By Omilla Mungroo. I had not seen a “poya” case since my grandfather was alive! A “poya” case or cutlass case is used by people who hunt, plant crops or do some kind of farming for a living. So when I saw one hanging at the front of Neil’s leather shop I had to gasp and exclaim, “Aay, you know how long I ain’t seen one of these?” He smiled and replied, “Yeah, I make cutlass cases too.”
Every time I pass by Neil’s leather shop he would always wear a smile and have something cheerful to say. No matter how you felt, he’d make you smile or forget what you were unconsciously frowning about. Neil Audain is 35 years old and started his own leather works shop two years ago where he makes and repairs sandals, slippers, handbags, hats, wallets, and accessories like belts, key chains, earrings, and yes, even cutlass cases. He states, “I can make anything with genuine leather.”
Learning to work with leather
Neil said he always loved craft since school days. “My father was a mechanic. And one day a man came to see him about his car, and noticed I liked craft, so he asked my father if I could work for him in his shop in San Juan.” Neil worked for 14 years doing the craft at the man’s shop. He said he started in September 1995 sewing shoes. He learnt to make the other stuff later on.
When I asked about the competition he faces around the town in Arima, he said his customers tell him there is none, and he smiled brightly. It seems it’s the least of his concerns because he takes great pride in his work, and says he does it just for the love of it.
I can attest to that because he had engraved my son’s name on a belt right after our conversation when I revisited him the same day. He beckoned me near the work station to see how it was done. I smiled and understood clearer what he meant by, “I do it for the joy and the expression on customer’s faces.” I thanked him for the belt and told him that if my grandfather was still alive I would have bought him one of those “poya” cases for Fathers’ Day and he would just love it.
June 2014 – Issue 10 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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