The Pink Princess Gown


Many many years ago, when I was in primary school – in grade four – I was selected to play the role of the princess in the play, ‘The Frog Prince’, for our school Annual Day.

Rehearsals were on in full swing, as I memorized my lines and performed multiple times before the mirror, before my grandma and aunt, and in the kitchen, as my mom heard me and corrected my intonation and expressions, while still busy cooking with her back turned to me.

I had to carry a small golden ball for the play, the ball that would fall into the well. My dearest Uncle, my dad’s brother gave me one of his orange table tennis balls, which I then wrapped in gold craft paper.

There was only one item left, and that was my costume. I needed to wear a princess gown, with multiple layers of frills. Even before I got the costume, I imagined myself in it. But then, we ran into a problem. The rental shop did not have one that fit my size, none of the clothes’ shops in town had a suitable gown.

When my mom came from the market after doing the rounds of various shops and told me that she could not find one, I was upset and wondered what would happen.

But my mom, with a twinkle in her eye said, “I have bought the material and I will stitch you a gown for your play.”

At the time, I was happy and went back to my world, content that the gown was sorted. After all her daily chores, my mom took my measurements and proceeded to start cutting and sewing.

I remember clearly that it was late at night when she started. However, because of the heavy monsoon rain and winds, there was a power cut. I remember that my Dad lit a huge candle and sat with my mom, as I dozed off to dreamland.

The next morning, when I jumped out of bed and ran to the room with the sewing machine, the room was littered with bits of cut cloth and thread and lace. But on the handle of the cupboard, on a hanger, was the most beautiful pink princess gown ever. My mother made me try it on and made a few adjustments. I had to take it to school that day for a costume rehearsal.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

The rehearsal and the final Annual Day play went off very well. I wore that gown on and off when the desire to become a princess overtook me, which was quite often. And as with everything else, the gown slowly faded away into oblivion.

Today, when I think back to that night, I can imagine how much effort my mother would have put in, sewing without power and just by candlelight. I am sure she sewed into the wee hours of the morning. And what to say about my Dad, who was with my Mom supporting her through the night!

My Mom probably does not even remember this, but I still do. At that time, I was just thrilled that I had got the costume, but now I can only see my mother’s deep and selfless love for her child. Love you Amma and Dad. Thank you for that night and for the many millions of things you have done for me.

The Silk Skirt


The molten afternoon sun pours into the living room, playing hide and seek with the furniture and the curtains.

I narrow my eyes into a piercing look that will somehow help me thread the sewing needle that is in my hand.

On my lap is a multi-coloured silk skirt that belongs to my daughter. I am in the process of removing ‘the tuck’; meaning letting out the stitches that have been used to tuck-in excess length.

This skirt was bought four years ago. Silk skirts are usually sold as material, which we then get stitched into skirts. The material usually comes in one standard size, which can fit any age from 10 to 18 years.

And therein lies the magic. The tailor stitches the skirt, with multiple folds within, for a small girl of ten. As the little girl grows, one layer of tuck comes out each time she gains height.

And that is what I am doing this afternoon. As the sun catches the golden threads in the skirt’s border, my eyes are scrunched in concentration, a ‘stitch-picker’ and a needle-thread taking turns.

It takes a good hour to go around the whole skirt, while being careful not to damage the beautiful material.

I smile as I think about my childhood. My sisters and I had skirts that lasted us for nearly a decade. Being the ‘middle-child’, I would both receive my older sister’s skirts, as also pass on the ones I outgrew to my younger sister.

The silk skirt was the dress of choice for most festivals and important occasions at home. Our mom would braid our hair beautifully, and tuck-in a strand of fragrant jasmine flowers. We would wear glass bangles to match our skirt, a small chain around the neck and jimikkis in our ears.

During such festivals, when our grandma used to watch us, she would share memories of her own childhood and silk skirts.

Girls wore a lot more jewellery in my grandma’s time than we did as kids. When her mother braided her hair, she would weave-in strands of a very fragrant flower called the thazham poo (fragrant screwpine) that would leave the hair smeling heavenly.

I smile fondly at all these memories. I come back to the task at hand. I remove two layers of tucks, and realize how time has flown, and how soon my daughter has grown.

Lots of things are changing, but some traditions don’t change, and I hope they continue with my daughter too!

After all, these are the threads that connect us to the past and to our future, and give meaning and depth to our lives.

I thread the needle again, as I get ready for the last round.