12 Aug 2014


Long thumbnails and painted toenails.

Why do some Indian men grow one of the nails on their left hand (usually the thumbnail or the smallest finger)? 

Is it to clean ears?
Open tiny screws?
Scratch unreachable parts of the back?

Recently I was reading a book called Gopallapuram. It is a Tamil book translated very beautifully to English and is the story of the first few generations of a group of people from a village in Andhra who are escaping a tyrant who has set his eyes on a beautiful girl in the village. They take flight, roam around Northern Tamil Nadu posing as pilgrims and finally clear, tame and settle down in what was then the unforgiving Kovilpatti region of Tamil Nadu. The device the author uses to tell their story is through the personal profiles and stories of the individual members of the village over a period of time. From the 17th to the early 19th century is my guess. While you are engrossed in the stories of individuals, the timeline gently snakes through like a thread through a garland and reveals itself as a knot that holds the whole thing together in the last line of the book. 

One of the many interesting characters in Gopallapuram grows a nail just like the one shown above. He uses it to tear or split leaves he collects in the forest and to break the thread that he uses to stitch them into plates. 


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