My aunt and the knitting needles


For most of us who grew up in the eighties, the days in a year were of two types. School days and holidays. We had a long summer break, and a shorter winter break. School days were packed with classes, homework, and studying for tests and exams. Holidays, however, were blissful, long days; days that stretched this way and that to accommodate our lassitude, days that watched us indulgently as we discovered new books, authors, games, and movies; days that saw us squabbling with our siblings or go out exploring with friends looking for beetles, bugs and magic.

While our holidays were packed with fun activities, there were times when we would suddenly run out of things to do or books to read, or would want to completely avoid our siblings due to an ongoing cold war.

And at such times, I would always seek out my dear aunt, who was a pro at knitting, and who took in orders to hand-knit the most beautiful sweaters, baby mittens, mufflers, scarves, ponchos, shawls and caps. She had a beautiful knitting pattern book that she would pore over every afternoon.

So, at times when there seemed to be nothing to do, I would tell my aunt that I wanted to learn knitting. And with a patience that I can never ever have, she would teach me to tie the wool to the needle, and would slowly explain how to create a knit and a purl. And each time I dropped a stitch, she would patiently undo it and give it back to me.

Many glorious afternoons were spent like this. However, the moment a friend called out to me or if the cold war with my siblings had ended, I would sweetly tell my aunt that I would come back and knit later.

She would smile, and put away my needles and ask me to go out and play. And all through my childhood, I could take up knitting at will, without any pressure to knit anything useful. I made long pieces of knits and purls, that were abandoned till the next time I sought out my aunt again.

Finally, when I had just passed out of high school and had a longer break than usual, I bravely embarked on a knitting project – to knit a sweater for myself – I chose a pale peach colour and discussed a simple 5 knit 5 purl pattern of squares with my aunt.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

And I spent hours knitting; and when I reached the right length, I handed the piece over to my aunt, who then brought the front of the sweater to its right shape. Then I worked on the back of the sweater, and knitted another long piece, and again handed it over to her for completion.

And finally, my aunt got the sweater ready! I had just knitted long pieces, but my aunt told everybody proudly that her niece had knitted the whole sweater.

When I think back now, I realize how rejuvenating those times with my aunt were. She never forced me to learn knitting or master it, she never said anything when I wanted to leave halfway to play or to read. She was simply there for me, allowing me to just be.

And, even today, when I see wool or knitted wear, I feel happy; for it brings back memories of peace, love and contentment and those truly precious moments with my dearest aunt.

A pair of binoculars


It’s the weekend, and I finally decide to get down to some long overdue decluttering of a few cupboards at home. My strategy for decluttering varies greatly from that of my husband’s.

He offers to help, and I warn him that we have to work as a team. He agrees with a huge grin, for we both know where this is headed. I am an emotional declutterer, meaning I have deep attachments to old CDs, boxes, cables, stationery, clothes etc. My husband is ruthless when it comes to decluttering, and discards things without mercy. And within these two extreme boundaries, we get down to business.

I wallow in nostalgia when I see some old CDs, laptops, games consoles and books. My husband piles them in the donate or recycle pile. We then chance upon a box with old woollens. In this box is a green poncho which is over four decades old, a pair of baby-socks, a small hand knitted sweater, and other scarves and mufflers.

The green poncho, a bottle green one with a big green button, the baby socks and the sweater were all hand-knitted by my aunt, my Dad’s sister. The poncho was knitted for my sister, while the socks and tiny sweaters were gifts to my children from their great aunt.

I cannot bear to part with these treasures, for they have threads from my childhood and other family memories knitted into them. I take the box out, and look at all the items. My throat catches. Just for a bit there, I wish I could go back and watch my aunt poring over her knitting pattern book, or hold my newborn daughter cuddled up in her baby sweater, wearing the cute socks. I smile and sigh, as I clean the box and put back all the contents, and throw in a fragrance pouch!

And then we are back to the job at hand, sorting, piling and discarding. My husband takes out an old pair of binoculars, which his dad had bought for him – from the US – in the early eighties. My husband carefully takes the binoculars out, and as I watch him, he slips away for a few minutes, lost in the alleys of his childhood, remembering his dad and all the many moments with this pair of binoculars.

He wipes the case gently, and puts it back into the cupboard. The rest of the decluttering proceeds uneventfully.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Sometimes decluttering is therapeutic, not only in the way it helps reduce the clutter in our lives, but in also reminding us that there are certain objects in our lives that inexorably connect us to our pasts, and remind us of our beginnings, of unconditional love from our elders, and of being cherished and protected. A love that we feel secure in even to this day!

An Ode to My Aunt


My aunt, my Dad’s older sister, was diagnosed with polio at the age of eight. She lost strength in her legs and had to walk with special shoes. Feeling shy and awkward she dropped out of school and was home-schooled by my grandfather and her siblings.

Those were the days when India was under British rule, and World War II was brewing. An English nurse took a liking to my aunt and taught her how to knit.

After this, my aunt never looked back.  In the mornings, she would help my grandma with the household chores that she could do, without having to move around too much. In the afternoons she would knit – lovely sweaters, shawls and ponchos.

My earliest memories of my aunt are when she would narrate interesting stories to my sisters and me, to ensure that we ate our vegetables.

Every single person in our house wore only  the sweaters that were knitted by her. Both my children have worn sweaters knitted by her.

With age, she lost all strength in her legs and could move only when seated. Despite these setbacks she went on –  ever smiling, constantly learning new patterns to knit her love into.

She was our silent partner when we read late into the night without our Dad’s knowing about it. She knitted on, late into the night as we swotted for various exams. She was gung-ho about watching shows we liked on television, laughing like a young girl.

It took a lot of effort to take her out, as wheel chairs were not in vogue, nor was the hilly area where we lived suited to wheelchairs.

So with hardly any outing, this amazing woman kept herself busy and happy, ever-smiling and content. Always able to see the funny side of everything, not taking anything too seriously and living her life with quiet acceptance.

My aunt passed away two years ago and the void she has left behind can never be filled.

She accepted what life had thrown at her with grace and dignity, and made the best of what she had and lived a full life with her family, who loved her dearly.

She taught us all a profound lesson –

‘To be happy not because of something but to be happy inspite of everything.’