Gone are the days when you would find a scented handkerchief in a lady's purse. Hankies have been replaced by the more clinical and unromantic tissues.This has robbed wannabe Romeos of at least one opening line: "Shayad aapka rumaal gir gaya hai" (I think you have dropped your hankie).
My earliest memory of nursery class is a picture of all students dressed up in uniforms, a hankie attached neatly to their shirts.Very handy and accessible! By the end of the day, we wouldn't present such a nice picture, what with ruffled hair, dirty dresses and missing hankies.There was a lost and found department that never ran out of lunch boxes, hankies, ribbons et al.
When we grew up and started learning embroidery at school, a handkerchief was the best canvas to display our new-found skills upon. Given its size, motif on a hankie was easy to complete and was an excellent testimony to our expertise. Our art would travel places with the owner and be appreciated. I gifted a couple of hand-embroidered hankies to my Mom on her birthday and she absolutely cherished them. When she lost one, the pains she took to trace it back!
In those days, when my elder cousin sisters approached their twenties, they could be seen making sets of crocheted, embroidered and laced hankies.This was a subtle hint that they were getting their trousseaus ready. A set of six of each kind was mandatory. Everybody would admire these pieces of art and the skills of the girl would be appreciated.
I am nostalgic at the disappearance of this dainty accessory from the wardrobes of most modern girls. The world has warmly embraced the convenience of tissues. The hygiene and disposability of a tissue wins hands down over a handkerchief, which is after all, nothing but a glorified piece of cloth. My friends in the western world haven't seen a hankie in ages and the new generation isn't even aware of the concept. But think of all the trees we could save if we stopped cutting them down to manufacture tissues! I know my plea falls on deaf ears, but ladies, if not for anything else, revert to hankies to bring back old-fashioned romance and give Romeos a fair chance.
PS: A slightly different version of this piece was published in The Times of India in 2009.