26 October, 2020

The Padukastra Paradox

Ambivalence marks the Indian attitude to feet and footwear

Illustration by Sorit
The Padukastra Paradox
Indians, adept at innovative, inventive jugaad, discovered the uses of footwear as weaponry long before that Iraqi journalist won international fame and acclaim hurling his shoes at George W. Bush, the former US president. Media images of our Vidhan Sabhas after a debate, littered with the abandoned chappals of irate MLAs, along with a few broken chairs, are all too familiar. As early as 1971, Indira Gandhi had a sandal chucked at her by an angry Telanganaite when she canvassed for my father in Hyderabad. India always leads the world! The recent spate of pre-election shoe-chucking only calls attention to the range and eclecticism of our footwear—from Jarnail Singh’s Reeboks to the wooden khadau aimed at Advani.

Perhaps it’s because India was by tradition a primarily barefoot country that footwear has taken on such diverse and multi-faceted incarnations and associations. By some curious sociological quirk, feet have always been reverenced, while footwear is considered unclean. Nevertheless, footwear has also taken on more...



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