A father of three works EVERY DAY of the year as a street cobbler in India despite having no fingers or toes.
Dinesh Das, 39, who lives in a slum in the southern part of New Delhi, India’s capital city, lost all ten fingers and toes on one foot due to medical negligence but says the loss of his fingers has made him even more determined than ever and has never stopped him working.
He said: ‘If I don’t work who will help us? This job is good. And I will never walk the streets and beg, so I get on with it. It’s an expensive world and having money is important. I have always promised my family I will give them all I can and even after I lost my fingers and toes my promise remained. I’ll never let them down.’
Dinesh was just 10-years-old when his cobbler father forced him to leave school in order to work, back in their hometown, in Bihar, which is one of India’s poorest states.
Dinesh said: ‘My father trained me and taught me everything I know. We often worked side by side. He showed me how to mend, cut, stitch, glue and polish shoes. I became very good very quickly.’
‘My family needed the money so I had to work. Everyone always needs their shoes repaired.’
Dinesh married his wife, Gyanti Devi, now 36, in 1990, aged 13 and the family moved to Delhi in search of regular work.
‘We came to Delhi to earn more money,’ he added. ‘We found a street corner to base my work and I’ve not moved since. I’m here every day; morning to night.’
But in 1993, while Dinesh was back in Bihar visiting his in-laws he fell ill.
‘I had the flu so I visited a local doctor,’ he said. ‘He gave me some medicine; I took it then went to slept but when I woke up my hands and legs were covered in rashes and lumps. I went to another doctor and he told me that it was a reaction to the wrong medicine and if I left it untreated I could lose my arms and legs completely. He recommended I amputate my fingers and toes instead. My wife was shattered. But we had no choice, so I agreed.’
Dinesh had the surgery to amputate his fingers and toes on his left foot, in a government hospital, in Bihar, and remained at his in-laws’ house while he recovered.
‘I felt so helpless. I was worried how I’d be able to care for my wife.’
‘It was a complete nightmare. But I had a supportive family. My wife stood by me and I promised her that I would not let her down and I would carry on working once I was up and about.’
Gyanti had to get a job as a maid for Rs 1,000 (£11) a month but Dinesh struggled to watch his wife working hard while he was lying in bed.
‘It was difficult for me to sit idle at home and watch my wife working so hard. So I made myself learn to walk again and I had to quickly build my strength. Initially, it was hard to hold things properly again. And it was very painful at times but I learnt to manage things. I forced my body to get better. I had to get back to normal so I could work and earn for my family.’
Once Dinesh and Gyanti returned to Delhi, Dinesh set up shop at the same spot on the side of the street, in southern Delhi, and quickly built a group of reliable customers amazed by his determination.
‘For the last 23 years I have worked seven days a week from 9am to 9pm for Rs 14,000 (£160) a month,’ Dinesh said. ‘I never take a lunch break and I never take any of the national holidays off either. Sitting at home for a day means I lose a day’s income, which we cannot afford.’
‘I’ve hardly had a day off in 20 years, only if there’s a family emergency will I leave my work.’
Dinesh supports three children, son Raju, 20, second son Rampravesh, 17, and their two-year-old daughter Kajal, and his sons have inherited his dedication to working hard.
‘We are a working family,’ Dinesh said. ‘I am very proud of my family and together we live a good life. We’re definitely not lazy. And now I don’t even notice I have no fingers. We don’t demand a lot from life. We just enjoy happy moments when we all sit together to have dinner in the evenings. We share everything with each other, all our joys and sorrows, and that helps relieves day-to-day stress.
‘Everyone should work hard for their family. I live for my family, and all I earn is for them.’