Bringing relief to thousands of people, 60-year-old Devanand Saudekar has been removing corns and calluses from people’s feet seated for more than four decades now. The profession of deftly removing painful corns has been in his family for generations, and having learnt the tricks of the trade from his father, Saudekar treats people with homemade medicinal solution and handmade equipment near the entrance to Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and zoo.
Saudekar’s father Hiralal came to Mumbai from their village near Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. “A corn usually forms when thorns or tiny stones get stuck under the feet and the skin hardens around it over time. Such cases are more common in villages. But there, we would only earn Rs 20-40 a day. So, my father decided to move to a bigger city like Mumbai,” Saudekar says.
He adds that while his father would walk around the streets looking for customers, he decided to sit at one spot. “I have been sitting at this exact spot for 40 years and managed to find a steady stream of customers. On an average, around four to five people come looking for me every day,” he says.
A resident of Byculla, Saudekar earns upto Rs 20,000 every month. “I quote a price depending on the customer. Usually, I charge around Rs 120 to remove one corn, and people usually have at least two that need to be taken out,” he says.
Confident of his skills, Saudekar says many people prefer to come to him rather than go to doctors, who are expensive. “Even with the growing number of clinics, doctors will perform a surgery to remove corn and people don’t want to get stitches. I remove it with care and without stitches,” he says.
When a customer comes to inquire, he has them sit on a stool and examines the corn. He then asks how long has it been on their feet. Corns or calluses look like a small patch of thickened dead skin that usually form on the soles of one’s feet or palm of one’s hand.
“People are generally scared at first. But when I explain the process to them, they gain confidence. While some are faint-hearted, there are others who can withstand any amount of pain. They all come crying but leave with a smile on their faces,” he says. Saudekar sits with 12 bottles of antiseptic solution he makes at home. He has a tool bag with around 10 equipment, including a scalpel that he has made on his own using different kinds of material, including pen refills. “I apply the solution for a few minutes to soften the corn and then scoop it out with the scalpel. I take care to make sure that it doesn’t hurt too much,” Saudekar says.
He sets up his shop at 10 am and waits for customers till 7 pm. Saudekar also takes up house visits for regular customers living nearby. His job will possibly end with him as none of his family members want to take it up. His two sons, in their early 20s, have become pedicurists at a beauty salon. “Children of the current generation don’t have patience for a job that makes you sit on the footpath all day. My sons have taken up jobs where they can sit in an air-conditioned room,” he says with a laugh.