Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Tale of the Maroon Sweater!

After months of insisting I take a sweater to a tailor to put a zip on it, my mother finally gave up on me and asked a dear friend of mine to do the job instead. Now this friend is an accomplished dentist,  a busy one, who has hardly any time for her own chores, but she isn't accomplished enough to say no to my mother. So she took the sweater and dropped it at the tailor's, and called me up and asked me pick it up the next day, as she was too busy. Big mistake!

I promptly forgot about it, as I do most such tasks. After a week, I suddenly remembered the task of the sweater and sheepishly drove to the shop, some 5 km away. There, I met a gentleman with a white beard, who asked me to describe the sweater. I had to scratch my head to remember what it looked like- a rather difficult thing to do because I had done everything in my power in the last few months to ignore the sweater and anything to do with it. My sketchy description must have been good enough because his eyes lit up and he pulled out a cloth bag from under a table. Shaking his head, he smiled sweetly and said "Yeh to nahi hua", meaning "This one hasn't been done yet". 

I felt such a relief- the delay was not my mistake, but the tailor's! But I dutifully sweet-scolded him, telling him how far I had come from for it. He promised to fix it the next day and asked me to come for it again in the afternoon. But who remembers the next day? The mountains call, the rivers whisper, and I have to listen to them, don't I? 

After about 10 days, my mother asked me about the sweater. I told her rather indignantly how the tailor had not done the job, and how careless people here are, and how my precious time is wasted in such things etc. But that very afternoon, I sent my driver to the shop to pick up the dreaded sweater and be done with it. He returned empty-handed. No one in the shop knew what sweater he was talking about! It seemed to me that this shop was competing with me in its disdain for the sweater!

Another week passed. This time my friend reminded me about it, so I made the huge effort of going to the shop again. The person in-charge looked at me askance when I asked him to give me the sweater. He had no clue what I was talking about. I asked for the older man, and I was told he had gone for his namaz and would be back soon.

So I waited with my arms folded, muttering under my breath and frowning. Those who know me well know how impatient I am. I make life hell for those who make me wait, but here, no one paid any attention to me. All three tailors were busy doing their stuff, sitting in their small chairs, surrounded by hundreds of jackets strewn around them. It was as if I and my frowns didn't exist. My impatience didn't bother anyone but me. 

After about 10 minutes of standing looking at the mess, I saw the white-bearded man coming towards the shop. I was ready to burst into a tirade, but one look into those eyes and all my anger vanished. I haven't seen such kind eyes in my life I think. That and his body language, which was neither overtly apologetic, nor arrogant, just full of calm good-cheer, completely floored me. I managed a saccharine-laced complaint about the missing article, but even that stopped once he said "Woh maroon wala half-sleeve sweater!".  He knew! He knew! 

I spent the next 15-20 minutes standing patiently as he pulled jacket after jacket from the piles on the floor, trampling on them with his shoes in the process. It was the most ridiculous scene. There were two huge piles, each with at least a hundred jackets each. When I asked him about them, he said one pile was of clothes already fixed and the other of the pending jobs. Mine was surely to be found in the first one.

Seeing the older man bending over double to find my packet, the other tailors joined in the search. 

Finally, a small packet was retrieved, resulting in much cheering from everyone! I asked the gentleman to pose for a photograph with it and he obliged happily. 

I left the shop with my mother's sweater, grinning from ear to ear. It was only when I was nearing our house that I remembered that I had not made the payment for the work done! No one had asked!

Such is the pain and the pleasure of living in a small town!