It indeed is a very strange phenomenon that while the railway platforms of Mumbai, be it the main station or the local stations is studded with shoe-shinewalas, same numbers are rarely found on the platforms in North India. As a matter of fact, one has to search for the shoe shinewalas on the railway platforms in North India, while on the railway stations in and around Mumbai it is a very common occurrence. One often wonders why this phenomenon has not been commented upon.
Has it got something to do with the fact that the time is premium in Mumbai as compared to North India, as a result of the constraint, the residents being just able to manage to catch the transport to reach their work place a regularity, have to fall back upon the shoes shinewalas to do the needful. In case of North India on the other hand, the well-heeled rarely travel through public transport and have much time at their disposal to get their shoes polished either by themselves or the errand boys at home. Even in Southern part of the country, such proliferation of the shoe shinewalas on the railway platforms is a rare phenomenon, while it is a mushroom like in Mumbai and its adjoining suburbs.
Could it also be owing to the fact that Mumbai being a port city and all kinds of people coming in and going out, the shoe shinewalas have been used to gather intelligence by the police, which has not been the case either in North India or in South India? Scores of films have underlined this social reality of Mumbai right from the black and white era, down to the present times. But the moot point is, with the security consciousness being so abysmal in the country all over, would it not be prudent for the authorities to deploy these professionals on the railway platforms all across the country. Apart from providing a source of employment, it could serve as a very veritable cog for intelligence gathering.
Apart from doing a vital social service, these shoe shinewalas also help in keeping the area around which they sit clean and spick as it is their business outlet. So, in their own little way they help in cleaning the railway platforms as well. May be, the time has come to give a thought about creating the outlets of such kind in North India as well. After all, when an individual goes to his house with shinning and neat and clean shoes and sandals, or to his office, it gives him or her look of confidence.