Sitting on the corner of D-Block Market of Sector 27, Noida is a mender of soles. Since the days of Julius Caesar, and before, people have called a person in that profession, a cobbler. Yesterday when I went to him for a minor repair work, I saw a half rusted last that had apparently not been put to much use in the last many years. A torn hundred-rupee note lay half dead next to the last.
The adhesive he was using to revive ‘Gandhiji’ was the same as the one he uses to repair the soles for people. He calls it ‘solution’.
I wished his ‘solution’ could repair the souls of the country’s people, and the economy, too.
He took nearly fifteen minutes to do my work and demanded Rs 10/-. I took out my wallet to pay him when I saw his children playing in his ‘shop’ which measured not more than four feet by four––a girl in school uniform, and a boy.
I felt a lump even as I paid the man Rs 20/- and told him to keep back the change.
One would be miserable if one were to take such things to heart. With a little deliberate effort, I managed to erase that memory for there were other things on my mind. A day to go, I was still waitlisted on the train to Bhopal; I was eagerly looking forward to being with my folks. I had not yet received the RC Book of my new car; I was praying to get an odd number. Why ‘odd’? Elementary, my dear Watson!
Television news and the Whatsapp messages were full of rage, discussing the recent rapes and murders. There was a deluge of solutions––hang them; chop their arms; improve policing; treat everyone equal; fast track the process…. I switched off the set.
I slept soundly, but certainly, not peacefully. Was I becoming immune to what was happening around me?
This morning I had to get some photos printed. I was back in the same market. The lab attendant at Anjalis was busy so I took a walk to while away the time.
As luck could have it, I crossed the same cobbler again. He looked at me with an expression that said, “So you’re here again?” I exchanged half a smile and was about to pass on when I saw his children playing like the previous day. Without actually wanting to get an answer, I asked him, “Kids, haven’t gone to school?”
“Sir, only my daughter goes to school. She has one set of uniform. She has not gone to school because it has been washed. She’ll go tomorrow.”
“How much does a uniform cost? You must ensure that your child does not miss school….” I knew, those questions and sermons were meaningless.
He shed a tear when I placed a currency note on his palm, ‘requesting’ him to get another set of uniform for his child.
I had found a way to spend the extra penny I make by writing.
Who knows: “A child going to school today might be a criminal less in the street tomorrow.”