The US of A finally stamped its visa in my black pocketbook. Jazz fusion played in my ear, songs from an album fittingly titled This Meets That. I floated out of the document collection center in Nehru Place, New Delhi.
My flight was in three days, and I had just enough time for a few final chores. One of them was to get my old hard drive fixed, a sweet metaphor for carrying past through present into the future.
I also had to pack, for which I needed to buy a suitcase, and for which in turn I thought I would make a long-planned trip to the Army Canteen. All in good time, I told myself lazily, craning my neck and twirling around 360 degrees, training my eyes on the high-rise office buildings on one side of the road.
“What are you on?” a voice asked from the other side.
A man surrounded by a laboratory of shoeshine apparatus flashed teeth like piano keys, grinning as I returned to Delhi’s scents of chewing tobacco, chaat masala and wax polish. I recalled I had a hard drive to fix and a building to find. Perhaps, I thought, the man could point me in the right direction. I looked at him properly for the first time: kind but bloodshot eyes, tattered polyester shirt, and distinguished grey hair; a man who owned no shoes, yet knew everything about shoes, who shone shoes for people who...
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