Cobbling Together a Living

Cobbling Together a Living
Despite his age Karbalayi Abdullah is forced to continue working as a shoe cobbler. In Afghanistan children are the only safety net to provide the elderly a livelihood,

Reporters name withheld for their safety, edited by Mohammad J. Alizada and Brian J. Conley

70 year-old Karbalayi Abdullah is a shoe cobbler from Afghanistan’s central Bamyan province spends his days repairing shoes for customers in his little booth in capital Kabul’s western Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood to be able to feed his family.

The wooden booth has just enough space for Abdullah to sit in, with his sewing machine sitting in front of him and other repairing equipment on the booth walls and floor.

People bring him both new and old shoes to repair, with new shoes, he only sews around the sole and the body to make sure they don’t rip apart while walking.

Abdullah has no children and his wife and mother-in-law are the only people in his house, however, he still struggles with being able to earn enough to feed the family.

“My eyesight has weakened and I can’t see properly,” Abdullah tells Alive in Afghanistan during an interview, but he must continue working because he is the only breadwinner in his home.

Afghanistan is a third-world country where concepts like pension and retirement don’t exist and there are no senior homes. The senior population are taken care of by their children, but since Abdullah and his wife have none, he is left to fend for himself.

“I wish I had a son so he would help me,” Abdullah says of his situation, adding that some days he is able to earn enough for his family while other days he goes home empty handed.

Abdullah, who has been a laborer all his life, says he returned to Afghanistan from Iran shortly after the American intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.

Like other Afghans, Abdullah chose Kabul because of the employment opportunities in the Afghan capital.

“Back then there was a lot of work, but it has decreased throughout the years, currently being at its lowest point.”

As the winter closes in, Abdullah is concerned about his family, having enough to feed them and keep them warm but he told Alive in Afghanistan he also worries about other people like him who will not have the ability to keep their families fed and warm.