Former Australian cricketer Steve Waugh, who is in India with regards to the current India-Australia series, visited Varanasi to perform the last rites for Brian Rudd, a popular, homeless shoe-shiner in Sydney at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi.
“A lot of guys live on the street and they are very very sick. They are mentally ill. And these guys do suffer a hell of a lot, okay. And it’s not their fault. I’ve seen people wast past and abuse them and laugh at them you know, and it’s pretty sad. So if you do come across these people, please stop and buy them a coffee or something and make them feel like they’re part of society because a lot of people do die on the street. So please support these guys.And I also do a show shine.So ifyou’ve a dirty pair of shoes please step over and support me. I’d be extremely grateful, thank you,” Brian Rudd in a video.
Up until his death two months ago, 58-year-old shoe-shiner, Brian Rudd (better known as Shoeshine Brian in Sydney) lived a destitute life. The homeless man would ply his trade at Sydney’s Central Station, Martin Place and on the Pitt Street Mall.
Brian, wearing his signature skull cap over long grey hair, became popular thanks to his wit and kindness (despite the hardships he faced).
In the last few months of his life, he got only about eight customers a day, but Brian longed to have the interaction with his clients and to tell them about his life story. Separated from his family when three months old, Brian grew up in various boys’ homes, where he was treated cruelly (he even attempted suicide at 12), before he met Father Bob Maguire, who set up a foundation for the homeless after seeing the 17-year-old’s plight (he knew about Brians wish).
Brian had a life-long wish, and that was to visit India. However, when he realized that his wish look increasingly improbable, Brian instead asked for his ashes to be scattered in the Ganges in Varanasi, adhering to the Hindu belief that the ritual frees one from the cycle of life and death.
Such was Brians’ popularity that Steve Waugh had to compete with many, who were ready to shoulder the responsibility (including an Australian living in India, and a local businessman).
There are plans to have a ‘Shine for Brian Day’ (in his memory) where Australian cricketers and CEOs will shine shoes to raise funds for the homeless.
Photo: Peter Rae