As a child, she noticed the roughness of her mother’s hands. They were not rough with callouses or dry skin. They were in fact soft to the touch, with the thin blue veins and delicate tendons visible through her skin, which was fairer than her daughter’s. She noted the roughness in their motions, and mistook them in her youth for clumsiness. She saw how her friends’ mothers had shaped and painted nails, how they all handled the poori dough and the car door handle and their children’s cheekbones with a graceful, almost dance like quality to their hands. She wished her mother could handle everyday objects and tasks in this way, with her delicate gold bangles adding glamour to her actions instead of clanging noisily against one another as she rolled the rolling pin. Her mother cut vegetables finely on her bare finger with the sharpest Indian knife, and handled the burning pot handles without flinching. She was at odds with her admiration and her disdain of her mother’s hands.
One day, she noticed her own clumsiness when handling objects and felt an embarrassment that her hands, too, had become rough. It took even longer to realize her roughness in her relationships with others. Rather than carefully cultivating the flowers that were the people who loved her, she ended up kneading them the way her mother kneaded flour. By the time she realized this, it was too late to learn delicacy. Now her embarrassment turned into resentment. She no longer held her mother’s hand when they crossed the road.
Years later, she saw the same hands doing the same work they had always done. She saw that for all their lack of finesse, they produced the most delicious food that nourished her as she grew. For all their lack of glamour, they braided her hair every morning before school into two equal and symmetrical plaits. For all their lack of softness decades later, they rocked her newborn baby to sleep. After all these years, she finally saw her mother’s hands for what they were – life and love in flesh and bone.