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Celeb tailor Iqbal Masterji's heart-warming rags to riches story

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Joined: 23 December 2014
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Posted: 19 April 2016 at 2:24pm | IP Logged

Heroes of Bollywood: Celeb Tailor Iqbal Masterji's Heart-warming Story From Rags To Riches is Inspiring!

April 19, 2016 Team Pinkvilla

We often are awestruck with the designer clothes that our favourite Bollywood celeb wears in their films or at various shows. The credit is given to the designer who has worked on the look. But seldom do we know the actual person who has worked on making that piece of costume. Tailor Iqbal Masterji, is one such person, who may not be a known face on the big screen, but has been closely associated with the film world and has stitched clothes for many Bollywood biggies. From tailoring clothes for films like Paisa Vasool and Kismat 15 years back, to making costumes for films like Akshay Kumar's Rustom and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's Sarbjit, Iqbal Masterji has indeed made a place for himself. He features in our section Heroes of Bollywood and in a heart-warming conversation, shares his 30 year long journey.

I belong to a small village called Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. We were three brothers staying with our parents. But when I was six and half years old, my father left all of us and went away somewhere. My mother was left alone to take care of herself and the three of us. Since we had a financial crisis, I was asked to start work at the tender age. People started suggesting to my mother that we should work in the cigarette rolling factory. But my mother was against it. She got us work in the tailoring field. The shop where I used to work was almost 7-8 km away from my house and had to walk up the distance since there was no money to travel by public transport. And in UP, when you are working in a shop, you are expected to do their household chores as well. I used to work from morning 9 to evening 6 in the shop, followed by their household work.  
Once, I was asked to get a thread of a particular color. I was a child then. I got the wrong color thread, for which the owner beat me black and blue. He beat me up so bad that I urinated in my pants. I sustained through it. Then during Eid, there was a lot of work. So the owner used to make me work overtime and for almost one month's hard work, he paid me only Rs. 5. This must be in 1985 or 1986. So my family decided to change my job. I went to the other place and it was the same scene. We survived somehow for six years. Then one day, suddenly we received a letter from our father, who was working in Kashmir. He sent us Rs.300 after six years. Imagine what we would have gone through and what all hardships my mother would have faced. He came back to the village and got some gifts for us. Then he took all of us to Kashmir and there too both my younger brothers were sent to school and I had to earn. There also, I learnt new techniques in tailoring. My master's house was far off and I had to cross Dal Lake everyday. Again, here as well, I used to go walking and come back walking. But comparatively, our time in Kashmir went better than in UP because we had our father with us. He was working there as a cook in Paradise Hotel, and our house was near the lake. The political condition in Kashmir wasn't fine and hence we returned to Rampur.
In the meantime, we were blessed with a younger brother after which our father took us to Delhi. There is a place called Azadpur Mandi which is a fruit market. We used to sell fruits for almost 6 months. But we couldn't earn enough that our family could survive. Then I tried my hand at car repairing. I turned a mechanic and used to repair matadors in those days. Once while working, the jack which is put under the car, broke down and I got stuck between the road and the matador. So my parents  asked me not to work there. Then again, my father disappeared from Delhi and then my uncle took us back to UP.

Dad was back after a year and he started working in a school in UP itself. This was during 1992. His salary was of Rs.18 per day. And he used to spend that money on us. Later, I learnt embroidery work and my brother and I started working from home, due to which we managed to earn Rs. 1500-2000 per month. In the meantime, my youngest brother was detected with a hole in his heart. We didn't earn much to get him the treated. But we managed to borrow money and took him to Delhi, Lucknow for his treatment.

The financial crisis was taking a toll and I decided to shift to Delhi to earn money. But nothing was working out in my favour. Then a friend told me that his uncle owns a shop in Almora, Uttranchal. I went there to work where I started earning Rs.5000 per month. But my brother's condition was deteriorating and we had to get him operated. Though my mom's family was well off, nobody even helped me to get a tailoring machine which cost me Rs. 300. While I was working in the shop at Almora, the friend started feeling jealous and I had to suddenly be answerable to him. This didn't go down well with me and I decided to quit. My friend's uncle, the owner of the shop, was very upset and also got emotional when I left. Then I returned to Rampur and decided to rent a shop. My ex-owner from Almora, helped me to rent that place. We were doing well and had saved some money, but alas, it got stolen! That is when I decided to go to Mumbai. This was in 2002.

