In India, our way was smoothed by some gentlemen with such specialized skill and professionalism that we did not need to share much common language for them to do us great service. Their intelligence, experience, and a few gestures served to move projects forward.
It is with sadness I must report: we weren’t even able to learn their names in many cases.
As a way of thanking them, and the many thousands who support our travels unknowingly, by simply doing their jobs, we’re highlighting a few of these craftsmen.
Cobbler, Abids Road, Hyderabad
His workshop is a dark slit between two buildings. A shoe-shop owner was kind enough to show me where to find him, and this cobbler put down other work to shine my shoes before our sailing-club dinner with Verghese Jacob.
Barber, Rani Lakshmibai Marg, Lucknow
It’s a brave man who cuts a woman’s hair in the open street in front of the Uttar Pradesh High Court while a twenty other men—almost all of them lawyers, known experts at everything—look on. This gentleman handled the job with aplomb.
Parcel Maker, Highway 1, Gorakhpur
We asked a handful of merchants with stores in the vicinity of the Main Post Office in Gorakhpur if they would ready our package for shipping. All waved us away.
“Find Lala,” they said, then gestured in the direction of the post office gate.
Lala (we presume that’s his name) was the right man: he set fresh newspaper on the ground to keep our parcel clean, sewed it up in linen, sealed the thread with red wax and a brass stamp, and then accompanied us though the posting process.
On the backs of skilled labor,