I was introduced to the pleasures of knitting by my aunt Shanti. She is the youngest sibling in a family of 15 … 14 years younger to my mother and hence more in my age group than the previous generation . Don’t for a moment imagine a frail old lady who spends her time sitting in a rocking chair knitting away for her grand children or other family members . She is more of a sister and dear friend to me than an aunt ! One gene which definitely runs in this branch of the family is that we just refuse to accept the fact that we are senior citizens (at least not in mind and attitude though physically there may be changes over the years.)
My aunt lives in a senior citizen colony in Hyderabad on her own as her three kids live abroad just as my two. So since lockdown has been lifted she spends a week or so with me every couple of months . She is such a welcome change as she can jabber away without a pause ( another distinct family trait ) , lively to the hilt , and takes over a large part of the cooking . Having lived in different countries ( her husband was in the Indian foreign service and had been an Ambassador in different countries) she likes to experiment with those cuisines to suit our Indian palate . These days they call it fusion cuisine. She loves to cook and I… well… love to eat so it is a good working relationship.
We discuss everything from family matters to political ones , from tv serials to real life dramas, from creaking bones to exotic travel plans …in short anything and everything under the sun .
A few months ago on one of her visits the topic of knitting came up. She got me some wool and a few pairs of knitting needles to start my foray into a new world where many women have created wonders with their ideas and creativity . Having led an active life as a travel agent for a little less than 4 decades I was bereft of ideas during the lockdown . I hated to cook or do anything around the house in all those years that I was working . But here I was trying to reinvent myself ( as if I had a choice ) .. cooking ,cleaning , grumbling , feeling sorry for myself …. all the phases which I am sure everyone has been through . My husband of course was the only recipient of my irritation and complaints …. since there was no one else at home ! But this period taught me a lot and I found myself busy doing things which I would never have considered while I had a regular job . Like tending to plants , cooking …. I now know we will not starve to death as I discovered that what I cooked was quite edible , cleaning ….I have learnt to appreciate my house help much more …. reading , word and number games which I have always loved take up more of my time now.
But I digress ! Now back to the recently acquired knitting hobby .I knit a scarf which seemed fairly easy as it was just a simple one . Then tried another with a little pattern on it . Slowly I started getting ambitious… I even felt like an expert at times and my aunt’s words of encouragement made me feel like one . But the results clearly showed me up as a beginner who needs help sometimes…. or should I say many a time !
Let me take you through the latest episode of my new found passion . My schoolmate and dear friend Rachel ( the head girl of our school and a senior IAS officer ) had become a first time grandma last December to a lovely baby girl . We tried very hard to meet up but couldn’t as either she or I was traveling. Later COVID happened turning the whole world upside down . So sometime this November I decided to knit a cap and booties for the little one who was going to turn one this December . There are two advantages to making stuff for little infants . One is that they don’t protest even if they are dressed up in the most ridiculous of outfits and secondly they look adorable and cute anyway in spite of what they wear . So armed with this feeling I surfed the net for ordering wool online . I wanted really soft wool which feels and looks as soft as a baby’s skin !
Order placed we had to wait for a week for the package to arrive . My knowledge of the different kinds of wool …. whether 2,3 or 4 ply …. is zero . But seeing that 3 ply was the most popular online I chose the color and went ahead and ordered . I wonder why I did not consult my aunt before I made the purchase . Maybe I wanted to prove how knowledgeable and efficient I was . Imagine my horror when I saw the wool ( which was very soft) which had 3 separate thin strands . As it is I have issues splitting the wool when knitting , picking up extra stitches or dropping them . But to knit 3 strands together meant three times the effort and trouble .When such situations arise I promptly hand it over to my aunt to rectify . You guessed it … I only knit when she is around . I returned the wool as there is no way I could have handled knitting with this product. My aunt was staying for a week , the online seller stated it would take at least a week for a new order to reach us . So it would not arrive in time and this project had to be completed while she was with me !
We decided to rummage through all the wool that my aunt had brought with her and were delighted to find a sufficient quantity of red wool and white. We then decided since it is Christmas time it would be okay to knit the cap in these colors.
Then we faced the next issue . How many stitches to cast on ? Both of us have not really had a baby at home for over 10 years , so what is the correct size to make. I did not want to ask Rachel to measure the baby’s head as then the surprise element would disappear . We even made an attempt to measure the head size of my neighbour’s grandkid who was one and a half years old ( she was visiting her grandma ) but one loud shriek from her made us retreat very hastily into our own home . I don’t think she appreciated the fact that total strangers were approaching her . Which is good under the circumstances… especially in the present times . Her yell was quite terrifying that no stranger would risk going near her.
We took an executive decision and decided on the number of stitches to be cast . I made the cap with a very simple design ( with help of course ) and my aunt made the booties ( I made the base of the bootie in order to claim a little credit for that too ). Once the cap was finished we felt it looked small and the booties too looked …yes small . To knit this took us just a couple of days . Then a thought struck us that maybe it would not even fit and the whole purpose of the gift would be defeated . Since we had enough wool and time we decided to make another set ….a bit larger than the previous one .
This time my aunt contacted her expert friends in Delhi who got into the act and messages started flowing to and fro. While in the process of knitting the second set we felt it was too big at times ……we kept joking that if the booties were made even a little bigger it could hang near the chimney for Santa to drop off his gifts . There were times when my aunt had to undo many rows just because I had dropped a stitch or two earlier . Then I had to knit again … this time I would count the number of stitches after every row to ensure I had not made any mistake ! My aunt is crazy lady … when I kept apologising every time I messed up she would assure me that she enjoyed the challenge of unravelling and correcting the flaws . At first I decided she was being polite but soon realised that she really did enjoy these situations . So now I don’t feel guilty whenever I seek her assistance .
I never ever realised that knitting could be so much fun even though it was frustrating at times . But sitting in the balcony of my home, enjoying the sunshine and the winter cold , with cups of filter coffee , listening to music , gossiping ….. made the whole experience a delightful one . On completion we decided we would send both the sets to Rachel … in case the first one fit the baby then the second could be used the next year . In case it did not fit she could use the larger one and relegate the small set to one of her dolls !! With this in mind I found a local courier (after a little research )to deliver the package to Rachel .
Rachel was kind enough to send me a photo of the little one donning the cap .. which was the bigger one ! Babies and infants are adorable and this little one was no exception . But she looked like she was winking , had a captivating smile for her grandma with a “ is this the best your friend could do “? look
Little does she know of the effort that went into this and the number of people who got involved …. each one contributing their thoughts / suggestions from across the length and breadth of the country …but definitely no foreign hand was involved in this one .
Will I continue to knit ? Yes . There is a sense of satisfaction to see a completed item … whether it is perfect or not is highly debatable. Can I do it on my own ? No ….not as yet … I have to garner more courage , confidence and need to practice a lot more to be able to do it on my own . Perhaps I will get to that stage at some point of time . I am not tech savvy enough to watch videos online and understand what they are saying . If I had to I would perhaps have given up and put away the wool and needles forever .Yes I am planning on another project … but first I need to check when my aunt is free to visit again. Plus I am looking out for another little innocent “ Bakra” to try out a bit more complicated patterns.