Among the myriad ethnic styles of clothing and furnishings some of the most fascinating are those with mirror work. Gujarat and Rajasthan are particularly outstanding in this respect. Intricate mirror work from these states on bedspreads and garments for ladies will greet you at any haat or outlet for selling traditional hand-made linen and apparel.
The mirror is a reflection of our self. It invites us to think of who we are. Of course, this train of thought has been mined excessively by writers and poets – and psychologists. Academicians do not lag far behind. In my college days I hung around at a seminar held by the Department of Spanish titled, El Espejo y la Mirada or ‘The Mirror and the Gaze’ – a retrospective of Spanish film directors showcasing Almodóvar and his ilk.
The use of a mirror when driving or riding cannot be overstated. In those precious micro-seconds you take your eyes off the road in front of you, to gaze in the mirror for traffic behind, you flirt with death. For, given the chaotic conditions of driving today a cow may choose just that moment to cross your path, or a vehicle cut in from the byway ahead.
Recently I found myself driving to Panjim to participate in the annual poetry reading organized at Institute Menezes Braganza, on the eve of Independence Day. It was early evening on a Thursday after a late lunch at Agassaim. The traffic ahead, as I beheld the Bambolim slope, was unusually heavy, being a long weekend – and frenetic. As I was passing Mi Casa, Shiridao I heard a sickening crash and the splintering of glass followed by a thud. I was stunned. The rear view mirror on my right had been smashed by an oncoming vehicle bearing down at great speed. Shards of glass filled the car, but I was unharmed. The brown scapular of Mary, Queen of Carmel was still tied to my steering wheel. Rather than get into a hostile situation I chose to press on to Panjim where I read my poetry, though somewhat shaken.
In a four-wheeler you need to look not at one mirror but three, sometimes four. In an ever-changing, dynamic situation you need all these ‘friends’ to guide you on. Of course, like friends, they sometimes ditch you. Experienced drivers are familiar with the ‘blind spot’ which is now a general term to mean anything (usually hostile) which is very close to you but you cannot (or refuse to) see it. While driving this is an area which none of the mirrors covers and is usually present when a vehicle is overtaking on any side. With the penchant of drivers to overtake on the wrong side, i.e. on the left, it is critical to be able to, sometimes, drive safely sans mirrors.
Mirrors are part of our lives. We owe our lives to them. Vaibhav at the car service centre put it succinctly, ‘Mirror sambalyar gaddi samaita.’ [‘If you protect the mirror, you protect the car.’]
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa, on Sunday 7 September 2014; Pix of embroidered bag with mirror work, courtesy: dollsofindia(dot)com