Me – Chappal?
Boss – Sahab andar aao.
Assistant leads us in
We enter Royal shoes.
In Pune. Walking and faffing, we trot through the busy market lanes of Camp, heading towards West street. That’s when the shop catches my attention – Royal Shoe Store. We look at each other. I say, “Chalo” . Homi says, “Chalo”. For once we agree, no questions asked.
As I cross the street, I eye the board. The word ‘Shoe’ on it is a couple of sizes smaller to ROYAL – so that it stand out. Yeah, old school alright.
There are two people standing at the entrance. We pause, take in the shop and its display. That’s all it takes. As one person moves towards me, the other moves away, each in sync with the other’s action but doing it totally unaware at the same time. Magic.
The man who approaches me is the boss. He asks me a couple of question, I answer them. A middle aged man, he comes across as a seasoned trader. I bet he knows each footwear in the shop – can talk about them for long, definitely can work the deal. But that’s not the way it’s done.
He calls out to his assistant.
The assistant is the same man who stood outside the shop with the boss. While the boss makes his way to the cash counter, the assistant stands next to me as we eye the display counter. The display – formals, sneakers, sandals and fancy wear – is divided into neat sections and rows behind glass walls. I feel his glance as I check the goods.
As I look, I feel a sense of desperation in his glance. A desperation that returns with a vengeance each time someone walks in. The desperation of being stuck. Everyone and everything being stuck. The shop, stuck between the hardware and the textile shops. About them, boss and assistant stuck in space – this space that’s difficult to maintain, difficult to earn off. But shutting shop is not an option. So they turn up each day, wait on either side for someone like me to walk in and buy a pair.
But not this time.
I don’t see what I want. The assistant understands, backs away. Boss and assistant exchange a glance, the same way Homi and me had done earlier. Not a word had to be said. As we head out, they take their positions – one on each side of Royal Shoes awaiting the next ones.