Kumari warily touched the fine cloth that rested in her lap. Her black hair covered a beautiful heart-shaped cheek line, a shield of sorts, protection from a sordid world. Her skillfully disguised expression of reserve remained in tact but her dark eyes couldn’t hold back the fear or the pool of tears that threatened to escape.
“Don’t be afraid.” Camilla said “I will show you. You will be making beautiful purses in no time.”
And if I don’t…?
A tear escaped down Kumari’s cheek. She quickly brushed it away. Camilla pretended not to notice as she demonstrated the proper method for holding a needle. Kumari held the needle in the same way.
“Good!” Camilla encouraged.
Kumari glanced quickly at Camilla’s face. She looked peaceful, safe. People are not always what they seem. Kumari couldn’t stop the flood of faces that assaulted her memory, Men who seemed nice but left her bruised and torn. Kumari pushed the needle through the delicate fabric pricking her finger slightly. Her heartbeat quickened. She examined the soft olive skin on her finger. No blood.Kumari breathed easier. She hadn’t soiled the fabric. Maybe, I will miss a beating today. Kumari forced herself to watch carefully. Her hands trembled with sheer determination. She steadied them. After a few clumsy stitches, sewing got easier. Kumari relaxed a little as the purse began to take shape. Camilla nodded approval, “Good!” “That’s right!” she encouraged. Finally, hesitantly Kumari held up the completed purse for inspection.
“A work of art!” Camilla smiled tears brimming in her green eyes.
“It is good?” Kumari asked shyly.
“You did well on the purse.” Camilla said “but you, Kumari, are the work of art.”
Camilla brushed a lock of black hair from Kumari’s cheek and repeated, “You are a work of art! You are perfect and God loves you so much!”
Another tear slipped down Kumari’s face. She lowered her eyes but a smile crept slowly to her lips. Kumari’s heart felt something that was unfamiliar but not unwelcome. She couldn’t name this new feeling but it made her warm like sunshine rising on a cold autumn morning. Her fingers slid over the soft fabric. It felt more precious than the finest silk. “You are perfect and God loves you so much!” Could she trust those words?
She looked again at Camilla’s face hoping for an answer to a question that was too risky to ask.
“Are you ready to try another one?” Camilla asked.
Kumari picked up a length of fabric. This one will be a work of art!
• World Crafts is breaking cords of bondage in India and all over the world one purse at a time. If you would like to learn more about the work of World Crafts in the red light district of Kolkata visit www.worldcraftsvillage.com
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