Better Than Fiction (non fiction)
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Threading a needle
by Rohini Sunderam
Secreted from the underbelly of the moth caterpillar called Bombyx mori, it sat in suspension for thirty-five days, a single filament one and half kilometres long. The cocoon was plunged into a hot bath to loosen the glue that held the threads together. Then it was cooled so that this thread could be unravelled. The caterpillar died in the process. That fine single strand of silk, for which a life was sacrificed, joined three other martyrs to form a thread of one of the finest, most prized fibres in the world.
It shone in the light with a gentle glow, blushing as each of its minute three-sided faces caught a sunbeam that exposed its lissom length and supple sinews. It glowed as a moonbeam caressed its tresses. And it stretched in pleasure almost to its tensile limit pleased at its own resilience as one of the strongest natural filaments in the world. Its pride was short-lived.
Before it could revel in its own existence, the thread was trapped. Caught and wound into a skein. Then, enslaved in a ring, the yarn was packed off to a fabled land, Turkey. Here in the dyer’s harem the skein lost the innocent cream of its youth and was plunged into an indigo dye.
The indigo whispered its own sad story of capture, beatings and torture. The two strangers in a strange land wept and embraced each other. As their tears mingled the indigo imbued the silk with the softest, most beautiful hue of sorrow - blue; the kind that shines bravely in the sun and glistens pensively in the moonlight.
Today, a three denier* thread of that silk waits suspended, rigid with fear, as a lady’s fingers clutch its neck and aim to push it into the oval eye of a sharp metal spike. At the last moment the thread flinches and dodges the eye of the needle.
The lady looks at the thread, then gently slides it over her tongue. The wet muscular rough appendage arouses an old memory – the glue that once held each strand tight and safe in that cocoon of the Bombyx mori caterpillar so long ago. The recollection makes all three deniers cling to each other now stiff with anticipation as they fly through the eye of the needle. It is threaded.
And the slavery of the silk is complete as the metal spike pulls all three strands together through the squared fabric to form a blue daisy in the lady’s embroidery. The silk sighs as it succumbs to its eternal punishment, forever bent, never free to flow and dance in the light again except in minute parts of its length as it weeps across the tapestry.
* Denier: a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibres, is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fibre. The denier is based on a natural reference: a single strand of silk is approximately one denier; a 9000-meter strand of silk weighs about one gram.
A Canadian of Indian origin, Rohini Sunderam's publishing credits include: The Statesman, India; Globe & Mail and Halifax Chronicle Herald, Canada; The Flaneur, Lucid Rhythms, Poetry Rivals (Remus House, UK), Atlantis Short Story Contest 2013, Oapschat, U.K, Colours of Life, Bahrain. Books: Corpoetry, Desert Flower, Five Lives One Day in Bahrain (Ex-L-Ence Publishing).