I am happy to announce that youngsters these days are pretty sure of themselves and about their choices. For instance, right from day one my daughter was very clear on which entrance exams to write, what course she wanted to do, which college to attend and, most importantly, what chappals to wear on the first day of college.
The last choice was, of course, the most difficult to make. For, she has had to make her pick from around the measly 173 pairs she had at the moment of this report going to Press.
Seriously, she has more footwear at the current instant than I have totally had in my entire life. As a contrast, my father once had a single pair of slippers that lasted him more than the entirety of the Janata Party regime.
The thing is in our days we chose footwear to go with our feet. Youngsters these days choose footwear —- this is a pretty practical generation, you know — to go with their dress. Heaven forbid that any of these youngsters are found wearing chappals or shoes that did not exactly fit in with their attire. The result would be shame and extreme trauma that if untreated could even lead to suicide in some cases. No, I am not at all being sarcastic or facetious. How can I be on stuff that youngsters spend so much time on? And I also get the feeling that they pick and choose footwear with more diligence and sincerity than they do their life partners.
Though we did not have so many choices in footwear, we, as a generation, were fully exposed to the cutting-edge awesomeness called: Canvas shoes. The beauty of canvas shoes was that it was less of a shoe but more of — youngsters would do well to carefully note this down — nothing.
Canvas shoes, I suspect, were probably the first ergonomically designed footwear to give you the exact same feeling and comfort that you would have experienced if you were barefoot. I mean even with the canvas on, you could still be counted to get a firsthand (firstleg?) feeling of anything you trod on.
The other thing with the canvas shoes was that you could wear it to football, cricket, hockey, heck, even chess and carrom, and you would still slip and fall. Thanks to the rubbery sole, which was sometimes plain and sometimes slightly spuddy, canvas shoes allowed you to athletically trip on a perfectly gripping and even surface.
And then there were the black shoes, which were worn by 1) High-ranking 2) Kindergarten school students. For the rest of us other than Jitendra, if the occasion was laidback, we wore standard slippers, and if the occasion was a bit formal, we wore — this should be obvious — the same slippers.
If the slippers got torn we took it to the — youngsters born in the 90s and after may be encountering this word for the first time — cobbler. Yeah, we got it stitched and wore the same slippers again. We were practical? No, that it would be the modern-day generation. Okay then, we were backward.
It was only around the early 90s, that shoes fully became mainstream, every-day wear and from then on world has gone on a terminal decline. Frankly, I don’t have much hope on the world in which canvas shoes have got a makeover and become trendy showpieces.
The other day I had been to a footwear showroom to buy a pair of shoes and this is the untouched version of the conversation that ensued with the salesperson there:
He: What kind of shoes are you looking for?
Me: Something sporty that I can wear while working out?
He: You will be working out in a gym or in an open playground?
Me: Is that detail important?
He: Yes, sir. Each needs a different kind of sole.
Me: You can take it that I’ll be working out outdoors.
He: Will it be running or walking?
Me: Oh, that matters, too?
He: Yes, sir. Grip and fit, sir.
Me: Okay, mostly walking.
He: If it is on a walker’s track, you can have this. It costs Rs.10, 299, sir. If it is on mud…
Me: (Cutting him mid-sentence) Ten thousand rupees, for a simple shoe? Will it walk for me while I just wear it?
He: (not getting the sarcasm) No, sir, this model doesn’t do that.
Me: You have anything in the price range of around Rs. 5000?
He: Yes, sir. There are general purpose shoes. You can wear them and…
Me: Wear them and do what?
He: That I don’t know, sir. You can just wear them.
In the end, I left without buying any shoe. Just as well. For, I am not sure whether the shoe-rack in my house has place for the 174th pair.