I am sorry for missing yesterday’s #10ThingsILikeAboutXaviers, I have a good reason for that as well, something I am not that thrilled about – assignments. My classmates will agree that the past 10 months have had us doing all manner of work, from searching for budget buys to finding a hidden gem in the city. So today, I have got one assignment for you which I was immensely happy to do. I hope you enjoy the story!
Seventy-seven years ago, in 1940, a woman named Josephine Mendes opened a clothing and tailoring shop in Colaba, in the southern part of Mumbai. The shop catered from celebrities to housewives, all in search for the right materials to decorate their homes with.
Now in 2017, the shop is run by her son Frank Mendes, a former commercial pilot. A man in his 70’s, Mendes is a cheerful fellow who likes to have a good chat. “We sell embroidered cloths, like handkerchiefs, bed sheets and table cloths,” he says. The pieces come from different churches of south India, where Belgian nuns teach the local nuns to embroider and crochet. “Earlier we went to the nuns, but since I don’t speak their language (Malayalam), and they don’t speak English, it was a problem. Now, we send them our order and they ship it to us,” he elabourates, pointing to the boxes stacked in a corner of the shop.
Talking about the story behind the name of the store ‘Dit’, Mendes says – “’Dit’ was what we called my mother, so it felt right to name the shop after her nickname.”
The embroidered cloths look like works of art; with scenes of a village, dancers and women delicately crafted on a plain white cloth. The cost of the products shows the value that they hold. “Once a few lawyers came to the store and bought a bed sheet which cost 40,000 rupees; such big purchases are rare.” In his shop, he keeps cloths ranging from 100 rupees to 60,000 rupees, “something for everyone,” he says with a smile.
A St. Xavier’s College alumnus, Mendes dropped out in second year to pursue commercial flying. He worked for a few years, but then came back to help his mother with the shop. “My relatives aren’t interested in the shop, so I am the only one who looks after it,” he replies when we ask about who helps him manage the shop.
As the shop and Mendes grow old the signs of weariness show prominently. There are several cracks in the pillars of the shop which will force Mendes to relocate, until the building is repaired. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it,” he sighed with a helpless look in his eyes.
Uncertain for the future, yet happy in the present, Mendes bid adieu with a smile.