Unsung heroes of Chembur – Zipwalla

Unsung heroes of Chembur – Zipwalla

Do you have a suitcase with a missing caster or strap? Is the zipper of your wallet or handbag jammed? Never fear! All you need to do is visit Chembur’s expert ‘bag repairer,’ located at the Janata Market, close to the Chembur local railway station.

‘Ravi Bag Repair,’ is run by two brothers, Raj Guru and Ravi. Their father, Vishwanath Choudhuri, left his home in Benares, Uttar Pradesh, in 1974, and came to Bombay to seek his fortune. He set up a small bag repair shop in Chembur. Eventually, when his sons grew up, Choudhuri taught them the tricks of his trade. They worked alongside their father, and their little shop became a very busy place, piled high with bags and suitcases needing their expert attention. 

   Raj Guru, the older of the two brothers, says that their main business came from repairing children’s school bags and travel bags. In fact, they were so busy that they insisted that customers collect their repaired bag within a week of giving it to them, as otherwise it would probably get lost in the sea of bags in the shop. 

     Once a week, the two brothers, who work on two vintage foot pedal sewing machines, make a trip to the wholesale market at Dharavi to buy the raw material they need for their repair work. They shop for metal buttons, zippers of every size and colour, buckles, straps, and strips of leather and faux leather. They are proud of their skill at their craft, and take pride in the fact that they have repaired bags of many famous brands. 

  Unfortunately, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 hurt the bag repair business badly, and brought hard times. With travel shut down, and schools closed indefinitely, there were no bags to repair. Raj Guru and Ravi missed their steady stream of haggling customers. But a lifetime of hard work has made them resilient and optimistic. They know that when the skies fill with eager travelers, and schools with noisy children, they will, once again, bag repair orders galore!