By Sharanya Gopinathan Feb. 08, 2017
Tamil Nadu’s nearly there chief minister has some advice for her 18-year-old self: Stick by your friends until death do you part and beware of a man named O Panneerselvam.
My dear younger Sasikala,
I know you are struggling right now. Life is tough, even when you’ve been a former Spice Girl and are successfully married to a gora footballer. You, after all, are just a chit of a girl from Mannargudi. So borrowing a leaf from Victoria Beckham, here’s some advice from your future self.
You’re merely 18 but you’re beginning to suspect that your fiancé is a bit of a clown ( you’re right, he absolutely is). But you’ll accept the prospect of housewifery because you don’t know what else to do. Plus, you’re sick of your useless brothers. It may not seem like life has much in store for you, but believe me when I tell you, it’s all going to get pretty damn crazy from here on. Mannargudi is not the most exciting hometown, but damn gurl, you gonna put it on the Indian political map with a backstory that would make the writers of Game of Thrones proud.
People will keep telling you that your lifelong obsession with celebrities is silly. Tell them all to go to hell. Keep writing those fan mails to stars who never seem to write back, keep asking for introductions to people you want to meet, keep sucking up. Follow them like a hungry cat they gradually grow attached to, and slowly, food will get thrown your way.
First, you’ll run a video shop. It will be the least glamorous thing you do with your life, but hey, every power-hungry megalomaniac has a modest beginning. You will develop a fondness for amateur videography and you will suck at it, but trust me this skill will come in handy one day. Take videos of every famous person you meet, and share the work you do with them. Convince them that you’ll make a propaganda film for them and one day you will succeed in convincing a particular woman to become your best friend. Shameless and persistent networking are highly under-rated virtues in our world today.
Much like a legendary celeb and another selfie-made woman who made a lot of money off the humble video tape, Kim Kardashian, your success story will also see you cleaning the closets of the rich and famous early on. Do it with a smile and act like you love it, even though you’ll want to rip all their Kanjeevarams to shreds. It’s a pain, but stick to the script kid, and you’ll be fine.
You’re only 18 now so you don’t yet know these two seminal truths: Boys will come and go, and a girl needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. People around you have taught you that marriages last forever, but what they actually meant was diamonds. Diamonds are forever. Boys can wait. And for you, trust me, they will. I can’t stress this enough – don’t give up your life for a man and don’t ever let go of your friends. This will become especially easy once one of your friends (I’m not telling you who just yet) will assume a position of power.
Soon, you’re going to be pestered by journalists for interviews, but you’ll be so intent on playing mysterious that you’ll decline all their offers.
Equally important: Never rat your friends out. Stick by their side ’til death do you part. Even though your bestie will let you down sometimes and you might feel like poisoning her to make her see the error of her ways. If you play your cards right, things will work themselves out. To quote from the legendary reference book Urban Dictionary, sisters before misters, amirite?
Support your family. And their families. And their friends. And their families. When you become a high roller, share with the people who stood by you. Give back to the community. At least some people will think of you with kindness – with a personality like yours, you’ll need every supporter you can get.
Soon, you’re going to be pestered by journalists for interviews, but you’ll be so intent on playing mysterious that you’ll decline all their offers. You’re going to live with a famous actor and a politician, and make a pot of money on the sly. You’ll grow accustomed to the taste of great power. Photographs of you will come to be known as iconic. Hell, you’ll even be the subject of a rapper’s diss (rap, or rhythm and poetry, is a form of expression that people with low-waist jeans and “glocks strapped on dey bizness” use to exact revenge. Everyone seems to like it these days.)
I’ll let you in on a secret now, because I think you can never be too prepared. Try not to freak out, but at some point, you will go to jail. For a lark, I’m not going to tell you if you get out or not. Enjoy the suspense but don’t give up hope. It may seem like you’ve been playing second fiddle all your life to people half as smart as you, and yes, you’re going to have to debase yourself endlessly to that end. But persistence pays, so don’t let go of the reins too early.
Anyway, as I write this, your persistence has paid off and you’re standing on the brink of real power. You are not the most popular girl, or the one everyone wanted to see, but you made it – almost there – and you don’t have much more to go. There’s only one thing left to say. Started from the bottom now we here. Stay strong and watch a few Rocky movies. Everything is going to be okay.
(P.S. Watch out for a guy named O Panneerselvam. He is not an okay-type and he’s gonna mess with all your best-laid plans.)
Sharanya Gopinathan is a Bangalore-based feminist writer with an avid interest in politics, revolution, society, and social media. She's on a mission to change the world, one Facebook post at a time.