Tina, a girl who was about ten, knocked on each door of the neighbourhood and sweetly asked for any scrap cloth at the end of every month. Most of the time, she used to be shooed away and told to come later. She had an amazing memory and kept a good tab of who said to come later. Unfortunately, when she did go later, she would be asked to come later again or scolded for disturbing so often….However, Tina never gave up.
Rita and her husband had just shifted to the neighbourhood a few days ago. Rita was busy re-arranging the furniture in their new house, when Tina rang the door bell for the first time.
Rita ran and was astonished to find a tiny girl at the doorstep. She observed her very keenly and thought, “this girl must be only about eight years old..what is she doing here and not at school.”
Rita smiled and asked Tina who was shyly glancing at her, “Yes dear, how can I help you?”
After a small pause added with some concern and sadness remembering that her husband had mentioned that he will send someone to help her with the house, “Are you here to help me?”
Tina smiled and said, “I could help you but I also require some help from you. I would appreciate it if you could me pass me any spare cloth that you have..”
Rita queried,”Spare clothing for you to wear?”
Tina said, “No, any piece of cloth that you do not have any use for…”
“Sorry dear, I have just shifted and still need to sort out things to see if I have any I can give you…”
Tina had taken a fancy to this new lady. So she just frowned and said, “That’s OK…How can I help you madam?”
“Oh no dear…I was looking for an adult, I could not make you work.” She quickly added, “Will you not come in give me some company for tea?”
Tina nodded and willingly went in. Rita led her to the kitchen, and poured some tea into a cup and served some cream biscuits on a matching plate. When she turned, she found Tina sitting on the floor and observing her from a corner of the kitchen.
Rita laid the tray with tea and biscuits on the table and told her to come to the table.
Tina replied, “No madam, I shall sit here… people like me are not allowed to use the table.”
Rita picked her up from the floor and took her to the table.
Tina smiled. Rita asked her name, age and why she wasn’t in school while Tina drank tea and had the cream biscuits for the first time from very expensive china that she was ashamed to touch.
Tina told Rita about how her grandmother, her only relative didn’t have money to send her to school. She added how it was her idea of helping in collecting cloth from houses and how her granny wasn’t very pleased with the idea for a very long time.
Rita asked her while caressing her, “What does your grandmother do with all the scrap cloth?”
Tina looked up and smiled as she spoke how her granny ingeniously patches up the scrap into nice thick blankets or sheets of different sizes along with a few others who learnt the trade from her. Then, more gravely Tina spoke of how she takes the sheets to a shop nearby where the owner hardly pays anything.
Rita was astonished but just asked, “Where do you all stay Tina?”
Tina answered that they stay at one end of the neighbourhood, near the river and are called the “Patchwork people“.