You should know that I'm writing you this letter because you taught me well. Remember all those years between 6th and 12th grade when you'd wake me up at 4 am, sometimes 3, to study? Because you learned about my inner 75-year-old - the one who dozes off at the dining table at 7:30 pm - pretty early on? You needed me to get my shit together and study when I'd be most productive (or least useless) so you instilled an old habit of yours into me - waking up at stupid-o-clock to get shit done.
I may have tears streaming down my face right now because my computer's screen is too bright so early in the morning, but I'm getting shit done alright? Shit that involves wishing you a happy birthday and telling you how much I love you.
Have I actually ever said the words "I love you" to you? I know I grew up saying it to Achan all the time because he was always good at expressing his feelings and telling me he loved me. But I don't think you and I ever exchanged these three pivotal words to each other. You, of course, more than made up for that by showing me how much you loved me but I doubt if I ever reciprocated an equal number of times.
In my defence, you've known me from the responsible age of twenty-seven but I was practically unconscious for the first ten years of getting to know you, and more or less selfishly obsessed with boys for the next ten. The eight years following that were what opened my eyes up to your years of sacrifice to somehow mould me into the woman I am today.
I know it's been a sacrifice, Amma. You will never admit to this but I know how much better your life would have been if you'd never had me. A lot of parents never openly admit to regretting the circumstances associated with having children but a lot of them do (regret, I mean), and that's okay. And although you say you never regretted having me, things did get a bit more complicated with me around.
But boy am I grateful for not only being born but for being born to you.
You got so much of that motherhood stuff right, it's incredible. What's even more incredible is how someone as obscenely capable and resourceful as you are, spent most of her life believing she was nothing special. I wish thirteen-year-old me could've seen you through the eyes of twenty-eight-year-old me. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes right now. We would both have trusted our own capabilities a lot more if that were the case.
You're genuinely the kindest, most empathetic and charitable person I know. Your heart goes out to those in need and instead of sitting in a corner and nodding sympathetically, you rally the troops and organise people and resources to help those who need it the most. And once you've done all the good work, you slowly erase yourself from the narrative and shower praises on the people you brought together to make magic happen. Man did some banks and corporations lose out on an amazing leader when you stepped off the career ladder after marriage.
But as one of the people you've rallied into action on multiple occasions, I can tell you this: it's very easy to transfer money into a bank account or call in a favour for someone from a distance. True charity comes from being present - physically and emotionally - for those in need, and seeing them through their difficult times like you've done, time and time again.
I hope that with age, I'm able to grow into half the woman you are. Then I'd have fulfilled my purpose on earth and made it in life.
So the next time you tell me that all the good things that come my way are because of the blessings of the people I've helped from a distance, I want you to remember that I'm just a tiny cog in the machine you've built. All the good things in my life, in fact, come from you. From your heart and the prayers of those whose lives you've touched. You, Amma, are my blessing.
And after over five decades of being an incredible human being, it's about time you take some goddamn credit for it all.
Happy birthday, darling mother of mine! I love you.