Wednesday, June 12, 2013
FOOT STEPS AND FOOTWEAR
Wisdom is the filtered genius of the empirical truths in a given period of time. Bhagavad Geetha is the epitome of wisdom, not of a community, of a religion, of a nation- but of a civilization. It is a time tested treasure trove of knowledge - malleable, plastic and yet resilient and importantly yields to interpretation of each period. Every scholar and religious head of every period interpreted the great text in each generation because of its time tested adaptability.
Here is one edicts propounded by the great text. Yadyadacharati shresta tattadevetarojanaha, Sayat pramanamkurute lokastadanuvathate. Whatever the outstanding of the community does, the rest will follow. Whatever standard he sets, the world pursues.
The 68th Pontiff of Kanchi Peetham Sri Chandrasekharendra Mahaswami was a recluse, sanyasi- a seer who relinquished everything in life and yet he religiously used to observe all the rituals prescribed to the commonest of common man. Because he was the Shrestha and Jagadguru- the Supreme teacher of the community and he always led his community by precept.
The common man looks up to his elders to get guided by what he is supposed to do or not supposed to do. The guru’s action is the unwritten law to him and a silent prescription to imbibe and follow. This is true of any rituals, chores, habits, fancies and even his way of thinking. Now, let us see the interesting flip side of this with regard to Christian Papacy.
Pope Benedict XVI Supreme Pontiff emeritus, the only Pope to step down in the history of Vatican in the last 600 years- had some peculiar things to readjust soon after his retirement, as it never happened before in its long chain of events. Besides many things, the Pope has a tradition of using red shoes during the time of his exalted position of his office. But what about a Pope when he has retired? It never happened before. This is the first and only time. Hence, there is no precedent. So the Vatican asked him as to what he would wear? The signature red shoes of the papacy? For Pope Benedict also, this is an intriguing question, because he never knew the answer. He had to create one. He said, however that he would manage with the handcrafted brown loafers gifted to him during his trip to Leon, Mexico in 2012. A loafer is a shoe shaped like moccasin with a flat heel. A person with humility and frugal living, his choice was very logical yet simple. But what he does not anticipate or foresee was a big avalanche that befell consequently.
Since Pope chose to prefer the particular Mexican leatherware in his retirement, the business of Ackermans, a shoe company owned by Armando Martin Duefias- of Leon, Mexico jumped up by 30 percent! Martin Duefias is the third generation cobbler whose family made shoes and who gifted the loafers to the Pope, was thrilled at the endorsement of the great Pontiff for a small gesture he had done during his visit. Now the demand for brown loafers soured. He is receiving calls and emails from all over the world for shoes. Leon is virtually the shoe capital of Mexico with 70 per cent of shoes made here since 400 years. The city is known for mining, emigration and strong Roman Catholicism. They have been doing this business for hundreds of years. The town- Leon does not simply make shoes, but worships them. Shoes are a way of life for Leonese. Martin says that people in Leon may not have more money, but they will surely have quality shoes. Even his wife gets the first pair of every shoe he makes.
His mother, Demis Duefias took a master’s degree in theology and the family is very religious minded. His business- though with 56 employees, is still a family affair. His mother occupies the chair next to him on the floor just above the production line. She came up with this idea of delivering an appropriate gift to the visiting Pope of the highest quality footwear. And since Martin was then the president of the local shoe industry association, he had little competition. They took six months of trial and error to arrive at a right design and colour. They didn’t want to compromise their character nor the signature of their company- but wanted to make a comfortable and elegant pair of shoes.
When the retired Pope chose the particular moccasins, the entire Catholic church made a beeline ordering a pair or two of different colours of shoes. Every parishioner, every pastor is asking for the variety- which has now become a symbol and style.
Now Martin is anxiously reaching the Vatican to study the shoe size and choices of Pope Francis, the reigning Pontiff. How much does he charge for this choicest variety? Normally his most popular shoe costs $230, but this particular shoe? This is taking up with God. This is priceless.