Back in the days of my childhood, in the late seventies/early eighties, there were no air-conditioners in any homes in Doon. No one seemed to need them, unlike today. We spent the hottest part of the day indoors (forced to take naps by my mother) sprawled on beds under whirring ceiling fans and the cooler evenings outside, playing with friends or just hanging at the local mandir (temple) or gurudwara. As a five/six year old, the charm of the mandir/gurudwara was the prasad (very, very tasty food blessed by the gods and given out to worshipers after the prayers etc. are over).
As we grew older, a chance to spot the cute boy from the other day became the reason to pay our daily visit to the temple near my parents' house. Washed and sprinkled with Johnson's baby powder, a bunch of us would gather and head out to the temple in the hours that fall between preparing chappatis and sitting down to eat dinner.
We often got told off by old grannies who'd come to the temple for the serious business of securing a place in God's good books while we stood in our group, giggling and teasing:
He's looking. No, he's not. He flunked his class. NO! Grades were important to us even when we were teenagers indulging in puppy love. You say stereotype, I say reality--at least mine, when I was growing up.
Apart from the grades, my mother was of the opinion that we (my sister and I ) should know how to cook, sew, embroider, fix a button etc.etc. She made us who we are--independent and fond of creating things.
Cross stitch was the second stitch she taught us. The first was running stitch.
One summer, Mummy brought out her sewing kit and a pale yellow fabric which had tiny holes in it. Along with it came a rainbow of anchor threads. She showed us how to take the strands out of the twisted bun, cut the right length (don't be greedy, or you'll get knots), twist the end to make a knot and then another to make sure, lick the other end with your tongue to make it easier for the thread to go through the eye of the needle. And then we got started.
We started off with cross stitching in straight lines. After a line was done, we'd go to her to show her our work. She was a perfectionist and she expected no less from us.
After a few weeks of practice, I managed to cross stitch a motif (can't remember if it was a rose or a heart). I was very proud.
Mummy looked pleased, too. Then she said, "turn it over."
"I want to see the other side. It's not just the pattern that should look good, a good embroider leaves the wrong side as tidy as the right. There should be no loose knots or lazy jumps of thread or dangling yarn."
I hated her guts then. She made us undo stitches and redo them till we got them right. I often wondered if I was adopted.
She's no more. My mother died when I was nineteen.
As I type out this post, I can almost feel her smiling from somewhere near me:
"siddha, puttha dono vadiya hone chai de ne" both sides of the embroidery should look good. Her words ring our clearly--pieces of memories embed in us and become a part of our fabric.
Her work reflected her Meraki: from her cooking to her house-keeping and even her embroidery.
I have two pieces of her embroidery with me. Why only two? Here's the story, if you have time.
This is one of them: flowers and a bird on pale grey sateen pillow case. A few years ago, I put in in a frame and hung it. I didn't realise that the afternoon sun hit the wall I'd hung the frame on. So, the fabric faded a bit. I keep the pillow case wrapped up in tissue these days. I took it out today to take these photos.
sidhha paasa. The right side
puttha paasa. The wrong side.Christmas 2013, my darling friend Danielle gave me a Xmas stocking she'd made herself. I can never put in words what Danielle's gesture means to me.
Every time I put this stocking up, all the cross stitches I made to please my mother (when she was alive) and the ones I made in her memory, come alive with the joy of a life lived with all its ups and downs.
Thank you Danielle.
You know you're blessed when you have friends like these.
Do you have a piece of cloth or embroidery that pulls at your heart strings?