Winter has set in nicely. Besides, it is also the festive season when people want to be attired in their best. And believe it or not, Mhow, despite being a small town in comparison to Indore and a halo of everything military surrounding it, is one place many still visit for having their dresses stitched.
Tailors of Mhow have excelled in their art and have been widely known across the country right from the British era. In fact, it can be said that it was British officials who made the tailors of Mhow famous even in many Commonwealth nations. The successors of those tailors have maintained the quality set by their predecessors by providing excellent tailoring facilities including to Army officers and their families here.
Young Moolchand and Sons was the first tailoring shop in Mhow. Opened in 1844 on Plowden Road they used to cater mainly to British officers and royalty from the neighboring princely states.
Thereafter, a large number of tailors developed their tailoring skills and many shops were opened and many of them have been able to maintain their name and fame even now. Bombay Tailoring Shop, R Balchand, Abdul Sattar & Sons, New Gift House, Lateef & Sons are some of the names that are still famous for their tailoring quality.
If one looks at the tailoring business of Mhow, one can see that the trade is mostly controlled by Muslims. Some of the famous names of the past include Master Abubakar Siddiqui, Nasirbhai, Mukhtar Khan, Munshi Master, Abdul Gafur, Abdul Sattar, Jafar, Nasru and others.
These were essentially ‘gents’ tailors. Late Mohd Qamar and Premchand Goyal were just two names who excelled in tailoring for ladies. Premchand Goyal still takes tailoring classes for families of Army officials as well as civilians. Likewise, 70-year-old Fayyaz Master still holds his grip on the needle and remains busy making new embroidery designs.
But like in most fields, tailoring has been affected by migration of skilled people. One of the main reasons is poor wage. Many having great skills have left Mhow and migrated to the Middle East and needless to say made a name there too.
Along with tailoring, Mhow is also famous for the smocking art. Even now officers coming from Bhutan and Nepal for various courses in Infantry School, Army War College (AWC) and Military College of Telecommunications Engineering (MCTE) take back dozens of smocking gowns and other dresses. Smocking started in Mhow in the boarding hostel of St Mary’s Higher Secondary School.
The tribal girls who used to live here were trained for this work and soon the institution started mass production of smocking garments meant for sale in the open market.
Later on, B Kishanlal tailor moved it further and gave it a full-fledged business face. Now there are more than a dozen shops and production houses of smocking garments in Mhow market and some of these shops have opened branches in Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain and even in Delhi.
Tale to tell…
It is as if every brick has a tale to tell. And the people too never cease to amaze you with their own stories of valour and pride. One such story is about Data Ram, who was approached by officers s of the Indian National Army (INA) office, Daya Ganj, New Delhi, in 1950 with a citation about the sacrifice made by his son Lieutenant Bishambar Dass as a member of the Indian National Army while fighting for Independence.
Data Ram’s chest swelled with pride when he was told that Bishambar’s name has been embossed in golden letters in the Roll of Honour of independent India.
He was handed over a photograph where Netaji was seen honouring Lieutenant Dass of Bahadur Force of INA before he laid his life while fighting the British in Burma.
When asked to fill in a form to claim pension of his son from INA, Data Ram said with pride, “I gave my son for the independence of India. My country has attained freedom … what better pension can I get?”
Data Ram belongs to a family having a proud lineage in the Army. His father fought in the first World War and his brother and son in the second World War. A third son of Data Ram, Brigadier (Retd) M M Bhanot is settled in Mhow and is the proud owner of the photograph of his elder brother with Netaji.