The Cultural Importance Of A Darzi (Tailor) Movement in Pakistan

150129030937_santosh_chowdhury

*This post is too advanced for children.

Hi Guys! The holiday season has officially started in my book as my inbox is getting bombarded with holiday promotions from my favorite stores. Last year my family and I spent Thanksgiving a week before Thanksgiving because well, we made travel plans, and this year is no different. We are doing Thanksgiving this week and my mom suggested cooking Mughal-style biryani (See HERE) and Hyderabadi chicken haleem (See HERE) for me next week. It is odd, but my sister, who has hosted Thanksgiving for the past ten years doesn’t do the “traditional” Thanksgiving with turkey or roasted chicken and all the yummy sides and pies. Instead, she picks a global theme each year and whips up with my help, dishes from around the world. So while this holiday doesn’t retain a complete American “traditional” vibe for us, it gives my family a chance to spend time together and practice gratitude in another way.

What is A National “Culture” And The Importance Of Holding On To It

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of culture as a national identity. I know people assume that any loss of cultural identity is embedded in globalization or systematic crimes that are recent phenomena. However, the truth is mass immigration (or exodus in Biblical terms) has taken place for thousands of years. And yes, it takes a lot of determination and hard work to remain true to one’s cultural identity during this time, but one must learn how to adopt a new tradition and how to retain the identity of the one they already have. The term “culture” is not as vague, but flexible and that is a wonderful reality that promotes togetherness.

kalash

 

Pakistan has its own culture (See HERE) that we are very proud of and any type of cultural distortion is normal even though not moral. The only thing you can do is hold on to your belief system no matter what the resistance is and spread it through friends only.

Few Americans and Europeans know this because their current woes with immigration are well, recent. However, the entire Middle East region and Pakistan in South Asia experienced their own woes with mass immigration decades ago. As a gifted child (See HERE) who was very proud of her Pakistani heritage, I was shocked to see an influx of people with conflicting views arriving in the country my great-grandfather founded and my grandfather protected disrespecting one another. Any form of disrespect of anyone’s culture or religion was not part of the Pakistani “culture” (See HERE), but the youth of the 1980’s and 1990’s Pakistan began to develop their own ideas of what disrespect is as they experienced some pretty horrific things in their own country.

It was pretty traumatic to hear anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, and anti-Jewish sentiments just on the basis we were doing well socially. While my grandparents fought for socialism in post-colonial Pakistan, I encouraged democracy (as a child, mind you), a concept unknown in the Muslim world. Yes, this fact may seem alarmingly scary to many, but please note, I had a very different upbringing centered around politics and the background of the gem & gold industry boom just added to my skillset.

While immigrants from around the world arrived in Pakistan to chase their dreams, many came to seek help. I saw people with leprosy lying on the ground wailing brought from India, the poorest nation at the time, individuals who were born with such severe birth defects that their faces were not recognizable, and mentally challenged people so severally traumatized they feared their own image in the mirror and thought we were related to them because we were helping them. And then there were those using a little semblance of resourcefulness they had to commit organized crimes like creating “dog meat farms” (See HERE) in Pakistan. And as much as Pakistan tried to “help” these people, we realized we were losing our cultural soul and identity as rumors spread about us, or religion, and acts of violence and greed of every kind spread rampantly.

pakistani food

Large Regional “Cultures” and Clashes

Mass immigration to any place is due to prosperity and higher living standards. Before Pakistan, my grandfather (See HERE) told me that the Middle East region experienced the same influx as Pakistan after America’s automobile industry boom made the oil-rich Middle East region, the richest place in the world. However, because of the oil industry boom, the entire Middle East region was dealing with immigration issues while distrust grew in the background and lead to many wars fought globally in the 1960’s, 1970’s and even 1990’s.

I remember discussing this as a “catalyst” for immigration to Pakistan with my grandfather (Mentioned HERE) after the gold and gem industry became “legalized” in the global market and prosperity grew in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He sought mentors in the Middle East who were still overwhelmed and straight up denied giving help. Hence, Iran (and Saudi Arabia) “officially, but unofficially” gave Pakistan the responsibility to oversee the operations of the gem and gold industry because Pakistan was more militarily equipped than Afghanistan to fight the “Taliban” (the educated ones) as they called themselves. They were the biggest threat at the time in Pakistan. However, no one anticipated the constant arrival of “uneducated” Indians and Hindus and calling themselves “Taliban”. To a Pakistani like me, it was a recipe for disaster. Sounds familiar, right?  

facesofpakistan2152854

Similarly, 10-15 years later after the tech boom of the late 1990’s and 2000’s, the United States saw a similar influx of immigrants & visitors (mostly illegally overstaying their visitor visa).  The US government felt not equipped to deal with the problem until very recently.

