In his early 50s, Mohammed Saber Ahmed is a relaxed man, which is quite unusual for other craftsmen and artisans, who are anxious about their future and dwindling earnings.
Ahmed, on the other hand, says he has no worries. “I am confident that my vocation will continue for another 15 years. People in the older parts of the city still prefer using traditional locks or knobs over the smart or digital locks and will continue to use it for the next decade at least,” says Ahmed, who runs his shop at the Mahboob Chowk Clock Tower.
Around 30 locksmiths continue practising their vocation at the Mahboob Chowk tower. A few of them are second and third generation locksmiths. “I learned it from my father and continued it here. One of my sons also learned it and has set up a shop in another part of the city,” Ahmed adds.
Steeped in history
The place where the locksmiths run their business has a history. During the Nizam’s era, several shops selling lethal weapons were lined up in the area. A variety of swords, daggers, spears and other sharp-edged weapons were sold.
“Local blacksmiths manufactured them at the workshop nearby and sold them at the weapon market. There were hardly any restrictions on sale of weapons then,” recalls historian Mohd Safiullah.
Nowadays, only locksmiths conduct their business at the place. Most of them are engaged in repairing padlocks and other traditional locks.
“We don’t get orders for smart locks or digital locks. On any day, around a dozen people turn up. Some carry locks with them and want us to make duplicate keys or repair the lock while a few ask us to accompany them and repair the door locks or almirah locks or safes,” says Shahbaz, a third generation locksmith.
Learning the vocation is not a tough task. “All one has to do is sit along with an experienced locksmith and study how the work is done. A year is enough to learn the vocation and take up any assignment independently,” says Shahbaz.
Working by hand
All one needs is small tools and manually operated equipment. Only a handful of shops have a machine run with electricity and use it only for filing purpose. Otherwise, it’s done with hands using some basic tools.
Shabbir Baig, another locksmith, says the earnings are not too big to boast about.
“But we somehow manage to earn sufficiently to run our households. A few locksmiths who started working at shops in newer parts of the city have learned the work of smart and digital locks. We approach them or send the client to those places if anyone approaches us for digital work,” says Baig. #KhabarLive