Published: 07th March 2020
Everyday Sheroes: Meet Tabassum Banu, a single mother and a proficient tailor from Bengaluru
In our run-up to Int'l Women's Day 2020, we have curated this series of stories of women who aren't extraordinary — but our world may just stop going around smoothly if they decided to call it a day
'Clothes maketh the man' is a famous proverb and it is indeed true. In today’s day and age, when presentation is everything, what you wear literally makes the first impression. But what about the hands that tirelessly work to stitch these clothes? Don't you think they deserve credit for the impression you make? Tabassum Banu is one such tailor who never disappoints her customers when it comes to delivering the clothes that fit the bill. She says, "Tailoring means everything to me and my children as it has brought us far, even in difficult times." It's been a little less than a decade since Tabassum ventured into tailoring. Narrating what led her to take up this job, she says, "In 2011, my husband died of a heart attack. Until then, everything was going well. Suddenly, my children and I were left with no money or savings to support ourselves. Though our relatives helped us at that point, it was not sufficient for us. Following this, I went to Davangere, my hometown, and stayed there for three months just to receive training in stitching clothes. When we came to Bengaluru in 2012, I decided to start my own tailoring business."
Initially, Tabassum would get only a few orders per month. As the word spread, she became every woman's favourite tailor in her locality. She says, "Women would get upset when they if I delivered someone else’s order before theirs. One woman would envy the other for the designs I made. As the numbers of customers increased, it boosted my self-confidence and I continued to do better in my profession. It's been eight good years since I started." As Tabassum leases the houses she lives in, she has to keep shifting from one locality to another once the lease agreement ends. She says, "Last year, my children and I shifted to Shastri Nagar in Bengaluru. But I had many customers in the locality I used to live earlier. When I shift to a new place, I take some time to set up my business. Gradually, people discover my quality and now, I have more than 50 regular customers. Some of my previous customers come wherever I am to get their clothes stitched."
There are times when customers bargain. In such cases, I neither get the money I spend on the cloth nor any profit. All I want is good feedback from my customers
Tabassum Banu, Tailor
Apart from the direct orders, Tabassum also stitches clothes for other boutiques and tailors. The 34-year-old says, "My regular customers might not need my services every month. In such times, it becomes difficult to earn money. Therefore, I take orders from other boutiques and shops to stitch dresses, blouses, palazzo pants and so on. When we stitch for others, we get very little money because they take the larger cut. For example, if I stitch a salwar kameez for other boutiques and shops, they will charge the customer `350 to 400 but pay us only `150 to 180. People tell me that I should set up my own shop instead of working from home, but who will invest the initial capital? If I take a loan and I am unable to repay it, then my children and I will face problems." Tabassum has two school-going children. While her daughter studies in class IX, her son is in class III. Year on year, her first priority remains to save money to pay the school fees and to ensure them a better future.
Tabassum also conducts classes for those who are interested in learning how to stitch. Currently, she trains around eight individuals. "I conduct the classes in two batches. The classes start at 9:30 am and go on till about 1:00 pm. I have been training many women like me for more than three years and I charge them only `500. If they opt for training in other boutiques, they’ll need to shell out anything between `5,000 to `10,000. While a few trainees learn within a month, others take time to understand design, the method of cutting cloth and measurements and so on," she says. A typical day in Tabassum's life starts at 5:30 am. She cooks for her family and completes the domestic chores by 9:00 am. Once the children leave for school, she starts stitching clothes. During festivals and wedding season, she is up stitching till as late as 2 am. She says, "Whenever I overwork, I have severe back pain and my eyes swell up. The embroidery work on blouses or dresses is so intricate and minute that a single mistake would cost me a customer. After putting in so much hard work, all I want to see is a satisfied smile on my customers' face."
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