The story I still find myself trying to run away from is the need to fit in.

I remember an incident when I was a teenager shopping for shoes in Mumbai, India, on a street famous for footwear vendors.  Growing up in India where the average woman is 5’ or maybe 5’ 2” at most, I stood out at 5’ 7”. I would be heckled for being too tall or skinny. I would hunch down while standing in public transport since men were usually shorter than me. Size 9-1/2 shoes weren’t available to women except in expensive shoe stores. While my friends managed to find pretty footwear right away on that shopping trip, we were still walking up and down the street unsuccessful in finding me a pair. One vendor fervently tried to make a sale with, “Just stuff your foot in. The shoe will fit.”

I woke up on February 5, 2015 at 4:30 a.m. feeling completely rested even though I had had much less than my preferred 7-1/2 hours sleep. I donned on my well-used pinkish-burgundy (or burgundyish-pink) parkha, wrapped my neck with the only scarf I’ve knit and pulled on my custom-made matching toque. I was excited and ready to make my biggest purchase yet.

I walked about half an hour until I reached the edge of town. No more street lights … but I had no trouble seeing. I had found my north star and it led me to the right place.

His lights were on and George opened the door even before I knocked.

“You’re ready for this,” he said, as he handed me his work of art – my first pair of Leadership boots. The body was made of leather. I knew George was a trapper and wondered what animal hide this was but the cobbler didn’t seem particularly chatty. The sole was well-lugged and solid and would support my arched foot. The toe box was deceptive – narrow on the outside but lots of room for my ever-expanding toes. I observed that the fur padding was removable – phew, I wouldn’t need a new pair for the warmer months. I felt the metal shank beneath the insole. George must have got Luke, the blacksmith to make these for him.

“I can’t afford this. I’ve never owned anything like this,” I vented the last of my doubts.

“It’s been waiting for you. The coffee will be ready anytime you want to share the adventures these take you on,” said George and turned his back to work on his next pair.

Even before I tried it on, I knew it would fit perfectly and was cut out for the job. It had to safely walk me for the next five years and more.

The boots were made to actualize making a living as a Community Economic Development facilitator.

By Rashmi Narayan
January 2015