“Yes“, the tailor, a man in his late fifties, looked up, over the bi-focal glasses, as I pushed open the glass door to his world, a little uncertainly.
“I have a material. I need to stich a salwar -kameez (Indian dress with a long top and trousers) and I need it by this Thursday for Diwali“, I almost pleaded.
It was the festival season. All the tailors were busy around the festival season and “NO” was the expected answer, if the delivery was expected in less than 14 days. I had avoided the popular ones and entered the side-lanes hoping for a tailor, any tailor who wouldn’t be as occupied. I had experienced that impatient frown, disbelieving eyes, knitted brows, where the tailor hadn’t even bothered to respond and had looked at me like I had lost my head making a request like that, a few years ago. I had stepped out of the shop then, promising myself that I would never put myself into a position like this, where I had to put up with tailors calling the shots. “Who did they think they were?”. But here I was again.” Old habits die hard”, they say, not without reason.
“Yes”, he replied again, allowing me to heave a sigh of relief. I had had heard more than a lecture from my husband who was now waiting in the car, on how I needed to avoid doing things at the last minute, how it created unnecessary stress, how there was no parking, how he had given up his afternoon nap for this…
I lay the material on the table- top. “How do you want it stitched?”.
Looking straight at him, with clarity I replied, ” I want the kurta (top) short and the trousers in Patiala (loose with pleats) style”. That was the new rage and even if one did not have the perfect figure, it still made one look graceful.
Lifting the material for the trousers, he measured it with the measuring tape that dangled around his neck. “It can’t be done. There’s not enough material”, he passed the final judgement, expressionless.
“Is there absolutely no way? You could reduce the number of pleats or the width. There must be some way…”, I trailed.
“You can make a churidhar (tight trousers which are long so they crease around the ankles) or parallels (straight trousers like western pants). Which do you prefer?”
I had never been good at making impromptu decisions on matters that were not based on facts or figures. “Parallels”, I mumbled since it seemed the closest to what I had in mind.
“Ok, stand straight”, he ordered. He lifted the measuring tape to my shoulders and then from behind his ears, like a magician, pulled out a pencil to scribble the measurement on a little chit. “Arms. How long do you want your sleeves to be?”. Answering that wasn’t tough, “Full-length”, I said with no hesitation.
“Do you want it bell sleeves, or just straight and slightly loose around the wrist or do you want long churidhar sleeves, which crease around the wrist?” . “Long and loose around the wrist”, I whispered, almost hoping he didn’t hear me and did whatever he pleased. “He must have made hundreds of dresses like this”. “Why the hell was he asking me? Shouldn’t he have some idea what kind of sleeves go with a material like this. Isn’t he the expert?”, I pondered, a hint irritated.
“Now for the neck, do you want a V-neck, a round neck, a square neck, a star, a boat neck or a closed neck or …?”. There seemed to be no ending to the volley of questions and choices being shot at me. Only a left-brained person would understand how stressful situations like these are.
That’s when hubby dear came to my rescue. “Round neck”, he said with not an iota of doubt, as he stepped into the shop. It felt like I had just been pulled out of quick-sand. Grateful for his intervention, I looked up with renewed strength and utmost relief. “Is it done?”.
“How deep should the neck be? 1 inch, 1 and a half, 2..?”, he ignored my question. “3”, I said, loud and clear, hiding the impatience and lack of competence in the matter. “3!”, he repeated incredulously. “Isn’t it too deep?”. Damn! I felt my cheeks turning red and covering up the embarrassment, with all the dignity I could muster, I replied, “2. Make it 2 inches”.
“The kameez (top), do you want it knee length or above the knees?”.
“Above the knees”.
“Straight or flair? There’s no material for Anarkali”. “Straight”, I said without a second thought. That was an easy one, I mused.
“How much above the knees- is this ok?”, he held the measuring tape over my knees. “Yes“, I responded. Anything to end this session was welcome.
“Now, for the salwar (pants)”
“Parallels “, I interrupted. Surely, there couldn’t be any more questions to parallel trousers. They obviously had to be long, a little below my ankle and they had to be loose because for heaven’s sake, they were PARALLELS.
“Do you want it to be side-buttoned at the waist, front-buttoned or do you wish to have the string to tie it?”.
“Side”, I answered, totally exhausted with the quizzing.
“So, when will it be ready?”, I asked thrilled that the viva voce had finally ended.
“You wanted it by this Thursday. It will be ready on Wednesday night”, he replied, not bothering to look up as he continued with cutting the material that he was working on, before my entrance.
There was no reason to complain. I was getting my dress on Wednesday night. Like they say, “No pain. No gain”.
How did the dress turn out?
The dress was ready to be picked up at 9.00 p.m. on Wednesday night, just like he had promised which is a great thing because like everybody knows, lawyers are liars and tailors never keep their word when it comes to the dead-line (at-least that’s true for tailors that I have had the luck of dealing with). The dress itself was perfect and it got a lot of compliments.
Do I want to do it again? “NO WAY!”.
Will I do it again? “Who knows? (given my fetish for doing things at the last moment and if my deep need for compliments far exceeds the trauma I experience at the tailor) Maybe“.
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