Thursday, May 19, 2005


Often, I've been asked whether I'd consider settling down abroad (of course, no one is referring to Burma, Kenya or Mexico, when they ask this sort of question. If you want to migrate, you're supposed to want to live in places like the USA, the UK, Australia, maybe some of the European nations, the UAE, even).

Usually, I have the same answer - I don't want to live in a country that has no cobblers.

I have this theory about society and repairing - a country is known not only by its leaders and its working-men, but also through its repair-men (or women).

A cobbler makes them re-usable: the things we had once liked and wanted to have.
A cobbler extends the life of something that has served us well.
A cobbler represents what my country is all about: a cobbled-together entity, a much-damaged, worn-out thing that is sometimes ugly, with mis-matched bits of leather or different colours of thread, but which functions in its own way and is made more interesting with age.

I like to think that we are a culture of repair - we sew things, we patch things, we try to undo damage, we cling to the old and try to keep the old going as long as they will serve our purpose, without embarrassing or hurting us...

We're a country with cobblers.
And I refuse to move to any place that does not allow us our cobblers, our repairers of damage.and breakage.


Quizman said...

There are cobblers, watch-repairers, tailors who darn in the US too. They're just too darn expensive. They get paid for what their labour is worth.

If the Indian cobbler had to set up a legal shop in India, instead of squatting on the pavement/street, he would jack up his rates too. Who knows? Perhaps, you would find it cheaper to buy a new shoe.

Kartik said...

I don't know if this has any bearing with relation to this post, but there's this thing called 'cults of affliction' that focusses on cultures that try to patch the world up and reduce the afflictions in it, and are hence religions in their own right.

Something close by?


Annie Zaidi said...

Quizman, I don't know whether repair-labour is worth that much more than manufacturing labour. All I know is, I don't want to live in places where I am deprived of the option of repair.
I like my neighbourhood cobbler, and I like the fact that he sets up shop on the street (the concept of squatting is something I'm deeply suspicious of, anyway), where I can find him when I need him. I like my cheap tailors and my watch-repair guys.
Besides, new shoes always hurt, even if they're legal. :-)

Kratik, 'cults of affliction' sounds so.... ominous. and depressing. Affliction was the last thing on my mind - I was generally talking about the attitude amongst some sections of society, that we do not want/need people who mend stuff, that we do not want/need stuff that's old and worn. At least, they don't want it to be visible. It is the attitude that I have issues with

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the world that needed repairers is just going out of fashion? In Bologna (Italy) we do have cobblers, cycle repair shops, clock repair shops - all usually dusty, old shops inhabited by old men with old men and old women as clients. Deepaks

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