"I embroider my prayers"
Village near Ludhiana (Punjab, India) – 2014
She had joined this Phulkari group right after her wedding. Her mother-in-law encouraged her to socialize with the women there and also help bring some income to the family. She was delighted and had just sent a post-card to her mother in a township 200 miles away saying, “Ma, I’m very happy in my new family. His mother even let me step outside and join this embroidery group”.
Her green eyes shone in the setting Punjab sun and her olive skin and reddish-brown hair reminded one of that world-famous National Geographic Cover Photo! After all, the Jats of Punjab are known to have migrated from Central Asia and brought “Gulkari” with them to the Indian Sub-continent, which eventually became transmuted to the term “Phulkari”. Her new friends in Malwa region made fun of her Doaba region accent but it was all in zest. There were several new (and older) daughters-in-law in the group and they exchanged tips on how to deal with their new lives, new challenges and the myriad social traditions that a Punjabi woman’s life is intricately tied to!
She was working on what’s called a “Darshan Dwar” – a type of Phulkari exclusively devoted to God. She tells herself, “I will donate this *Rumaal to the *Gurdwara when I get pregnant”. She was eager to have a baby… preferably a son, well, that would definitely make her the most favorite daughter-in-law of the family and not to mention, the extra gifts and *shagan envelopes she might receive. As she sewed her dreams into the turmeric stained khaddar, she used gold and green silk floss! Green was her favorite color, needless to say. She said a silent prayer for every motif – a ritual she would follow until the Rumaal (handkerchief) was all done and ready.
*Rumaal: a large handkerchief usually used for religious or devotional purposes in Sikhism *Gurdwara: Sikh Temple; *Shagan Envelope is an envelope containing cash which is usually presented in Punjabi culture on an important, usually celebratory, occasion