I sat on the teak wood sofa next to the main door of the living room, howling.
Sone ki Chidiya.
Mind it, I was wearing Sone ki Chidiya. I surely felt like a sparkling Sona (Gold) but wished I was a bird who could simply fly far away to avoid the dreadful evening that lay ahead.
Sone ki chidiya, was a super expensive, chudidaar-kameez fabric that my dearest father had bought from his Pakistan trip the month before, where he spent nearly a month covering an Indo-Pak test series.
We were invited for dinner that evening by his best friend. It was more or less a regular affair, where the chuddy buddies would catch up over drinks, the mothers would discuss their respective kids and the kids well, would play a little while before eventually sitting to watch a movie in a fascinating new invention called the VCR!!!! That surely was the highlight of the evening.
However, that day the VCR or a blockbuster movie of our choice did not seem lucrative enough.
I was a growing up 10 year old. I was feeling like a gaudily dressed up doll. Except that apart from the deep green silky chudidaar-kameez, that had shimmering golden polka dots I also donned two oily plaits, a small bindi, a terribly tanned oily face and a very low self-esteem thanks to the black school shoes that I wore with it.
Daddy just would not understand why I was crying heap loads, as he bent down to buckle my shoe. My good upbringing had taught me not to hurt others feelings, so how could I tell him, that you don’t wear black buckle shoes with a glistening chudidaar-kameez? How could I make him understand, that ALL at the dinner shall have no other work and shall only be noticing and staring and commenting on my shoes! That they would laugh and squirm at my poor dressing sense.
I pleaded to let us, Bhaiya and I remain home. That Mummy and Daddy should go and enjoy the evening. He however, would not listen to anything of the sort and kept asking what was wrong with me?
I was a kid. I burst out again. “Daddy, Green silk chudidaar and black buckled school shoes!!!!!”
He did not seem hurt. He was amused. He surely saw no connection. He made me see sense. “What is wrong with the shoes? They are good quality BATA shoes!”
“Daddy, you wear heels with it. Not black shoes. And surely not school shoes. Everyone would laugh at me.”
Now, I could see anger well up. Not so much for my reasoning but because, the yellow top taxi was at the door, honking. We were getting late.
What could a 10 year old do other than tag along. I hated that evening. I wanted to hide somewhere.
I felt all eyes were focused not on the conversation, food, VCR but on my shoes.
A week went past. I was still sulking I think.
It was the vegetable buying day. Daddy sat me on the front rod of the Atlas cycle, while Bhaiya sat behind him. It used to be one of our favourite days. The day, post the boring vegetable shopping, we would be treated to hot vadas at the madrasi-stall.
The cycle however, bypassed the weekly subzi market in Green Park. It went further on towards Yusuf Sarai. The first shop then at the beginning of the market, which now has been usurped by the metro station was the Punjab Shoe Palace.
No! This could not be happening. I looked up at my hero, who was paddling away with a mock serious expression.
We entered the shoe palace and my dad said, “Ok,which shoes match your suit?”
Suddenly, the middle class grounded upbringing of mine took over and I did not want him to spend his hard earned money on a pair of heels. I put logic and practicality into it. The next dinner would not happen for another few months, so why buy those heels now?
Daddy, knew what I was thinking. He always did. He continued. “Buy them before I change my mind!”
I looked at my anchor, my big brother for support and advice. He instantly nodded in affirmation.
If only I were good with words, I could express my feelings of that precise, ecstatic moment. That second, I expereinced what it felt to be on cloud nine.
I walked through shoe racks I had never ever ventured close to in my 10 years on this wonderful planet.
I believe in love at first sight. It happened that evening. One look and I was head over ‘heels’ in love with those black sleek sandals. As I write this, I can virtually see my first pair of sexy heels. Thin strap at the ankles with a hook. And a very small almost insignificant gold design on the top.
Daddy bought it instantly. I don’t think he even let me see the price tag, else I would have remembered the amount to date.
My smile would not leave my face, as I sat on the Atlas cycle once again. For some strange reason, the rod did not hurt my butt at all on the way back. J
I ran to Amma to show off my first pair of formal footwear. All three had the same question and concern. “Would you be able to even walk in those high heels?” I did not know the expression then, else I would have said, “I was born to wear high heels!”
