Nange Paaon....Bare feet

I do not remember owning rubber slippers in my childhood. Mom believed that wearing chappals or slippers, where the big toe was on one side, made the child's feet broad. I only had shoes and sandals. We never wore footwear in the house. Even our guests removed the shoes at the entrance. As children we all ran around 'nange paaon'. Our grandmom believed that children can slip with slippers. We had an aangan and tanks all around the big house. Walking from one room to another involved walking through the red cemented aangan. Bai, my Grandmom, had given up wearing footwear at the age of 21 when she became a widow. In summers, we just ran across the aangan on our toes. The floor would be scorching when we went to the terrace to bring down the clothes at four pm. Without looking at the clock, all housework happened by clockwork. The servant got clothes down at four after his post lunch nap. Mom and Aunt folded clothes while their tea was being made. When they sipped tea in the hot afternoon , the servant put the clothes away in different 'Almaari'. We did not have wardrobes, the 'Almaari' was a set of shelves  built in the wall and covered by two wooden doors. Be it summer or winters, the washed clothes which were hung to dry on the terrace, were always dry by four pm.

In winters the feet felt cold but it was bearable. The cemented floor of the 'aangan' never got too cold. Slippers were meant for long distance train travel as one slept and woke up in the train and removing slippers was easier than removing shoes. My cousins in Dhanbad were huge on white rubber slippers with blue 'patti' from Bata. The whole family wore slippers and walked "chapaak chapaak" in the long corridors of their house. Even when I joined my hostel in Mumbai, I did not have rubber slippers. In Dhanbad, we never wore footwear to the toilet. I used to be running the hostel corridors 'nange paaon', till I realised that my feet need rubber slippers in the common toilets of the hostel. The slippers became a habit in the hostel. The girls from abroad had fancy coloured rubber slippers while we still relied on the white and blue ones. Perpetually I forgot mine in some friend's room and would go hunting all over the place. If one got a long distance call on the phone, we ran down four floors without slippers, as calls from home were precious. In the hostel days, when we went to a disco, I always ditched my heels, to dance bare feet on the floor. Post marriage, I got the freedom to have the whole house to myself and out went the rubber slippers. I enjoyed the feel of the marble under my feet. It was so freeing. Apart from that, made it easier to tell the maid, where there was dust on the floor. With my children, I did not put footwear for a long time. They were allowed to walk in the building compound, gardens, staircases and corridor without any footwear. I feel it strengthens their feet and helps them balance better.

Now, I have a strange fascination for rubber slippers. I buy colourful ones and hardly wear them. I still believe one can slip on the wet bathroom floor when one is wearing slippers. And I love my Bai, my Grand mom for travelling all over India to different teerth sthaans/ places of pilgrimage, without slippers and in all weathers.  Walked 'nange paaon' lately?


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