The woman who knitted

woman knitting

“Oh, it’s just nice to get away from all the noise at home. You know?” Her eyebrows had curved up while her fingers paused in mid air. I’d nodded politely even though I couldn’t possibly fathom why someone would go to the library every day just so they can knit. 

I’d just started working in the library when I met her for the first time. The curious stares never perturbed her, and neither did the incessant shuffling of feet.

People came and went. Since only a handful of them regularly spent time reading, the knitting lady soon became an icon you couldn’t miss.

In the following years, I spent occasions wondering what drove her away from home and into the library. I mean, I’d go when I wanted a book. Or to work or to attend a meeting. Theories constantly whirled my head—perhaps her neighbours were loud and rowdy, I mused turning on my cassette player at home one night. Or maybe her husband was a messy gardener leaving dirt marks all around the house to annoy her. Or perhaps, I wondered remembering my own grandparents, her grandkids were a pain in the ass and a torment to the ears.

But I never asked her.

“I should’ve,” I wrote in my diary the night after her funeral.

It wasn’t people that’d driven her way from home. It was lack there of.


Photo credit: Imani on Unsplash.
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Troubling lovebirds

As I stare at the blank page on my laptop, I can’t help but get distracted by the birds chirping away in front of me. My new life in Australia started pretty well with great housemates and a cold Autumn. One of my housemates breeds lovebirds—not only because she likes them but also because they make good money.

She’s been doing it for a while now, and so it wasn’t my place to comment or raise eyebrows. She’s even sold a few birds, for about 20 dollars each.

Not a bad deal, I thought when I first heard of it. But the more I observe, the more I’m reconsidering. The marketer in me has begun evaluating the return on my housemate’s investment. Considering bird feed, the cage, nursing the eggs, nurturing the young, the cleaning efforts, and the constant attention, breeding and maintaining birds is an arduous task for which 20 dollars seems a laughable loss.

But it’s her business, and she’s been doing it long before I was in the picture. So I held my silence.

However, as I watched the birds today (for lack of anything else to do), I started wondering why people paid, however much they did, to own these birds. Why would anyone pay money in exchange for years of caring and, in a sense, servitude to birds they could crush in seconds?

Beauty—that’s the obvious answer to most problematic questions. But that can’t be all.

Some people, like my housemate, look at it from a severe business perspective. Of course, she loves the little chirpers and caresses them in her palms, cooing and cuddling even when not so appropriate. She likes spending her time with and for them. But when it’s time to give them up, she’s ready for the next batch.

Some others treat bird raising as a hobby. But even they who look at bird raising as a pleasurable activity still spend a lot of time, energy, and money on maintenance—which makes me wonder why. Why would they expend so many resources to observe caged creatures that grow so finicky the moment you make a sudden movement around them. I only switched my crossed legs, and the two birds in the cage wailed out as if I were slaughtering them. Their behaviour is understandable, too. If I’d been locked up all my life and only given food on certain days and times in a day, I’d become paranoid also. I’d feel so tortured in my mind that I won’t be able to think straight or trust anyone enough to share a conversation.

How is it then, I wonder, still watching the flustered birds, that someone who acquires these birds, makes them sick, and gains pleasure in watching them every day isn’t a troubled soul themselves?

We, the people

Different in ways

yet alike in every way

still weird all the way

Spring cleaning

These days are difficult times
bidding farewell to the old ones

clothes I’d bought years ago
in impulsive shopping sprees
laying waste below newer ones
collecting stains and smells
as well-aged, handmade cheese

metallic keychains, rusty buttons,
identity symbols of a younger self
school life—a life now long gone
yet bloom afresh, the memories
of squabbles for those collectibles

souvenirs and FLAMES analysis
scribbled texts, empty notebooks
remaining shadows of a shady past
of classes missed—teachers pissed
some faded moments photographed

in dusty shelves surviving in silence
discarded memories are for ages

You’re invited!

“Is that what you’re wearing for your friend’s wedding reception?”

All the world asked me when I emerged in a long turquoise top and brown leggings. My blouse had a mild embroidery with buttons and a princess line that extended from my shoulder to my knees. It’s my go-to attire for any social interaction my parents deem significant, and I have a duty not to embarrass them. I had no makeup on and had tried to flatten my short flyaway hair.

“Is that how you go to a wedding?”

I can understand their shock and disapproval. After all, everyone who asked me that question has preconceived notions of how you should appear in wedding photographs: While the bride and groom should be the centre of attraction, those standing on either side of the couple should be just as glowing and glamorous. Acceptable clothing for women includes a long skirt with a gold stone studded blouse or a traditional South Indian silk or silk-lookalike saree embroidered in gold strings, both paired with a generous amount of golden jewellery—necklaces, earpieces, rings, bangles, and anklets. Men often stick to full suits, or long silk or silk-lookalike dhoti also called veshti (that resembles a women’s straight skirt), and a crisp shirt to go with it. Golden chains, rings, and bracelet are a given of course. Over the years, people adhere less to the clothing conventions, but synthetic jewellery still has a significant presence.

We’re all raised with cultural beliefs we follow because it’s a tradition. Sometimes we follow it blindfolded that we don’t even realise or consider the point of such habits. My classmate had invited me to her engagement party. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in over four years, and yet she remembered our friendship and I wanted to react in kind. That’s how I justify going for the wedding, despite detesting anything to do with lavish ceremonies. Not only was I placing myself in an uncomfortable scenario but I also had to travel four hours on a bus to get there. Wearing heavy jewellery and silk clothes on a stifling journey during the peak of summer was the least of my concerns. Most people would arrive early, check in to a hotel or a friend’s place and then “get ready” for the function. I, on the other hand, chose to arrive in casual comfortable, yet decent, clothing.

In my book, practicality always takes precedence over traditions. Why should we go to such lengths to be uncomfortable?