City Landmark – Muhammed Sabir’s Dupatta Shop, Sir Syyed Ahmad Street
A rare stall.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Purple, green, brown, blue, red, black, grey, mustard green, cream, white… the colours are lying in folded heaps. Some are hanging from hooks.
These colours are accumulated here in multitudinous avatars of the dupatta, in hundreds of dupattas. The pavement shop in Old Delhi’s Sir Syyed Ahmad street is devoted exclusively to this apparel for women. Curiously, the street is crowded with many women shoppers, but not one has a dupatta. Either the women are in sari, or they are in burqa. Muhammed Sabir isn’t worried. Bobbing his head up and down, he argues that “every woman likes to wear a dupatta at some time or the other.” Gesturing towards a passerby in black burqa, he says, “See, that pink stole around her gardan (neck)… that is actually a dupatta .” It can be worn in more fashionable ways than one, he declares.
In his 40s, Sabir founded the shop five years ago. He used to be a tailor at Sharma Tailors, on the same street, and specialised in men’s dresses such as “shirt pants, salwar kameez, and kurta pajama.” The career shift was an act of dare, and to shift from his comfort zone in men’s clothing to a singular garment worn by women was a radical leap. Sabir looks dreamily towards Heena Juice Corner, across the street, as if trying to recall the events of his recent past. “The idea to start a dupatta shop originated in my heart… though some friends were already in this business.”
The dupattas are obtained from Chandni Chowk wholesalers, he says. One of the shelves have these dupattas puckered into narrow cylinder-like shapes. “Those are of chiffon… we keep those that way to save space.” He now gets up, and starts to identify the many fabrics that make up his dupatta collection, waving at them with as much possessiveness as a gardener might to his flowers: “chiffon, cotton, net, organza, chanderi, banarasi , tissue…”
The dupatta wale