Love Weaved in a Pashmina Shawl


“This is the last Pashmina shawl that I am giving to you” said my Ma, lovingly handing me a shawl whose thread she herself had spun. It was a beauty. I was suddenly choked with emotions to realize the kind of hard work that must have gone into spinning the Pashmina wool and whole of the process dedicated to it. My Ma continued, “My eyesight is failing me these days and then when your papa was there, it was a different story but now…” Yes. I could understand how much she misses my Papa when it comes to sharing such small things as making balls of Pashmina threads and all.

I remember watching them sitting near the fire during the cold weather of Shimla and doing mundane jobs related to preparation of Pashmina wool. Pashmina shawl made from the hair of the Pashmina Goat carry a long story of love and care that goes into their making. In summer, the wild Himalayan goat sheds its fleece on the high mountains. This fleece that is the Pashmina wool is covered under rough hair and this is how the raw Pashmina came to our home. It would carry the smell of the mountains and the goats as well. Sniffing our nose, we would smell trouble ahead as the arduous task of “Project Pashmina Shawl” would embark.

Even we were not spared. My Maa would give us a small portion of Pashmina wool and we were supposed to finish separating the fine Pashmina wool from the rough hair that it was covered under. It was a tedious job and we would decry our mother for being so harsh upon us. But looking back I find that this small exercise made us learn a great lesson that what we come across in life has very little substance, covered under the seemingly fogged exterior. And to separate the chaff from the grain is a sign of a cultured mind. Thanks Ma for having in grilled this great truth through such a small everyday lessons.

My Papa would get Pashmina wool from the higher reaches of Kinnour where he used to go for inspection work and during holidays both my Ma and papa would be sitting together, working over the various stages of the making of a shawl. A rare togetherness indeed.

These fine strands of Pashmina would be combed on a specially designed comb having iron bristles to straighten up all the rough edges and to give it a smooth texture. Reflecting upon it I understand that the smooth life is a result of having undergone the process of torture under the rough wheels of life and not a bed of roses that it is commonly taken as. What an analogy!


 The Wheel that Reels

Now onwards it would be my mother’s job to spin the wool and make small cones on the Spinning wheel. I remember moving the wheel of the “Charkha” and often breaking the thread that made both the wheels coordinate and would be punished for it. Once the cones would be ready, my father would make a ball of the same and now it would be ready to be given to a handloom artisan to weave a shawl; out of it. My mother would, painstakingly, select a design to be crafted on both the ends of the shawl.

And after some days, a shawl would be delivered in our home. What a pleasure it was to touch the shawl. So exquisite, soft and warm!

Taking the shawl in my hands, I could feel the same feeling that overwhelmed me as a small girl and looking deep in my mother’s eye, I could see the same love that she had for me long back.

When I wrap the shawl around me to ward off the cold, it is not just cold that it saves me from but the protective arms of my mother seem to protect me from all dangers that lurch in the unknown!

4 thoughts on “Love Weaved in a Pashmina Shawl

  1. And whenever, I take out those woollen coats during winters, I always get reminded of my grandmother, who’d religiously spin the wool through out the year. And she’d tell us, “This is for son (my father).” The following year… “This is for you”. And the next… “This is for your sister” And so on… for my bua, my mother… After 5-6 years it was my turn once again.

    But she didn’t spin it on the charkha. She spun it on the “Takoli”, a spindle, in fact. And during winters, when we’d go to our village, and it was snowing outside, forcing us indoors, she’d hand over us, as your Ma did, some wool to separate (Tumbna) each strand of hair, before it went on to the comb and then on to the ‘takoli’.

    And we’d wait then for a year or more to have her finish off the job… But before the patti went to the tailor, there was a lot of work. The sheep being stripped off her wool. This wool was then washed, dried and then separated and combed and then spun on the spindle and then made two-three ply on the charkha and then made into balls, which went to the weaver. The patti would come after months. This patti then had to be washed again to shrink it. This was done at the ‘Nallu’ – the natural spring water source in a ‘khurli’. We as children, enjoyed mostly this job as we had to rub the patti with our feet in water. This wet patti was then hung to dry up but not before a thick stick was tied at its ends so as to stretch it and so as the corners remain symmetrical.

    When this patti dried up, it went to the tailor for stictching and what pained me more, was when the tailor ruthlessly let his scissors upon the patti and throwing away bits and parts.

    As a child, I remember, my grandfather used to pick me up and take me in his coat. He’s no more, but that coat still is. I feel that warmth still… My grandmother too is no more, but her hardwork, her love, her dedication is all around. It’s just on us, how successful we and the next generation are in preserving it.

  2. SarojThakur

    As usual you have filled all the gaps that were there. It is not plain piece of wool that we cherish but the memories tagged to them.

  3. aarkay

    Very true. every warp and weft of the finished (most of it manually )woollens is full of love of those who prepare and present these.nowadays even hand knit sweaters and cardigans do not find favour with most of us, in our craze for branded readymades ( Monte Carlos etc.)No longer do we see our women folk knitting sweaters or socks. in our childhood ,every winter, a new handknit sweater and two pairs of socks were thought a necessity to cope with severe cold. Earlier it was common among women to share this work by taking upon the knitting of sleeves, pallas simultaneously to finish off the job quickly.Too many cooks never spoilt the broth then.

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