City Landmark – Udhmi Ram’s Shoe Repair Stall, Green Park
A longtime destination.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is back. As the lockdown eases, shoe repairman Udhmi Ram has returned to his pavement stall in Green Park Market.
“I’m opening after one whole month,” he says, sitting amid the numerous major and minor elements that make up his establishment. There are polishes of many shades, a metallic shoe stand, a bunch of laces hanging from a nail hammered on the pavement wall, a rusty trunk filled with old shoes and sandals, and a great deal of other tools. There’s a pink plastic rose, too.
The stall might seem ordinary to a hurried passerby but that would be a mistake. Green Park Market has filled up in the recent years with retail chain showrooms and cafes, a number of old landmarks have been pushed out. The market’s neighbourhood charm has eroded. In comparison, the shoe stall is a monument. It was set up 50 years ago “on this very spot by my father, Bihari Lal, who had arrived in Delhi from Kotputli in Rajasthan.” Some of the tools date to the founder’s time, says Mr Ram, himself in his early 50s. The posters stuck on the wall are newer, put up by him. Most of these are calendar portraits of various gods, including a newspaper article on a Buddha statue in Rajgir, and a clipping that details the story of Shabri from the Ramayana.
“I worship them,” Mr Singh says.
This noon, sitting idle, he reveals that his customers dwindled long before the pandemic. “People these days buy new shoes rather than get the old ones mended.” A father of four, his eldest son works “as a cleaner in an office.” His children often tell him to stop working, and that they will look after him. “But coming here is a good pastime for me.” He arrives daily at 10 from his home in Mandi Gaon in bus no. 519. A single-way commute takes about an hour.
Mr Singh also wants to keep working because during the lockdown neither he nor his employed son were able to earn. “We owe ₹8,000 to our grocer.”
He plans to continue to come as long as “my body allows it.” His children aren’t interested to inherit his profession “and this stall will be gone after I’m done.”