Friday, January 08, 2010


On New Year's Day little Ki received a surprise. Mom, who had always said no to heeled footwear, conceded cheerfully when Ki asked for a miniature of Mom's stilettos. So Ki, lithe in a tomboyish way, hurried her day through to late afternoon when she might try her pointy sandals in peace.

When La visited the house at four pm, to meet Mom who was known to her as Vi, she noticed this silent figure popping in and out of the room. At first La was interested in the swish of the pony tail held by a colourful band and did not register that the prancing was caused by more than just walking barefoot on toes. Several minutes later, when she called out to Ki to ask her how she was, La looked down to see what Ki had on her feet. Black, with silver straps, tiny yet pointy heels, matching quite perfectly with her black and white dress. Before La could mention the sandals Ki did. Did you see what Mom got me? Do you want water? I'll get it.

In the mid-eighties, another seven year old girl got a gift. Not on New Year's Day or any special day. But the gift made her day special. She saw it in a small store in the market. Hundred rupees. Black, with black straps and silver dust on them and tiny yet pointy heels. Please Ma, please. Which mother would have bought footwear that might hurt heels and cost hundred rupees in the eighties for a child who might lose interest in it in a matter of hours? Ma didn't but J did. He spent hundred rupees from his intern's salary and got his little cousin the stilettos. To that seven year old girl, the gift was always special, not because she liked pointy heels but because that was her first memory of wanting something beautiful.

At what point does a girl become a woman? Is there a first sign for the mind like there is for the body?

La knew something significant had happened to Ki that New Year's Day. Ki didn't. Maybe years later Ki will see a sign that will light up her past for her. Maybe not. But that there was such a moment and that there was someone who saw it. Whose gift was it?

''When I think about little girls in the moment of turning into big girls (it is no slow timid development, but something strangely sudden), I always have to imagine an ocean behind them, or a grave eternal plain, or something else you don't actually see with your eyes but can only sense, and that only in the deep and silent hours."
--Rainer Maria Rilke, Interiors, the PARIS REVIEW, issue 190

"There are no ordinary moments."
--Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior