Dubai Diaries: Story of a school sweater
Do you own a piece of clothing that has sentimental value?
Did you ever own a favourite sweater or piece of clothing that you kept for years, that you found difficult to part with? The story of my most loved sweater, a simple, dark red, knitted, button-front cardigan with pockets, dates back almost thirty years.
Back in ‘80s Dubai, since a lot of our time was spent at school, it made sense that most winter wear our parents purchased for us was of a hue that could be paired with the school uniform, which, in my case, was a navy pinafore matched with a white blouse. For eight years, between Grades 2 and 10, I went through a series of navy blue sweaters, most of which were given away as I outgrew them.
In 1990, as we were on the cusp of migrating to Grade 11 (a big transition after being with the same group of friends for almost a decade), a rumour going around that the school uniform was to be changed was met with great excitement; we imagined quite a glamorous reinventing of an outfit we had got rather weary of.
And our hopes were not dashed - it turned out that a smart grey pleated skirt with a checked grey blouse, and matching red tie was what we would wear to school for the next two years. I’ll admit, even a couple of weeks into the new uniform, there was some preening done in front of the mirror before bolting to catch the school bus.
When winter rolled around my mother picked up a sweater to match, most likely from Karama Shopping Centre, or Bur Dubai’s Meena Bazar where she was an ace at bargaining and where, back in the day, most shop owners humoured you and played along. There are so many memories associated with that first bit of warm clothing I possessed as a ‘young adult’. It was spotted in a stash of old pictures unearthed over the years from various friends, most notably one from a wintry school picnic to Mushrif Park.
At times it’s strange to see a younger version of yourself smiling back at you from a moment frozen in time; I often wonder what had passed through my mind as I was snapped with my hands tucked into that cosy red sweater that means so much to me.
I carry that sweater everywhere I go, even now. Even though I am not a skinny 15-year-old anymore, it still fits (though a bit snugly), and a feeling of warmth and reassurance envelops me every time I wear it. Perhaps it has something to do with old memories, of belonging, of laughter and being carefree, that have forever woven themselves into those strands of wool.
Many years ago, when a female security officer who was frisking people at one of India’s domestic airport terminals commented on how lovely my red sweater was and whether I knitted it myself, I was tempted to say ‘yes’. But I just smiled in return, offering up a silent thanks to the unknown person who did make this cherished piece of my wardrobe that has seen me through thick and thin.