‘Gandhi and the One-shoe Syndrome’

Share This Post

2nd Oct, 2023

One of my favourite stories from the life of the Mahatma is set on a train & for me, it defines what made him a true giant among men.

As the young Gandhi climbed on to a moving train, one of his shoes slipped off.

As he bent to try and grab it, it slithered down to the track, while the train gathered momentum.

In a flash, Gandhi reached for his other shoe and threw it towards the fast-disappearing other shoe on the track.

A perplexed onlooker wondered aloud if Gandhi had indeed lost it completely. Gandhi explained: ‘Ah well, if someone is to find one of my shoes, hopefully he’ll find the other one too, and thus have a fine new pair for himself!’

What a man, what a wonderful instinctive response!

In this age of greed & never-ending wants and the growing multitude of the unhappy rich, it strikes me that we can all take a leaf out of the Mahatma’s book.

If you or I were in the Mahatma’s shoes, how would we have reacted?

Probably felt miserable for the rest of the journey, at the loss of a new shoe, complained about the callousness of the railway system, cursed the engine driver who had caused the loss.

Worried about how we’d manage once we reached our destination, that one lost shoe would have played on our mind all the way, piling on the misery.

Unfortunately, we tend to focus on what we don’t have. Our mind zeroes in on what we’ve lost, That another shoe.

And we carry that burden of loss, adding to our woes. When instead we could so easily focus on what we have—and see if that could be of use to someone.

Giving away that second shoe didn’t just make some poor Indian happy, it made Gandhi happier too.

Perhaps it’s time we all shifted focus.

Instead of jostling to become go-getters—wanting more, more, more—we ought to learn to become go-givers – Learning to give – Learning to share.

Instead of spending our waking lives worrying about the shoe that got away, perhaps we should thank God for the shoe we still have & discover how giving it away could make us & someone else, happier.

It’s not just about material possessions, but also about love & respect.

Learning to give, rather than longing for more, could make all of us happier & the world a better place.

This ‘go-giving’ attitude has to become second nature, Instinctive almost.

It would not have helped

Gandhiji to have realized half an hour into the train ride that the solitary shoe was of no use—and he might as well give it away. It worked because he thought of it right there, right then.

Too often, we find ourselves discussing in the comfort of our homes how we should have—could have—helped someone & done our bit. When the moment passes, the opportunity sadly vanishes too.

So, here’s an action commitment to make, today.

Become a go-giver, not a go-getter, Help someone.

Share what you have and discover the joys of not having to worry about the shoe that got away & stay blessed forever.