Vanthali Shoes

In my youth my uncle used to buy me shoes from Vanthali. The shoemakers of this town were famous in Saurashtra and Gujarat. So much so that in the good old days most of the raajaas and the princes used to wear the shoes made by the Vanthali mochies. It was a matter of prestige for the mochies and a matter of pride for those who owned Vanthali shoes. In 2011, I ventured to visited Vanthali to document the settlement and the craft of making the shoes. I knew of the uniqueness of the railway station which was in two stories. Upon reaching there I had to find the station. After a while of roaming around, I found a group of about ten men playing cards and equal number hovering around them. I asked for the direction of the railway station. They showed me and instructed that I should go down first and then up to see the complete station. Some of them were amused looking at the loony group that had come to their town. We went up and down the station to find that tracks were terminated here; the station was defunct and discontinued. It was the stalker moment where we were visiting the derailed past. The discarded vestiges harked back at us. We moved around aimlessly and returned to the group that was playing cards. I asked them as to how to go to the Mochiwaad. Many looked up in amazement. Why, they asked. I gave them the story about the famous shoemakers of Vanthali. They informed me that the occupation was dead long ago with the incoming of synthetic materials and sport shoes; these former shoemakers were merely playing cards at the long forgotten railway station!