THE NEGLECTED CHILDREN

Amrita was overjoyed. The hot pink metallic-looking thread she was trying to get her hands on for the last few weeks was finally hers. The wait had not been easy. The journey had been even harder. Being a 9-year-old girl, she could not expand her search to the highest mountains and lowest craters. So, she had resorted to scavenging here and there around her house. The waste thread from her mother’s attempts at sewing buttons and hemming skirts was silently collected in her little box of treasures. That box now held small pieces of torn cloth, some unused single buttons, some wool; everything but her hot pink thread.  The image was so clear in her head that she could not settle for anything less. And until such time she found it, she could not proceed with her dream project. She could, of course, ask her father for it. But, it was her own special secret assignment and she wanted to do it on her own and surprise everyone with it. But today, her wait was over. Her grandmother, on seeing her trying to cut off frayed threads from all the pink house curtains, opened her sewing kit and took out from it the exact object of her desire. An old thinning spool, but bright and shiny nonetheless.

‘Do you want this, Ammu?’

She could not believe her ears.

“But don’t you need it for your work, Dadi?’

‘Look how old it has become. I don’t need it now and if I don’t use it soon it will become even more old. But, I have nowhere to use it, so better you use it now. I can get a new one later if I need.’

She took the thread and walked back to her room, as normally as she could, careful not to reveal her excitement in her footsteps when really her feet just wanted to break out into a little dance.

She laid out her dark blue bell-bottomed jeans flat on the bed. She would do the right leg first as it looked better ironed than the left. But first, she had to cut up small 2 inch squares from her old light blue jeans. She cut up a total of sixteen patches and carefully pulled out threads from the edges so that they were stressed just enough to make them look cool. In that old shop with the ‘Golden Designs’ board at the front, where Mother got her ready-made shirts and trousers altered, she had seen the boys use a blue block to mark the points of adjustment. The closest thing she could find was a blue detergent bar in the bathroom. She broke off a little piece and marked on her jeans the points where she wanted to put the patches. Then she took out her greatest acquisition and threaded a needle with it. The patches were then sewed on the ends of the jeans, eight on each leg, four on the front, four on the back. She went over the stitches a few times so that the hot pink thread became thicker and added to the statement that the patches were making on the jeans.

Finished with her work, she stood back to admire it. She was going to be the coolest girl in her class. And she had done it all on her own. She was mighty pleased with herself. This time, Daddy will like it too. This is not like the other times when I obviously did not put in my best efforts to paint or sing or sit a test. Mother will like it too. This is not like the last time I painted her that handkerchief for her birthday. That was so pathetic. It’s good she encouraged me to do better by pointing out my flaws that day. So what if she didn’t say anything explicitly positive.

She showed it to Daddy. He gave it a glance.

‘What did you do?’

‘Look Daddy, I sewed on the patches…with pink thread! I thought of it myself!’

‘You want to become a tailor when you grow up?’

He walked away.

She felt as if only her shell was left holding the pair of jeans, her insides had collapsed.

Her feet were not supporting her weight anymore. She sat down on her bed and looked at the pair of jeans again. But she had no more thoughts in her head.

Mother walked through her room. She saw her sitting quietly holding a pair of jeans in her hand.

‘Oo show us, did you make something?’

She thrust the jeans in Mother’s hands.

‘I sewed on patches’

Amrita was not expecting anything uplifting from Mother. She was not even thinking about it. She was working hard to get Daddy’s statement out of her head. ‘What is so wrong about becoming a tailor?’ she thought. Mother’s voice suddenly reached her ears.

‘Sweetie, how many times have I told you, if you want to get the thread thicker, when you thread the needle, tie the ends of the thread together to get a double thread. It would have made this so much neater. And see, how these two patches are not entirely in a straight line? Never mind, I am sure next time you’ll do much better.’

Then Mother walked away.

When Daddy had walked out of Amrita’s room, he had stopped and stood outside the door for a second. He wanted to go back and tell her that she had done a great job. But if he did that, she would think he was encouraging this hobby of hers too much. How will she ever make a living by becoming a tailor, or fashion designer, they call them these days. But she was only 9, and she had such great ideas…No, I must not encourage this. Anybody can make clothes. Anybody can paint. Anybody can sing. She needs to do better than that. And what would people say? She will become the laughing-stock of the family if she seriously considers any of these hobbies as a profession. She needs to learn she is capable of much more than just these small hobbies. She must apply her mind in the right direction. I am not doing anything wrong. If my father had not done the same with me, I would be sitting on a street begging for money while I wrote books. Thanks to him I am now feeding my own family and my sister’s family with just my own income. So what if I am not writing any books. I can always write when I am older and Amrita is settled in life. No, I am not doing anything wrong.

Mother went to her room with some tea for herself and a magazine. She could see Amrita through the door. She was still sitting on her bed, holding her jeans, staring into space. She thought she saw a tear or two trickle down. Should I go console her? But she doesn’t like it when I fuss over her. No, I should stay here. It will make her emotionally stronger. That’s what my mother did too. Why is she crying though? Could it be because of what I said? But I said nothing wrong! I didn’t tell her to stop doing this. I only told her how to get better. If I don’t tell her what she did wrong, who will? She will understand my true intention and learn from me. I learnt from my mother the same way.  No, I said nothing wrong.

 

 

 Copyright © 2014 Infrequent Ranter