Appa used to visit our native village in Hassan district of Karnataka twice a year for the shraaddha (annual death ceremony) of his mother and father. Each trip (including the 2-way travel) would last around 5 days; occasionally if his brothers insisted, Appa would stay back a day or two longer. Once the 5 days were up, if Appa hadn’t returned, Amma would begin to feel a little concerned.
My sister Vijaya narrated an incident that happened during one such annual visit.
One day, late in the evening, Amma was in the kitchen. Suddenly, she ran into the hall and then out of the house. In a few minutes, she was back home and we asked why she had run out like that.
She had heard the news on the neighbor’s radio through the kitchen window. There had been a mention of some train accident in Karnataka. Since Appa hadn’t yet returned from the shraaddha visit, she anticipated the worst and rushed to the neighbor’s house to check.
She had no idea which train he was traveling by or the train number or anything – it was just a reflex action born out of panic.
After a day or two, Appa returned home safely.
A few days later, Amma joined the tailoring class being run by the Mahila Mandali in Redi. Because she had wakened to the fact that if something happened to Appa, she must have some way of supporting her family and taking care of her children!
My sisters have some faint memory of how she would leave them playing outside the house in the early evening, lock the house, and go for her tailoring class. It can't have been easy, but she went through with it anyway!
Slowly, Amma’s tailoring skills picked up. She stitched all our dresses at home, including our school uniforms, and her blouses too. Till she was 60, Amma continued to stitch her own blouses.
When we began buying clothes from outside, she would do the necessary alterations for length and put an extra stitch to reinforce the flimsy ones.
Amma used to make the special kind of patchwork quilt called Godadi using bits and pieces of colorful cloth from old clothes, held together with a backing of an old cotton sari. When her daughters became mothers, Amma welcomed her grandchildren with the tiny Godadis and langotis made out of Appa’s old panches (dhotis).
|An eye for color!|
(Picture credit for baby godadis and langotis: Komala)
After we moved from Goa to Mysore, we sold the old sewing machine in some exchange offer and bought the new Singer Fashion Maker which allowed one to do embroidery too. The company was offering a free training session for 15 days. I attended that training program because I was home (from Goa where I was studying M. Pharm).
From me, 56-year old Amma learned how to use that machine to do zigzag for sarees! Over time, she practiced her skills and as she grew in confidence, she began stitching saree falls and doing the zigzag for our neighbors. As the news spread by word of mouth, she was often flooded with work, which she handled systematically and delivered on time.
She wouldn’t charge much – just a little more than the cost of the fall. She liked to keep herself occupied and the money was a little bonus.
As my sister Vatsala points out, Amma never gave any thought to her comfort. She wouldn’t brood over how difficult something was, or whether it would be possible to do a particular task or not – all her energy was always focused on how to get it done in the best way possible.