Sonilal is about 60 years old, his missing front tooth and heavily tanned wrinkled facial skin shows the long hours he spends outdoors. The squint in his eyes is from the work he does, mending shoes and bags which need his attention along with the needle that pierces leather, rexin or cloth. His yellow tin box is close to 15 years and so is his spot— on the footpath next to the George’s Grammar School gate in Abids.
He is one of the many Lidcap license holders who sell readymade shoes and also makes them on order. Lidcap as a company gave license to many cobblers in the city. It’s a venture under the small scale industry to help cobblers make a better livelihood.
Sonilal is from the old city and used to mend shoes and bags, “when Lidpcap started the scheme, I took the license and set up this shop,” he says.
His little square shop — size of one’s extended arm on all sides has shoes and sandals hung at various lengths. From inexpensive plastic colourful floaters to faux leather shoes, the price range at his shop vary from Rs. 60 to Rs. 350. And besides the plastic floaters for ladies, the rest are all handmade by him, including the white sandals for men. “I buy the raw material from Sultan Bazaar and make the footwear in different sizes,” says Sonilal. Sonilal has been working for the past 30 years but he didn’t let his children learn the trade. “I made them study so that they can do some job on their own and not work like me. I want them to lead a better life.”
Life is not that easy though. Sonilal says, despite having all the papers regarding the permit, GHMC officials come and dislocate his shop. “They destroyed my box several times. But I don’t give up. I lose money but this is my only livelihood,” he says.
His small shop also has shoes laces and socks as it is close to a school. “They are for emergency,” he says.
PRABALIKA M. BORAH
I made them study so that they can do some job on their own and not work like me