Yesterday in one of my rare fits of cleanliness, I cast around for a rag to wipe my table and mirror clean. The only one I could find was an old, ripped pillowcase. The pillowcase happened to be one I'd embroidered about 8 years ago, as an anniversary present to my parents. Looking at the faded cloth and trailing stitches brought a whole wave of memories.
Very few of you know that I once did a great deal of embroidery. It was in the summer after 5th standard, and Amma was at her wits end with two rambunctious children always in the house. So we were unceremoniously packed off, K to basketball and I to embroidery and music. We lived in Yol then, a tiny military camp next to Dharamshala. Summers in Yol were sunny and carefree. We lived in a house on the side of a mountain. The top of the mountain would be covered in snow every winter, but in the summer, green things grew and honeysuckle covered everything. If you peered down the side of our mountain, you would see a grumbling stream cutting through the valley. On the other side rose more mountains, covered with pine forests and further away- with snow. One of our favourite walks was to wade across the stream and lose ourselves in the pine forest. Whenever Appa was free from his Commanding Officer duties, we would take long hikes to try and reach the snow covered mountain we could see from our terrace. We never did though...
But I digress. I have always admired embroidery and the lovely things you can create with it. After those classes, I also learned to appreciate the tremendous labour that goes into it. But for my restless 10 year old fingers, it was too much to ask to sit patiently and set stitch by tiny stitch. I raced through all the stitches, from the basic chain stitch to the herring bone and shadow work. A cross stitch tablecloth plagued me for two whole months before I gave it up in disgust. Amma was showered with embroidered handkerchiefs that summer, they were the only things I had the patience to make. Appa was also proudly gifted a large white handkerchief with a violet in the corner. To his credit, he carried it around for weeks.
So when my parents' anniversary came around, it only made sense to embroider something for them. We were big on DIY gifts then, and K and I would always compete on who could make the better present. Most of our presents were shamelessly mercenary like cardboard furniture for Barbie or friendship bands, but they were always received by Amma and Appa with exclamations of joy and pride. Monogrammed pillowcases were the way to go, I decided. They would put K's bookmarks to shame. I ruffled through my embroidery book and found a lovely rosebud pattern. I decided "His" and "Hers" would be too much effort, so reasoning brillliantly, settled upon a giant "A". It could stand for either Amma or Appa for weren't they both as one?
I worked late into the night and set the stitches for a huge, curving "A" with yellow rosebuds in the side. The next morning, my parents found the pillowcase gift wrapped and ready on their bedside, and they made several very proper exclamations.
That pillowcase travelled with us, from Yol to Jabalpur and to Secunderabad, then to Meerut and then Secunderabad again, and finally with me, here to Mumbai. I gave up embroidery long ago, but I could still point at that sweeping "A" and proudly tell people that I made that when I was twelve. Now though, the pillowcase has lived its life. It was finally used to wipe my mirror clean yesterday. But it deserved one last hurrah here, before it went. You see, I embroidered it.