I was seven years old when I first saw an illustration of MC Escher’s Drawing Hands. It’s an image that baffles you at first, and then as you begin to piece it apart, makes a smile crack open smooth across your face. A paradoxical representation of two hands drawing each other, as if fashioning the other into existence out of nothing. I couldn’t fathom the possibility of something that starts out as a two dimensional fact and then morphs into a three dimensional fiction and then back to two and then back to three over and over in an allegorical and infinite loop. But a seven year old me couldn’t articulate this to the adults around me. So I observed hands whenever I could in hopes of someday finding the words to define what I felt, so I could extract that emotion and bottle it up, and draw little breaths from it when I needed it.

The first pair I saw were my grandfather’s. He had massive, sturdy hands that were dependable. His left index finger was double jointed. Thanks to the time he decided to break open a coconut when he was a kid. His skin hadn’t aged as it should have. I could see no evidence of the time he spent before me. The wrinkled, waxy skin with a complex web of blue veins jutting out over like a banyan tree’s prop roots was a common sight for a man his age, but not with him. No. He’d hold my little baby shoes in one palm as I slipped my feet in daintily. His huge fingers would curl around a spoon too tiny for his hands, as he fed me morsels of boiled rice and fish moele. I would play with his fingers as he held a glass of whiskey and little beads of condensation were sliding down the sides of the glass, while he carefully and patiently explained the science behind condensation to me. I’d sit in his lap and stare blankly as the pen he held went swish and swoosh across the page, while he solved the morning sudoku puzzle. I could depend on those hands for anything. Even if I would try to balance on a railing that was obviously too thin for my body, I knew. I knew that if I fell and grazed my knee, those hands would bandage me, and reconstruct me and I could tap into that reservoir whenever I needed to. I held his hand four years ago, watching the life drain out of him. While rain poured down and nourished the earth, his essence was being sapped. That irony made me snort as if to mock it. My hands were as big as his now. I stroked the almost lifeless fingers and placed my own over his wrist compulsively. I traced the entire landscape slowly with my fingers. His knuckles, the double joint, the sinews where they poked and prodded him with IV needles. Alien objects that had no business being anywhere near him. And I’d massage it gently, trying to offer comfort. As if I could return any of that strengthened care back. Maybe reverse engineer it, so he’d slowly wake. Begging him not to go. But he left anyway.

My first love had long, bony fingers. He liked to adorn them with oxidised silver jewellery like me. They had a peculiar look when they balanced a cigarette between themselves. His hands were tanned, but only up to his wrists. He loved wearing long sleeves and trusted me enough to tell me why much later. They were a soft caramel colour. The middle finger and ring finger of his left hand were perpetually wrapped in a band aid owing to his terrible knife skills. He had calluses on both palms from constant drumming practice. But they were beautiful. He’d twirl one of my curls around his right index finger and tug it softly. And then he’d let it go and be amazed at the little bounce it gave. He’d crack his knuckles with his thumbs after typing an extensive essay and with the same thumb he’d constantly rub the birthmark on my forearm. He’d place his palm flat on my forehead when he could see I was getting anxious. I kept long nails that would cut my skin and dig into my palm when I balled up my hand into a fist. I did that when I was overwhelmed. He’d sense it and slowly pick my fingers apart, and apply a steady pressure, where I broke skin just a moment ago.

We’d get our nails painted matching shades. I’d trace his collarbone with my thumb as he’d pinch the small layer of fat just above my elbows with two thin fingers and then giggle because the sensation was so novel for him. He’d place four fingers into the back pocket of my jeans and they would act as support, navigating my entire body wherever we needed to go. We made pottery too. He could create such subtle indentures, that were flawed just the right amount. Those hands taught me love. They intertwined with mine and stayed at the small of my back when they couldn’t do more.

I watched videos of Agnes Martin painting a piece based on Innocence. That was the theme. She was eighty eight years old when she painted it. Part of a larger collection titled With My Back To The World. You’d think it was a lamb or a wee little babe. But it was a grid of pale, abstract colours because she defined innocence as an abstract concept. Her hands are small. But you could see how time danced its way over them. The nails were a pale yellow. And they were swollen from salt and water retention. But they created paintings that were stunning. I saw her mix a pale shade of blue in a little bowl. Slowly with a lot of care. And then she took baby steps towards the canvas and held a ruler against it. She struggled to draw neat clean lines, because her hands couldn’t keep up with her mind. In a matter of seconds though they override her thought, and it was almost as if they were independent. Untethered to her body. She achieved a state of flow. Unanimous as they altered between shades. Her wrist guiding the brush across the length and breadth of the canvas, as effortlessly as butter melts across a heated pan.

I speak of this so fondly, as hands are often taken for granted. These have molded me and my soul. Some have given me a sense of direction, while some have knocked the wind out of my spirit. But I hope this inspires you to look at the hands in your life with more affection and gratitude.

Hello, everyone! If you liked this article, do check out the related posts. Comment and like if you would like to read more similar works from the author. And don’t forget to share this on your social media channels.

I’m Shanaya Sequeira. I’m a student from Mumbai, who has a fascination for the arts. I would like nothing more than to escape into a Kafkaesque world crafted by Soseki. I enjoy writing about poetry, sometimes philosophy and everything in between. And I can’t resist cozy cafes.

Email- shanayasequeira01@gmail.com

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/@shanayaseq

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