I felt a hand brush my back pocket. Instinctively I reached for my wallet, making sure it was still there before turning around to see who the hand belonged to. As it turned out, it was a little boy trying to get my attention, reaching for my pocket only because that was as high as his little hands could go. He was dressed in full-length pyjamas that made him look younger than he might actually have been. The little bag that hung on his shoulder contained a shoe brush and tins of polish in assorted colors.
"Bhaiya jootein polish karoon?" I smiled, began to explain that polishing blue suede might not be the best idea, and then stopped mid-way to pull out a 10 rupee note and hand it to him. He smiled back - a wide boy-smile - and accepted gratefully, but did not disappear. Instead, he offered me a suggestion: "Dho leta hoon na bhaiya, paani se. Ekdum naiye jaise lagenge" (I will wash them with water, they'll be good as new) Once again, I declined his offer. Finally, in a voice so sincere that I almost choked, he said: "Please dho leta hoon na bhaiya, nahi to bheek ho jayega." (please let me wash them, otherwise you'll be giving me alms.") Lessons in dignity and perseverance from a six year old. Right at that moment, I wanted to hug him.
"Bheek nahi hain, thofa hain" was all I could manage. It was a gift, and he should accept it. He smiled his boy-smile again, much wider this time. "Phir to theek hoga", he said. "Thank you bhaiya", and he was gone, shuffling along with his bag and his brush and his tins of polish.
Theek Hoga. Everything will be ok.