Kishore Joshi, 43, has stuck a magnifying glass over one eye, to enlarge the intricate machinery of the wristwatch he is repairing.
“It makes the glare of the sun much harsher, but this business feeds me, my mother, my wife and my schoolgoing son. Come rain or even hail, I can’t stop working,” he says.
His work is such a strain on his eyes, in fact, that he has to have them checked every three months, and always returns with a prescription for eye drops to help relax the muscles.
“Every three years or so, my number goes up by .25. I must be one of the most loyal and frequent clients of my ophthalmologist,” he says, chuckling.
Joshi lives in a rented two-room flat in Kandivli and starts his day at 8 am. After a quick shower, prayer and breakfast of bhakris and tea, he leaves for work at 9.30 am.
It takes two trains and a bus to get him to his 75-sq-ft shop space in Sion, where he begins work at 10.30 am. The shop is 40 years old, and was earlier run by his maternal uncle.
Also the son of a watch repairer, Joshi grew up in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, learnt the trade from his father as a teenager and, at age 17, came to Mumbai to work in this shop. He took over 23 years ago, after his uncle migrated to the US with his family.
“I still pay them Rs 8,000 in rent every month,” he says.
Once in the shop, Joshi takes stock of the number of watches to be repaired and the spare parts to be ordered from Dadar market and Bhendi Bazaar. Soon, clients start trickling in. Some come in to buy a new strap, other to replace a watch battery, still others to drop off a malfunctioning or stalled timepiece.
Business has dropped by 30% over the past three years, Joshi says, taking his monthly earnings to Rs 25,000. “A lot of people have stopped wearing watches and check the time on their cellphones instead, or they use cheap, China-made watches, which they don’t bother to repair.”
Thankfully, there are still some who treasure their timepieces. “These clients are so emotional about their watches that they are tough to deal with,” says Joshi.
But worst of all are the customers who bargain and haggle. “People now argue that the cost of repairing the watch is not worth it, given its original price,” says Joshi. “I tell such people that they then have the option of not fixing it at all, but that I cannot reduce my rates. My profit margins are quite low as it is and the work is extremely strenuous. After breaking my head working on a complicated machine, I have no patience with customers who don’t want to pay the right price.”
At 2 pm, Joshi takes a break for a lunch of roti, sabzi and dal packed for him by his wife, Rekha, a homemaker. “I relish this time off from the watches,” he says.
Back to work at 3.30, Joshi works until 8.30, with just a few chai breaks. The only break in this routine, he says, is when a new watch model comes his way.
“That is exciting... that and any challenging work that will take weeks to fix. That’s always fun too,” he says.
At 8.45, it’s shutters down and time to head home for a hot dinner of roti and
sabzi or bhakri and khichdi, by 10.30 pm. Joshi then meets friends from his building for a chat, or watches TV, before turning in at midnight.
On Mondays, his days off, Joshi spends time with family, friends and relatives. He takes a 10-day break once a year, to visit Bhavnagar. It’s the only vacation he can afford, he says.
“The dwindling business and rising rents worry me,” Joshi adds. “After all these years, I still don’t have my own house in the city. I worry about what I’ll do if I lose more clients.”