It is my firm belief that the root cause of any cultural crime is mass immigration during a nation’s great economic boom or period of prosperity when there is a lack of a proper structure in place. If you think the global wars were fought because of greed due to the Middle East’s unpreparedness of oil industry boom, I think the terrorist (foreign criminals committing crimes) attacks of September 11th, 2001 was due to the unpreparedness of Pakistan and Afghanistan during the gem and gold industry boom. God knows what crimes the tech industry is producing globally.

daa

Family “Culture”

National culture encapsulates many things like sharing of languages, fashion, morals (not religion), history, food, and art. And then there is a family culture as well. My family had a certain type of culture Hindus referred to as snobbery in Pakistan and abroad. The reality was our family and many families like ours were protecting and holding on to our post-partisan culture for the sake of the entire country. And yes, globalization didn’t help and if it makes us seem inclusive, well, we don’t care.

The Kardashian family also has a very specific familial culture. I remember meeting the entire family, and even Bruce Jenner, who was an “interesting” character I’d like to discuss in another post. If you ask me what the Kardashians looked like, I would describe them as “busy”. We met a few times on different occasions, but I will never forget our first meeting. There were the girls and Kris, who was the most charming woman my grandfather had met after his wife, my grandmother (his words, not mine). Their dad, who somehow had a cell phone in the 1980’s and worked it quite a bit. Who could afford international cell phone calls in the 1980’s? The Kardashians. However, they earned it. I would describe their family culture as “hardworking” or “workaholic” because their dad could run “circles around the playground” (“not my mind” I remember telling them and they were like whatever. Lol). And the rest of the family was completely unfazed by his energy and were like, “where is the play structure?” and I replied “huh?” jokingly and they remained unfazed still.

61a63af6-a51f-4c99-acea-7679794a8bda

Starting The Darzi Movement

The Problems

Darzi (a tailor in Urdu), was a Muslim “caste” from India who migrated and acclimated to Pakistani’s “caste-less” culture seamlessly. The now Pakistan-only concept was introduced by my grandfather (who inspired my maternal grandfather to hire a Dhobi aka someone who does laundry because they were being discriminated into a caste in India as well). My grandfather presented the Darzi concept to Pakistan’s society as being borrowed from the historic Afghani tailors famous for making fabulous clothes for Mughal emperors (See HERE).

Darzi’s are present to this day and women and men go to them to get fabrics stitched and tailored into clothes. I think it is so important for Pakistan to retain the Darzi culture because I notice “Fast Fashion” as an emerging problem in Pakistan’s fashion industry. I wouldn’t be wrong if I say that brands like Generation PK (See HERE), Khaadi (See HERE), and Khadijah Shah’s Elan (See HERE) and ZAHA (See HERE) churn out collections like they are baked cookies for a bake sale.

And I’ve noticed that Pakistan’s marketing campaigns are “tailored” to “perfection”. Ignoring the misconception that Darzi’s are no longer relevant in Pakistan, the reality is that that branded or designer clothes are expensive, but are marketed as versatile enough to be worn from work to home to get-togethers, etc.

Then the idea of Pakistani brands and designers selling very expensive “pret” or RTW outfits boggles my mind because most Pakistanis will not spend $35 to $50 on a kurta because they think going to a darzi is inconvenient. The fact that these design houses and brands continue this trend means either they are not getting “it” or they are smart enough to sell their customers anything.

I am biased, I am not shy about that, but the “showy” or extreme designer culture in Pakistan was a very Hindu derivative subculture because they like anything that is expensive and not worthwhile.

560468ffd0391

Solutions

1. How about reserving designer-wear for luxury pret or RTW, formal, and bridals only? Luxury pret or RTW is perfect for soirees, formals are ideal for wedding-wear, and of course, brides want special bridal dresses that reflect their importance on their big day.

2. I love designer lawn suits (See HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE) because designers sell their designs (embellishments included) at very affordable prices. Designers have their own darzis who can stitch your clothes according to the right measurements or you can take the suits to your own darzi. Out-of-towners consider this option to be the most convenient and affordable for party-wear abroad. Plus, you can pair the suits with designer shoes and clutches, which elevates the lawn suit to a whole different level.

3. I started hearing rumors that affluent Pakistani women donate designer formal-wear and even bridal-wear to families who are less fortunate. As generous as this practice sounds, it has no Islamic basis & is pretty stupid. Why? Through watching YouTube (See HERE) videos, I, who can spot a Bunto Kazmi bridal (See HERE) on anyone, started seeing her clothes on brides from a certain class with a certain wedding decor and style. And it gave me the WRONG impression so I am positive it misleads others as well. So Pakistani women, please treat designer formal-wear and your designer bridal outfits as heirloom pieces and donate clothes like designer lawns or designer luxury pret instead to show your generosity. I have done this and have no regrets.