My mother has a burn mark on the back of her left hand.
There’s quite a story behind it, and the story dates back to almost three decades ago! She was a young girl then and was attending a family function. Like all the other Indian functions, there had to be a lot of cooking and frying to be done. One of her aunts was responsible for the kitchen and so she made all the preparations before doing the final frying. She decided to get ready first and then finish it. While the time that she was gone, my mother, being the lovely woman that she is, planned to surprise her aunt by frying the pooris (a typical deep-fried Indian bread) before she returns! Such a sweetheart my mom was, and is even now! To the readers who may be unaware of it, the frying starts only after the oil in the vessel is hot enough. I guess, you already get the hint! So, yes, she spilled the hot oil on her hands!! That left a mark, a burn mark, where the skin discolored slightly.
There happened another incident. This one happened almost seven to ten years ago. Again, she was in the kitchen, this time boiling milk to make those mouth-watering desserts for us! (For those who don’t know, my mom has outstanding culinary skills!) She messed up a little and spilled boiling milk over her, again at the same patch, on the same hand! Yeah! Such is life.
He who hasn’t scarred his body once, hasn’t lived enough.
So, basically, that’s how she has a burn mark on the back of her left hand. I often spot her staring at that mark for a couple of seconds. Sometimes, she would turn towards me and say, “This won’t go away now,” with a tone of disappointment. The mark disappearing now may or may not be possible; science would know that, but what disturbs me is the disappointment I hear in her voice. Why is there a need to be upset about it being there? I guess I know the answer.
She’s been made to look at it like a scar which isn’t on her skin, but probably on her life!! Every second person who sees it makes a pity face and tells her some remedy, some medicine. She’s tried a lot of suggestions. I don’t understand why. I don’t understand the reason for the oh-that’s-sad faces people make. I appreciate the fact that people show concern, but I don’t understand why scars are such an issue. The reaction people give on seeing it is the major reason for my mother believing that it is something bad; something unwanted and undesirable.
Every time she tells the story behind the mark to someone, I still listen to it in fascination wanting to become like her. I also try to surprise her sometimes by doing the chores that she is supposed to do. The mark and the story related to it thrill me. I feel like what she did was a very cool and a very sweet thing to do. I remember the mark on her hand since forever. For me, it is a part of her, a part of her beauty, and I don’t see it as anything unfortunate.To me the hands my mother thinks don’t look pretty enough, they are the most beautiful hands I know. Those hands have held me after my birth. They have caressed me. They have dressed my wounds, cleaned my mess, fed me, protected me and have been the hands I still hold for support. A burn mark has no such strength as to belittle the beauty of those hands and everything that they have done for me and my family in all these years.
I think scars are important, and they are beautiful. Every scar has a story, a memory related to it and that is exceptional. It shows that you have been through something that may be no one else has, or maybe you tried to do something daring, something that challenged you. You have lived, unlike many others who are scared to get out of their comfort zones, keeping them from any such mark. To quote a very cliched example, how about the stretch marks on a woman’s stomach post pregnancy. Those are a reminder of the beautiful phase that the mother went through and of an even more beautiful gift of a baby that she received. They shouldn’t be looked at with sympathy; instead, we should all know that those marks are lovely, for some of the most outstanding memories are associated with them.
It’s about time that we stopped defining beauty by the flawlessness of the skin. A sun-tanned skin, a burn mark, stretch marks, they are not the appropriate parameters to judge one’s beauty. Generally speaking, a society validating beauty on the basis of spotlessness of the skin doesn’t leave much scope for flaws and errors to be made. Our children will grow up learning the same and failure won’t be an option for them. They’d be scared of making mistakes because we tell them that perfection is all. Let’s make this world more conducive for failures. Let’s become more acceptable of our flaws and of others. Let’s not make it a plastic world. The beauty of the soul should always supersede in importance, the beauty of the mortal body.
Featured Image Courtesy: ‘Black and White Portraits’ by Jacqueline Kent