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Bindi Bottoms
Indu Mati with her students Sewing Teacher, Sultanpur

"It was necessary for girls to learn how to stitch clothes and knit before they got married or they would have to face their in-laws’ taunts. But things are not the same as they used to be in those days.

I run a school to teach stitching, knitting, embroidery and other handicrafts. Girls from diverse backgrounds come to me for training. There is a certain pattern in the interests of the girls I train. The women from higher economic strata mostly either do it as a hobby or are about to get married. But those from lower economic strata, especially the Muslim community, want to make this their profession and support their families.

I had always been interested in designing clothes for my sisters and myself using the available meager resources that my family could provide. It wasn’t just an interest though; it was also a need. After my wedding, I moved to the railway colony. The staff residential colonies in those days had close ties with each other and all the young girls in the colony would come in the afternoon to learn designs or patterns from me. Sadly, most of these girls were those who were about to get married.

Even I did not consider teaching seriously till my husband suggested that I open a school. I was apprehensive. I lacked confidence in the beginning. So many fears plagued me - I was a housewife who hadn’t completed her education; I was in a new city; what if students did not turn up!

But I had to get over all those insecurities. It began with just one girl. I did not have much to invest, so our verandah became the classroom, and some second hand sewing machines were all I could afford in the beginning. I now have over 45 girls enrolled here.

What makes me hopeful is that today these skills are not a measure of one’s educational qualifications. Nor are they a measure of how good a wife or mother a woman is. Now, these skills are about self-dependence, confidence, change and the respect that these women are earning for their work. The skills are also about being a single mother, being the only daughter taking care of parents and being a woman and triumphing against all the odds that a woman has to face. My students stand out as some of the most perfect examples of such victories "


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