“Caitlyn and Caleb, if I see any more of your scrunched up tissues on the floor again, you will be punished!” I heard myself bellow this morning.

Winter has bestowed snotty noses upon both my kids. And, like Hansel and Gretel, I am left to follow their trail of dirty tissues deposited randomly through our home. I wish we had some handkerchiefs, I found myself thinking…

I know that tissues are easy and hygienic, but in my mind, they are a symbol of today’s throw-away society, while handkerchiefs are a blast from our perennial past.

Gone are the days of my childhood when it was mandatory to have a ‘kerchief in your pocket. One of my earliest memories from primary school was that of my classmates with their hankies folded into a triangle and safety-pinned to their beige pinafores.

After all, since hankies didn’t tear like tissues, they could be used time and time again until threadbare. They could wipe away your sweat (and tears) after a robust game of Chor Police (Cops & Robbers). They could catch a sneeze just before it sprayed everyone around. They could bandage a bruised knee (but unfortunately, not a bruised ego!). They could be tied into a knot to keep your chutta (coins) safe for the school canteen. And best of all, they could hold a whole lot of snot!!

My mum had a whole bag of hankies – some with dainty scalloped edges, some in pretty prints and pastels and some hand-embroidered. Every morning, she would carefully select her hanky to match her outfit for work or Sunday Mass. And God forbid, I lost one of them…

Dad had his stockpile of hankies, too. Big white squares, folded and then folded again into a small white square which he ironed along with his work shirts. The monogrammed ones were saved for special occasions. Till this very day, I can count on my dad to whip out a handkerchief from his back pocket, if needed.

We Indians are so attached to our hankies, we even have a bread – the Rumali roti – named after them. Rumal means handkerchief in Hindi and these rotis are so soft and thin, you can see right through them. And just like a hanky, they are served folded.

So tell me, do you own a handkerchief? When was the last time you used one?


2 responses to “Hanky-panky

  1. I miss hankies too. My grandmother used to give me special ones for birthdays. But thinking about it now, doesn’t it mean we were carrying around pockets full of germs?


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