Ashok the cobbler

Ashok Kumar at work. Picture: PAULIASI MATEBOTO

For more than 15 years, Ashok Kumar has been mending shoes on the streets of Suva.

From sandals and boots, to shoes and ladies’ pumps, Kumar’s hands have repaired them all. In the busy kiosk lane near Suva’s bus station, you will find his table and chair.

He said despite finding challenges as the sole bread winner at home, his family members were his motivation.

“I work hard every day for my family, to meet their needs and wants. I try my best to keep them happy,” he said.

The father of two mentioned that he has seen many personalities over the years.

“Some are very kind. They appreciate my work and don’t fuss over price.”

“Others are very rude, they do not understand me and the price I charge, they fuss and try bargain with me. It is a shame when that happens.”

He said despite that he keeps doing his job because it is his family’s source of income.

“I want my children to study and do better in life, I would hate it if they went through what I went through.”

Mr Kumar said he dropped out of school when he was in class three and started selling snacks around the community. He collected bottles, and was a barber for a few years before he finally settled into his current job.

The Nakasi resident said Suva’s unpredictable weather was one of the challenges he faced.

He does not have a proper booth to operate form but that does not deter him from doing his job from as early as seven in the morning to six in the afternoon.

He currently rents out a ‘space’ in-front of a canteen and pays $30 a day as rent to the shop owner.

Mr Kumar said he was grateful for the space but was looking to get a proper stall where he could operate by himself.

“I want to get my own small shop like the size of these canteens but that is a long term plan.”

“I want to seat inside a stall so I don’t have to move when it rains and have better protection from the heat.”

Despite being in the business for 15 years he believes he was still learning.

“We learn every day, a new day is an opportunity to learn and improve,” he said. He said despite competition, individual shoe menders got along well with each other.

“We have a good relationship. There is no jealousy among cobblers. We share and care, always.”

Mr Kumar expressed concern over the increase in crime, begging and drug abuse among youths who roam the streets of the capital.

“It is a sad sight but I can only pray that they are guided in the right direction and they find something to do rather than doing these things.”

He said while life may be hard if one worked equally hard there would be endless opportunities.

“Life will always be hard but it depends how hard you work to get yourself out of the hardship. That will define who you are in life.”

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