Six yards of play!

In the most intimate moments of their innocent child’s play what do girls do… playing scenarios of eld life… dressed up like them and behaving like them… Intuitively, they recognize the dramatic nature of life surrounding them & choose to role play… and before they realize these little games of theirs once played with light heart, suck the heart of their beings so seriously, that they lose their grips on life… life, that is outside of the role play, the life of innocent cheerfulness that once surrounded them … when they had just begun. Veena and Laxmi, two adorable brat girls of the household barely eight or nine in their age were at the threshold of adopting their favorite roles for the game & the game of life one fine day.


Mother’s old wooden chest full of hand-woven treasures was spooling with Kanjivarams, brocades, temple borders and fine cotton drapes in earthy and bright hues… two of which were picked up for the day… No one, not even mother could say a word to keep them off because she was the one to introduce them to the art of draping sari… in her very own impeccable manner. So,anything anyone noticing this beautiful mess could do was to sit back & watch. The agenda for the day from the activities taking place seemed to commence one of a grand scale.


Others from the village were invited, they were but of course to be accompanied by the real members of the ceremony… the even miniature versions of human species, ones with rubber like flexibility & somewhat restricted pallet of gestures. Dress code was strictly formal. Now to think that this child’s play would be an easy affair would only demonstrate narrow vision on one’s part… because these little, fervent beings were up to something big today. Members collected and were greeted with Tilaks from Barinis, greeting the hosts with the same gesture in return.


Things were gathered, set was ready and the show begun! Gatherings in village were clearly for the exchange of words, gazes, gifts, kind, cattle and at times men & women… & so was this one, a marriage… an exchange of someone’s little one accompanied with processions &barter of valuables… A weaver; yardages of fine woven fabrics, A farmer; few ‘kuncham’ of green gram, A potter; earthen pots for storage of water, someone sweet savories for everyone, some garlands of fresh flowers… little fineries to beautify daily life were collected by one and all… Of these, a carpenter was responsible for the most essential aspect… the six auspicious Barinis... These were decorative wooden boxes to carry six essential components of a girl’s morning rituals.


These boxes were particularly the center of attraction for no exchange could take place without them. Meanwhile outside under the blazing afternoon sun someone was performing a loud sing song, telling salt from water. What a talent for someone to sing impromptu the truth of the moment… This left embarrassment on the faces of those whose names were being called out & an uneasy breath stuck in the tracks of those who were left, that theirs shouldn’t be the next one… And yet here it was… all being sputtered out as beads from a pea pod.


The gypsy kept on unperturbed, changing attires, singing Janpadam all day long. Offerings of valued articles mostly from one’s own practice, decorated beautifully & purified further with a green pan leaf and an ‘Anna’, little piles of Jaggery & jeera on it was being presented. Value exchange was the norm of the place and could be seen deeply embedded in day to day lives. Times like these, not too far in history witnessed villages exchange without involvement of money. These exchanges or offerings were often made in wood containers of a fixed measurable volume “Kuncham”, in “Barinis”. Mothers, girls, household women could be seen carrying these big, small colorful wooden boxes for all sorts of purposes;carrying food, cloth, spices or money or elements of “Srinagar”.


These could be seen as traditional clutch purses, only more specific to their purpose of carrying each time. They were inevitable to each household. Guests satisfied their taste buds with delicacies of grams, vegetables, fish & meat ending with Toddy drinks and candies of jiggery sprinkled with sesame seeds... all prepared at home. Whoever said toys were essential for kids surely forgot to take a good look at the world of elds, reeking of an inevitable need to be surrounded by toys at all times, to fill up spaces left by lack of imagination… Unstoppable by lack of objects, children ride air horses, return victorious from expeditions in minutes, win wars without bloodshed, travel galaxies without space suits or ships… and here & now they stand next to each other, with their Tilak smeared foreheads making no exception out of their sari & dhoti clad bodies, groomed for the event.


They have assumed the role of spouse to each other forming sort of odd couples, unaware! Absorbed in an act of greater importance; relishing sesame candies! All this happened and the miniature bride was sent off covered head to toe in silk & jewels… as the ritual goes, in a wooden palanquin shimmering with drapes & flowers, held high on shoulders by two porters… not a sight of her face visible to the public… Saying by grandmother goes, the women of the household were not to be seen by even their grandfather, the palanquin waiting outside of the house would gobble them up as quickly possible & be then gobbled up just as quickly by the train bogies, the lady was to travel by… ejecting right after delivering them to the interiors of the bogie…. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Ponduru, is a townnorth of  Vishakhapatnam, along Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh, famous for its single color saris woven in cotton. These saris can be identified by their temple borders in contrasting colors. The cluster apart from cotton saris also weaves khadi yardage, towels, lungi and dhoti material. Silk is also woven but slightly away from the center.


Entrance of each householdis decorated with auspicious Tulsi plant, morning & evening prayers are offered to. Laying Rangoli patterns with white power or sticking colorful stickers of them is a common practice. Walls are extensively decorated with pictures of Krishna-Radha, Balaji, and Hanuman. The houses here have raised porches.


Weaving may happen on ground & first floor of the house, if the house has multiple stories.Husband & wife weave together on a loom. Simple metallic jacquards are used to make the motifs of creepers of flowers & leaves along with the border with an extra weft. Shuttles are of wood and black, unlike other places.


A loft in the weaving room itself is decorated with golden pots & utensils of cooking, of brass or tin… of varying shapes & sizes.


A Pit loom arrangement in the first room of the house, just after the porch, defines the work space of the weaver. These pits are cemented arrangements constructed in the house, so the warp is at the floor level.