Chair and Footwear
The small things that make our life
I enter my home and sit on the side stool to remove my shoes. I untie my laces and ponder at the wonder that these uniquely made things are. I look at my shoes and remember the story of that famous king who wanted to carpet the whole world so that his feet do not get hurt. It was then that someone came up with an idea of footwear. The king was impressed and rewarded the person handsomely.
This is my take on chair and footwear. If you are here for the first time or want to read my previous works, go and check out-
It is such a normal thing to have footwear for any person. We do not think much about it. But if you spare a thought, footwear is the thing that tolerates the most amount of pressure. You are literally standing on it for hours and hours and it accompanies and protects your feet. Also, footwear becomes a different type of commodity and the importance increases and decreases as per their profession as well as status. Athletes spend millions of rupees to get the perfect footwear. Most of the time, the companies are the sponsors and tailor-made shoes for the athlete. Compare that to a person who works on a construction site. The purpose becomes extremely different. It transforms from being a tool that facilitates performance in the sport to an essential and life-saving tool that is present to ensure that injuries do not happen or in the worst case, there is the least amount of possible damage to the feet.
In fact, the best place to see how shoes hold importance to a person’s life is at a footwear shop. I would try the footwear and run, dance, jog in front of the mirror to check out how the footwear feels as well as how I look. But different people have different emotions related to the shoes. Perhaps the most striking example is the way the shoes became an integral part of the love story in Shaolin Soccer, a movie that combines the antiques of Kung Fu and Soccer in a humorous way. The shoes become the symbol of love and the girl mends it lovingly. After that, the protagonist scores the ultimate goal and the team wins.
Footwear also became a symbol of joy and enamour for so many people. Kids come first on this list. Their affinity for light-emitting shoes is remarkable. They become so happy and spend hours checking them out ( unless of course, some very intelligent adult does not show them a mobile phone or a tablet). Each person views the footwear differently. In fact, it is said that footwear is the first thing that people notice subconsciously. Maybe that is why you should wear your best footwear at a party, date, or interview.
What is the most surprising element in Footwear is that there are standardized sizes that are available these days. I remember reading stories about cobblers making custom-fit shoes for their clients. I wonder how 10 sizes are appropriate for Billions of people in the world. I always feel that there has to be a mechanism deeper than the eye can see that does the magic here. Of course, they are not always the most comfortable for everyone but a majority of people can find their foot partner in the given sizes. That is something remarkably brilliant.
The idea of footwear also reminds me of a famous concept about how the Indian football team was not allowed to play in the FIFA world cup because of a lack of good footwear. That is strange as well as shocking. Reports also say that this is just an excuse for a reason not known to the public. Of course, Footwear becomes a place to hide. Literally, as well as metaphorically here.
People hide their feet in the footwear. Yes, it is protection but hiding too. Have a date and have not had the time to look after the feet? Voila, socks and nice footwear to the rescue. Find the perfect size and you are ready!
As people find their perfect size and fit, they use a brilliant piece of furniture that is in everyone’s house in some form or the other- a chair. I mean a place to sit that is not the floor here. Can be a custom made designer couch or a simple tin can or barrel that is used for people to sit on. There is no limit to what a chair can be. Sometimes, it is other people too! It would be a crime to not include the beautiful metaphor from Dear Zindagi about chairs here. I shall explain that in the next paragraph. You can skip it if you remember.
Basically, the movie talked about dating and finding people as finding chairs. Each chair has a different feel and looks to it. Some might look the best but provide discomfort while sitting. Some would look okay but would be the most comfortable to sit on. It depends on you to choose the perfect one and see which feels the best. You should also remember that most of the time, you would be sitting and experiencing the magic of the chair rather than looking at it so your choice has a deeper meaning here.
Chairs are often associated with comfort and relaxation. We choose them carefully and meticulously. There is no perfect standard chair for all, just like the standard sizes of shoes. However, there are some that we sit on and feel fine even though it is a normal one. The plastic chairs of Nilkamal are so universal that they feel they are omnipresent. Maybe it is the God of Furniture, or specifically, God of Chairs, who knows?
Then there are the benches that are present in the gardens that feel uncomfortable after a point of time. Do you know that they are designed in such a way that you feel discomfort and leave it for someone else to enjoy for a while? Yep, that is how it functions. The spaces are not for aesthetic or functional purposes but to deter you from sitting a long time on them.
Thinks loudly in a dramatic fashion- Oh cruel world, what did we do to deserve this misery?
I remember visiting Mocha in Gandhinagar several times. There are two sections in the cafe. One is the outer sitting and there is an inner one. When I visited there, each of the tables had a different set of chairs. In fact, there were no similar chairs in the whole cafe. Each had a different make, feel, and texture. It was such a fascinating thing to have. I also remember that I actually went and sat on as many chairs as possible. It was quite different. And of course, there is the king of chairs- the swings or the swinging one. In case you want to dive into that world of swings, do read Swings and fireworks- a different mediation of mine.
And of course, the final thought about chairs is how the chair becomes a thing of aspiration and the highest symbol of power. Be it a throne, a post in the company, or a chair of the prime minister or president. So many people strive and aim to be sitting on one of them. Many are fine with simpler ones with less amount of cushioning and jewellery.
