She sat achéval on her father’s leg, her two doll legs swaying to the tell of the train. She was listening to him intently though the occasional vendor who walked past her often claimed greater interest. She was wrapped in a tiny jacket with a leopard-print fur lining – probably synthetic – and her colliding heels, beneath her father’s thigh, made no noise. Her father leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and she received it casually. Her two cousins came over and enthusiastically played with my little one. She enjoyed their company.
The cousins – two girls – were probably of seven and eleven full years. The younger one was adorable with a lovely mouth the size of a lipped pinhole. Her senior was caught in an age which was neither cute nor curvaceous with a mind juggling between wanting to be cute while being called “grown-up”. She would cast a glance my way and when our eyes met, she would slowly look away while correcting the lock of hair behind her ear. She’d quickly look back to check whether I noticed or not and then check a smile before crashing into her seat. The younger one, wouldn’t bother because I was way beyond her age and hence, unlikely to be fun company.
Three girls and a few women dimmed out the remaining passengers who accompanied me on my trip though the trio formed the cynosure. They held in them a vitality which every woman seems to trade for vanity. Thus, they grow older.
I watched the youngest one play with everyone and wondered whether she was aware that she held the potential for being a woman. The younger of the cousin too didn’t seem to be aware of that while she innocently tugged her knickers into convenience. Her sister, a decaying reflection of her, seemed to invite vague notions of being a woman and would probably smile at someone who called her “finely blossoming young lady” (though I doubt people speak thus) without knowing what actually made her happy and warm in her chest.
In my mental journey between the youngest one and a woman who was lowering a bag from the racks above (clumsily unmindful of her brassiere strap showing) I couldn’t help be amazed at the entirety of life contained in a single human being. The woman – now struggling to balance the bag on her finger tips as she lowers it – once sat on her father’s knee too. She had once let strange hands hold her in loving embrace. She had once looked around and thought women are so strangely shaped and she definitely wouldn’t grow into being one of them with baubles of flesh hanging from everywhere. She had once let her mother change her clothes in front of everyone while one of the older siblings teased her with “tchee tchee”. And she had cried that day, not because she was a woman but because someone teased her about something that is probably not nice. Today she has a husband and kids and I have her just for this minute as I watch her scold her husband for not distributing the weight amongst the bags (he continues to read his magazine).
Often I have held a young girl’s palms in mine and wondered the world of touch that is promised to them. Those very hands will hug her parents and hold her “bestest” friend’s hands while they skip down the school corridor; they will hold a large sandwich while they dig a bite one centimeter into the bread and groan that their mouth is full and giggle, sputtering potato crumbs everywhere and laugh at that too; they will run those hands over pink dresses and beg their parents to buy it for them; hands that will run through their hair while they change shampoos in the hope to find that right one; pulling or pressing their suddenly odd shaped chest, subject to the urge of either ending their “girly” days or postponing the “embarrassing” ones; trying on makeup, holding their hips while they twirl in front of the mirror, some going on to handling chemicals and equipment while others happier with their Mills & Boons novels and mobile phones and then their first crush and leaving that magical hand of their in his, imagining the entire world to be made of only such happy moments and then happier ones when she would hold his face as he kissed her deep enough to cause her stomach to somersault with joy, hands that would soon carry a ring and ring in responsibilities that annoy or trouble their fairytale world, hands that would direct him into her carefully, months before their first child whom she would hold to her breast and once the babe is asleep, she would slowly worm a finger into that tiny fist – yes, she is holding it tight which means my baby loves me the most. And I smile at those hands now impatiently placed on mine, occasionally withdrawn to scratch her cheeks or dig her nose, and bend down to kiss them – several decades of life cupped in my hands.
“That’s ok uncle E, what do my hands say? Mom said you can tell the future by looking at hands. Will I become an actress? A model?”
“No, dad’s not a king.”
She gives me the you-can’t-be-serious look.
“Ok, ok. So you want to be an actress?”
“Yes or a model.”
If acting out all that I saw in her hands would be her life then she surely would be, as others would be, an actress.
“Oh! Most certainly.”