Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Lovers' Hands

In my second year of college we performed Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Committed Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. It is a difficult play to understand not least because it deals with the complexities of violence against women. Our professor organised several workshops for us, of which a few were with Sohini. She conducted wonderful workshops, making us raw young women consider and re-evaluate the violence we saw all around us and also helping us bond as a group. Twelve years on, something of that feeling of being in something important, together, lingers in us all.

One of the exercises she conducted was to make the performers stand in a row with their eyes closed. Different people came and put their hands on our hands or even our faces, and we had to identify who touched us. When my turn came, the hands on me were almost as familiar to me by their texture, touch and smell as my own two palms. According to the rest of the cast I dismissively called out, "Beq", practically calling out, "Next please!" after that. It gave us all a good laugh and didn't surprise Beq -- or me.

Hands have always been so important to me. As a young teen I learnt to read palms a little and sometimes I catch myself associating certain nail shapes or palm lines with oddments of that knowledge but much before that, so long ago that I'm not even sure how old I was, hands were important to me. As a thirteen year-old I dreamt of being held much more than I wanted to be kissed. I actually dreamed of it. Ever since, I've looked for hands that make me feel that way.

When I think of my first love, I can no longer remember a lot of things about us but I do remember the feel of his sturdy, capable hands. That was love and lust, longing and reassurance, fear and doubts but most of all, it was confidence. We were young and we would make it.

Beq's touch was different, but it was as dear. He has beautiful, long, thin fingers and I probably fell in love with his hands before I noticed any of the rest of him. When we broke up, much after I had fallen out of love with him, it was his hands I missed. They expressed all the things he never could bring himself to speak of, his insecurity, his ambitions, his gentleness.

My husband's hands are not beautiful but like many silent men, his hands do his apologising for him, show his caring and his tenderness. They pat babies to sleep and feed hungry little boys. They draft delicate calligraphy and drive the car deftly through city traffic. They bandage sores on the feet of rickshaw-walas, hold ill fathers and comfort despairing mothers.

When I think of any man I've been with, funnily enough, it's his hands I remember. Whether things ended well (or not), whether we were good in bed (or not), whether they knew what they meant to me (or not), our hands did a lot of the talking for us. It doesn't take a psychiatrist to work out that as a child my father's hands were a place of comfort and safety for me. Funnily enough, these days my little son's hands, skinny little things with stubbly nails that always look like they need trimming, palms no bigger than damnit, these hands make me believe in a better future. I have no idea why or how, but I look at his hands and I see hope that one day he will know how to love and succour the women in his life, and perhaps all the love his mother once received from her lovers' hands will flow from his, too.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Resonates, like all your posts.

Anonymous said...

I remember eyes. That is always what I fall for, and what I remember. Beautiful post.

Priyanka S said...


Beautiful post, indeed...and as a palm-reader enthusiast (if that's the apt word), I too unconsciously find myself producing personality snapshots on encountering people and glimpsing their palms - headline long and wavy, dreamer..oh, what a remarkable fate-line...sometimes, it's almost an automatic response in my head on seeing the palms:)

dipali said...

So beautiful, this post! It evoked memories of my little paw nestled in my father's large hand, tailing him on his errands:)
Holding hands. Infant hands. A beloved's hands.....

Memorable post, Sue!

meghna n said...

this is a gorgeous post sunny

S S said...

I'm glad to stumble across this Sue. I know just what you mean. . . :)

Sue said...

Anon -- :)

Anon 2 -- Oh yes, eyes are important too.

Priyanka -- I do it too!

Dipali, Meghna -- Thank you!

S S -- I'm glad you do. :)