The roadside tailor
November 6, 2009 1 Comment
Saturday, 29th Nov after a day long unsuccessful wait for Karuthu to be updated, I set out for a walk around 7 pm in the evening.
I went out to the market to get couple of my watches mended and also to alter few of my old jeans into 3/4ths (recession time, cant afford new).
I had couple of choices – One a proper tailor shop and another a road side tailor. In the true spirit of supporting the underdog as espoused by “Thiru” Amalan, I went to the road side tailor.
He had few ‘orders’ on hand so i had to wait for a while.
Few torn bags to be stitched, few curtains to be stitched et all.
He was on a plastic stool, outside a ‘cut piece shop’ which probably ruled him out from any steady income (if he stationed himself outside a readymade shop, he could get some stable business in form of length alterations etc..). He was largely dependent on some families of the lower income group which looked upon him as the rich do to Ravi Bajaj or a Rohit Bal.
I noticed that he sat on a plastic stool which didnt have a back support. He would be in the early 40s with a huge mootai besides him. He had a grey box in which he held the various coloured threads.
Probably he couldnt even afford a draw for his sewing machine which prompted him to keep the needles in his shirt pocket. (Since mine was jeans he had to pull out a thicker needle).
The lady before me had couple of handbags to be mended which he dutifully did. Next he stitched a lengthy curtain, dexterously handling it so as to not allow the cloth to fall on the ground and soiling it.
Given his operating constraints he couldnt even fold it; So he went inside the shop on some pretext of asking something and in the process used the desk to fold the curtain. The shop owner didnt seem to mind though he made the tailor to fetch him couple of plastic covers on the other side of the shop.
The lady paid him Rs. 100 and he accepted it with glee dutifully paying obeisance to the note by touching it with his eyes.
Soon it was my turn and he marked out the length to which he had to cut my old jeans. He proceeded to cut with his long scissors, cursing in the process about the quality of the scissors.
Since it was a long wait for me, he enquired whether i have finished repairing my watches. I answered him in the positive and he continued to cut away my jeans.
When he tried to change the thread to suit the colour of the jeans, i asked him not to worry since it was meant for casual wear inside the house. I felt it is a small thing i could do to prevent him from straining his eyes in the fading light trying to get the thread inside the needle.
A friend of the tailor strolled by asking how he is doing. His response was point blank : “How will I be ? Unlike you I am not salaried…so everyday is a struggle”.
Just then it hit me.
I started wondering what ‘guarantee’ does he have for the morrow ? Does he have children ? Does he have something called a ‘retirement option’ forget plan !
When can he stop working at the roadside ? From where will his liberation come from ? Who will liberate him ?
May be his son ; But is he sure of it ? What are the odds that his son can get say a factory or a BPO job.
As my mind was engulfed in these thoughts, both of us heard a ‘huge belch’ followed by some ‘unclear mutterings’ in loud voice.
We both looked at the road. It was a patriot..i.e a Kudimagan, in full tight condition.
For the first time in the one hour or so, the tailor smiled.
‘Sir, the water of our city gives everyone such a good voice’. I joined him in the mini laughter.
Ever since Wednesday I was going thru a low due to all the happenings of Mumbai and this was the first moment in the last week, i felt a little light. All the heaviness of the mumbai blasts seemed a bit lighter.
I started wondering whether this man knew what was happening in Mumbai. Did he have a TV ? But more fundamentally did he have a house where he could have a TV ?
I didnt want to ask him.
If he didnt have a TV, probably it is a blessing in disguise since he can surely do away without more despair. But if he had one, how would he feel ?
Though the market place i went is nothing like the South Mumbai area, if ever the market place comes under some threat, he could lose everything. Including his life.
He is perhaps one of those millions of such small time entrepreneurs who exposed themselves to every risk every day. Business Risk, Risk of Rain, Risk of Bandhs, Risk of losing everything, Risk of life.
’60 Rupees sir’. He had finished the alteration. I paid up without any bargain as is my wont.
A fat, plumpy lady came and enquired him about her ‘order’. It became apparent that some people did trust him with their new clothes.
I switched to ready-made garments about 10 years back and it has stayed that way.
I thought that someday i should try him out for a new shirt.
I collected the now 3/4ths and started walking back to home.
After a passed a crossing, a man-boy started walking parallel to me carrying a huge parcel.
After about 5 minutes of walking which still kept both of us on the same level, he turned to my side and asked in ‘Urdu mixed Hindi’ the directions to the nearest bus stop.
I told him.
He thanked me and crossed the road.
From his urdu mixed hindi it was evident that he was a Muslim. With long ‘punk hair’, rugged jeans and a sweatshirt type T shirt on top.
As he turned right, i could read the words written on his T Shirt : ‘ASSASSIN’.
The irony couldnt have been more stark.
I chuckled and continued my walk to my home.