I had gone with a colleague today to Ritchie Street, a small lane off Mount Road, famous for its shops selling a variety of electronic parts at cut rates. My friend had wanted to purchase a Wifi-router and modem for his home and as he caught me idling alone in the rest room he dragged me along with him to go shopping. As we made our way back to the hospital after the purchase, we were about to take the pedestrian subway which delves beneath Mount Road to come up to the other side of the road (where his car was parked) when he suddenly stopped and asked me “Do you mind?” before he thrust his shoe at a shoe shine man sitting there beside the subway and gestured at the man to start polishing his dusty shoes. Right beside the man was a boy seated with the same set of shoe shine paraphernalia and my friend made an imperious gesture at the boy (who had a close resemblance to the man- a son in the family trade perhaps?) to start work on my shoes. I don’t know exactly what me do it but I stepped back with a muttered apology and waved off the boy. I mean, everyone knows that I am not a socialist that I have nothing against the working man making an honest living off the sweat off his labor and all that-but I didn’t feel comfortable with standing there like a lord and having a boy bend over my shoes and polish them. I know shoe-polishing is and old and respected profession but the mere thought of someone else polishing my shoes made me very, very uncomfortable. “No one touches my shoes except me” I told only half-jokingly to my colleague. And that’s the whole truth.
I have always been an exceptionally good polisher of my shoes right from my earliest remembrances of my school days. I have this little ritual I call Sunday polishing- when I lay out all my formal shoes on Sunday nights and sit down to polish them up. Now everyone knows that there are different kinds of shoe polishes available- the little wax tins, the liquid polishes and the instant shiners. I have and use all of them in their proper sequences- selecting and using them for effective results. The one I trust most to give me a mirror finish is the basic wax polish (off a tin) and that’s my starter. After cleaning the dust off with a duster I use a soft cloth -an old discarded under-vest/banian cloth serves well here to apply the wax coating evenly over all of the shoes surfaces. And then I start off with the large, coarse brush (I own half a dozen shoe brushes – from the coarsest to the finest grade in order) to polish up the wax coating. Gradually I move on to the finer polishing with the softest bristled, smaller brushes and as the gleam of the polish starts building up I go slower and slower and more careful to push with the grain and not against it. And in a few minutes I have a mirror finish polish which will last me a week if taken care properly. And every day morning before I leave for work, I just need to remove the previous days dust coating, apply a little liquid polish where needed and buff it up with an instant shiner and voila the mirror finish is back restored.
And maybe that’s why I don’t get my shoes polished by outsiders. I just don’t trust them to do it right. Imagine having a half dozen wax polish tins at home- black, brown, tan, white, neutral etc – and all of them selected brands only and a half dozen brushes carefully selected to help get a mirror finish and a willingness to spend an hour every Sunday night polishing up the shoes – black lace-ups, black loafers, brown lace-ups, brown pull-ons etc in declining order of use and after all this to get it polished somewhere else? Or maybe I just love the honest labor it takes to polish a shoe, the hard work and the burn in the arm as the brush goes faster and faster on the leather and the shoes starts shining more and more and taking on the glossy mirror look I love to see. Or I just love the smell of the wax and the leather and the knowledge that a thing of beauty is taking shape in my hands. Or maybe it’s all of this and more. Who knows?
So tell me do you polish your shoes at home yourself? Do you even like polishing shoes? Or do you think that I am far too obsessive over something like shoes? Do tell.