“Break Your Glass Slippers”
Alka wiped the blackboard clean. A collective groan issued from the gaggle of middle-graders behind her. She suppressed a smile; a day in a teacher’s life wouldn’t be complete until her charges have had their chance to complain.
“Weren’t we reading Cinderella today? I wrote the title in cursive!” One moaned, as Alka faced her class.
“Was that you, Srishti?” she asked, smiling at a pigtailed girl dressed in a yellow jumpsuit. “Very creative, my dear.”
Srishti grinned, all whining forgotten.
“Cinderella! You promised!” Niketan complained from the last bench.
“All right, you guys.” Alka raised her hands. “I did promise. But, not Cinderella. I’ll tell you a different story.”
Thirty pairs of disgruntled pre-teen eyes stared at her.
“It’s about magical shoes,” she crooned in a sing-song.
The class erupted in excited applause. It took another fifteen minutes for the hyperactive audience to settle down; and then Alka began.
Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived a humble life in a humble town. She was smart, intelligent and read many books. And although she was very poor, she had a secret closet full of shoes.
One day, her best friend came to visit. When she saw the closet, she was shocked! All the shoes were old. Some ripped, some frayed, some broken beyond repair.
“Why do you keep these old shoes all locked up and secure, when your only pair of new shoes are lying outside, gathering dust?” She asked her friend in wonder.
The old woman’s face glowed with pride. “The old shoes are souvenirs of the life that I have lived in them; mementos of all the places I have been. These are not just shoes; these are dreams realized and wishes fulfilled!”
“But, you can’t wear them any more. Why preserve them?”
The old woman shrugged. “Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t mean that we preserve nothing; cherish nothing. People hoard and safeguard clothes, jewellery and shoes for special occasions; to be used some day. For me, every day is special. I fill my treasures with life and then safeguard those memories.”
“They will not last, but in my lifetime, they bring me joy; not the possibility of happiness, but true, tangible happiness. And that is enough for me.”
Her friend was amazed. “You make it sound so simple; like everyone should already know this.”
“Should they? I think so.” The old woman mused. “But, do they? I’m afraid not.”
Alka looked at the sea of upturned faces; they had listened with such rapt attention, she knew an outburst was just around the corner.
Srishti sat up in her chair and pulled at her braids. “I’d like to have a pair of old shoes,” she said.
“Yeah, me too,” said Niketan.
“Count me in!” Parva chimed.
Alka smiled as everyone started talking; about the places they wished to visit and the life they wished to fill in their shoes.
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