When I came to Mumbai, I was given a reference of one Kudrat bhai who owns a shop in Mumbai Central. I was told he will help me. When I reached there, he started cribbing and asked me 'Why have you come here?'. Instead of asking me how was the journey, that was his first question. I was disheartened. I told him to guide me to Andheri. He explained how to go and I left. I went to Andheri because a guy called Akhtar had visited my shop in Rampur and had told me that 'Iqbal bhai aapki jagah Mumbai main hai'. He had told me whenever you decide to come to Mumbai, visit me at Kol Dongri. 

After reaching Andheri, the biggest task was to reach Kol Dongri and hunt for Akhtar in such a huge place. I asked at a tailoring shop and luckily I met a guy who knew him. He took me to Akhtar's place. He was a large-hearted man and despite him sharing the room with 9 other roommates, he let me stay in his house for almost a year. He helped me set up a shop as well over there. But I still wasn't able to fulfill the financial demands of my family. I always used to wonder what else I could do to earn money. That is when I met this man in Bandra. He had once visited my shop in Dongar. He told me that a designer needed a tailor. He was ready to recommend my name only on one condition - he should get the orders for stitching the gents' clothes. I agreed.

I still don't know who is the man and why he helped me. He got me to a place in Yari Road to a famous designer's name. I liked his work and started working under him. There was another designer - Shahid Aamir working opposite to him, from whom I used to get work as well. I started working with Reza sir and learnt many things. We worked on many films like - Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara, Paisa Vasool, Plan, Kismat etc. I have done many television shows like Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Dance India Dance. I didn't get paid well here but I got to learn a lot.

Amidst all this, my brother's problem wasn't getting solved. I spoke to Reza sir and he kept telling me we will do something. I had taken my brother to this Baba called Aslam Baba in Karnataka, who had become famous. But it was all in vain. My brother didn't recover. One day, I took him to Dr. Merchant. He saw my brother's condition and referred me to another Dr. Lulla. He admitted my brother for a day. When he discharged my brother, he didn't take money from me, because Dr. Merchant had spoken to him. He called me to his clinic and told me to get my brother operated as soon as I can. He gave me Rs. 40,000 and asked me to arrange for the rest of the money. Reza sir has a partner called Chirag Bohra. He gave me another Rs. 40000, which I returned later. But at that time I got the much needed the help. My brother was admitted in Mumbai's J.J. Hospital. He got operated and things became fine. He went back to Rampur and there he suffered a brain hemorrhage. We got that treated as well. He was allergic to a medicine that he had to take for his heart ailment. So there was no escaping the medicine and he had to take it, because of which his nerves kept tearing. Soon he passed away.

I continued working with Reza sir for almost 10 years and he kept giving me hope that he will help me buy a house. But that never happened. In the meantime I got married, I started my own family. I showed him many houses and he rejected all of them. I had built a team and had got 7-8 people, who would be ready to work at any time. But he never appreciated anyone. We have worked overtime but monetarily I was earning only Rs. 28,000. This was just 3 years back. He kept making a fool out of me and that is when I decided to leave him and start my own work. He warned me by saying that I am doing a wrong thing. But I had to and I didn't feel it was wrong. I wanted to progress. 

I somehow managed to borrow money from a friend named Javed. He lent me Rs 1.5 lacs and I rented this shop. Thankfully, after three years I have worked hard and now I have three shops. Today also, if Reza sir comes here, I will leave all my work and make him sit and do his work. Because I respect him and I got to learn a lot of things from him. Whatever I am today, it is because of him. But just because you have taught me, it doesn't mean I will stay with you forever, unless you value me and pay me for the work that I do. These days the needs are so much because of which we are staying away from my mother as well.

But then, I moved on. And by God's blessings, things have been well. I have been designing clothes for many shows like Jamai Raja  and the films that we recently worked on are Rustom and Sarbjit. We also designed clothes for Jacqueline's performance in IPL. I meet designers, they come to the shop. Slowly and steadily we are doing well. Now I don't get time to do anything else. I can't give time to my family. I have worked with many designers and now I am making my own collection as well. I have been working in Mumbai for 15 years and for the past 3 years I am working for my own self. I will continue to do that because here people take advantage. I don't know. But I am not like that and you can ask my staff about it. I have faced it myself so I know how it feels. People who were earning 5000 few years back, today they are with me and are earning Rs. 30000 a month. And it is not because of me. But it is because they are hardworking and are getting paid for the efforts that they put in. That is how life continues... 


The following 3 member(s) liked the above post:


irene_c Goldie

Joined: 02 March 2008
Posts: 1398

Posted: 19 April 2016 at 2:49pm | IP Logged
Inspirational story.  Hope he continues to do well.  Thanks for posting 
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