25 November, 2020

One Mochi In Kochi

Migratory labour, the low-cost engine that drives India, is forever on the fringes

Sandeep Adhwaryu
One Mochi In Kochi
Cobbler Devaraj sits under a mayflower tree on the main street about 100 metres from my parents' home in Kochi. He's been plying his humble trade from that very spot for the past 20 years, one of the many Tamilians who migrated to Kerala to do a variety of odd jobs that educated Malayalees are too arrogant to do, however unemployed they may be. Perhaps the reason why industrious, honest Tamilian workers are an ever-increasing tribe in Kerala, repairing shoes, collecting waste, ironing clothes, selling coconuts.

An orphan, Devaraj ran away from his village in Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu when he was 15. Illiterate and penniless, he travelled ticketless on local trains and eventually got off at Ernakulam Junction, Kochi's twin city. That was 30 years ago. He liked working with his hands and fate led him to the local Master Cobbler, a "real guru" according to Devaraj. Adept with his fingers and a quick learner, Devaraj soon became the star pupil. Over a period of time, he acquired a tool kit and went into business at the railway station. He worked there for 10 years before moving to...


To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

In this article:

More from Anita Pratap

Latest Magazine

November 30, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section