A Tailor’s Tale
Here is my tailor's life story that might be of interest to some. Tailoring shops are common throughout Pakistan, and most women get their clothes tailored although ready-made garments are also readily available in boutiques all over the city.
COVER STORY: A Tailor’s Tale By Rumana Husain
In a crowded lane, not too far from where I live, my tailor, Master Mohammad Akbar runs his shop. He usually has my clothes ready on time, but on this particular day, a few buttons still had to be sewn on my shirt. He ordered a karigar to complete the unfinished work, while I chatted with him about his life and work.
‘Master sahib’ to all his clients, Akbar is not even 40, though lately, after performing Haj, he has grown a beard and taken to wearing a cap as well, which makes him look older than his years.
He grew up as one of ten siblings. Seven of them are married, but he is still a bachelor. His father was a labourer, who sent him to a government school where he studied up to class five. Later, the family moved to Gharo, not too far from Karachi, to live with his maternal grandfather. There, the young Akbar managed to complete his Matric.
He says that his mother, who used to stitch clothes for all her own children, sent him to a tailoring shop for apprenticeship while he was still in school, where he learnt to stitch men’s clothes. However, he considers his older brother as his true ustad – his teacher and mentor – who taught him to cut and stitch women’s dresses. The two brothers run the present business together, but each has his own clientele, all women.
“I have worked at a boutique for some 15 years. There too I learnt a lot about tailoring as well as how to deal with clients. When the boutique closed down, I rented the place from the owner. Later, my brother and I bought this space,” he claims proudly and adds, “I have five karigars (tailors) of my own. Additionally, there is a hand-embroiderer and a man to do machine embroidery.”
Master Akbar says he churns out at least ten outfits per day. “I cut the cloth and deal with all the clients as well. I am here from 11am to 9pm everyday, except for Sundays when the shop is closed. But the power outages now make it quite impossible for us to meet our clients’ deadlines,” he says regretfully. According to him, though winter is considered to be the wedding season and a lot of Pakistani women visiting from abroad during that time get their clothes stitched as well, it is the summer months which are the busiest. “If each client of mine brings in 10 to 12 sets of lawn suits to be stitched, you can imagine how busy I am during the summer,” he smiles.
Mohammad Akbar’s enterprising temperament, his ingenuity and commitment to his work has certainly paid off, making him a ‘master’ of his craft, earning him the respect and confidence of his clients.