The curvy elevated road led us to the extreme top of a mountain. As we climbed up, I could see the bigger hills I saw from the valley, getting smaller. The evening sun painted shades of orange on the hillsides. It was a small village in Nedumkandam cluster of VisionFund India (known as IMPACT) office in Kattappana, Kerala. Aparna Tailoring was one of only three shops that stood on that hilltop.
The archaic room where the tailoring shop was located, is a rented one as per 47-year-old Sujata who runs the shop. Her new shop and the sewing machines she could buy with the IMPACT loans she got, are the only threads with which she sews life and the future of her daughter Aparna (13).
Sujata’s family life was not a pleasant one. Her husband was mentally disturbed, about which she had no knowledge at the time of their marriage. Later, she had to leave their house to come and stay in the village with her mother and younger sister.
Moving in with her mother and sister was also not very easy. Her sister is disabled and can do no work. They have a very small house and almost no income. Before Sujata moved in, they survived only on the disability pension her sister received. Now, the responsibility of the whole family is on Sujata’s shoulders.
Sujata has been working as a tailor from the age of 18. She worked at various places doing hand embroidery and other related works. A tailoring business was the only option she had and she started working at home with a sewing machine she had.
Gradually, she could rent the place where she runs the shop now. The help from IMPACT came at the right time. With the INR 15,000 loan she got initially, she bought two more sewing machines and employed one more person at her shop. She got a second loan of INR 30,000 from IMPACT after a year, with which she expanded her business. She brought in cloth pieces, salwar materials and sarees. Now, women in the village need not go to the city to get clothes. They get most of the items at Sujata’s shop, where they can buy and directly at a price much cheaper than shops in the city.
Sujata opens the shop at 9:30 in the morning and works till dark. She takes the unfinished clothes home and stitches them at night. Aparna also helps her with stitching after completing her homework and studies.
“After school, I sit with amma (mom) at the shop until she closes. That is how I learned to stitch. I help her with whatever small things I can do,” says Aparna. “She is good at embroidery and has won prizes for few competitions at school. She is going for dance classes too,” said her mom. Aparna wants to be a doctor when she grows up and Sujata is trying her best to give her daughter a chance to go for her dreams.
“If I get more loans from IMPACT, I have a plan to start a wholesale cloth store in the nearby town. I also want to employ more tailors in the shop, then only we will be able to take bulk orders,” says Sujata hopefully.