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!

A metal trunk and a table cloth


After my siblings and I left home to pursue our dreams, my mom put away the things that each of us treasured, in three huge metal trunks, one for each of us.

They clanged and made loud noises each time they were opened, allowing us a peek into our past and the things that meant a lot to each of us.

Just before I got married, my mom asked me if I wanted to take the trunk with me. I was attached to the trunk and decided to take it to my new home. I still have it,  a big blue one.

But before my wedding, I cleared the trunk. What fun it was, it had yellowed books by Enid Blyton, a tennis ball that I got free with a chocolate drink, hundreds of stickers, my slam books from high school and university, a book where I copied my favourite quotes, pressed dry flowers from our garden, a few beads and pebbles, and a table cloth from our craft class in school.

We had a compulsory craft class from Grades 6 through 8. Each year, we were expected to complete two projects. We learnt how to make plastic wire bags, a green parrot lampshade, embroidered handkerchiefs, a table cloth and many others.

The tablecloth was white in colour;  we had to draw floral patterns at the four corners and in the middle. Then using all the stitches we had learnt, we had to embroider the cloth.

My mom was very happy with the final product and displayed it proudly at home, for everyone to see.

As with everything else, newer, better things took precedence and the table cloth faded from memory, till it resurfaced when I cleared the trunk. I still have it with me. Here are the pictures.

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A tablecloth with memories of our childhood trapped in its stitches, of pretty flowers and picnic baskets, of butterflies on a meadow, of carefree school days gossiping with friends as we sewed on….

Change – A Short Story


Vish sat on the wall that separated land from the ocean. It was a wide wall, and he sat dangling his feet towards the water.

He had a job in the docks, a small job that paid for his food and rent, but little else.

He sat munching on his sandwich, weighed down by a feeling of hopelessness. This week would be his last one on this job. He was a temporary hire for the busy season.

Seagulls swayed and danced above, around the water; the water itself, blue and timeless, a mute spectator to his melancholic mood.

He felt bitter as he looked at the busy port, and the hundreds of people who worked there. Was there no job in this big place for him?

He had stopped with high school and had joined his uncle’s business as a tailor. He had learnt on the job and come to love the satisfaction of sewing a beautiful frock or suit or trouser to perfection. He was in his early twenties when his uncle passed away and the tailoring shop had to be closed.

From then on it had been this way, one temporary job after another, where one just followed instructions.

The loud blare, as a ship left the docks brought him out of his reverie; the pain intense, as he contemplated the next week.

He had to start all over again. His money would soon run out and he had to find something quickly.

He finished his lunch and walked back, to the mundane task of dragging cartons up and down, only stopping for tea and coffee breaks.

That weekend he was set free, nobody expected him to report for duty, nobody believed he could be of any use, nobody knew or cared if he had had a decent meal. His mom lived in her village, content with the few dollars she made as a domestic help.

As he walked back and forth on the high street, checking if anybody was hiring shop assistants or anything else, he heard three women talking animatedly as they waited to cross the traffic signal. They were quite loud, and he heard one of them talking about their children’s costumes for a play that had to be altered by the evening, and their desperation that no tailor was willing to take on this rush job.

He decided that he had allowed life to slip by thus far, without focus.

Before he could stop himself, he had gone up and told the ladies that he could do it for them but for the fact that he had nothing, no support, no infrastructure, no money, absolutely nothing, except the skill to alter the costumes.

The ladies looked at each other incredulously. One of them saw his face; and couldn’t quite place the expression on it – hope, resolve, grit? She couldn’t really say. On a whim, she said, “I have a sewing machine at home, will you do it?”

Three hours later, he had managed to complete the job to perfection, leaving three very happy moms behind. They had compensated him well and had given him a warm meal.

As he walked home, for the first time in years, he felt that maybe things would work out for him. He just had to wait for the right opportunities and seize them.

A couple of days later as he poured through the newspaper, circling the Jobs Vacant section, his phone rang.

The voice said, “Mr.Vish?”

He said, “Yes.”

“We are calling from the Little Flower Nursery School, we were given your contact by Mrs.Samuel, who spoke highly of your skills in tailoring. We have our annual school concert coming up and would like you to sew the costumes. Could you please come and meet us?” the voice said.