The last days.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The window displays are empty. Loke Nath & Co., once a humming tailoring establishment, is one of the most haunting places in the colonial-era district of Connaught Place. When you enter this A-block signpost, you see a cash counter on your right, but nothing has been sold here in eight years, says accountant B. Lal, who sits at the far end of the shop. Some of the shelves are stacked with bundles of fabrics, but they are part of the stock that came about a decade ago.
Another staffer told The Delhi Walla that the shop could close any time—next month, next year or the year after. On another visit to the shop, I met one of the partners. He was too busy to talk, but he did say that the shop would close whenever they got a good deal.
Before the inevitable happens, the showroom’s interiors ought to be photographed for the archives (I did just that!). It feels like a museum. Black and white photographs of the old generation of owners hang above a postcard blow-up of Loke Nath & Co. General Drapers, the flagship store founded in the hill-town of Shimla in the 1890s. The Delhi store opened in 1937.
Unused stamp seals are piled up on a table, beside an old Godrej locker. The accountant says the shop used to be madly busy when he first started working there 30 years ago. It had more than 40 employees, including a team of dedicated tailors. Politicians and bureaucrats had their clothes measured here. The uniform of the commissioner of Delhi Police would be ordered from this shop. In her book Climbing The Mango Trees: A Memoir Of Childhood In India, food writer Madhur Jaffrey talks of a pale- blue herringbone-patterned woollen overcoat she got from Loke Nath.
Today, the tailoring establishment is sandwiched between a Louis Philippe clothing showroom and Rodeo, a Mexican speciality restaurant.
Museum of memories