Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Make hay while the shoe shines - Part 1

These guys have got sole. (ba-dum-tss)

Nobody likes waiting for a train when you’ve got somewhere important to be. It’s just the act of standing around aimlessly while you miserably await the arrival of your train that makes you want to swear loudly. So while you mutter curses at the motorman who’s driving the train and try to bring ruin to him and his family in your mind, your eyes tend to wander and pick up things that you might not normally notice in your hurry to get to wherever you have to go.

shines at railway stations are a common sight in pretty much any city in the world, and this city is no exception. However, you will probably never see a more sincere lot than the ones at the local train stations in Bombay. Seeing that my train wouldn’t be arriving for another 10 minutes (a rare occurrence on a usually very reliable train service), I decided to divert my attention away from the rats scurrying around on the tracks and onto the shoe shines seated at regular intervals along the platform. 

These guys are never too difficult to find, partially because you can always hear them tapping away on their wooden boxes improvised footrests with their brushes in order to attract customers. As I stood and watched from the side, I realised something. Seated on nothing more than a few sheets of newspaper (or cardboard, if they’re lucky), these men are the unsung heroes for the office-going middle class in the city. Their brushes may be frayed and worn, and they might not be equipped with the best equipment to tackle to city’s shoe polishing needs, but these guys get the job done. Some people may not see their worth in this day and age, where polishing shoes is seen more as personal grooming than a corporate obligation, but these guys are a life-saver for office goers, and I shall explain why in my next post. Stay tuned...

Part 2 is here.


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