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Sampurna Das

Sampurna is a doctoral candidate with the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She has been working on the issues of water and land governance, and agrarian relations in the wider context of environmental change and uneven development. She has presented and published her views on various national and international platforms. Apart from that, she has been coordinating surveys and preparing reports for different organisations. To take a break from all these ‘words and world’, she picks up her needle and threads. 

Embroidering Our Way through COVID-19


I have grown up seeing my mother embroider every day. Even if it was a quick 10-minute session squeezed in at the end of a busy day of looking after her children, husband and parents-in-law. It took a COVID-19 pandemic to make me realise that those were her private moments where she reflected on and planned ways to manoeuvre through misogyny. Embodying the art from her, I spent most of my leisure hours until high school with needles and thread. After a few years of disassociation in between, I returned to embroidery following those heady lectures on feminism about reclaiming practices deemed feminine by society. I reclaimed embroidery for myself when I realised that the silence and the restricted body disposition required for embroidering are not to be confused with subservience but a subtle act of defiance against partriarchy.  


This lockdown, I am embroidering way more than I ever did. As if to find an escape from the immediate realities. Every time I pass a thread, I fly back to places I call ‘home’ - my hostel room in Delhi or the tin accommodation in the river island of Western Assam (which happens to be my doctoral field). But only to be back in Guwahati, at my parents’ place where I am constantly wishing for the pandemic to end; not so much because of the fear of the virus but because I am barely being able to hold myself together with so much misogyny around. So, for me, the COVID-19 lockdown has been more about struggling with and surviving through the daily routine of patriarchy within the family rather than the invisible virus. My mother understands it more than anyone else. Perhaps the reason why she has been teaching me difficult designs is to keep me engaged in embroidery for hours. Maybe she is allowing me the time and space for reflection on ways to manoeuvre through the misogyny, something that I had been evading for all these years while living away from home. 

I present here three of my recent pieces highlighting the different states of my mind– 'A liberated female soul,  ‘Every house has two things in common - periwinkle and misogyny’, and the 'Orange-blue flower taking me back to my hostel garden'. There's also an image of my mother’s simple floral motifs on a mekhela-chador, a relatively easier design because she now has lesser leisure time for embroidery due to increased amount of hygiene work that needs to be undertaken due to COVID-19.

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