The Indian festive season kicks in around August and stays on till November (when we respectfully make way for Christmas.)
Shops in Little India do brisk business selling sweets/pretty paperweights, pens, tiny idols, elephants (ad infinitum and nauseum)/betel leaves/minuscule packets of haldi and kumkum/coconuts and oranges/gift bags/lamps/flowers and many other accessories which the demanding Hindu deities specify for their celebrations.
Among the many little businesses which benefit from this season, one really calls the shots. The saree blouse tailoring shop. Loads of lovely ladies line up in Little India to get measured for the perfect blouse*.
*(In case you are wondering what the fuss is all about, please read – http://www.utsavfashion.com/saree/designerblouse.htm to get updated)
When my little group of friends discovered that I was short of blouses for the Season, they reacted in horror and looked at each other in disbelief. Efficient R, rubbed her hands and marched me off in goose step to the….Blouse Nazi.
The Blouse Nazi, is not your ordinary seamstress. For her, designing and creating saree blouses is a calling. A Divine Art. If anyone has watched the “Soup Nazi” in Seinfeld (see episode here – http://youtu.be/M2lfZg-apSA), you would recognize her as the titular character.
As she puts it – “My customers don’t choose me. I choose them.” (Poor AB, a non favorite gets second-hand treatment. Her blouses get delayed inexplicably and her designs compromised. No eye contact is given or received. AB can only approach her through R- a class favorite)
An appointment with her is set up well in advance. It helps to have a customer referral. In my case, R (as you know by now) is a Chosen One, so the appointment was given instantly. “See you tomorrow at 1 pm exactly”
R was tense as we met for blouse material buying. After checking her watch for the 5th time in 10 minutes, she gave the signal to leave. Meeting someone we knew on the way was a contingency we did not plan for. We ran the last 100 meters to the shop.
She was waiting with a measuring tape. Introductions were made and I was sized up – not just with the tape.
After a quick round of fitting, I was informed that my blouses would be ready in 3 weeks. A deadline which changed to 5 days on intervention by R and some hamming by me (eyes wide in shock, pale, blood draining from face). A receipt with date and time of collection was handed over. I was to call/text her 24 hours before collection so arrangements could be made to keep the goods ready.
Unfortunately, 24 hours before my deadline, I was in Yangon with no mobile connection. My last day in Yangon was spent worrying if the BN would excommunicate me.
Almost did. The next day, I sent three text messages, explaining in long-winded sentences why I could not tell her in time. No responses. A phone call. I was told tersely that, now, I could collect the blouses only 4 days later. Some tears and beseeching (and shameless bandying of R’s name) and a time was given for the next day – at precisely 3 pm.
5 minutes to 3 and I was there. BN’s kindly (but powerless) assistant asked me what time I was given. I told her, she looked at the clock and said “Wait for 5 minutes, ma”. At 3’0’clock, She emerged and announced my name “Are you there?”. I was standing just 2 feet away, so I doubt she could have missed me, but I reacted like a good school girl does to her battle-axe of a teacher, raised my hand and said “Here!”
My blouses did not resemble any of the demure designs I had suggested (merely suggested, one does not insist). They plunged, hugged and revealed. One even had a ‘sweetheart’ design. (UGH).
When I meekly pointed out that they looked different, I was told – and I repeat verbatim “I got bored with those round neck and square necks. You try this now. I want to mess with your head. Change ideas”. OK, I said as I paid up, lavished praise, smiled and giggled sycophantically and hysterically till she looked at the clock pointedly.
I walked into the afternoon Singapore shower with 5 blouses (1 sweetheart design) and a feeling of joy. The Blouse Nazi likes me!