22 July 2016

Your shoes are more precious than you imagine

DISCLAIMER:  This is for kids.  Adults be warned: you may rediscover a child within you. 

A little girl wanted a pair of canvas shoes.  She’s not so little, actually.  She’s almost 13.  Anyway, she wanted ‘sneakers’.  That’s what the school authorities had told her.  Sneakers was an important part of the dress code for students who signed up for a class trip out of Colombo.  She was kind enough to opt for the cheapest pair out of all the ones she thought would work with the rest of her outfit: jeans and an elephant t-shirt.  Her father was lucky.  He had just enough money with him to pay for the shoes. 

Both father and daughter are privileged.  The family has enough of an income to pay for such sudden ‘needs’.  But if you forget the occasion and the price this is what every father does for a daughter or at least wants to do.  The particular girl, to be fair, doesn’t bother her father like this all the time.  Usually she says ‘if you think it is ok and if you have money could please consider getting me (this or that)’.  On this occasion she just HAD to have the ‘sneakers’.  He understood.  He had money.  They were both happy. 

Happy and privileged.  Yes, that should be repeated.   Not all daughters are, though, and certainly not all fathers. 

There once lived a girl who must have either wanted or needed a pair of shoes.  We don’t know whether it was for a class trip, but that’s unlikely.  Maybe she just needed shoes to wear to school.  Maybe she asked for a pair or maybe she didn’t, perhaps because she knew that shoes are expensive and that there were other more important things that the family needed.  Anyway she did get a pair of shoes. Her grandfather had got her a pair.  To this day, no one knows why it was the grandfather and not the father or the mother who got the shoes.  Maybe the father was unemployed.  The mother, we know, was a domestic worker but maybe she didn’t earn much.  Maybe she didn’t have a father.  We only know of a little girl, her grandfather and a pair of shoes. 

She was a little girl.  Really a little girl.  Just two and a half years old.  Ashwini’s grandfather, Rasiah, worked in a restaurant.  Maybe he had saved money over a period of time.  Maybe he got a bonus.  Maybe he decided that shoes were more important than something else.  Anyway, on the 8th of August, 2006, Rasiah bought a pair of shoes for his granddaughter.  We can’t really say, but maybe he loved her as much as the father who bought a pair of shoes for the 13 year old loved his daughter.  He must have been happy.  Ashwini certainly was.

The 13 year old, maybe because she was 13 and not two and a half years old, didn’t try on the shoes and prance around the shoe store out outside it, but Ashwini was not 13 years old and maybe the shoes meant a lot more to her than shoes meant to the 13 year old girl. When she got the shoes, she put them on, and decided to walk down the street.  She had kissed her grandpa because she was thrilled and was grateful.  We don’t know, but that probably made him very happy. 

That’s it.  She didn’t return.  She walked to the bus halt.  That’s it. She never walked again, never laughed again and never kissed her grandfather or anyone else again.  There was an explosion.  It was a car bomb that targeted someone else.  She was in the wrong place.  She came to a halt at a bus stop.   That’s where happiness ended for Ashwini, Rasiah and for others too, probably. 

Treasure those shoes you have.  They are precious.  Not because of the price, not because you needed them and not because your father or mother or someone else could buy them for you.  They are precious for reasons that are not easy to write.  And it's not just shoes that are precious.  Think about it. 

One of the greatest delights in my brief career as a journalist was writing for the kids' section of 'The Nation'.  I wrote over fifty articles in my last year at that newspaper.  I have resumed the series, which is now published in www.nightowls.lkScroll down for other articles in this series.  

Other articles in this series 
Stop and say hello to an angel 
Three-wheelers are tortoises and hedges are sentinels

A puddle is a canvas Venus-Serena tied at love-all
Some jokes are not funny
There's an ant story waiting for you
And you can be a rainbow-maker
Trees are noble teachers
On cloudless nights the moon is a hole
Gulp down those hurtful words
A question is a boat, a jet, a space-ship or a heart
Quotes can take you far but they can also stop you
No one is weak
The fisherman in a black shirt
Let's celebrate Nelli and Nelliness
Ready for time travel?
Puddles look back at you, did you know?
What's the view like from your door?
The world is rearranged by silhouettes
How would you paint the sky?
It is cool to slosh around
You can compose your own music
Pebbles are amazing things
You can fly if you want to
The happiest days of our lives
So what do you want to do with the rain?
Still looking for that secret passage?
Maybe we should respect the dust we walk on
Numbers are beautiful 
There are libraries everywhere 
Collect something crazy
Fragments speak of a thousand stories 
The games you can and cannot play with rice
The magic of the road less-traveled
Have you ever thought of forgiving?
Wallflowers are pretty, aren't they?
What kind of friend do you want to be? 
Noticed the countless butterflies around you?
It's great to chase rainbows
In praise of 'lesser' creatures 
A mango is a book did you know?
Expressions are interesting things
How many pairs of eyes do you need?
So no one likes you?
There is magic in faraway lights
The thambilil-seller of Giriulla
When people won't listen, things will
Lessons of the seven-times table



Anonymous said...

Tears sparkled on 2 1/2 years would have been brighter than 13 years old.Because her feet touched so many pairs in the past but she got it first time and sadly last time in her life.I doubt ,is it possible to compare the Degree of the warmth of the kiss of 2 1/2 with 13 year's thanking gaze.

Anonymous said...

Hey Malinda, your brother ABANDONED the Buddha, whom you so admire and embraced the "para suddas" religion Christianity, right sir??

What is your opinion on his "betrayal"???

Do you call this a "betrayal"??

Do you now consider him a "Mithya drushtikayaa"???

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Your ignorance is pitiful.

Anonymous said...

He is a Christian, a Buddhist turned Christian, right??

Malinda Seneviratne said...


Anonymous said...

Buddha , mithya drushtika , Christian....all are just mere words we always clinging to .Please see how these words have written.by letters.One letter to other is different , when we go one by one ,our thoughts get changed from one letter to another .This is impermanance or 'Anichcha " .Its time to see inner senses of ourselves and not others in the world. You will be enlightened.

Metta to all .

Anonymous said...

Arjuna is a not a Christian??

Then what about this "My LORD Jesus Christ" business written in his blog arjunareflections.blogspot.com??

Arjuna says: "Now, my parents called themselves Buddhist so I was called a Buddhist as well. So, it was some time before I was introduced to my Lord Jesus Christ. I think I was about 10 when I picked up a Bible slotted into the many bookshelves in my reading-mad family's digs."

He ends the post by saying: "Thanks be to my Lord Jesus. Thanks be to God."

Why would he write like this UNLESS he believes in God??

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Ask him. He might indulge you and your simple mindedness. 😊

Anonymous said...

Seriously 'ol chap, why would Arjuna write something like that???

Is it some profound writing only a person with a PhD in English will understand???

What is he saying in that piece??

Anonymous said...

Does your bro Arjuna have any kids???