Killing Me Softly / Arathi Devandran

Dear T,

No one told me about this feeling. No one told me that the first time your tiny little fingers would wrap around mine, I would feel a jolt and a painful realisation that I would do anything, anything, for you. No one told me that this would be the most complete and the most empty I would feel.

Welcome to the world, my precious T. It is both beautiful and bad, but it is as much yours as it is anyone else’s, and I cannot wait to show you this world, and see it with you.

Love, Mumma.

Dear T,

You’re fast asleep after spending the entire time wailing about something or other. It is a strange sound, your crying. It pierces me; makes me want to find out and obliterate the source of your crying immediately; makes me want to cry with you, primarily because I don’t know what is troubling you so; makes me want to tear my ears out because it goes on and on and on.

You have strong lungs, T. Thank goodness you have strong lungs and the gumption to express your feelings just as you feel them. My beautiful T, I hope you will always let yourself feel as you do now. This world has a way of trying to numb and dumb you. Remain soft and fresh (or angry and loud) for as long as you can.



Dear T,

You said Mumma today, for the first time. My heart flew and my eyes welled up and I suppose this is the entirety of motherhood – the universe of love in your mouth, in the sound of your sweet little voice.

You were so pleased with yourself too! A self-congratulatory spark lit up your face as you tried to clap your hands, sounding out the word with your tongue.

There is power in naming things, little T. There is power in declaration and stating things into being. There is an entire field in politics on this – how naming a thing is how it comes into existence. Religion says this too (“Let there be light, said God, and there was light.”)

Hold this power close T. Call it as you see it – love, beauty, fear, insecurity, Mumma, Dada, your own name.



Dear T,

You are growing up so quickly now.

It feels like yesterday when you took your first step, called me “Mumma”. Now you are running around on your pretty little legs, asking for food, expressing complex emotions, watching everything with your curious intelligent eyes and processing the world.

Your curiosity is a gift, T. This eagerness to learn, the need to discover and understand, the fearlessness with which you ask questions – these are all good habits to have. I wish for your curiosity to grow healthily, for you to pursue knowledge hungrily and responsibly, for you to be delighted by the world always.

Aun Aprendo, my beautiful child.



Dear T,

My oh my, we had our first argument today.

You told me that I “did not understand” (what big words for such a small thing, you). Your face twisted in unhappiness and your eyes scrunched up in frustration.

You walked away from me, and I felt the first pang of something, perhaps the feeling that visits when you breakup with someone. We will have more arguments, T. We are alike, you and I. The same feistiness, the same stubbornness. Even our angry expressions are similar (as Dada tells me laughingly later).

But even as you have arguments T, you must learn to make up with the person you’re angry with graciously. This is a lifelong process, though. It will take time, and it takes a lot of security in the relationship you’re in. After all, we can only get angry with the people (truly angry, comfortably angry) with the people we deem close to us.

But these are thoughts for another day. I am waiting to see when our cold war ends. When you’ll come snuggle into my arms and we will watch yet another episode of that show you love.



Dear T,

I started writing these little notes to you when you were born because I wanted something to record your life. I wanted something for myself that I could record your life by. Words have always been the easiest for me (and I am starting to learn that it is the same for you as well).

You’re fast becoming a beautiful woman, T. I see your intelligence, your ambition and the way your friends look up to you. I see the way you’re hardworking and determined, kind, sweet and loving, and my heart fills up with something so big and powerful, even words fail me.

You have your father’s eyes, and my hands, and your great grandmother’s hair What a gorgeous woman you’re growing up to be! I know every mother thinks this way – that their child (or children) are the best things to have graced this Earth, but well… I really do think so.

T, Mumma isn’t well. I’m sure you would have realised this by now. I haven’t been able to do things the way that I used to before, and I’ve been falling ill quite regularly. We just got the diagnosis from the doctor’s today, and it isn’t very positive, sweetheart.

I am writing it to you before we have a chat about it (whenever you’re ready).

Mumma is sad, but I’m also strong. I have you and Dada and I know whatever happens will be for the best. Things will probably change, but we will work through it, the three of us. Some days may be harder than others, and some days, you’ll have to step up and be the adult. I can see you already trying to be that person on days when I struggle to leave the bed. It pains me T, because I wanted you to have a bit more time to be young, free, happy.

I’m sorry, T.

I just want you to know that no matter what happens, I love you. I am proud of you, and you’re the best daughter any mother could have ever had.

Let’s talk more when you’re ready.



Dear T,

Today is a better day; I thought it would be nice to write you a note like the old times.

It has been quite the ride, hasn’t it, T? So much has changed, so much has happened.

Some days I look at you, and I cannot believe that you’re that little baby I used to carry, trying to get you to sleep on your friskier evenings. I’m glad you’ve gotten the best parts of your Dada and me, and that despite how hard some days have been, you’ve kept your spirits up and turned up for the family, for me.

I’ve seen how steady your hands and eyes are when you feed me, and how you always keep a bright smile on your face, because you don’t want me to feel sad that you’re feeling sad.

It’s okay to be sad, T. And it’s okay to express those emotions too.

Thank you for everything you’ve done, and for everything you’ve been and for everything you’re going to be. You make me so proud everyday to be your Mumma.



Dear T,

It feels weird to write something like this, a goodbye (?) note, when I’m still around. But I’ve been feeling stranger and stranger with each passing day, as if my time is running out. As if I have all these unsaid things I need to say and do before the clock finally stops.

Maybe this is premonition. I don’t know.

I have very few regrets in life, T. I know that’s such a cliched and strange thing to say, but it’s true. I really do have very few regrets in life.

I married a great man. I have had the pleasure of being part of such a loving and kind family. I had you, the best gift. I was healthy for the most important years of my life. I wrote some, worked some, travelled some, shopped some, did nothing some. I loved a lot and I loved hard.

It’s been great, really. I’m not sure why I’m writing in the past tense; perhaps, it’s the same premonition that is driving me to pen this note.

The one regret I do have is that I wish I could have had more time with you and more time to spend the milestones of your life together. I wish I could see your children, and love them the way my mother was able to spend time with you, and love you.

But this is life, and this is a story, and like all lives and all stories, there are beginnings and there are ends. And this is a good enough one for me.

I want you to remember all the good things that has been in our lives, and the not-so-good too. I want you to always be brave and strong, to say “No” loudly, to feel all your emotions, to fight for what is right and good and true, to be so kind it hurts, to love well and deep.

I want you to always be there for Dada, who’s going to struggle some when I’m not around. At the same time, I also want you to be there for yourself, to take the time and space you need to grieve, and then, to embrace whatever life has to offer.

You’re my sun, my moon, my light, and wherever I am, I will always carry you with me, my little T.

I love you always and forever, past this life and my living.



This was the last letter Mumma wrote to me; I was a teenager then.

I am 67 years old now, and I miss her every single day. She was my sun, my moon, my light, and I will carry her with me until it is time for my story to end.

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry

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