Monthly Archives: August 2003


I am not a twelve-year-old Nepali girl, never mind what the tailors in Nepal seem to think. I’ve been on a mission lately to get a pair of pants and a shirt made in Kathmandu while I’m here working on my Teach for America application.

Getting some clothes made seems like a mission impossible, and it has almost consumed me wholly, thinking constantly about seems, stitches, and pleats.

There’s a man near Indra Chowk in Kathmandu who at this very moment is masticating a pair of pants for me. He’s shrinking the inseam because I said they were too constricting.

The coffee cup has nothing to do with this story. I just like the photo.

The coffee cup has nothing to do with this story. I just like the photo.

He’s taking inches off the waist because I could barely button the pants when I tried them on. He’s adding pleats, lots of pleats, because pleats look awful. He’s doing his work with a smile, freely lopping off weighable amounts of fabric, because there’s nothing else to be done.

If you’re going to be bad, Deepak the Tailor must be thinking, might as well be the worst.

A week ago Moser and I ventured out into Kathmandu searching for the illusive linen shop that friends have found and lived to speak about. After an afternoon of searching near Dubar Square, we found it. No sign. Nothing.

All we had been told was that the store had wooden floors. And linen fabrics.

First of all, I’ve never had any success with tailors in Nepal. The major problem is that the style for slacks and dress shirts is exactly opposite of what I want—and find comfortable.

The front and back of the slacks are cut to be exactly the size of my body, affording cotton blends the same affect that spandex achieves. And for dress shirts, the shoulders should be no higher than just above the elbow.

Most dress shirts I’ve had made look like a nightshirt that 7′ woman might were.

I knew this. I knew what would probably happen, but I had a small flicker of hope. I fanned this flicker into a huge blaze until I knew that my pants and shirt would be cut well or at least accurately.

But when the day came, and I went to see Deepak and get my shirts, what I found was nothing less than absurd. The shirt ended just above my knees while my pants’ cuffs dangled two inche above my ankles. I couldn’t button the pants.

I was sent home reassured that tomorrow everything would be fine, that I could return the next day to pick up my clothes in the afternoon. I had set myself up for disappointment, which angered me even more.

But Deepak had seen the clothes on me and had taken new measurements to amend the ones he surely must have lost. Once again, I hoped.

When I returned the next day I found the shirt to be so small that I couldn’t button the bottom two buttons. The shirt cuffs couldn’t be buttoned and were maybe 4″ from my wrists. I stood there, like an idiot, and Deepak smiled.

He started with a shirt that would have been an XXXL in the United States and arrived with one that was a woman’s XS, for a man who was a men’s L.

Deepak looked me in the eyes and told me that he could take out the shirt, the woman’s XS comprised of about 1.5 m of fabric, and make it into a men’s L, about 2.25 m of fabric.

Where’s his magic wand? I wondered.

If I had a blowtorch, I would walk into Deepak’s shop and burn it to the ground. The dusty fabric, the piles of thread, everything, would explode upwards from Indra Chowk in a magnificent fireball.

All the shirts with one sleeve longer than another and all the pants with 19 inch waists and innumerable pleats all burning while Deepak watches, happily.

I’m sure Deepak didn’t want to be a tailor. Clearly he did not receive any formal tailor training. I asked. Deepak’s father and his father before him and his father before had all been tailors. Possibly terrible, too, but he didn’t volunteer this info.

While measuring lazily for generations, they must have wondered, Why can’t I do something I’d be good at doing? But no, it can’t be, Deepak thinks, writing 22 when the tape measure read 42.

I’m not mad at Deepak for butchering the linen fabric I had given him for my clothes. He is, in a way, good at his family trade.

He destroyed the linen fabric it had taken me weeks to find in mere moments. He had taken something so fine and pure and made it into something gruesome and absurd in one afternoon.

There’s really no story here, just an incident that I am forced to observe. I am powerless to change the fate of whatever fabric finds its way to Deepak’s shop.

Deepak is a serial fabric murder, unable to control himself and what he does.

Or so he wants us to think, lest we judge him harshly.