19 August 2011

A soft finger touch about caressing

There are times when I wonder if tenderness can be measured or even described.  This morning the words of an old verse that spoke of motherhood and appreciations thereof came to me.  It spoke of the impossibility of ever completely recounting the trials and tribulations that a mother has to suffer and live through from the day she gives birth to a child.  It articulates veneration in recognition of what she gave and gives and the impossibility and expresses appreciation of the impossibility of assessing magnitude. 

Tenderness, we all know, is not the preserve of motherhood or parenthood.  Each tenderness has signature and each is experienced in particular ways by recipient; there is difference in loving and difference is receiving love.  Different people caress differently. 
The other day I saw a bowling contest between the evergreen Muttiah Muralitharan and Graeme Swann, who has inherited the ‘Top Spinner’ title after the former’s retirement.  It was to see who could first knock a 50p coin off the top of an empty glass carefully balanced on top of cricket stumps.  Knocking wickets it tough enough, but these two had to dislodge the coin without knocking the glass off the stumps.  On the fourth or fifth attempt, Murali pitched one outside the off stump, got it to turn in and shave the edge of the coin, dropping it without disturbing glass or stumps.  That’s caressing of a rare kind. 
There is certainly skill but certainty is rarely claimed.  There is luck and there’s the element of probability.  It is possible for an unknown person to turn his or her arm and get the 50p to fall on the first try, but if it was about who would make it drop 10 times first, then I would bet that both Murali and Swann would get it done and have to wait hours and hours for that random spinner to make it up to 10. 
The point is that tenderness is seldom gene-bound.  It is something we encounter and learn, something whose dimensions and degrees we hone through experience and conscious practice.  It is not something that we can avoid because we are all birthed by delicate hands and nursed and nourished with love regardless of the physical, emotional and social circumstances of those who tend to us. 
The spinner has to grip the ball hard to make to dance off the wicket.  The accomplished batsman has to use soft hands sometimes to work it through the gaps.  Life is like that.  We grip, we release; we make things turn, we caress.  It is perhaps in the thinking and not the act that softness is required.  When we get emotional, we grip too hard or let it all slip through our fingers.  When we strike the correct balance between thought and feeling, we are better able to decide how much grip is necessary and how soft the release should be. 
Life is about encounter. It is about touching.  And there are countless ways to touch, to make things drop as required but doing so without disarranging the furniture or wrecking lives.   I remember the admonishment of elders, especially my parents.  I remember them when I feign strictness with my children (they are accomplished in the matter of seeing through it all, though).  I remember the punishments meted out by teachers for acts of transgression I cannot remember.  I remember being angry and confused and being confused further at the kindness that followed not long thereafter, and most of all the realization years later that it was all softness-made. 
Caress, for decades, was a word I associated with fingertips and skin.  I felt breeze and heard soft music from beyond tree-line and the ever moving edge between today and tomorrow when I heard or thought of that word.  That word was and is synonym for love in all its forms.  

Not finger on skin,
lip on lip
and other felt things
made for quivering and sigh.
it is a heartbeat blend
the twirl of thought with thought
word on word
phrase within phrase
and a comforting
that defies distance,
outlasts togetherness.

Caress is memory of my mother from the earliest days I remember, being carried to the doctor to taking me from one teacher to another, temple to temple, book to book, place to place.  I cannot begin to describe her suffering nor ever complete her story.  Years ago, when moments of disagreement stretched to months and years of distance and distancing I wondered what happened to that much celebrated thing called kiri suwanda, the mother’s milk fragrance.  Today, it caresses nostril and heartstring, memory and tear and strangely, does not provoke regret.  That perhaps is the insurance she obtained for me, just by giving and giving. Tenderly.  That’s caressing that will and should remain mentioned-in-passing but never defined or described in full.   Touches without seeming to touch. 
[Courtesy Daily News, August 18, 2011] 


Yathra said...

Superrrrrrrrrrrb.one of the best pieces!!!!!.This is the second time you write about Kirisuwanda if i remember right,the first time it was when you wrote about "first love".
Keep on writing Malinda,you always tickle our minds and leave us sth to ponder:)