FOUNDERS LETTER

For as long as I can remember, memories have enchanted me. At the risk of sounding silly, I must admit that seeing familiar things often prompts montages of memories associated with them. Great for entertainment and exams, yes. Not so great for getting over losing someone. Trust me.

My fascination with memories gave way to dreams of building a giant collection of memories one day. I suppose today is that one day.

Instead of writing an actual letter about creating Lum, I thought it more fitting to share four memories that were most significant in my decision to take the plunge.

I sat on my bed and pulled the covers over my head, so nobody could see what I was doing. I fumbled around for my flashlight and for the scrapbook of letters my mother had made for me. It was past curfew in boarding school; which meant lights out, doors locked, and everyone asleep in bed. My matron had seen me crying when she came to turn off the lights. I had been missing home. She ordered me to stop, yelled at me, called me a weak nuisance, turned off the lights, and left. I was about twelve years old, and had been away from home for about two weeks then. My roommates sat on a bed across from me, all whispering about something that had happened before I joined the school. When I had asked them what they were talking about, they ignored me and continued whispering. I was the ugly nerdy new girl, and they made it clear that they had better things to do than talk to me. I looked down at the tear-stained scrapbook and ran my fingers over a photograph of my family. Without cell phones or computers or any way to reach home and stuck in a foreign place where nobody wanted to talk to me, my scrapbook was all I had. And even though I had it memorized, just seeing my family's handwriting made each never-ending second seem just a little bit better.

Flashlight September, 2009

I looked at a picture of my older brother. In the few months leading up to that night, I had been writing a book about terminally ill children below the poverty line in India. All the proceeds from the book were to go towards the treatment of these children. To make the book as authentic as possible, I had spent a lot of time with the children. Unfortunately, a lot of them passed away before the book saw the light of day. In that moment, all the money the book was going to make had seemed worthless to me, because I had actually grown to care for the children. In front of me were a few jars I had made for each of the children's families. Each jar was filled with little things like paintings the children made and with the children's secrets and memories written on post it notes or as short stories based on everything I had learnt from the time I had spent with them. I sealed Swap's jar and stuck the shipping label to ensure it would reach his family before his funeral. I remembered the last time I had seen my brother, and wished for the hundredth time that night that I could give him a hug and call him stupid again. I wished for the hundredth time that I could have gone back in time and asked him more about his life and told him that I loved him instead of squabbling about inconsequential things. And in that moment, I wished that he was smiling down on me for trying to give other families pieces of their babies to hold on to during their funerals in a way that I hadn't for ours.

[Im]Mortality July, 2015

I spent my entire third year at Princeton with two people who soon became more family than friends. While every moment with them was nothing short of magic, I specifically remember our last dinner together. Since M. and Em. were a year senior to me, they were going to be graduating at the end of the week and moving away while I would have to return to Princeton for another year. Before we left, we went to our eating club [historic dining institutions at Princeton] for a members-only dinner. We arrived there at 5:00 p.m. and sat at our favorite table, recounting all the great moments we had shared in the club and with each other. Dinner started at 5:30. It was cleared by 8:00. The music went off by 9:00. We continued to dig into our cupcakes as we tried to figure out how many times we had each fallen asleep during our wine and movie nights. By 11:00, we just sat in silence and looked at each other. While this moment was seemingly inconsequential, I also knew that once we got up from the table, I would never be able to eat with them as members again. Maybe they kept sitting because they were thinking the same. Or maybe they kept sitting because they were in food comas. Either way, we left the dinner table at 1:30 a.m. that night. And I would have still given anything to be able to freeze that dinner in time.

Transcience May, 2017

I remember sitting with my grandmother and drinking our daily 7:00 a.m. chai when she first told me that she was not as happy as she once used to be. She told me about how she yearned for the "simpler times" when she used to play tricks on her older siblings and try to sneak into her brother's car to go to the movie theatre. When I asked her if she would like to go back to her maiden home and spend time with her brother, what she said is something I can never shake off. She said that she felt like an obligation on the younger generations who lived in her home, and that the moments and some people she spoke off were so long gone that she couldn't even remember them clearly. As I worried about her memory, she looked me dead in the eye and said that it didn't matter anymore because soon she would be gone too. The thought of not having her and her daily stories of our families around, mixed with concern for her fading memory, took a lot more than morning chai to deal with.

Chai January, 2018

It was all of these moments, compounded by moments like waiting for my friends to return home from trips so I could listen to their stories and travel a thousand steps without walking one, were instrumental in my decision to create Lum.

Over the next few days, Lum is going to be collecting and launching all sorts of things; and I can't wait to share everything we have in store for you.

I would be lying if I said I knew exactly what Lum is going to turn out to be. But what I do know is what this is our attempt to make sure no little girl has to feel excluded and isolated. This is our attempt to give families something to hold on to when loved ones are so cruelly snatched away. This is our attempt to capture the moments that matter to people and share some memories with the world. This is our attempt to help people vicariously live a thousand lives. To inscribe meaning and compassion in a world of increasing purposelessness and empathy. But most of all, this is our attempt to start with forever. And I truly hope you'll join us on this journey.

Shriya Sekhsaria,

7 February 2018