Friday, December 23, 2011

Counselling in the time of Stitching .......

There is a certain character Pune City has, or should I say, had,  when it was still a city with so many Peths (historical city sections) , all with their own special attitudes, based on the type of residents,  with small  lanes and ancient stone wadas , and assorted old small temples at various sudden corners, with what can only be called , shocking , obstinately given friendly names implying a sort of backslapping familiarity with the Gods.  Like Patrya Maruti , Khunya (Murderer) Murlidhar, Chimnya (Tiny ) Ganpati, Jilbya (Jilebi lover) Maruti, etc. 

There was something like a  never-give-up, keep-trying,  ignore-your-actual-imitations attitude  in the residents, and everyone lived  in the active knowledge of whatever was happening  with the neighbors. There was an attitude of bravado in how life was lived, religiously, in the vicinity of the abovementioned friendly Gods, aware of family and social responsibilities,  despite lack of space, and assorted conveniences. But a deep ancestral belief , in the historical friendly Gods.   

There were a lot of old Mom-and-Pop hole-in-the-wall type establishments that existed in the pre modernization days, which suddenly reaped a harvest of extra square-footage  in the new city development windfall. 

DD Tailors was a men's tailor's shop, that suddenly saw an expansion in those days. From a small place in a leafy lane presided over by a middle-of-the-road Shiva temple at the base of a massively spread banyan tree, it was now situated  in a new building that happened, when roads around the temple were widened for the ever increasing traffic and new buildings came up in place of the old.   Tailoring was what the old man owner knew, but he ensured that his children were educated well,  and one of them ended up doing software in the US.  He himself, continued to stitch what can be called standard, conservative style , traditional clothes for men.

And thereby hangs a tale. And was told to me by AJ.

About 3 years ago, AJ who lives in the US, and was visiting Pune , was recommended this shop for getting some traditional Indian stuff stitched, and paid this place a visit. As it often happens, there was a lot of family chitchat between discussions of measurements, yardage quality, shrinkage,  how things had changed , old Pune , etc etc. And the old man was intrigued to know that AJ lived  in the same area  as his son , who was working in the US.  When AJ went to pick up the ready clothes, the man sat him down for a cup of tea, and poured out his worries

His son had recently had an arranged marriage. The wife was with him in the US. But some new alarming facts were emerging. She had married him under false pretences, and was actually interested in someone else. An ambitious type, she looked upon this as gateway to her future, and was whiling away her time till the "someone else" got there.  Of course, her being resident in the US,  would enable her to arrange his visit.  
The son was torn between this  girl he had liked on an arranged first acquaintance, followed by more meetings and a marriage. His family liked her. And now this.  After a year of trying to find a middle path between expecting her to change, managing his own career and life pressures, and worrying about family being shocked,  he told his parents about this. In the sort of milieu in which he grew up, the D word was never an option. The interesting thing was, that the son had offered to divorce , but the girl  would refuse, because she needed to stabilize before getting her friend over.  The girl's parents simply washed their hands off, and also cut off relations with their daughter.

The old man, looked troubled, and seeing that AJ was in his early 60's and a longtime resident abroad and lived nearby to the son, poured out this story . He then asked if he (AJ)  could  generally call the couple up, speak  to them, give the lady a "talking to" ,  and help in this situation. In the age old Indian tradition, of elder community ombudsmen playing peacemakers/problem solvers, he agreed.  The worst that could happen was that he would be asked to stay out and shut up.  But there was no harm trying.

AJ himself had excellent negotiating skills, was known for them, and although he was intrigued by this assignment, his born-and-brought-up-in-the-US college going kids were totally aghast. You simply didn't call folks up and question them like this. But AJ had promised the tailor, and he would call, once. He would see how they responded.  

In any case, the call did take place. He had a nice introductory chat, introduced himself as a long time resident in the US since his twenties, with familiar references to the area of Pune where he grew and they grew up. Mentioned knowing the father. Spoke to both.  Looked like they thought he knew about US laws, rules and stuff.  He first tried to play peacemaker and help them get things back on track. The lady demurred. He then kind of picturized a bleak and tough future for the lady if she blatantly continued messing around with other's lives under false pretences, and suggested she do what she wanted, but on her own, independently and  unshackled, and be responsible for the legal consequences.

That was the first and last call. They were adults, and would figure out things. This was a gentle shove in what everyone thought was the right direction.

Cut to the  early dawn hours  in the US, 2 weeks ago. AJ's pone rang at 5 am.   It was someone who didn't realize that the time difference now was 13.5 hours, and not 12.5 hours.  It was the old tailor. Calling after 3 years.  AJ was scheduled to visit Pune, wanted to get some stuff stitched, had called the place, the old man was out, but AJ had left a message for him. And the old man was calling back.

He was calling to say that , yes, he would certainly be doing the stitching in the short time AJ would be there, discussed the fabric etc, and then  changed the subject. In a style typical of folks who grew up before the telephone calls abroad became routine,
he spoke fairly loudly in "announcement style, and in a hurry (lest the call suddenly end).

  He was inviting AJ to a family lunch in his house.  Turned out that  the son was visiting his folks. Post that famous phone call, things had been shaken up a bit, moved, possibly in the right direction, the lady had agreed to a divorce. By and by, it happened. She had moved on. No one wanted to know where. The son was now happily married to someone else , the couple was visiting Pune and would be in town when AJ came. The old man was overcome, and wanted AJ to come have lunch with them.

AJ is expected in Mumbai in a few days. He will in Pune  for a short time, with his wife. I know he will not have time for , maybe a lunch. But I think they will have an impromptu small party when he goes to pickup his stuff, the entire tailor family will be present in their silks and finery, there will be sweets, and savouries, and possibly, Mrs Tailor might  insist of presenting Mrs AJ with a fancy silk sari, with the son and his wife doing all the namskarams and feet touching amidst the tinkle of her  green and gold bangles.

Just a little bit of Divali, a little bit of Christmas, and some good times, before everyone gets back to the work at hand , in the year 2012 .......




  1. So glad that things got fixed eventually. This story made my day :)
    Touching and very heartwarming.

  2. one heck of a story and you sure do know how to tell them ..... :)

  3. There is a magic of connecting and old connections ! There certainly is some magic there !


  4. so good to have tied up the loose ends..I always think that old type counselling always works:)

    1. Thats because it was a way of life. No one defined it as counselling and advised you to go etc. You do what you have to, to help...

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  6. Cool headed counseling, with some facts, is always more effective than threats. Glad it ended on a positive note.

  7. How things happen, just amazing. enjoyed your post,

    1. You just have to stick your neck out and take a chance ....sometimes things work. But you will never know unless you try...

  8. Amazing what one sensible conversation can do!