I was hand-crafted with a lot of love and loads of warmth. Nestled in the remote hills of Assam, winters are daunting. Cut to that, an early morning commute to school is something which can be overwhelming to cover on foot through these fog-laden hills before even the onset of dawn. Perhaps these were the factors playing in the minds of young Madhu, as she stepped gingerly into the shop to pain-stakingly select the right fabric which would lend warmth and grace to her slender figure, as she had just bagged a job as a fresher teacher in Assam Oil Girls’ School at Digboi.
After rummaging through scores of fabrics, many which were set aside due to price, many because they were too fancy, many because they did not have the adequate warmth , she finally zeroed on me and handed me over to the tailor master to design and create for her a coat to take her to this journey. What she perhaps had not bargained for at that point was that the journey together shall not be lasting for a year or two but span no less than half a century.
However, I am moving a bit too fast. First things first. So here I was, created and tailored for this young teacher as she trudged through the hills with a sunny disposition and bright smile to her school every morning. I would like to believe that her mornings, post my arrival, were a bit warmer and cosier than her earlier walks in a thin shawl which kept blowing in the mind. I, on the other hand, hugged her close and the hoodie specially designed on me kept her head and throat safe from the biting winds of the mountains.
The girl did not have an easy journey, so I soon found out. Her father expired early in her life leaving her with the burden of an old, widowed mother and two young sisters. It was her job as a teacher that provided sustenance and livelihood to the family and kept it afloat. She managed not only to carry the burden on their education but also the subsequent burden of their marriage. It was about a decade later, once all her responsibilities were settled that she packed me lovingly with her wedding trousseau and set off for the plains. I was a bit wary that perhaps she might not find me of any use there. Nut lo and behold! Patna was chillingly cold during winters and I gave her company through her turbulent marriage to an alcoholic, whose early demise left her again stranded with two kids. I, however, held her close and she again managed to carve out a safe future for her two children with a new job and old me.
Life has comes a full circle now. She is old and can now afford to wear the most expensive of sweaters gifted by her children. Yet she keeps darning me now and then and dons me during her morning and evening walks. Whenever anyone enquires about this fixation, she proudly claims that she could never let go of that one friend who stood by her side through this entire life journey.