It was around this time of the year in 2000 when I bought my first pair of sneakers which my parents hadn’t paid for. God has blessed me with a weird foot size. Size 10 is a bit fit and 11 too loose. That being the principal knock down factor, a relentless pursuit for 3 continuous days in June heat in the discount stores or factory outlets, as they call them, in the by lanes of Parel, finally offered me a choice between a couple of pairs. And considering that my CA internship earned me a really modest stipend, there wasn’t much to chose from. I subsequently chose the white Nike joggers which comfortably fitted me. The conversation between me and Abhishek, who accompanied me on shopping was roughly on these lines:
Abhi: Dude nothing seems to fit you.. what does one eat to grow feet like yours?
Me: Will the blue sneakers be better? Will white look too Jitendra style?
Abhi: (struggling hard to muster that extra ounce of patience) Look why don’t you just decide on either of them..
Me: (looking in the mirror – front and sideways) These whites are damn comfortable.. Bless their soles..
Abhi: (despicably stares at me first and then at the irritated salesman as I imitate infront of the mirror) Yeah right! And they suit you a lot. Buy them. JUST DO IT.
For initial couple of times, the sneakers looked obnoxiously white. But the monsoons brought in kind of a worn-out look in them which I liked a lot. It’s hard even for me to believe now, but I did do a lot of jogging wearing my nikes. They were an inspiration in themselves to get up at 5.30 in morning and complete 5 rounds of the MIG grounds in Bandra before the sun rises with full fury, and before the women folk in the ground go away.. tellingly, they were an inspiration too :)
The most vivid memory of the utility of these sneakers is the grueling Sahyadri treks around Karjat in monsoons. Will write a post on one of my trekking expeditions soon. But these sneakers provided the requisite grip, ensuring survival and avoiding humiliation in the midst of slippery, trail-less treks.
Over the years, they were there for me when I needed them, like a faithful dog – showering me with undemanding adulation and comfort in return of friendship. The more worn out they looked, the more I liked them. But it was just a matter of time before the signs started showing. The sign came when the vulcanized latex layer at the bottom of the soft rubber, which forms the sole started peeling off. A common shoe ailment, which was promptly QuickfixedTM. But until then, the gap looked like a morbid smile on a dying sole. Not before long, other vital (rather, fatal) signs started showing. The spikes at the bottom wore out making it awkward to walk on slippery surfaces, the shoelace broke a couple of times, the sole started peeling off again on both the shoes, the insole gave away.. And finally last month, after a faithful service of 6 years, my old sneakers finally threw in the towel. I now wear my other pair of Lottos, but as a sign of comradeship I don’t keep them in the same rack where my good old nikes rest in peace.