Vanishing Acts

Sometimes when you visit a place after a long time, you start looking at it with a new point of view. My trip to India was one such eye-opener. When I lived there, I did not realize the changes occurring in the Indian society at the micro level. But this time when I visited India, I saw that while externally everything looked familiar and same, so much had changed since I was a kid.

Though the mall culture is definitely creeping up on the Indian consumer, it pleases my heart to still see the markets hopping with small mom and pop businesses. One of the changes that I noticed was in certain type of jobs/professions which were once doing such a thriving business.

  1. The shoe repair guy: or ‘mochi’ as he is called in Hindi. There was a time when there was a shoe repair guy at the end of every street; there were 2 of them within spitting distance of my house. These guys did all odd shoe and leather related jobs from stitching up battered shoes, to polishing your leather dress shoes, repairing umbrellas and sometimes also selling new sandals etc. Those were the days when you repaired your torn sandals as many times as possible and didn’t purchase new ones until absolutely necessary. It wasn’t a matter of affordability but that of believing in frugal living. Now-a-days nobody has the time or patience to get their shoes repaired, as everyone believes in throwing away the damaged goods and buying new ones.
  2. The flour mill: Mills where they grind whole grains to obtain flour are also part of dying out industry. Everyone today has a small mill in their house and there is no need to go to the mill. I remember when we didn’t have a mill at home and mom used to lug around bags of grain to the mill and back with bags of flour! Probably the bigger mills are still working to sell the readymade flour to the stores today, but I didn’t see any of the small ones which catered to families.
  3. The lift man: or the guy who mans the elevator. My apartment complex has 2 elevators and we used to have 2 lift-men initially, which was then reduced to 1 and none today. While one can ride in the elevator my her/himself, having a liftman was usually a big relief to the elderly and tiny kids.
  4. Travelling salesperson: these were the men and women who went door-to-door to sell materials. We lived in joint family and had a lady who regularly came every month to sell cleaning solutions and material, a middle-aged man who came with his big bundle of sarees and also sold some artificial jewelry. I remember we brought our very first vacuum cleaner from one such salesman and another one who sold us our set of World Encyclopedia books. This was in the days when people received strangers in their homes without fear of being robbed or killed. This breed of hawkers/salesperson has completely died out.

Yes, change in the only constant in the world and old professions die out making way for the new ones. So today we have snazzy malls and supermarkets selling everything from shoes to vacuum cleaners to zillion kinds of flour, we have elevators with alarm systems and buildings with concierges instead of the old watchmen. Long live the change! If you have noticed more of such vanishing professions do let me know.

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3 thoughts on “Vanishing Acts

  1. I recently read a blog which shares almost the similar feeling like yours. The Author discussed about the vanishing professions in Kerala. His point was that Kerala has achieved 100% literacy rate today. This is no doubt a great achievement but now educated people in Kerala feel ashamed of doing agriculture, climbing coconut trees and other such stuff which has resulted in low agricultural productivity in the state even though it has huge fertile land. Now the state government gets its basic grains and vegetables from neighboring states whereas earlier it used to sell and earn! Change is good but at what cost!

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