It’s you from the future. I’m here to pass down all the profound wisdom I have learnt in the past eight years. Spoiler alert, it’s not a lot. Though, it is crazy how much I’ve changed. I mean, I can’t even recognize you; it’s as if I’m looking at a pixelated version of myself, blurry and unresponsive, yet still me. The reason I’m writing to you is to leave you with one main thing I’ve learned in my life so far: it’s okay that the people around you are uncomfortable because of your existence. You couldn’t possibly know what I mean yet, after all, you are just ten, but let me explain.
Now, I need to preface something and it’s not something I take great enjoyment in telling you, but it is something you need to understand: the world isn’t what you think it is. Some people will tell you that you owe your life to them because they colonized your land and without that, you would be living in poverty. Don’t listen to them. They will tell you they are superior to you because they come from a developed nation, unlike you. Don’t listen to them. They will tell you people from your ethnicity are ugly and merely things to be stepped on so they can rise higher. Don’t listen to them. Don’t fit yourself into the tiny box they will try to put you in because you are more. You do not live to make them comfortable.
I want to warn you now: next year you are going to be moving to a new school. It sucks, right? When you’re there, you are going to be tempted to use a different name, trying to hide away the Indian heritage that you should wear proudly. You are going to tell everyone your name is Annabeth, and hope no one questions why you have a bigger nose or hairy arms. You are going to try to fit in this predominantly-white school and hope that they accept you. If I could change the past, I would tell you not to. Don’t, because all you are going to do is minimize yourself to the point that you don’t even exist anymore.
You’re going to get a lot more hate about your culture, but try not to conform. In grade nine, you’re going to be asked if you’re already married because child marriage is oh-so-common in India. You’re going to politely say “no,” laugh it off as if it were a bad joke and continue on with life, but inside you’ll be holding that moment dear to your heart, letting it slowly break down your own perception of your culture. Make an outburst! Scream! Tell the boy who asked that question that he's wrong! Point out his ignorance that is so glaringly obvious it could light the sea better than a lighthouse. Sadly, you won’t say anything though; you’ll keep quiet and let this boy make fun of your culture. That’s okay, the birth of a better world is not ultimately up to you, though I know, each day, there are grown men and women who tell you otherwise.
As I write this letter, I’m remembering more and more about you, making the picture I see of you clearer. I can see the cute and innocent girl I used to be and I wish that you could stay that way forever. I guess in a way you will always be you and I will always be me but I’m afraid that all the Akankshas in between will just show a progression of self-loathing and compliancy. I want to end on a good note though. I want to tell you that in grade eleven, you learn to love your culture. You embrace it for all it has to offer: Holi, Diwali, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. You start fighting back against the hatred you receive, wearing your name proudly. You forgive yourself and your parents for being Indian. You become so proud of your culture that you start modelling in Indian lenghas and saris, getting featured in magazines.
In the end, I want you to know, you’re going to do just fine, kiddo. There will be ups and downs, but the same goes for everyone. Just remember to forgive others for the mistakes they make; one believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Well, it’s time for me to let you go now but, before I do, take one thing away from this letter: your culture was never a tragedy, it’s always been your blessing and birthright.