Epiphanies rarely visit skeptics. I think I had one last week. A few of my kurtas needed alterations so I visited a lane in Jayanagar, famous for its fast and efficient tailors. I stopped in front of a trio who appeared to be relatively free, and handed over my stuff to one of them. A quick assessment of the job and he got down to work, warning me that he would take at least an hour to complete it.
I contemplated visiting a Darshini for some coffee when he pulled out a low, rickety stool from behind the bags of clothes and offered me a seat. I grabbed it because I could sense a story that was waiting to be told.
The tailors seemed like old friends. There was a peace in their silences, a generosity in their sharing of hooks and threads and buttons. They wore their faith on their face. The hennaed beard and the orange tilaks complementing each other. The tea boy arrived with his cutting chai and I was offered a glass of hot, hot tea.
It is very easy to warm up to people over a masala chai. That shared moment emboldened me to ask them about their friendship. About professional rivalry. About their faith. And about their idea of India.
They had been friends for more than 35 years. They all hailed from a little town near Kalburgi. Over years, each of them had developed specializations. Ladies clothes, blazers and suits, and jeans and western wear respectively. No encroachment, no rivalry. They shared a love for spicy Gulbarga Tahari,( a kind of biryani ), and their faith was a matter between them and their Maker. India, according to them, was Wadi, the sleepy town they had left behind. Bangalore could never win them over.
I was struck by the wisdom they dispelled so easily. Celebrate the similarities. Overlook the differences. Simple.
So while the rest of the country, armed with righteous outrage and obfuscating idioms, had transformed into war zones, I found solace in this quiet oasis where the only sound was the whirring of the sewing machines, seaming together the fabric of our society, one stitch at a time.
Sarita Talwai is a full-time reader, part-time writer, and a reluctant homemaker in Bangalore.
For Indian writers writing in English, this is a tumultuous time to be alive. Politically and culturally speaking, a lot is happening in our nation today. And these posts are our attempt to decipher, understand, and explore the concept of nationhood. Our writing is a celebration of what it means to belong to a nation that is as diverse and pluralistic as India is. And in this attempt, if we persuade people away from propaganda, we might have just created literature.
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