City Life – Tailor Nathuram Ahuja, Ram Nagar
Life in the pandemic.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His routine stayed the same for more than 50 years. Every day he would be in his tailoring shop, working with the fabrics, the sewing machine, the inch tape and the scissors. On Sundays he would stay at home.
The ritual never changed despite the ups and downs of life, including the passing away of his wife and two of his four sons.
But then, the coronavirus arrived.
Nathuram Ahuja hasn’t been out of his home in Gurgaon’s Ram Nagar , in the Graeter Delhi Region, for eight months. His shop in the Sant Lal Market building, in Sadar Bazar, hasn’t opened since the first pandemic-ridden lockdown began in March.
“In tailoring, you have to be very close to your customers as you take their naap (measure) for fitting… but now you have to stand as far away from people as possible if you want to stay safe,” says Mr Ahuja, his voice laced with exasperation. At 85, he falls in a category of people to whom the coronavirus infection can be potentially lethal. His loving family has urged him not to step out of the house under any circumstances. Mr Ahuja has obliged. “There are little grandchildren at home…. I’m trying to be safe, so as not to pass any disease to them… otherwise what has to happen will happen.”
Mr Ahuja’s dimly lit shop appears like a world suspended in some other era. During a brief visit last year, the place was crammed with aged objects that resonated with beauty as well as utility. The customised wooden closet, with its long wide glass window, instantly transported the visitor to those old days when pieces of furniture were handmade by carpenters one had personally known for long.
“The shop is closed but I’m paying the rent every month.”
The gentleman talks of his legs, that have started to ache lately. “I felt more fit when I would go to the shop daily, and sit there even if there was no work… now I just eat and lie and my body has started to rust and hurt.”
He wakes up every morning at 6. The rest of the family is asleep at that hour. He turns on the water pump, takes his bath, perform his pooja with a special emphasis on Lord Hanuman, and finally sits down to read an adhyaya (chapter) of Bhagwad Geeta. “My bahus (daughters-in-law) give me breakfast at 10.30…. I have two rotis and subzi in the morning, two rotis in the afternoon and two rotis at night.”
All day long, Mr Ahuja thinks of “these times and this life that has to be lived.” The only distraction he permits himself is in the evening, “when I watch a half-hour TV show on Sai Baba.”
He goes to sleep by 9.30.
Suppose the vaccine arrived in a few months and coronavirus became history, would Mr Ahuja again resume his former life, or has he grown a tad too used to staying at home?
The gentleman replies immediately: “I will at once open my shop.”
This Wednesday noon the market corridor has some of its shops open. But Ahuja Tailors is lying shuttered.
A measure of his life