Do you have problems with regular footwear?
There’s a cobbler who re-does the shoes to make them comfortable to wear. Kiran Pawar is his name.
On a major street in Panjim, by the side of Singbal’s Book House, sits Kiran Pawar, a cobbler par excellence. Hailing from Belgaum, Goan at heart, Pawar has been in the business for almost 15 years. With no formal education in shoe-making, he’s a self-taught businessman. Following in his father’s footsteps, taking up the profession as a young lad, learning shoe-making from his dad.
Recently I had been advised by my orthopedic to get a pair of artificial medial arches fitted into my normal shoes, my problem – flat feet. Available only at certain pharmacies in Goa, these arches come in a standard size. Made of a special rubber-like material needing manual fixing into your shoe.
“Never attempt to fix it yourself”. That’s the lesson I learnt. So off I went in search of the common ‘Mochi’, ‘Chamar’ or cobbler.
In search of a cobbler
Heading in the direction of Panaji, the capital city, my first stop was opposite the ferry jetty, one of the places the ‘Chamars’ usually frequent. On approaching one, the answer was negative. He did not do ‘such work’. Probably a job too small for his caliber I guessed. So I proceeded to the next guy in the last ditch effort. This time the response was positive. Conversing in Konkani, Mochi No.2 said to me, “There’s a guy who can do ‘such work’. Giving me a mobile number, he directed me to Pawar.
The place was not difficult to find but Mr Pawar wasn’t there. Inquiring with the shopkeeper next door (as they are usually kept informed), we waited. Kiran Pawar had gone to get his lunch. Finally, after almost an hour and a few phone calls, Kiran arrives, very unassuming, yet not in typical ‘Mochi’ attire of ‘dhoti and banyan’ as I was expecting but quite smart-looking and young for a ‘Mochi’, in jeans and bush-shirt.
Cobbler par excellence!
Examining the medial arches I handed him, he commented, “You needn’t buy an insole or an arch from a Pharmacy when I can custom make them with special rubber to fit your foot perfectly.” Asked to explain why he felt his option was better, he went on to explain that “for example, if your arch needs support then I use special rubber that is supple yet soft and provides the exact firmness to uphold it and relieve pain caused by flat feet. Besides, he stated that ready-made medial arches are a standard size and defeat the purpose. (The entire conversation took place in a mixture of Konkani and Hindi as I was taken aback).
He then quickly embarks on fixing the arches I provided, into my shoes. Meticulously he brushes off the dried ‘fevi-quick’ that I had so lavishly layered on. Then scrubs them with a specially crafted wooden tool and spreads on one of his many kinds of glue. The arches don’t stick. So he quickly wipes off the glue and applies another more appropriate and potent glue (a trade secret I guess, only available to him).
This time the arches stick to the shoes like magic. And voila! my pair of shoes readied in a jiffy.
Catering to people with special needs.
Pawar specialises in shoes for the physically impaired. He is adept at rectifying/restoring a shoe to make it user-friendly. Be it a change of colour or style, he can do it all. He transforms a yellow shoe to white or vice-versa.
He showed me a pair of cloth shoes that he had hand-crafted. “ It was a wealth-out-of-waste project that a child had asked me to make”, he said. The child had provided him with some waste cloth and Pawar obliged.
Such creativity and skill are hard to come by in any local cobbler. Kiran is a classic example. Not only has he kept the shoe-making trade alive but perfected it with his artistry and willingness to oblige. When asked whether there were other Mochis in the vicinity who do the same work, he replies “Nobody wants to do difficult jobs nowadays.”
For all special-shoe related needs, you know where to go!