Garland of slippers

“Some foreigners were taking pictures of it too’’, said my younger daughter laughing. We were looking out of our first floor window at the eyesore that the empty site next door had become.

There, at the edge of this overgrown trashy patch stands a lamp post supported by another long slanting metal pole to form a very large right angled triangle. And strung between the two  sides of this triangle was a garland of  discarded slippers and shoes. The credit for this ghastly piece of art goes to our  very resourceful garbage lady. Irritated by this very ugly festoon, I confronted   the very indomitable lady next  day.  ”You know Amma “, she said smugly,  ”this is a message to all those who  throw garbage into this empty site that  they deserve to be whacked with chappals. Just let me set my eyes on them,  they will regret it all their lives”. 

On our dusty travels through Rajasthan’s desert en route to Jaisalmer,  we once came across hundreds of pairs  of slippers and shoes on either sides of  the road. Intrigued by this extreme sacrifice of the only protection against  burning sand, we learned that the pilgrims going to Ramdevra near  Pokhran walk the remaining distance  barefoot to the temple. Good reusable   footwear lying orphaned on the desert  roads. Wonder what use our garbage  lady would have put these to!

Recently we were watching a theatre  adaptation of stories by Sadat Hasan  Manto, the famous Pakistani writer. During the bloodshed caused by the  Partition, a mob started to disfigure  and throw stones at a statue of Sir Ganga Ram (a noted philanthropist of that  period). One enterprising fellow (I  secretly believe he is the ancestor of our  garbage lady!), made a garland of the  chappals lying around and walked towards the statue.  
Such is the fate of used foot wear. The  stray dogs love to sharpen their jumping skills at this strange toy and bring  down a nice chewy old shoe to gnaw. 

Sometimes a rag picker finds a pair  that can still walk a few miles and the  garland comes down. In the middle of one night to  my great joy I found a  group of very drunk boys untie the garland with great  difficulty ( I didn’t enquire  as  to  what  their  urgent  need  for  this  was) . They then began to sing,  dragging the garland along like a timid dog. My joy was  short lived of course. The next day another garland of assorted slippers  swung merrily thanks to the philosopher who cleans our street. She  will not let her symbolic piece of art be neglected at any cost.

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