The Scarf

The winter is upon us, and all the woollens are out. Amongst these, is one precious scarf.

Before I turned into an obnoxious and stubborn teenager, we wore sweaters knitted by my eldest aunt. Knitting, and crochet were like second nature to her. I used to admire her skills. It seemed almost magical, the things she could create with wool.

So when our crafts teacher asked us to bring wool and knitting needles to school, I was excited. I envisioned myself becoming very proficient in knitting. I was already imagining showing off!

I carefully followed instructions, and ensured I did a neat job of making the loops. After a couple of classes, we were told to finish it off at home, at our own convenience.

Little did I know, that it would turn out to be quite a disaster.

Under the watchful eyes of my mother and grandmother, I continued my knitting. My grandmother demonstrated a different type of loop. And so we decided to add a little design, alternating between different types of loops.

It wasn’t long, before I forgot about the design, and then it was just a mess of randomly placed loops. It didn’t bother me, though. I was knitting for the first time.

Twenty-two loops, is what I started with, and after a few rows, it somehow became twenty-eight. That was also fine by me. I was just a child. I allowed myself to goof-up.

Then one day, my mother pointed out that I had missed a loop. Before I knew it, she removed all the loops that I had knitted with my little hands.

Although I had to start from scratch, we no longer had the problem of mismatched styles and varying number of loops. All seemed to be well again.

And then I missed another loop. The loops were removed, and like the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’, I began again. It seemed like I had entered a vicious cycle – one that continued for a long, really long time. I knitted, missed a loop, and then started all over again.

Days turned into months. I soldiered on for as long as I could. It was obvious that knitting was not something I could possibly do, and my persistence only made the wool weaker. It had been abused long enough. It was now much thinner, and was begging for mercy.

I abandoned my project, and my mother decided to finish what I had started. Needless to say, she went further than I had. But she did not complete it. She probably still hoped that I would complete it. It was shelved, and soon forgotten altogether.

* * *
Several Years Later

We relocated, and came to live next door to a joint family. Four generations shared one apartment. Biji, as they all called her, was the eldest member of the house, a great grandmother. She took a liking to us, and we took a liking for her as well. My father’s mother had passed away only a few years before we moved, and the void that was left in the house, seemed to be filled by biji. It seemed like our grandmother had come back to us.

One winter afternoon, we saw biji sitting in the sun, knitting. My mother casually mentioned my abandoned project to her. We showed it to her, and she smiled and said, ‘I’ll finish it for you’. In a couple of days, she pressed a beautiful scarf into my hands.

She looked at my mother, and said, ‘I found a little problem with the loops, so I removed the whole thing, and knitted it from scratch!!’


Free Bird

I owe inspiration for this post to Saronai.

I started this blog on the 19th of February… It happened to be the day our late grandmother (father’s mother) was born… Like all little children, I loved our grandmother. We called her Delhi pati (as opposed to my mother’s mother, whom we call Madras pati, whom, I may add, I love equally).

Pati came to live with us when we moved to Delhi, and I had the privilege of sharing a room with her. Pati had a very amazing life story. Due to the nature of our grandfather’s work, she spent a lot of time in Burma (now Myanmar). She lived through some of the most important phases of our history…

Married off at the age of 16, Pati didn’t study much… She could read and write fluently in Tamil but not much in English or Hindi… She had a special interest in politics and could recognise fragments of words from the English newspaper we subscribed to. She would point to it and ask us to explain what it was about. She would tell us stories about the War, about our Independence, about Nehru and Jinnah. I neither had an interest, nor did I understand any of it… I always thought she was being nostalgic about the past and wanted to let it out. I wish I had paid more attention, and asked more about our history. I’m sure it would have been more interesting to hear it from her perspective.

At night she used to narrate stories – some mythological, some folk and perhaps even some that she made up – to put me to sleep. She would begin the story, and before it would have reached even the middle, I would have been fast asleep… As a result, I don’t remember any of those stories…

My mother told me about Pati’s children. Her first-born died within a year, in a train. Fearing public outcry, they hid the death of the baby girl throughout the journey. Thereafter she gave birth to six children. I was told that she would have given birth to twins too… Once a thief broke into their house and threatened to kill her with a knife… Out of shock, she miscarried.

I have seen all, but one of my father’s siblings… One of my father’s brothers disappeared at a young age… He was thirty… He had gone for a picnic with his friends to a lake. She had packed a huge bag of home-made potato chips for them… But he never returned. Nor was his body ever found. Till her last breath, Pati hoped her son was safe somewhere and would return one day…

She had once suffered very serious burns and her skin had been damaged badly. She told us that the burnt area had to be grafted  with skin taken from her thighs. It would burn badly when they did that. They had no anaesthetics.

My memory of Pati is hazy now. It’s both surprising, and sad. I had always thought I would have very vivid memories of her. There is one thing that I remember very well… She always had a smile on her face. In everything that she told us, there was never any sign of bitterness or hatred… She was like a child. Her innocence still intact. Despite all that she had been through, she seemed very happy and content.

But she would often say, ‘In my next life, I will study… I will not get married… I want to be a free bird…’