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Portrait of an Indian Citizen June 12, 2010

Posted by simarprit in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,


This gentleman earns an honest living, someday Rs 20/- (less than 0.5$) and on a great day little more, say  around Rs 150.00 (around $3.00). His services begin with Rs 2/- about 4 cents for fixing detached sole to the shoe and go up all the way to Rs 10/- (20 cents) for complete “cream polish’ of black/ brown shoes.

Every component of  his makeshift workshop talks about his approach to honest living:

  1. The broom behind him is to keep his place of work clean
  2. The broken board and the polythene cover are to protect his “establishment” from rain
  3. Jute bag (Bori) is at an arms length to wind-up the shop if its rains hard
  4. Bottle of  “cream” for the Cherry Blossom shine
  5. Shoe Horns to reshape shoes while polishing
  6. Cobbler’s Farrier/Hand
  7. Cobbler’s threads
  8. Neutral and Black Polish
  9. The hand tools
  10. Brown and Black brush
  11. Spare soles
  12. Nails
  13. Cobbler’s stone

He has everything and no customers, advent of sports shoes have brought a dead end to his profession. On some days he waits for  four hours for a customer who will pay him Rs 10/- Sad but true. Every Indian is not an entrepreneur, but every Indian needs to live.


1. Hitesh - June 12, 2010

This is the truth Simar ,which is faced by most of the citizen of real India.We become happy over the economy and the growth rate statistics, but they are for Metros only. 10 INR per day – the average per day income is a slap for all officials of all planning authorities.In my college days I worked for some welfare groups and saw these kinds of realities in deep.My conclusion is we all are Hippocrates, who keep our eyes shut watching this and say all Indians are brothers and sisters since our school days. People have a common answer -“What can we do?” yeah .. what can we do ! When thinking for such a situation you need to buy a cigarette of 10 INR. The gap of India and Bharat is being wider per day..

simarprit - June 27, 2010

We can do a lot and many of us have made humble/ modest beginnings in this direction, now we need to gather speed.

2. Ashutosh Pandey - June 12, 2010

i can sense and recall people in my village. They call it – “Mehnat se jo rukha sookha mil jaaye vo sabse ananddayi hota hai”

simarprit - June 27, 2010

You are right Ashu, but the “jo” factor needs to be fair, it is important.

3. Neha Kulwal - June 12, 2010

liked ur post and liked d way u described it..! thanx for sharin.. it makes us realis worth of each hard earned penny! 🙂

simarprit - June 27, 2010

Every penny matters neha and every penny spent to share matters more 🙂

4. Neha Kapoor - June 12, 2010

I say it always and I say it again. India will actually be developed only when all people can earn a decent living.

simarprit - June 27, 2010

Yes, the growth and development have not been inclusive and making them that is a challenge.

5. Anushka - June 12, 2010

चाह गयी, चिंता मिटी मनवा बेपरवाह. जिनको कछु न चाहिए वो ही बादशाह. (कबीर). There is no end to desires. So happiness is short lived.

simarprit - June 27, 2010

It looks like his happiness is perpetual 🙂

6. Harleen Kaur - June 14, 2010

Really liked the posture, the smile and the confidence he is carrying! My take away- “Keerat di kadar karo” 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing…

simarprit - June 27, 2010

Harleen, I met him everyday for next seven days, the man is amazingly committed to sincerity and honesty. You are right it is Keerat.

7. Prasad Rekapalli - June 19, 2010

Honest living, his certainly is. It must be a continuous heroic battle against the temptation to live otherwise. The capacity to keep smiling and remain committed to the hard and honest way of life even as he realises that his monthly income is less than the cost of a pair of those leather shoes he polishes calls for unparalleled contentment and equanimity; the stoic smile on his wizened face should chasten the world mired in the rat race called living.

It tells another story too. The compulsion to work that hard at that age; the stark economic realities behind it all.

Statistics lie – and lie outrageously. After all, isn’t Statistics the subject which makes one conclude that a man is happy on the average if one end of his is in a refrigerator and the other in a raging fire?!! The disparity between the metros and the villages is glaring except to all except those who can do something about it; so is the glaring disparity between income levels across the various strata of society in a metro.

Can we do something for these hapless people who have as much a right to decent living as anybody else – a right which they are too ill-equipped to enforce but can be supported by us with our thoughtfulness?

Can we do something for these hapless souls to ensure a reasonably comfortable life, a life that assures three meals a day, good clothing, and good shelter – if not anything fancier?

