Dear 18-year-old Humaira,
TBH, a gigantic hug for… Wait, by TBH I mean To Be Honest. I swear it’s a legit word. Stop chuckling. Just time travel to 2017 and you’ll know. It’s as legit as YOLO. Okay, I’m digressing. Let me start over.
A gigantic hug for refusing to use fairness creams and saffron-infused multani mitti. Great decision. Stick to it. Every time a pesky aunty tells you how lovely being fair is, just run like you did last week. As a next step, identify all aunties who’ve mind-mapped your life. Theirs is a junk-worthy chronological map — make you fair, scout for ‘decent’ proposals and get you married. All this to play with your fair babies. Because babies are always fair, and who wants a dusky wife or daughter-in-law, right? Your life choices and career don’t matter. So beware of them.
For now, I’m glad that despite being a submissive kid from a conservative Muslim family, you resisted. At this point, in a news flash from the future, let me tell you – anti-fairness cream campaigns will gain momentum. So, you’re cool. You just don’t know it yet. Also, absurdly enough, the same aunties will start calling you ‘hot’ because you’re dusky! #NoKidding #TrueStory #WeirdAunties. Don’t freak out. This lingo is from the future. It’s characterised by the use of hashtags (#), GIFs, memes and boomerangs. Interspersed with the English language as you know it today, this lingo is typically unleashed on the internet, on things called Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and 9GAG. Think of Orkut as their poor cousin.
I know the Gujarat pogrom infuriates you. I know it brings back memories of the communal clashes you witnessed as a six-year-old, living in a Muslim ghetto, during the 1992 Bombay riots. I know it reminds you of brutality, of incidents like the one where a police officer fired at a woman standing in your building’s common balcony. Your father was standing beside her. The bullet nearly grazed his shoulder. Luckily, he escaped unhurt. It was the woman who began to bleed from one eye. Her socket instantaneously hollowed out by the bullet, she collapsed in her own blood.
Let these memories haunt you, Humaira, as an Indian, as a member of the minority community and as a student. Politics became personal for you quite early on. Blame it on your last name or pin code. And even though your pin code will change, these unfortunate experiences combined with your ability to connect the dots, is what will shape you and your ideology. Instrumental in this will be your years at St Xavier’s, where free thinking is promoted and debates encouraged. You’ll also be fortunate to pursue a course called Social Communication Media where you’ll realise journalism is indeed your calling.
Let me warn you, though. No journalist earns a ‘decent’ salary. It’s a passion job wherein not toeing the line often challenges the creativity of trolls, pushing them to coin words like #Presstitutes and #Libtards. So choose wisely. But even if you do pick journalism, you’ll do okay. Just remember to quit the minute you realise you’re stagnating or being underpaid. Yes, being underpaid is a thing even in a profession that pays peanuts.
In conclusion, here’s some advice. Do consider.
To begin with, insert an imaginary speed breaker on your road to maturity. Because, you seem to be on some maturity-boosting steroids. Don’t get me wrong. Keep the thinking hat on. But live a little and enjoy the journey. Step into a world beyond exams, library, and the canteen’s blood-red masala pav.
At 18, you can vote, have sex, party, drink and smoke. Don’t do it all, but at least take a peek. Certain f**k ups are okay, and even expected. So next time when a guy professes his love, don’t unleash your inner 28-year-old self. Spare him the ‘this is no age for love’ lecture.
Also – that dude on the last bench whose face you just discovered because he shed his afro? Tell him he looks dashing. He’ll go on from being backbencher Aditya to Aashiqui 2 actor, Aditya Roy Kapoor. Yes, there’ll be an Aashiqui 2.
Indulge in some professor-bashing and who’s-dating-who gossip over sheesha at Mocha. Take the Aristotle and Law of Diminishing Utility discussions outside the classroom to the Zunka Bhakar stall across college. Embrace pop-culture on drives where cigarettes and other stuff will be smoked. Check out this Gurukul that imparts alcohol-training. It goes by the name of Gokul. I know you don’t drink, but visit for the vibe and the butter chicken.
Tonight, thank abba for introducing you to your toddler-crush, the dapper Prannoy Roy. Remember how Mr Roy infiltrated your life via Doordarshan? Give abba a warm hug, for this introduction if nothing else. Treasure that hug. Forever. He’ll always watch over you. I mean abba, not Mr Roy.
Most importantly, load up on Nihari for tonight’s dinner and for the dinners to come. Relish that Nihari because, I kid you not, there’ll come a time when some people will have a beef with what’s on your plate or in your freezer.
In case you're still wondering, Humaira, YOLO stands for You Live Only Once.