The sewing machine

You are my great great-grandmother’s sewing machine
Like a propeller sounding machine
And old school gates
You are a metallic taste
You are weight and rust

I give you my memories
Which in turn make you more than just an inanimate object
I give you the stuff of life
Love, meaning and a story

Bring me the understanding and acceptance
that everything that we live happens only once


I hear it before I see it. Propeller sounding machine. It slows down. Pauses. Resumes. Like propellers ready for take off. Then I see it. Singer sewing machine. It looks just like the one my mother inherited from her grandmother. Looking at this one now, in Bandipur, Nepal, I remember the one back home.

When I was little, I used to sit down on the pedal. It’s all metal, heavy and rusted, and I had a hard time making it move. Even with all of my weight on top of it. I didn’t know, then, how this woman in front of me could be performing her task so graciously and effortlessly. If you step on the pedal as you turn the wheel with one hand, the weight is gone. Suddenly, that heavy surface is moving in waves and requiring very little pressure on it. Because the simultaneous hand motion that keeps the wheel turning is constant.

I also remember the smell of that sewing machine – the smell it left on my hands after I ventured over, under and around it. It smelled like old school gates. Abandoned cars. It smelled of time past. That’s what everyone says you experience in your mouth when you’re on antibiotics. A metallic taste. We all know what that tastes like.

The trick to sowing, so I’m told, is feeding the thread into the hole, sliding the piece of cloth you’re working on and synching it to the speed of the up-and-down motion of the needle. In some ways, it’s like playing the drums. Each of your four limbs is performing a different task, independent of each other, but absolutely complementary and vital to the whole.

My mom’s not into cooking, but she learned to sew. And she’s left handed, which gives her a charming and clumsy flair in anything manual she is undertaking. It’s one of those surprises about her that opened up a window through which I could peek and see a bit of her before maternity. A woman I never met and will never meet. It is both curious and moving to me.

And because time refuses to stop, slow down or speed up, all I get to see is the turning of the wheel. Of the sewing machine. Of koras. Of samsara.

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