Eighty-four-year-old Pitamber N. Parmar continues to work six days a week at his tailoring business in Bur Dubai, as he has being doing for the past couple of decades. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: He came to Dubai in 1956 and began stitching flags, 15 years before the UAE was formed.

“I was 23 and opened a shop near the Abra station in Bur Dubai,” said Pitamber Parmar, 84, a self-made master tailor and businessman who is the patriarch of the popular Parmar Tailors.

Reminiscing on the bygone days ahead of Flag Day, Parmar said, “Those days, this place was part of the British Protectorate and one of the Trucial states. The Trucial states had one flag — two rectangular red bars on top and bottom with white in the centre. At the time, each emirate had its own flag. Dubai had a flag with a vertical, longitudinal rectangular white bar and larger red square. I recall stitching those on order before the UAE was formed in 1971,” he told Gulf News.

Parmar started work as a tailor in his elder brother’s shop in Mumbai as a nine-year old.

Orphaned at the age of five, he is from the Junagadh district of Gujarat and had to migrate to Mumbai and, by nine, was taught the finer skills of tailoring by his brother, older to him by 20 years. He worked in Mumbai till the age of 20.

“As a young boy in Mumbai, I would work at my brother’s shop and sleep on the pavement. If it rained, we would be up all night, as there would be no dry patch to rest on,” he recalled. With this kind of a rough and tough life, Parmar was honed to face any kind of challenge. and soon after marriage, he came to Dubai. “In Mumbai, living conditions were cramped and I always dreamt of bringing up a large and loving family. When I heard of Dubai, I decided to come here with the help of some friends in 1956.”

Coming to Dubai proved a boon for Parmar who was quickly able to establish his own shop at the Abra station in 1956. “Those days, there was no municipality registration for shops. That system began only in 1961,” he said.

Parmar closed his first shop and opened a bigger and better one in Souq Al Kabir off Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street. This was followed by a second shop opposite the first one. “People loved to wear tailored clothes and finding a good tailor then was a challenge,” explained Parmar.

Among his many orders were stitching of flags. “I never had bulk [flag] orders from the government, but I had from individuals, corporations and private companies who hoisted the flag on their establishments. These were limited orders of not more than 10-20 flags in the standard specification of 90cm in height and 145cm width. The clients would bring their own bales of silk or satin — both white and dyed in red and I would stitch it to design, charging Rs5 per flag.“

Parmar’s tailoring business grew with time, as did his family. Today, his three sons and four daughters and their spouses form his extended family. His family is known for their bespoke tailoring. What started with just two members of staff in a small shop has now grown to over 130 staff in four shops across Dubai. Despite the sweeping success of his trade, Parmar continues to sit at his Souq Al Kabir shop, working six days a week.

Parmar lives with his extended family in the Green Community and is passionate about his work. His sons work five days a week. Every morning, he is the first person to come to his shop by 8.30am and leaves by 1.30pm for lunch, rests and is back again by 5.30pm and sits in the shop until 8.30pm.

Recalling the formation of the UAE in 1971, he said: “There was such strong patriotic fervour and enthusiasm for the country and I continued stitching the new flag. In 1971, I was still charging Rs5. But flags were just one part of our business as we did tailoring for men — for nationals and expatriates. But every year on Flag Day, I never forget to hoist the UAE flag at our shop and home because I feel very patriotic about the UAE. I was a young man when I came to Dubai and I owe everything to this place. It gave me my family, my wealth, my dignity and respect and I never forget to salute the country. Hoisting the UAE flag is my way of showing solidarity with this place which welcomed me with open arms and has been home to me for the last 61 years.”