We can. If we act in concert. The more of us that join the drive, the better of course. But we need not wait for anyone to join our effort right now; we can tread the lonely path for a while. If we can swim against the tide to help ourselves, we can swim against the tide to help others too.

How about buying a couple of earthen pots for storing water from that vendor on the footpath every summer – even if we do not use them?

How about buying a kite from that lad staring into distant skies with dreams in his eyes, hope in his heart and hunger in his stomach – even if we do not dream to fly a kite?

How about buying those home-made papads from that small boy selling papads in the evening while going to school during the daytime?

Just so they continue to make an honest living and their needs are met adequately. Just so the only honest means of livelihood they know are not snuffed out along with their lives. Just so they do not turn into criminals to survive the pangs of hunger – debasing their souls and the collective consciousnes of society in the process.

How about refusing to frequent a fancy restaurant and going to a smaller, unimpressive one? Our custom can be the difference between life and death for the owner of that restaurant and the staff in it.

How about drinking some tea from that tea vendor operating from a makeshift stall? At least when we are not looking for a comfortable place to sit and sip tea at the end of a hard day? Our custom can mean the medicines for his feverish daughter.

How about refusing to buy something from an air-conditioned mall if it is available in a less impressive outlet – so that the proud owner of that small shop does not become a salesman in a Mall? How about buying our vegetables from a vegetable vendor on the streets rather than from one of these luxurious malls? How about the groceries?

How about buying an inexpensive perfume from the local perfumer than a ten-thousand rupee perfume imported from France? Just so our ancient art of perfumery does not die an ignoble death – and, along with it, the perfumers.

How about buying a pair of good old Bata shoes rather than a pair of Nike so that cobblers like this old man have their livelihood unaffected?

May be the next time we are about to buy an expensive perfume or a pair of shoes shelling out ten thousand rupees, we can settle for something much less expensive and donate the difference to CRY or a home for the aged?

None of these choices may be adequate, in the short run, to tackle a problem so huge. But it is our little contribution to the solution. A contribution that does not rule out more effective contribution from anyone.

None of these is choices is all that difficult – certainly not any more difficult than the hardship the millions around us face every minute as they struggle to survive. We do not have to do anything but give up some of our fancy desires – desires which do not threaten our existence if they are not fulfilled.

Yes, I do make these choices consciously. I do indulge myself at times; but I do try to cater to the unspoken needs of the hapless around me. In a way that is charitable in spirit but does not look like charity and offend their proud spirit.

In the process, we help ourselves too. It makes us humbler. More honest too. More thankful to God for His kindness to us. It makes us develop greater contentment like that old man out there despite the coarse choices we make while foregoing the expensive pleasures. And contentment leads to happiness, doesn’t it?

simarprit - June 27, 2010

Very well said, thank you Prasad, I am honored by the time you took to share your thoughts.

Prasad Rekapalli - June 27, 2010

The honour is mine indeed, Simar ji. Your post has – and, thus, you have – given me the chance to say something that has long mattered a lot to me.

There must be a kind heart behind the eye that cognizes situations like that cobbler’s. God Bless You for that.

May God give u a chance to do a great lot of good to at least that part of the world which is within your reach.

Samasta sanmangalaani santhu! (May all auspicious things happen to u!)

(I am not an avid blogger; but I do have a nascent blog at http://flights-of-mind.blogspot.com . Pl do visit it sometime (when u have plenty of time though – because I tend to be prolix!)

8. Prasad Rekapalli - June 19, 2010

The second sentence of the third paragraph above should read :

“The disparity between the metros and the villages is glaringly obvious to all except those who can do something substantial about it; so is the disparity between income levels across the various strata of society in a metro.”

I apologise for the slip.

9. Nilabh Verma - November 20, 2010

He is earning less but the problem is he has to do all the stuffs in the age where most of us look for the retirement. Thanks for writing such a wonderful post.

10. The Humble Roadside Cobbler | Past 4 Word - March 17, 2011
11. Som - May 2, 2011

Really nice snap and description .This is true that the maximum people of Below Poverty Level live honestly.The face of the man in the picture tells everything .Sad eyes never lie. The man should be included in the below Poverty Level and at the same time he should be included into Old age Pension Plan.

simarprit - May 3, 2011

Thanks Som, but how to go about it. The nation is today married to corruption, to get a Below Poverty Line Card you need to pay, you need to pay also to get Old Age pension Card and get covered under it.

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