Story of Shoe Repairman
Orange Dot at the Village Hall Entrance
He’s known by everyone in the village. I remembered his role as an integral part of the village.
He’s always poorly attired, but that exact dress code suited his profession well. Now, let me explain why he’s known by many:
1. He planted himself right next to the entrance to the village hall, the most central building in the village. When banquets were held or jasmine buds were sold at the village hall, people passed by him.
2. Shoe-repairing has been an indispensable part of our agrarian lives. Shoes could be worn down easily as one worked his/her way through rows of rice crops and jasmine buds. Since rice crops and jasmine buds grew in different regions (lower flat lands were reserved for mainly rice cultivation, mountain patchy lands were reserved for jasmine buds), one usually wore down shoes quite quickly through heavy usage.
3. It was cheaper to repair old shoes than buying a new pair. This is obvious.
4. Commercially available shoes were mainly made of plastic, and took a while to break in. Getting old shoes repaired meant avoiding blisters from wearing new shoes.
5. Even new shoes might not be of top quality. Mom usually took me to the shoe repairman to reinforce new shoes with an extra row of stitching. It’s been a preventive measure to prolong the life of new shoes.
For these reasons, I always saw regular villagers like him as the often-neglected people every time I wish to know more about this village. Of course, the shoe repairman was the greatest source of knowledge when it comes to shoe maintenance. 🙂 Unlike shoe companies keen on selling maintenance products, he offered practical how-tos.
However, his role is gradually slipping away in the face of modernity:
1. Less villagers are involved in harvesting jasmine buds now. So the village hall, where the shoe repairman was, became a less visited place these days.
2. Agricultural work is now performed by a fraction of the village population, since some of the older generations in the village became financially supported by their city-dwelling children. Farmland is now visited not by every household, but by the households sticking to the traditional agrarian lifestyle. Less agricultural work = less shoe wear.
3. New shoes are now not limited to hard plastic. They are much easier to break in, especially with a good array of shoe selections from the cities and ubiquitous try-on policies.
4. The younger generation may work in nearby cities, and has good access to better quality shoes than before. So they are less likely in need of shoe repairing services when visiting the village.
The story of the shoe repairman proves that if one small aspect of village tradition changes, it’ll invariably disturb other parts of traditional living.