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My only pair of high heels make my feet hurt and I rarely wear them. But I love them simply because my father-in-law pampered me with them!
Traditions. While some have come a long way, some you want to carry along your way!
June 14, 2018
“Abba, main ye lungi.” (Abba, I’ll get this)
“Ye?” (This?) He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
An hour before this conversation, Abba and his three bahus – Saumya, Sadaf, and Amreen – were maundering on the streets of the Naveen market, Kanpur. Chand raat, an eve of Eid ul-Fitr, had decked the town like double-decker Chandani Chowk.
I have never been a shopaholic, and the introvert in me detests the sight of the crowd. Yet, there I was, standing with all of them, finding peace within me while my devranis stooped at the very sight of each bling placed on shacks. They wanted choodis and clutches, bags, and bangles while I wanted space and air, sleep, and peace.
Even though I say I wanted to stay aloof, I assure I am there with my girl squad for one primal reason – Every home has its own story, and if you try, you become a part of their story.
“Pata hai Bhabhi jab hum chotey they hamara poora ghar Ramzan se pehle shopping kar leta tha Eid ki, lekin sandals, wo nahi khareede jaatey they. Ek dastoor tha ki Chand raat ko hi wo lena hai. Aap keh saktey hai ki wo ek riwaaj tha,” (You know, when we were younger, our whole family went shopping for Eid right before Ramzaan but the only thing we didn’t get was footwear. It was almost a ritual to buy them on the night of Chand raat. Almost like a tradition for us) Sadaf told me excitedly one day back on Chand-raat in 2011. It was the first for us two as bahus.
And so she continues to do that even after marriage. Amreen, my baby devrani, abided by one tradition – to shop, and it isn’t exclusive only to Eid. She does shop 365 days a year, and I, the eldest and a recluse join these ladies because of riwaaj. The riwaaj of sisterhood, riwaaj of laughing when we experiment with unusual.
Their high spirits get to me, and I swear they remind me of kids who came out of Munshi Premchand’s Eidgah. Kisi ko chuski peeni hoti hai, toh kisi ko bhuddhi ke baal khane hotey hai, ek main hi hoon, Miya Hamid ki tarah chimta dhoondhti phirti hoon. (Someone wants an ice lolly and someone wants cotton candy. But I am the only one who, like Miya Hamid, keeps looking for a pair of tongs!)
So on that fateful night, as Abba insisted that I buy something for myself, I kept walking down the lane until a black beauty caught my attention. Standing in a showcase was a pair of 4 inches stiletto heel with a black exterior and a red bottom. They were tall, sleek, ready to be worn, and called out to me.
Now before I get to the pair of beauty, let me get it straightened that I have never worn a heel. Couldn’t. Can’t. Won’t! My all-time favourite wear is chappals followed by sports shoes. To the point that I have pleasured my foot with chappals on international flights too.
So when a comfort-over-fashion person like me walked in a high-scale showroom trying heels, everyone followed. And then I came face-to-face with the heels followed by a six-feet lean man leaning toward me.
“Abba, main ye lungi.” I said while facing him.
“Ye?” Abba squeaked while trying to hold his emotions. He took a short walk with his humpback and hands tied at the back. And looked at those heels from left and then from the right, then he looked at my feet, from left and then right. He mentally got all permutation and combination into consideration while I witnessed his discomfort forming words.
Then I did what I do best – I took the lead and put words to better use, “Mujhe pata hai mujhe heels pehan-ni nahi aati. Main gir jaungi, do-chaar daat toot jayenge, par Abba the heart wants what the heart wants.” (I know I can’t wear heels and I will definitely fall a few times and break my teeth) I smiled and looked at Shahzeel, who was standing outside eating chana jor garam. Well, mulla ki daud masjid tak.
“Miya Shahzeel ko tumne 16 saal ragad liya beta ji par ye heels do minute pao mein nahi tikaa paogi. Samjho meri baat,” (You may have gotten used to your husband for 16 years but you will barely last two minutes in these heel. Try and understand) Abba understood my metaphor.
