The other day, my friend Manisha, posted this comment as her status on facebook:
[20th June 2013]
“Nigella chocked, Rihanna battered, Madonna hit on the head with baseball bat, Halle Berry hit so hard that she looses hearing, Whitney Houston with cut-lip & bruised cheek, Mariah Carey too !!! [Delhi Times 19/6]
........dear men of the World.what is it that propels you to such aggression...is it just patriarchy????...from glitzy Hollywood to our own shores.........for a while I shall avoid asking ''what right do you have to do so?"
[I have reprinted it exactly as she wrote it, spelling mistakes included]
It was late in the evening when I read it and soon after, I picked up my embroidery. I kept thinking about what she had said. I could not dismiss it. I too have been in relationships that have been abusive and violated my sense of self in physical and emotional ways and I could understand where she was coming from. It allowed me to feel my rage too. Does it happen to all women? Is it about self-respect or lack of it? And what does one do when one has been through such experiences? The newspapers report some crime or other each day. Rape, murder, terror and even the recent flooding in Uttarakhand is no less violent, is it?
With these thoughts circling my mind, I kept sewing. Needle in, pull the thread, needle out, going round and around, tracing the stains with a running stitch. And then I realized that using the needle could also be considered an act of violence. The fabric is mute, it does not protest and just like I made the stains, it seemed that I was subjecting the fabric through the act of stitching, of piercing it again and again with the point of this sharp instrument, to another kind of violence. I looked at this long, slender tool, held between my thumb and forefinger, its pointed tip poised to strike again, waiting to lunge forth into the fabric, at my command.
I stared at it long and hard. It was after all a perpetrator of violence – a criminal like all the men who raped and abused and those who killed, and mother nature herself was not beyond it too. As they say when someone is cruel – what kind of person are you, what are you made of? I have no idea what the needle is made of. I asked it the same question: what are you made of? I looked on the packaging for some clues, but there was no mention of materials used.
Needles have been around for a long time and sewing in the subcontinent dates back to the Indus Valley civilization - needles have been excavated at Mohenjodaro. I quickly did some research and learned that the first needles were apparently made of bone or wood while the modern ones are made using high carbon steel wire which is nickel or 18 carat gold plated to minimize corrosion resistance. The highest quality embroidery needles are apparently plated with two-thirds platinum and one-third titanium alloy. They are tough and pierce through fabric without bending or losing shape - without any kind of compassion it seems.
I had never thought of sewing as a violent activity but as I continued with my embroidery, I learned something.
The layers of fabric in my hands had been subjected to considerable violence. I had burned it. I had shred it and had then stitched these layers with needle and thread, piercing through the warp and weft, tearing the very fabric asunder. But the miracle of stitch is that the needle may wound, the needle may pierce and tear, but the thread it carries, keeps it all together – embellishing the fabric it wounds.
If one considers how beautiful embroidery can be and how much this art is used to embellish our clothes and homes, then the needle doesn’t just wound or violate, it provides for another dimension to be added to the fabric. If one could extend this to the human fabric, could one begin to look at acts of violation as opportunities that add something of value to the fabric of being?
Something to think about.....?