A Bonding Stitch: In Honour of the Seamstresses of Toronto

Woman sewing masks. Photo by author.
Face masks. Photo by author.

During the initial weeks of the pandemic, as the world was coping with looming anxieties and uncertain futures, many women, in their homes and communities, sewed hundreds of facemasks to keep their communities safe. Their willpower and courage never ceased to impress me. This poem is an effort to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of these unsung heroes, many of whom are people of colour, many of whom are immigrants, many of whom are mothers and many of whom are my colleagues and my friends.  One group of volunteer seamstresses was Flemingdon Community Support Services in Toronto, which responded to the Michael Garron Hospital’s Challenge and collaborated with the Neighbourhood Office to donate 2,000 masks in four weeks. Please also find here information about the Sew TO Women’s Collective, as well as some glimpses of the work and the experiences of seamstresses.

تعلق کا ٹانکا

سوتی کپڑا
اور سفید دھاگہ
پہلا ٹانکا
پھر دوسرا اور تیسرا۔
گرمی کی دوپہر، اور
دالان میں بڑھتے سائے
کھڑکی کے باہر
چمبیلی کی چڑھتی بیل ، اور
مجھے پکارتی میری سہیلیاں
”تیرا دھیان ہے کہاں؟
یہ دیکھ … یہ کچا سا ٹانکا؟
یہ سلائی ادھڑتی سی
اک سوکھی بیل کی مانند.
کیا جواب دونگی تیری ماں کو؟
اور سسرال والے تیرے ، امریکہ میں
کیا کہیں گے؟ باجی نے یہ سکھایا؟
نہ سیکھ سلائی ، نہ لگا اک اور ٹانکا
گرہو تناؤ زیادہ اور دھیان آدھا“


”سوتی کپڑا اور سفید دھاگہ
”اور اک باریک تہ رہے درمیان“
اسٹیسی نے سمجھائی
اب ترتیب تمام.
کھڑکی کے باہر سدابہار
اور ہوا میں تیز خنکی۔
مکمل کئے ہیں پچاس
اور پچاس ہیں باقی…
ٹی وی کے سامنےبچّے، منتظر
اوردیگچی میں رکھی دال مسور 
سوچتی ہوں کہ گھر جاؤں
یا تھوڑا ٹہر جاؤں؟
اف …
یہ میرا دھیان ہے کہاں؟
نہ رہ جائے پھر کوئی ٹانکا، کچا سا
یہ رومال نہیں، نہ ہی میزپوش کی سلائی
یہ ہسپتال کے استعمال کے ہیں حفاظتی ماسک
اس کے ہر اک ٹانکے میں ہے شامل

تھوڑی محبّت، تھوڑا خیال، اورنیک تمنّائیں

بلکل ایسی، جیسی باجی نے سکھائیں۔

A Bonding Stitch

I threaded a needle, tied a knot,
On a piece of cotton cloth,
sewed a stitch…a second,
and a third.
In the summer afternoon,
as shadows stretched in our courtyard,
as the flowering vine of Jasmine thrived,
outside my window, my friends,
darting and dancing,
waiting for me to...
“What is distracting you today?
…look! A loose stitch?
Pull its tail and watch the loops
fall apart—like flowers of Jasmine,
dried and dying.
What would I answer to your mother?
And to your in-laws, in Amreeca[1]?
Is this all Baji[2] has taught?
Listen, my little girl,
Less tension and more attention,
would make a perfect stitch— a promising vine.”
“Two pieces of cotton cloth,
and a thin lining in between.”
Stacy describes the steps,
and I setup my sewing-machine.
Outside the window, twining vines,
primed for blooming, as the spring arrives.
Have finished fifty— and
fifty more to sew.
Kids in the living-room, waiting—and
in the fridge, some lentil stew
Should I go home,
or make a few more?
What is distracting me today?
 Should I make a loose stitch again?
Neither are these handkerchiefs
Nor some fancy tablecloths,
These are facemasks to protect
our workers and community members,
And in each stitch, I have added
a little love, some empathy and well wishes
just as Baji had taught me in her lessons.

[1] Urdu pronunciation for America
[2] An elder sister in the Urdu Language; girls in Home Economics/Skill Development classes mostly address their teachers as elder sisters.

Tagged: #Arts #Borders #Child care #Domesticity #Economy #English #Gender #Geopolitics of care #Health care #Housing #Migration #Mutual aid networks

22 octobre 2020 — Norin Taj

Norin Taj

Toronto, Canada

Norin Taj is a PhD candidate in the program of Educational Leadership and Policy with a specialization in Comparative, International and Development Education at OISE, University of Toronto, Canada. Her general research interests include gender studies, the sociology of education and sociocultural anthropology. Her doctoral research examines local understandings of global policy discourse on girls’ education in the South Asian context, particularly in Pakistan. When not working, she enjoys painting and writing poetry.