What one word comes to mind when you think Crochet, Charity and Achievement? Zoroastrian.
Article by Mehernaaz Shovir Irani |Co-Editor Parsi Khabar
Early this year, a determined lady named Subashri Natrajan from Chennai decided that she wanted to create a Guiness World Record in crocheting the world’s largest blanket by beating a group of women in South Africa who had created a record with a 3347 sq. mtrs. crocheted blanket. Mrs. Natrajan realized that if she wanted to do this, she had to involve others. So was born Mother India’s Crochet Queens in August 2015, a facebook group that welcomed Indian women from across the world to crochet 40X40 inch blankets, which would then be joined to make the big blanket that would hopefully surpass the South African record. The rules were strict, in keeping with the Guiness World Record guidelines but there was no restriction on age, talent, creativity and innovation. Crochet is a beloved craft across generations, communities and sexes too. Soon enough, MICQ as we called it took on a life of its own. With facebook and extensive use of Whatsapp to keep all the members together and informed, at last count we were 2472 strong, from age 8 to 95, who contributed any number between 1 and 101 blankets to the cause and at a stupendous and really mind-boggling 11,148 sq. mtrs. the MICQ now holds the Guiness World Record for the worlds largest crochet blanket. And every one of these blankets has already been sent to various scrutinized NGOs and other charitable institutions for donation amongst children, differently abled and the aged who are not as fortunate as us.
So with something so monumental going on, that involved achieving a crochet milestone and giving forward, Zoroastrian women couldn’t possibly be left out. Zoroastrians, particularly Parsis love to crochet. At my wedding I was sent off with a big bag full of crocheted beauties lovingly made by my mother and Bapaiji (paternal grandmother) over my lifetime. My favourite clothes through the years have been the crochet blouses my Bapaiji made and every Zoro home has at least 1 item crocheted by hand.
Within MICQ, there were 8 Zoroastrian members; 7 in Mumbai and 1 from Bangalore. The first one to join was Dina Sengupta (nee Minocher) from Bangalore who joined as soon as MICQ was born. She runs a daycare centre and is a private tutor by profession but is a crafter at heart dabbling in various creative activities. She learnt to crochet 2 years ago as part of another Crochet with a Cause event and she was hooked to the hook. She expanded her repertoire to include various other things of use. Her zeal for the craft and her commitment to the cause resulted in 15 blankets.
From Mumbai, the first ones to join were Firooza and her mother Prochi Tachakra. Both are extremely enthusiastic and proactive women and active members of the Girl Guiding Movement. Mrs. Prochi Tachakra is a lifelong Girl Guide holding the post of District Commissioner, Guides, Central Mumbai, is a Leader Trainer and has been widely decorated with awards, most prestigious of which are the Silver Star National Award for contribution to Guiding as also the Asia Pacific Adult Leadership Award. The MICQ movement was Prochi’s opportunity to contribute to Society and do the Good Turn, a pillar of the Guiding movement that is the practice of the promise of Service. She has come away with a feeling of achievement and a sense of satisfaction.
For Firooza, who didn’t even know how to crochet the basic pattern of the blanket, the aspect of giving that this movement had conceived came very close to home when she was busy crocheting at the hospital during her father’s brief illness. A lady with an 8 month old baby in the ICU offered to buy the blanket as a comforter for her child. Refusing payment, Firooza gifted that blanket for the little one as a good health blessing. And then she went on to teach other to crochet and make 9 blankets herself. Firooza will cherish the various unforgettable extraordinary experiences of this journey.
Jennifer Daruvala of Dadar Parsi Colony took a break from work to care for her 3 children. Being enterprising she started a small cake and paper stencils for parsi rangoli business from home. When she came across Firooza’s call to join she immediately jumped in. Her desire to learn crochet from her college days, even as a left hander helped her to self learn through observation and a bit of Google. The joy of the craft and the noble cause kept her going and she made 3 when she wasn’t even sure of 1.
I’ve grown up with an immensely talented Bapaiji who created beautiful things throughout her life and which was her livelihood. And as is tradition, she imparted the knowledge of her arts to my mum Behroz Sam Wadia and me as a schoolgirl. So creating is in my blood and my mum’s (my Mamaiji was very creative too). For the both of us and more so my mother, any phase when we’re not crocheting, doing some cross stitch project, making a toran or just doing anything creative with our hands is a phase of restlessness and discomfort. My mum often complains, kantalo aavech, jiv ghabraich … su banau? And goes quickly from one project to another. So this movement was like manna from heaven. We started whole heartedly, sometimes getting frustrated when the elusive 40 inches just didn’t happen inspite of what seemed like endless crocheting. But we made our 2 blankets each and felt like we’d achieved something fabulous. Of course the Guiness World Record was a huge draw. I mean, to achieve something so prestigious by doing something wonderfully simple that we love to do … no brainer that. And as a tribute to my Bapaiji, I wore a ‘kor’ embroidered by her to the final event so in that small way she could be a part of this achievement.
Gover Allamurad Khushnami from Dadar Parsi Colony is 73 years old and runs a general store. Her long standing hobby is to sit at the store in the evenings and crochet caps and sweaters. Her eyesight is failing but her fingers are deft and practiced and she not only completed her 2 blankets but also took away her daughter Mahnaz Shapur Faroodi’s blanket to complete. She just didn’t want to stop and regrets the fact that she found out about the movement too late to contribute more. Mahnaz, who has been teaching since 21 years at the DPYA School, most definitely inherited the love of crochet from her mother and makes quite a few things herself whilst juggling the very demanding life of a school teacher and an LIC Agent. Crocheting her 2 blankets was pure joy for her and her mother and they’re eager for and open to any such future projects.
This movement brought a lot of beautiful aspects of life and human behavior to the fore. Resolve, courage, determination, encouragement, empowerment, camaraderie and solidarity and the spirit of coming together to achieve great things. Women found a purpose where they may have had none; they discovered new skills, rekindled lost passions, rediscovered happiness. As Dina says, the lives of women have been transformed – so many overcame depression and purposelessness, found the will to recover from illnesses, found a purpose in life, became heroes, earned respect and discovered their own humanity. Best of all, we stretched the limits of our mind to create and to enhance the beautiful making it awe-inspiringly beautiful.
A lot of laughter, new friendships and tremendous amounts of hard work later, we 8 Zoroastrians, amongst the 2472 women are Officially Awesome holders of a Guiness World Record. When the Record Adjudicator announced the final measurements, the collective joy of all the women present was the culmination of months of effort and coordination and pushing our personal boundaries and a very resounding declaration of Yes We Can. It was a celebration of life and women and giving and we Zoroastrians were honoured and proud to represent our culture and talents alongside all the other achievers. All of us will wonder who finally received our blankets and our hearts and minds will automatically say a prayer to God to bless that soul and then say thank you for acting through Subashri Natarajan and allowing us to bring warmth and a little anonymous love to someone less fortunate whilst making our lives a little more beautiful.