‘How long for Ampa Skywalk?’ I asked one of the men at the bus stop. It was summer, and the sun was at its peak. The middle aged man shifted his look towards me, ‘By bus?’ The glance of irritation on his face suggested that he had been waiting for his bus for quite sometime. ‘No, by walk.’ I said. The change in his expression seemed pretty much visible, as the guy began looking at me as one would look at a fool. ‘Around 1 hour.’ He said and gesticulated that I needed to cross the road, and then turned away. His intense expressionism was absolutely justifiable. No one with brains would make such a goofy decision of taking a walk in the afternoon, that too for one hour, and again, that too in summer. But I chose to do it. Now, wait; before you begin to draw instant conclusions about the levels of my empty-headedness, I would like to make something clear. The reason for this decision of mine, which appears to be silly and stupid, is that one of my chappals’ straps came off, and I was in an ardent search for a cobbler. And you don’t get to see cobblers in buses, do you? Hence the long walk.
One more reason is, it does not look much decent when you end up limping because of your handicapped slippers, especially when you are going to Landmark to purchase novels. Oh yes, forgot to mention; I have recently fallen in love with the habit of reading, and presently I am in the habit of making this habit my daily habit. After having spent hours debating with myself and Google on which book to buy, I figured out that according to my ‘crime-suspense-thriller’ bend, Agatha Christie should be the apt choice. I hurried in excitement, and that was when the chappal mishap happened. I footed myself through the thickens of the heat waves of the sun and the smoke lines of the traffic, and reached the other side of the road. One hour to Skywalk, I said to myself, as I began the journey with my disabled chappal slipping off my foot once a while. In less than twenty minutes, I sensed my bodily fluids getting depleted at a drastic rate. I bought myself an aavin chocolate drink and began to relish its thickness. I tossed the tetra pack into the garbage bin, and as I was about to walk away, my eyes landed on a young boy with a row of shoes in front of him. He was engrossed in his profession, which seemed to be too big for his age. The hands that were meant to carry books were mending chappals, and the feet that were meant to be placed within school shoes were bare and bloody. My heart withered for a second as I took off my torn chappal and placed it before him. The boy picked it up with a smile and impressively manoeuvred his fingers and brought it back to shape in no time.
‘Patthu rubaa.’ (Ten rupees) He said as he returned my possession. With a pitiable heart, I deliberately pulled out two ten rupee notes from my wallet and placed my hand before him, waiting for him to take the money. He made alternate glances between my eyes and the notes, and he too, deliberately, pulled out just one note from my hand and placed it in a steel box. His head didn’t move up again, as he immersed himself back into his work. That moment, I understood the real difference between the educated and the uneducated. One is not educated if he has a string of degrees attached to his name, or has the capability to master anything that comes under his eye, or has profound knowledge about everything in this world; or whatever, if he does not have the basic dignity to refuse anything that comes for free.
The rest of the walk lasted for another thirty minutes, and comprised of two more soft-drink stops. I could experience a temporary escape from the scorching heat once I stepped into the shopping mall. I made my way to Landmark, the books section, and whisked my eyes across the vast array of books stacked in numerous shelves all over the place. I found Agatha Christie’s books stacked in a separate section. It took me four mighty strides to reach the Christie section, and my eyes devoured the very scents of all the books that stood in front of me. Keeping in mind the idea of following a disciplined budget, I restricted myself to three novels. (Oh yes, one thing, the concept of budget happens only when one is in lacking of money, and I seem to embrace this concept quite often)
The payment for the books went over the bill counter, and I walked out of the mall with my literary extravaganza neatly packed in a shopping bag. The roasting behaviour of the summer sun seemed to resume once I stepped out. I crossed the road and walked towards the fourth soft-drink shop of the day, and placed a thirsty order for a bottle of sprite. As I was draining the bottled drink, my eyes landed on a huge hoarding on the other side of the road. The hoarding carried the picture of a politician with folded hands on one side, inconspicuously begging for votes, and the scattered pictured list of all the items that would be provided for free if voted to power on the other. In a way, I could see a ‘bureaucratic beggar’ in the making. The cobbler kid came to my mind.
Those who should be beaten up with shoes are in the parliament, and those who deserve to be in the parliament are on the roads mending shoes.
I gave out a sarcastic sigh, paid for the drink and left the place with a sense of revelation; the very revelation that showed me the similarities between beggars and our government.