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.