The curious case of the missing buttons

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Trivial things teach us the best lessons sometimes. And it happened to me recently when I was in Hong Kong for the International Film Festival. Catapooolt- the crowd funding and engagement company, that I co-founded, was the partner of the Hong Kong Film Financing Forum (HAF). We were to give away the Catapooolt awards to the deserving filmmakers from Asia who were pitching their projects there. As usual I had packed my blazers for that formal look that sometimes gives you the extra edge of power dressing. I had also made a laundry list and ticked everything that I wanted to carry with me.

As we reached the hotel in Hong Kong, I diligently unpacked my clothes and hung them in the wardrobe. As I was arranging my tuxedo that I had specifically packed for the big occasion, I realized that it has only buttonholes for the top three buttons and I would have to have two-sided buttons like the ones you have on your kurta. It was simple, one had to just go to a tailor’s shop and get those buttons.

However the next couple of days were extremely busy and it totally skipped my mind. A few people that I enquired with assured me that there were a few tailor shops next to my hotel and I wouldn’t have to worry much. And then, the big day arrived and the award ceremony was at 7 in the evening.

In the morning I asked my colleague S to go ahead to the venue for the meetings so that I could pick up the buttons when the shops opened at 10 AM and join him. Very confidently I strode out to ‘button up’ and on being guided by the reception walked in direction of the market. There was no sight of any tailor’s shop and none of the people were able to understand English. The sight of an Indian restaurant brightened my hopes and I patriotically entered it to ask my million-dollar question to the manager there. He pointed in the direction of two tailor shops and I strode towards them like a predator towards its prey. Both the shops had timings of 11 Am written on them. I had an hour to kill, so I started going through the backlanes of the market asking almost every possible shop that had a remote association with clothing, including some stationery shops in the ‘market building’ which otherwise was lined up with meat shops giving my brains the toxic challenge of identifying the animals that might have been hung over there. At 11 I walked back to the tailor shops and was told they didn’t have any such buttons. I got some buttons that seemed like they would serve the purpose, but they didn’t. This really put me in a fix.

With S for company, I rushed to Tsim Sha Sui- an area popular for shopping and of course a lot of Indian tourists and shops. The area outside the station was lined with roadside shops with various souvenirs. Embedded amongst them were tailor shops owned by Indians and my search seemed to have reached its ultimate destination. However even they didn’t have them, but one of them was kind enough to guide us to a dilapidated building that housed all the tailors. This building surprised us (inspite of coming from India) as it had several rooms with all the occupants being tailors. It appeared as if tourists only bought clothes in HK or the locals had a great passion for dressing up. We knocked on the doors of several shops only to be welcomed by cold stares or plain ignorance. One of them didn’t even bother about us when we were exploring his shop and even talking to him he just saw through us as if we were invisible (this portion seems a little anti HK)

Finally, a bit dejected and disappointed at the ‘rousing welcome’ we walked out of the building to discover a helpful Indian in a shop with fake jewelry and accessories. After the familiar Indian ‘gossip’ he pointed us to a Pakistani shop where our day long (almost 6 hrs later!!!) struggle for the three precious buttons came to a satisfactory end.

With our prized possession safely tucked in my pocket we walked out of the shop and in to a souvenir shop. There hidden amongst various other things was a beautiful black Chinese coat with a huge golden dragon embroidered on the back. With golden cuff sleeves and exquisite golden lapel to match, it reminded me of Bruce Lee in ‘Return of the Dragon’. I couldn’t resist buying it.
HAF awards

And guess what, after the humongous effort in buying the buttons and ensuring that I could wear the tuxedo for the evening, I ended up wearing the Chinese coat for the awards ceremony. Seemed like Chinese karma!!!


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