Traditional footwear back in style, but too few to make them
“They look so unique!” beams Mr. Patil, looking at the catalogue of chappals which have been typical of North Karnataka districts of generations. The hardy chappals (called “mettu” or “kera” locally) are regarded appropriate for the rugged agrarian style.
These hand-made chappals made up of pure leather are gradually drawing the attention of youth. “The youth are finding is attractive and unique also because of the leathery noise they make while moving. Those riding heavy motorcycles like Enfield and Bullet especially are largely preferring to wear this type of rugged-looking chappals.
Ironically, while the demand for these chappals is increasing, there is an acute shortage of its makers. Basavaraj Saptalkar (47), a cobbler who has inherited the occupation from his forefathers, says that the profession is gradually diminishing with no takers for the job.
He says that about thirty years ago, Vijayapura district had over 6,000 families doing this job which has now reduced to a handful. “Our work is labour intensive as we do not use any machine. Secondly, we are not getting enough leather,” Mr. Saptalkar said.
Parashuram Doddawad (44), who does the same job at Dharwad district, says that while a pair of heavy chappals need at least six days to make, the lighter one takes at least two days. There is a severe labour shortage to meet the demand.
A.S. Rudresh, District Coordinator of Dr. Babu Jagjivan Ram Leather Industrial Development Corporation (LIDKAR), said that the Corporation had tried to get patent for the chappals by inviting the officials of Central Leather Research Institute of Chennai. “We are still working on it,” he said. He said that the makers of these chappals are largely confined to districts such as Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Dharwad and Gadag.