Saturday, 21 May 2016

Remembering Razai' (Quilt)


Just before winters started (usually post-Dussehra, pre-Diwali days-Oct/Nov), my mother would start preparing for the colder months ahead. This meant getting the winter clothes out, washing or putting them in the sun and also to re-do/freshen the older Razais and the Lihafs. Razais were the lighter versions of the Lihafs, process of renewal involved fresh cotton fillers, washing covers and then finally sealing them with the stitching of the threads. As a child, I always found the process very tedious, and then later as a grown-up time consuming requiring a lot of labor, but never boring!

It started with taking off the older covers, cutting their old stitching lines and then washing them (by hand, as we did not have a washing machine then!). The covers if they were worn out were replaced by newer, shinier dupattas/old suit pieces (the older clothes got recycled) on the top. The bottom part (astar) was either bought new, or old one was colored again. In hot water, color was added, mixed and then cloth was added for a brand new color (mostly red) of the razai bottom. The most tricky thing was the "goat"(not the animal, but meant the corners), which were of plain color in satin usually, contrasted with the print of suit pieces/dupattas. Once the covers were fixed/stitched together, it was sent to the market cotton shop walas for putting cotton fillers inside the covers. Weight of heavy or light cotton decided if it was going to be a Lihaf/Razai! Lighter Razai involved more work by my mother.  In case of the Lihafs, shop walas added the cotton and then also stitched it together. Since, the cotton was thick it was left to the professionals to finish the job. Razai on the other hand, was delicate needed stitching under the expert supervision of my mother. Once the cotton fillers were added to the covers, my brother would get the Razai back and then it was beginning of the hard work! 

Post-lunch, after we came back from our schools the terrace was the place to be! The terrace was cleaned then on a clean big bed-sheet the un-stitched Razai was spread out in the warm sun. The neighbours were called as volunteers to put the threads, either the older Tai' (our elderly neighbourhood Aunty) or my childhood friend Shabbo (whom I suspected my mother loved more than me! She had also done a Tailoring course and could stitch perfect lines!). The entire exercise brought our immediate neighbours in the lazy afternoons on the terrace, as Ammi gossiped or discussed family issues or politics (both Tai and Ammi were politically very aware, thanks to the TV in our homes and watched news with interest).

Sometimes it was all of us and the Razai finished in just a couple of afternoons, with sessions of gossip and chai (made by me). If it finished in a couple of days, it gave ideas to my Mum to work on another one! My favorite past time, while all this was going on, was to lie down on top of the new, soft cotton Razai (like a bedding), and then get numerous scoldings for flattening out the fluffy cotton! As I got older, and our neighbours shifted from there, it was just Ammi and me who would put the threads. Mostly just her, who would call me incessantly to  needle the thread or would just ask me to give her company as I observed her working, till her cataract allowed. Her fingers often got swollen up, or bled if needle pierced while stitching and whenever I offered to do the stitching she hated them! My lines never went straight, they always zigzagged and my explanation was always, 'its a new design pattern'! But, my perfectionist mother would have none of it! She loved her Razais and wanted perfect lines of stitching on them.

To me the entire process only meant one thing- who would get to use the New Razai? My father (Head of the family, but made no contribution in the making of it, although paid for it), or my brother (who got the cotton filled, but nothing more!) or me (made cups of tea for the Razai stitch Volunteers, cleaned terrace and flattened the new cotton!) or my mother (who did the maximum work, but never used the new one herself!) Often it led to fights between me and my brother and whoever got it, it would make the other to take 'revenge' by jumping/using it like a bedding to make the new fluffy Razai flat! 

Those light, home made, delicate warm Razais are a part of my memories now, like my mother. The things that we use now are commercially made blankets, they do not have the warmth of my mother's fingers and I do not have the luxury of flattening them as they are already too flat!

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