I look up from the laptop screen and she smiles down at me, from this picture hanging above my table. A formal pose, with my brother and me perched on a table, covered with a green, maroon and white woven table-cloth. I have seen this table-cloth in my parents home, bright and good looking, even on my last visit to spend a few days with my mother, when the malignancy had been declared the victor.
In this picture, my sister is yet to arrive in the world, my mother was yet to become the amazing knitter who I try to emulate, my brother was yet to become the strong fit surgeon who makes his patients smile and recover after their operations, and I was yet to embark on the twists and turns of life. Baba, however, was already the tall, handsome, strong man of my growing years.
Growing up in the sixties, in the extreme climes of Punjab, with friends, bicycles and school, my vacations and holidays had a generous amount of “knitting support activity” woven into them. We children were given pure-wool, old sweaters to pick apart and get them back to the yarn stage. Lal Imli and Raymond pure wool never lost its sheen or warmth, inspite of being knitted up innumerable times. We were growing fast, and Ma had to keep up with the expanding inches by combining two or three old sweaters and knitting up smart new ones. The patterns and ideas came from precious copies of the two magazines, beloved by knitters in those years… Woman’s Weekly and Woman And Home.
I found these old magazines in a forgotten corner of a smart bookshop in Dehradun. The owner was sitting at the counter, knitting furiously, and when I asked her for these copies, so that I could have a bit of my mother in my knitting book shelf, she smiled and totted up a rather large bill. I brought the magazines and my mother’s memories home that day.
Memories of my mother have sustained me for the past two decades and more. She comes in my dreams…always looking smart, sharp and shining…always walking with me into knitting yarn shops…always talking wool and knitting patterns with me. My mother had loved her magazines and spent hours cutting out patterns, binding them into heavy tomes and keeping them safely for our holiday visits, when we would sit and turn pages and talk about her next project.
Now, I too have pattern books and technique books lined up in the bookshelf. Books which have been bought and brought after much research and many requests. I love them and can spend days with them.
These four years of living in Ranikhet have sharpened my knitting genes and given me resources to make my mother’s knitting dreams come true. She would talk about knitting smart sweaters, big bedcovers, lovely lacy shawls and unusual cushion covers–and we make them all!
Not a single project of hers has remained with me. Not one. But, when I knit something pretty, something neat, something lovely–I can see her smiling and knitting swiftly and smoothly.Her last knitted project for me was a bright yellow lace cardigan. I have lost that piece, but here is another yellow lace confection for the next generation.
Just to show her, wherever she is, that her knitting genes are alive and well.