City Landmark – Premier Shoe Factory, Sadar Bazar, Gurgaon
The lockdown survivor.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is how it was before the coronavirus. The walls had seen so many shifts of seasons that it would have been impossible to determine their original color. The wood of the closets had been softened by time. The door looked like a precious collectible making one wonder why it hadn’t yet been stolen.
Founded within a corner of an old mansion in 1938, the one-room Premier Shoe Factory in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar was arguably the most curious shoemaker’s establishment in the entire Delhi region. Everything looked shabby but also looked beautiful — and the shoes were always new and gleaming. Ruling over this little world was the frail Jawaharlal Sherawat, quietly rustling out one shoe after another.
As the coronavirus reached our part of the world, and as the ensuing lockdown forced many businesses to shut down, one could legitimately worry about the well-being of the shoemaking shop and of its owner. The infection can be lethal to the elderly and Mr Sherawat is in his 70s — could he still hold on to his establishment? It had been founded by his father, but lately he was the only one running it, his children having picked up other professions. Was there any way for the legacy to go on?
As it happens, the shoe place as we knew it has vanished. But this weekday afternoon Mr Sherawat is still here, busy making shoes. It’s all looking very different, though. Gone are the familiar walls and the wooden closets. The world is looking like as if it were created just this morning. “My advocate son got the shop renovated during the lockdown,” Mr Sherawat mutters, as casually as if he was talking of the weather.
The floor is now cushioned with a red carpet, and the walls are painted white. The shoes are stacked on gleaming glass racks, and a red plastic chair stands instead of the weather-beaten one. As for the old door, it is still there but has been painted white too, and hints nothing of its earlier past.
Mr Sherawat is sitting, as always, on the floor. His rusty black century-old Singer sewing machine has remained, and so has his made-in-Germany equipments. The aged man has been in this trade since he was 15. Today, he must be one of the Delhi region’s oldest surviving shoe makers — if not the oldest one — to have worked continuously for decades, and even during the ongoing pandemic.
That the old shop not only outlived the lockdown but also exploited the difficult period to reinvent itself fills one with positivity. Indeed, it is a rare place, for which the coronavirus has been a portal to bright beginnings. You ought to visit it for inspiration, and to personally see how boldly and optimistically it is coping with the times.
When pandemic becomes a portal