Sunday, July 29, 2012
Satire: Roadside cobber makes it big
[Pixs for illustration purpose only]
Entering Restoran Seri Melayu, I bump into Pak Hartono, my ex-cobbler, eating dinner with a voluptuous brown-skinned girl half his age. Dressed in a three-piece suit, a Pierre Cardin necktie and a black songkok, he shakes my hands, and gives me his name card. It says:
Hartono Exclusive Shoes Sdn Bhd
Hartono Shoe College Sdn Bhd
Datuk Professor Dr. Hartono Hashim, Managing Director
My eyes almost pop and my jaw drops.
“Please sit down,” he says and proceeds to explain his businesses: a very high-end shoe workshop in Sentul that exports to exclusive boutiques in Milan, London, New York, Hollywood and Bollywood, and a college in Gombak that runs a two-year diploma course in shoe-making, with an annual enrolment of 300 students.
Jesus Christ! This guy has certainly come a long way since his roadside stall in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, where I used to have my and my wife’s shoes repaired over the last decade.
“What’s your secret of success?” I ask.
“Luck, just plain luck,” he says and turns to look at his companion. “This is my fourth wife, Kartika.”
Smiling, I nod at his charming better-half. Then to him: “Please tell me more, Datuk Professor Dr. Hartono.”
"We're old friends. Please address me like before -- Bapak Hartono. I'm still a humble, uneducated shoe-maker at heart." He puts down his fork and spoon and wipes his lips with a napkin. “One day, a prince from the Sultanate of Riau stopped at my stall to repair his shoe. He’d been sightseeing a lot, and the strap on his shoe -- you know, the type with buckle -- had broke, the heel had also worn out. I sewed on a black PU strap and hammered a PVC heel on his crocodile-skin shoe. I did the same for the other shoe.
“A month later, he came back to my stall. He'd gone to London for a social function and a prince of the British royal family -- his friend since his university days in Oxford -- liked the design of his shoes -- the one I had repaired. The British prince asked the Riau prince to order six pairs for him. So, I altered six pairs of old shoes and charged him RM500 for each pair. One thing led to another. The British prince visited Hollywood, and singer Shakira liked the shoes he wore, and ordered a dozen pairs through the prince who, in turn, placed Shakira's order through the Riau prince. This time I charged RM1,000 for each pair. Gradually, my success snowballed through word of mouth. More orders slowly came from London and Hollywood and even from Bollywood. My prices became more and more expensive. When I had saved enough, I set up the workshop and college.
“Later, the Sultan of Mindanao conferred me a Datukship after I donated to the Moro Liberation Front. A year later, the Universitas Balikpapan in Borneo awarded me an Honorary Doctorate." He winks. "Actually, I donated to their building fund. After that, the Lake Toba Higher Vocational Institute gave me a Professorship.”
"Well, I'll be," I mutter to myself.