Monday, November 28, 2011

The Shoe Stealer

As he was sitting there trying to recollect what he had to say to the only girl he had ever loved a sudden realisation came on him. What if it goes bad? What if she disapproves him? What if she ridicules him? What if…?

Then a flood of memories came gushing by…

It was a clear day. Sun was shining brightly on the horizon and a little kid was watching intently at a stream of school children roughly the same age as he. He always wondered what is so special that is taught in this square building and resolved that one day he will go to such a place.

But it was time. It was time for business. He picked up the bag which was roughly double his size. With the sun massaging his back he strode off towards the nearby temple. He never liked his work as his friends considered it stealing and said that it would bring him ill luck to steal from such a holy place. He had a chance to peek into the temple one night when there was a big festival going on and he had been able to sneak through the guards. He could see hordes of people shouting weird mantras and various kinds of people draped in colourful clothes performing rituals in front of a stone figure. The figure looked serene and oblivious of the mayhem that was in front of him. It perhaps was bored of the regular pampering. The heat wave from the fire was not encouraging either. There was an innocence with which the figure was bearing the trouble and never spoke nor made any gestures to signal its disapproval.

As he was standing there contemplating the situation he saw a twinkle in the figure’s eyes. He could not believe himself and searched around if someone was playing a prank then looked at the figure again, but it was back at its usual state of boredom. It was not possible that he could be hallucinating as he had a full lunch and he had the sharpest eyes among his gang of friends. He started looking at the figure carefully and now he could see the various features and fine craftsmanship with which it was built. It was just the height of an adult but had had the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Perhaps that was the reason that so many people were worshipping it. There was a certain aura surrounding the figure and all the incense and the lighted space made just the right stage. Then he felt it was not that bad and the figure was being well taken care off as he could see the hordes of fruits and sweets stacked up in front of it.

Still he could not help thinking about those eyes and the twinkle that seemed to be a message from the figure - just for him. It was getting dangerous and the guards would soon catch him if he were to stay there any longer. He was almost sure that the old lady in the corner of the gate had spotted him and was going to tell the guards. He turned to get away from his vantage point. After taking a few steps it dawned on him what the figure wanted to say. He quickly turned and saw the figure. It was obvious. How could he have not noticed it at the first instance?

The figure wanted help and he was the one who could help it. It did not matter to him but looking at the figure and the beautiful eyes charmed him. He had had a talk with his friend who used to polish shoes of the temple’s devotees on the lowest stair of the temple. It seemed that most of the shoes were very expensive and could fetch a good price. He then had gone to the local market to see if there really existed a market for these shoes. He was amazed to find that some of them fetched more than 2000 rupees. That was the best business idea he had thought. But he felt guilty of picking up others shoes without asking them. Standing here looking at the temple’s figure gave him the reason to go ahead with his business. It would be a blessing to serve the figure if it bore any little importance. He would be punishing the people who were troubling such a calm and composed figure by taking away their shoes. And thus he went on to start his venture with support from a few of his friends who would guide him to be safe from the guard’s eyes and also meet the best dealer who would give him the correct price.

Today was no other day and he was ready to start the day. But as he looked about he saw that the quality of shoes had degraded substantially overtime. This was something he had not anticipated. Initially the business was booming but over time the temple had taken a notorious name for the disappearance of the shoes and most of the worshippers now wore second hand shoes that did not get the best price. He felt disgusted with this behaviour and could not bear to sell sub standard shoes. He could not bear this pain for long and had decided that this would be the last day and he would look out for a new business idea.

As he strolled across the street to the gates he saw a new tea stall that was set up just two blocks down the lane by the temple. Out of curiosity he decided to pay a visit to the shop. As he was surveying the different kinds of biscuits that were available along with tea he spotted a girl by the counter. She was almost the same age as he and looked busy taking to the few customers that the stall had been able to attract. He had never talked to a girl so he had to muster lot of courage to go ahead and talk to this girl and order his glass of tea.
The girl seemed sweet and was strangely courteous to him. Normally the stall owners used to shoo him away getting deceived by his looks. But this was different. It was great to be acknowledged and been given the respect that he deserved – after all he was a businessman. Just the previous day he had overheard a few of his friends say that getting a girlfriend was something that was considered with great repute and it would require great skills to achieve such a feat. He decided then and there that this was the girl he would make his girlfriend and started generating ideas to be able to do the same. He was a businessman and ideas came naturally to him but this particular task seemed quite difficult and it took him some time to develop the full idea.

By the time the tea arrived he was ready with his master plan. He went over to the counter with his glass of tea and started arguing with the girl that there was a mosquito in the tea and that it was a ploy to kill him. The girl was shocked and got really worried. She started apologizing and was on the verge of tears. As per the plan he desisted and instead started talking with the girl. He got to know that the girl was from a nearby village and their family has relocated to the city due to some reasons he could not understand. He was a natural at talking with people and immediately struck a chord with the girl. He decided that he would take a hike from his business and would spend some time with the girl. So everyday he used to sit there by the girl and help her in her chores. The stall owner who was the girl’s father never liked him and had tried telling him to go away in vain. He was ready to risk the father’s wrath for the love of the girl.

Overtime the girl was getting comfortable talking to him and would share even the most mundane of events. He had lost the wish to make her his girlfriend as that sounded a very lame word for a businessman like him. He would rather spend his whole life with the girl. It was a foolish idea as far as his friends were concerned. First of all it was not possible as the girl would not marry a jerk like him and secondly it was too risky to make the call for marriage so early. He shrugged off the thought and instead just went along with being a friend. He could see that his popularity among the limited number of his friends he had increased substantially and it secretly made him wonder what the effect would be if he had proposed the girl.

Back to the present…

He has made the call. He is going to propose to the girl today. Spotting the only unoccupied bench in the park he rushed to get a seat. Once there he opened the bundle which he was carrying and carefully pulled out the bunch of red roses he was carrying. He had to put the bouquet in the bundle as it would have been too embarrassing to carry it throughout and moreover someone might mistake him for a flower seller and flock around him to his annoyance. Once he was settled he started practicing his lines. It was not the best of the lines but he could not think of anything else. For the first time he was feeling a bit low on confidence.

Somehow he composed himself and started breathing slowly to calm himself. And then he saw her. She was obviously annoyed at being called such a short notice but today she seemed gorgeous. Yes that was the word! She was simply irresistible and despite himself he started fumbling with his words. The girl obviously spotted that something was odd. He started talking something but he could not hear any words coming out from his mouth. Yes he was nervous but it came as a shock to him how much this meant to him. He grabbed the side of the bench and closed his eyes. After a few seconds that seemed like a day he opened his eyes and said those three words. The bouquet was lying by the side and his long speech has gone down the drain. Everything else had blanked out. He looked up slowly at the girl who he had just proposed.
Whenever someone would ask him what he liked in that tea vendor’s girl he always smiled and gave the response “I saw the same twinkle in her eyes as that in the temple’s figure”

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