His father was the first mochi in the village.
He is one of our icons. None other than Atmaram our lean and talkative mochi ( hindi word for cobbler) We pass him by daily and he will always have a smile and a brief look at your footwear.
How is it today. Does it require a stitch or two? Or is it so dull and requires a shine like the brilliant sunshine.
He hails from a family of traditional cobblers. He started in a big way, by stitching handmade shoes. …which were well made and quite well priced too!!
His father continued with usual repairs and shoe shines, in a different location of the village adjacent to a big bungalow. Atmaram was given pride of place in a makeshift workplace under a staircase of a house, which serves has his ‘Operation Theatre’.
Now you will wonder why? He loves to call the shoes he receives for repair as his ‘patients’.
One of his immediate concerns is to ensure that “ Patient’s cha operation zala, thari, gari la , patnar “ ( The moment the patient’s surgery is done, he has to be sent home) so he says i.e He requires the finished shoes to be handed over, as he has limited place.
I was stunned to see him one day at the nearby Dockyard Road Railway Station. He had changed to his civies (normal attire) unlike his work clothes, which is a loose fitting pyjama, and top.
I enquired, after a brief struggle to recognize Atmaram in his changed appearance “ Kai, Atmaram, tumcha office sutli kai? Ani gari chalale? “ He then replied “ Ho,office sutli, pan, tumchi patient ajun gari nahi geli.” ( What Atmaram, you finished for the day? He replied” Yes, but your patient is still not gone home.” In other words, ‘ you better ensure that you take your finished shoes home’.
In today’s world, where there is a throwaway culture, Atmaram belongs to a slowly disappearing breed of cobblers, who still plays an important role in the village of Matharpacady. His place also serves as a meeting point for a little chat for some of the passersby.
Matharpacady itself is one of a few preserved villages of quaint bungalows in the heart of Múmbai, struggling to retain its stature and resilience of old. However Atamaram gives us a message that come what may we can still retain oúr ‘ identity’ in a fast changing world.
These shoes were made for walking…….and when you need to look after them:
Just contact Atmaram, and he has a solution for all ailments that affect ‘ leather shoes’, laced with some humour if you have time for a chat.
( Interesting characters of Matharpacady village, with names changed….to showcase the traditions of more than 150 years old Heritage precinct…..now a tourist attraction , specially for the passengers of the Cruise liners)
Courtesy : Vincent Mascarenhas