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Thank you “kaka”
The moment my mother asks me to go and call “kaka”; I instantly realize that Diwali is approaching. I find out whose house “kaka” is visiting in the colony and run to call him. “kaka” tells me the exact date he will come to our house. He need not tell us the time as the time is always fixed and he is never late. Preparations begin at home by telling the neighbours about his visit. There is lot of excitement in the house. Finally the day comes. My mom waits for dad to go to office soon as dad has less patience with these things.
Kaka arrives at sharp 8 in the morning on the designated date. Mom first offers him “chai” and then once he is settled, he sets to work. The sewing machine is set up in the balcony of the house and instructions and patterns are given by my mom. Instructions will always be the same- to stitch 3 dresses out of 1 material of 6 metres. No Google or fashion magazines existed then. But sifting through old black and white pictures, I can see the style sense my mom had. For a while I used to dislike wearing the same dresses as my sisters as we were called “uniform sisters”. But prudence always wins over fashion.
“Kaka” had a distinct personality. He was tall, lean and always would be dressed in a black suit and white Pant. Walking erect, talking only when required and threading the needle with his one eye. He actually had only one eye. The dresses for one family would be stitched in 1 day. He would not get up from his seat from the time he arrived. There was never a call for food or water. Mom would make dosas and he would have it without asking for any extra helpings. He was content in what was offered, rather than demand more. The doors of our house would be open throughout the day as neighbours would keep coming and going. All through the day, his head would be bent at the machine, cutting and sewing. At 6 p.m. sharp, the clattering of the machines would stop. Measurements and fittings would be done throughout the day and we would seldom need alterations. If there were more clothes to be stitched, he would come again the next day. The hurry to put away the machines will begin as dad would be home any time.
The same process will continue till the others in the building have all stitched their diwali dresses. We used to be presented new dresses only twice or maximum thrice in a year. Occasions would be Birthdays, Diwali and if we were lucky, some other occasion where my mom would have saved some money to buy us dresses. The excitement was too much. We would hide our dresses from our neighbours as we wanted it to be a surprise on the D-Day. The best part in all this was the safety. We never felt threatened about the man who would be sitting in our house consisting of 4 girls. No pervert glances to unsettle us. No small talk by “kaka” to any of us. No giving us chocolates or whispering something in our ears. No touching us inappropriately while measuring us.
One day “kaka “vanished. No one actually knew where he lived. No contacts were ever available as there were no phones. To get in touch with him, we only had to look out of the window at 7.30 a.m. and follow him to know which house he will be visiting. Now as Diwali is approaching I think of him. I am wary to going to tailors who would make me and my daughter uncomfortable. I pick the easy way out and settle for ready-made garments. I thank “Kaka” for not tampering with our innocence. Thank you for letting us know that there are men like you who help us to retain faith in other men. Thank you for giving us those precious and unforgettable moments of happiness during Diwali.