I still couldn’t keep my eyes off it, and then Abba did something he often does as a father, something I don’t approve of as a parent. The core difference between Papa and Abba is – Papa has been a disciplinarian throughout his life. No means no, something which I take a notch higher while parenting Mysha.
Abba is lenient, which at times beautiful, is used to advantage most of the time. Anyhow, this very characteristic of him made him talk to the shopkeeper two minutes later, “Nikalo beta, 5 number, beti sahiba yehi pehnengi.” (Get the shoes in a size five. My daughter-in-law will wear these)
Before I could react, Sadaf and Amreen almost pushed me on the brown sofa and started analysing the shoes at the display. And then the moment came, the black beauty found my some-what toned feet. The heels were slightly slid on my feet till it clicked and then zipped by a golden hook at the back, it had found its place.
As I stood, I finally matched Shahzeel’s eyes. I could have given bird’s eye view on some products as “aaj main upar, aasmaan neeche.” Everyone had an expression to convey their feelings.
Shahzeel, “Lene do mui ko, jab giregi tab poochunga heroine ko.” (Let her buy it. Once she falls, she’d understand)
Sadaf and Amreen, “Jach rahi ho, Bhabhi.” (They look great on you, bhabhi!)
Abba, “Achi bahut hai jab tak bachi raho.” (They look good as long as you’re safe)
Salesman, “Ab ye Didi le lengi. Aaj commission achi milegi.” (Once she buys it, I’ll get a good commission)
And then the haggling started.
“Babu ji, aap design dekhe, buckle ki chamak dekhe. Iski polish kabhi nahi jayegi.”, said the smart salesman.
“Beta ye baal na aise hi safed nahi hue. 13 saal ki umar se dukaan-daari kar raha hoon. Customers ko sheshe mein kaise utarna hai ache se pata hai. Meston road mein meri dukaan hai, ye raha card, kabhi aa jana kuch leather products lene.” Abba will also be a dukaan-daar first.
So after a good uthayi-patak, what started at 3,500 came down to 2,500 bucks, and I know we still provided a decent margin. But Abba put up a good fight with his street-smart attitude.
Much like Hamid, I got my chimta ulf heels home. And the moment I opened them, everyone clapped in its honour. I wore them and gave a beauty pageant walk with people on both sides waiting to hold me if I fumble, but I survived.
Later that day, my six-year-old came and sat next to me. He looked at those heels at the corner of my room “Mummy, aap ye heels pehan ke chal payengi?” he sounded curious.
“Kyun? Tumhe lagta hai tumhari Badi-Maa buddhi ho gayi hai?”
The boy did not respond but smiled and kept looking at that footwear. “Affu Bhai, ek promise raha, jis din tum dulhan laogey, main muh-dikhayi mein yehi 4 inches ki heel dungi apni bahu ko. Sahi hai?” I questioned.
The boy smile broadened as he ran out of the room. “Aur suno Affu Bhai, make sure tumhari Cindrella ka pao 5 number ka ho!” I yelled as he left.
Haye mera sharmila banna!
Several times I have tried placing those heels on my feet, but that walk has been painful. I’m sure you all have something you love, you own, but you can’t utilise it. It’s just an obsession with possession.
So every time I take them out, feeling resurfaces. The black beauty and I share a moment, maybe a picture, and then off it goes in its bag on the shoe shelf.
It’s an expensive, uncomfortable love affair. So what if we weren’t meant for each other, pyaar ek tarfa bhi hota hai. I loved them, still do. But I wish they accepted my feet like their own. When I give them my feet, they reciprocate pain, but I have gained good memories with them.
At least, I have a future planned for them. I am keeping it for my future-bahu-to-be, you know the one with feet size 5. Why? Because some traditions you design along the way!
Abba had this tradition of accompanying his bahus, and one day, God willing, I will walk with mine – in high heels, maybe!
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Photo provided by the author
I did my MBA in finance and was part of the corporate world of market research for 5.5 years (on and off). I'm a mother of a beautiful and demanding baby girl. I' read more...
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