Lawrence is one of the reasons for an heirloom at home. He was the tailor for the father and the uncle for close to 40 years. How they landed at his door is another story.
Lawrence sat at the back of A-1 Tailors, a shop that used to be neatly hidden behind the Sitladevi Temple Bus Stop for the 37 and 39 in Mahim. An old blue board and ancient wooden furniture welcomed everyone before they met the man with the white moustache and a brighter smile. He would, always, be smiling.
Climbing the three stone steps — four? — into the shop, a long L-shaped short storage space stood on the left. Behind it, is usually where one found Lawrence unless he was leaning on this cabinet, elbows firmly plonked on the smooth wooden top, while yapping with someone on the street. He seemed to know a lot of people and they seemed to know him too. Chai and coffee was always available if anyone wanted either. Back to the shop.
Behind the space he prowled along the wall to the left, while entering, stood tall cupboards with shelves visible through glass-fronted sliding doors. A large, sharp pair of scissors used to lie on the surface of the cabinet or were they hanging off the cupboard with the sliding doors? The memory is hazy. Where the cabinet ended was an empty space to enter the space between the cabinet and the cupboard — Lawrence’s domain.
The opposite wall, to the right of the entrance, had two long wooden benches. Sturdy stuff everywhere. Like the shop itself.
Walking deeper into the shop, a customer would find a wooden partition with a door in the right half behind which the people who did the actual stitching worked the machines. Measurements were also taken in this semi-private place, the only space not visible from the outside. The door to this place never closed. Lawrence just placed the person he was measuring in a way nobody could see from beyond the door.
Taking the 37 or the 39 at that age meant going to meet Lawrence as i did not know anyone i was interested in meeting in Mahim. He stitched every pant — white — i ever wore to school while school sold the shirts that were quite expensive! He also tailored many formal shirts i have — the others were gifts from the aunt. For his expertise, he charged very little.
The clothes from A-1 tailors fit like a dream. There was always a seam or two for growth, generous pockets — thank you — and style. The pants and the shirts still fit — i have not grown much since then though lockdown has and continues to alter that. These were clothes made to last as long as the material allowed. Thankfully the material in those days was up to the task.
The heirloom, that has withstood decades, hands, brushes, Rin and washing machines, is in the cupboard at home. Father’s shirts and pants, like mine remain even though Lawrence has passed on. I had not visited his shop for half a decade and only got to know this when i asked K to go there when he was looking for a reliable tailor.
The pants will surely not fit me but the shirts definitely do. They’ll fit A, K and many others if they wish to let the shirts snuggle them someday. For now though, the shirts from ‘A-1 Tailors’ rest in the cupboard.
Thank you, Lawrence. The clothes you made allowed many to work without worry. Hope you’re resting peacefully, Lawrence.