Like other girls of my age, I recall that in my childhood, I never cuddled up and kootchie cooed baby dolls. I preferred to romp and jump and skip and play and climb trees. Girlie things like needle and thread were absolutely
Taboo for me!!
Hence, it came as a rude shock for a Tomboy like me, when I was informed in the 9th std SUPW class, that we would be expected to knit a sweater that year. It was compulsory, so I was left with no option but to surrender to the situation.
I dreaded Fridays, as the last 2 SUPW periods were sheer torture for me! After about 5 weeks, while most of the girls had almost mastered the art of knitting, I still fumbled with the knitting needles.
“Preeti, you hold the needles as if you were holding a pair of dandiyas!!” my teacher would muse and the girls in my class would titter.” My child, you must learn to hold them like a pen”. Little did my teacher realize that what she had suggested so very simply was like asking me to do shirsasan and padmasan at the same time! Its not that I didn’t try to hold the needles like a pen. But somehow within 15 minutes the dandiyas would spring back into action!
Come Friday and I would enviously watch the girls of my age proudly exhibit to the teacher, how their sweaters were taking beautiful shapes. I observed that most of the girls had not only come up with neat work, but had also experimented with intricate designs.
And me? I could not even give my sweater a respectable shape! Every Friday I managed to make my sweater look like the map of some Indian state or the other! Sometimes the stitches would get too tight and the sweater would look stretched and worn…sometimes the stitches would get too loose and the sweater would hang lifelessly.
One day I skipped several stitches and my teacher held up my sweater and gave me a long look of disapproval through the crater like holes I had created in the sweater. The girls in the class nudged each other and chuckled, concluding in unison, that this antique piece was only fit for the museum! I had to face it! My sweater was the laughing stock of the SUPW class!
I kept battling with the knitting needles and wool for a whole year, secretly cursing the fanatic who had introduced the so called art of knitting to the human race and disheveled their lives with knits and knots!
Soon came December, and with the date of submission just round the corner, I gave up. “I can’t do it, teacher” I vexed, “At my speed, It would be an impossible task in15 days”!! This is it, I thought. I would now be taken to task by my teacher.
To my astonishment she just smiled and reflected an incident:
“During my school days, war was declared. Leaves of a lot of Indian soldiers were called off and they were asked to report with immediate effect on the frigid Indo China border front.
We wanted to be of some help to our gallant soldiers, but we didn’t know how. Then someone brought in the information that a train carrying a lot of Indian soldiers would be stopping briefly at our station early next morning.
Our teacher came up with a brilliant idea which on the onset looked like an impossible task. But without much contemplation we supported the idea and told her that we were game for it.
Our teacher led a large group of girls to the station with knitting needles and wool in the evening itself. We knitted the whole night long on the station and in the wee hours of the day when the train stopped briefly at our station we delivered our simple knit sweaters to our valiant soldiers! I knitted many sweaters before and after that, but none of them gave me the satisfaction that this one did!”
My jaws dropped with sheer bewilderment, as my teacher gave me a tongue in cheek smile before saying” Next time you pick up your knitting needles, don’t knit because you have to submit it to me. Imagine you are knitting for someone who is freezing and fighting death out there this December. Who knows? You might just make it!
The magnanimity of my teachers words crumbled the world around me. The change in the purpose, made all the difference! Knitting the sweater became a challenge for me now. My mother found me working on the sweater during odd hours of the day and wee hours of the night and silently encouraged me in my mission.
Soon my ‘dreaded’ Friday became my ‘most sought after’ day! That Friday for the first time, I held up my sweater without any discomfiture. My sweater was certainly not a magnum opus compared to the others in the class, but it was closely knit with the simplicity of the “values’ that my teacher had strived to instill in me.
My ordinary looking sweater earned a 10/10 from my teacher much to my surprise and annoyance of the other girls in my class whose sweaters were simply exquisite. They very rightly grumbled and protested.
My teacher said calmly” Be truthful and tell me how many of you did not at any point of time during the year ask your mother, relative or some expert to knit for you? As my experience says, that such neatness and intricacy in designs cannot be managed at your age” None of the girls stepped forward! “That” concluded my teacher, as I fought a lump in my throat,” is exactly why this ordinary sweater stands out from the rest!”
My ordinary looking sweater later became my maid servant Chandrikaben’s most prized possession!!
This incident took place way back in 1985.
That day, a new “me” was born.
The day I learnt that it is not just your dreams or the size of your dreams, but the purpose behind the dream that counts.
The day I learnt that dreams cannot be realized by chickening out in adverse conditions, but by facing challenges.
The day I learnt, to believe in myself and fight my own battles.
And finally , the day I learnt that being a simple ethical human being and leaving a ‘mark’ and ‘impression’ in people‘s heart is far more rewarding than capturing an ‘impressive’ ‘mark’sheet!!!
Incidentally 1985 also happens to be the birth year of St. Kabir School. Maybe to some, this might look just like a coincidence. But for me, it is a divine association.
Today , as the Cultural Coordinator of St. Kabir school when I look into those innocent vulnerable eyes of over a thousand students while conducting the moral value assemblies, the words of my teacher echo in my heart and I feel a great sense of responsibility towards my students.
Yesterday my teacher was my inspiration…….today I stand to inspire!!!
Article contribution : MS.PREETI BHATT
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