During my last visit to my parent’s place, I got a beautifully grown and ripe pineapple from my dad’s organic garden. He had given me instructions on how I could replant the leaves and grow another pineapple from it. I read up further about it on the internet and set out to plant my first pineapple plant. I must admit that I enjoy my rare encounters with soil. In the process, I got bruised by the thorns on its leaves. I shouted out loud to the plant “Hey Ms., I am just trying to help you grow. I mean no harm. How can I plant you if this is how you behave? ” I finished my work and got going. Each time i saw my bruises, I ended up thinking about the pineapple encounter.
I love watching the National Geographic with my seven year old. That evening they showed a fiery fight between a porcupine and a leopard. A fully armed porcupine escapes from becoming the leopard’s lunch thanks to its sharp protective quills. Porcupines usually escape from being a prey to most of the animals in a similar fashion. Only very few animals know the knack of porcupine-eating. They target the porcupines belly which is the most vulnerable part. The 30,000 odd quills make porcupines a ” stay away from me” kind of an animal.
I looked at my bruises again and thought of the similarity between the pineapple that I had planted that morning and this porcupine. Self defense was their need. But then, how would you know if that person/animal actually meant you no harm!
I looked at myself. My life so far flashed in my mind. A girl born in a fairly conservative family and society, with a list of Do’s and Don’ts. The list kept growing bigger and bigger as I grew older. Looking back, the list was a well studied one with points to cover each and every aspect of my life. ( And this list has been passed on from one generation to another with some points getting added and deleted with every successive passing.) It covered topics like the time I had to get back home to the type of people that I could talk/not talk, befriend/not befriend, ask for directions/not ask for directions, take a lift from/not take a lift from, trust/not trust etc etc etc. It also had pointers about the roads that I could travel and not travel and the decisions I could make and not make.
With this list dangling in front of my eyes, I can now, in this context of pineapple and porcupine, see all these points as thorns/quills. Thorns with which I have driven away people, thorns which I used as direction diverters, thorns which helped me wear a mask and make myself invisible under a lot of circumstances.
Just like how a baby porcupine is born with soft quills which harden in a few days, my thorns kept hardening with time. And I became this “thorn-woman” with a nice protective shield around me.
I had told the pineapple when I was planting it ” Ms., will you ever be able to distinguish between a friend and a foe or will you keep pricking everyone? ”
I spoke to the porcupine too ” What if the other animal was just trying to alert you of a possible danger? You would hurt that animal too? ”
I told myself” Will I ever be able to pluck out all these thorns or will I pass it on to the next generation with the usual minor changes in it? ”
In spite of being aware of the fact that along with ensuring the safety of my children in this society, I am also keeping them away from a lot of genuine friendships, wonderful experiences and beautiful untouched roads, I will still do the same.
What I plan to do in order to reduce the impact of the thorns is to read out this blog to them when they are a little older. Tell them that these are just safety precautions. Tell them to develop their own instincts and senses to help them differentiate between a friend and a foe. Tell them to be open to taking new roads when they feel it is safe to do so. Tell them to take any decision after carefully studying the pros and cons.
I shall tell them to use their quills with caution.