December 28, 2016
“These days when people can buy all sorts of shoes and slippers within the price range of Rs. 100-500, nobody is bothered to get their shoes repaired,” says B Balan.
Balan (43), working as a cobbler for the last 17 years, further says, “Earlier one pair of shoes was used for two years and we cobblers were needed to get minor tears rectified, but nowadays good quality shoes have a life of six months only which people don’t prefer to repair.”
Balan sits under a tree near the market area in Ramnagar. He waits for customers from 9 am till 7 pm to earn his livelihood. Every day he hopes to earn a decent buck; weekly he makes around Rs. 2,000. There are also times when there is no earning at all.
Same is the situation of P Kanchamal (48) who sits near the Gandhipuram bus stop. She says she took up this job after her husband died, adding, “Earlier there were not many shops and shoes were costly. My husband was able to earn Rs. 400 to 500 per day easily. However, the opening of shoe shops in almost every corner of the city has really affected our business.”
She further says, “My husband worked as cobbler for 30 years, he is the one who taught me this skill. I never thought I would get into this male-dominated job. It’s been five years since I started but I am not able to earn even Rs. 200 a day sometimes. I am still doing this job so that I don’t have to depend on anyone.”
Talking about customers, she says, “Sometimes I get 5-10 people, most of them old folks who believe in saving. Very few are youngsters because they can get new shoes within Rs. 150-200 and keep changing shoes per new trends. Some of the footwear are made from a different material which once broken cannot be restored.”