Mending soles: ‘I repair what is broken’


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Bhamabai is sitting in her shop, repairing a chappal , the iron cobbler’s anvil before her on the ground. Using a square block of wood as aid, she holds down the open slipper at the threshold with her massive toe. She then pushes inside the needle and, looping the thread, pulls it out. With six iterations, the damaged strap is fixed – incomes her five rupees.Meet Bhamabai Mastood, a leather-based worker, normally referred to as a cobbler, dwelling in close to penury. Decades ago, she and her husband were landless labourers in Osmanabad district of the Marathwada vicinity. When the outstanding drought of 1972 ravaged Maharashtra, decimated agricultural paintings, and dried up their livelihoods, each came to Pune.

They took up any work that got here their way, on roads or in building construction. A day’s labour added to 5 rupees throughout those instances in Pune. “I gave all that I earned to my husband. He could drink and beat me up,” Bhamabai, now round 70, says. The husband subsequently abandoned her, and now lives together with his different spouse and youngsters close to Pune. “For me, he’s as properly as dead. It has been 35 years for the reason that he left.” Bhamabai might have had kids herself had she now not misplaced them at start. “There is not any one with me, I have no guide,” she says.

After her husband left, Bhamabai set up a small shanty save for footwear repair, a skill she had found out from her father. The shop is in a small lane off Pune’s Karve Road, adjacent a housing colony. “It was demolished by using municipal people. So I rebuilt it. They broke it down again.”
In melancholy, Bhamabai requested the residents of the colony for help. “I instructed them I had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do.” They stepped in, spoke to the municipal authorities, and he or she continues running there.


Life may be very hard, she says. “If I get a customer I make 5 or ten rupees. If no person comes, I just sit down here till the evening. Then I pass home. That is my existence now. Some days I make thirty rupees, now and again fifty. Often, I make nothing.”

Can she make a new shoe? “No, no. I don’t recognise the way to do that. I handiest restore what’s damaged. I can polish footwear, and hammer in a heel and sole.”
Two other leather-based workers, each guys, have shops some yards away from Bhamabai’s. Their fees are higher, and they declare to make Rs. 200-400 every day, now and again extra.
Bhamabai opens her brown toolbox. On the inner of the lid, she has caught images of goddesses. The pinnacle tray is partitioned into four sections and holds threads and nails. Beneath it are the leather-based craft gear. She lays them out.

At the cease of her paintings day, the whole lot is going lower back into the toolbox, including a metallic tumbler she makes use of to drink water. The anvil, the piece of wooden, different small objects like a packet of chips, and a tiny material package deal with some cash, all move right into a tightly-knotted gunny sack. The box and the sack are kept in a locked metal closet outdoor a quick meals eating place across the road. “God facilitates me in those small approaches, they allow me maintain my matters there,” she says.

Bhamabai lives in Shastri Nagar, approximately five kilometres from her tiny store. “I walk each day, morning and nighttime, an hour every time. I forestall normally on the manner, and sit down somewhere along the street to relaxation my aching knees and again. One day I took an autorickshaw. It value me almost forty rupees. A day’s incomes changed into long past.” Sometimes one of the shipping boys from the short food eating place might supply her a lift on his motorcycle for part of the manner.

Her domestic is slightly bigger than the store, an eight-through-eight toes room. It is pitch dark interior at 7.15 p.M. With simplest a touch light from an oil lamp.” Just just like the lamp we had in my domestic in Kanagara village,” she says. There is not any power. Her connection become reduce as she couldn’t pay the dues.

An iron mattress with out a mattress is the best fixtures; it doubles up as a stand for drying washed utensils. A winnow hangs on one wall. The cooking platform has a few utensils and tins. “I actually have a stove, which I can use so long as one litre of kerosene lasts. Then I wait till the subsequent month to shop for it on my ration card.”

Bhamabai has a large tattoo on her forearm of small figures of deities and the names of her husband, father, brother, mom, sister, and her surname. All permanently etched in blue. Though exhausted from years of labour she is pragmatic and unbiased. She has two brothers in the metropolis, one sister in the village and every other in Mumbai. All her siblings have households. Relatives from her village from time to time drop by way of her keep whilst they are in Pune.

“But I even have never long gone to go to any of them,” she says. “I don’t share my plight with anybody. I am telling you everything because you have requested me. In this global, each one has to fend for themselves.”
While we’re sitting in her store, a girl seems in and hands over a small plastic bag. Bhamabai smiles: “I even have a few buddies, women who’re domestic employees. Sometimes they proportion the leftovers they get at paintings with me.” A customer leaves his black leather-based footwear and pairs of branded sports footgear for repair. One by one, she stitches them into form, and polishes the black leather-based. For simply Rs.16 a couple, Bhamabai infuses new life into the ones tired, as soon as-highly-priced footwear. By repairing them, she has saved the purchaser from spending a few thousand rupees on a brand new pair of that grade. But if she knows that, she doesn’t show it. All she is doing is mending broken soles.


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