The little boy walks, dragging his empty satchel after him. His pockets jingle with coins he has earned, a pitiable amount for a hard day’s work.
Clad in a threadbare t-shirt and frayed shorts, he strolls among people who don’t notice him. He walks noiselessly among the swarms that have somewhere to be.
He loves looking up at them, imagining how thrilling their lives must be. Something out of his reach. A man in a suit bumps against him, shoving him forward, not looking back to apologize but to glance at him with contempt.
Oddly, as a boy of seven, an age when fancies are plenty, he has never asked his parents for anything that isn’t necessary or even dared to dream of a greater life.
However on this rainy day, as he saunters along, he is taken in by a pair of shoes peeping at him from a store window, a shop with neon signs drawing him in. He suddenly jerks to a halt, awed by the pair of sneakers. He always window shops on his aimless walks, but these pair of shoes have struck a chord in him. It is love at first sight.
He stands pressed against the glass, in complete and total admiration of them. His hands slide down noisily against the window pane, leaving marks of his wet fingerprints on it. He’s never wanted anything more. He looks down sadly at his bare feet and watches the muddy rain water pass through them as he curls his toes.
Without thinking, he pushes open the door of the shop and walks in, his damp feet leaving marks all over the polished floor. The shopkeeper looks at him horrified and screams “What do you think you’re doing here? Get out!”
He grabs the boy by his collar while the boy mutters in a desperate voice “Bhaiya please! Those ones!” He points at the shoes, reaching to touch them. He’s pulled away and thrown out, unable to touch his object of desire.
They say when you experience love at first sight, it is as though you have a found a piece of yourself that is missing. This boy, who has nothing, knows if he gets these shoes, he will be complete.
He is in front of the shop everyday thereafter, looking at them longingly. He sits in a corner with hand outstretched, palm facing upward, asking for money, any money to buy the only thing he craves. Every rupee dropped in his hand is reciprocated with a heartfelt smile because it brings him closer to his beloved.
A smartly dressed school boy who passes him everyday drops a rupee into his palm. One day he stops, walks towards the boy and crouches beside him.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you go to school?”
“Why do you always carry an empty satchel?”
“Because I hope one day it’ll be full”
“What do you do with the money?” the school boy questions, his thoughts jumping randomly.
The boy looks startled and quickly composing himself answers, “I want to buy those.” He taps the glass pointing at the shoes, dirty fingerprint marks reappearing on the window pane.
“How much do you have?”
He pulls out his savings and drops them on the ground. The money clatters revealing a measly seventy rupees. The school boy frowns, calculating how much more he needs. With that the school boy leaves and is not seen for weeks after by the beggar.
Days later, Satish, faithful to his post, sits by the shop, his face and hands pressed up against the window pane watching his sneakers hungrily. He’s suddenly distracted by a presence next to him and he turns around to see the school boy standing there.
“Here” he marches up to him silently and drops a brand new satchel, “it’s full.”
With that he disappears into the crowd. Satish picks up the satchel in wonder and out fall the pair of sneakers he wanted. He runs after the school boy, searching for him in the crowd, but the boy is gone. He goes back and looks at his shoes, having never felt happier. He clutches this thing of beauty with love. He looks up at the sky and murmurs a silent prayer. As he puts them on, tears roll down his beaming face. The shoes look odd, not matching his clothes. But he stands without a care in the world as he is united with his love.
The rain starts falling over him, wiping away the longing fingerprints on the shop window.
Name: Diti Golder
Roll. Number: 1313149 (1st CEP)