Whilst eating my dinner this evening at my local food court my friend and the repairer of my shoes - Mr. Santosh tapped me on the shoulder.
At the time I was chewing on a succulent piece of breast of duck and was reading an email on my Blackberry.
When Mr. Santosh tapped me I jumped a little in surprise.
I was also listening to music on my I-Pod whilst I was eating my dinner so I did not see nor hear Mr. Santosh approach. The song that I was listening to at the time was "Blinded by the Light" by the Manfred Man Earth Band.
I am that old.
The email that I was reading was a ridiculous diatribe on a non-sensical work matter that I had received from one of the not-so-bright English for whom I work.
I was on the verge of replying with a vitriolic attack but upon arrival of Mr. Santosh I decided to simply ignore and delete it instead.
"Good be evening to you Mr. Peter" Mr. Santosh beamed at me.
"It is most wondrous to be seeing you here and again"
"Good be evening to you Mr. Santosh" I replied.
"It is so nice to see you as well".
I stood up and we shook hands warmly.
"I am sorry I did not hear you. I was listening to my music" I apologized.
I unplugged my iPod and put down my Blackberry and invited Mr. Santosh to sit down and join me.
"But you are eating your most delicious roasted plate of meats and I will not be wanting to be interrupting you Mr. Peter"
"It is quite OK Mr. Santosh" I insisted and I pushed my plate to one side.
I had pretty much finished my meal anyway and it is always good to see Mr. Santosh.
I very much enjoy his company.
"I have eaten my fill and was about to get a cup of tea. Please join me"
"Are you being sure Mr. Peter?
"I am very sure Mr. Santosh"
I beckoned to a bespectacled young Singaporean waitress who was hovering near by and asked her if she could kindly bring Mr. Santosh and I some green tea. Mr. Santosh pulled up a chair and we both sat down. He immediately looked down at my shoes and made a disapproving clucking noise.
"Your shoes are being needing an immaculate of polishes Mr. Peter"
"They are a bit worse for wear,” I agreed.
I was wearing my fairly scruffy black work shoes that I have not polished for a while.
Mr. Santosh is a great connoisseur of shoes and a master cobbler.
I first met him and his delightful wife Mihika a couple of years ago at their small shop in Ballestier road. Mr. Santosh has repaired several pairs of my shoes and Mihika has taken up the hems on a couple of pairs of my trousers.
They are both delightful people who I am very fond of.
They are warm and genuine and they are kind and considerate.
"How is Mihika?" I enquired.
"Mihika is being luscious with great happiness Mr. Peter. Venya has being visiting and we are on the moon with great joy"
Venya is Mr. Santosh's daughter and only child. I have never actually met her as she is studying in New York. I have however been shown many photographs of her by Santosh and Mihika. She is in her final year of Law at NYU. They are quite rightfully very proud of her.
She is their everything.
"Venya is here now?" I asked.
"She is being and now going" Mr. Santosh replied.
"So she has gone?"
"Yes she is been gonning" he said sadly.
I could see tears well up in Mr. Santosh eyes when he told me this. The love he has for his daughter and the incredible pride he displays when he talks about her moves me a lot.
It touches and chokes me.
It has moved me before too when Mihika and he have shown me album after album of photographs that they have of her. I have seen nearly all of her school reports and academic achievements.
They keep these in plastic folders in their tiny shop.
Venya is a truly outstanding student. She has excelled in every subject that she has taken in High School and University and she has plans to be a Human Rights Lawyer. When she graduates she wants to return to India to help people less fortunate than herself.
She has inherited great qualities from her parents.
I think this is wonderful.
The adoration of her family is much deserved.
I have told Santosh and Mihika this on several occasions and they swell with pride.
Mr. Santosh and I had a very good chat over our tea. We talked about the game of cricket that we both love. We agreed that Australia deserved it’s win over India in the test series that had just concluded and we continued our long running debate as to whether the Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar is better than Donald Bradman.
We laughed and we verbally jousted on a number of subjects and time passed very quickly.
When Mr. Santosh departed he shook my hand with both of his and he once again expressed concern over the condition of my shoes. He invited me to come and drink tea with him and Mihika at their shop this weekend and I told him that I would. They are both very decent and nice people and I like visiting them at their shop and talking with them.
I like it a lot.
As Mr. Santosh left he told me, "You are pleased to be keeping very well Mr. Peter because you are be getting fatter and your eyes are looking most tired and in redness and puffiness"
I told Mr. Santosh that I had been working very long hours lately and I was in fact quite tired a lot of the time.
"You keep well too Mr. Santosh and please say hello to Mihika for me"
He grinned in delight and trotted off.
As I walked home I thought a lot about what great sacrifices Mr. Santosh and his wife have made for Venya. They work so very hard in their tiny shop to give their daughter every opportunity they possibly can.
My admiration of them is deep.
As I am writing this I have realized that I have written the word 'well' a couple of times. Once in the context of Mr. Santosh tears when he was telling me that Venya had come and gone from Singapore and again when he told me to be "keeping well".
The English language is a funny thing and there are many words like 'well' that have different meanings. It has made me think too about the hole-in-the-ground wells that I am rather fond of.
I don't really know why but I just like them.
The idea of digging a hole in the ground to find water appeals to me and there is some beauty and art in their construction.
These trains of thought made me dig into my photos to find some pictures of wells that I have collected over time. Here is a photograph of one that I took in Kathmandu.
This is a well near my friend Bhim's house.
This well is nearly always dry.
Virtually every well in Kathmandu is.
There is a water crisis in the dry season in Nepal.
There are many crises there in fact. Life is very tough. Bhim and his beautiful wife Saraswoti line up every day with hundreds of other Nepalese families to draw water from this well to drink and to wash with.
Often there is no water at all in the well.
Interestingly and coincidentally the most beautiful well that I have ever seen was in India.
It is spectacular and mind blowing.
I can assure you that this is a well.
It is a big and ancient one.
This well is located in a village called Abheneriin in Jaipur. This is in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The correct Hindi name of the well is Chand Baori but it also known as 'The Well of Many Steps" - for quite obvious reasons.
I shall show Mr. Santosh these pictures and ask him what Chand Baori actually means - and who built this wonder when I take tea with him and Mihika this weekend. He is very knowledgeable about all facts concerning his native India and I have no doubt at all that he will teach me something new.
He always does.
It is said that we never know the worth of water until the well runs dry.
I shall tell Mr. Santosh this too.
He normally likes such sayings.