From the early teenage of my life, I was interested in clothes, even though I never had many those days. Shoot! I am not going to write my plain Jane diaries here.
I learned tailoring when I was fifteen. It was my summer romance with clothes.
Clothes always mesmerised me. The different textures, the different colours, the different patterns of cutting the cloth and stitching them back to a pretty dress; It was pure art. A little stitch here, a little hem there, and phew, what a dress! I used to look (even stare) at people’s clothes when I was a kid.Even now I do; but I learned the tricks of not making it too obvious. Stitching little useful things from scrap pieces of cloth is such fun. I still remember the day and the joy I felt that day when I made a kitty pouch for my best friend to hold her cell phone and other knick knacks out of a shiny little black cloth. All my clothes were stitched by me, some out of my mother’s saris, some out of my dad’s cotton lungis, I even remember taking patches from my brother’s old pair of jeans and making a top out of it. It was such fun.
When I sit and wonder why I got into all these, I don’t have an answer.
But sometimes, I try to remember my grandfather. My mother’s father. I do not have any strong memories of him. He was dead before I had known him as a grandfather. The only memory I have about him is a pillow, a tiny green pillow he had made for me when I was a baby. Ma always talks about him, and says that, “mole, your grandpa made this one for you; it must be the last thing he had made with his hands.”
He was a tailor. He started sewing before the sewing machine came to Kerala. He used to make figure perfect dresses for men and women. Ma used to say that women came from far off places to get their chatta (traditional Christian women’s dress in Kerala) stitched by him. He used to be really popular those days. He had a tailoring shop named Martin Tailors; St Martin was his favourite saint. There was a huge picture of Saint Martin against the blue flaked walls of my Ma’s home. One of my cousins is named after Saint Martin. Grandpa sewed and sewed and made a family of seven. Out of the five children he had, my mother was the youngest.
He might have had no idea about what “Industrial Revolution” was. Yet he was threatened by the arrival of the sewing machine. There were rumours that this monstrous machine will take away jobs of tailors. Grandpa learned to use the sewing machine and started using it. He might have found out that it made his job much easier. It did take away their jobs in the long run, when production shifted from small time tailor shops like our Martin Tailors to the production lines of large machine controlled tailoring units of readymade clothing. My Uncle who inherited the shop could not survive the pressure and finally it closed down. However, my grandfather did not live to see the end of the shop he established with his sweat; breaking his backbone, sewing, sewing and sewing.
My grandfather is a person who had handcrafted the modern man in a small town of Kerala. He learned to cut and stitch Shirts and Trousers. He might have stitched thousands of them in his lifetime. He had stitched wedding suits for hundreds of young men. The last thing he stitched was a little pillow for his granddaughter. And she is now half fashion enthusiast who always have an eye for what suits whom, half research scholar who finds it profound to read the Roland Barthes book “The Fashion System”. It is not coincidence. It must be my destiny.