As I was walking to the gym tonight I broke the heel on one of my beautiful Indian shoes. The moment it happened seemed like the cherry on top of the icing on an already bitter day… but in fact it was a blessing in disguise.
I wandered sheepishly up to a ramshackle little cobbler stand manned by a cheerful little man wearing no shoes (ironically). I handed my broken shoe over to him and he took it unhurriedly as women and children played around him. No one seemed to notice that they were wearing threadbare clothing or were working and playing next to an empty lot (read: garbage dump).
The little cobbler smiled and went to work immediately at fixing the heel on my shoe. A few minutes later I handed him the other shoe because he’d meticulously transformed the first to a state that was better than when I bought it.
Watching him work was mesmerizing. I was completely captivated by his skill and how he could take shoes that we would throw away in North America and make them wearable again. He was also at ease as he worked, devoid of jealousy, hidden anger, insecurity, and agenda. He simply focused on my shoe and I found it refreshingly honest. I knew that I could trust him to give me the best craftsmanship and charge me a real price. I also knew that he was probably a lot closer to happiness in his world full of broken shoes, than I was in my world full of geeks and software development.
When he finished, he asked for 10 rupees. I gave him 20 because I felt that in the few moments that I stood there and watched he helped me open my eyes. I left his little ramshackle cobbler stand a better person than when I walked up to it.
It’s little moments like these that help me rediscover and love India all over again.