«Bare feet upon burning asphalt»
My sandals have been with me on the roads of Tanzania in the past year, and they have served me well this year in Mozambique, but in India they fell apart. At the worst possible moment. With the whole day still ahead, before me was a choice to be made - to keep going with a torn sandal and pull it along the pavement behind me, which felt impossible, or to remove my sandals and walk barefoot until we reach the nearest market or store.
So I ended up walking barefoot.. In the heat of the day (around 14:00), the asphalt was so hot on some sections of the road that I had to tiptoe through it. I probably have never payed so much careful attention to my feet. Whoever has been to India knows that the streets are not the cleanest, but rather there is dirt everywhere, residue from food, small shards of glass.. So I walked this road.. My steps quickly reduced and I began to fall behind the rest of the group as it was hard to walk. I thought of different methods so as to walk better.. On my tip-toes, on the heels of my feet or just step with my whole foot. We passed by a market where they were cutting chicken nearby and along the way, right there in the open, were two cows.. In India this is a sacred animal, therefore nobody can touch it.. As I continued walking, I tried to pass this dirt under my feet and carefully watched every step I took but my feet just burnt more and more from this asphalt. My friend constantly had to slow down her pace and look back at me so that I could catch up with her on the narrow streets of Kolkata. I walked barefoot for a whole 15 minutes with every minute stretching longer than the first.
When we approached the market, I bought myself some new sandals that cost around $1, however, my feet continued to burn for another hour.. This $1 seems like nothing and yet a majority of the people here walk barefoot because to spend a few dollars on some shoes is simply an unaffordable price.
I never would have thought that such a small, rubber sandal, that separated my feet from the asphalt, makes a great difference in how fast I can walk, how comfortable I could be and how far I could go.. I don't know if you've ever thought about it but I never even considered that while my sandals were whole how hot the asphalt was, how hard it was to walk on, and how different your road becomes.. So this is the conclusion I came to..
You can be walking on the same road you've always been walking on, see the same houses, streets, people.. but you will only understand the reality of the journey of another person when you put on their shoes.
What would we have learned if we were able to at least walk a small section of the road with their bare feet? What would we see through their eyes? Would we feel their skin? Know the worries of their hearts? Maybe next time before we judge the poor for their way of life we should walk a little on their path and feel their hunger and thirst. Then see the person in front of you dressed in rags, who just like you, wants to drink and eat. Whose feet also feel the pain when walking on this hot and burning asphalt.