Standard black shoes for “regular” school days (read non-sports and rainy days), white canvas shoes for the sports days and rainy shoes (there were the ones who wore the more functional plastic sandals and there were the snooty kids who wore the big rubber gumboots). Footwear would be bought before school re-opened, of course, and there was an air of excitement as we waited for the shopping day to arrive.
They came in all types and sizes. Regular and rainy. Canvas and black. They were a constant source of punishment for us, we had to keep them clean to stay out of trouble.
At the shoe store (invariably Bata), the measurements were taken and the vaguely familiar salesman made the perfunctory and cheerful remark of how we kids had grown up. As the shoes were tried, dad would come up and press the tip of toe-end of the shoes to see if they were the right size. As a rule of thumb (toe in this case!), there should be some space to allow for the feet to grow and potentially stall the inevitable expense on new shoes as we would grow out of these quickly. All three types of shoes would be tried and purchased and at the counter, dad would buy the other paraphernalia which went along with the school shoes; socks, polish and extra strings.
Looking back, the shoes bring back many memories.
There were kids who struggled with the shoelaces and were always seen at the end of the day, struggling to run and walk with the laces open and trailing behind them. It was only when a helpful friend/teacher came to their rescue, that they heaved a sigh of relief.
The aforementioned snooty gumboot kids revelled in the fact that their ankles would always be free of muck during rains, but their revelry came at a price! The wide gumboots allowed water to seep in and soon enough, they had squishy wet socks which they had to endure through the day. And yes, they could not run as fast as the others.
The perennial lazy bums who got hauled up by the classroom monitors for having dirty shoes. The instances of “haul-ups” increased on days when they were supposed to wear white shoes. As the year progressed, the shoes would get dirty and the only solution was to wash them/ apply white polish. Of course, another working solution found was to rub white chalk available in the classroom before stepping out to the assembly halls. It was a source of mirth to see these kids huddle together and take turns at applying chalk on their shoes just before the morning assemblies.
Even today, where the canvas shoes have arrived back in fashion, memories of the times when we protected them from dirt and how the whiter the shoes were, the happier we felt, bring a smile to our face.
(This piece was previously published in the November’15 Winter Edition of The Indian Trumpet)
Keep blowing the Trumpet! This & many more stories await in the pages!