The red shoes

He climbed onto the train wearing a pair of bright red shoes, smartly laced up. He came in with one big duffel bag, a smaller shoulder bag, and three friends. All four were chatting enthusiastically as they boarded the train, found their respective seats, and put away their luggage safely for the 22-hour long journey ahead.

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The wearer (he was of course the owner too) of the red shoes was very pleased with the top side berth. His friend was below him, and the other two were in the main compartment. The compartment also accommodated a woman with two children, a girl and and a boy, and another passenger about the same age as the wearer of the red shoes. She was very pretty. And such was the company that was to travel together for the next 22 hours.

Like in any other compartment, the occupants of this compartment too started conversing, with small talk first and then with more intimate details like the date and cost of purchase of the red shoes so bright and smart. If the shoes could hear their owner talk about them, then I’m sure they would feel very lucky to be owned by him, someone who was so proud and protective of them.

As the train progressed on its journey the occupants, as well as the shoes, were made even more vividly aware of his dedication to the said pair of red shoes. The owner had purchased them just a few hours earlier to boarding the train, and was very wary of the dirt in the train as well as the the platforms, especially during the current monsoon season. He was afraid that someone might spoil them unknowingly. After a couple of hours everyone had relaxed, brought out books, games, music, etc. Everyone’s shoes were off on the train floor, and feet up. The only pair of shoes which were visibly missing were the beloved, much talked about, red shoes.

They couldn’t even be located on the feet of their owner. They were finally found, after much effort by his fellow passengers. They were placed on the owner’s berth itself, very well hidden from the undiscerning eyes of the passengers of the other compartments. But, the owner’s fellow passengers were so well acquainted with the shoes already that it became very hard

to miss them after the initial confusion. The owner had fallen asleep, and couldn’t risk the shoes under anyone else’s custody. He really was a very responsible owner, and very protective of the red shoes. After a while, even after he had woken up, the other occupants realised that the shoes were going to be placed there for most part of the remaining 15 hours.

In a few more hours, the pretty girl was hungry. She didn’t have anything with her to eat either, and didn’t want to trouble the other passengers by sharing with them. Now, the question was that who would help her out with her little problem. All the four friends agreed that she shouldn’t have to get down on the platform by herself. So, the only thing to be decided was who would get down with her. The owner of those wonderful shoes was very eager to accompany this new female friend of his. But for that he would have to risk his red, clean shoes getting dirty. And that was when out came another pair of shoes, actually it was just a pair of plain looking sandals. You can only imagine the indignation the red shoes might have felt when their owner seemed to prefer those plain sandals over them! But soon, they, just like the other travellers found out that it was only another considerate gesture, to ensure that the shoes remained bright and clean.

And so, the journey continued, with the shoes mostly by their owner’s side, except for the brief outings on the platforms. Then, they were properly packed and placed in beside his shoulder bag. Finally, it was time to say goodbyes, to each other and to the train. The shoes were still placed properly on the berth, the plain sandals proudly sitting on his feet. Everyone re-packed all their bags, saw to it that nothing was missing, and everything in its proper place. The proud shoes were made ready to embark on their journey, with the plan that the owner would put them on just before disembarking. And then the train arrived at its penultimate destination, also the destination of our passengers. It was also the destination of numerous other passengers aboard. There was a lot of confusion, with all of these passengers trying to get down with their respective luggage, trying to get off before the train started again. And so, the red shoes went on being properly placed on the berth, long after all the occupants of the compartment had vacated it, long after their owner had left the platform, the clean and smart red shoes.

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