Time stands still in the form of broken watches, clocks and time pieces at this little shop tucked beneath a building beside the busy road that connects Bakery Junction and Vazhuthacaud. Two steps below the road level is where Thirunavakarishu Pillai, alias Kannan, runs his business. The signboard on the shop says ‘Chandra Kumar watch works’. Surrounded by watches, tiny wheels and other instruments of his trade, Kannan is attending to two of his clients who seem to have all the time in the world as they patiently wait for him to finish diagnosing the ills of their watches.
“This shop has been here for nearly 80 years now. My father, B.S. Parameswaran Pillai, had begun it and I began coming to the shop since the age of 10. I was fascinated by my father’s trade,” says 48-year-old Kannan.
The only son among seven siblings, Kannan joined his father after completing his schooling. “I studied in Carmel School and the government school for boys in Karamana. I was not good in academics and so I decided to learn watch repairing, My father sent me to Parassala to work with an elderly expert in watches. I learnt how to repair quartz watches from him,” explains Kannan.
That came in handy when Kannan decided to become his own boss. He had worked as the head cook in film units when he decided he had had enough of working for someone.
He remembers his father working on branded watches such as Rolex, Favre-Leuba, Longines, Patek Philippe, Omega and so on. Many old-time pendulum clocks were also brought to the shop for repairs. “Now, I have stopped taking clocks that need to be wound. The parts are difficult to find and quite expensive. But if the customer is willing to bear the cost, I can repair almost any clock or watch, including cuckoo clocks,” he says with pride.
Although Kannan’s shop functions in a rented place, Kannan says his landlord has never troubled him. “I never aspire for what is not mine,” he says. A good Samaritan, Kannan says his work has given him a keen sense of observation and so he keeps a close watch on his surroundings. This has helped him lend a helping hand to those in need.
“I have never shied away from rushing an accident victim to hospital or go out of the way to help those in need,” he says.
The times, they are a-changin’, and Kannan feels that the changes have not been kind to his ilk. As a result he does not want his 12-year-old son Vishakh or 16-year-old daughter Sita to follow in his footsteps.
“The money is enough to make ends meet. But this job is very hard on the eyes. I have paid a price for my work and my eyes constantly hurt. So I do not want to encourage anyone to practise this trade,” he says.
Perhaps time will tell if Kannan will find a person to pass on his knowledge and experience.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)
This job is very hard on the eyes. I have paid a price for my work and my eyes constantly hurt