Two sisters thoroughly enjoy their hobby — embroidery. Seetha is 86 while Lakshmi is over 90 years old

N.V. Lakshmi sits on her cot, eyes focussed on the embroidery hoop and the lovely flowers and leaves taking shape inside it. A needle held in her wrinkled fingers goes in and out. Gradually, a red flower takes shape. Sitting beside her is her sister N.V. Seetha, who is lending a dash of colour to a dark green sari. Not one minute stitch is out of line. Lakshmi is 90-plus and her sister, 86.

When their neighbour Sudha introduced them to different kinds of stitches eight years ago, Lakshmi was drawn to embroidery. Seetha, who lost vision in one eye during childhood, was impressed by her sister’s hand work and wanted to learn embroidery too.

“We were wondering how she would manage with just one eye, but chitthi paati is very confident threading the needle and she has a steady hand,” says ophthalmologist Lakshmi Iyer, Lakshmi’s daughter-in-law who is wearing a sari that is painted and embroidered by her mother-in-law. Another of her saris features elaborate, multi-colour peacocks on the pallu.

Colour me red

While Seetha is mobile, Lakshmi is wheelchair-dependant. The sisters say embroidery is a great way to make use of the long day. How long can we watch television, they ask. Dr. Lakshmi traces out designs on cloth for them and helps them choose colours. While Seetha is partial to the colours red and green and enjoys doing stem and double knot stitches, Lakshmi says she likes stem stitches and any colour that suits the basic fabric. They have worked on more than 60 saris, besides kurtas, blouses and baby dresses for friends and family. Lakshmi worked on saris for Dr. Lakshmi’s mother as well as her own year-old great granddaughter.


What delights them most is the appreciation that comes their way from the wearers. “It feels very nice that people like what we do,” says Seetha. Ironically, neither of them wears anything with their embroidery.

The sisters take up their embroidery after breakfast and work at it for about three to four hours, spending time with each other just the way they did as children.

Ask them if they imagined a decade ago that they would embroider, and Lakshmi laughs: “Embroider? I never expected to live this long.” She continues: “In my family, many passed on in their 80s. These are my bonus years and I want to do something worthwhile with them.”