Tucked away among pre-partition buildings in Pakistan Chowk in Karachi is a small one-room shop run by Masoodul Hassan called Tailor De Pak.
“My father, Mohammad Ibrahim, started the business in the 1930s and set up our first shop in Quetta next to Staff College,” he said wiping his glasses.
“After the earthquake in 1935, we located our shop to Bombay, then to Karachi right after the partition and have been at the Sarnagti Building since.”
Explaining how they got into the tailoring business, Mr Hassan said that they used to work primarily with the armed forces, who named their shop: “We used to go with them, stitch their uniforms and eventually, after the war my father decided to set up a shop."
“At that time, there was no clear concept of Pakistan,” he shared. “We got our name Tailor De Pak as in pak saaf logon ka tailor or a Muslim tailor.”
According to Mr Hassan, business in a newly independent Pakistan started off well but since then he has had to change his line of work from a general tailor to one who specializes in surgical gowns, lab coats and supplies.
“Teachers from DJ Science College, which is down the street, used to come here and they're the ones who told us to get into this line of work instead, which is how we started making scrubs and lab coats," he revealed.
“When we moved here in 1947, it was like a beautiful dream,” he said. “Now it’s a nightmare. Things have changed so much.”
He claimed that when they initially moved to Karachi, there weren’t many educated people in the neighbourhood but that changed overtime.
“Since Karachi was the capital in those days, several ministers had their offices in this building. Once the capital changed to Islamabad then the top floors were taken over by the British Council."
In the late 60s and early 70s, Mr Hassan stated that a frequent visitor of the building was former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: “Bhutto sahib used to walk and come here; a friend of his, Ali Nawaz, lived next door so you could often see the two of them together."
“After he became prime minister, he was in the area after doing a round at the Civil Hospital. On his way back, he decided to say hello to his friend -- it was funny because the protocol went one way and Bhutto sahib came this way instead. Unfortunately, his friend was not there but he came into the shop and met us.”
Talking about Pakistan Chowk, which is being renovated, Mr Hassan remembers when the chowk used to just be a tree. “The area was expanded after an MPA stood for elections in the 1980s,” he explained.
“When we moved to the area, it used to be very peaceful and quiet. In the evenings, you could see the women bring their chaddars and dinner to the chowk where they would wait for their husbands, sons and brothers."
"After having their meal, the men would move to the other side to play cards and other games while the women would talk to each other. Those truly were wonderful days.”