A Stitch In Time: Sasmeeta Srivastava’s Knitting For A Cause
Pune based Sasmeeta Srivastava is bringing warmth to the less privileged with her knitting. You can join this social worker’s ‘Knitting for a Cause’ project too. Here’s her story.
‘Clickety clack Clickety clack…’
You’ll hardly ever find 72-year-old Sasmeeta Srivastava, a senior citizen from Pune, without a pair of knitting needles, a ball of wool and a project at hand. What sets this prolific knitter apart is that she knits for the sick and needy, giving away each and every creation that comes off her knitting needles to make this world a cosier place. She gives away the sweaters, scarves and caps, knitted by her, to hospitals, orphanages and old-age homes. She also gifts her woollen creations to the children of the domestic help, to the watchman or to needy strangers on the street.
The Warmth of Giving
Sasmeeta’s ‘Knitting for a Cause’ project started in September 2014. She, along with other family members and friends, have knitted and given away over 300 caps and 75 children’s sweaters till date. “It’s a win-win situation really. I enjoy working with such gorgeous wool, creating new patterns and then giving them to those who really need it the most. This brings me peace,” says this knitting magician who has been living in Pune for the past 10 years. Sasmeeta was initially inspired to start knitting for others by a friend in Delhi, who would knit bags full of sweaters and then give them to labourers and the poor to help them get through the bitingly-cold winters of the capital. Since the winters in Pune are pleasantly cool with hardly a need to wear chunky sweaters, Sasmeeta has adapted to the need of the people around and has been knitting caps, sweaters for babies and small children, and recently, scarves with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Rhianna.
“She (her granddaughter) started helping me knit some scarves but now makes some of the most wonderful scarves on a hand-loom.” And this is golden, this time spent with her grandchild, bonding over creative knitting projects that bring them both a lot of joy. Like Sasmeeta says, it truly is a win-win situation for her and for the other senior citizens who have joined her in this project. Sasmeeta partners with her neighbors, friends and family to knit for a cause. She asks friends in Delhi to send over their stashes of leftover wool to her, so she can put them to good use. Other family members and friends, who love to knit, have picked up their knitting needles again and send her packages full of caps and baby sweaters that she can then give to those who need it the most. “My neighbour and I swap pattern ideas, while another friend of mine knits with me,” quips Sasmeeta, who seems to have spun a knitting revolution of sorts with her combined passion for the knit-and-purl and helping others.
A Life In Service
“We go around with blinkers, not realising that there’s so much we can do help others. If we just look around, we can find a way to give to those in need,” says this smart senior citizen, who has worked at the grassroots level with the Gond tribals in Madhya Pradesh, alongside her social scientist husband. After her husband passed away, Sasmeeta moved to Delhi, where she worked with various organisations in the welfare and development sector. She was the Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board for a few years, then moved on to the Department of Electronics, where she helped promote women’s education through the electronic media and eventually worked with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in the field of rural development. Before Sasmeeta moved to Pune in 2005 to look after her mother, she was running her own social development company that helped connect funding agencies with NGOs.
“My mother, a doctor, was an avid knitter herself and would knit as a way to unwind after a hard day’s work,” reminisces this septuagenarian, adding quickly that even though she grew up seeing her mother knit, she didn’t enjoy her needlework/knitting class in school at all. “A German nun taught us how to knit and I still remember the number of times we were asked to cast on before we could get on with our knitting. But thanks to her penchant for perfection, I knit the way I knit today.”
For Sasmeeta, knitting now is a whole bunch of fun. It’s also a way to use a hobby and a skill to stay useful to the society, to foster new relationships, to learn new things. “Recently, I’ve had orders for cap and scarf sets. Some people going abroad asked me to knit them several sets of these and then insisted on buying them,” she explains, adding quickly that the money she receives from these orders is donated to the Cancer Patients Aid Association in Pune to help fund a poor patient’s treatment. She emphasizes that knitting for her will never be a way to start a business. In fact, it’s her passion for her craft and her willingness to stay sensitive to the needs of others that keeps her going.
“As you grow older, boredom and restlessness set in. But when you can put your talent to good use, it keeps you fit, fights degenerative diseases like dementia and arthritis, and gives you a purpose in life.” Busy knitting more caps and scarves, and equally involved in inspiring other senior citizens to turn their hobby into an opportunity to help others, Sasmeeta says with satisfaction, “Life is beautiful and I feel life is at my finger tips.”
Indeed it is for Sasmeeta and for all those silvers out there who’ve found a way to nurture their talents while making a difference to this world, one stitch at a time.
Sasmeeta Srivastava can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography: Anup Banerjee