Monday, June 23, 2008

The cobbler

It was unusual to see this man next to my house. He was sitting huddled in a corner with his little collection of tools that he uses to mend footwear. It was unusual. In UAE you throw what isn't working any more and buy a new one. Footwear was one of those things. There is no re using/recycling. The shops have promotional offers all the time. There is a lot of waste land for you to dump refuse. Reasons are plenty.

Secondly, no ones sells any service sitting on the road side or under a shade. I have seen men selling telephone recharge coupons on the road. This man was the first one I saw sitting down in a corner in a shade waiting for customers.

Usually I see him when I am coming back from work. He will always have a smile for any one who passes by. First he smiles and then he looks at your shoes. After all he is a cobbler. But different. Even that smile.

I had never given him business. But I always got that smile. A smile that held all the sadness that eyes could hold. It told a million stories. There was angst, love, longing, and yet a faint radiance. It came with out expecting anything (though he might have looked at my shoes with longing!) Some times when I go out to the shop across the street with my daughter, she also gets one of those smiles. A smile that pulls your heart strings. The smile that would make you put your arm around him and say that "it will be alright".

Later I learned that he was from Afghanistan. He has lost his papers a long time back. No passport, visa, nothing. He just sat there with his crude tools and waited for customers who would rather buy a new shoe than wait in front of him. And then late in the night he would take his stuff and leave.

In winter he was there with a blanket wrapped around him. Now it is summer. I haven't seen that meloncholy smile for weeks. I miss him.

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