I am a shoe mender. My name is Ram Gulam. I the son of Shyam Singh of village Safipar, District Barabanki. I am 18 years old. I sit near the Lucknow Christian College, mending, old shoes and polishing them. In the night, I sleep in the corner of a road and never care for anything.
I do not have my home and there is no one in the world to whom I can say that he is a member of my family. Of course, every body in this world who gives me some money, is a member of my family. I never saw the face of my father and my mother died when I was only 1 years old. At that time I felts that I am all alone in the world and there is nobody to look after me. Oh, leave all these things and all old stories since nobody is interested in hearing my family life.
Of course, you would like to know how I joined this profession, After the death of my mother, there was none who could look after me. I was dying of starvation and so started begging. The whole day, I used to call “Babuji, give me a paisa”, Bare Sarkar, I am hungry. It was my bad luck that everybody used bad words to me and after begging the whole day, I could get only a few paisas. During those days, I used to live in Aminabad Park and the park was my home. Occasionally, the policemen scolded me and once I was severely beaten up but I never cared for all these things. The wheel of my life was moving on the same speed.
In the shortest span of my life, I have seen this world in different shapes. When I saw the boys of my age going to school, I also thought that it would be better for me to join any school. But at that time I was a beggar and who would admit a beggar in his school. Once I went to a school but the Headmaster of the school scolded me so severely that I came back shedding tears from my eyes. I was fully convinced that there was no school for beggars.
One day when I was sleeping on the footpath, I saw a man eating meet and pulav. That man was very gentle. He told me “Come on boy, have something. I was so much moved by his humbleness that I started taking meal with him. I asked that man Ramji Bhai, how do you earn so much money that you are able to and take meet in the evening, while I am unable to earn more than a rupee in a day. Ramji Bhai told me that he is a pick-pocket. If luck favours him, he earns a lot. Occasionally, he goes to jail but even jail is better for those who are dying of starvation. Telling this, he threw packet of cigarettes before me and I started smoking. In the night, I was a dream that I have become a pick-pocket and got a bundle of notes from the pocket of a rich man but the dream was merely a dream.
The other day, I reached a hostel where a gentleman told me “Begging is bad. You must work hard and then only you can earn your livelihood”. I was wonder-struck. I could not understand what that gentlemen told me. In the night when I again met Ramji Bhai, I told him that I would like to be a pick-pocket. Ramji Bhai patted me but told me in a very humble tone that it would not be a good profession for me. It is a bad work. He asked me to meet one of his friends who was a shoe mender. The very next day, I met with the shoe mender, whose name was Bhagwati-Prasad. He was a kind hearted man and he told me that he would give me 8 annas per day to work with him. By and by,’ I learnt a lot of shoe mending and started my own business used to earn Rs. 2/-or Rs. 3/-per day and was satisfied with my job.
One evening when I was sitting in the corner of a street, men ding old shoes a young man decently dressed came to me and asked me to polish his shoes. He was so much impressed with my work that he told me “Why do you not take up the polish work only? Come to my hostel and I will give you good work.” That young man was living in the hostel of the Lucknow Christian College. The very next day, I reached his hostel and all his colleagues were much impressed with my work. I used to visit the hostel daily, polish the shoes of these students and earn rupee four of five a day.
One day when I reached the hostel, I saw the warden of the hostel asking the Chokidar why he permitted me to come inside the hostel. He asked me not to come there again and since then I have been sitting in the corner of the road before the Lucknow Christian Colleges, mending and polishing the shoes and earning my livelihood.
I am a shoe mender. I mend the shoes and polish them within no time. My cream polish is such that shoes become a mirror. You can see your face in them. The young men who are found of me, come to me and give me whatever demand, but the older persons are very greedy. They believe in bargaining. When I demand 25 paise, they give me only 20 paise. The fashionable students often give me 30 paise when I demand only 25. The young girls are also very kind. They do not hesitate to give the money I demand but their mothers do not like me. Now I am not dying of starvation but still I have my own ambition think that some one would come and help me in finding a shop at Aminabad. I have often asked about this from the young students but until now nobody has helped me in this direction. Still I hope that the day is not far when I have a shop in the main market of Aminabad and there will be a sign board on that shop “Ram Gulam and Sons”. Only God knows when it will be, but it will be the happiest day of my life.