The Most Beautiful Hands
The Most Beautiful Hands
A Bhartiya folklore story from Pandemonium
Not so long ago and somewhere nearby, early one morning, three women were sitting on the river bank with their feet dipped in the flowing rivers cool and clear water.
The tiny fish in the river were eating up the dead skin within the crevices of their toes and fingers and foot soles with micro bites. This gave the maidens a gentle tickling sensation.
The sun was also not too hot and the weather was pleasant. They were admiring their own beauty in their hand mirrors while enjoying this free pedicure in the lap of nature.
All were wealthy and beautiful and wore lovely gold bangles in their hands and diamond-studded rings on their fingers. Suddenly, fascinated by the beauty of her own well-manicured and henna decorated hands, one of them remarked, " Oh how beautiful my soft and tender hands are! "
At once the other maiden responded, " Maybe they are, but definitely not as lovely as mine! "
At this, the third maiden interjected, " Oh is that so? In that case, whatever may be the ranking of your hands, undoubtedly, my hands are the best! They will win any Beauty contest hands down! "
This naturally led to a big argument and it would have escalated into a no holds barred fight when they saw an old woman trudging towards them with the help of a tree branch as a walking stick.
" Let us not quarrel," said one of the maidens. " Hey, you old hag! " She rudely called out. " Tell us whose hands are the most beautiful amongst us! "
But the old woman said instead, " I will definitely tell you. But first please give me some water to drink. I am very tired and thirsty! "
Hearing this, the three maidens at once retorted almost together ;
" What nonsense! You impudent old hag! Do you have the temerity to ask us to fetch water for you?
Are we your handmaidens to attend to your whims and demands? Don't we have better things to do than to serve an old hag food and drink and God knows what else next? Don't you see from our robes that we come from a rich family?
Let it be!
We were fools to ask this ugly old hag to judge our hands. After all, has she even looked at her own reflection in the river, let alone in a mirror which she can ill afford? How can she even comprehend what beauty is? "
With such insulting, mocking words the three maidens started giggling and laughing, feeling very proud of themselves for the manner in which they had ridiculed and humiliated the old lady and put her in her proper place!
The old woman said nothing and heaving a tired sigh just sat below a banyan tree near the river bank.
Just then, coming up the river steps they saw the village washerwoman.
She had a big bundle of washed clothes on her head and a heavy jar of water on her shoulder and another water-filled pot balanced on her waist.
Seeing the tired old woman she at once went near her and poured her water to drink from her jar. Quenching her thirst, the washerwoman then washed the old woman's face and hands and feet with the cool river water from her pot. She then took out from a small pouch tied around her waist, her morning breakfast tiffin. Though it was just a simple pickle and bhaakri (Maharashtrian thick roti made from flours such jowar or bajra) , she cajolingly offered it to the old woman who at once ate up the entire contents hungrily.
Having finished eating, the old woman took the washerwoman's hands in her own hands and looked at them lovingly. The washerwoman's hands were coarse with countless chores and washings and grindings. They were scalded and singed with daily cookings and bakings on the earthen chulha or charcoal stove. They were calloused and had hard grooves due to the many menial and tough tasks done in the course of her work. The old woman took her hands and blew gently on her open work-weary palms.
The three maidens were curiously observing this drama, when all of a sudden one of them shouted, " Oh my God! Look at her hands! "
And indeed it was a surprise for them all!
The washerwoman hitherto bare hands were full of gold and diamond dripping bangles, bracelets, and rings!
Her calloused hands had turned into the softest loveliest hands imaginable!
Suddenly before their unbelieving eyes, the old woman transformed into a river Goddess!
Affectionately she said to the washerwoman, " Your jar and pot will always be flowing with fresh water. And Your tiffin box will always be filled with the choicest food you desire! "
Then addressing the three vain women she said, " Vanity destroys the beauty in everything! External beauty maintained at the cost of depriving others, pales before natural earthly beauty, just as all perfumes pale before the fragrance of a real flower!
Now to teach you all a lesson, I will send a virus to your village so that you will be isolated and bereft of all your servants and maids! Let me see how soft and dainty your hands will be thereafter! "
Saying so, the river Goddess dissolved into the river like a shimmering melting flame!
Moral of the story :
Those hands are most beautiful which serve the needy and do good deeds. Not merely manicured and bejeweled ones. ... .।।