Tales of the
Don't expect sartorial satire here, ticklish
tales tailored to have you in stitches. This is a sad story.
I have just broken up with my tailor. It was a long time coming,
and yet I held on like a fool. I overlooked the ruined blouses,
turned a blind eye to the fact that he never kept his word on
delivery dates, suffered his indifferent stitching stoically
and even swallowed his calling me 'auntie.'
But the other day he refused to take back one
of his disasters and re-repair it. At first I was afraid, I
was petrified… then I decided that it was over. As the gentleman
from Stratford-on-Avon once said: The parting was well made.
I told Mofijul that I was not coming back again and rushed out
dramatically, throwing at him the line I always wanted to say
to someone in a choked manner: "Amar aar kichu bolar nayee."
(I have nothing more to say to you). He flung down the measuring
tape: "Please auntie, don't be angry… come back" Oh!
No not I! I will survive! And the next moment, I was free, and
out in the cold, sitting on a pile of unstitched material and
in the market for a tailor.
All savvy women know that a good man is easier
to find than a dependable dorji. I remember the time
when tailors were not only dependable but made house calls.
I know that this tradition is being resurrected and that many
busy women now have over-priced tailors come to their homes.
This is fine for fittings but apparently the delivery of goods
is only at their mercy. But in this matter, tailors have women
under their thumbs anyway.
They know we lie when we say "Bhishon urgent.
I need it tomorrow night." "Impossible." Tailor
says implacably, basking in his moment of power. This is your
cue for flat tery, flirtation, and flagrant feminine wiles:
"Oh! Come on! Please. I know you can do it. If anyone can
it's you. Why do you think I chose you above all the tailors
in this city…." Pause, while scrawny tailor flowers in
his glory. "Earliest possible date is Thursday." You
produce the glimmer of fake tears, "Eesh! Can't you make
it even day after tomorrow?" "Okay, okay, tomorrow
night. Eight sharp." What? Oh! How he has enjoyed this
encounter. We knew he lied, he knew we lied, but these are all
extensions of what we call sartorial grace.
The perfect tailor does not exist except in
memory. My first tailor was the original Tailor Master of the
old school. This was in West Pakistan, he was from Lucknow and
always arrived at our house in a Turkish Fez cap and a sherwani.
"Ass-salamalaikum beta!" He greeted us. While he produced
a battered copy of a Sear's catalogue of the '50's, and we tried
to incorporate some of those musty fashions into the PIA pajamas
and mini kameezes of the times, he spoke to us in the
purest of Urdu and took detailed notes of fittings that amounted
to a medical exam. He produced perfect clothes.
Our next two tailors, in Dhaka, also measured
up. One was a talented enthusiast in the Cantonment where I
grew up, always adding extra frills to counter my penchant for
the simple shalwar kameez. The other one who ended
up making my wedding blouses, was a stern and pious man whose
name actually was Molla tailor, and he worked from a garage
in Dhanmondi. As a shy bride-to-be I gave in to his piously
made blouses. Afterwards, when I went to have my first post-marriage
blouse made, I asked in faltering tones: "Could you make
the back a little lower please?" His tape measure crept
a micro inch as he pinned me with a stony gaze. I avoided his
eyes and whined "Just a wee bit lower?" I guided his
immovable tape with my will while his eyes glazed over into
a 'hell awaits you' look. I didn't have the courage to ask for
a sleeveless blouse on that trip. For that I waited to have
a baby first, and then with toddler in tow I came to Molla brimming
with confidence. He knew I was a lost cause, kept his eyes averted
and maintained an ominous silence through the fitting. The next
year when I returned to Dhaka and went to Molla, I heard that
he had left on Hajj. I felt responsible for it was a most delectable
blouse and he had stitched it to sinful perfection. For many
years it was the model I flung at other tailors to have it merely
This period of reproducing the copy lasted for
another decade. One trip I went to the tailor shop and found
my usual dorji not there. I handed the pile of blouse-material
asking them to do it according to the pattern my tailor had
in the file in my name. Uncomfortably, they confessed that Hafiz
had quarrelled and left this shop for good and before leaving
he had torn up all his client's patterns. I never found Hafiz
from blouses, one needs tailors for other clothes too. When
my boys were little and we came to Dhaka in the December-January
period I made full use of it to get costumes made for the Carnevale
festivities in Italy in February. Prices of ready-made costumes
are exorbitant in Rome. So, one trip I decided to get my in-law's
Purana Paltan dorji, round the corner, to devise a
Superman costume for my three-year old, which would be all one
piece and easy to wear. Instead of blue leggings, body suit,
red briefs and a separate red cape, I conceived of a one piece
blue-cotton pajama with a top attached complete with
the yellow chest-insignia embroidered with an 'S' and a red
cape at the shoulder, plus the crowning glory--- a fake red
brief stitched onto the pajama.
Shofu dorji asked through his pan-stained
grin if this was the Italian fashion. I ignored him and explained
about the brief. Patiently he said: "Apa (this was pre-'aankel-aunty'
period) the underwear always goes under the pajama."
"I know," I gritted my teeth, my voice rising "I
just want it to look as if the underwear was worn over the pajama."
He shook his head and took a long look at me. I hissed at my
eight year old, "For God's sake don't you guys have a Superman
comic I could show him?" Shofu sighed spitting out his
pan juice, "Apa, I can do it, but he will look like a clown."
I saw the light, "Exactly my man. This is for a fancy dress."
"Oh! So you want him to dress as a clown. Aagey bolben
to!" Thankfully my boys didn't understand the Bangla
word 'shong.' It was the most perfectly designed dress that
Clark Kent ever wore for a school Carnevale parade. When my
baby walked by proudly, I wished Shofu were there to see that
his concoction (Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It's Shong-man!)
was better than the over-priced paper version another kid wore.
The year after, I had no problem with Batman.
Now, why can't I find a tailor who understands
sari blouses? It's not as if I'm asking for a Wonder Woman costume.
Meantime, I am wondering if once the Eid rush is over, I should
stitch and make up with my dorji? Gloria Gaynor will
hate me, but as long as there is an unworn sari, I wont survive!
A stitch in time saves going to nine other tailors.