Mission Delhi – Rameshwar Arya, Hazrat Nizamuddin West
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This posh address had a great number of elegant bungalows. Many have been replaced by apartment-style housings. Some kothis of the old days are still standing.
And if these remaining bungalows of Hazrat Nizamuddin West could be seen as souvenirs of an era that has survived, then let us include one more neighbourhood institution in this list of precious keepsakes.
It is an unnamed shoemaker’s stall, which has been standing on the same spot since 1958. It was founded by Saudan, a Jaipur native, who died in 2010 at the age of 102. It is now run by his son. Rameshwar Arya is 74 and has been sitting in the stall since 1974. The man is extremely fit, neither plump nor thin — the kind of figure that subscribers of YouTube’s fitness channels dream for. “I eat food with little oil,” he explains. Also, he never sits during his long daily commute from Palam Vihar in bus no. 727. “Some people offer me their seat on noticing my white hair, but the regulars know better… I feel more at ease standing.”
This afternoon, the establishment is uncomfortably hot, even though a small ceiling fan is clamped to the stall’s roof. The walls are studded with shoes and jootis. “I make new shoes, and I also repair damaged footwear,” he says. Mr Arya’s skills are esteemed in both Nizamuddin West and Nizamuddin East. If any kothi malik in either of these localities happen to have a torn shoe, chances are that the chauffeur will bring it to Mr Arya’s establishment.
Now a customer arrives. “Joota udhar gaya, uncle,” he says. Also referred to as Chacha, Mr Arya silently keeps the wounded shoe in front of him, turns on the radio to a film song playing on Vividh Bharati, and puts on his glasses. Everything appears as it has for so many years. But, truth be told, the future of the longtime establishment is uncertain. “Both my sons are drivers,” Mr Arya says. The stall opens daily from 11 am to 9 pm.
[This is the 513th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A Hazrat Nizamuddin West institution