Tuesday, November 24, 2009
From an object of veneration to a tool to give vent to one’s rage—the descent for the footwear has been steep. When Rama was sent on vanwas, younger brother Bharata tried his best to persuade him back to Ayodhya. What he was able to bring back instead was a pair of Ram’s sandals, which he placed at the foot of the royal throne, as a mark of respect to the wronged brother. Bharata agreed to govern Ayodhya, not as its ruler, but only as Rama's representative.
As a prisoner in South Africa, Gandhiji made a pair of slippers for General Smuts, who had sent him unjustly to jail on three occasions. These slippers symbolize so effectively all that the Mahatma stood for, refusing to demonise even the oppressor.
Shoes help lift up the spirit and add to the melodrama of Indian weddings, when the bride’s sisters hide the groom’s footwear and demand a steep price from him to restore them.
Lest you feel that there could be no wrong step for the footwear, please sample the following sandal scandals.
For Imelda, wife of the infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, her legendary collection of expensive footwear represented a life-long passion, but did a lot of harm to her already tarnished image.
While excessive possession of shoes may bring you plenty of uninvited attention, your bare feet may not guarantee the desired peace of mind. Master painter MF Hussain learnt this the hard way, when he raked up a controversy, trying to enter a private club without slippers. Indian footballers were deprived of their hard earned berth in the Soccer World Cup because they had not learnt to play the game with boots.
After these trickle of skirmishes involving the footwear, the shoegates were really opened in the recent years. When the dreadful plans of the ‘shoe bomber’ were foiled mid air, it was realized by one and all that shoes could hold terrible possibilities. Of late shoes have established themselves as a popular implement for expressing dissent and more often than not, hatred. The targets of this popular political missile are the high and mighty, such as the American president, the Indian prime minister and home minister, a Supreme Court judge, a Bollywood actor and of course many vote-seeking netas.
All shoe flinging episodes produce a lot of uproar, and at times—as the recent Chidambaram incident has proved—the desired effect.