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Warm and fuzzy childhood memories, mixed feelings about the joys and trials of filial duty as well as solitude, colour, silk, food and laughter, and annoyance at cooky relatives and the shit that goes on in the name of tradition. That’s what the last few days were awash with, when I travelled down south in Karnataka to my ancestral town Bagalkot for a cousin’s engagement ceremony.
One of the fringe benefits of a year-long sabbatical – you get to attend ceremonies that are not held keeping the US academic holiday schedule in mind! I saw people I haven’t seen in ages – some mercifully the same as they were a decade ago; others depressingly unchanged, still others quite unrecognizable. This was, of course, a mere appetizer; the wedding with the full extended family in attendance will surely magnify all these feelings ten-fold. Here are some snapshots – and there’s more where these came from.
No doubt, all family reunions are inundated with such mixed feelings. But this time I also encountered a literal flood. Since my last visit over a decade ago, much of Bagalkot has been submerged under the backwaters of the Almatti Dam over the mighty Krishna river (which, incidentally, takes its birth in the town where I grew up, several hundred kilometres to the north!). Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled 10 km away – at Navanagar, lit. newtown, designed by fancypants architect Charles Correa. There have been concerns over the quality of resettlement, and there continue to be severe conflicts between different states over the fate of the dam’s catchment areas during periods of low and excessive rain. But the dam did not witness the kinds of protests and politicization that have marked big dam projects in India; folks I encountered seemed excited about the prospects of a newer town in exchange for their crumbling buildings. I wonder how many voices of protest also got submerged along with old houses.
Old Bagalkot, for its part, was not a shining example of semi-urban bliss, and those parts that have remained, stubbornly maintain this feature.
Navanagar, despite being all about right angles and wide roads and long-term planning, is a tangle of electric poles and an overall feeling of malevolent dust that my camera resolutely refused to capture. Sort of like the utter hideousness that is Gurgaon, but for poorer people, with all the flat ugliness and none of the skyscrapers or crass malls. The electric poles were like so many hopeless fishing boats afloat in a dead sea of dry brush. The folks who live there are upbeat about all the possibilities for the town, which is fast growing into a major centre for educational and administrative institutions in Karnataka. Meanwhile, this is what remains of the road leading to our old house:
And this is where the house used to be.
I am not a nostalgia hound, and rose-tinted, sepia-tinted memories of joint family tradition bore me. Set-piece family photos and stories about large meals and festival gatherings always make me wonder cynically about how many women toiled to make endless cups of tea to keep the conversation oiled. But it was still shocking to actually see all the changes, and the old bungalow and neighbourhood, with all its pigs and dust, just gone.
Some classic features of old Bagalkot, however, happily remain – the photos (more here) below are for my dear friend Sepoy. He will be annoyed at the lack of food pictures, but I think these will do nicely in their place:
That’s what popped into my head the minute I saw this photo – a shapeless frog with bulbous eyes at the top, blue because of the cold or because he’s lonely, sidling up to a pretty, purply, plump princess who’s not sure she likes him. This is what October heat and the delirium of putting up two finished objects on the blog after eons will do to you. You anthropomorphize your knitted garments (the frog would become a prince sooner or later, yes?) and weave a fairy tale around them.
Truth be told, these are not mine. As in, I didn’t knit them – my mum did. I added the buttons, and pretty much did the maths on both of them. The Blue Frog is The Thrifty Knitter’s Nifty baby riff on the Cobblestone, but with redone numbers cast on onwards. It was an absolute breeze to knit, with hardly any shaping or finishing. The Purple Princess I sort of did from scratch, trying to feminize the frog and give it sleeves and some flare for a baby niece. The yarn was all leftovers that I brought over from the US for her to make baby things with. The biggest effort was writing down the instructions in Marathi for my mum so she can file the patterns. She is thrilled to bits with the end results – total garter and cotton love!
