Postcard from... Nainital


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The Independent Online


Ridiculous, really. We’d barely started our eagerly-awaited walk around Nainital’s celebrated lake the lake when disaster struck.

A taxi-driver, looking for a fare, was driving too closely. Rather than ignore him, I’d turned and shook my head. The taxi driver accidentally drove over my foot. When I yelled at him, he promptly sped off.

My foot was only mildly bruised but the boot was split. It appeared as if our day was ruined. But on this one, like so many  in India, a solution was not too far from the problem. A few yards away, a shoe-shine and repair man had set up shop and I hopped towards him.

In the West we are accustomed to buying new gadgets simply because the battery on the one we have has worn out. In India things are fixed, repaired, reused, refashioned.  Yes, said the shoe-man, looking sightly surprised. Of course he could fix my boot.

And so I stood, one foot in the good boot, the other resting on the shoe-man’s spare sandal, and watched while he got to work with a large needle, thread and glue. Minutes later, it was repaired. He asked for the equivalent of a pound.

On a bright, clear afternoon, we completed a terrific circuit around the lake, stopping off for tea and a visit to a temple after which the town is named. After the noise and pollution of Delhi, the clean air and quiet of the Kumaon hills was a relief. Best of all, several weeks later, the boot is still going strong.