100 Days in India Project

Three old men stand outside a metal workshop in agra, India

59/ 100 Repairs

One of the many things I loved about India was that you could buy just about anything you could think of from a shop on the high street, and that buying things was made a little easier because each type of shop was clustered together with others that were similar. This is certainly not unique to India either and we saw the same convenient clustering of similar shops in Mexico and Thailand more recently too. Just before our last trip to Mexico I had to buy a new light for the garden and struggled to find one I liked because of the poor choice offered in the few shops that sold them. In Mexico City there was an entire street lined with dozens of shops selling nothing but lights. I wished I had more luggage space.

This photograph was made in Agra where, if you need a length of metal chain and some industrial-sized bearings (hand polished of course) you would be able to get them in the same street that sold all the heavy metal goods. We saw folk transporting their broken scooters, on oxen-drawn carts, to the part of town where the mechanics were based. Those same scooters were then repaired in the street with parts sourced from the general area, typically with around 10 onlookers all standing and observing.

Need to get your parasol repaired? You can buy the sheets of plastic material in one shop then go next door and someone will sew it all up for you while you wait. Imagine how useful it would be to have a shoe shop then, right next door, a shop selling shoe laces, then one selling shoe polish, then another that would re-sole them for you.

There were many repair shops, each specialising in extending the life of one particular favourite item. Indian cookery requires a lot of food processing and there were countless shops offering to repair your blender if it had chopped too many onions recently. Televisions, radios, microwave ovens, scooters and saucepans were just some of the things we saw being repaired. Could you imagine trying to find someone in the UK who would reshape your dented pans or weld a new handle onto your kettle? Those food processors though – I can’t quite get my head around how many we saw being repaired. At what point do you buy a new one?

For people like me, who are averse to shopping, there is also the added bonus that most of the little areas had their own separate snack shops and chai stalls to go with them. Fiona could go off looking for junk while I took photographs, ate strange puffy crisps, with the little monkeys watching from above, and drank very vibrantly coloured fizzy drinks.