These shoes are for you!
Age might season your wisdom and wither your physical attributes. But it instills in you energy. Energy that won’t help you lift weights or run miles. Energy that will keep you guessing and compel you to find answers. After all the travail and burden, this is when you have time to dig the answers that stand between you and your exit. Foolish it may sound, but this is when you feel you had that extra calorie to help you reach the park. I was lucky to have managed one time and again. Today was no different. I reached the park late after a hectic walk through the town and traffic only to find my bench was occupied, by Santo. He was sitting with his limbs falling apart and head down as if he'd lost all that he cared for and neither had anything to do nor anyone to answer to. I knew what he was thinking. I was there to give him exactly that.
I stealthily went to him, afraid he would notice me and run away. That wasn’t to be. I went to him and said crossing my fingers:
“You don’t deserve to play here”.
He gave me an arrogant stare after something stunned him from the oblivion he was in and frowned back:
“Who are you? You haven’t seen me play! Go mind your work!”
I was happy he spoke so much. Of course, anger fills your mind and leaves in it no more space to keep your thoughts. I quietly told him “Then show me now.”
“If only I could. I have neither a pair of shoes to play nor a penny to buy one” said he in a much softer tone as his eyes started pouring.
I said “I have a pair, if you are interested” in a hazy tone, wanting him to pounce onto the offer.
“May I have them? I will repay you when I have money” he said and I handed him a pair of Adidas shoes I managed from my savings. He stared at them with disbelief and asked if they were for him and how much he had to pay. I told him I’d come to him when I needed the money. He jumped into them in a wink and was off to the pitch before he disappeared into the pool of players. I enquired about him from a local hat vendor and learnt that his father left him and his mother to their fate a while ago. His mother works at company that packages food and has been managing a meager sum to fetch Santo and herself a meal or two per day. Santo too started working at a shop that sold imported goods. The owner was oddly generous to give him a pair of used shoes that Santo wore till yesterday.
As an attacker, I had to be in the best frame of mind to work my way through the rival defense. But how could a kid living through all this managed to pull off such captivating displays? His maturity was probably a few leaps beyond his age and his love for the sport; that must be the secret. I heard from the coconut vendor that Santo dreams to buy his mom a decent house and a wardrobe of the finest sarees and a car that wouldn’t be worried by the rising fuel prices. His dreams were a sweet product of the bitter encounters he had with life that used poverty and starvation to test his patience of mind and belief in God. None of them were shaken and he grew to be a strong lad who supported his mother after his father died and did some schooling to find himself a decent job. But he was a footballer at heart and always dreamt of playing for a world class club and take revenge on life for depriving him of the riches most incapable people are entitled to.“The boy sure has dreams” I thought and blessed him for all that he wished. But I never knew if he was ready to go beyond this park and poverty. All I could do was hope that someday he would.