Elderly artisan advises how to counter hardships through arts

Sher Alam Shinwari

PESHAWAR: An aged woman by a roadside in Hayatabad, Peshawar’s posh locality sells out variety of her own hand-crafted winter wears to earn livelihood for her orphaned daughters and grandchildren and set an example for those who resorted to begging and get involved in antisocial activities due to financial constraints. “Hand-arts have always empowered women and fetched them handsome money with dignity,” the artisan said with a tinge of pride.

Most people are of the view that hand knitting has gone into and out of fashion many times in the last two centuries, and at the turn of the 21st century it is enjoying a revival. According to the industry group Craft Yarn Council of America, the number of women knitters in the United States age 25 to 35 increased 150% in the two years between 2002 and 2004.

While some may say hand knitting has never really gone away but studies have shown otherwise and an elderly woman has already proved it when it comes to the hand knitting. “My advice is to every woman to learn something practical to avoid being depended on others and never get involved in begging. Handcraft could be the best profession for woman folk because this way they could learn and earn. My index finger is responsible for my well-being,” she said proudly.

Farha Nadeem, a medical expert in Peshawar while sharing her views said that the oral histories of many knitters had been collected, and suggested that hand-knitting was most often associated with compassion “I knit love into every stitch” is a common refrain. The repetitive aspect of hand-knitting was generally relaxing and could be well-suited for meditational or spiritual practice. About other health benefits, she said many studies had shown that knitting, along with other forms of needlework, provided several significant health benefits.

She added that the studies had found the rhythmic and repetitive action of knitting could help prevent and manage stress, pain and depression, which in turn strengthened the body’s immune system as well as created  a relaxation response in the body which could decrease blood pressure, heart rate, help prevent illness, and had a calming effect.

Pain specialists she said that had also found that the brain chemistry was changed when one knits, resulting in an increase in “feel good” hormones and a decrease in stress hormones. Ms. Nadeem said: “Knitting, along with other leisure activities had been linked to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Much like physical activity strengthens the body; mental exercise makes the human brain more resilient.”

Taslim Bibi unpacks piles of her winter wears on every Sunday displaying variety of handcrafted items by a roadside where the passersby catch up with her colorfully designed woolen winter wears as she remains busy with her needle knitting the handcraft wears.

Resident of Wazirbagh, Peshawar, 55 years-old Taslim Bibi, in a chat with this scribe told she did not miss out Sunday Bazaar to take pile of her handmade items and displayed it on a roadside in Hayatabad to earn livelihood for her family.

She recalled that she had learnt the art of hand knitting from one of her close relatives when she was in her early teens, adding that hand knitting was a common place thing among women. Mothers used to transfer hand knitting art to their daughters for self-dependence in case bad times fell on them in their married life.

Taslim Bibi said that she could well measure up the worth of hand knitting art when six years ago her husband a daily wager died and left behind four daughters all depended on her. She told although she had been hand crafting winter wears for the last 40 years and could transfer her skill to one of her daughters yet she had never resorted to begging.

She stated she always advised young women to learn any kind of hand art as it would not only fetch them handsome money but would also empower them, adding that she could handcraft about 20 different items of woolen wears from frocks, socks, caps, blankets, shawls, pillows to bed-sheets with flowery mosaics and patterns.

Taslim Bibi said that she earned Rs1,500 to 2,000 daily but on Sunday Bazaar, her sale could touch Rs2,500 to 3,500 and the winter season fetched her sufficient amount that could last rest of the year.

“Woolen handmade items in winter fetch me more money and the price depends on the quality and design. Housewives should learn this art if they want to live a dignified and an independent life because it is far better to wash dishes or lay hands before others, even Allah doesn’t like begging. I run my house in a dignified manner and even help out my married daughters,” Taslim Bibi said as she changed over loop of her Qureshi needle.

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