What is the difference between dear and dearest? Are there varying degrees of love and affection? I am not sure. Children don’t notice it and don’t bother to teach them either.

In the early 90s, we had birthday parties sans mobile phone invitations. Children gather with gifts wrapped mostly in glistening gold or silver wrapper. If you had 1 or 2 rupees extra, you get to buy a ‘best wishes’ slip to paste on the cover. A square space to write down a happy message to the one celebrating his or her big day.

I was 10 years old and got invited to the most popular girl’s birthday party despite being so unpopular girl in the apartment complex. Head on, went straight into a stationary shop, got a pencil box, wrapped it well and I even bought a best wishes slip. I was way too excited because of the mere fact that ‘I am invited’. When I got home, I showed my gift to my mum and stored it safe.

On the day of the birthday party, I carefully placed the gift on the table and wrote a neat message to my friend on it. I do not remember the exact message, it was something like this, “Dearest Komal, may all your wishes come true. Love, Nameeta.” Later in the evening, dressed up in my best cloth, I was about to walk out of my apartment when my mum stopped me to say, “don’t be too late”. By noticing my incorrigible writing, she frowned and said, “dearest is for someone who is too close to you and not for someone whom you just met for 2 or 3 times.” I stood there puzzled, not understanding the rules of adulthood life. Why dear and not dearest?

Today, I understand that adding ‘EST’ to any word doesn’t actually multiply an emotion. In fact, there is no measurement to quantify emotions. Do not bother to  teach your child the differences anyway.