I wore the heels at home every now and then. I would pick from Amma’s almirah, my favourite yellow sari, fold it into half lengthwise, wear it like a lady and stutter around the house like a maven.
But, as the days went by, I was getting a trifle impatient. Now that I was armed with the best pair of heels in town, there were no dinner invites! It had been more than 2 months. I did not want to wear them for only my pleasure at home. I wanted a chance to show them off. Alas, no party invite happened.
If I was 10, then Bhaiya was 12. He was not even a teenager. Don’t ask me how, but one day he managed to convince Daddy and Mummy, to allow him, Ajay Sood Bhaiya (bhai’s classmate, colony mate, my rakhi brother and family friend) and Sumit Gagerna, another such friend to go catch a movie at Kamal theater in Safdarjung Enclave.
One, the courage to ask daddy, two, for dad to agree! Both were super surprising.
The third and the biggest shock however, was when he suggested I be taken along too!!!! I was thrilled to bits. Going for a movie without the elders? We had arrived in life.
The D-Day was the next Saturday.
The day is etched in my memory. It was the day I would formally inaugurate my high heels! I wore my favourite cream dungaree midi with a tee inside. I ensured my hair had not a jot of oil. They were squeaky clean shampooed and I felt I looked gorgeous that afternoon.
Confident to the core, excitement in the form of dinosaurs in our tummies, we walked a distance of 20 minutes at our pace to the theater for the 3 to 6 pm show.
Indeed, that afternoon every soul, on that near empty road was only looking and appreciating my brand new high heels! Or so I felt.
We, entered the cinema hall to be transported into the world of the angry young man and the tale of his love for his beau and country not in one but double role, for three hours. Desh Premee it was.
The movie over, we held hands in the dark, only to be shaken with our first step out of the cinema hall.
More filmy than the inside was the outside. Saayeiiiii…..Saaayeeiiii…..the wind was blowing angrily. The rusted wrought iron staircase at the rear of the cinema hall, now had half the cine-goers stuck on it.
The four of us, huddled onto one side, with my brother holding on to my hand ever so tightly.
Ouch! I almost fell. My newly inaugurated sandal’s heel got stuck in the grilled stair. I turned my ankle at various angles to wriggle out of the gap.
There was jostling and pushing from the back. Bhaiya put his arm behind my shoulder to protect my fall. I bent down to undo the, now looking extremely, complicated strap. Ajay Bhaiya and Sumit covered the rest of the ground around me as I struggled hard.
As I continued to wriggle, reality dawned. It wasn’t a strong wind blowing. It was a Storm. A heavy duty storm. A thunderstorm.
The proof of which just went hovering past. Not one but two Amitabh Bachchan’s, a clean shaven junior and a bearded senior, did a Superman act of flying across along with the 20 by 20 feet tin poster of Desh Premee, barely managing to miss landing on a couples head, who were about to take off on their Bajaj scooter.
Our attention was back to my stuck high heel. With a deep breath and a silent Om Namah Shivaye, I tried one last time. Phew. It came out. In a jiffy, I wore it again, ready now to brave the tempest.
We stepped down from the stairs and took respite under the building as the rest of the janta, either took off on their respective vehicles (read scooters) or ran towards the nearest bus-stop.
Those were the primitive ages. There were no mobile phones to inform parents at home of our predicament. There were no Ubers or Ola’s standing by the roadside for your convenience. There were lone auto rickshaws around but we neither had the cash nor the confidence to get into one, at that tender age and at a time when kidnappings in Delhi were rampant.
Luckily, I was not part of the decision making. I had Bhaiya there and Ajay Bhaiya and Sumit to take care of it. I only had to take care of my brand new heels.
It was decided that we shall walk back home. The same 20 minute distance now would take double the time because of the dusty storm with a wind speed of 120 kms. The boys decided, we would take a short cut through Arjun Nagar.
I had no clue of the intricate roads inside Arjun Nagar. In any case, I only had to follow the leaders.
“Ready? One, two, three”, said Ajay Bhaiya. We still held hands, the four of us, with me somewhere in the centre.
At the count of three, the three started to run. And err, I too.
Till now, I was absolutely fine. As I said, walking with even a few inches heels at that age too, came effortlessly.
Though, running with heels, nonstop, for a good 15 minutes at one go, was like asking an ace Kathak dancer to do chakkars continuously for as much time. I was a pro but not an exponent.
