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Tillie's Tales - Tailoring Woes
“Tailoring Solutions” the leaflet screamed as it fell out of the thick wad of newspaper I bent to pick up while balancing my morning cup of tea. Don’t know why I call it bed tea because I can have it only after I have hopped out of bed and hopped up and down the house drawing the curtains so that my son can sleep a little longer or gathering the bedclothes from the floor and covering my daughter, filtered drinking water for the whole day, watered my three little plants, looked for the car cleaner while taking in a quick view of our lane from my second floor balcony.
“Wow, my luck has changed,” I thought. I had spent years searching for a satisfactory tailor, or at least a reasonably satisfactory one. And failed miserably. I have searched in all types of localities and markets, from the humble ones that sit below the staircases of big buildings to the snobbish ones in up market areas. The amount of money paid to the tailor has varied, but the end result has remained the same - an ill fitting blouse or an apology for a salwar kameez.
There is a lot of apprehension in my mind before I reach the tailor to pick up my clothes. Because ever so often, he will rummage through the bundles kept below his work station, before declaring that the clothes are not ready. Otherwise, he’ll claim, “Your clothes are ready but they are lying in my workshop", when he and I both know he’s lying through his front teeth. "Come back on Tuesday", he’ll add. "But Tuesday is several days away", I murmur, visibly daunted at the thought of braving the odds once again to reach the master tailor (or tailor master as he is called locally).
It’s worse when the clothes are ready. Each time, in the so called trial room (fitting room), I try it on and then struggle to take off the too tight blouse. “Masterji, this is too small”, I wail, sucking in my stomach to fasten the hooks to the eyes. At which point, he will always look grimly at the scribbles which only he can understand and stretch the fabric against his measuring tape nodding all the while, “It’s exactly the same” – that is, the dimensions in his order booklet and those on his created masterpiece. “Ah, maybe you have grown healthier (a euphemism for having put on weight) since then”, he’ll suggest while I look guilty and uncomfortable at the possibility. “All those Diwali sweets each time I opened the fridge”, I think with shame.
The upshot is that even after several visits and weakening after every consecutive visit, I have to accept what he gives back, while he insists all the time that there should be no problem now. Meanwhile I continue with the inevitability of having to hide my blouse under my sari pallu.
So when this elegantly printed flyer fell out of the newspaper, I thought this was divine intervention indeed, as with my son’s approaching marriage I would need at least two blouses a day, for at least five days. When I telephoned the number given, a well cultivated voice answered and after an exchange of pleasantries and requirements, offered to pick up my saris and blouse material, take my measurements and even home deliver them when ready. “This cannot be happening, it’s too good to be true”, I thought, as I grew transfixed to the phone, hardly believing my luck.
The well cultivated voice belonged to a well cultivated lady who took my measurements very attentively, spectacles perched on her nose. “Could you please get this one blouse stitched by Thursday?”, I murmured humbly, expecting an it's-too-soon-grimace, “I have to attend a party on the 01st.” For, as I kept reminding myself, I had to make myself presentable as a future mother in law, I thought. She didn’t flinch, “Sure, I’ll give it to you a day before the party.”
Now, I thought, I could really rest in peace. No more going to the tailor with trepidation in my heart, no more clutching my sari end to hide my off-the-shoulder blouses while balancing the plate full of food at the buffet table. No more holding my breath to fit into blouses that were too small. I had visions of myself looking elegant and poised at parties and not looking envious of the well turned out ladies who had skilled tailors.
She delivered on time, as promised. “I’m sure it’s fine”, I said confidently as I squared accounts with her. Moments before draping my new designer sari on, I realised that the blouse created by the cultured lady with the cultured voice was far too many sizes too small. I had managed to pull the sleeves over my arms but in no way could I close the wide chasm between the two ends of the blouse. Struggling to get out of the blouse with the vice like grip, I had to desperately seek help from my daughter and pull her away from the mirror even as she was concentrating hard trying to fix her contact lenses over the pupils her eyes. It was followed by the usual last minute scramble to find a blouse, while my son agitatedly paced the house trying to get me to leave on time.
And moments later, there I was, facing the world once again, wearing my best smile and my mismatched, ill fitting blouse.