12 July, 2016


I remember her hands. 
Fingers, so sure in their symmetry.
I'd enviously marvel at their painful perfection.
Then glance down at my stubby fingers —
each one a rogue character
from different stories that didn't fit.
Nails bitten, skin peeled off
cuticles pulled back in a painful grimace.
But I digress.

I remember her hands,
and that afternoon in Delhi.
A sharp cut splintered our chatter!
Blood plopped, staining the
chipped marble floor,
the red oozing out
as I stood, transfixed.
"Get me the dettol!"
I, anxious to help,
soaked a wad of cotton with the brown liquid
and eagerly I wrapped it on her cut thumb.
She screamed, I held on.
Sure I was doing the Right Thing.
First Aiding my way to a Heroic Deed.
Many months later she'd show me her scarred thumb
the Dettol had burnt the skin
a shade lighter than
the rest of her fair hand
and I'd squirm
guilty I'd ruined The Perfect Hands.

I remember her hands. 
Pinching my ears
as I tearfully discovered undone homework
A green velvet fish
sequined, no less!
Those fingers snarled, pinching my ear.
I trembled under their wrath,
sticking sequin by sparkling sequin
my tears making them twinkle
in the endless night.

I remember her hands.
Turning the pages of Little Women.
I'd pretend I was Jo. Never the others.
Somedays it was My Experiments With Truth,
And as she'd read a page or two,
I'd feel drowsy,
waiting for the hands to stop
turning to another page.

I remember her hands.
whipping up biscuit cakes and crêpe suzettes,
ringlets in my hair and billowing frocks.
They conjured up exotic things those hands —
things I could barely pronounce
or understand.
But I'd dance along,
thirsty to be thrilled.

I remember her hands,
knitting needles flitting clickety click.
And as if by magic,
out came sweaters, caps, socks
made to order, "Amma, I want one with pockets"
"Amma a loose one to sleep in".
And those hands would oblige,
weaving me memories
woolly indulgences to my every demand.


I try to unsee these hands
now riddled with marks.
Veins too tired to
take in another needle.
She gasps as Sister pokes and prods
there are no places left to draw
any blood
that had once flowed so freely that
I'd drowned it in Dettol.

I try to unsee these hands
that recognise me not.
I hold them now,
willing them into remembering my face.
But they wilt long before they reach me.
They stand blotchy and bruised
ugly in their amnesia.
"Rotate the wrists,
Five times clockwise
Five times the other way."
As I instruct, they tremble
Unsure of my demands.
they collapse, lost and weary.  

Whose hands are these?
I wonder, adrift.
Silent they sit
vacant and uncertain.
Desperately, I clasp them
turn them around this way and that.
Whose hands are these?
Something shatters as I scream
Whose hands are these?
Whose hands are these?
And then, as if sensing my anguish,
she points to her thumb —
The Dettol mark
stares back — slightly paler than her blotched, bruised skin.
And for a moment,
I remember her hands.
Yes, once again, I remember her hands. 

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