Written by Barkha
We recently began an initiative to bring people from all around Goa to pursue and explore the joy of stitching together called ‘Stitching in the Park’. Scheduled for Wednesday evenings at Garcia de Orta, it is aimed at creating quilts together as we share and listen to stories about stitching and sewing. It is open to people of all age groups, attracting many who have never held a needle before. In continuation to the Stitching in the Park theme, the story chosen for the Senior MOP group was also around stitching. It is a beautiful non-fiction narrative called ‘Stitching Stories-The Art of Embroidery in Gujarat’ written by Nina Sabnani and published by Tulika Books. It tells the story of Raniben and Meghiben set against the aftermath of the Gujarat Earthquake of 2001 told with illustrative motifs embroidered by the women.
I have never been comfortable with or enjoyed the idea of stitching myself. However, I have seen many people around me expressing so much through stitching. For this week, Sujata taught me button-hole stitch to use around the border of the cloth and then stitching something I want to remember or share as an image on the piece. I was very hesitant at first but I had to admit it was beginning to fascinate me. I had always been fond of colours and bright paint but I was just beginning to witness the magic of coloured threads and a needle! It required little effort and allowed one’s imagination to take off instantly as one started to sew. Unlike paint, it is possible to undo and fix a stitch gone wrong which allows a new person like me to feel less inhibited.
As we were preparing to work with the story, the world had just been shaken by the Nepal quake on 25 April. While we had been spared the actual wrath of the quake, visuals in newspaper reports, on television and the internet allowed the pain, fear and trauma to seep into our lives to some extent.
I remember speaking to my mother, who lives in Calcutta right after and realizing how close they were to the epicenter and that they had felt serious tremors in the building.
I spent over an hour the next day stitching two cloth pieces as I sat at the reception desk at library all alone allowing the stitches to calm me. Not just that, it also made me feel I could overcome a fear of things I may have been afraid of in the past. I had just discovered the power of what Raniben and Meghiben had shared in their stories and I wanted to share it with someone so I decided to take it to the children at Padri Bhaat.
As I sat with the children at Padri Bhaat after the story, we brought out the cloth pieces and needles. There were mixed reactions. Very few children had stitched before so everyone was willing to try. As the stitching started one could see how there was a calmness that had settled in. The next week I took back the pieces and the children wanted to stitch their initials on their pieces. They asked for it first thing as we were settling down. There was little verbal communication but in some way the stitching worked as therapy for everyone and allowed everyone to express without saying much. There was a sense of togetherness that emerged from stitching together, one that I hadn’t experienced when I was alone. Also, stitching one’s initials brought a sense of ownership in the children and allowed all of us to feel connected.