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Regardless of the profession, everyone selects their occupation as a way of earning money needed in life. A doctor wouldn’t, with intention of earning a living, wish others to fall ill and thus be patients. Some occupations exist to help people in distress, and people of such professions earn money through the distress of another.
shoe (1)
He is a cobbler who spends his days from morning till evening facing the junction near the Nugegoda Shopping Complex. He earns a living by mending the broken footwear of those in crowded Nugegoda.

The oldest of the family, Suman has two sisters and a younger brother. When he was 14 or 15, due to his father’s untimely death, Suman was made responsible of taking care of his family and emancipating them from poverty. Although young, he, along with his mother, accepted responsibility of his family. His entire fifteen year career has been spent in Nugegoda as a cobbler, which is a choice he made for the betterment of his family.

His mother earns money by going from house to house looking for odd jobs. All money earned is used for the various household expenses. A resident of Beddagana, Kotte, Suman’s work keeps him busy. Every rupee he earns from morning till evening is given to his mother in the night. This is the cycle of his life.

Suman paid for all school expenses for his siblings and also provided for their various external courses and other expenses. His younger sister is now a pre-school teacher and his other sister works in a salon and he still holds responsibility of his siblings’ lives until they get married.

He gave two reasons when asked why there was a delay in his own marriage. The first being that he can’t make decisions about his life until his sisters settle down, and the second being his first love and how the end of that relationship gave him immense disappointment. For eight years, he was in love with a cousin, and he says that despite how much he loved her, the relationship didn’t end fairly. Following their breakup, she got married to another and the memory of this relationship makes him wants to take care of his family before moving on to another.|

shoe (3)
With time comes change which in turn affects lives. Suman also spoke about the many changes in his career. Ten years ago, Nugegoda was extremely crowded. However, today, the crowd is decreasing and thus making money in Nugegoda isn’t as easy as it used to be. While his income used to be twice the current amount, he is hesitant to move to a different location because he has been in Nugegoda for a long time.

A Tamil youth, Suman doesn’t let his ethnicity affect his life or occupation and joins in all communal activities and is very friendly.
Suman puts his family before his personal life, and thus shows how individuals have a responsibility and duty towards other people in society. This responsibility could be low in quality and quantity. People like Suman who have sacrificed their personal lives for other people portray one’s responsibility to family and this is extremely important during a time when people forget their families and when, on a regular basis, people abandon their parents in elders’ homes.

Suman teaches a valuable lesson to the many selfish people who wear polished shoes, ties and suits, although he himself merely mends shoes.

Pics by Chandana Wijesinghe
Translated by Shailendree W Adittiya