There was a strange state of daze that lurked in summer in Kashmir.
Mirâ€™s mother was silent the whole day. She went out to the riverside and immersed herself in sewing. A prayer sulked inside her.
Mir was fighting a gun battle with the forces.
In the evening his bloodstained body was brought to the village.
A crowd of the future gathered.
She stopped sewing, picked a shining green stone from the river and went back home.
She covered the stone with wool and held it in her hand firmly.
A sea of cry aroused in the valley.
Each day was a new struggle for survival.
She had to work hard to earn her livelihood by selling woollen crafts at city markets.
Singing was her passion. As a keti (baby girl), she used to sing many songs.
However, she could not enjoy this later as singing in public was forbidden for a tarooni (married woman) as per their community tradition.
But Kamla had found an escape. Every evening, amongst the enticing beauty of these snow-clad mountains, she would hum her favourite songs while weaving.
Those few moments of eternal peace were her only stimulant to face the next day..
Decades ago we both had dreams; you wanted to reach the cliff of the mountain and I wanted to learn to knit a sweater from you. Sitting at the same place where we both discussed our dreams, I am knitting a sweater for our grandson who will turn one in a few days. Though the avalanche took you away from me, I donâ€™t feel single because I am in a relationship with your memories. Thanks for making my dream come true and for the shoes which you gifted which makes me feel that you are still walking with me..
She sits there every day with her knitting. Waiting.
For the children who were playing there just a few days back.
Just the day before the shooting.
They all ran away... (didn't they?) Even her own two...
They must still be scared and hiding.
So she waits for them to see her and come to her.
"It's been two years," says her husband.
"It was just yesterday," she laughs. "They'll come when they see me.".
â€œPoor Kinkri,â€ the village murmured behind her back. She scuffed her way amongst them holding her green bag close. Buoyant steps one after the other. She reached her spot... her mind was chaoticâ€¦ she had this secret to keep... from Somnath, from everyoneâ€¦
Her prayers answered... she would no longer be called childless, barrenâ€¦ a life sprouted within herâ€¦ Somnath doesnâ€™t know of the heavenly creature who comes to her on long lonely nights... Gandharva they call himâ€¦ to me, he is nameless, facelessâ€¦ I hear them saying I am senile... I have been coming here for years, knitting a blue sweater, a sweater that doesnâ€™t finish..
They think I am too old to be of any use. Iâ€™m slow. I have lost count of the number of years I have put these hands to work. Can it really be that they are of no use anymore?
They tell me to rest. I havenâ€™t known rest my whole life; what do I want of it now? I WILL find something to do, something useful.
Oh look â€“ such a pretty cloud. And the sky such a brilliant blue. This grass is so softâ€¦ maybe I will lie back and watch the clouds. Just for a little while.
â€œYou really have to come in now, Ma; itâ€™s getting chilly and dark.â€
â€œLet me finish off a bit more while thereâ€™s still light.â€
â€œThe fire is going. You shouldnâ€™t strain yourself and get cold. Let me heat some water for you. Come in now.â€
â€œIn a bit.... I wish we could leave these mountains, but where would we go, where else do we know to live, what would we do? Let me finish off. The babies should not get cold and sick again day after day. No one to worry but us.â€.
She heard no music. She heard no screams. The roaring cataract meant nothing to her. The raging wind said nothing to her...
Not of blood rivers
Not of falling bodies
Not of festering wounds
Not of clothes ripped off
Not of hearts plucked out
Not of tears wrung dry
Not of souls cracked and broken
Not of voices that died long before they were born...
In the shadow of the mighty mountains, in the burning chill, she sat doing what she had to - for, she was a mother and she was knitting dreams..
As she sat there, she stitched another sweater thinking of him.
He was posted in Kargil. He battled cold and high altitude sickness.
She was very proud of him when he wrote to tell her the news: "Gurkha battalion mein posting hui hai Kargil mein."
The news of war had made her anxious. She remembered him saying something about Tiger Hill. And the news came through a call. "Sewang was a brave soldier maa ji."
He had worn the sweater his mother had woven. He was shot in the gut.
"Maa": his last words..
Against the backdrop of the Himalayan foothills beneath the heavenly blue sky, she sits knitting spreading the colourful balls of yarn above the soft velvety green grass. End of summer with the beginning of autumn brings a smile on her face.
She knitted through the seasons, picking up colours from nature to weave imaginations into the woollen scarf to sing along. Singing loud to her memories and humming to the tune of the chirping cuckoos. The puzzling patterns, she made mistakes at the beginning, but nothing could stop her. She wove it again interweaving wings into her dreams.
