One of the greatest influences for me to jump start my craft aspirations is my grandmother or Abok as we call her in Manipuri. She’s probably way into her 80s at this point in her life. I’m unclear as to what her real age is but she’s old enough to have seen the aircrafts in formation flying over Imphal during World War II and hasn’t aged past 65! She lost her husband very early in her life when my mother was only 6 & has pretty much managed to raise my mother on her own.
My earliest memories of Abok as we call her is that of a petite hard working lady who managed an entire field, 2 buffalos, a loom, a pond full of fishes & a typical tiny hut all by herself. She used to make sugarcane syrup fresh from the sugarcane growing in her little field and cooked lovely fish for us. She still loves to dress up & dress up well and is always game for a good deal on goods in the market too. Very feisty and up for adventure too, she instils awe in all of us including my mom. She still weaves every day waking up at 4am. In fact she procures yarns, dyes them, makes the warp, weaves & even takes the products to vendors.
The towels she wove for us – for my friends & me, are truly special for that reason. The red & green checks on a white background and the absorbent cotton that somehow gets better every time you wash it… it’s my favourite kind of towel. Not many people know about these traditional Manipuri towels and I hope to spread the word about it to as many people as I can so that others can enjoy and appreciate these lovely hand woven products.
Meanwhile Abok is still going on strong and still haggling over prices whilst wearing nice phaneks(Manipuri sarong) and occasionally dyeing her hair jet black 😀