Ladies’ Tailor by Priya Hajela
My take on the book:
In September 1947, few weeks after India’s independence from the British rule, after the country has been partitioned, Gurdev moved to Delhi from his village Sukho, across the new borders with his wife Simrat and two sons. Despite his repeated warnings to move from Lahore, his parents ignored him and were burnt in their ancestral house by miscreants on that side of the newly formed country.
After traversing the border on foot and on train, Gurdev and family finally reached the refugee camps in Delhi. Gurdev may have survived the massacre and brought along his family safely, but soon lose them due to circumstances. After losing his everything twice, Gurdev meets Nirmal Singh and Sangat Singh who ask him to guide them and help them establish their business. How will Gurdev’s life change after meeting the ladies’ tailors Sangat and his wife Amrit forms the rest of the story.
Stories set against the India-Pakistan partition generally concentrate on the incidents that led to the partition and the accompanying violence. This story also begins with similar sequences but concentrates more on how life was for citizens of the country who after crossing the newly formed borders suddenly became refugees. In the middle of such uncertainty and despair the story focuses on the hope that drives the protagonist to build his life from scratch again and again.
Gurdev has an interesting character graph as a smart and resilient human who plans ahead of situations. The supporting characters are also well crafted and all of them come with a hint of mystique as well as relatability. The scenes of partition are heart-wrenching and even after reading about it a million times, the wounds feel fresh.
The narration is slow in the beginning and picks after the first 50 pages. As much as the plot is intriguing, it is the characters that make the story engaging. The author has done good research about life post partition and that reflects well in the minor nuances induced by the author into the character’s behavior.
Pick this one to read about a story of resilience and hope amid crisis and adversity.