17, 2013 at 11:27 am (2 years ago)

    I laughed when I read this post. One of my new year’s resolution is to once a month bake a cake so that I can get good enough to make them for birthdays. I guess I now know where that desire comes from. Also I miss my mother’s cooking so much and wish I had payed more attention when she was trying to teach me.
    Manisha recently posted…16My Profile

  12. dixya
    January 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm (2 years ago)

    I did have some mental letter to myself as a kid for mom, dad, grand parents.. since i grew up in Nepal, i did not feel the need to be same as other kid because we all were basically same but I secretly wished that my mom was like XYZ’s mom- less strict, gave lunch money instead of packing lunch, allowed sleepovers and such..But now I look back and feel so immature and that mama was so right. She has all the good reasons and shes the coolest mom ever :)
    dixya recently posted…Chocolate Chip Banana Bread SconesMy Profile

  13. Ani
    January 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm (2 years ago)

    Spot on again! You are me. I am you. I had same exact feelings growing up but since “growing up” I admire and respect what my mom did for myself, family and most of all how she role modeled staying true to herself. I strive to be more and more like her these days.

  14. Honey What\'s Cooking
    January 19, 2013 at 12:36 am (2 years ago)

    Completely agree with how we should all learn to be different and embrace culture, but man, nothing will get through to a kid in middle-school. I encountered a lot of the same stuff you went thru, hence I completely understand. I don\’t think any amount of someone telling me to embrace culture and being an individual would have changed my mind at that age. Now as an adult, I welcome it. :)


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