When you are out and about in the markets of India, don’t be put off by those who come and approach you and offer you to polish your shoes. Its part and parcel of the Indian experience! You might feel a little intimidated about the situation but these shoe polishers (or shoe shiners or boot polishers – whatever you like to call them) are actually trying to make a living. They are not begging or trying to con you, they are simply offering a service which you will not get anywhere in the western world.
Try getting your shoes repaired in Britain or the USA, they’re not cheap, you might as well throw it way and buy a new pair. But in India, it’s different; we tend to repair it till it completely disintegrates. In western countries, people polish their own shoes but in India, having your shoes polished is so cheap that many some people don’t bother buying shoe polishes and brushes. They just have it on the go.
Shoe shiners might have phased out in Western nations but it still exists in India and some other parts of the world. But nonetheless, these shoe polishers in the streets do exist and its worth having it done. In fact, they can repair shoes as well. Shoe polishers are usually concentrated at large gatherings such as near the railways platforms, bus stops, markets and so on. The price for shoe polish is around 20 Rupees but if you get it repaired then it will cost a bit extra. The shoe polisher will ask you to take your shoes off one by one while he polishes or will ask you to place your foot on a pedestal.
However, there is one sad element to this. Many of these shoe shiners are mainly children. Rather than going to school, they have to go out and make a living polishing shoes. So rather than ignoring and shooing them off, try their services!
So don’t be put off and if you do have your shoe polished, you will be doing the shoe shiners a favour. The income earned by these boys is a significant proportion for their family and it prevents them slipping into begging or crime. In many of these cases, fathers of these boys have probably died or cannot work and therefore they are simply supplementing the family’s income. While for some polishing shoes are the only income. It does sound heartbreaking but it’s the ground reality. In some cities, shoe shiners need a licence to operate and have their Shoeshine Association.
If you want to get to know the real India and enjoy India to the fullest, then you might wish to take a look at this ebook.