Untangling Threads and the Riddles of Life on the Tin Roofs of Simla
During long winters in Simla, sitting in the Sun, and basking in the warmth of the Sun, was the most sought after goal of all the women of the neighbourhood. There used to be empty gunny bags, called bori, which we, the kids, would carry to the Tin Roof to get the best spot in the Sun. But when the elders came, we politely would offer those prized spots to them. These gunny bags were super special..I am really missing them today…they would surely have adorned one of the walls of my home, had I just a single little piece of those “boris“ with me. Amma, like all other women of the neighbourhood, would apply multicolooured cloth piping to these gunny bags to adorn them with little titbits of colorful cloth pieces. Sometimes these would be embroidered with the leftover woolen threads which would be in abundance with all the households as knitting was such a popular pastime at that time. When I read about the knitting groups, in some of the corporates, where the Software professionals could sit together taking a break from the tiring mental work and give some respite to their monotonous life by indulging in knitting for a while, I get answer why the women of my Amma’s time didn’t have to walk to a shrink to talk about many banal things. Women in my neighbourhood had their own way of destressing their life. We never heard the word stressed or burned out during our childhood or even till very late age…the word was not there and neither were these distressing problems.
So, once the gang of women would come to the Tin roof, along with tangled wool, pashmina balls, knitting needles, and the sundry…I would make room for myself adjacent to them. It meant greater responsibility on my frail structure…as I would be asked to run home to bring this or that from the home. But the little pleasures of life don’t come free to you. I would sit close by to listen to all that they would talk about…eavesdropping; you might say..but that was my way of being entertained. As it was here that all these women, Amma included, would have a different persona than what they seemed to have at home. Suddenly their faces would glow with the softness which had nothing to do with the golden hues of the Sun, it was a radiance coming from the within. It was at this time that they came alive, as alive as they could be, Sometimes they would start singing a folk song…or even a song from the recent film. Someone more adventurous among them, would fishout the small booklet of a filmi songs which she might have surreptitiously bought from the lower bazaar from a shop which sold the “Shukrawar Vrat katha” along with the filmi songs booklet for 25 paisa perhaps. And what an animated meeting it would be. I would sit closeby, nonchalantly, without showing any expression on my face lest I may not be shooed away from the group activity and would drown myself in the life of Amma and the party, so different, yet so alive!!!
Someone from the group would handover to me a big portion of tangled wool or silk embroidery thread for me to set them in a ball as I had very thin and nimble fingers. I would sit close by untangling the knots of the silken threads, which would be later used in embroidering a bedsheet for someone’s dowry, and learn the lessons of untangling the pressures of life by being “what you are” and getting away from “what you seem to be”!!!