Wednesday, January 16, 2008
N for Needles
It all started when my cousin’s wife from the US of A presented my aunt, her mom- in law with a magnificent shawl. My knitting roots were awakened. My grandma on my father’s side was called by me as wool-wool pati, a tribute to her knitting excellence. I had knitted on many a wintry day during my stay in the Himalayas. I quickly decided to start and recover my rusty skills. I found I could read philosophy and knit at the same time. It’s ideal to knit when you are an academic as you get a lot of listening and reading done. A small search for pattern books, websites and supplies informed me that the knitting world patterns from UK had moved to USA. The Needle and Yarn had got thicker and quicker. No problem, I still remembered Cable-work and the names of the stitches. I just also happen to know to adjust my tension. And know the expansions for PSSO is - pass slipped stitch over. Then after about three books and five patterns later, I set out to buy my supplies. I given way my old needles long time ago and needed to restock all the tools. I live in Bangalore and there would be many shops. Yarn was easy; knitting needles I knew would definitely be available in Chickpet but I did not want to try there first. I just had to go locally to what we call a ‘Fancy store’ selling bangles, cosmetics and cosmetic jewelry and toys. The odds and end stores were still around, and were not displaced by the many supermarket. Pony & Jyothi, the companies that made needles were in South India . So far it was my personal project. As I began to look for the needles, my wanderings became the story of my city, Bangalore! I did not expect find knitting needles in Koramangala, but I knew the more traditional areas such as Jayanagar, Basavangudi or Malleswaram would definitely have needles. Then begins my search in Bangalore for knitting needles size 8, ( 4mm) 6 (5mm) and 5 ( 5.5 mm). And circular needles. My friends in Calcutta could walk down the road and buy them easily .But here in hi-tech city, the art of knitting was dying. The famous 8th cross shop where my mother got all her knitting supplies was no more selling knitting needles. They were very kind and brought out a dusty card board box with the leftover supplies and even gave me a pair free! Indian sizes 10 and 12 are common for baby knits and so these were plentiful in supply. I got the various lengths and the circular needle number 10 but no stitch holders or wool- sewing needles. And no cable needle! Cable needles are small double pointed and essential to making knitting into a more complex art work. Needle number 8 ( UK Size) and 6 , I found in the next shop that also had some acrylic yarn. I decided to try other shops. No. no and illa. And then I found that my local fancy store was changed. There were more cosmetics, gizmo and toys and art items. I walked into one shop. Two young boys – almost invariably with pencil thin mustaches and a gold bead earring, staring at me . Pushing through women buying bangles and children brawling for toys, I raised my voice and I asked “Knitting needle idiya?” Huh? “Kya oon ka sililayiwala dandi hai?” (In Hindi – do you have the sticks that one uses with wool?) The assistant looks at the senior assistant and mumbles in what I think is Marwari. He points to a draw in the shelf. I eagerly push forward and find him taking out wool crochet needles. My face falls. I never learned to crochet properly. Knitting was my strength. Nahi ye nahi. Doosra. Aur lambi dandi. The assistant looks at me as if I am ignoramus “ Yahi behenji oon ka hai. Aapko teek patha hai?” ( these sister are for wool do you know properly?) My three, paneled cable sweaters with three cable patterns an bobbles, knitted in one year, flashed before my eyes and I couldn't’t even speak. With a retort “ isse sweater thodi banthe hain?” (Do these things make sweaters or what?) I walked out.“Sweater dookan se le lo didi!” he call after me! ( buy sweaters in the shop, sister) Numerous repeats of this events and conversation occurred in Sanjaynagar, Rajajinagar, BEL road, Gandhi bazaar, Indiranagar with minor variations. In Gandhi bazaar I walked into a shop that had some Kannada speaking locals running it. They looked like old timers. May be I thought, just maybe…. “We don’t keep things like that,” he said, spitting out ‘like that’ at me with disdain. I felt like I had insulted him. A next shop owner was kinder. “NR colony.” he said. “G’s shop keeps needles and all such craft items.” I wrote to my cousin from the US. Bring me needles I said. Next week I go to Chickpet. My search for needles will continue. I am going to use this search as an excuse to walk through this city’s markets and blog my journey. I invite you to join me every month on the knitting journal.