There was a main road to be crossed. There were ditches to jump over. The wind was violent. The hair in a mess, the mouth full of dust. It was difficult to keep the eyes open.
It was soon getting impossible to keep pace with the boys running in their sneakers. I tripped again and again. I fell atleast half a dozen times. I broke the momentum for others every now and then.
Bhaiya, despite all his love for his younger sibling, could not but comment, “That is why I told you not to wear these heels today!” Huh, how was I to know the day would turn out to be like this?
As if what he said was Akashvani, a cloud burst somewhere far but seemed as if it hit us a meter away. Needless to say, all of us were scared like hell.
Our colony was nowhere close. I had no idea where we were.
I only recollect, getting up and trying to keep pace with the rest.
Frankly, they did not have much to do, other than run. I had the difficult part. I had to keep the speed up and run with a hurdle race added. I hopped, skipped and jumped over dirty ways, small pits and broken roads, so that no harm be done to my heels. My exquisite heels.
I could let my ankles and knees take all the shocks and injuries, but not my precious heels.
Someone also commented, that had it not been for me, they would have reached home far earlier doing a 100 meter dash.
Bwaah…I took that with a pinch of salt. I still, would not harm my heels for the sake of reaching home 30 minutes earlier.
After what seemed a decade of running through thin, congested roads of the urban village Arjun Nagar, braving the deluge, we saw a familiar area, closer to our colony.
Before we knew, the sky was thundering aloud, the sky lightening away and brightening our way in the absence of street lights. We were just a few minutes away from sunset though it was dark for a while now.
We were super tired. And super thirsty. As I tried to moisten my lips with the tongue, I collected half an ounce of pure dry dirt.
We needed a breather. As if Lord Indra heard that. He decided to send in the rains after one more awfully scary cloud burst somewhere in the vicinity.
We took a 5 minute refuge under the extended asbestos sheet cover at the entrance of a Doctor Ahuluwalia’s miniscule dispensary. It did not rain that evening. It poured. Cats, dogs and rhinos (just to emphasis the intensity of the showers).
Once again a quick round standing conference was held. It was decided that we run together for the next 200 meters together and then disperse in our individual house direction once in the colony.
One, two, three and go…don’t remember who gave the counting this time. But we ran. Hand in hand, till the designated colony crossroad and split our ways.
Our house was the farthest.
My poor heels now had not only borne the brunt of wear and tear through the rough path over the last 45 minutes, but the trauma continued for them, as they now had to brave the slashing rains as also the puddles, the mud and muck on the road.
The last lap from one end of the colony to our house, I could control my emotions no longer and cried along with the rains, tears flowing unabashedly down my cheek. I held on to Bhaiya’s warm hand, running along, dragging my black beauty, praying they be well and in good shape, despite the torture.
And finally, we were home.
We were frankly speaking scared and mentally prepared for a scolding from our parents for being so adventurous and the repercussions thereafter.
But then parents are such darlings. All they asked was, why we had to run all the way home. That we should have just waited till the storm subsided and then walked by home.
What an anti-climax this was to the adventure that just got ended.
I, did not bother about the dry towel that Mummy handed me. All I had on mind were my heels. They be all alright, is all I prayed for. There was no way I could or would have asked for another pair from my father.
I sat till late night, dry cleaning them, caressing them, removing each and every speck of dust and dirt.
Truth was, they had taken a toll. They were clean. They were safe. However, they did not look brand new now. Worn. A little tatty. A bit damaged. And surely lived in.
I gave them all the TLC I could. They were after all, all I had.
A couple of days later, the dinner invite phone call happened.
I was this time ready to go without creating a ruckus.
The other suit made of Sone ke Chidiya fabric from Pakistan was to be worn. This one really was a golden suit. Off white with shimmering gold. Yeah, almost all over.
I wore my black heels with it.
Aaah, and you would say, black heels with a golden suit? That doesn’t match.
Ofcourse, it matched.
Remember, they were my first pair of sexy heels. Thin strap at the ankles with a hook. And a very small almost insignificant gold design on the top.
It matched to a T.
P.S: I outgrew them in less than a year. I was neither courageous nor benevolent enough to give them away in charity immediately. They stayed in my shoe rack for years. My treasure. My maiden pair of heels.