Life Through Changing Times

January 31, 2021 at 9:15 PMJan (Media, Musings, Slice Of Life)

Royal Watches, a shop owned by Goddumari Venkateshwaralu, in Ananthapuramu, displays cell-phones and as you enter. As you walk past the narrow space where customers stand inspecting the phones they wish to buy, you see times change. There sits the owner of the shop on his table with a glass case around him, a magnifier glass on his eyes and the walls decorated with old wall clocks.

The shop Royal Watches opened its shutters for the first time in the year 1986 when G. Venkateshwaralu moved to Ananthapuramu from Guntakal after repairing watches there for 16 years. Teaching his younger brother the skills of watch repair he let his brother take care of the shop in Guntakal and moved to Ananthapuramu.

When G. Venkateshwaralu was 16, his father who owned two lorries, sent his son to learn watch repair when their lorries got into a mishap and pushed them to a loss. “I had an eye for technical things and my father identified it,” says G. Venkateshwaralu before explaining how learning watch repair was not an easy task back in those days. “I had to move from one person to another to learn. Nobody would be willing to teach all the tricks of the trade,” he explains. Later his father decided to buy him some tools and asked him to learn by himself based on what he had learnt from others. “Experience taught me more than the training I went through the several watch repairers,” tells G. Venkateshwaralu.

Back in those days when he had just started his life as a watch repairer he would go sit in the weekly markets in the nearby towns and would repair watches there. Slowly he went on to set up his own shop in Guntakal. Remembering his journey from then to now G. Venkateshwaralu says, “There used to be pin watches, winding watches earlier and slowly over the years electronic watches took over. Also, earlier watches were being worn for the purpose of maintaining time. Later it became a fancy. That is when the outer shape of the watches started to change. Slowly a time has come when people do not wear watch. Mobile phones do the work of showing the time.” He says that the watches would last long up to 30 years when he began his work, slowly the life-span of a watch got reduced to 12 years and now it has come up to 2 years. Back then, he says, watches came to him for servicing and repairing. Slowly the rate of servicing decreased and repair increased. In the last one decade the concept of repair has decreased almost completely. “Now the repairer does more of replacing than repairing,” he says. From specific problem being repaired to entire mechanism being replaced, the job of G. Venkateshwaralu has undergone a change with time.

When G. Venakateshwaralu set up his first shop in Guntakal he also started to sell watches in his shop. The ones who would buy watches from him would come to him for servicing and repair. When he moved to Ananthapuramu and set up Royal Watches he continued to sell watches there too. But with the mobile revolution the number of buyers for watches started decreasing. That is when the person in Hyderabad from whom he would purchase spare parts for watches shifted his business to mobile phones. That was a hint to G. Venkateshwaralu about changing times. So the front portion of his shop where he used to sell watches saw watches being replaced by mobile phones. His son took over this area of the shop and G. venkateshwaralu continued to repair watches, on his tiny table at the interior portion of the shop, where he used to sit earlier too.

“Online shopping has had an impact on the sales of mobile phones in shops like ours,” says G. Venkateshwaralu. His customers still are those who couldn’t take a leap into the new technologg completely and still use the watch or those who have a fancy for watches. Some of the new technologies, he says, are such that only company authorized repairers can do the repair work. Others cant. Major part of his work now is replacing some machines in the watch and replacing straps of the watches. He still has some of the old kind of watches in his drawer and the spare parts of the old watches.

When people with old kind of watches come to G. Venkateshwaralu now for repair, he doesn’t take it up because he understand the love they have for their watch which is why they still possess it. “If I am not able to repair because of the machine having become delicate or me becoming old, it won’t be nice,” he explains.

On asked if he find his knowledge and skill, in the shift of times, become irrelevant, G. Venkateshwaralu says, “The question itself is irrelevant. This knowledge and this skill earned me my bread and butter. I could take care of my family and educate my children. It has met the needs of the time for me.” He goes on to say how everything in the world has changed and shares his thought, “We do what we do in order to be able to make a living. It is to make a living that I had to learn watch repairing first, repairing new kinds of watches later on, replacing of machines after that, shift from watch sales to mobile phone sales. I have done it all to make a living and I have had a satisfactory life. If everything I know and did becomes irrelevant now be it. I haven’t failed. I have sailed through.”

(Interview conducted: 20 Nov 2018. Special thanks: Sandeep Nayani)

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