Friday, February 18, 2011

I Understand My Hand?

I looked at my hand. Then I looked on both sides of both hands. I somehow knew that I would not find anything new, since I had seen my hands in the past enough times to by now know them well. Yet, the thought did cross my mind, that when they say, ‘I know something so well, like the back of my hand’, then I am not sure if I can say the same thing. I mean, if someone were to show me a set of pictures of the backs of hands of several people, I do not think that I would instantly identify my hand, without using the physical hand as a cheat-sheet. After all, unless there is a distinct mark, deformity or some such outstanding characteristic, what would make the combination of five digits attached to a broad palm anything unique? Take the palms of a few lighter skinned Indian females, and my hand will undoubtedly be indistinguishable from the others.

Hands are not like faces---as my then five year old niece, while sitting in a restaurant and observing the sea of people all around, had innocently asked my mother, “Nani, how come every face has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and yet, each face is so different from the others?”. The sixty-seven year old Nani could not find anything in her sixty-seven years of living on this earth shared so closely with thousands and thousands of human beings, to give an answer that could satisfy her own self. She did somehow quell the curiosity of the kid for that moment, perhaps with some reasoning about how the features are placed, the skin and eye color, and so on. She came home impressed with the child and indeed moved by the question enough to write it down in a journal, she infrequently kept. I came across that journal entry, while browsing through mom’s things after her death last year.

Thinking about the relative sameness of the hands attached to all human beings (for instance, mine are so much comparable with Jhumpa Lahiri’s or Aishwarya Rai’s---both women of Indian descent--one a writer, the other an actress), I realise that indeed the essence of the hands is in what they do. The hands distinguish themselves by the distinct creations they enable bringing to fruition.

Of course, completely discounting the uniqueness of the fingers, will void the entire concept of finger-printing. As an ‘alien’ in the country, I know very well that a big part of my official identity here is the finger-print that I obediently give each time I enter the country. God forbid a time when the finger-print on a particular day not match the one on record. I shudder to think of the range of dismal outcomes, from hiring a fleet of fleecing lawyers to outright deportation and separation from my bona fide American citizen toddler.

And then again, even in the culture of India that I grew up in, palmistry is a common topic. Roadside palm readers with no paraphernalia and just a somber fa├žade and a magnifying glass run fairly decent businesses, making sufficient incomes to sometimes even support the family. There is amongst the lost, the despaired or the adventurous enough appetite for deciphering the code to the future, supposedly criss-crossed in their palms. I myself have had a close brush with a soothsayer, whose not so profound prophecy did come true in a very cute way, and indeed out of the blue. This girl who said she could oftentimes see something about the person’s future when looking at that person’s forehead, declared to me when I was just nineteen that I would be going to Japan. I knew no one in Japan, and had no plans to go there, or to any foreign country then. I was studying to eventually write one of the civil services exams, and become a government official or a journalist in India. Yet, approximately four years from the day of that foresight I was boarding a plane to come to the U.S. to study. The plane I took? Air-Nippon----with an only stop-over at Tokyo Narita Airport-- my first ever international landing!

I cannot say that I am a convert ever since—and that I fanatically seek the decoding of my horoscopes and palms. Yet, every now and then, for a brief moment, I am surely captured by the enigma of the unseen, the unknown and the infinite. For now though, I am so happy typing away with my own two hands and my ten fingers, this piece----my writing—my ‘footprint’ on the sands of time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Apple Story

I quite like the color green. I also consider myself a small but active worker of the green movement. For my daughter, I have categorically searched for, and bought, tops and caps and even a tutu in some shades of green. Yet, I have never delighted in buying or biting into a green apple.

When I was a more carefree shopper, even when the greener versions of Eve's tempter presented themselves in flawless and shiny turgidity, my fingers still touched and grabbed the mediocre looking red apples. However now, when I have started to stick to a regimen of strictly 'organic' apples, I really do not have much choice often times, if I am not at a specialty grocer. There is not only a dearth of the variety of apples, but there is actually a real scarcity of the units of apples too in my neighborhood store. So, I just have to buy what's available, even if there are just some green ones. And so the green ones are making their way into an unlikely address of late.

Typically, all things equal, past the distinction of green or not, I am quite color blind for apples. I do not mind any shade of red--dark like the red delicious or red with lots of yellow on it like the Fuji apples. It is the Granny Smiths that I am not at all tempted by. I think I know why. First, the green ones somehow always look like 'works-in-progress'. Afterall who ever taught a kid 'A for Apple' staring at a picture of a green thing? It is the color red that we almost always associate with the image of an apple. Actually in my experience the green apples almost always come way behind even in the sweetness of the fruit. Second, even when one begins to probe, one realises that the apple comes from family Rosaceae----ok, so whoever thought of a green rose, when imagining one?

Last but not the least, when you have been taught that 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away', you begin to associate the redness of the 'typical' apple with an ability to 'generate pure red blood' inside the human body. For the slightly medically infatuated (like me), the word 'haemoglobin' pops us in the mind with smileys and bright bulbs when consumption of apples is contemplated. You think a green apple can invoke all those feelings of holistic well-being? At least not in me.

Does the green one really differ in its nutrients when compared with the red ones--I do not know. I guess I could try to google the answer, but then, I am not sure if I want the answer yet. Somehow I do not feel bad about my discerning taste. As I said, if I have to, then I buy the green apple, but otherwise, the red ones continue to be the apple of my eye.