Tailors in Brahmanbaria become so very busy before Eid-ul-Fitr every year that they have to stitch round the clock to deliver on orders to their clients on time.
In an unprecedented turn of events related to the pandemic-led situation and violent anti-Modi protests, dressmakers in the district have been sitting idle this year even though Eid is just around the corner.
The clothiers say the pandemic has eaten up at least 60% of their orders, leaving many of them jobless. Meanwhile, a number of tailors have already switched to other professions.
The dressmakers usually take orders ten days before the beginning of Ramadan, and stop registering new orders after the 10th Ramadan as they become quite saturated by that time.
But the violent protests centering on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Dhaka visit on 26-28 March and later a continuous lockdown to tame the coronavirus infection have undercut the chances of the tailors taking orders for Eid.
Mohammad Mosharaf Hossain, owner of Century Tailors and Fabrics in the district, said the Hefazat-e-Islam had resorted to its rampage during the time in which the tailors would get orders. Though the situation has returned to normal, people are not coming to the tailors now.
"Despite the sluggish business, we have to pay rents and utility bills. The dressmakers are being partially paid on humanitarian grounds," he added.
Business people concerned have said there are around 2,000 tailoring shops with at least 10,000 dressmakers in Brahmanbaria. The tailors have orders almost round the year, while their work pressure just doubles ahead of Eid.
In regular times, small shops get Tk50,000 worth of orders per month, while medium and large shops get orders worth Tk1 lakh and Tk2 lakh respectively. Tailors say they make profits to the tune of 30-35% of the cost.
During the Eid season, orders to small shops double to Tk1 lakh, while medium and large outlets get Tk2 lakh and Tk4 lakh worth of orders respectively. The clothiers then work day and night to deliver the finished products to their clients before Eid. They also earn extra as part of their working overtime.
Musa Mia, a seasoned master cutter who has been in the profession for 35 years, said his master used to say tailors do not have to look back if they know their work properly.
Musa Mia's wife also works as a seamstress at home. The couple's seven-member family completely relies on dressmaking.
"But we tailors have been suffering as a result of the virus-led situation since last year. The work pressure used to be so intense that we had to work 16-17 hours per day. But now we do not have to work even for 5-6 hours," he said.
"As tailoring involves taking measurements, stitching and other physical work related to direct contact with customers, many people opt for readymade garments owing to fears of viral infection," the master cutter said, adding that one of his recently unemployed colleagues had to sell his cattle to support his family.
"I have never experienced such a miserable period in the life of a tailor," he noted.
A dressmaker, wishing anonymity, said he used to work at a small tailoring shop in Brahmanbaria district headquarters. The number of orders has been dropping since last year and the owner shuttered the shop in this year's lockdown.
The dressmaker has now turned into a farm worker for hire in order to run his family.
Ashraful Islam Swapan, owner of The Swapan Tailors in Brahmanbaria, said if the coronavirus situation does not improve, more tailors will lose their jobs.