A lament for all things that have disappeared


Anyone for old-fashioned things like sewing?


I was amused when a young lady recently mailed us asking that we write about her sewing class. Amused because I wondered who, in this day when readymades and designer brands are all the rage, would want to sew clothes, or, for that matter, even learn crafts such as sewing or embroidery.

But I was happy that the lady who says she herself learnt the craft from her grandmother wanted to show children how much fun sewing could be. I would add, not just fun, but also teach children patience and the slowness of things.

I am constantly saddened by the many things that are disappearing in our fast-paced world. I don’t mean just languages, flora and fauna or even tribes that has the anthropologists in a tizzy. I am talking here of other things –traditions and games that made our own growing up so much richer but which are no longer considered valuable.

Listening to a story read out aloud, for instance, was one of the pleasures of childhood. I can’t remember reading the puranas, but can only recall hearing these stories that were told to us by a parent. Not only were these stories of good and evil, of rakshasas and apsaras engrained into our subliminal memory but this oral tradition was a way of bonding. Just those words, “once upon a time…” opened up a whole world in our imagination as children. This was a world whose very sound was comforting and safe.

I realize too that many games that we played as children have disappeared. Does anyone know what hopscotch or skipping rope is any more? These were not something we did as exercise but rather to have fun with other girls our age. Or playing marbles or flying kites that we girls would indulge in just so we could hang out with our brothers and their friends. Then there were rhymes like “oranges and lemons” and “ring-a-ring-a roses” for which we did a ‘husha-busha all fall down’. And which few would have heard of now.

The other thing that has disappeared is people doing things together as a family. By this I don’t mean things like going to the mall or the movies. Rather things like having a meal together when our school day would be reviewed, and father told us a thing or two about values. Values that included not wasting food on the plate or talking with your mouth full. Family time would also include sitting together for a puja especially on Diwali or Ganesh Chathurthi. More than the sacredness of it, during these times we had a crash course in mythology: of how Ganesh laughed at the moon and had to pay for it, or how Krishna with Satyabama in tow went to kill Narakasura on Diwali day.

And yes, though I did miserably in the stitching class at the convent school I went to, (and had to have a friend finish the napkin we had to embellish with cross stitch designs), I still remember the class. We all sat quietly sewing and embroidering, while the teacher read a romance novel, keeping a watchful eye over us. At the end of the class, she would summon us to her desk to display our work. Mine was so clumsy that she would scold me on the hemming I did and rip apart my embroidery!

So many more things have disappeared. Writing with a fountain pen. Writing letters and sending them by post. Learning classical music or at least a sloka.

These had a meditative quality about them that I miss in our frenzied lifestyle of multi-tasking. I, at least, will make one last effort at embroidery or at least stringing a thread through a needle.


Wow! Hyderabad Editorial, 2011


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