Our Unlettered Mothers

She was Lal Ded of the times



Someone has rightly said, what blest examples they were, ‘writ in the word of truth’- our mothers and grandmothers were really virtues incarnate.
Majority of them were unlettered. However, a good number of them could read the Holy Quran. In our locality that once upon a time had been great centre of learning just a few, could read, write and understand Persian- the language of scholarship.  The women that had some mastery over Persian language were mostly from the emigrant families- the families that had travelled from Central Asia to Kashmir along with great missionaries for spreading a word of Allah and made Kashmir their permanent abode.  Nevertheless, I do remember some friends of my grandmother not having been to any seminary or makatab, having    heard sermons from top preachers of the times at hospice of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani or Grand Mosque with wet eyes reciting Persian naats and mankabats of great maestros Jami, Rumi and Hafiz. Looking at Hazrat Fatimah and eight century mystic Rabi’ ah Basri as their role models, they had set high standards of righteousness and piety. I remember talking about values of fellow women they often alluded to the life of daughter of Prophet (SAW) and many a time compared a virtuous women to great Kashmiri mystic poetess Lal Ded by saying sou chahay waqtach Laladed .(She is Lal Ded of the times).
Known for their piety our mothers and grandmothers as history tells, ‘at times ascended to the pinnacle of glory, distinguished themselves in spheres of social activities as reformers and preceptors of the religious lore’.  Some stories of women of the yore have become part of our folklore. Grandmothers artistically blending fact and fiction shared stories of some queens and women commanders with children- ironically the stories of valor of Kashmir women at no point of time were made part of the history books taught in schools.  Many women in our part of the city worked with men in vegetable farms, diaries and in market places and were equal partners in contributing to their domestic economy. Those that did not work in market places worked as spinners, embroiders    and darners.
The spinners working on yendar – spinning wheel ‘spanned finest threats out of puhmb as   Pashmina wool was popularly known. The wool mostly imported from different areas of Ladakh. It was marketed through smalltime wool vendors called as Pumbhwanis.  Many of these retailers worked as intermediary for rich Pashmina wool traders. The sold raw wool to spinners and purchased the finished product from them. The wages were paid per tola . These depended fineness of the twirled threads. Those who could spin finest would get more wages – I remember a family of goldsmith in our locality after having lost their fortune their women working on spinning wheels late hours. As I remember for spanned tola of Pashmina a women would get one or two rupees.   I had an admiration for the small cup shaped weighing balance mostly made from brass in which the pashmina vendor weighed the finished product- many times I stood in front of the shop of a Pahamabwan in our Mohalla- there were many such shops in our Mohalla.’  Somehow, spinning of pashmina on Yendar had some solemnity about it, women often connected it to Hazrat Fatima – as a child I also believed that fine threads inside Nadru lotus reed were finely spun threads of  the daughters of Prophet (SAW). Some attributed the threads inside the lotus reed to Lal Ded...the earnings from the yendar were seen as most sanctified earnings.
There were a couple of darner families in our neighborhood known for artisanship. They repaired a hole in a shahtoosh, pashmina, ruffle shawls or a Kashmiri Chadar (blankets) with long stitches across the hole and other stitches woven across them. The workmanship used to be so perfect that it was difficult to see the repair with a naked eye.  I remember father of a friend of mine was master in repairing damaged shahtoosh and Pashmina shawls- he used very small needles for doing the job. For mending a hole caused by moth or an ember,   he dexterously took out threads from the shawl itself and weaved to the perfection of original.During winters, women also engaged themselves in repairing Kashmiri woolen Chadars. I loved sitting by the side of mother of a friend of mine.  She used a long needle for weaving the hole in the blanket- sitting by her side, I also learned to remove long threads with needle from the blankets and carrying out what was called as ‘puruz’ – using scissors smoothly on the repaired portion to blend it with the whole….  

Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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