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A trusty sewing machine and the will to serve

After nearly a lifetime of hard work and taking care of her family, no one would have grudged Saroja some well-deserved time off during the pandemic. But that is not her style. At 81, A. Saroja did not want any change in her hectic routine — to keep herself engaged, she stitched masks and distributed them to the needy for free.

The wrinkles of age on her face are not a true reflection of the challenges that Saroja has overcome. She trusted her sewing machine that has been with her for nearly six decades and set to work.

A helping hand

“Many people, poor people, from the neighbourhood would visit me to get some stitching work done, and they would cover their face with saris while I had a mask to cover my face. That was when I decided to stitch masks and distribute them for free,” Ms. Saroja said.

“Initially, we distributed about 1,000 food packets to the needy in the locality and we used to distribute ‘kabasura kudineer’ too. But we stopped after the government introduced restrictions on food distribution. I’m someone who needs to keep myself engaged, I need to keep working,” she says. “That’s when I took up stitching of masks for the needy.”

She has stitched and distributed over 5,000 masks, and continues making them even today.

Ms. Saroja was born near Mettur in the 1940s, and was married at the age of 13. Her husband A. Angamuthu worked for the Railways and retired as a goods guard. He died in 1997. She lost two of her eight children — her third and seventh daughters — to different health conditions.

A constant

It was the sewing machine that stood her in good stead. Her brother bought it for her in the 1960s, and it has accompanied her wherever the family travelled. Though it now has a motor attached, she still prefers the leg pedal.

Though she is 81, Ms. Saroja does not need a pair of spectacles to thread the needle; her family says she remains free from any lifestyle disease.

A. Vasantha, her eldest daughter, recalls, “Even during my childhood days, my mother used to spend hours stitching on the machine. Before she got the machine, she used to work on the ‘charkha’.

Her son Natarajan’s wife N. Poonkudi says Ms. Saroja does not like snacks or sweets from shops and chooses to make them at home. She says no scrap or discarded cloth is left at home now that all have been converted into masks.

A big proponent of education, Ms. Saroja says, “It is the only immovable asset.” She tells youngsters to help the needy in whatever way possible.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2021 11:49:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-trusty-sewing-machine-and-the-will-to-serve/article33639366.ece

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