My first pair of shoes

I was eager own fashionable 'pointed shoes', but I never had the money to buy them.

I never wore any footwear till I was in the higher secondary level. It just happened that I never asked any money for it from my stingy father. And he never gave me any pocket money, too. As a result, I became bit of a stooge and started going around with friends who had a lot of pocket money and were ready to spend it on ‘poor’ guys like me.

In 1960, after my schooling, I left for Delhi for my post graduation. My father wanted me to study political science from a prestigious college and to try my hand at the Civil Services exam. Though my plan was to land in St Stephens, unfortunately, I could not get admission th-ere. My last resort was, the now famous, Kirori Mal college in the DU campus.

I was put in the heart of north India and knew no Hindi, neither could I speak English fluently. So, I tried my best to polish my accent with the help of friends like Vasu, Lalit and a host of others who gave me loving company. Slowly, I overcame my shyness and began speaking tolerable English though with an affected accent. Lalit, who went on to become an IAS officer, also helped me speak a bit of Hindi. They never treated me as a “Madrassi” and loved me dearly.

Lalit always advised me to buy a pair of leather shoes instead of wearing the sandals I had got from Kerala. Though I was eager to be like my friends who wore fashionable ‘pointed shoes’, I never had the money to buy them. At last, I mustered all my courage and wrote to father that I needed a pair of shoes. He advised me to continue using my old sandals as they were airy and more comfortable.

But, as I stuck to my guns, father soon gave in and sent me a solid sum of Rs 50 to buy a pair of black shoes. He said the colour would go well with all my pants. I had five pairs of pants then, all brought from Kerala and tailored by our family tailor Pappachan, who was trying his hand at pant-making for the first time.

I went to the nearby shopping centre at Kashmiri Gate. Lalit came along to assist me in the selection of Bata shoes which were the cheapest and the most durable those days. He suggested that I buy the fashionable ones which cost upwards of Rs 100. But I kept looking till, at last, I found a pair of black Bata shoes which just cost Rs 19.90. To me, it was the most lovely pair of shoes I ever saw.

But, Lalit would not allow me to buy it and said the shoes were not up to DU style and standard. I did not have the money to go in for any other costly shoes. Also, my father had always advised me to live within my means. He had told me that while it was very easy to spend money, it was equally difficult to make it. His advice rang loud and clear in my mind.

I finally decided to purchase the Rs 19.90 black Bata pair despite Lalit’s heavy opposition. Interestingly, when I reached the college hostel, everyone admired it and, in fact, two of my friends rushed to the Bata shop to buy similar shoes. Slowly, it became the topic of discussion in our hostel and the boys who hailed from rich homes learned their first lessons in living within one’s means. This incident taught me the crucial lesson of simple living and high thinking.

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