In search of a decent livelihood option, several migrants take to tailoring in the Capital

A tailor working away at a sewing machine with pedals, in front of multi-storey apartments in many housing colonies, is a common sight in the Capital these days. Ramesh Kumar, a tailor from Madhya Pradesh, says that mushrooming of these society apartments has given them an opportunity to work independently. Earlier, Ramesh used to work in a garment factory where he had to work two shifts to earn Rs 7000-8000. Now he can earn more independently.

“Moreover today I am my own master,” he says.

Kappu, from a village in Patna district of Bihar, says that the other advantage is that they don’t have to pay any rent. People living in the society are co-operative, he says and allow them to keep the sewing machines in the complex after the day’s work is done. Kappu lost his parents when he was a child. He stayed with one relative after another but after facing ill treatment and humiliation, he went to Mumbai where he learnt tailoring. Before he could settle down, riots took place and he came to Delhi. After slogging for some years in different tailoring shops, Kappu bought his own sewing machine.

“With hand to mouth situation, I could have never dreamt of renting a place or opening a tailoring shop of my own. But here I work on my own machine till the Sun sets. It is like my own shop without the roof over my head,” he says.

When Geeta who belongs to Aara district of Bihar came to Delhi after her marriage, she realized it was not easy to live on the Rs 4200 salary her husband got as a helper in a garment factory. She was class 12 pass and did not want to work as a domestic servant. So she did beautician and tailoring courses from an outlet under the government’s skill development scheme. Meanwhile, she had two children. She wanted to work in a beauty parlour but they would not allow her children to accompany her.

“I wanted to take a loan from a bank for buying a sewing machine but I could not give them residence proof.”

An enterprising woman, Geeta knitted sweaters all through the winters to earn money and saved enough to buy a second hand sewing machine for Rs 2600.

“The best thing is I have my children with me even while I am working,” she says.

These tailors usually get repair and alteration work. People these days buy cheaper and trendier readymade clothes which may not fit perfectly and need alterations.

Alka Kaul, one of the women living in Satisar Apartment in Dwarka, west Delhi, says no one has the time these days to sit on a sewing machine and stitch clothes or do repair. Other women said children grow so fast that there is need for mending and alteration all the time.

“Time was when sewing machine was an essential part of dowry to daughters irrespective of one’s class. This is not the case now. Even if the sewing machine is there many of us don’t know how to stitch and nor do we have the time,” says Renu Malhotra, a working woman.

Most of these tailors, who come from Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and other states, are all in search of a livelihood, and have through various means zeroed in on the skilled occupation of tailoring that enables to make two ends meet and live a life of dignity in a big city.

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