I read a story where a king met a sage in the forest and after paying obeisance assured him he would give whatever he wished for. The sage to king’s surprise asked for his kingdom. The king readily agreed and stepped aside. The sage immediately ordered that king’s consorts in the harem to become maids and the maids as consorts. He put the jailer and the warders inside the prison and the prisoners as warders. He sent the courtiers to the fields and the farmers to the court. He made a young man as prince and had the former prince whipped. He replaced the sentries at the gate. The affected people complained to the old king while the others expressed happiness. The king just kept quiet.
After a fortnight the sage gave back the kingdom to the king saying his purpose was served. Perplexed the king asked him what the purpose was. The sage said “The queen and your other consorts were abusing and harassing the maids and never knew of their problems. The jailer and warders were ill treating prisoners and making their lives unhappy. The courtiers never knew the sufferings of the people and were feeding you with false information. You were pleased with their praises. The arrogant prince lashed everybody for slightest reason. The sentries at the gate were taking money for allowing people. Now all of them got taste of their own medicine and hopefully realized their mistakes. Rule the country well.” The king bowed to him in gratitude as the sage left.
The message in this story is that we would realize the sufferings of others only when we think in terms of their feelings by putting ourselves in their positions. The rulers if they walk in the shoes of the poor (only metaphorically as poor do not have shoes) they will know the abject poverty and miserable living conditions of sizable chunk of population. With prices sky high and income abysmally low living in dirty slums with scanty water and no toilet, no schools or clinics, the rulers will run helter skelter to their comfort zones. Officials will know how hard it is to get things done without bribing. Traders will know dearly the consequences of adulteration and doctors will know how patients are fleeced. The list is endless.
This walking in others shoes applies to all human relations too, the way others are treated at homes, offices and public places. We would experience their travails and difficulties instead of blaming them. There will be better understanding between spouses, parents and children, bosses and employees, teachers and students, lawyers and litigants and importantly the rulers and the ruled. It is only then when our perspective has changed that we will know where the shoe really pinches. One can say confidently then ‘I know what problems you are going through and I will do what I can to redress’. But as of now the powerful stay comfortably cocooned away from the weak oblivious of the ground reality. It may perhaps be considered naïve but it is time we constantly ask ourselves what it is like to walk a mile in another’s shoes.