Thursday, 14 August 2014

Shoe mending trade losing foothold in Madurai

V. Alagar, who entered the trade about two decades ago, is now struggling to pump life into a collection of hand tools that he had purchased, due to compulsion, from his cobbler friend.

With more Maduraiites planting their feet in use-and-throw shoes and cheap plastic footwear, the neighbourhood cobblers seem like candidates headed towards extinction.

V. Alagar (40), who entered the trade about two decades ago, is now struggling to pump life into a collection of hand tools that he had purchased, due to compulsion, from his cobbler friend. “In those days, everybody got their shoes mended, but now they go for cheaper stuff that can be used and dumped later,” he adds.

The sidewalk shoe menders kept up a thriving trade through the 1980s and were usually stationed along busy localities such as Periyar bus stand, Anna bus stand, Collectorate and Goripalayam bus stop in the city. Today, their trade is dominated by modern shoe repair chains attached to big brands. “The number of customers seeking repair has decreased by 80 per cent. The ones that require fixing are mostly high-heeled footwear used by women but that is also done by the companies within six months. Hence the local cobblers are losing out to big brands,” says M.S. Qadir of Altaj footwear outlet.

Earlier, around 1,000 roadside cobblers served different communities in the district. At present, their number is estimated to be around 150, say shoe menders. It is a way of life that is dying out, partly because younger and educated members of the cobbler community are shunning their parents’ trade.

Yet, the city’s shoe menders hope to carry on the business in the corridor where ever-increasing real estate values are less accommodating to a vanishing breed of men who charge Rs.10 to Rs.20 to turn dirt to sheen.

“We will try to keep the trade going as long as we live. But our young people want another life,” says M. Ayyappan (34) from Sakkimangalam, who runs a shoe-repair shop near Goripalayam bus stop, an area that is dotted with cobblers. “My daughter wants me to retire or take up something else as she finds shoe mending menial,” he adds.

Several shoe-making units run by the State government a few years ago have been shut down. Many former employees have turned to daily wage jobs like construction. “I’d rather mend shoes than work for a construction company to make a living,” says R. Nagendran, a cobbler on West Masi Street, who once worked in the shoe-making unit of Tamil Nadu Khadi and Village Industries Board.

The government must take steps to revive the shoe making units, set up shops for cobblers in every locality and save the trade from extinction. The move will also provide employment to hundreds of people once associated with the occupation, he adds.

Many may consider mending shoes to be a despicable trade. But, for people like Nagendran, the craft is a labour of love.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/shoe-mending-trade-losing-foothold-in-madurai/article6315538.ece

0 comments:

Post a Comment

 
Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Online Project management