(Originally posted on KMWN in December 2009)
“No,” said Deepak, “I do not want regular shoes. I want special.”
The bewildered salesman scratched his head in ponderment.
“What is this special special?” he asked. “I’ve shown you the most expensive shoe we have. More special than this is not there.”
Deepak was sad.
“But I want special shoes!” he cried.
The salesman went and got his manager and came.
“This boy wants special shoes,” he said, holding up a pair of red-and-green shoes with in-built wheels and laser guns and an mp3 player. “But our shoes don’t get more special than these, and he wants something more special (than these).”
“Boy,” said the manager, looking down the length of his long nose (at Deepak (who was the boy)), “you want more special shoes than these?”
“Yes,” said Deepak. He wanted shoes that were more special than those.
“But these shoes have an mp3 player,” argued the manager, “in each shoe. You can hear to two songs simultaneously, and enjoy like anything!”
The manager pointed to the shoes and slurped and smacked his lips for effect.
“What is so special about mp3 players? Just because there are two does not make it special. A regular ball-point pen is not special. Does having two of them make it special, I ask.”
The manager scratched his chin and nodded in agreement. “The boy speaks the truth, as if he has become old with age and is speaking with the wisdom that he has got from that.”
“Yes,” said the salesman, “I agree wholeheartedly. If there is one thing special in this shoe shop it is this wise boy.”
“No,” said the manager. “I mean, yes, the boy is special, but there is one other thing that is special in this shoe shop. Rather, there are two other things. Rather, there is one pair of special things. Rather, there is one special pair of things.”
“Is that a pair of shoes you are talking about?” asked Deepak, his eyes widening in hopefulness.
“Yes,” said the manager. “But first, I will have to see if you are worthy. I know that you are wise, you have already proven that you are so. But are you brave? And kind? And capable of drinking 8 litres of bananas?”
“Bananas are solid,” said Deepak, “They cannot be drunk.”
“Well then what do you call a banana that’s had too much alcohol?” asked the salesman, and laughed uproariously at his own joke.
But the manager did not laugh. He was as serious as hell.
“You have passed the first test,” said the manager, “simply by pointing out that bananas are solid. You have now shown that you are wise.”
“But I thought you said I had already proven that I am wise,” asked the ever-observant Deepak.
“Ah, for noticing that, I now know that you are truly wise.”
“And prior to this I was falsely wise?”
“Listen, boy! What is your name?”
“Deepak,” said Deepak, stating his name.
“Listen, Deepak! If you go on asking troublesome questions I cannot sell you the shoes.”
“Alright, fine, I’m sorry. I won’t ask any more questions.”
“Alas!” exclaimed the manager, his hands being thrown up in the air by him. “This was also a test, and to succeed you would have had to show that your inquisitive spirit could not be quelled. Unfortunately, it has, and therefore you have failed the test. Therefore, you cannot get the shoes. Which are special.”
“Listen,” Deepak exclaimed! “How many of these tests are there? I am a school boy and therefore subject to several tests a day. Already today I have taken five. One maths, one physics, one jokology, one economics, and one which you just now passed me through. I am exhausted of tests. Are you going to sell me the shoes or not?”
The manager looked happy.
“See?” he told the salesman, seeing Deepak.
“Yes,” said the salesman.
“I wasn’t finished. See? The boy is still asking questions. His inquisitive spirit has not been quelled after all. Go fetch the secret box from the secret room.”
The salesman’s jaw dropped. Then he picked it up and went to the secret room and fetched the secret box.
The secret box was roughly the size of a shoebox, and one would have thought it contained a pair of shoes, if the box were not stamped with the letters SECRET in bright red letters all over.
“What I am about to show you,” the manager said, “is extremely secret.”
“Even I have not seen what is inside the box,” exclaimed the salesman!
Slowly, the manager pried the secret lid off the secret box. Inside there was a pair of brown shoes, made of what seemed to be regular shoe material.
“These might seem to be the most regular shoes in the world,” said the manager, but these are actually the most special shoes in the world. At least they are the most special shoes in the world that we can sell you.”
“They seem to be regular,” said Deepak.
