She had always been a trainers and chappals kinda girl. Comfort ranked high in her list of reasons-to-buy-shoes. Heels and she never mixed well because those long, arduous hours of bussing tables, travelling in rickety buses and walking a mile to save a tenner could never be managed with heels on. Then again, it’s not like she ever had the luxury of buying them. Bills, tuition and rent were her priority. Everything else could wait… she would tell herself.
So when she joined a swanky firm and was introduced to office life in the Metro, she was befuddled. Her attire was called commonplace and her chappals were termed shoddy. Her worth was being evaluated by what brands she wore and workplace fashionistas wouldn’t deign to talk to her. Her mother always told her – adapt and adjust. So she figured it was time she adapted too.
She combed the local market for the perfect pair – black and lofty. Her feet were small for a woman. So it was hard. One had the right fit, but the wrong colour, the other had the right colour but the wrong heel… Choices, choices, choices and yet the perfect pair eluded her, till she found them on display in a corner of the corner shop. She tried them on just once. It was a match made in heaven…Love at first sight!
At home she cleared up a space for her prized twos in the center of the spartan shoe-rack. Her chappals and trainers looked sullen, screaming Judas! She told them ‘adapt and adjust’.
Next day she wore them at the workplace. Did the world look different from her six-inch pinnacle? She thought it did. Workplace fashionistas complimented her for her taste. The boss acknowledged her existence. The cute guy from HR even waggled his eyebrows. It was all she needed to feel good, feel adjusted…accepted.
But her feet wanted the cushioned comfort of her trainers and the sense of solidity of the ground beneath them…Not this noisy, shaky, undulating hump that made them heave and creak with each step. But she ignored them. For once she wanted to feel womanly, beautiful, tall, sensuous…accepted.
By the end of the day, her ugly duckling transformation was the talk of the office cafeteria. She had received invitations to hang out with the who’s who and she was on cloud 9. But unlike her heart, the feet felt incarcerated. They had blisters and pus. They were fire-engine red. They were unhappy.
Those trainers never let them get hurt. Never let them feel a thing as they trudged on sand or stone, plain or knoll. Ensconced in cloudy comfort, her feet always felt warm and loved in those trainers. The chappals too, those barely there bits and pieces of fake rubber or plastic had a way of letting them breathe…and feel – the plops of rain, the velvety touch of the grass as it grazed their sides, or the chill of the autumn air, the surf of the sea. Where were they now? Why were the feet being subjected to torture? The heart knew but the feet didn’t. They kept complaining, sending out darts of pain up her heels and calves even as she accepted the invitation to go clubbing with the fashionistas. She ignored them, hoping the excitement would drown out the pain.
But even as she sat at a table in the noisy, dingy club, all she wanted to do was immerse herself in warm, aromatic waters. Cute guy from HR had looked her way just once, an invitation to dance, a promise of things to come, but she couldn’t bring herself to even walk the ten steps to him. And just like that, the invitation had expired. He found another pair of heels. And she realised just how dumb she had been.
She reached home and kicked off the twins in a rage. Her feet were crying, blood mingled with oozing pus. They ached everywhere. She threw the twins back in their fluffy wrapping and glitzy box and shoved them in the corner of the shoe-rack, even as her trainers and chappals gloated “we told you so”…
Years went by, trainers and chappals came and went, but the box with the imperfect pair lay forgotten in the corner of the shoe-rack, till one day her help found them while cleaning the rack. She petitioned to have them. No complaints were made, no teary-eyed farewells. Their absence went unregistered. No more adapt and adjust.
© Pradita Kapahi, 2016.