Life often deals a nasty blow when you least expect it. This is what happened to Selvam, a mobile tailor by profession whose arrogance brought about his downfall. An accident and his wife’s faith in his goodness changed it all. His karma made him rise like a phoenix from the ashes of his being. Shail profiles the 36-year tailor, who saw the ups and downs of life, closely, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
“I think if you try to tailor your act to anybody, you end up with an act that doesn’t work anyway.” ~ Colin Quinn, American stand-up comedian, actor, and writer
A native of Madurai, 36-year- old Selvam’s parents came to Chennai to earn their living. Born and bred in Chennai, he commenced working at the age of 15, when teenagers would be studying and enjoying life. Family conditions were such that working became a necessity apart from the fact that he was not interested in studies.
“My sisters were very good in academics but they were not permitted to study because they were girls and had to get married anyway.”
I chanced upon Selvam pushing his mobile sewing machine in a residential colony.
Had he always been in the stitching and tailoring business, I asked of him. “Yes, I started working first at Naidu Hall (a leading garment store with many branches) with my sister. I worked there for two years. After that I lost interest and left the job.”
But then, surely you would have worked elsewhere?
“Yes, I worked in shops stitching clothes, the only thing I was good at in life. I worked for around seven years.”
So, did you not think of opening a shop with so many years of experience?
How did you begin the mobile stitching business?
“There was a gap in between. After around 7-8 years of stitching in shops I lost interest in it too and began working in a petrol bunk.”
A petrol bunk, I ask astonished. But, it is nowhere connected with garments and stitching?
“Yes,” Selvam said reflectively. “It isn’t connected but it brought in more money and at that time, money was what mattered most to me so I switched tracks. I worked there for about 10 years.”
That is a long time. And then?
“I got married. I have two children now. My wife does housework in houses.”
Selvam hesitated before confiding, “I began drinking.”
Did your friends goad you into it?”
“No, in fact, I never drank with them. They had always known me as a serious kind of guy with no bad habits. This, I started on my own. I was upset about something so I thought ‘why not have a drink,’ so many people do it. That one drink changed everything in my life. All that I had earned, good name, money, goodwill all got destroyed. I had become addicted.”
But, didn’t you realise what you were doing was wrong especially since you had a family to take care of?
“I did” and Selvam just clamped up. I knew he was trying his best to control his emotions. He did not wish to break down before a stranger.
“My family suffered, including my parents” he continued. “My father still works. He is around 60 years of age.”
Nobody advised you?
“I was too arrogant to take advice. For me, earning money, lots of it, was the only goal.”
But surely, you could have shared your inner conflicts and problems with some friend?
“Friends? I had many, from people who lived on the pavements to people, who would take me even to the Taj to have drinks. But, there was no one whom I could trust. Even today, I trust no one except my wife.”
“Yes, she suffered but what she could not do to put sense in my stupid head, God finally did.”
How did that happen?
“I fell sick once. I had jaundice which carried on for a long time. I had to rest. But, I continued drinking presuming that no alcohol could do anything to me. The doctor had warned me that my liver was weak but who cared. One day, around four years back, I was fully drunk and was driving back home on my bike when I met with an accident. I hurt my head. I was operated upon. It was a second life for me but it left me weak in body and spirit. I started getting seizures. I now take medicines every day to avoid getting them.”
We both were quiet. He had stopped stitching too.
His soft voice broke the uncomfortable silence, “From that day till now, I have not touched a drop of alcohol.”
I gave a faint smile. That is good. Your wife must be happy.
“Yes, she is.”
Has this accident affected your work in anyway?
“I couldn’t work in shops after that. And, I cannot work in an office. I am not cut out for such a kind of job. So, I bought this mobile machine and have been moving around in the city. Whatever I get after a day’s work of stitching and altering clothes, I am content unlike earlier times when I was obsessed with money. In fact, I have customers who call me on my mobile too.”
But, this machine looks heavy. How do you manage to push it?
“Yes, it is around 30 kgs. I have no other alternative. The best thing is that it has given me a lot of peace of mind. Yes, there are certain issues to be sorted out.”
Selvam began to talk about something and then changed his mind. “Let’s not discuss that, okay?” he said.
“Please don’t mind but certain issues plague my mind sometimes. I tell my wife that I am not as good as you think me to be. In fact, all human beings have an element of evil in them because they are born human. But, she refuses to believe it and her not believing in the bad traits that I know I possess makes me frustrated at times.”
Selvam was hesitating with the inner battles he was waging within his heart and mind. I did not wish to trespass on his private space but, I did ask him what else has given him happiness in the past four years of his non alcoholic life.
“Well, by God’s grace, only good has happened. I think, He was waiting for me to reform myself. I have managed to get a piece of land for myself. I also have a bike. My children are studying well. And next year, I hope to construct my house.”
Congratulations! What would you say as a parting shot?
“Well, two things turned my life around – my wife and the accident. But, why wait for an accident to reform our lives? All good and bad is in our hands. We should have our lives in control.”
What a bitter pill Selvam had to swallow to get his life in order. Only 36 but life had taught him to get back on track. I thanked him for sharing the details about his life and headed back home.
Pix by author.
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