It was a hot May afternoon when the maestro Jimmy Choo had come to Delhi. As he met some of the best lifestyle writers in the city, I was wiping my brow and managing his spoilt minders, the simple, unassuming man just sat quietly in a room in Connaught Place, answering query after query.
I had just about managed to tell him how much I admired him and his work and that I could possibly never afford a pair designed by him. Without a word, he pulled a sheet of paper, looked at my feet (smiling at my kitten heels which I wear with saris) and drew an outline of what would have been the perfect shoe for me. With a flourish, he signed it and gave it to me, even remembering that my name is spelt with a double “o”. That touched me more and I vowed that, one day, maybe one day I will be able to buy his six-inch heels!
Women and shoes have an addictive relationship, truly obsessive and frankly a bit freaky. Men better not go there, it is an inexplicable bond. I got my first pair of fancy shoes when I had turned 13... a pair of exquisite block heels in ivory with a strap and a buckle. It immediately made me tower over others, kept my shins straight and the chin at an angle.
'If it wasn’t a Manolo, it wasn’t worth it (though he is the other great shoe man).'
I felt stylish, older and sophisticated. Little did I know that they were the famous Mary Janes but since then I have had, like many other women, a never-will-we-separate love affair with shoes. Beyond reasonable doubt, I actually felt sorry for Imelda Marcos when she had to leave her shoes behind and escape in a pair of espadrilles. Though they can be gorgeous, too.
Having attained my adulthood at the height of the punk movement aka Boy George kind of funky fun, I had high heels in hot pink which I used to parade in at my leftist university. The socialists shouldn’t have bothered trying to get me on board with the imminent fall of the state if they had any sense, were they to judge me by my shoes. Which magenta shoe wearing girl would have the makings of a revolutionary, I wondered especially if it was based on collectivism! I would give up the world but now my shows.
My best days came in the form of a trip to a building in Connaught Place that sold extraordinary shoes: and I just loved that patent pair in lavender though I didn’t have a stitch to go with it.
For us poor undergrads, the rows on Janpath provided great shoe solace. All of us bought them cheap and exchanged with each other to match the outfits. As we grew older and entered the workplace, the excuse of having to create a formal wardrobe became a reason to begin what I have always wanted: a definitive collection of black footwear.
Diva-like strappy sandals, small heels for Indian wear, jaunty, pointy shoes for skirts, patent designs for the evening, black boyish ones for trousers, long, sexy boots for winter. I once had 16 pairs of black footwear just for the summer and at least six pairs of boots for the short-month long winter in Delhi. I once kept a pair of high heels I got at a fancy British store, wrapped in felt for three years as I couldn’t bring myself to unleash them on a hot and dusty Delhi pavement.
Then the candy colours came back and I was in shoe heaven. I bought beautiful ones in tangerine and lime green. Bright yellow slip ons and turquoise mules. The sky was the limit. I once picked up a discarded supermarket flyer somewhere in a European city which showed a glamorous pair of slinky heels in caramel with a small metal thingie and it was so beautiful that without knowing a word, I took cab, poking at the address with a witch’s finger to overcome the language barrier.
We went all the way through transit costs just to get my hands on that toffee-coloured, divine shoe and I even rubbed my cheek on them, emanating a satisfied mew. I really did, seriously!
I would rather not go to family thingies or weddings, but if I do, I always start with footwear. Then I build it up northwards. If the shoe shines brightly, I would by the cheapest sari to go with it and I have bought yardage in lace or even in crepe for the shoe to be the star of the show.
Grace aka Jane Fonda knows the true power of stilettoes and she would rather lose a friend than a shoe. We should all mention the Sex and the City series but I am unable to praise as it was more about brand obsession. If it wasn’t a Manolo, it wasn’t worth it (though he is the other great shoe man). Whereas a true believer would buy a great shoe anywhere as long as it sets her heart racing.
That’s what a shoe is to me: a giver of confidence and of elan. Where my soles enhance my self-image and allow me to project a face which is often falling apart behind the scenes. But the moment I slip my feet into a pair of pale pink, double broad strap sandals and a battered pair of trousers, I look down and I appear to be standing higher than I should be, I know I will fly for the rest of the day.
Shoes mark me as the post-modern, sexy feminist who embraces her identity with unabashed delight and no thought of egalitarianism. You see men can never carry off the heels like we do!