SUNDAY FEATURE: The Romance of Hand-Knitting!

Knitting is a craft in which sweetness is infused and calm induced

“In the rhythm of the needles, there is music for the soul”

That time of the year when light breeze gently feathers across the skin and the sun cheers everyone with the loveliness of its sunshine. When the earth smells of ripeness and fullness, fruit and bounty; and the air is filled with notes of love and laughter. It is then that many sitting in their cozy nooks pick up the needles to knit comfort and warmth, stitch by stitch, for the approaching winters. Knitting has always been associated with peace, healing and pleasant childhood memories. Hand knitting is a beautiful expression of love involving the use of two or more needles to loop yarn into a series of interconnected loops in order to create a finished garment. It is a craft that has given comfort to many a generation across the globe since ages.

A brief history

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, and from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and later to the Americas with European colonization. The oldest knitted artifacts are socks from Egypt, dating from 11th century C.E. While in Europe the earliest known knitted items can be traced to the Spanish Christian Royal families who employed Muslim knitters. Several paintings from Europe portray the Virgin Mary knitting including ‘Our Lady Knitting’ by Tommaso da Modenna. There is also mention of knitting in the plays by Shakespeare that were written between 1590 and 1610. In 17th and 18th century hand knitting became an important occupation in Scottish Isles. By mid 19th century hand knitting declined due to the increasing use of mechanical knitting machines. In India, scholars do not have a fixed time period assigned to the introduction of knitting. There is no ancient word in Sanskrit for knitting. Even in Hindi language, the term for knitting is bunaai which means weaving. Textile expert Toolika Gupta is of the opinion that when knitting was introduced in India, it was instantly called bunaai for lack of better word.  Therefore, the word ‘weaving’ or bunaai has been synonymous with knitting in this country.

Present scenario

The popularity of any craft has always swayed along the ongoing fashions of the eras and the changing values of the society. The 1920s saw a rise in demand for sweaters and pull-overs with statement styles being set by the likes of Prince Wales (future Edward VIII) wearing Fair Isle sweater to play golf and Coco Chanel incorporating knitwear in high fashion. It was a much sort after craft during the war years too. Again in 1950s and 1960s knitting gained huge popularity with introduction of more bright colours and styles of yarn. But the point to be noted here is that knitting as a hand craft had already lost its charm by this time. It was in mid 19th century itself that hand knitting was taken over by knitting industry and survived only as hobby. By late 20th century it further saw a decline and was rarely taught as a craft in school. With many knitting groups emerging, 21st century indeed saw a resurgence of this craft amongst Millennials but still fails to pass on the skills of this craft to Gen Z who is more occupied with virtual world errands than the real world charm.

Great gift of knitting

Hand knitting is not merely a creative leisure activity. With increasing number of mental health issues, sense of lack, broken families – knitting is a craft that can provide immense therapeutic results. The truth is that the romance of hand knitting is vanishing when it is needed the most. Hand knitting relaxes the mind, soothing its electric sparks by focusing the thoughts in the moment. It makes you still, helps gather yourself and centers your being. More so, it disciplines the faculties of mind and body, thereby increasing patience and concentration. Pain specialists have found that hand knitting changes brain chemistry, resulting in an increase in ‘feel good’ hormones (i.e. serotonin and dopamine). Interestingly, the craft of hand knitting being a binary wrapping code of knit and purl stitches, serves as one of the best brain exercises to increase I.Q. as well. Studies have also shown that knitting has helped reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The gift of hand knitting certainly lies in its healing nature. It is a craft in which sweetness is infused and calm induced. As is said –

“Sweet contents knit in my soul, in a million happy stitches”

  So just do it!

Tools & Material: Knitting needles, yarns, row counter, stitch holder
 
Basics: Learn how to cast on the needle, i.e. put the yarn on the needle              Learn to do a knit stitch and purl stitch               Learn to cast off the live stitches              And you’re ready to make that scarf for this Christmas!

