“Every year, by this time, I used to get approximately 20-30 customers everyday but this year, the business has been zero uptil now,” says Ahmed Sheik. He runs an umbrella repair shop on Kasba Peth since 1980s and his family has been in the business of umbrella repairing for the last four generations. “I picked up the skill by observing my father repair an umbrella. As a child, I used to accompany him to the shop and watch him work for hours. When I was old enough to not hurt myself with sharp objects and needles, I joined the work full time,” says Sheik, who is currently worried about the managing the cost of his daughter's wedding that is due soon.
A few blocks away, Kashif Khan sits with a glum expression in his repair shack in Rasta Peth. “I have just six umbrellas that have come for repair work. To make up for the loss, I have started repairing bags,” says Khan who charges Rs 15 to repair a snapped stretcher and Rs 30 to replace a broken stem. However, he insists that the charges vary with the quality required by the customer. “The Indian umbrellas are very sturdy, they are made with the perfect quality of materials required to bear the monsoons in Pune. These fashionable China- made ones are just for show; one gush of wind and the umbrella is upturned,” he says. “All the umbrellas that I have got for repairing are non-durable. What will you do with the bright colour when you are all wet?” Khan makes his point.
In the bylanes of Navi Peth, Babu Omar silently prays for the showers all through the day. He is old and wrinkled, and easily irritated unless you come up to him handing over your broken umbrella for repairs. “Every time it rains, I am relieved. But it's nothing more than petty showers. People like us make our annual income in these few months of rain,” says Omar, devastated with the weather conditions. The 65 year old, as he likes to believe, is too well- experienced with the skill of umbrella repair to take up a new vocation. “I know many umbrella repairers have started selling fruits and vegetables. Some of them have started repairing other stuff as well. But I am too old to learn anything new now,” says Omar, who is dependent on his son, a vegetable seller at Mandai.