Skilled artisans on the Indian streets

A simple wooden frame is all that he has. An old cycle rim is fixed in the center of it which is connected to a foot operated pedal. A thick cord acts as a belt that drives the stone wheel. His knife sharpening instrument is ready.

knife sharpener in Cochin (pic by Joe)

He carries this wooden frame on his back and moves around in the small alleys of the country side calling out “knife sharpener”

He knows that every household has knives and it requires frequent sharpening. Then there are the tailor shops who needs their scissors sharpened. The same goes with the butcher and their cleaving knives. So getting customers is not an issue. At the end of the day he collects enough to have a decent meal. . He did some special “tricks” for me, like making the sparks fly so that it would give the special effects when I clicked his pictures.  In short he not only knows his trade, but also knows what will make a picture look “more attractive”

In our everyday life, we come across many such artisans who depend on their hand skills to survive.

Two more examples of the same skill, one has his stone grinding wheel mounted on a regular cycle. This makes him move around faster when moving from town to town.

Knife sharpener on a bicycle

And here is the third guy. He has a regular shop set up in the middle of the city. Must be having his regular clientele on a daily basis. He has a huge flywheel which is connected to an electric motor. Once he finished his work of sharpening my scissors I asked him if I could click his pictures. He was most obliging and donned his cap before I could click. One of these days I should take a copy of this picture and present it to him just to see the smile on his face.

knife sharpener and the huge flywheel (photo by Joe)

This is a picture of a small shop in Pune. He makes shoes as per orders. The shop may not look hep and the workers may not converse in English, but they do a good job when it comes to a perfect fit.

Cobbler in Pune (photo by Joe)

I had a chat with them and they said that they use the best leather which comes from the nearby tannery. Their clientele are a mix of people. Some who have irregular feet size, like the left foot is size ten then the right one may be 9 ½, or some who have extra large feet.  He says that he has some customers who always got their shoes made to order as they are averse to factory made branded shoes.

But slowly these shops are dwindling as the customers are not that regular and the overhead expenses of setting up a shop is too high.

Then we have these skilled goldsmith inside every gold and silver ornament shops. Apart from their regular work, they will do any type of repair work that you want for a minimal charge and right in front of you.

Goldsmith in Cochin (pic by Joe)

I was fascinated by this guy who used his small mouth blown pipette  to fix a delicate link in a gold chain.

These are some of the real skilled workers in the country, whose pay is not proportionate to their skill.

Author: Joe

Born and bred in Bombay (now Mumbai) having spend the last 41 years in Pune (earlier Poona). Have been into photography for quite some time but got hold of a digital in 2003 and since then have been shooting away to glory. Hate posed photographs and like to shoot the daily life around us. Nothing like traveling and observing the local people and their culture.


  1. This is interesting blog with good pictures, during my childhood days in India I used to watch these professionals sharpen knives and other items on the streets. I though that these professions are dead long time back. Glad to see it still exist in India.

    Your story brought back my childhood memories.

    Thanks for writing it.

  2. As a Hindi Film buff, I remember Amitabh – Jaya Bachchan starrer Zanjeer, which had a song “Chakku churian tez kara lo!” 🙂
    Your images brought back the movie…

  3. Tribute to Indian street vendors says:

    There are so many street vendors work hard every day to support their families. This blog showcases their hard work and talent.

    Thanks for sharing it to the world. Please do write about other vendors also.

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