"You like this place? All this snow?"
She didn't even look up at me as she continued to knit away, each crease on her parchment like skin a reminder of the gone years.
A small smirk played around her lips as she said, "Snow makes me knit. Knitting gives money. Money is...".
Now where should I find all the idiotic Gurezi (sheep). And why should I? For whom? For that soulless witch? Maybe she is the reason.
I am sure of it.
My boy. My lovely looking handsome son. The day he brought her, one could tell from her face. She would be one useless daughter-in-law.
And may the monsters eat the flesh of those policemen. Animals all of them. How can my innocent boy be a terrorist? I could not even take care of him. Twenty two only he was when he came back from Sirnagar (Srinagar).
She: He barely stayed and was called back mid vacations.
She: I wonâ€™t let him this time until I finish this inner. I'm sure you must be cruel up north uh? See I get the chills by merely your gust.
She: I can smell him coming. This is the best thing you ever do; tell me how long did you brush past him?
She: Tell me when can I have him in my arms?
She: Why don't you speak up?
He: O great mother, pardon my tongue, hold your breath... a while ago I brushed past his coffin..
After years, she held the knitting needle. This time, she was knitting for the baby, who was due to arrive. She would be granny. She was ecstatic about it, gradually giving shape to her knitting skills in afternoons.
â€œMamma, I lost my baby. I slipped and the baby is gone,â€ her daughter informed her over phone.
All her dreams shattered, but still she continued her knitting.
â€œFor whom you are knitting? We have lost our baby!â€ her man said.
I will gift this to an orphan, in memory of my grandchild..
Kumar saw the police and ran to hide in the hut. The woman in the house was stunned to see him .â€˜Quick. Help me hide,â€˜ he said. The woman was nonplussed.
â€˜I have not done anything wrong. Help me,â€™ he said again. She decided to trust him. In the hut, there was no place to hide. She rummaged through a box and gave him a set of womanâ€™s clothes. He put it on quickly and tied the head scarf. He went outside the hut and sat on the grass. When the police came, his boots gave him away.
People have asked me if I think I was unfortunate to be born into a life of hardship and struggle.
I always gave them the same answer.
I have no regrets.
I know that not everyone is blessed with an easy life. People would never appreciate life as such, if so.
Here in Himachal the women weave shawls and sell it to the traders to support their families.
But that's not why I do it... I do it because my mother wove clothes for me, with loveâ€¦ and I do it for my son. It gives me a purpose...
I have made it so far. My husband has been kind to me, my children hold respectable jobs in the city. I am happy. She smiled..
"No you are not," a cold voice spoke to her from within. "Remember, I will never let you be happy. Not after what you did; to the child you allowed to be killed in your belly just because she was a girl."
The smile disappeared as it came to her and she waited. She waited for death, just as she had been waiting ever since she gave up on her daughter.
For Usha Devi, knitting was more than a recreation. For the past thirty years, each morning, with lips full of prayers, her hands swayed like an artist â€“ that effortless motion guided by her heart's pure intuitions.
Knitting was perhaps the purpose of her life.
One of these mornings, with a disdainful look, she denied permission to her son to visit the annual Kullu Dusshera Mela.
"Nine killed as a bus to Kullu Mela plunges into a valley." The news reader screamed.
With lips brimming with prayers that curved into a wry smile, her fingers resumed the ritualistic passion.
"Run to the beach!"
"Let's walk till somewhere and return."
â€œNo time and lot to do bro."
"I think Payal, we should just leave behind our husband and kids, settle down in the mountains, be happy. Someday!"
"Let's run to the beach for now."
"In case you die, leave behind all your property for me. Iâ€™ll have your part of fun too bro. "
"Oh so that's just you all by yourself, after I'm dead."
"Who am I knitting that sweater for if I have left behind my family?"
"I'll tell Aunt youâ€™re using foul words.".
"A pair of sweaters for my twin toddlers please."
"Try these, Lady of de Mountain sweaters sir. They are hand made and the best in market."
"The stitch pattern.... looks vaguely familiar."
"Yes sir! It is a trademark stitch. Not found in any other brand, anywhere else in the world."
"Ma'am, we have catered to two hundred and fifty thousand toddlers this quarter."
"Thank you", she said as she went back to her ritual, at the place that gave her peace. As she began knitting, she hoped, maybe somewhere, her grandkids were feeling cosy and warm. .