A Letter to the Future

Sep 07, 2010
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She was 17 when she wrote this; young, confident and looking forward to her future. A year later Tejaswee Rao is dead, a victim of dengue fever.


Dear… daughter,


I don’t feel odd writing this. Just… so mature. I’m 17 going on 18, the age you’ll be when you read this for the first time. I don’t know how I’ll be then. Sometimes cranky, over-worked, cynical, the way I see my parents are today. But I don’t want you to see only that me. Maybe I’ll be hardworking, happy and eccentric. For you, I want to preserve some of my ideas, my optimism and my ideals. I want you to meet me, at your age, so many years from now. Beware… I was considered boring, by some.

Right now I’m changing. In small ways, and big. I’ve seen a certain amount of heart break (no doubt I’ll see more) and a great deal of love, more than I could ever wish for. My morals, my ideals, my resolutions, my wants and my beliefs are being formed, being broken, and, formed again with a stronger base. I want to be the President of India. I want to take 6 months off before college. I want to be the most powerful person on earth. I want to spend the rest of my life helping the poor. I want to adopt a girl and I know this is one resolution that won’t be broken. So you’re the one… It’s wonderful to meet you.

I wonder… are you flummoxed by Physics as I am? Do you paint like I do? Who is your role model? Do you know the history of your family? Or your country? Are you loud, like me, or quiet, like your grandmother? I can hear her soft laugh in the next room. Will she still be laughing like that many years from now? There are so many things I want to tell you, things I don’t want to forget, and fear I will. Things that may be “too trivial” in another five years…

Look at yourself carefully every morning. Red streaks, or two plaits; Fat or skinny; knobby knees, or gorgeous legs; Small eyes or mosquito-bite breasts; I want you to be proud of yourself, exactly the way you are. And I want you to remember that, what’s inside, is a thousand times more valuable than what’s outside. I’ve learnt that from my mother, but will she be there to teach you the same? The world will love you and hate you for what you do and what you think. So make sure your thoughts and your actions are stable and reliable and valued enough (by you) to keep you steady and give you strength through anything the world throws at you.

I want to be the President of India. I want to take 6 months off before college. I want to be the most powerful person on earth. I want to spend the rest of my life helping the poor.

I want you to be bold as I am. Don’t be afraid to stand up and fight when you feel that something’s wrong, but know also when to hold back and keep silent. I’ve learnt this the hard way. I hope you don’t have to.

Don’t be scared of making mistakes. I am, but that doesn’t stop me from making them all the time. It just makes me more conscious of every trip and stumble, when I pick myself up again.

Don’t smoke. This is the one absolute I give you today. Don’t start, because if you do, it will be difficult to quit, and you don’t have to go through that.

I want you to have principles, and stick to them. If you believed something once, you had a reason to think that way. Don’t let peer pressure make you forget what you once stood by. But don’t be stubbornly resistant to change either.

Do you believe in God? I do.

I want you to know, that everyday is a challenge, but that every time you walk out that door, there will be someone waiting for you to get home to whom you can proudly display your battle wounds. There will be people who’ll try to change you to suit their needs, but for each of these, know that there are others who’ll help you change to better yourself. Learn to recognise the difference. It took me ages… you won’t always find people exactly like you, but no matter who you’re with, be yourself.

I want you to read To Kill a Mocking Bird and watch Life is Beautiful.

You have to be strong and believe in yourself, like Atticus, but with that, never loose the innocence of Scout.

Never forget your ambitions, even the ones lost or changed. They have strange ways of cropping up again and fitting into your life. Am I a vet or an editor? Or do I work for the Indian Administrative Service?

Never, ever make the mistake of convincing yourself that your instinct is wrong. If something looks or feels wrong, then it most probably is. Trust your instinct. Remember the cat, Puppy? The one I told you about? If I haven’t yet, then ask me… I once saved him with pure instinct. It’s a long story.

Do I sound like a teenager to you?

Enjoy each day like it’s the last one you’ll live. Is this saying still a cliché?

One day you’ll meet the guy you’ll love. Maybe you’ve already met him. Wasn’t it the headiest feeling in the world when he said he loved you? It was for me. But, also the scariest. It takes a trust I’m still learning to give.

I dream big, and I watch my dreams fall. Right now, I have the strength to rise.

Listen Kid, I love you. I’ve never seen you, but it’s as if I’m talking to myself all over again.

Is this a selfish letter? In a way, yes, but it’s heartfelt.



Lots of Love,



Note: Please read Tejaswee's mother’s posts, “A Mother’s Moving Words”.


This post was originally published on I.M.A.O. (Tejaswee Rao’s Blog) in August 2009.