Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
When I was little, to entertain me and to occupy me, my grandmother used to draw out a picture on a notebook or a scrap of paper and ask me to copy it. And that would keep me occupied for at least half an hour.
Every time the picture was the same.
Some straight lines, some curved a bit geometrical a bit floral. When I’d ask for something different she would make it larger by adding more of the same basic motifs and thereby increasing the size and conplexity.
I have a vague mirage-like memory of this picture. The memory has faded almost completely. There is no way to fish it out of my mind.
And my dear grandmother is now bedridden and completely silent. This drawing that she knew so well – there is no way to fish it out from her mind either.
Sometimes in a textile I see motifs that are related to that picture – the similarity is too great to ignore but not enough to give me a clear lucid flashback. Something like these:
But it triggers so many thoughts.
First the textiles in which I see similar motifs are either from the Hazara / Swat / Nuristan belt or from the interior Rajasthan belt. In any case the similarity between the textiles of both groups suggest some migration of memes led by the migration of people groups. So the fact that these groups were linked historically is a conjecture that is easy to make.
But how was my grandmother aware of this motif? She spent her childhood in Gujarat in a big city and we have no known connection to even Rajasthan!And Hazara / Nuristan? She probably did not even know it existed. So how did this motif get entrenched in her art? Her mother? Her grandmother?
My questions are 5 years too late.
There is often a deep yearning in moments of loneliness when all I want to do is to go ‘home’. And the only place that I still see as home is the one from my childhood. With a perfect happy joint family it was – with a scarcity of resources that led to perfect bonding within the family and the neighborhood during all our small struggles.
And as we grew up / moved away / became adults and acquired other forms of happiness, all of that childhood family bonding was lost. And somehow the loss of the memory of that drawing embodies all that.
And so there is a lingering frustrated hope that if only I could remember that motif I would have succeeded in capturing all that was precious about those days – things that I treasure today but didn’t pay enough attention to when I was living it.