Quite often I press the past forward button, and see one beautiful demure lady, my mother, her eyes downcast, glued to the fabric stretched taut by an imported frame, weaving the silk threads with dexterity, the colours flowing into each other.
I see four young women or girls sitting at her knees, equally engrossed in the embroidery that they are learning from her. Their hair is combed neatly, with not a hair out of place, Each of us have long plaits some thick, some thin, kept in place with a smidgen of coconut oil. Little Women? Yessss! Having been fed on Louisa M. Alcott, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters, I imagine the young women in lacy crinoline dresses, with their petit point, supervised by a matron, airing their views in the confines of the walls, discussing their beaus and how they would set their cap on the handsomest of them.
I was obsessed with the crinoline dresses, Georgette Heyer and Margaret Mitchell, with the lace covering the throat, and an exquisite broach which enhanced the whole ensemble. Oh for the corsets that showed off a whittled wasp like waist. I often dreamt of getting married in a crinoline dress, white of course, and going down the altar to say my vows. Mummy would shake her head sadly and say it was my misfortune to have been born an Indian and that I would have been better off in a Brit family. I certainly didn’t get married in a white dress, but realized my dream of wearing a crinoline dress, though hired, when I directed a play at age 15 at a cousin’s wedding, scenes from King and I, and of course I was Anna, whirling to the tune of Shall We Dance, with a King who could barely suppress laughter at my enthusiasm.
I was swept off my feet by the Englishmen in the novels I read, who rode horses, and I adored the clothes they wore, their gallantry and manners. I don’t know exactly when that all changed, but I became Indian with a patriotic ferocity, hated the colonial rule and charged with an obsessive loyalty, wanted to wear handloom sarees at age 16! My peers floated along in gossamer georgette and chiffon sarees, with floral prints which looked right off an English garden!
From my mother I learnt to sew, to knit, to embroider, and later to cook, as a girl in my time had to be trained in all the home arts. I loved sitting at her old Singer sewing machine which you worked by hand, and made garments and other pretty things for the home. Amazingly all these talents receded into the back burner when I married andset up home, and looked after the family. When the children grew up I worked sometimes full time and though it was to do with mainly textiles, I trained my workers to cut, sew, embroider and print. I hadn’t taken up the brush to paint for many years now. Sadly I put away all these art related books, needles and threads, telling my self that that belonged to a bygone era.
Today as I live alone, and when loneliness washes over me in the evenings and I have little more me time..when the birds have flown, every single one of them, I have come full circle…
The crochet group started by friends drew me in and here I am learning to crochet, the one thing I never learnt from Mummy dear, and have ferreted out all my design books, my knitting needles and embroidery stuff. Inspired by the friends who have done such amazing work, I plod on trying to recapture the romance which I had lost, and it gives me great pleasure though I have miles to go to complete even a single project.
And pretty soon I will take up my brush and paints, and pour out my heart into colour to give me the solace that I need.
I have come full circle, haven’t ?