Finest Blog Winner - Fourth Weekly Pick of November 2011 While I was in the UAE this time, a film festival was held in Abu Dhabi and I happened to read reviews of several movies to be showcased in the event. One title that caught my attention was Julie Benasra’s ‘God Save My Shoes’ which is the first documentary film to explore the intimate relationship women have with their shoes. “To understand how shoes have come to hold such a pivotal place in pop culture, sexuality and women’s lives, God Save my Shoes turned to many of those who play a role in the global shoe phenomenon: Extreme shoe lovers, fashion historians and editors, psychologists, sex experts, shoe fetishists, and star designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Walter Steiger, Pierre Hardy, Bruno Frisoni, and Robert Clergerie, along with celebrities such as Fergie, Kelly Rowland and Dita Von Teese.” said a review. The movie was to be screened exclusively for women first, and two days later, for men. Understandable, as there are so many outlets in the malls selling shoes of all kinds, designer to desi, to the distaff side of the Middle East populace! I am partly intrigued and partly amused by this obsession in women. I do not look down upon such an activity as compulsive shopping is a vice I indulge in myself, buying books with a speed that outruns my reading… ‘It makes all kinds to make this world’ my Dad used to quote when I was young, ‘de todo ha de haber en el mundo’ as Cervantes put it in Don Quixote Volume 2 Chapter V… and I have learnt to adopt this philosophy in my life and dealings with people I come across. If I am an obsessive collector of books, a certified bibliophile, others are quite welcome to pander to their primal urge for buying as many pairs of shoes as their purses could afford. A decade or so back, when there was a raid in the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha’s home, police found 750 pairs of shoes. Wow! I thought at the time. She would not repeat a shoe for one year. Such a fetish for shoes was not news for me. Way back in 1986, when the Marcos regime in Philippines was overthrown by a people’s revolt, the First Lady, Imelda Marcos fled to Hawaii in a pair of espadrilles, leaving behind 2699 pairs behind. When the world media went berserk on her collection of shoes, I was, like many ordinary human beings, flabbergast. 2700 pairs of shoes for a single person? It was an unimaginably mindless waste of good money as far as I was concerned. This was a time when I was the part of a lifestyle where one bought a new pair of shoes/ slippers/ sandals only when one could prove to one’s parents that the one you owned was fully worn out and beyond any surgical procedure at the ‘able’ hands of the local ‘cheruppukuththi’ / mochchi/ cobbler. Getting a new pair was no child’s play. It was a diplomatic mission and involved seeking a plenipotentiary – usually mom or sometimes grandmother - to place our case before the High Commission - Dad/ Grandfather. Once the demarche has been made, one waited with bated breath for the envoy to reach an entente … and a modus vivendi reached… so long as the new pair is durable for the next three years, so long as it drains the purse minimally and so long as the buying is limited to the person whose slippers have brought this unforeseen expenses… Oh it took a lot of protocol to get a new pair. Next came the ratification - the trip to Bata. In my wonder years such a trip to Bata used to be a combination of pleasure and embarrassment. The pleasure came out of eyeing the new pairs of footwear in various shapes and styles, and whiffing subtly, the smell of new, unused leather. The sensual pleasure and satisfaction on getting a new pair would soon be obliterated by the acute embarrassment when a skirmish would take place at the billing counter between Dad and the establishment called Bata. I used to think Dad did it on purpose to embarrass me, but I realized the rationale behind his adamancy after I became an adult and shopped at Bata. You see, Bata has this funny ( funny- peculiar, not funny – ha ha) way of pricing their ware. Whatever the type, colour or size, the price would never be a round figure. There would be 95 paise appended at the end of the billed amount. And invariably Bata retailers would not return the 5 paise when you paid the bill. This would get Dad’s goat and there would follow an altercation between him and the shopkeeper, reddening my cheeks and ears as I used to feel it was so ‘uncool’ of Dad to haggle for 5 paise. I never knew at the time he was fighting the establishment… the one that took customers for a ride. Now I realize the con. There were around 200 million Indians at the time. Bata was ruling supreme as shoe sellers. Even if one fourth of the population bought their footwear at Bata and had to forego 5 paise on each pair, just imagine the money they fleeced! Anyway, this is not about Bata… this is about my liaison or lack thereof with shoes. Maybe these ordeals of shoe shopping killed any fascination for shoes in me. For me slippers / shoes became utility items. To ensure that my feet were covered and protected as I walked. So I went for comfort rather than fashion. And shopping for shoes was a spoof of the Cinderella story. Here, instead of feminine feet parading to get a royal chance to fit into the shoe, shoes parade before me to get fitted on my feet. The moment I get the feeling that the one I have tried on and I are made for each other, a new relationship is born. I use that shoe/ slippers for ages till it wears out and cries ‘Uncle!’ I could never pay more than a couple of hundred rupees for what I put on my feet. My logic was simple. ‘Who’ll notice what you wear on your feet?’ My friends and acquaintances have always been well mannered folk and never commented on the lack of variety when it came to my footwear. But even I have become a bit more flamboyant and now own at least 3 pairs plus a couple of walking shoes, now- a -days. So how can I cast stones at the Imelda Marcoses and Jayalalithas of this world? So God Save My Shoes caught my attention. As usual I googled and youtubed info about the movie. Here’s an extract from its review : “God Save My Shoes” is the first documentary film to explore the intimate relationship women have with their shoes. To understand how shoes have come to hold such a pivotal place in pop culture, sexuality and women’s lives, God Save my Shoes turned to many of those who play a role in the global shoe phenomenon: Extreme shoe lovers, fashion historians and editors, psychologists, sex experts, shoe fetishists, and star designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Walter Steiger, Pierre Hardy, Bruno Frisoni, and Robert Clergerie, along with such celebrities as Fergie, Kelly Rowland and Dita Von Teese. With its psychological, sociocultural, and erotic take—from ancient elevated soles to today’s skyscraping stilettos,from Marilyn Monroe to Sex & the City—God Save my Shoes brings an offbeat and captivating answer to theuniversally puzzling relationship between women and their shoes.” The Wall Street Journal review: The film peeks into several legendary shoe closets, including that of Vogue magazine, and the 900-pair collection of professional poker player Beth Shak, who shows off hot pink heels emblazoned with black spades.The featured women, including singers Kelly Rowland and Fergie, explain their various reasons for accumulating shoes – from the emotional comfort derived from purchases, to the need to accessorize not only an outfit, but a state of mind.” Elle USA : “What We Learned from ‘God Save My Shoes” 9/8/2011“Last night’s premiere of the long-awaited documentary, God Save my Shoes, shed some light on women’s inexplicable addiction to footwear, especially the most impractical.” There are a lot of trailers on the youtube for those who want to know more about this movie. I have wandered away from my topic. Let me amble back on my comfortable pair of loafers to where I was. I don’t have anything against shoes and obsession for shoes. Cinderella is still my favourite fairytale… Of course, the Elves and the Shoe Maker is another favourite. Recently I saw a Hindi movie for children ‘Bumm Bumm Bole’ which revolves around two poor kids and a pair of shoes. I found the little girl’s expression on hearing that her friend had thrown her old pair off, so endearing. I own 3 or 4 stiletto heels… only they are on the covers of Lauren Weisberger’s ( of The Devil Wears Prada fame) bestsellers. During this trip to Dubai I was a bit extravagant. I ambled into the Shoe Mart in the Deira City Centre and tried some slippers on. And I found one called ‘Cozy’ which felt snug on my feet. After walking a couple of days on it, I made RP drive me back to Deira City Centre and I put my best foot forward to Shoe Mart and bought another pair of the same thing. Now they will last me for a decade! Recently, I got the shoes that I have coveted for a long, long time. A dear uncle gifted me the DVD of a very favourite movie of mine… ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’ starring Antony Quinn, based on the novel by Australian author, Morris West. I have watched this movie 4 to 5 times on TCM channel and RP downloaded it for me from Torrentz…but when Uncle DVC handed it over to me I was in the seventh heaven of delight. He’s promised to get me the book too…another pair of shoes to covet and cherish! Final word: The title of Julie Benasra’s movie ‘God Save my Shoes’ did amuse me a lot. It is a statement most South Indians use whenever they enter a temple. We are expected to leave our footwear outside temples. Often, the less blessed of us are punished by God by inducing some covetous feet to pilfer our slippers. That’s why we chant ‘ God save my shoes’ as we enter a temple… as we stand with folded hands… as we circumrotate the deity… as we come out after praying… God I hope you have saved my shoes and it is still there! Hmmm…. ‘de todo ha de haber en el mundo’… it does take all kinds to make this world.