Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shoe Polish

I first saw him as I was walking to office after breakfast. He was smiling at the school kid who was walking ten paces ahead of me. Seeing him smile at the kid, I smiled too. As he passed the kid, I saw the shoe brush in his hand, and he looked at my shoes. In a while, as we got closer, he said “Anna, brush anna”. I wear sport shoes that don’t need a shoe brush to clean. So I dismissed his request and walked past, saying “Venda thambi, pongo.” {No need, please go}

He kept walking behind me, insisting to brush my shoes. I could not see his face, and failed to notice the emotion with which he pleaded. As he kept pleading, walking behind me, I thought “Who would spend money so simply in these hard times?”

I walked into my office, wishing the security guard a good morning. I knew that the he stopped outside, and would probably go back. I got in to the office and watched him from the first floor of my office. He was pleading with some one on the street. It was then that I understood the urge with which he was pleading.

As I walked into my floor and switched on my computer, many thoughts raced my mind. “He might be very hungry and needed money to eat. How many people would he have pleaded with, to polish their shoes? What would happen to him if no one buys his service today? Would he go hungry or will he resort to stealing/begging? Was he not a very dignified guy, asking money in return for his work, instead of simply begging like most other people do? If he resorts to stealing, would it not be due to people like me, some one who can not appreciate his sincerity?”

And I saw all this in the light of my recently-improved understanding of life and hunger. Until last month, five hundred rupees meant a movie at Satyam and lunch at Saravana Bhavan, that’s all. But things change, don’t they? Recession had its effect on me too, and since then I was thinking of nothing but cost cutting. Reducing phone calls, eating at decent hotels compared to good hotels, banning movies altogether. It was then that I began seeing more value in a hundred rupee note.

Coming back to the present, I could not even sit down. Something in me was not letting me put aside the matter. The security guard looked at me in surprise, as I walked out of office. I was searching for him, and walked in the direction I saw him go. He wouldn’t have gone far I thought, reassuring myself. I was looking into the side lanes and walking fast, trying to locate that hand and the brush. I found him after ten minutes of search, pleading with some one at a stationary store. I called him out aloud “Thambi, inge vaa.” {Brother, come here} As he came to me, I asked “Pattu roopa pogumaa?” {Will you polish my shoes for ten rupees?} I sat down on the steps of a store, removed my shoes and gave them to him. As he was brushing I asked him, “When did you eat?” He replied, “Last evening” and carried on with the brushing. I could see a smile spread on his face, or may be I just imagined. I was already feeling much better. As he finished, I put on my shoes, handing him a ten rupee note. And I walked back to office with a slightly light purse, but a much lighter heart!


Sachi Nekkanti said...

Oh, Vallabha !

sash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I cant believe you gave your sport shoes for brushing... you could have just given him the ten rupees and chatted with him, instead of ruining ur shoes.
from Sastry Nittala

sriram said...

hey vallabha,
really touching..

and did u ask podumma or pogumma/u understand the diff :)

subbu said...

Dear Vallabh,

Must say this is the first ever blog I completely read. But 500 RS for Satyam is a bit too high i believe even before recession :). Finally like sriram said really touching...

kaushik said...

nall post vallabha

kaushik said...

It's nalla

Musings of a wanderer said...

Excellent narrative.

Anirudh said...

That's a nice post there.Well written. Very much true that recession is moving from offices to streets to homes. And the people most affected by them are those of the service sector, as none of them are willing to spend money for them.

Mits said...

dear really nice deed! as I expect from you and look upto for!
I feel bad as I haven't been able to spend time on my dreams!
But planning to take up again from July and as said earlier I would be more than happy to have you in team.
check out the link below:

Mits said...

3 more parts to complete the speech