By Eka Tharudin
People would probably be surprised when they come to know the real age of this lady. With her glowing and clear skin, her straight posture going through the crowd, and her youthful laughter echoing the room, nobody could have guessed that she is already 56. Adilah Dali, a well-known tailor in Taman Guru Jaya never fails to amaze people with her jovial appearance.
She started her career as a tailor after she conceived her first baby in her 20s. Her husband was just an ordinary teacher, and she thought that having her own job (aside from being a loyal housewife) could help her husband ease their financial burden. That was when she decided to register for a sewing class, which later led her into a blooming career as a tailor. As if she had some sort of golden fingers in stitching pieces of cloth together, her customers always headed back to her after having their first baju kurung.
Her designs were rather simple. No extreme layers of flares, heavy beadings along the cuffs or glistening lines of sequins could match her classic crisp cut of baju kurung. That’s indeed her ultimate specialty when it comes to sewing. People would come and go for her comfortable and ageless design, alongside the modest price being charged for each finished garment. RM30 is definitely a steal, especially to those who constantly wear new baju kurung for each different function or kenduri.
Ten years back, Adilah could obtain easily up to RM5,000 a month, solely from her sewing at home. Ramadan would be her busiest month of the year as people visited her house, piling up their four metres of cloths everywhere and requesting her personal touch for their Eid’s garments. It was hectic, but Adilah could not stop smiling thinking about her loyal customers and her future profit. There were times when she had to sacrifice her first day of Eid, trying to finish up all the tailoring orders placed beforehand.
That was some ten years back. Now, despite her ever youthful features, she can no longer commit to her magical touch as she used to. Years of hard work had already wrenched a lot of her health. She cannot see as clearly as she used to. Her back can no longer withstand hours of sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Her neck stings from the slightest bend as she washes the dishes. She could only complain about the sores in her waist to her ageing husband, trying to make a living, as their children live far away from Taman Guru Jaya.
As she speaks of the hardship she has to go through as a tailor, her eyes glisten with tears as she looks at the dusty sewing machine. It is the same machine that had accompanied her for years. The very machine that had witnessed her blurring eyes and agonising pains, just to bring smiles to the others. The machine is now left unused for almost seven years, and serves as nothing, but an elaborated piece of furniture item at the corner of the room.
“I couldn’t bear to sell it off. There are just too much memories that I had with it,” she chuckled, probably thinking that she is being overly-attached with the ‘lifeless’ object.
As I looked through all her self-sewn baju kurung, I could understand why people kept coming back to her. The necks of the garments were neatly sewn with jahitan mata lalat, the seemed to place perfectly on the shoulder and on some of them; exquisite little beads embellished the cuffs. It is fascinating to see intricate designs of beadings embroidered in the simple designs of baju kurung, hence bringing uniqueness to each garment. To think of the effort poured into each little pattern makes me wonder, “Is it worth it?”
“It is my pride as a tailor, to provide the comfiest clothes for my customers. A little embroidery won’t hurt. Especially if it makes the customers happier. I can’t help but to find joy in their smiles,” Adilah reiterated.
Looking at the dusty sewing machine reminds me of her children. Adilah lightly tapped the machine. She said her youngest child did show some interest in fashion. She even asked Adilah to teach her sewing using the machine. However, Adilah refused to do it. In contempt to her young and blooming personality, Adilah is still the traditional Asian mother who wants her children to have a stable and comfortable job. She could not bear the idea of her beloved children enduring the same pains as she had gone through. She believes that their high education would place them in a well-deserved workplace; and that stuffy room of hers is not their place.
The small working room that had been changed to a guest room definitely holds a lot of memory for Adilah. The sewing machine is placed at the corner, with vases of fake flowers arrayed around the bulky machine. It is regularly oiled up, for emergency purposes such as Adilah getting a hole on her favourite dress, or her daughter asking her to sew a new baju kurung for her job interview. As for now, the unused sewing machine will remain unused, till the day it meets a new owner, perhaps. ***