I don't remember when I first started looking at feet -I think it was during my first year in college while travelling in a "ladies' special" bus to college. As`I climbed the steps my book fell down and as I bent down to retrieve it I saw these feet making their way forward- like two tiny stuffed rabbits -soft,white with a touch of pink around the border,nails painted copper. The feet moved away and lost themselves in the crowded bus before I could look up and check if the feet had a matching face!During the 30 minute journey I kept an eye on all the feet that went through the exit door hoping to find them again. No luck! these feet were obviously travelling farther than my stop.

This was a peak hour bus and commuters on such services were usually regulars - students and office goers who invariably took the same bus day after day.So in the days that followed it became a game for me to look for these feet and eventually I spotted the owner and if you must know, the search was not worth it. She had a very uninteresting face - very fair skin,lifeless eyes, didn't look like she ever smiled and seemed suspicious of everyone. Thereafter the half hour bus journey became more interesting as I would first look at the feet and conjure up a face matching those feet and then look up to check how close I was. Some owners of neglected feet had faces carefully made up, some had very ordinary feet but very pretty faces, some of the most beautiful feet were in the least flattering footwear even though the rest of the costume would be carefully chosen- only very few people were endowed with feet as pretty as their faces and even less number of people cared for their feet as much as their faces. But of course this was 1974 - for the middle class, beauty parlours were places to visit only for bridal make up. Tweezing eye brows was just becoming the fashion and you had to be rich to be able to afford facials and manicures and so pedicures came way down in the list! if you cared about your feet, you applied cream from milk or curd for softening, or soaked feet in warm salted water and then used soap for cleansing, and the rough granite surface of the washing stone was ideal for rubbing feet to get rid of dead skin. And then you slipped these feet into plastic or rubber slippers (leather was too expensive for daily "rough" use!)And we had just a pair of slippers at a point of time while some had an extra pair for occasions.

Even today while waiting at the doctor's clinic or any place where slippers are arranged, I slip back into the habit of making a mental image of the owner - height, weight,age, dress etc. If I am lucky I get to verify my image with the original and I seem to be getting better in my judgement over the years. Except this one time when I saw this lady come out the doctor's consultation room and slipped her feet into an enormous pair of men's slippers. The shock almost killed me!

It is perhaps because of this curious habit of mine that I get very self conscious if anyone looks at my feet - I immediately try to hide them under the sari ( saris are very useful this way) or try something to distract eyeballs away from my feet as I am suspicious that the viewer is trying to judge me from my feet. (what do they say about a thief knowing another thief better!) I do have a friend who shares my fascination with feet but she doesn't stop with looking at them. She photographs them. Read about it here.
Little wonder then that it was she who spotted me wearing Hawaii chappals to the French class and with mismatched straps to boot! I must be really fond of life - anyone else in my place would have jumped out of the window that day!
So that was my punishment for having judged people by their feet and footwear all these years!So have I stopped it now?? No, I am hooked and now it is impossible - My eyes and mind get totally out of control when they see slippers and feet.
Foot gazers anonymous, anyone?
You are in the supermarket pushing a trolley full of grocery and you meet this acquaintance from your colony who greets you with "Came for purchase huh?" What would you say? I have this strong urge to say: "Not at all, I do this for my afternoon exercise. Keeps my arms in shape and saves on the gym fees!" But I always smile and ask "how re you?" in return. See,I am a nice gentle soul with a mind that gets out of control when exposed to such questions.

And I seem to attract these questions like the proverbial pot of honey that attracts flies.We had a general body meeting of our colony's association on Sunday. One of the office bearers greeted me and asked me "How was your trip to the U.S? You have come back no?"
Whaaat? of course I have come back. wasn't I standing in front of him or did I look like a webcam image? Then it occurred to me that he was asking me if I have already gone and come back or was I yet to go.

I used to work in this office that occupied the top floor of the building and while waiting for the lift, I was always accosted with a very perceptive "going down?". Where else was there to go? Of course I was going down. Unless they thought I was lingering near the elevator to have a smoke.
Almost every other day when I am out walking the dog someone asks me "Taking dog for walk?" I Could tell them "It is our mealtime and we are out food hunting" Or I could say that we are marching for cruelty against dog owners but I am not sure the message will get across so I assure them that we are taking a walk.

Perhaps these people have a career cut out for them - television journalism. Have you seen the way the TV journalists shove the mike in front of Rahul Dravid after winning the series and ask him "do you feel happy with the result?" or ask Priya Dutt after her brother Sanjay's sentence "are you shocked?" or when they asked Amitabh Bachchan (with rings on all his fingers with stones, some to ward off bad luck and some to bring luck) "Are you superstitious?" or when they asked Abhishek Bachchan "Do you miss bachelorhood?"
Well, as the saying goes, there are no stupid questions.It is perhaps your thinking that makes it so.

A 22 year old woman suffered severe burns when her husband forced her to drink acid and when she refused, he disrobed her and threw acid on her.
He had been harrassing her with dowry demands for several years now. Earlier when his demand for motorcycle was not met, he tonsured her head and paraded her in the neighbourhood.
The report here says that the “police said Fairoz, a scooter mechanic, married Fathima about nine years ago and the couple have four children, two male and two female”.
Married at 13,the poor girl has seen all there is to see in one lifetime of misery. And from what the doctors say, she may never see again with her eyes.

The family who iron our clothes was missing for a week and finally the lady came today to collect my clothes. I asked her where she had been. The family had been away to her village where her husband’s niece had died. They had got her married three months ago and by the month of ashada (aadi in Tamil) an instalment of dowry was due. The parents could not meet it and so the in-laws and husband drove her to suicide by hanging.
I asked her if they had lodged a police complaint. There were 2 reasons why they could not.
1. The girl was just 17 and should not have been legally married.
2.The in-laws had powerful connections and had got the death certified as natural.

Here is an excerpt from this report in Businessweek:

“Last year, Singh's grandson Abhijeet married Priyanka Singh, the daughter of a businessman in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. But within months the couple split and Priyanka returned to her parents home, alleging that she had been physically abused.”
"My daughter was tortured and beaten up black and blue by her husband and in-laws who used her to demand more dowry. They were asking for a Mercedes Benz car and a flat in New Delhi," Madhvendra Singh, the bride's father, told The Associated Press from Moradabad, 185 miles southwest of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

All in a matter of 10 days, cutting across caste, religion, social and linguistic barriers.
Why are 13 year olds and 17 year olds getting married and bearing children when they rightfully belong in schools?
How much perception is needed to see that a guy who expects his prospective bride to bring cash and a scooter for him can be good for nothing?
Where can the poor girls go when even their own parents treat them as a burden to be offloaded to someone as soon as the opportunity arises?
If daughters cannot rely on their parents to do what is best for them, where can children go?
If parents cannot take care of their children, why do they have them?
What is the use of having laws if there is no effective implementation?
How many more women must die before these people become human?