Life Lessons from My Neighborhood Tailor: “To Sleep Peacefully, You Must Earn Honestly’...What I Learnt From Tailor Ahmed
They say there is a story behind every
face. But most often we don’t get excited about such stories. Do we?? Sometimes,
I wonder how much do we know about people who are always around us. For
instance, it could be the boy with earphones plugged in his ear that drops
newspaper at our doorstep at the crack of dawn, even before we wake up. It
could be the milkman who early in the morning makes sure that his customers
shouldn’t worry about the milk for their morning cuppa. The sabjiwala bhaiya or the Idliwala Anna, or the Kachara uthanewala bhaiya (yes that’s how we name them often) never stop doing what they do, no
matter whether it’s rainy or too cold or too hot and humid outside.
We don’t even spare a thought to ask their
names, let alone exploring their outlook of life. Well, I was no exception
either. Even I hadn’t given a thought about it. I was one of “the so-called
forward-looking modern” people who have their body language screaming, “who has time for all these. Marne ko time
nahin hai yaar (Don’t even have the time to die).”
It’s an honest confession. I didn’t know
the names of these people, who make our lives comfortable, until one fine day I
was asked to prepare a report on them as an assignment for an internship.
I decided to
interview the person who has been altering my clothes perfectly for years, even
on short notice. Every time I buy a new outfit, he is the first person I think
about for size-alterations. But I didn’t even know his name until I thought of
having a conversation with him. I was ashamed that I hadn’t even cared to ask
his name in all these years. He had been the tailorwala bhaiya for me.
Here is the
Me: Bhaiya, what’s your name?
He: Ali Ahmed
Me: Hello Ahmed ji, Namaste!
Ahmed ji: Hello madam, Assalam
Me: Wa Alaikum Assalam!
Well, Ahmed ji, I am really sorry that I didn’t know your name even though
I know you since years.
Ahmed ji (smiling): its okay, Madam. Everybody does that. In fact, I feel good about it too
that people at least know me by my profession/work, not by the name. What’s in
a name if my job can define me much better and gives me recognition?
Me: What’s in a name? Very
profound! Well, I would like to know a bit about you. Can you tell me something
Ahmed ji (smiling): I’m Ahmed Ali Shah. I am a tailor. I hail from a small village near
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Here in Vashi, I stay at Juhugaon. I’m an ordinary
person and a family man.
Me: You said you’re from Uttar
Pradesh. When did you leave your village and why?
Ahmed ji: I left my village, my home state 16 years back in search of a livelihood.
The circumstances at my home had become very bad, and survival had become very
A friend suggested me to come to Mumbai. I
came here all alone. I got a job in a garment shop situated in suburban Mumbai.
But it didn’t work well. Later, I shifted to Navi Mumbai. I learnt to tailor
and now do alterations. I feel I am settled now.
Me: You could have gone to
Kanpur, a city nearer to your place, for livelihood. Why Mumbai? Any particular
Ahmed ji: Initially, I had tried my fate in Kanpur. I had started a business. But it
didn’t go well. I came to Mumbai because my friends were here and they advised
me to. I am glad that their suggestion worked.
Me: Will you tell me more about
your struggles with settling in Mumbai with your first job?
Ahmed ji: Nothing very particular. But yes, reference by someone you know was very
important those days to get a job anywhere. I guess it’s same nowadays too.
People are apprehensive in employing unknown people. Initially, it was
difficult to get a job for me. I was a stranger here. People used to become
suspicious after hearing my name. Also, there were other factors. Sab Naseeb ka khel hai Madam (Fate plays games, Madam).
Me: Tell me something about your
Ahmed ji: I have two sons and a daughter. All are studying. My family doesn’t stay
here. They’re at my village.
Me: Ohh! Don’t you feel like
bringing your family here?
Ahmed ji: Who doesn’t want to stay with family, Madam? But, there are so many
compulsions in life. First, my children are studying, and I feel it is
education is less costly there than it is in Mumbai. Second, my father is very
old and ailing and needs to be taken care of. So, my wife stays there to take
care of them while I earn here.
Me: Well, tell me something about
your experience of staying here in Mumbai, particularly Navi Mumbai.
Ahmed ji:Mumbai ke bare mein ek cheez
bolna chahunga. Yeh sahar kabhi kisiko nirash nahin karta (Would like to say one thing about Mumbai that this city never let anyone
down). About Navi Mumbai, especially Vashi, it’s a great city to live in.
Me: Will you share your best
Ahmed ji: Staying here for so long is a great experience in itself. Isn’t it? Well,
I never had any bitter experience here. Luckily, I found a good support system
and the best thing is my work is appreciated here, and it has helped me to
Me: Any instance of a bad
experience as an ‘outsider’?
Ahmed ji: Nothing happened as such. Inshallah! But yes, certain stereotypes are still there especially trust deficiency
on us (Muslims). Initially, it bothered me but now I have got used to it.
Me: What do you like most about
Ahmed ji: The cleanliness, for sure. Also, the well-organized transport system, the
educational facilities and the best one is the peacefulness. I don’t remember
any major violence since I came to this city. The cleanliness, greenery and
peace, make Navi Mumbai one of the best cities to live.
Me: What else you like in your
personal life? Any other passion or hobby?
Ahmed ji: No, I don’t have any other interests. However being a diabetic patient, I
love to do morning walk and some Pranayam and Yoga. I love reading especially
about health issues.
Me: Recently, there was a
controversy around Yoga and Suryanamaskar. Some Islamic cleric said that its
anti-Islam. What’s your say on it?
Ahmed ji (with a broad and toothy
smile): Madam, I don’t want to comment on who said
what. I follow things which I think is good for me. It’s about choices and my
health…isn’t it? Religion has nothing to do with the lives of ordinary people
like us. For those for whom it matters…let them do whatever they want to do. I
don’t have any problem with it.
Me: That’s really great! Well, if
you would like to change three things about your native place what would they
Ahmed ji: Scope for better education, availability of employment and support for
farming and agriculture.
Me: What would be your words of
advice for your children and the next generation?
Ahmed ji:Dekhiye madam, main ye manta huin
ki jeevan mein jo sabse jaroori cheez hai, wo hain sukun. Raat ko sukun se sone
ke liye, din mein roti imandari se kamana jaroori hai (I believe
all we want in life is contentment at the end of the day. To have a peaceful
sleep, we should earn our livelihood with hard work and integrity). There will
be problems and struggles. But to deal with them if we take the wrong route,
that’s not right. Whatever resources we have, we should make use of them and
get ahead in life. And we should have faith in God!
Me: Thank you, Ahmed ji for such
a pleasant conversation.
Ahmed ji: Thank you,
madam. The pleasure is all mine.
his alteration work after our conversation.