“That’s what I said, no, they seem regular, but in reality they are not at all regular. I mean, they are regular in the sense that you can wear them much like regular shoes, and they perform the function of regular shoes reasonably well, but there is an element of specialty to them that you will find in no other shoes.”
“What makes them special?” asked Deepak.
“I am glad you asked me that,” said the manager, “because I was just about to tell you. Now, when I tell you this, nobody will know the secret of these shoes except for the three of us. Even the maker of the shoes does not know their secret.”
“Why is that?” asked Deepak and the salesman in unison.
“Because the shoemaker is dead. He was killed by elves. Anyway, here is the secret of these shoes. They are marvellous, time-travelling shoes.”
“What?” asked Deepak.
“These shoes, when worn, enable the wearer to travel through the dimension of time!”
The salesman’s jaw dropped.
“How much do they cost?” asked Deepak, who, being as wise as he was, knew that time travel could not come cheaply.
“Obviously there can be no price tag attached to these shoes. They are priceless. But since you passed my tests and showed yourself to be worthy, I am giving them to you at a discounted price of Rs. 3,000/- only,” said the manager.
“Considering the original price was priceless, it is quite a huge discount,” said the salesman.
“Indeed,” said the manager. “The only condition to this discount is that you cannot tell anyone the secret of these shoes. Nobody will know about their time-travelling capabilities except you and me.”
“What about him?” Deepak asked, referring to the salesman.
The manager then killed the salesman with a shoe.
“Who?” asked the manager.
So Deepak paid the manager three thousand rupees and walked away from the store as the proud owner of a new pair of time-travelling shoes.
At home, Deepak tried on his new shoes. They were a perfect fit, quite comfortable, and now that he thought about it, really quite good-looking, too. He wondered if they only appeared good-looking to him because he knew that they were secretly time-travelling shoes as well, but when his father saw the shoes and said how good they looked, Deepak knew they really were good-looking.
But they did not work.
At least, Deepak could not figure out how to make them work. The secret box contained no instructions on how to use the time-travel feature of the shoes, and no matter what Deepak tried, he could not get them to time travel. He resolved to go back to the shop the next morning and ask the manager how to use them.
But the next morning, the shop was gone. It simply vanished. Rather, it had shut down, and in its place was a unisex beauty salon called Byoodafal, as its big board announced in giant purple letters, alongside a picture of an androgynous man or woman.
“What happened to the shoe shop?” asked Deepak to the receptionist at the beauty salon.
“What shoe shop? Go away, this salon is not for boys. It is for unisex,” said the receptionist and shooed Deepak out of the store.
Deepak was sad. He had a pair of marvellous time-travelling shoes that did not work. Rather, he could not figure out how to make them work.
For years, three years to be precise, Deepak tried to make his time-travelling shoes work, and never took them off, even while bathing, because he feared that the shoes might suddenly decide to time travel and leave him behind. He also searched everywhere for the manager of the shoe store, but to no avail.
Except, one day, exactly three years after that fateful day in the shoe store, Deepak saw a man walking down the street who looked remarkably like
“Shoe store manager,” Deepak yelled!
The man on the street stopped in his tracks and turned to Deepak. There was a spark of recognition in his eyes. The manager had not forgotten his very last customer.
“Hello, Deepak,” said the manager.
Deepak went up to the manager, grabbed him by his collar, and shook him violently.
“For three years I have been looking everywhere for you. These marvellous time-travelling shoes you sold me do not work! At least, I have not figured out how to make them work.”
“What year is it?” asked the manager, who suddenly looked very puzzled.
“It is 2009,” said Deepak.
“Are you serious?!” the manager said incredulously. “But I sold you those shoes in 2006!”
“Yes you did. So?”
“Don’t you realise, Deepak, you have been using the shoes correctly all along! Have you not travelled through time since that fateful day in the shoe store? Have you not travelled three years into the future in those very shoes?!”
Deepak realised that he had been using the time travel feature of the shoes all along. He had thought that his marvellous time-travelling shoes did not work, but they had in fact, been working continuously since that fateful day in the shoe store.
For the first time in three years, Deepak felt something akin to happiness.