  Advanced stitches: Cable stitch, Plaited stitch, Dip stitch
 
Stitch patterns: Garter stitch, Basket stitch, Herrington stitch, Fishermen Rib stitch

Published in The Post India on 14.10.2020

OPINION: The Digital Advertising Market in India post Covid-19

The industry of advertisement has been in service since the time of classics. From the drumming of town criers to the revolution of printing, the arena of advertisement has evolved to a new phase, namely, digitization – where time and distance hold no substance. And in the troubling times of covid-19 it has not only become the most wide reaching medium but also the most powerful in creating strong audience impressions.

A common metric for what a digital advertisement is that it is a media that does not merely involve dissemination of information and persuasion like its predecessors, but also stimulation of public demand through online campaigns, search engine optimization, social networking sites, viral advertising, e-mail and mobile marketing, blogs, pop ups and the list is endless. Its accuracy of measurement to track viewership through ‘hits’, ‘likes’ and ‘click throughs’ also render it much success similar to a proper feedback in a successful communication, thereby helping in market research and surveys. The search engines match the interests and topics of the browser with the targeted advertising without the browser realizing it. It effortlessly contextualizes the advertisement and seeps into the lives of its market audience.

It has been rightly observed that audience influences the media, and the media influences the audience. This observation has never been truer than in times of covid-19 when lockdowns have led to major lifestyle resets, especially in India which saw one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world. Although the Indian lifestyle had changed long ago, creating new demands that in turn led to further technological prowess in the country. The boom in telecom industry in this country has been extraordinary lately.  An enormous market in India has been created, first by making smart phones within the reach of common man and second by providing better internet speed. The 3Gs and the 4Gs have in turn given tremendous impetus to the digital advertising sector which further impacts the huge population, or it can be said, the market audience in the country. A report by Dentsu Aegis Network has stated that the media and advertising industry is shifting at a rapid speed and digital is certainly taking charge with a growth rate at 27% in 2020. It is to be noted here that post covid-19 this growth rate is very likely to increase manifold.

The topic of tussle is that to what extent digital advertising will be successful in Indian market given that the majority population of the country lives in remote rural areas and lacks data infrastructure. However, notwithstanding, the whole situation can also be looked from an optimistic angle. The increased availability of internet and smart phones in the recent past, combined with the new adoption of local language in technology has only increased the number of rural users, thereby creating more business. India has begun to change its digital narrative from the ground level itself, as can be observed in Indian governments ‘Digital India’ initiative and the recent demonetization which rather pushed the country for a digital up-gradation with people adopting and adapting online medium over the traditional ways. This has also turned out to be of immense help in the distressing times of covid-19 pandemic.

In the end, it is worth keeping in mind that digital advertising market in India is not solely about technology but also sociology. It is undeniable that a huge digital market awaits to be tapped in this country. Covid-19 has sadly but certainly opened a gateway for major new digital advertising trends that can take over India drastically. It is now only a matter of how it is optimized and utilized.

THE GREY ZONE

The future of digital advertising market in India post covid-19 certainly has potential but it also raises some pertinent issues since India is a developing nation.

Mental Health: By working on the notion of selling the consumer to the product than the product to the consumer, it can lead to higher discontent in a society that is already going through a mental health challenge in these tough times.

Managing Perception:  When a large amount of information is fed and not merely dispensed, it is in other words – creation of a perception that can be managed by various digital tools. This can have serious repercussions since majority population of the country is rural and is primarily educated at a basic level. They would not be able to skeptically view or identify the sophisticated organic digital marketing.

Young Market Audience:  Even if the lack of data infrastructure in remote rural areas is completely met with, there would still be a major task of spreading awareness about various digital medium to safeguard especially the young market audience from falling prey to online rumors, fake news and suicidal mind games that often make way through digital advertising.

Published in The Post India (thepostindia.co.in) on 20/7/2020