With an intersection by the National Highway and vehicles swarming from left, right, and everywhere, the hubbub at the Gurudwara junction in Vizag, in many ways, is suggestive of how this beautiful city has transformed over the years- from a quaint coastal town to the bustling metropolis of Andhra Pradesh. But wait for the perspective to take a pleasant flip when you discover a humble cobbler at one of the junction’s corners. Teja Kovvali introduces you to Pothuraju.
As you approach a giant old tree near the junction, a modest setup beneath it should catch your eye. Take a few more steps and you can spot a wizened man through a few dangling chappals. Meet Pothuraju, whose shop dates back to 1989.
While the bygone 32 years have seen the Gurudwara junction go through some major changes and don myriad new looks, Pothuraju, his shop, and the benevolent tree shading it, have grown old together while remaining the same. So the junction pandemonium doesn’t really faze the cobbler, who’s all 71 years young. Let the Highway be busy bearing vehicles across the country, let the seven-seater autowalas be occupied in finding passengers, or let a hundred more constructions mushroom in the region, our beloved cobbler thatha is bound to go about his business as nonchalantly as he has been for the past three decades.
A resident of Kancharapalem, this cobbler in Vizag can be greeted at his shop from 9 AM to 9 PM. From repairing damaged footwear to watching the city hustle, while taking some power naps in between, the thata knows how to keep himself occupied during his daily 12-hour stint. “I have witnessed many changes in the region over the years. But my routine hasn’t changed a bit. I punctually get to the shop by 9 in the morning, sincerely do whatever work is on offer, and leave by 9 in the night,” Pothuraju shares lucidly.
However, as much as we would have loved to see his skill earn him a sustainable livelihood, modern shopping trends and coronavirus have played the spoilsport. “Nowadays, no one prefers buying chappals at a cobbler shop like mine. The coronavirus situation has worsened the business. With not many people venturing out last year, making ends meet wasn’t an easy task. While the scene is much better now, I hardly manage to earn about a hundred bucks in a day,” he says. But this doesn’t seem to deter his spirit whatsoever. “I will continue to make/repair footwear as long as I can. How else will I fill my stomach? Need to do some work to earn food,” the septuagenarian states.
Isn’t it amazing how everyone around us is busy waging their own battle? For Pothuraju, it is about surviving with dignity while continuing with a skill that has fed him for the best part of his life. So the next time your footwear troubles you in Vizag, spare a few minutes, head to Gurudwara junction, and get them fixed by our ace cobbler thatha. We’re sure a concurrent little conversation would make his day.