Nandini Sahay Writing on Wool – IFWC

All But A Piece

The leaves were green when I lived true,

Despite the Northern winds that blew,

The art of jamawari* that Persians pioneered in Kashmiri lands,

Did burgeon by means of pashm*, goats, hands,

By light of Moon and Sun a duet, I wove with weaving stick,

And over hook needle, by the glow of Venus on Moonless nights, time would



The Capra Hircus goats of vale were martyred undressed for the virgin fiber,

Then the buttery underbelly cashmere fleece scoured in frothy alkaline lather,

Filth forsaken and the aerated wool- laved, improved,

Was pitched in tempered sulphuric acid to cleanse it more until renewed,

Beaten with love ‘twas then to remove the twigs,

Then laid in amnesty the wool, and opened were its filament sprigs.


A mosaic of mesh of summer’s asli tus* wisps now printed the work floor,

Then, the rubbish plucked out of these protein fibers amateur,

But softer, stronger they turned when ‘combed’ were they,

A patina of homogeny they divulged- now that final ‘gilling’ was past the way,

Finest, longest yarns arranged like dear heirlooms already,

Were then chosen, and my heartbeats would go unsteady…


Spun were these babies of beauty into many a creamy worsted thread,

Now that impeccably spun, the weaving sticks had just to start their stampede,

Commenced had now the mêlée of eye sight and motor skills,

That did wane with years and years, and toil and grills…,

Uff! A decade passed away-an entire decade of my handsome youth,

Yet like vapour on cold marble those years, as unfinished was my own Taj


Mahal and I-destitute…


Golden, silver, white, black, turquoise, amethyst, crimson, scarlet,


All from vegetables and dried flowers, from the silo of a gamine or a harlot,

I know not which, but the gallivanting patterns of rega butas* and jaldars*


Combust alive in the jacquard weaving done with twill tapestry ornate,

Wrought with wefts; while warps of hues sensational,

Ran long and prompt on handloom like Devil’s own curricle.


The ten dozen colours of readily dyed wool painting my partially filled canvas,

Of the unfinished pashmina* shawl beckoned me to divine a ploy more diverse,

Taken aback and amused in own self-burning moth-like masochism,

I flew to the fire of further toil, involved silk in my game of detonating


Now, wool with bit of silk, and bit of silk with plenty wool!

Both compatibly woven in the weave almost done; whereas my blindness

almost full…


Still I continued to embroider clusters of mango fruit and paisley,

In curvaceous forms hiding the secrets of cryptic Mughals quietly,

The secrets that don’t show, but wither in tales olden,

The secrets and their beliefs hidden in their art beholden,

To rafoogars* and karigars*, both of which I play in my story,

The shawl-my wake-up alarm, my lullaby and lorry…


My raison d’être*, when lastly existed and made,

Had divested me of Light’s cascade,

My bold pedestrian dalliance with pashm, silk, zari*,


It’s me at finest, and when the world witnesses my obituary,

And Nature has erased me and time shall have gone,

I’ll be remembered by this magnum opus for which I was both the King and the



Strewn like million elusive notes of symphony,

Ciphers and codes of history and heart’s good and its felony,


All coiled united by many a Sujni* and Amli* chain stitch,

Arabesque motifs created via hooks in the stead of needles without a hitch!


Spoke of the times of Persians, Mughals and monocracy,

Spoke of the credo of love, hot-blood and profligacy.


The ennui of indistinguishable front and back of insulated Jamawar,

Made of pliant Pashmina wool, with a touch of silk from Kathiawar,

The curling Kashida*, on lissome wool, spread like its own universe,

Made me a proud man-despite the black clouding my eyes in sweet curse,

These fingers which made this breathable Kanika Jamawar* – tired,

Now that the feat accomplished and my flame resistant woolen newborn sired.


My nuances enraptured in the mien I’ve casted,

My aura I’ve given for the gone years that should’ve lasted,

In the crimped souvenir that I shall not forever wear but over which I weep,

Yet, the loveliest things aren’t to keep,

What clemency one might cast upon my proviso,

Hadn’t I been in producing perfection a virtuoso…?


Who do you think would ever trust, pray do see?

That this durable entity recherché’* made by a decrepit thing like me?

The flesh friendly, warm, hydrophilic wool shepherded me into a state,

Best described in two wretched words as indescribable wait,

An instigator of something with only eleven more of its genus,

Born every year; I was the father festooned in both blossoms and funeral cypress.


A gratifying sinister design on myself I did lovingly sew,


The welter of stirrings I felt is still quite spinning new,

The shawl- ever elegance- a chef d’oeuvre* I created and my rationale sated,

Celebration must greet me, but my wits topsy-turvy in a sentiment belated,

A sentiment that came too late for a lair of dewy, daft ambiguity was around,

Lost had I or won had I? My answer couldn’t be found.


All that could be found was me- since then in a piece of cloth, made to last,

That all but a piece of cloth with twirling stories and surreptitious secrets of


That all but a piece woven in years so many-through sunshine, through frost,


That the piece of exquisite material and grain and embroidery would accost,

Accost my sensibility to new high and my passion to new deep?

How I wish the piece never recreated, even though it, I’ll not always keep.


Hindi Translations:

Jamawari*: Making of jamawars (jama-robe; war-yardage)

Pashm*/pashmina*: High quality wool

Asli tus*: Finest grade pashmina

Rega butas*: Floral pattern

Jaldars*: Net-like pattern

Rafoogars*: Darner

Karigars*: Workers

Zari*: Gold/silver thread

Sujni* stitch: Uniform embroidery

Amli* stitch: Coloured embroidery

Kashida*: Threadwork

Kanika Jamawar*: High-end jamawar


French Translations:

Raison d’être*: Reason of existence

Recherché’*: Exotic

Chef d’oeuvre*: Masterpiece



This text on Wool was written and submitted by Nandini Sahay for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Nandini’s entry for Round 1: To wear the “labour of love” – Pero by Aneeth Aroro

Read all the International Fashion Writing Competition published submissions.