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‘Anything Can Be’ revives the tradition of letter writing, with missives by Boman Irani, Mandira Bedi and more


The coffee table style book, an initiative by nonprofit CRY, has been put together by author Sathya Saran

A new book, Anything Can Be: Words of Wisdom & Love for our Children, goes where few venture these days: reviving the tradition of writing letters.

Within its pages are missives written by 34 contributors, many of them well-known personalities — attorney Zia Mody, sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, actors Hema Malini, Boman Irani, Sameera Reddy Varde, Diana Hayden and the like — to their children and grandchildren about their dreams for them and a blueprint for the future. Intimate family photos work as cheerful companions to each letter.

Anything Can Be is an initiative by CRY, so many of the letters have also been written by mothers of children supported by the nonprofit. Proceeds from the hardbound, coffee table style book will go to CRY’s 1,000 Day Campaign to support maternal and infant health through the critical period of conception to 24 months.

Legacies and lessons

Put together by author Sathya Saran, the letters are woven with tales of family legacies and life lessons, brimming with ideals of gender equality, tolerance and compassion.

Khan, for example, writes to his grandchildren, Abeer and Zohaan, about their long gharana tradition and how they are born into a family that “belongs to the world of sound”. He adds, “Sound and music have connected the world. I hope you continue the tradition when your time comes to do so.” Mody’s letter prods her grandchildren to “champion a specific cause as you grow up and spend time and money to make the necessary change happen”.

The book cover

Other letters speak of small and big struggles of families striving to afford a home and a decent education to ensure a better life for the next generation. Contributor Seema Ramesh Nirmal, the mother of a child supported by CRY who found it difficult to adjust to the bustle of city life when her family moved to a chawl in Mumbai from her village, shares in her letter to her children, Niraj and Dheeraj, wise words of advice. “City life is different; here one loses touch with roots with family. Distances and the demands of everyday life make every one of us isolated individuals. And I am worried it could do this to you. So my sons, remember the times and learnings you have had from your elders, your grandparents… Remember the visits to our village in Pratapgarh Zilla, and what you saw and learnt there.”

Universal theme

Though the letters have an intimate feel to them, they speak to an audience united by similar concerns for their children. Saran says it was a curious idea to curate a book full of letters at a time when “WhatsApp and abbreviations have taken over our lives”. While letters, unlike phone messages, last and can be read and reread… most people have forgotten the art of writing one, she states in her introduction to the book, adding, “Letters imply… a certain need to communicate, to reveal true feelings, and to say things that will stand the test of time and the scrutiny of others perhaps, besides the person the letter is written for.”

Mandira Bedi with her family.

The contributors, too, felt charmed by the romance of writing a letter to be part of a bigger, noble theme. “I agreed to do it in a heartbeat — it was such a novel and thoughtful idea,” says Mandira Bedi, whose letter to her son, Vir, offers him a road map, by way of gratitude and love. “Normally I am a WhatsApp, short and sweet kind of person. But this was an opportunity to express my feelings and what life has taught me in detail. It is something that will stay with my kids over time.”

For the actor Irani, who writes letters regularly, it was an unusual experience to address one to his young grandchildren, Ziaan and Sysha. “It was unusual simply because one does not normally write to grandchildren who don’t read or write. So the letter, in many ways, is going to be retrospective when they finally get to read it. It was an emotional little moment. I do write letters very often to loved ones, to my sons, to my wife, to friends, but when this came up, it made me extremely emotional. I am grateful for this opportunity [to write a letter] that my grandchildren can read some years from now,” he concludes.

Published by Penguin India, Anything Can Be: Words of Wisdom & Love for our Children is available at ₹699.

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