People write letters to one another out of love and in confidence. But what if letters are written out of complaints in the age and rage of growing up? This is the foundation of the ‘Dear Mama’ letters.  Based on the timeless format of letter writing, these pieces are a young girl writing letters to her not-so-beloved mother in an effort to make peace with life and herself. These heart-wrenching letters are written out of love, written out of despair, and written in the loneliest of nooks for all that needs repair. By bequeathing these letters to them, I wish my readers an immersive, epistolary journey into girlhood and beyond.

-Heena Khan
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

(Date stamp: Sometime after I am born)

Dear Mama,

I have woken up to life, Mama. I am now a person, limb, and muscles. I am not sure how it feels, but I see the world in passing colors through my eyes: green trees, their brown barks, a bird chirping on its branches, some swaying wind, and a gust of wonder under full moon. My inception of infancy begins with a school, Mama. It is the tiniest I remember myself to be. I am holding your hands outside of a crumbling structure, blocks of bricks dotted along the length of sand and soil, under a hot, mercurial sun. There is a line of sweat on my brow, and a line of sweat on yours too.

There are girls wearing navy blue pleated skirts and white shirt emblazoned with the school logo: a proud silver eagle ready to take off to the vast blue sky amid strips of victory ribbons, and boys kicking the sand in their navy-blue pleated pants and white shirts emblazoned with the school logo: a proud silver eagle ready to take off to the vast blue sky amid strips of victory ribbons. The afternoon sand is alive in excited yelps, and barks of joy. There are islands of swings amid sand: see saw and climbing rope and saucer swings and spiral slides, populated by playful, jumping dots of navy blue and white. 

This is my Neverland, Mama. A school landlocked on all sides to make sure that any kid that gets in never grows up. I am to never grow up. 

We stand outside a brick structure, not too big, not too wide. Inside a group of teachers sitting in the shadowed staffroom of long desks and tiny chairs are like a cackle of geese to my ear. There is one dark-skinned woman wearing red-colored sari, munching something underneath her teeth, with a big red dot hanging on her brow, eyeing me closely between her noses. You are full of gestures as you fill away that particular Geese on my situation: “No school is ready to take her. Her scores are very low.” I am vaguely paying attention to your words, disinterested in my own plight even as my nose is carried away by the smell of food circulating in the room — a mash up of salted potatoes and flour. “Ahoy, why will no school take her. Any school will take someone as pretty as her,” she replies. I blink back a toothless smile at her to which you are quick to admonish. “She is only trying to make you feel good.”

I blink back at you ingeniously and understand at once. 

Your understanding Little Girl.

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