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Achilles Heel

Please do not mock me or laugh if I confess before you that I wear Ladies shoes. No, it is not my obsession but my compulsion. My feet is proving to be my Achilles heel.

My feet are really thin, and my shoe size is 7.5, neither here nor there. Size 7 is small and size 8 is big. I have visited several shoe shops at malls in Delhi and wasted hours in search of a perfect shoe. I am 79 now and prefer only sports shoes.

26th December was the 73rd birthday of my wife. Since nights are getting too cold, my daughter Shafina and granddaughter Shruti joined us for lunch at Burma Burma restaurant at Saket Select mall in south Delhi. Shrutu, as we call her with love, is a foodie and has vast knowledge about best eating joints in the city. Burma Burma was chosen by her for her Nani’s birthday. Shruti is doing her PhD in neurosciences at Vancouver in Canada and was on a month long holiday.

The food was excellent and after a sumptuous lunch, our granddaughter wanted to pay the bill. She said, after all, it is my Nani’s birthday. I intervened and told Shrutu, beta let it be my privilege. I have already promised my wife and your Nani that I will host the lunch. Shrutu graciously agreed. After lunch, she held her Nani’s hand and said come let us go to fab India, I want to buy you a birthday gift. She got Nani a fabulous kurta.

And now Shrutu, said Uma, time for your return shift. She gave her a packet of money and said buy something of your choice. Shrutu hugged Nani and thanked her.

Now was time to hunt for my elusive pair of sports shoes, size 7.5. We started our search to find a good pair of shoes for me. We visited Nike, Crocs, Adidas, Reebok and even Bata showroom. None of them had the problematic size 7.5.

As usual, size 7 and 8 did not do the trick. Some of the shops suggested that I should visit these stores online. Maybe, I could get lucky to get my size there. Suddenly, I noticed that my daughter and granddaughter and even my wife were wearing same brand shoes , Clark's, in black colour. All of them were all praise for these casual shoes with canvas upper and rubber soul.

These ladies’ shoes were sleek and comfortable. All three had bought them online from Amazon. My wife’s shoe was size 7. I tried it and found that it was tight but otherwise comfortable. I asked all of them, what if I try and get same shoes on Amazon? If they do not fit, and I do not like them, I can return them and get refund. All of them looked at my feet and at the shoes and my granddaughter said, Nanu, they look perfect. Go for them if your size is available. After all unisex products are in vogue these days. I immediately opened Amazon site, asked for Clark’s women shoe mentioning name of the shoe. Wow, it looked like my lucky day, size 7.5 was available. It was last pair of shoe available. I ordered it and kept my fingers crossed.

Maybe it fits, maybe it does not. The shoe arrived next day since I am a prime member on Amazon. I was excited like a child. It was my lucky day. The shoe fitted perfectly. I rang up my daughter and told her, Shafu shoe is a perfect fit. She said papa, see if another pair of this shoe is available. It is so hard to get your size. I checked and same shoe in grey colour was available. I immediately ordered for grey shoe. This shoe is also with me.

Now I have the luxury of two pairs of sports shoes, which fit me really well and are extremely comfortable. This is how I shifted to women’s shoes.

It is not that I always had problem with shoe. Size 7 with broad toe fitted me well. Sometimes even size 8 with narrow toe was Ok. The problem started after the year 2000 when I had a nasty road accident. I was on bed for six months. Inner Ankle of my left foot was crushed, and my hip bone gave away. Steel chips were used to repair damage to my inner left foot ankle and my hip bone. Once I recovered, I went to buy my shoes and found that my left foot had lost its original shape.

Size 7 with broad toe no longer fitted. Size 8 was uncomfortable. Size 7.5 was not available. I had been advised to wear only sports shoes. But somehow, I managed with size 8 but I was never happy. I love walking and I always enjoyed it. But that pleasure of walking was gone.

I was in Berlin in 1981 on a month-long cultural exchange programme between All India Radio (AIR) and Radio Berlin of German Democratic Republic (GDR). This part of Germany was called East Germany and was under the communist regime. I remember an incident where my shoe got ripped while walking towards Alexander Platz metro station near my flat. I enquired from my translator, Janet Selby, for the possibility of getting the shoe repaired. She replied to me that no one gets anything repaired here, which really shocked me. I had to buy a new pair of shoes, which was equal to my weekly stipend from Radio Berlin. We went to a shoe shop nearby and checked my shoe size and found that my foot was really small as per the European shoe size chart.

Finally, we found a suitable pair of shoes from the children’s section, where prizes were 50% less and I could save a lot of money. Janet Selby cautioned me that buying shoes from children’s section for adult use was against social norms. But the girl at the counter looked at me, gave me a smile and let me go.

At the end of World War II and after a period of allied occupation, two new German states were formed, East Germany and West Germany. The country was reunified in 1990. Berlin wall was demolished, and a new Germany was formed. Today, Germany is a developed nation with a strong economy.

I always had a problem with shoes. In the year 1969, I left army and was on the lookout for a job. My maternal uncle started a shoe factory at Ambala and asked me to join him. We set up a shoe factory in co -operative sector with two retail outlets in Ambala city and Ambala Cantonment. But the venture was a big flop, and I was back in Delhi.

It was hot summer afternoon when my friend, Jagmohan came to my house in Neta ji Nagar and poured out frustrations of his heart before me. I listened to him patiently. He was without a job at that time. He shared how one of his relatives had a shoe factory at Ghanta Ghar. I suggested to him that he should join him to gain experience in leather business. I still remember saying, “Who knows one day you may have your own factory manufacturing leather goods.” Leather industry is like gold mine, go join it, I advised. Gods were listening.

Perhaps, his destiny was beckoning him. He picked up the signal, joined the shoe factory and rest is history. After working in the shoe factory for a few years, he joined a renowned export house. After 19 years of being in the leather industry, he decided to set up his own business with his two friends.

He went solo after ten years and has since been a successful businessman.

Life is a mixture of good, bad, and ugly moments. Some incidence are sweet while others are sour. Leather industry has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Shoe manufacturing forms huge chunk of it. There are many people like me whom regular shoe size did not fit. I think it is time when some new start-up should come up and revive the practice of, Shoes made to size. Since sports shoes are comfortable and in fashion, shoes made to order should cover this segment as well.

This practice is in vogue in America, where orthopaedic shoes of your exact size are made. I am waiting for that day and may be, then People like me would not have to go for ladies’ shoes. I remember in my childhood, I was taken to local shoemaker shop, who made me sit on a bench, took out his notebook and pen, and drew shape of my foot on his big notebook. These shoes were always comfortable. May be, day is not far off when I shall have the privilege of having shoe made to my size.

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