I have been sitting under this tree and plying my trade here for the past ten years. Rain or shine, I have to manage the seasons with a plastic sheet overhead. There are ants running up the tree trunk behind me, and traffic across the road (Bharatidasan Salai) is very heavy – but I just carry on working.
I learned how to make and repair shoes from my father. With factory-made moulded footwear becoming more popular, the work for cobblers has gone down. Earlier, we used to make each part of the shoe or slipper separately and then assemble them on the last. Now it’s more about patching up some part made by a machine.
Also, the footwear then used to be mostly made of leather with wooden heels – now it’s all about lightweight materials like cork and plastic.
My tools – the irumbu laas (iron last), pinsis (pincers), thaiyyal uli (awl), koradu (pliers), button punch – are all made here in Tiruchi. I also keep metal buckles and small plastic strips to secure the toe-strap area of sandals.
I use a sewing machine to repair cloth school bags. It is also useful in neatening up edges of broken straps or stitching plastic sheets for sunshades.
Money is hard to come by, but I earn around Rs. 100-120 per day.
I open my stall by 9 a.m. and wind up by sunset. I have three sons, all of whom are employed as painters.
I hope the government will do something to help out cobblers – even a small shed for us to work in would be welcome.
(A fortnightly column on men and women who make Tiruchi what it is)