When Stitches Teach

I recommend stitching. Anything. A tablecloth, a handkerchief, a bedspread. Anything that suits your fancy. Even darning a sock may help, sometimes.

For me it is stitching falls on my mother’s saris.

Yes, the greatest life lessons can be learned from the humblest sources.

I know it sounds weird and trust me I did not start stitching sari falls with the motive to gain philosophical insights on life and its incomprehensibilities. The first fall I stitched was upon being coaxed by my mother. The subsequent ones were voluntarily done.

Why? Because, clichéd though it may sound, life is indeed a big tapestry in the making. If you learn the basics of stitching you’ll find it easier to comprehend all of life’s idiosyncrasies and may even find ways of salvaging crises.

Getting too theoretical for you, is it? Should I exemplify citing my instances? Very well, then.

You see, the beginnings are always important. You have to judge exactly how far inside the sari border you want to start stitching the fall, so as not to run out of the fall before the desired length or to leave it hanging. Life’s like that, isn’t it? Measuring each step you take, rethinking every decision you make. One faux pas and you end up with inadequacy or worrisome excesses.

Then there is the question of which stitch to use where. When fixing falls on saris, the custom is to use minute, almost invisible run stitches on the front face of the border and long run stitches on the back, fall side. The object is to hide the grotesquery away from public view, even though that grotesquery is instrumental in holding the sari and the fall together. Every time I do the stitches, I can’t help but grin at the irony. Our miseries and our toils and our hardships someday, or every day, get masked by our shining, polished smiles and makeup.

When in the middle of stitching, the thread ends and you haven’t tied a knot yet, the situation gets really messy. I have had several such instances when the thread tied to the needle had become so small that I could not take the needle out of the hole to undo the stitch and loosen the thread enough to secure a knot. It’s like being stuck in a limbo. You can’t move forward, you can’t move back. And God knows how many times in our lives we face that situation.

So what do I do then? Well, since you can’t undo the situation, you have to salvage it. I do that by cutting the thread, rethreading the needle and tying the loose thread end by re-stitching at that point. It leaves an ugly knob at the site, like all mistakes. But that’s the best you can do and that’s what you must do. Else, you shall have your entire work, or life, undone.

Fixing falls on saris involves frequent smoothening of the fall and sari border to remove wrinkles. Placating bosses, spouses, in-laws, neighbours; our list of people to be placated and rough edges to be smoothened seems to go on and on and on.

I could go on and on too, on all the little things about life that I learn every time I stitch a fall on one of my mother’s saris. But I am pretty sure that, by now, I have made my point and bored you sufficiently. I shall therefore put a lid on my rumblings and let you reflect, hopefully over a piece of needlework.

Why else do you think, women, in all ages (well, except ours of course) and of all stations, took to stitching? Life lessons, learnt cheap.



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  1. Manoj Bhattacharyya · · Reply

    Good reflection on life. Manoj Bhattacharyya


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