He was born mute and deaf, yet S.M.M. Jhaseeil is a tailor shop owner, employer, mentor, and father.
“The sleeve should be here,” the customer instructed. “I do not want this button and the collar should be like this,” he continued while the tailor nodded his head and wrote the wishes on a piece of paper. Occasionally the tailor makes signs with his hands.
S.M.M. Jhaseeil’s tailor shop is in Attalaichenai, and he is particularly busy during the Ramadan season. “We work day and night in order to finish our orders in time,” he says. On occasions like these, when we have heavy orders, my friends give us a helping hand by doing small errands like stitching buttons, ironing, etc.
Jhaseeil, 40, is a unique tailor.
“Since my birth I could neither hear nor speak,” Jhaseeil says through an interpreter. “When I was very young, my parents admitted me to the Thihariya Muslim Centre for the Disabled to study, where I stayed from 1986 to 1997.”
While society was sympathetic toward him, reflects Jhaseeil, his family pushed him to become an entrepreneur was only possible through his education.
“They taught me writing and life skills during the first nine years. For two years they gave us vocational training and I preferred tailoring.”
After his training in tailoring at Thihari Jhaseeil began working at a tailor shop in Colombo. “I received seven thousand Rupees a month,” he recalls. “But I could not save anything. It was barely enough to live on Colombo. So I returned to my village after two years.”
After four years of unemployment, doing the odd job here and there – from labouring to farming with his father— until a loan from his father allowed Jhaseeil to open up his own tailor shop.
Employer, father, and mentor for the differently abled
“I opened the shop with one sewing machine. Now I have four machines and three people are working with me.” Jhaseeil’s employees, like him, are also disabled. In fact, Jhaseeil’s tailor shop has become a training centre for the disabled and provides employment opportunities.
There are about 600 disabled people in the nearby Divisional Secretary’s Division and all of them have been brought together to form a society and exchange resources among one another.
Jhaseeil’s life partner is also disabled and they have two children, studying in the 5th and 7th Standards.