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SMOTHERING: A STICH IN TIME

June 10, 2018

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Pale-faced and panic-stricken, I nervously place the intricate pieces, one by one, on the stained operating table, all the while debriefing ‘the expert’ on the details.

He nods pretending he understands perfectly. Vague memories of horrific ordeals from last year’s aftermath resurface and my deeply-rooted doubts give way to hesitation and reconsideration. There’s still time. Maybe I can still turn around and leave. With the price hike of premium pieces, the risk is even greater than last year.

The expert, however, remains unmoved and stands confidently, holding his version of the scalpel in hand, ready to cut to save lives in the need of the hour. His especially-trained assistants, willing to learn and eager to please, move in and out as if prepping him for surgery.

The anxiety of placing your sartorial fate in the hands of a skilled but unpredictable specialist

I’m midway through my list of instructions for the third time — after all it is my job to tell him how to do his job — when all of a sudden, with a deft hand and unwavering nerves, Master Sahib’s ruthless pair of scissors come down and begin to mercilessly slice through the unstitched lawn pieces I have just handed over. Before silent screams of agony can escape my throat, I am pushed along and disgorged out of the procedure room by other clienteles waiting for their turn.

Master Sahib, who had been sitting idly swatting flies at his shop a few weeks earlier, had his PA put me on hold before telling me he could squeeze in an appointment for me at 6:30pm that Friday. All I had to do was show up and tell him how I would like my clothes to be stitched.

Length? Long or short.

Sleeves? Pagoda, three-quarters, batwing.

Neck line? V, boat, jewel, square, scoop.

Measurements.

The expert, however, remains unmoved and stands confidently, holding his version of the scalpel in hand, ready to cut to save lives in the need of the hour. His especially-trained assistants, willing to learn and eager to please, move in and out as if prepping him for surgery.

But along with other once-naive women, I too have learnt over the years that this practice is futile. Master Sahib, basking in the glory of his title — a remnant of colonialism — knows better and would in the end stitch as he pleased.

At 6:35pm that same Friday I am asked to go home and pray. I would be called once it is over, which, if recent trend analysis is to be believed, would be a day before Eid. Nothing inspires Master Sahib and his workers into action than the sighting of the Shawwal moon.

As if being elbowed in the stomach while maneuvering through dense Eid bazaars hadn’t been stressful enough, add to the mix Master Sahib’s false claims of photographic memory and those darn chai cups tipping over in close proximity to white chickenkaris and the result: my anxiety levels bursting through the seams. Like the same spikes in stress levels of shoppers who brave Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Enough to onset a panic attack, it would be my cue to practice deep breaths and as a last resort empty the pepper crusher to replace its contents with Xanax.

Post-Tailor Traumatic Stress Disorder is a real mental health condition triggered by a terrifying mess-up that affects every nine out of 10 women in Pakistan. Symptoms include tragic wardrobe fails, a deep sense of regret and helplessness and severe anxiety.

And while there may not be enough published statistical data to back this up yet, ‘Post-Tailor Traumatic Stress Disorder’ is a real mental health condition triggered by a terrifying mess-up that affects every nine out of 10 women in Pakistan. Symptoms include tragic wardrobe fails, a deep sense of regret and helplessness and severe anxiety.

Prevention, and the secret to happiness lies in keeping expectations low. Really, really low. Still lower. Good. Once those are established, hand the tailor those pricey yards of fabric and fancy embellishments and walk away. If you are disappointed when they are returned to you, it is probably because your expectations were still too high.

Then of course, there’s always vowing to a life of prêt but that’s another story.

For now, I sit by the phone, with my pepper crusher and await the dreaded call. My wardrobe’s fate placed in the unpredictable, inconsistent but gifted hands of a tailor.

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 10th, 2018

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