The little finger is called Anamika thanks to the unfazed genius of the Sanskrit poet. He allegedly ran out of epithets while naming the fingers on his palm. That’s how the little digit came to be known as Anamika or Miss Anonymous: she who turns shadowy obscurity of namelessness into an advantage of a brightsounding brand. She had the option of cowering under the dominance of the rest of the fingers, not to forget the thumb that brooks no opposition.
The upraised thumb, which is often used as a mocking gesture (thenga) or as a symbol of power in Indian dance, is what bestows its unique versatility on the human hand. The fully opposable thumb thus transformed what was otherwise a mere organ into a tool, says Raymond Tallis in his meditative history, The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being. In turn, the ‘toolness’ of the hand altered our relations to our own bodies and ultimately to our environment, the British poetphilosopher adds, echoing a long line of thinkers ranging from Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Kant and Heidegger.
The Mahabharata highlights the importance of the thumb with the tragic myth of Ekalavya, where a tribal prince is tricked into lopping of his thumb as a grisly ‘capitation fee’. But a modern revisiting of the story depicts the Kirata hunter as an evolved being. He looks upon the loss of his thumb not as a victory of crafty caste politics but as the dispossession of the ego. In contrast, the futility of war dawns upon Prince Arjuna only at the end of his life, when he casts of his bow, like his tribal opponent had, as a boy.
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