“…I wish I had a daughter” (Virsā Artwork inspired by this story: An Ode to The Trinjan)

Anecdotal Encounters Gender Dynamics in Rural Punjab Inspired by True Events Phulkari Phulkari Self Help Groups Punjab Punjab Handicrafts Rural Artisans Stories that inspired these Artworks Textiles Women's Empowerment

Based on true events, this short story is about the emergence of a new kind of Trinjan, - "The Phulkari Self Help Group" and one Virsā Artisan's triumphant struggle.

Village near Patiala (Punjab, India) – 2005

“I used to enjoy school. We used to sit on a dusty ground with our little mats under the shade of a huge old mango tree. I liked numbers a lot. Then my twin brothers were born and my mom needed me to help her with the cattle and learn how to tend to the babies. In our caste, as Jat Sikhs, it was probably my mother’s life’s biggest achievement! It wasn’t long before I was told I had to start sewing and embroidering for my own trousseau soon. My mother was frequently sick ever since my brothers were born and another little sister followed too – she was still-born though and I think my grief stricken mother could never really move on. I vowed to be the good obedient girl of my poor parents and did my best to learn whatever I needed to “for my real home” – for a daughter is always “paraya dhan(somebody else’s wealth), isn’t she?

I was thirteen when I was married off. My parents in law came for me a couple years later and I left my mother’s courtyard and all its memories to go to another village far away, beyond the *Sutlej. I recall a few years later when my father died but I was already pregnant with my second son and couldn't’t attend the funeral. My mother died several years later and my brothers sent a telegram almost a week later, or the postman couldn’t deliver it due to the heavy monsoon that year, or so they claim.

In the meanwhile, I fell in love with Phulkari and tending the buffalos, chickens and our fields and of course, looked after my in-law’s large family – this was my family now! My husband, a useless drunk, had no less than five very young siblings. I was almost their second mother. I wanted these children to go to school along with my own two sons. I wanted them to study and do something creative with their lives.

I wish I had a daughter who I could teach Phulkari but a miscarriage after my sons were born discouraged me. That’s around when I got a few village women together and we pooled in *200/- Rupees each to start a Self Help Group. I called it “*Sukhmani” – a name I would’ve given to my daughter (sigh). Sukhmani is 12 years old now; we are a flourishing Self Help Group and we love what we do. Most importantly: amidst the fabric, the silken floss of rainbow colors and the creative women that represent Sukhmani, I seem to have found my own inner peace, my own true North.

*Sutlej is a river in Punjab, *200 Indian Rupees (INR) equal 3 USD, approx.; *Sukhmani is a feminine name in Punjabi meaning "a peaceful and content mind"


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