Pune: Balu Sambhaji Kharat, a 58-year-old cobbler, has been participating in the palkhi procession for the past 21 years. He has been providing his services to the poor warkaris for free.
Kharat not only walks along with other pilgrims to Pandarpur but also provides his services at each place, where the Dnyaneshwar Maharaj palkhi halts, to warkaris by mending their footwear for free or at reasonable rates. Speaking about his decision to join wari, Kharat, who hails from Patas and used to run his shop in Mumbai in 1993, said, “I was fortunate to be saved from the bomb blast that took place in Mumbai in 1993. It was then that I decided to devote my life to service of people.
“Wari gives me an opportunity to serve people. This is my way of thanking God for giving me a new lease of life. I will continue to serve here till I can.”
“This is our traditional profession. I have been in it for over three decades. I join the palkhi procession every year and repair footwear at every place, where the procession halts. Usually, worn-out footwear causes shoe bites when one walks for long hours. Some require little repair so that it does not hurt, while some need to be stitched, as there are chances of shoe bites,” said Kharat.
“I do not repair footwear to earn money from here. There are many devotees, who do not have money. So, I repair their shoes for free. My service is especially free for disabled people. If people are willing to pay, only then I take money from them,” said Kharat.