Tailor made


Earlier today, I chanced upon some black and white photos from my childhood. The pictures made me smile. My sister and I are wearing identical frocks in most of those pictures.

That was how it was back then. We would go to a garment shop, and choose running lengths of fabric. We would head to the tailor shop afterwards, for our measurements to be taken. The tailor would make identical clothes for my siblings and me, only the sizes were different.

The tailor’s shop was located in the crowded market in our town. It was a small shop that had a narrow entrance. The shop had shelves along all its walls, running from the floor to the ceiling. One could barely see the shelves, crammed as they were with customer orders.

I always wondered how the tailor was able to remember, when each order was due. Deep within the recesses of the shop were the sewing machines, all of them busy all the time, with men or women bent intently on a frock or a blouse or a shirt.

The main tailor, usually had a pencil tucked behind his ear, and a measuring tape slung around his neck. He measured, noted, gave instructions to his staff and managed the whole pipeline.

Picture courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

While, during non-festival times, the tailor usually delivered our orders promptly, it was not so during festivals, especially Deepavali.

The fabric buying took place at least a month and a half before Deepavali. We would rush to the tailor to place our orders. And even at that early date, the tailor would lament about the pipeline, and about how difficult it was going to be to deliver our clothes early.

And then the negotiations on the delivery date would commence – between my parents and the tailor. We would come home with a receipt for collection and an acceptable date for pick-up.

Just a fortnight before our due date, whenever we visited the market, we would drop-in at the tailor shop to give him a gentle reminder. There were no mobiles or text messages to do the job. The tailor would nod and wave vigorously each time – to reassure us that he had not forgotten us.

Our dad would usually pick up the tailored clothes on his way back from work. After dinner, we would get a peek at our new clothes. They were packed away and stored carefully till Deepavali.

The years just flew by, and then came the era of off-the shelf clothes, and our visits to the tailor dwindled.

However, after marriage, we Indian woman still go to the tailor to get out saree blouses stitched – ‘tailor made’ exclusively for us!

Love in a jackfruit seed


I love my work table, and the organized clutter on it. It is where I feel at peace, where I write, and where I keep all the documents and to do lists that I am juggling with, at any given moment.

On my table is also a small rectangular tray, in which I store stickers, post-its, drawings and small gifts from my children.

In this box is a jackfruit seed, its coat a little loose now. This jackfruit seed was gifted to me by my daughter, about four years ago. She drew eyes, a nose and a mouth. The eyes were on all sides, so that any side you turned the seed, a pair of eyes stared back at you.

I still remember that afternoon. We had just come back from the supermarket with two boxes of jackfruit.

We usually cut open the fruit, preserve the seeds and add them to a lentil based gravy. The seed becomes tender upon cooking, and adds a nice flavour to the dish.

My daughter took away one of the seeds for the gift she was to make for me.

As she observed the seed, I told her stories from my childhood. We lived in a small town in the hills, and it was quite cold for eight out of twelve months in a year.

We had a small cast iron stove called a kumutti aduppu that looked like this.

Image courtesy – Pinterest

This stove had many uses. My grandma would load it with coal and light it up. One had to keep fanning the coal to keep the fire going.

On rainy days, when clothes (especially baby clothes) needed to dry, a basket was placed over the kumutti’s embers, and small baby frocks and shirts would dry on them.

Small pieces of fragrant resin called benzoin resin, sambrani, were thrown into the coal embers. The resin emitted a lovely fragrance, considered to be therapeutic.

On the weekends, when all of us had our traditional oil baths, the sambrani would be thrown into the kumutti, and a basket placed over it. The fragrant smoke would seep out through the cracks in the basket, and dry our wet hair and infuse it with fragrance.

We would also throw in jackfruit seeds into the kumutti, and allow them to roast. Our grandma would take them out carefully, cool them and give them to us to eat.

Truly beautiful memories.

I come back to the here and now. My daughter walks in and sees the jackfruit seed.

“Mom, can’t believe you still have this.”

I smile.

I have many such gifts from the kids, each with its own allied memories, and lots of love.