Ramlal Babu* was elated and I still remember his first touch. He exclaimed, “Ahh! So smooth, just as I had imagined!”
I couldn’t have been prouder! I had been through so much pain to become what I had and remembered the day I had landed up here. Stuffed into big gunny sacks, me and my brothers made through an arduous journey on the bumpy road and were unceremoniously dropped off into the big warehouse. Stacked atop one another, we cowered inside not knowing what was in store.
And then just like that it was our turn. The sack contents were emptied onto the floor and I joined a single file. Fibres were pulled, condensed together and then combed by a combing machine to smoothen it and oh god, the pain! But it was all worth it as I realized later.
Spun from dyed yarn to soft and smooth cotton fabric, my birth was a celebration of sorts. I was placed with pride in Ramlal Babu’s store, which was right behind his manufacturing unit. I waited in anticipation, peering down the road, wanting to say hello to my new owner.
Soon enough, a tailor whose shop was around the corner walked in. He was looking for some fabric for ladies he said. The salesmen unloaded an entire lot in front of him to choose from.
Suddenly, his eyes fell on me and he asked for me to be taken down. I was lowered and his eyes gleamed as he touched me. Oh, how I knew he wanted me!
After negotiating the price with Ramlal Babu, all six and a half yards of me were placed in a polythene bag and he was on his way.
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Taking me to his workshop, I was laid out flat on his worktable. And I glanced about in awe! There were fabrics everywhere, filling the racks from top to bottom. Some were white while others were colored. There were printed and soft and silky ones. And yes, some rough, coarse fabrics too. Opening a drawer, he rummaged through it to bring out an assortment of embellishments and laces in different colors. He placed them one by one on me, discarding some and replacing them with others. This continued for a while. I grew nervous with excitement and anticipation.
Finally picking me up, he trudged to the sewing machine. He added a matching thread into the bobbin and off the machine went. Whirr, Whirr….
I felt the tiny needle prick me everywhere. But there was no time to take it all in, since the pricks came from all directions, numbing me to the pain eventually. And then Snip, Snip! I heard the scissor and quivered in fear. But the scissor worked only on the thread. Oh, thank god for that!
Before I knew it, he was done and folded carefully, I was ready to be taken to my next unknown destination.
Traversing through narrow lanes, the tailor soon reached out to knock on a wooden door.
“Phoolwati, open the door. It’s me,” he called out.
A small, dark skinned woman opened the door timidly. She smiled upon seeing him and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re home! Dinner’s ready.”
“Leave everything and come here. I’ll show you something,” saying so, he hastily pulled her to the mirror in the tiny room. Pulling me out from the bag, he draped me gently on her shoulders.
Excitedly Phoolwati cried, “For me? Wow, let me see.”
She opened my folds and I gasped seeing myself in the mirror. A vibrant shade of green I was, complete with a soft, golden border sewn on all four edges. The pallu* interspersed with golden threads sparkled as she moved.
She asked, “But why? It isn’t our anniversary!”
“Ahh, but you’re giving me a very special gift,” he said, touching her protruding belly.
And then it struck me! Phoolwati was his wife and she was with child.
“Wear this saree for the godbharai*. I want everyone to look at you in awe!” he smiled as she nodded shyly.
Folded again, I lovingly occupied a place of pride in the central rack, where she cast loving glances at me every time she opened the wardrobe. I settled in peacefully knowing that she was waiting for the special occasion.
And the day finally came! There I was, adorned by her while she glowed as the women from the neighborhood came bearing gifts such as other sarees* along with coconuts and laid them into my pallu that Phoolwati held open lovingly in both hands.
At night, she told her husband that she was so glad for his thoughtful gift, that I was the softest saree she had felt in a long time. How deeply touched I was then!
Days passed by quickly and soon Ayani was born. With a cherubic face and twinkling eyes, she gurgled and cooed in her mother’s arms and was a favorite amongst the neighborhood aunties.
Time flew and I made some trips to distant cousins’ weddings with Phoolwati and little Ayani in tow, who was now a toddler. Tugging and pulling at me, she looked up with such an angelic smile that although it hurt, I melted at her sight.
Unfortunately like all good things that must come to an end, my happiness too was short lived. I still recall that evening with horror. Phoolwati was ready to leave when little Ayani insisted on having some warm milk. As Phoolwati warmed the same, Ayani playfully swung me and the edge of the pallu caught fire. Before I knew it, I felt extreme heat hit my body while Phoolwati remained oblivious to my plight and her own. Luckily, Phoolwati’s husband walked into the kitchen at that moment and quickly managed to douse the flames. How I was seared and burnt!
That night I bemoaned my fate, for I knew my life was over. I was placed on the top of the wardrobe now in a polythene bag, no longer would I occupy the place of pride in the wardrobe.
While I lay neglected, time passed by. It was fast approaching the festival of lights and Ayani was nearly three years old. The tailor came and picked me up one evening and I heard him tell Phoolwati, “I will make Ayani her Diwali outfit from this old saree. The pallu is burnt, but the fabric is soft and good for a child.”
Before I knew it, there I lay flat out on the worktable again. The scissor worked Snip, Snip but I was excited to really feel any pain.
The sewing machine went Whirr, Whirr….and the tailor worked tirelessly for hours. Finally, as he packed me up, I glanced about at the discarded pieces of fabric that were left behind. And I knew that I would never be the same again!
Ayani was thrilled and pranced about in her new outfit. Oh, how she showed me off, her new lehenga choli*! All the neighborhood children stared at me in envy, telling Ayani how lucky she was that her dad was a tailor. During Diwali as they visited family and friends, Ayani twirled around merrily in the lehenga while gorging on sweets.
Time flew and Ayani went through another growth spurt just like all children her age. I was soon relegated to the lower bottom drawer where I languished and gathered dust.
And I knew I was forgotten.
Ayani was now five and every day I heard her ask her father for a doll that she had seen in the shop nearby. And he promised to get her one soon.
But what he didn’t say to her was that times were tough. With readymade garment business picking up, ladies wanted the best but didn’t want to pay as much to tailors. He was barely managing to make ends meet is what I gathered from his discussion with Phoolwati.
And one evening, the wardrobe door opened and I was pulled out from where I lay. Phoolwati handed me over and said, “It’s of no use now. Take this.”
I knew my life was at an end. I stole a final glimpse of my house as I was carried out and was thankful for this journey. Oh, how I wished to see Ayani once, only she was away at school!
But I only found myself in the workshop again and felt the scissor go Snip and the machine Whirr. I saw buttons and beads combine with other fabrics and was curious to know what the tailor was up to.
The tailor went home that night and handed over a bag over to Ayani. Pulling me out, she squealed in delight and hugging me cried, “You made me a doll! I love you, Papa.”
And tears filled my small button eyes. I realized that I had just got a new lease of life.
Babu – A form of address for a man, especially an educated one.
Saree – A cotton or silk garment wrapped around the body, worn by Hindu women.
Pallu – The loose end of a saree.
Godbharai – Baby shower as per Hindu rituals.
Lehenga Choli – An Indian garment comprising of a long skirt and short top.
Photo By: Volha Flaxeco
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