Friday, 19 June 2015


Woolly caps galore!

Happiness for Sasmeeta means soft rainbow coloured sweaters for little kids 

These residents of an old-age home pose happily in their warm woolly caps
Yes, of course we could all use some help. There isn't a person alive without a need. So don't ask the silly question, just figure out how you're going to help and do it!” - Richelle E. Goodrich.

It's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime,” - Joan Marques.

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” - Winston Churchill

Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give,” - Ben Carson

We could fill up an encyclopaedia with more of these beautiful quotes about the joys of giving, but while most of us end up only reading them…or at the most, posting them on our Facebook pages, Sasmeeta Srivastava takes this advice to heart, and actually acts upon them! She has indeed found her own unique way to help, and her days are an endless chain of happiness, because each day is filled with the act of giving.

What does Sasmeeta do? Every day she knits…and knits…and knits. She knits woollen caps and scarves for the old and sick, and little sweaters for babies and children. And she gives every one of them away – sometimes at hospitals, or orphanages, or old-age homes. Sometimes maybe to the child of a domestic help, or even a needy person on the street!

Starting last year in September (2014), Sasmeeta has lost count of the many caps and sweaters she has crafted in the past nine months. “At a random guess it could be a 100 sweaters and more than 200 caps,” she beams, her needles clicking furiously as she strives to complete her latest project – 40 caps for a Home.

Working with, and for the under-privileged has always been a way of life for this intrepid lady. Hailing from the North, Sasmeeta ran an NGO for tribals (in Madhya Pradesh) along with her husband. But when he passed away, she gave that up, and was appointed Chairman of the Social Welfare Board. After a three-year stint, she spent another five years on an assignment for the Women’s Development and Literacy Mission, followed again by six years as an Advisor at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

10 years ago, her mother, who lived in Pune, fell seriously ill and broke her leg. By now, Sasmeeta’s children were grown-up and working, so without a moment’s hesitation, she gave up her work and moved to Pune, to nurse her. And even when her mother passed away, she remained in Peshwa City.

But what could she do the entire day? Having worked throughout her life, she found it difficult to sit around idle. TV or kitty parties were not her thing. She had always loved knitting. The soft texture and the rainbow colours of the yarn send her into raptures. In Delhi’s bitter winters, she had given full vent to her passion, knitting dozens of garments for friends and family. But Pune wasn’t cold enough! One hardly needed a warm sweater even on the coldest winter day.

One rainy day, as she was leaving some instructions with the Society watchman, she discovered he was suffering from a bad cold. “After midnight, the temperatures drop so rapidly, Madam,” he said in between bouts of coughing.

“Why don’t you wear a cap?” she insisted, and soon realized that even that meagre investment on a woollen cap was beyond the poor fellow’s reach. …And then an idea struck her. She rushed up to her apartment, dug out her knitting needles and set to work on her little remnants of wool. By evening it was ready – a colourful cap, warm and snug.

At first, the watchman couldn’t believe that the cap was a gift. Free! Why would anyone take this trouble, just for him? His next reaction was unmitigated joy, followed by pride as he now strutted around feeling warm, as well as smart. In fact, the neighbouring watchman noticed this, and asked him, “Will your Madam knit one for me too?”

The next day ‘Madam’ fulfilled his wishes …and from that day there was no stopping for Sasmeeta. She knitted a few more for others who worked in her building, and the neighbouring ones. She knitted for their little babies and children. And when she  ran out of people to gift her creations to, she visited orphanages, old age homes and hospitals.

“I realized that babies, children, old people and the sick are the ones who really need caps,” she states in her matter-of-fact voice.

When she ran out of wool, she scoured the markets of Pune, visiting Yerawada and Tulshibaugh. On her last visit to Delhi, a few months ago, she took along an empty suitcase, which she brought back crammed with colourful balls of yarn. Any friend or relative from the North is requested to bring along some more. “And I’ve told everyone, that if they want to gift me something for Diwali or birthdays, what I would love most is some more wool!”

While Sasmeeta insists on giving credit to her friend Mrs Pathak who inspired her, she has also been instrumental in inspiring others. She has successfully gathered together kindred spirits - avid knitters from her Senior Citizen’s Group - to ‘form a ‘knit for a cause’ group.

“We knit and gift to old age homes for the poor, orphanages, poor cancer patients in hospitals, our watchmen and children of our domestic help.  It’s a win-win situation. The knitters keep fit in body, mind and soul and the needy benefit from our efforts,” she says, a happy smile lighting up her face.

Well…what are you waiting for? Would you like to join this feisty group? Or maybe find your own unique way of helping the less fortunate?!


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