This morning someone informed me that Pachuda is dead. Pachuda lived in our neighbouring slums. When I reached his home around noon there was this wooden cot, nicely decorated with white flowers and Pachuda was lying on it …. there were a few garlands around his neck, of different shapes. I quietly took off my slippers, went near Pachuda’s body and touched his feet. One old lady present there recognised me and uttered “Last night he passed away”.
Rijul, my grandson came running and announced he could finally locate someone to mend his shoes, and that he would do the job for Rs. 10/- only. He further informed that this was a lame-cobbler, he has one wheel-cart ! An hour later Rijul said that it was time now to collect the shoes and asked me “Are you coming grandpa, it is quite a nearby place”. I joined him and within a few minutes we reached the place and there was the lame-cobbler. I handed over a ten rupee note and at that moment he asked me “ How are you ? Seeing you after a long time !” I now recognised him ….. “Pachuda”! He then narrated, “ My son got married, I have two grand-children now, and, they feel I am an additional burden…. my left leg developed some problem…. the local youth club arranged for this wheel-cart .I want to live a life of dignity…. so at the end of every month I hand over my earnings through this shoe repair work. I think what I hand over is quite enough for them to feed me.” I, on my part, introduced my grandson to Pachuda and told my grandson to address him as “Pachu Dadu” (Pachu Grandpa).
Deep’s mom was visibly angry and said “look if you do not finish eating the whole plate of rice, you will not be allowed to move”. Then she added “ I know why you are in a hurry….. you must be thinking of going to your great “Pachuda”! She was right. Deep was studying in 6th standard and being summer vacation the post-lunch time was his own time. For the past several days he has had an interesting place to visit – Pachuda’s workshop. Deep did not waste much time to finish the plate and ran out. Pachuda and his brother Hiruda had a very strange but interesting profession …. making Foot Ball ! Hiruda did not talk much but Pachuda was quite a friendly person. Here Deep learnt many things about making foot ball. First the thick leather had to be precisely cut into exact shape. There were two types of shape – “I” shape and “T” shape. Then “I”s or the “T”s had to be stitched together till just one piece was left to become a perfect round in shape. Then a slit had be made on the last piece. Once the last piece was half stitched, the entire ball has to be reversed, to be taken out of the small slit. The ball was now almost ready, all the stitched sides inside and now the little stitching work still undone had to be done through the small slit.
Through the slit a rubber bladder would be inserted and inflated and you have a football – ready for the field. Finally, designs would be drawn with marker ink and wooden stamps. Deep could spend hours watching the skillful hands of Pachuda doing all this with so much precision.
With the advent of synthetic football, all the Pachudas all over the country or may be elsewhere steadily lost their customers and eventually became jobless!
There were now many people around Pachuda….. some more garlands added. I bet none of the them knew that there lay a “master craftsman” . I slowly started walking back to my home…. on the way I found Pachuda’s wheel-cart- lonely. It was drizzling and some good soul had managed to cover it up with a torn out polythene sheet…..