My darling boy, Today you turned one. You are officially a toddler and I realize that time is flying by with all the ferocity of a falcon. Your newborn T-rex hands are now adorably pudgy. You can grab the smallest little speck of dirt and you don't hesitate to put it in your mouth. You have almost graduated from crawling and have already taken your first few toddling steps. Soon you will be two, then three, and five and 10. And then, as naturally as an acorn growing into a tree, you'll be a teenager and an adult—a full-grown man. Much as I want to hit pause and adore your gummy-toothy smile, I am also eager to see the strong, wonderful, kind and loving human you will grow up to be. And to help you be all those things I promise that I'll help you, teach you and set you free to be you. I promise to teach you independence. You have an adorable way of looking up at your dad or me before you do anything naughty as if asking for permission. (The fact that you do it anyway, perhaps is a reflection of your free spirit). As you grow up, I want you to be empowered, strong and confident enough to take your own decisions. No sly glances of permission necessary! I promise to make you self-sufficient. You should be able to look after yourself—cook, clean, feed yourself, do your laundry and even sew on the odd button that comes off your best formal shirt the night before an important meeting. "Every woman must be a needlewoman", my grandmother told me when she taught me to sew. In the spirit of equality, I'd like to add, "Every human must be a needle-human." And so, I shall teach you to sew and even to knit and embroider if you'd like to learn. I promise to teach you the scientific method. The current climate of disbelieving empirical scientific facts and believing in fairytales scares me and I want you to not fall prey to this phenomenon. I want to teach you to question even a seemingly scientific statement and verify its veracity. I want you to debate, contest and research; to keep an open mind for new possibilities, theories and hypotheses. And to take nothing at face value. To that end, if you ask me a thousand questions about why the water is wet, or why the sky is blue or why there are 36 crore gods in the Indian pantheon, I will patiently try to answer. If I don't know the answer, I will look for it, and in doing so, I'll teach you how to research. I promise to help you develop a healthy respect for the human body—whether male, female, transgender, old, young or differently-abled. We all have wonderfully efficient bodies which are the product of years and years of evolution. Nobody is more important because of their age, skin color or gender. Neither is a woman impure: because she bleeds every month. In fact, you are a product of a woman's menstruation. We all are. I promise to never force you to eat spinach or bitter gourd or broccoli if you'd rather not. I will respect your choices as an individual, even when you're a baby barely out of your training pants. Too many parents of too many children force healthy dietary habits on their babies. That does not mean I'll let you have all the chips and cake you'd like, but if you have a particular distaste for a certain vegetable, I'll respect your taste, as I would another adult's. I promise to teach you the value of kindness, not just to our fellow human beings, but most of all towards animals, trees, birds, insects and the littlest of life forms. If you rescue a sick kitten off the street, I promise to tend to it and find it a home. If you find a caterpillar among the vegetables, I'll teach you to carefully place it on a plant and give it a new lease on life. Kindness is unfortunately underrated in today's world, but I'd like you to prove to the world that one can be kind as well as smart, strong, cool and hip. I promise to let you climb all the trees you want, dance in every rain shower, jump in the muddiest puddles, make the most spectacular mud pies, grow your own little vegetable patch, swing on the aerial roots of the banyan tree, pet every stray dog and cat, and run around as wild as Mowgli. I promise to teach you to sing with the birds, gaze at the stars, see shapes in fluffy clouds, follow the rainbow, walk to the furthest bluest mountain, and find a fairy under a mushroom. But most importantly, I promise to give you a childhood you deserve—one that is green with trees, blue with the sky, brown with mud, and pink with flowers. Love, Mama

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