You are such a perfect child, my sweetheart. Your mother and I marvel at how perfect you are every day. I think it’s true what people say, that you can’t quite fathom the love bond between a child and a parent until you become a parent yourself. The simple act of looking into your eyes, and having you look back, is rewarding enough for getting through the most hellish of days. You are the most serious challenge yet to my workaholism because I just can’t wait to see you and hold you every day. And when you look back at me with a smile, it melts my heart.
Your mom and I look forward to E.V.E.R.Y. new thing that you do as you continue to grow. Every new sound, every new expression, every new motion, just, every. There are no less than 1,000 pictures and videos of you in the three months since you arrived, as evidence of our obsession with you. We’re wondering what your first word will be and when you will first start to crawl, walk, and run. I also can’t help myself from thinking further into the future and imagining what kind of person you will become, what career you will choose, and what kind of impact you will make in this world. You have an ambitious daddy, so trust me that mediocrity is not in your stars. You are destined for big things my child.
You were born into a complicated and rapidly changing world in the year 2018. A world that can delight and amaze, as easily as it can depress and dismay. You will learn from the study of history that women have not always been treated equally in this world. In fact, for much of recorded history and in most parts of the world, women have been treated very poorly. Women have been treated as slaves, as second-class citizens, as sex objects, as the property of men, and as people who should be seen and not heard. If you were born 2,000 years ago, or 500 years ago, or 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, this letter would be quite different. But thankfully, you were born in 2018. You were born in the middle of a global movement. A movement led by women, and a few good men, to end the inequalities between men and women that have managed to persist. You were born in, possibly, the best time ever to be a woman, and I don’t want you to ever take that for granted.
You were born in Mumbai, India; a city and a country that I love. Here you will spend your early childhood and form your very first impressions of the world around you. I do not relish explaining things like poverty and despair to you, but I will because you need to understand the world in which you live before you can change it. I will share every ounce of my knowledge with you, and we will learn new things together too. Your mother and I are going to arm you with the tools not just to survive in this world, but to thrive in it. You are going to learn about love, kindness, and empathy so that you will be grounded in the desire to help those who are less fortunate. You are going to learn math, science, and logic so that you can adapt to change and find solutions to problems. You are going to learn about justice, equity, and courage, so that you will always feel the call to fight for fairness and stand up to tyranny, no matter what obstacle or danger may stand in your way.
In order to learn all of these things, you will need many role models along the way. I want you to look up to regular people who push themselves to do extraordinary things. I want you to look up to amazing women, especially, so that you always know that your sex will never limit your options or determine your path. You need only to look at your own family to start learning from amazing women. You have an entrepreneur mommy and nani, you have a grandma with 10 black belts, you have aunties who are doctors and businesswomen, cousins who are professors and activists, and more. Beyond your own family, there are myriad of amazing women who I hope will inspire you.
I hope you will follow Malala Yousafzai and be inspired by her fearlessness and courage. Even murderous terrorists could not silence her fight for women’s access to education. She is living proof that it is possible to come back from any tragedy and stand up to any villain.
I hope you will read about Michelle Obama, the first African-American First Lady of the United States, and be inspired by her grace and warmth. No matter what was happening with politics, Mrs. Obama stayed true to her passions of helping children and families, and always leads by example.
I hope you will study the work of Dr. Jane Goodall and be inspired by her adventurism and her love for animals. She ignored her detractors and turned her passion into a body of scientific research that changed the world by showing us just how similar we are to our animal cousins. And she has worked tirelessly in defense of animals ever since.
I hope you will watch clips of Serena Williams, and be inspired by her drive to be the best. In a sport that was traditionally reserved for wealthy white players, Serena relentlessly trained and worked hard until she became one of the most dominant American athletes of her generation, male or female!
I hope you see the photoshoots and videos of Ashley Graham and be inspired by her leadership on body positivity. Ashley challenged the notions of ‘traditional beauty’ and paid no attention to anyone who told her she had to change her body in order to be successful.
I hope you will laugh at the comedy of Mindy Kaling, and be inspired by her self-made success in entertainment, and her infectious self-acceptance & confidence.
I hope you observe the Parkland, Florida students, and be inspired by their activism. These high school students led a national conversation around one of the most controversial topics, so don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too young to have a voice, or too young to make a difference.
I hope that you when you look up to the sky, you will remember trailblazers like Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. I hope you will draw strength from the example of Rosa Parks if you are ever faced with injustice, and from Helen Keller if you ever feel that a challenge is impossible.
And I hope that I am a worthy role model for you. I feel a great and deep responsibility for teaching you right and setting a good example. My best friend who has three beautiful daughters of his own told me something. He said that your observation of how I interact with women, especially mommy, will become the foundation of how you think men should treat women. It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m going to do my best. And if I falter, I expect you to call me out!
Any goals and aspirations I had for myself, now seem so trivial in comparison to my hopes and dreams for you. My only request is that you live a life of substance; you have only one life to make a difference, so don’t waste it.
Thank you for giving my life such tremendous meaning Annaya Rose, my perfect, perfect child. I love you more than anything, and I will fight for you always.