Monday, October 11, 2010

My foot

Ramlila sounds outside are blaring. I wonder why I don't feel the need to take a closer look. When was the last time I watched ramlila? I guess it was way back when I was younger than ten and maybe no more than twice back then also. I couldn't understand much owning to the loudspeakers of the time being acoustically poor. Extremely loud sounds make me uncomfortable. Back then the sets, the actors, the attire and all the paraphernalia seemed royal and grandiose. As I grew up and observed better—sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it—I reckoned that all those things that I found grand as a kid were actually quite shabby. However that only raised the respect I have for these artists; keeping a tradition alive through thick and thin of modern world. I do wish they were a little less blaring though.

Haven't times changed, I remember when Reebok and Nike were officially launched in India. I think that was way back in 1996-97. I had friends who wore these shoes before they were launched in India, courtesy their extended family in the western world. I remember the most inexpensive shoe by these companies was priced at Rs. 2500/-, these days you have a few shoes priced lesser than that. I'm talking about the time when the most expensive Indian sports shoe was a liberty Force-10 that was a full leather upper with a great rubber sole priced at around 400 bucks, compared to that, "air-bags in soles" was a alien idea that left jaws hanging. We'd heard about Michael Jordan as young basketball players, a few with Cable-TVs in their homes, and others at the former's homes, had watched him play. Those towering American basketball players wore shorts and vests that seemed affordable (or so we thought!) but we never missed those big sneakers while watching them dunk or dribble or anything. When I saw Jordan in a Nike Ad, I saw Jordan, then I saw the shoes and all the gimmicks that they were embellished with.

"Beautiful, I wonder what those feel like on the feet." I thought to myself while watching Jordan in an overtly aggressive pose ready to dunk the ball into the dungeon of eternity.

Rs. 300/- the price of an Action Shoe that was very popular for nearly a decade and a half till the Big-Feet stepped into India. Basketball is a high impact game for the joints especially when the only courts that we had were cemented and the only shoes that were all wore provided negligible cushioning, actually the rubber soles of a bathroom slipper would provide better cushioning than the shoes that we guys at the Sector-46 Stadium owned. Thankfully most of us were skinny 14year olds, not carrying too much weight to hurt out joints so bad. Action, a shoe my dad found overtly expensive and therefore would never buy me one.

Watching these cool phoren sneakers, Indian companies decided to give them a run for their money and came up with a brand called Tuffs. A pair of these Action priced shoes, looked like a Nike on display, it even felt comfortable (for a week or so), till it proved that cheap rexin couldn't match pure leather and that cheap soles actually mean cheap "souls" of the Indian manufacturer that could make you feel happy for a week then leave you in lurch staring at your sneakers, the beauty and comfort of which seemed to have sneaked away. So a month down the line of owning a pair of Tuffs, I stared at them in disbelief. My dad was finally convinced to buy me a pair...and they let me down. Two months down the line they looked like very funny and flaccid gunny bags with cream poured over them (that was the design) on my feet . I couldn't understand quite well back then that if the price of a Tuffs around one-tenth that of a Nike, they were actually supplying one-twentieth the quality. It didn't matter because quality-wise it wasn't in the league anywhere close to the international brands. They were just playing on the mind of the boy from a middle class family who couldn't afford Nikes but desperately wished to own one since everyone around him had them (for me my dad was the devil himself for not buying me those). In a way these shoes was some kind of a counterfeit, they looked like those to make you buy them but then they run flat before they've bedded your feet in. You can't play basketball wearing Tuffs without wearing them out in a jiffy.

Anyway, I grew up. Ma sent me money from the middle-east and I finally bought my first pair of truly international shoes: Adidas. They were beautiful and they were comfortable and they were good for me because I'd grown very fat and therefore my joints needed cushioning from my body-weight. Basketball days were long over but the appetite had grown. Adidas cushioned me very well and I grew fatter eating the phoren Kraft Cheese (oh! I could "down" a glass of that and still want more for the rest of my life) and Kit-Kats and Mars and Hersheys and whatnot. Ma wanted me to have everything that I yearned for and the more I had it, the more I yearned for it.

Nothing against the shoes, they were all great, the Reeboks, the Nikes, the Adidas that I bought from the money ma sent me. Dad would've had a fit if he ever knew the price of those shoes; if Rs 300/- was expensive, he would've made me wear the Rs 3500/- shoes in my hands, maybe even kept them on a display in the house. I just took the 300 odd bucks from him, put in another 3000 odd bucks and buy the shoes and tell him they were for 300. He never found out, he was least bothered so long as I didn't bug him to go shopping for them with him.

Only around 4 years ago did I watch on Discovery Chanel that extra cushioning in
shoes was actually bad for day to day use. Of course they were not talking about morbidly obese people or ones with joint condition and the likes. For a normal healthy human body, walking barefoot strengthens the muscles and tendons of the foot and the legs. It is now known that wearing extra cushioned shoes makes us place out body weight on the wrong side of the foot which is detrimental to the limb health and can even put unnecessary pressure at the wrong places in the spine.

I reckon that as much as it was about owning a pair of good-looking comfy shoes, it was more about "this is gonna make me look more acceptable to them" back then.
At 30, I do like owning a pair good shoes but I surely don't mind walking barefoot if I feel like, caring the least about what people would say, for me, that's been the best gift of growing up, to not care too much about superficial stuff...beyond a certain degree! ;)

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