It was 7:53 AM. In just about 7 minutes the school assembly was going to start and Arjun, a class 9 student, had just those few minutes to turn his shabby-looking canvas shoes into sparkling ‘white’ ones. Arjun wasn’t alone, though. Almost his entire class was frantically hustling around looking for ways to attain the same. 7 minutes turned to 5 and there it was, the solution, waiting on the ledge of the huge green chalkboard: the white chalk. He picked it up and rolled it over the darkened part of his white shoes to cover the dirt marks. And, so did everyone else, turn by turn, because there were always a limited number of those available.
The fashionistas of the world may be going crazy over the new fad of white sneakers but us, the 90s kids, were hip way before the craze even took off.
We wore them to school. Every day. It is safe to say that we gave rise to a trend that promises a ‘here to stay’ kind of a vibe.
We had two uniforms in school. A checked short sleeved shirt along with a navy-blue skirt and another was a house tee-shirt paired with a white skirt. The only thing that remained constant were the white canvas shoes along with milky white socks. Honestly, I loved them. They were super comfortable and looked oh-so-stylish.
They were on our feet when we sneakily ate lunch on the last bench during the first period while the teacher had absolutely no idea what we were up to. We bunked classes in them and went to the canteen guy for some gourmet samosas. We ran and played basketball in them. Who needed sneakers when we had our beloved canvas shoes? We endured the long and hardcore P.T periods where we were made to do these ridiculous exercises where our posture changed at every number - 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1 - under the hot, scorching sun (why, even?).
The worst, although, were the assemblies.
Our white shoes were always dirty AF. The thing is why wouldn’t they be? We roamed all day long in those. We did just about everything in those. We sat on the ground wherever and we kicked everything coming our way. Keeping ‘em white canvas shoes white was rocket science, indeed. So, basically our shoes have made us witness what we call the worst punishment of all times: being picked up for dirty shoes during the pathetic school assemblies and made to stand in a special line called the defaulters. It there were awards given for a defaulter for the highest number of times - I’d get that award hands down.
But, there were days, or rather nights before school which I would completely dedicate to cleaning ‘em canvas shoes because I loved them and I had no wish to stand in the defaulters line the next day. I would first dip them in water. Use a thick brush to rub the dirt out of them. Don't forget the laces, we gotta rub them too. Dry them for a bit and then apply the heavenly milky white polish that came with this fancy roll on. Rolling the white polish on my shoes was my favourite bit of the cleaning process. And, then you leave them to dry overnight right under the fan. To make sure that they do dry by school-time next day, I’d keep them on a chair for extra air from the fan.
The morning would dawn in and there they would be, shining as bright as the moon with a layer of white polish, talking of the excitement that I felt of going to school that day and looking at the teacher in her eye, like, “Now put me in the defaulters line, yo!’ and she would look back, defeat clearly visible in her eyes as they move from my shoes to my eyes, walking past me. Nothing, except my happy feet, could replicate that feeling of victory.
And when they would get torn beyond repurposing, our parents would take us to buy a new pair.
Shopping for these was a magical time indeed. This one time I remember that my old P.T shoes torn from the toe of my left foot and so my parents got me a size 7 instead of a size 6. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t contain the happiness within for I was growing into a bigger adult who wears a size 7.
Our canvas shoes brought out the finest creativity within us.
Not only were they the reason we knew how to tie laces but fixing ‘em was like an obstacle we’d face every morning. We founds chalks that came to our rescue right before the morning assembly but when they weren’t there, we’d find unconventional ways like using whiteners and white poster colours.
And, when there was nothing available, you could always pretend to fall sick and your shoes would just smile back at you like they were saying, “You’re amazing! Maybe you should try your hand at acting or something.”
Well, personally, that was the reason I joined the drama club at school because my beautiful canvas shoes, inside and out, told me to do so.
What wonderful memories you have given me. Nothing can ever replace my almost white canvas shoes.