Yadav: Barefoot Mzuzu businessman

To his customers, businessperson Shailendra Yadav is just another Indian trying to eke a living from selling hardware items.

But to those who get a chance to talk to him, he is a living person extraordinaire.

Sitting back comfortably in his maroon chair making money from sales from his hardware shop in Mzuzu, breathing the sweet incense-scented air, no one can notice the barefeet that he has been carrying for almost 11 years now unless you look carefully.

It is happening today in the 21st century and in Mzuzu.

Back in time between the late 1990s and before 2003, Yadav’s sister (name withheld) could not bear a child. She travelled far and wide, but doctors could not cure her problem and that depressed her brother a lot.

“You see, marriage is nothing if you have no kids; my sister tried UK, Malawian and Indian doctors, but they couldn’t fix her problem. That had made me very concerned,” he said.

Yadav then did something drastic: He frequented the temple and pleaded with one of the Hindu gods, Jay MatuJi, to let his sister have a kid. Seven months later, the sister was still childless.

“I then asked Jay Matuji to give my sister a kid and I would stop wearing shoes for 21 years. I pleaded with him to take any of my body parts but give my sister a kid.”

Praying had failed, he needed to give away something, and he chose shoe rights. Yadav says he chose 21 years because it was the longest period he could think of, “a period long enough for one to get rich and miss their shoes,” he says.

Two months later, the sister called from Chotila, India to announce that she was expecting. Yadav naturally was ecstatic. The sister gave birth to a daughter.

It is his belief that it was the gods and prayers that did the trick.

From that day up to date, Yadav has not owned a shoe nor borrowed one, and it’s been a thorny road. At the time of the interview, he had a bandage on his left foot, which is only natural considering the fact that he runs a shop that sells nails, iron sheets, metal and many sharp items.

To Yadav: “It’s just God’s way of tempting me, sting me so that I can get a shoe, but I am not doing that.”

Yadav declares that there is nothing that can befall him if he can put on some sneakers, Clarks or Timberlands but says it’s a question of commitment to one’s God. That’s why he didn’t just leave the praying to his two other elder brothers but took it personal.

He has posters of Jesus Christ and plenty of Hindu gods all pasted on one place, and he is at peace to explain his ambivalence.

“I believe in both Christianity and Hinduism. I went to a Christian school and my teacher was Christian and teachers are usually one’s role models,” he says.

But if you believe in Christ, doesn’t he forbid worshipping of other gods? Not to Yadav, Hinduism preaches peace just like Christianity, he says.

“Just like the Hindu gods like Shree Ram, Shree Krishna and Shree Ganesh, Issa [Jesus] is also God and I wouldn’t hurt a god especially the one that preaches peace.”

But he confesses that he misses his shoes. At parties, marriages and big gatherings – very few would understand a barefooted shop owner but to Yadav, it is a question of faith and he is not giving up his faith.

His niece, whom he sacrificed his shoes for, is only 10 which means Yadav has more years to go without shoes.

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