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Friday, July 2, 2010


Last year on a bus journey I met a woman- an unkempt, illiterate villager. And I remember her for what she told me as we neared our destination: “Your hands are so beautiful. As for mine, I have to work at home.”
Those wistful words lingered in my mind. Maybe what she will never understand is that her hands-rough, callused and dirty as they were are in fact the MOST beautiful. I can’t compare my own pair to hers neither can I draw a parallel to it in the softest, fairest, most expensively manicured hands.
I look at my hands- they are diminutive, fair and smooth enough, no done up nails but clipped and clean. Occasionally, I slather on moisturizer just to maintain their decent appearance.
I have seen other girls’ hands far better looking than mine- perfect nails, perfect skin….but somehow the village woman’s hands keep flashing before my eyes.
Why do they seem to surpass the insurmountable beauty of lovely, well kept hands?
I see a connection- my bus companion’s hands were connected to her heart, in more ways than one.
And her heart was as beautiful as her hands. The combination was lethal.
I never asked her but I know what she does back at home.
Work- House chores. Farm work.
From the crack of dawn till night falls, she is engaged not in frivolous pursuits but in back-breaking labour.
The water, the wind, the earth, the rocks, the wood, the tools- everything she handles tear at the skin of her hands, dehydrates them, roughens them. Her nails fill with dirt; they chip, wear out or simply thicken with age….but her heart can’t protest against the abuse her hands undergo.
She has to survive. Her family, kith and kin have to survive.
She has to slog. She has no choice. But I daresay she never complains.
She has accepted her obscure fate, her life as it is. She knows she has to work and she does. Willingly, if not cheerfully.
She does not complain about bad hair-dos, pimples and pigmentation.
Her life is too important for such petty matters.
I look at my own hands again- are they really as beautiful as she said?
Have I ever done a good deed with my hands?
A comforting squeeze on the shoulder of a despairing friend?
A gentle, loving caress on a dear one’s face?
A light touch accompanying a wink to convey a funny message?
A slight brush on the face of a weeping child to wipe away her tears?
A gift handed without hope of returns or without a feeling of condescension?
I think.
I do remember a few such moments.
When I have dared to stretch out my hands and enhance their beauty.
But I also remember all those lost opportunities and moments when I could have listened to my heart and made my hands follow their commands.
The village woman paid me a wonderful compliment without realizing how much weight her simple but wise words carried.
Her compliment was one of the most genuine and precious compliments any one has ever given me.
I smile and tell myself I will try to make my hands live up to her words.

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