Scars and Other Identification Markers

Growing up I had a love-hate relationship with scars. Well…Not exactly love-hate, more a covetous-content relationship. I desperately wanted a battle wound to proudly display for the world to see and yet I was intensely afraid of any permanent marks.

Now that I am older (and not too much wiser) I think I'm beginning to identify the two sources of my deep inner childhood conflict — the brother and the forms. 

My brother is one of those people who runs into life, arms perpetually wide open. If you ever have trouble recognizing reckless abandon, let me introduce you to him. By age 10 his body was covered in glorious battle wounds. The biggest attention grabber was and is the stunning crescent on the back of his head. It's the kind of story you pull out of your bag to fill awkward silences after you have run out of small talk.  While it's not my story to tell this is my version of it from the vantage point of a 6-year-old sitting in a parked car across the interstate watching the scar happen one fine Sunday evening. My brother was with my father at the only telephone booth that let us make long-distance calls. The telephone conversation must have not been much fun because my brother decided that sitting in the parked car would be more fun. This five-year-old decided to cross the interstate on his own. Twenty-three years have passed but it remains one of those scenes straight out of a movie, when everything happens in slow-motion. The first second my brother is trying to run across the road, the next the impact, and the third second I can see my brother fly at least a thousand feet. The fourth second is silence and darkness. And the fifth second remains a miracle, he called out for our mother and we knew he was alive. Amazing story or not, half a lifetime spent screaming, "careful D________" would fill even the most badass sister with a fear of scars.  

Application forms were the opposite end of the spectrum. Before biometrics existed every random from in India would ask for an identification mark. My go to – mole on left middle finger. My absolute lack of an identification mark other than the ones I was born with annoyed me.  It made me long for a scar of my own making and I would get one, but I had quite a wait.

My first signs of a scar showed up in grade school when some kid taunted that only boys could make a particular jump from a particular height. Being the second grade feminist that I was I closed my eyes and jumped. A scar appeared only to disappear all too quickly. But hope sprung again when my father decided to teach us to bikes in incredibly sloppy tea gardens. Like fathers everywhere since time immemorial he promised he wouldn't let go, the only difference was he did it on a hill. It started well enough, he was holding on tight and helping me balance and all I had to do was pedal. Then he let go. I found myself freewheeling with zero control, till I was on the ground with the pedal jammed into my ankle. But this scar wouldn't last either. If anything it would only etch in my DNA my father’s adventurous spirit.   

The scar that finally did show up came with quite a story.” I was about 15 and my father, who was a colonel was serving by fighting terrorism in Kashmir. We were with him because my mother missed him too much. So here we were, in Kashmir, driving towards a mountaintop. The person at the wheel was driving his commanding officer for the first time and wanted to get it just right, we ended up hitting a bump at the not so right speed. And I landed on the antenna of the radio set.    

Yes, my precious scar is the result of a speed bump and an antenna that missed my eye but tore my eyebrow. My fierce mother ensured that the medical assistant went nowhere near my face with his crude first aid kit. My scar stayed.  

Irony of ironies, my beautifully shaped bushy eyebrows have managed to grow perfectly around it. So I ended up with the world's most camouflaged scar. You need to look close to spot it and only one person has slowly and steadily gotten close enough.

But that's the thing about scars, the ones that stay and the ones that don't, the ones that run way deeper than skin — they are all hidden away. They maybe ones of my own making and some identification marks may always involve zero participation on my part but they are all carefully stored in camouflaged closets.

 Maybe the world would be a better place if we could all display our scars for everyone to see. Or, maybe it's enough that the one person actually sees it. Either way I'm glad for the scars and other identification marks that make me, me.

-Belinda Peter

Belinda Peter is a writer for life, which translates to "I write for a living and I actually live."