I was always fascinated by the beautiful kanthas (soft, cotton made embroidered quilts). Even today mas and didas (mothers & grandmothers) of Bengal keep old, cotton saris and cloth to layer them with kantha stitching (very tiny and subtle ‘run’ stitches) for the new arrivals in homes. These mas and didas would remind you of tuntuni pakhi (tailor bird) who deftly pierces and sews the edge of the leaf with the leaf fiber to cradle a nest for its little ones.


Then came a time when these stitches began to show up in cotton and silk saris. You’d find all kinds of intricate designs, patterns and motifs done in kantha stitch on the sari with carefully selected threads. Specially in the Pujas everyone had to have a kantha stitch sari. One year, I also bought one blue silk kantha stitch sari with stone age motifs all over it. Threads were black, white and orange.


Some wanted to go beyond patterns. They wanted to speak through their stitches. At first their love for mythical characters and happenings found space in the long silk drape, like we see in the ‘Baluchari’ saris. Slowly their narrative art embroidered their own thoughts and stories.


This has happened in many places in India, specifically in Gujarat where an artist once stitched how she had crossed border, lived in refugee camps in desert, rebuilt her life, lost everything in a devastating earthquake and began once more. May be the stitches were not kantha stitches of Bengal but they were stitches of blood, struggle and toils.




Posted for Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: A Pantry of Prose, #6 ~ Stitches in 259 words