My eldest sister would give me a hand-knitted woollen sweater on every Bhaiya Dooj. She was so innovative in the matter of designs that during my student days in Shimla when I would walk down to the Mall wearing a sweater gifted by her, women would often stop me on the way to take note of the design to replicate on the sweaters they intended to knit.
These sweaters not only had warmth, but also the rich feelings of love, care and oneness. In this winter when North India was in the grip of bone-chilling cold, I was wearing a sweater made of pashmina wool which she had gifted to me in the 80s. Knitting sweaters for everybody at home was her main hobby and she would derive great pleasure in gifting these woollens to them.
Each and every sweater would have a different design and their enchanting looks would leave everybody spellbound. Encomiums and rich compliments would be the only return to her and she'd feel happy with that.
Homemade food delicacies, pickles, chatnis, papads, vadiyaans, hand-knitted woollens and their exchange as gifts were a few such things which would create bonds of love and affection. Not long ago, when a boy would see his prospective bride, the girl would join the guests with a tray, holding in her trembling hands a tea set and something home-cooked in a plate wrapped in a crocheted cloth. The snacks and crocheted cloth would be considered as her testimonials and the girl's parents would show her embroidery work with a gleam in their eyes.
But today, from the smallest to the biggest ceremony, we rush to big hotels, where the glitz never allows us to see the real person. No wonder, even after spending years together many couples remain strangers and an enigma to each other.
But my wife had a point to make here. "What you have penned down is interesting to read, but I don't agree with the message you want to give. After spending much of my married life as a housewife, knitting sweaters, spending 10 hours in kitchen cooking new cuisines to suit the taste buds of all family members and doing other countless chores, all I can say is that in India, nothing gets better recognition for a woman than her salary packet.
At the end of the day, it is only the salary that really matters. I've told our daughters not to do the mistake which I did and continue with their jobs even if their husbands ask them to quit," she said wryly.
Eyes wide open, I was looking at her face, which was sending the message that women empowerment is now a reality, at least in our middle class.