The Star, 27 Jan 2006
For once, the talkative Eh Poh Nim is rendered almost speechless by the cobbler’s touching tale.
EH Poh Nim is at the sidewalk cobbler’s to repair her sneakers. While she waits for the man to repair her shoes, she notices a little sign that says, “Dogged Cobbler”, resting against the wall.
“That’s a strange name for a cobbler,” she remarks.
“I’ll tell you my story. Then you won’t think the name strange,” the man says as he glues back the sole which had come loose.
“I once worked in a pet shop as a dogsbody, running around doing menial tasks. My boss was a good friend of mine until an incident threw our friendship to the dogs.
“I was carrying some Dalmatian puppies in my car when I stopped to pick up a custom-made doghouse from the carpenter. When I came back, I found that the puppies had been dognapped.
“My friend fired me although it wasn’t my fault. I had locked the car before I went off and was gone for only 10 minutes.
“Later, I found out why he reacted that way. He had fallen for my girlfriend and was looking for an excuse to get rid of me. And that woman dumped me for that dog-faced baboon!
“I tell you, Miss, for six months, I led a dog’s life. I didn’t work. Just hung around the house watching TV and reading newspapers. My room was a doghole.
“One day my mother gave me a small bundle of papers. She said, ‘I know you’ve been hurt, son, but it’s time to move on. Do you know what these papers are? They’re pawnshop receipts. I’ve pawned all my jewellery and there’s nothing left to pawn. Where do you think money for food and rent comes from? We’re dog poor and you don’t even know it.’
“She said, ‘You’ll have to pull yourself together if we’re going to have a dog’s chance of survival. Would you rather I go out and work? It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Don’t cower like a frightened puppy at the slightest threat. Give yourself a chance. Every dog has his day, you’ll see.’
“I stared at my mother. She suddenly looked so old and frail. I felt so ashamed of myself. I went out that day to look for a job and I came across a cobbler mending his shoes right here.”
“You mean at this very spot?” Eh Poh Nim asks.
He nods his head. “As luck would have it, the Indonesian guy was going back to his country for good. He wanted to sell off his business dog-cheap. The next day I returned with a small deposit for him and he taught me the ropes. A week later, using money borrowed from my cousin, I paid him in full.
“On my first day of work, I returned home dog-tired. But for the first time in a long while, I had a good night’s sleep. So here I am today, the Dogged Cobbler. I chose this name to remind myself that I have to be persistent in order to succeed. One day I’m going to have my own shoe-repair shop.”
The Dogged Cobbler puts down Eh Poh Nim’s repaired sneakers in front of her.
“There you go, Miss. They’re as good as new now.”
Eh Poh Nim inspects her shoes and nods her head in approval at the handiwork.
“I hope you achieve your dream soon.” She pays him with some dog-eared dollar bills.
“Thank you. Gong Xi Fa Cai to you, Miss.”
“ I hope the dog year will be prosperous for the Dogged Cobbler. Bye!”