When a child is born, there are a few Indian traditions my family follows. As a newborn, my grandparents gifted me jewelry, since it is considered customary and auspicious to give something in either gold or silver to the baby soon after they are born. After turning one and before the age of three, my brother and I were taken to shave our heads, an act known as Mundan that is believed to purify the child from the past (and the haircut which I consider my peak style). However, this tradition, like many others, is losing popularity.
Of course, traditions aren’t perfect. Whether it be because people simply forget or because they have a good reason, traditions may skip generations or be forgotten altogether. One such tradition that my parents chose not to follow relates to my naming and the belief in Janam Kundli, an astrological chart or horoscope that predicts certain characteristics, qualities, strengths and weaknesses of an individual.
Soon after a child is born, their exact time, date and location of birth are taken to a special type of astrologist, called a Jyotish. These Jyotish create birth charts, called Janam Kundlis or Kundlis for short, that show the precise location of hundreds of celestial bodies and planets in order to create an accurate picture of a person’s character. This picture consists of insights into different realms of a person’s life, relating to aspects like birth name, careers, love and health. The goal is to use these natural personality traits to guide one through life. And while many astrologers and firm followers of Kundli believe that it helps individuals comprehend and avoid certain negative events in one’s lifetime, my mom didn’t want to name me based on what Kundli said. She did not believe my — or anyone else’s — destiny was predetermined, but rather that we each have our own ability to write our own path in life, one “not written in the stars.”
Now, I’m not saying I don’t believe in destiny and horoscopes in their entirety. I just don’t believe certain aspects of my life should be dictated by them. So, listening to my mom, instead of strictly following the Kundli to create my path, I like to write my own, quite literally.
Every few years or so I sit down and write a letter to my future self. In these comical yet considerate compositions, I like to include my future goals, short-term plans and, of course, fun facts about myself (like my favorite song or movie) for my future self to enjoy. Corny, right? It sounds like something your teacher or advisor would recommend you to do back when in middle school. So, why do I do this (and why should you too)?
Well, for one, it helps you set goals. In fact, according to researchers at Oxford and Cambridge, you are more likely to accomplish a goal if you are first able to visualize it. By writing a letter, you build upon your existing momentum through the positive emotions created by the thought of your desired future. In my letter, I like to include my most dramatic dreams, but I also like to add reasonable and measurable goals. This way I can take steps to work towards your future and use this letter as a measure of my progress. But Deven, what if you don’t know what you want in the future? Well, use this letter as an opportunity to reflect upon yourself and your wants.
Still not motivated? Write a letter because it is fun. You get to be as weird and true as you want because no one else is reading it other than you. I love to include a playlist of my favorite current songs, predictions about how the upcoming 49er season will go, and whatever other random thoughts flow into my head. It’s hard to remember the past. Whether you choose to write a letter one, five, or even 10 years in the future, you will change, so this letter is a fun reminder of how you used to be and how you’ve grown.
So, instead of allowing Kundli to strictly guide my actions in life, I choose to write letters to my future self to put myself in control, a new tradition that I hope to continue every year and one that I encourage others to follow.
MiC Columnist Deven Parikh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.