In a cramped tin shed lies the shop of Ghulam Ahmad Sheikh, cobbler by profession.

At the foothills of Pir Shahabuddin in Bandipora, north Kashmir, in subzero temperatures Sheikh opens his shop each morning with the zeal of 90 years ago.

Sheikh, who has lived and spent his whole life in the same shed, performs his daily business and earns a livelihood honestly and with the dedication of being polite in dealing with customers.

Having worked as a cobbler for 90 years, Sheikh confides, “In life, everyone faces different problems, but we must always remain in front of the face, instead of giving up and losing sight.”

He has three sons and two daughters, all of whom are married and well in their own homes, financially secure.

Do they show up to meet you? Sheikh replies with a smile, “Yes, they always come to meet me, they always ask me about my health and insist that I take care of myself and keep my essential pledges.”

“Whenever someone comes to my shop to have their footwear stitched or polished, I often counsel them about how to do good work in these hard times, how to earn in a legal way, and stress to them to always pray to Almighty God. Indeed prayer is the best way to get yourselves at peace,” Sheikh says in a high tone.

The best part about Sheikh is that whoever has their footwear stitched or polished at his shop pays what they will.

Sheikh’s earnings range from two hundred to four hundred rupees each day, while some days the earnings are low.

“I always donate half my earnings to people in need, such as widows and beggars, for Allah’s will.”

“Why should I accumulate this money? I’m going to die eventually, so I’d rather donate.”

“I use some money in my daily life and spend it on necessities.”

Sheikh takes a puff from a jajeer, Kashmiri hukkah

Asked about the current state of youth life Sheikh states, “Nowadays, young people are jobless and unconcerned about what to do and what not to do: They are engrossed in their own ideas. They barely listen to anyone.”

“When I was young, there was love, care, and respect for each other that is no longer found in society, and without any fights or grudges, the environment was full of zest and love.”

“But what is occurring today is completely unacceptable,” says Sheikh, referring to the lethargy of youth. He strikes his knees with his palms and refers to the present young life, reminding them how strong and healthy he is despite being 100 years old.

Suhail Gulzar, a local who frequently visits Sheikh’s store to have his footwear polished or repaired, says “His hands are special, the way he stitches and polishes is just remarkable. He is one of the most experienced cobblers here.”

“There is no set rate, whatever I give him, he takes. I always strive to offer more because he lives here and makes his living honestly.”

Asked about his childhood, Sheikh replies: “When I first started working, I went to Srinagar with some friends who took me there to look for a job, and I acquired a position as a cook in an affluent home, where we rented a room.”

“I spent many years as a cook in Srinagar during that period: It was such a great experience with memorable memories that I will never forget in my life.”

“I left the job after a while and returned here to take care of my shop.”

“Since that day, this place means the world to me, I will remain with it till my last breath.”