The Strange Case of the New Shoes

Posted on June 18, 2008


It’s a happy thing, thought I, a new pair of shoes. I feel exhilarated, even when I pick up those cheap sandals costing not more than Rs. 150, from the road side. I’d wear them and sashay in front of the mirror till I begin to feel silly.

But Gangu felt like his new pair of shiny black sandals were nothing less than a curse! Gangu is a beggar, I don’t know him personally, but I call him Gangu. He begs on the road that connects Commercial Street and Brigade Road, a huge signal stands there, that’s exactly where our Gangu begs.

So it must have happened that this morning some kindly stranger must have taken pity on the poor beggar’s pus-oozing feet and bought him a new pair of shoes. I can imagine Gangu being overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. I even thought he’d do a little dance, putting one of his skinny tattered arms half up in the air, and flashing his wide toothless grin, and turning round and round!

I imagine that Gangu may have even felt relieved that now he would be able to walk about that road even during the afternoons, when the tar is super hot. Afternoons are usually bad for the begging business because even beggars cannot manage to walk on the scalding streets without shouting out loud. I imagine, Gangu felt his prayers were answered.

But as I stood at what seemed to be the longest traffic jam I’d been in a bit, I saw something really bizarre taking place in front of my eyes. Gangu went from car to car, scooter to scooter, begging. But he got no money. Each one stared at his feet, and silently gestured for him to move on. Actually, I would not have thought it strange, if I did not see all the helmets bobbing downwards before they asked him to move on.

It was then that I realised who, or rather what the culprit was! It was the shiny new pair of black sandals. They had made Gangu a little to happy, and some of the joy betrayed him and gleamed in his eyes. The rest was done in by the dratted blackies!

I wondered what people thought when they saw the shoes. Did they think he was indulging himself by actually buying those shoes? Did they see the yellow-red pus oozing out from his shins to his feet, staining the once white bandages completely? Did they feel their money was being wasted?

All I know is that Gangu looked at his feet in dismay and wondered what to do! As the signal opened and I drove off, I imagined him removing the shoes and packing them carefully in an old gunny bag before returning to the signal bare feet, and almost crying out in pain, as his feet touched the scalding tar road.

Ah, what an unhappy pair of shoes!

Henri, 18th June, 2008

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