Instead of the buttons at the side, we put them at the back, and added a contrast border. So she began at the chest with a provisional cast on, knit in garter stitch up to the shoulders, and then picked up stitches at the chest to knit below in stockinette. One rapid increase on the first row gave the gentle frock-like flare. I think it was more effort than necessary – too many ends to weave in at the top, even though it looks okay. It might be easier to start at the neck in one piece with raglan sleeves and then increase at the chest. Hmmm. I might actually try it this way with another sample and write up the pattern in English and Marathi for a free download.
Blue Frog: 100% worsted cotton yarn hand dyed by Laura of Textiles a Mano; no idea how much got used, but it wasn’t much. Size 6 needle. Cast on 120 stitches.
Purply Princess: 1.5 hanks of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, plus some purple DK 100% cotton also from Laura. The gauges for both were different, so size 6 needle for the magenta and 5 for the purple. It worked out okay though. Also cast on 120 at the chest, and increased to 160 for the flare.
I know you’re squinting at those umbrella buttons, so here’s the obligatory macro shot:
While we’re on the fairy tale theme, it’s amazing how all it took was a blog post for my own knitting fortunes to turn around. Thanks for all the suggestions and encouragement – I first ripped out the Aran Cardigan and suddenly, out of nowhere, I remembered an old project that I had snatched the yarn from midway to make the Cobblestone. Simple cables and stockinette seemed too dull to knit then, but they practically sang to me now. So, since I last whined to you all, here’s what I knit:
Nice, eh? I can’t put it down, I even knit it in the bus the other day. Am already halfway down the undivided top, and it won’t be long before I divide for the body and sleeves. So I do get my stockinette hoodie after all, but with some needed twist! What’s more, I got the right gauge at 5 spi on size 6 needles, and it will (hopefully) be my desired finished size of 40 inches, without any maths or mods. I haven’t decided yet whether to add the hood, or make a different collar. And maybe add pockets. What’s not to love?
Tomorrow kicks off a series of trips here and there – maybe this will get done soon!
I miss knitting. I have this awful gnawing feeling inside me; first I thought it was my research, which is sort of stalled at the moment for various reasons. I’m having a hard time conceptualizing some of it, which makes it difficult to go look for specific stuff in the archives – and while randomly losing myself in the catalogues is providing unexpected joys, these aren’t enough to tide over my anxiety that I should be More Organized And Have Something To Show At the End of My Sabbatical. Then I thought it was just the usual exhaustion that comes from so much travelling – I just booked a whole lot of tickets for many more trips over the next few months, and just looking at my itinerary is tiring me out. But it’s not just all this. I’m a bit out of sorts because I haven’t knit anything substantial since May. Here’s what I have to show for my efforts:
One lousy sock, a foot of lace, and some cables. I can’t even bring myself to properly cast on for the second sock, even though the anklets my sister has asked for should not take more than 2 days to knit, really. The lace is, well, stalled, and the cables for the Tweedy Aran Cardigan are so not calling me to extend them even though I know they have the potential to look like Neither Hip Nor Funky’s gorgeous version.
It’s not like I don’t want to knit these. To paraphrase the great George Costanza, it’s not them, it’s me. It has been hot, to be sure, and not really wool-handling weather. But it has also frequently been quite pleasant, and it’s not like my work is keeping me too busy. For some reason, I’m just not picking up the projects and enjoying them. I have actually been helping my mum figure out a couple of simple baby projects, but she’s the one knitting them.
Any ideas on how to overcome this? I so want to get back to it, cause I do miss it. I haven’t been on Ravelry in ages. Sometimes the threads, knitting and non-knitting, seem so distant. Even apart from Big Issues Debate, so much of it is so totally removed from any non-US concerns that it depresses me. Surfing all my friends’ blogs and seeing the gorgeous stuff they are making or queuing on Ravelry is increasing the gnawing feeling, plus after having been off Ravelry for so long there was virtually a deluge of new patterns. I thought of junking the aran cardigan and making something simpler – like I need yet another stockinette hoodie, but maybe it will give me a sense of accomplishment. Any pattern suggestions? Anybody else in the same boat as me (trying very hard not to use the words “knitting mojo”…..)?