Stepping out to meet a client, I noticed I’d forgotten to polish my shoes. I stopped by a roadside cobbler in Royapettah in Chennai.

Even as his hands worked on my shoes with the dexterity of a surgeon performing a complicated task,he would regularly seek the attention of prospective customers.

When locals passed by, he said, “POLISH! POLISH ! “

And when a foreigner went past, he called out-” SHOE SHINE ! SHOE SHINE !”

I complimented him on his ‘know your audience’ pitch and he excitedly told me he learnt it from his European boss when he was working for a now- defunct leather firm.

Sixty five years old, with his children happily married and settled, he doesn’t depend on them and takes pride in his skill and there’s a zing in his voice as he goes about his job !



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3 Responses

  1. That was the beauty of the caste system in India. People of all castes were proud of their caste and were devoted to their special vocation.Our ancestors were wise enough to know that the body needed all parts to function – the brain, the stomach, the feet… If the feet were ashamed of their task and turned into brain, the whole body would crawl…wouldn't it?The casteless society of today has only an unprecedented number of beggars who possess no skill, are ashamed to be cobblers, carpenters, smiths, but beg and commit crimes, because of their vocation itself having become extinct, thanks to capitalism or because of the sense of shame that the anti caste bandwagon has instilled in them.

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