The question is, would you still like to sit on a chair and feel your footwear, or throw footwear at someone who is at the chair because they are so useless and annoying, or would you go at the ultimate stage of wildness, and throw both at one another?
Oh, wait. The last thing happens more frequently and at times, on national public television.
Aiyyo, I should not have written that. Let me rush to the chair and get my footwear on before I am thrown a couple at. Hopefully, they throw in pairs so that I do not have to order them from Amazon or go buying them.
That is all from my side. Here is the customary comic and song-
An Ode to an Old Chair and Footwear
I sit emptily on the cold black metal chair of the hospital, in and out of sleep. Sometimes the creaking sound from the wheels of a stretcher wakes me up, other times it is the blaring sound of the tv where the news anchor seemed to be warning everyone with utmost seriousness about the wild spread of Omicron. I cannot watch it, it is quite cold, the news and the weather. Sometimes, I wonder about the expressionlessness of the tv anchor, who reminds me of an obedient aunt, always taking orders, working herself till the birds went to the nest. She must feel, we all feel, how can individuals live without feeling, she talks about raging Omicron with a plastered straight face, the threads of her sense of duty barely holding it all together. Who knows, she might have very well lost someone close to Covid, or even herself maybe. Lives have changed with Covid, a lot of things feel different and yet there is this palpable struggle to get everything back to “normal” and erase all the signs of this pandemic from our lives in an attempt to declare victory over it. The chair gets colder as I think about the smoke and mirrors that our lives have become, or have they been so always?
I blinked and I was sitting on the old wooden rocking chair at home. The chair has been in my family for generations, I was gently rocking on it, in and out of sleep when I got the news. The sun was just starting to feel pleasant, I was desperate for a slanting ray of sunlight to hit my face, then my whole body, and then finally curl around me like a warm blanket on a cold cold night. The news came before the rays could touch me. I wonder if they still await for the sparsh that I was so eagerly looking forward to, or did they already know the inevitability of it? No wonder the sunlight kept eluding me, even as it hit the plant sitting right next to me. It used to gently spread itself on my grandfather’s face when he used to rock on this chair, right in this balcony, ages ago. What we lose sometimes is never found in any of the courtyards of the past, some moments simply remain pinned on the maps of our memories.
I picked myself up and my feet touched the cold floor in a hurry, it jolted me, again I wondered about the nature of cold. It follows me with the breeze that seemed to be coming from the sunlight, yet it would slice my skin bitterly when it finally reached. Was it the same breeze that left cracks on the armrest of this old wooden chair? Or was it the weight of the generations that have measured their lives rocking on it? I fumble to find my footwear, they are warm, new, and clean. How would my ancestors have felt walking in my shoes I wonder... I remember the old Bata chappals that my grandfather used to wear, never compromising on the fit or design. He wore his typical Raymond white shirt and black pants stitched from the same tailor all along with his life, with the same Bata chappals year after year for forty years, and a golden Rado watches on his hand that my father brought for him from Africa. I don’t remember seeing him in anything else, nor does my father. How the cobweb of memory tangles us up! I cannot remember so many things that seem so very important, and somehow I feel full of memories that do not seem of any material importance now, they are merely bare bones of my past, are they waiting to be resurrected in future? Or are they simply looking out for me? Keeping me warm on cold days like these... The footwear feels snug in my feet, I finally pierce through the still moment of inevitability from my balcony to go to the hospital. Somehow I end up at the Bata store before going to the hospital, the storekeeper looks at me with surprised and sorry eyes, I haven’t been here since last ten years, he knows my grandfather passed away, he was there at his funeral with his young daughter. His hair has turned slightly grey now, so have mine -- I realise as I look at myself in the mirror. But he recognised me, the young boy that would come with his grandfather every once in a while for those chappals, he always reserved a pair for my dada. I think something in my eyes spoke to him, for he knew what I was there for, even if I didn’t. He whispered to me how never stopped reserving a pair for dada, I nodded and he quietly brought me a pair. As I brought my wallet out he softly tapped on my wrist, held it firmly and slightly moved his head to say no with sombre eyes. I shook his hand firmly and left, not many words were exchanged but his touch spoke volumes, it all came rushing to me. Round and round in my head the clouds of memory conjured up the images of his daughter...her accident...dark night...banging on the door...it was all a blur now, vapid vapours bobbing in and out of my head. Something had happened, that we never much spoke of, he revered dada since that day he would then come to our place every Diwali to seek his blessings along with his daughter. I step out of the store and suddenly the sun was warmer, the air felt lighter, and the earth gentler under those chappals.
When I reached the hospital I was taken to the ICU to see my uncle. Ripped with injuries and buried under the bandages and tubes he lay there, like a tranquillized elephant. A pompous man always joking around, sometimes even at his own cost, I never imagined I would see him like this: frail, unconscious, hands tied to the bed. Death seemed to be hovering around in the air, the sound of machines kept beeping and I could hear the groan of an old man lying on the next bed. The nurse came rushing but alas it was nothing, he was dying yet, neither the old man nor my uncle. Everything seemed still, the heavy burden of crumpled lives fighting to survive sucked the oxygen out of the air, sunlight receded from the verandah of my thoughts and I was again left out cold. I could hardly breathe now, I walked out as calmly as a deer does when it knows the lion has spotted it -- was I a good nephew? What should I have done for him while he lay there in a coma? What could I have done for him? There must have been something, the devils from hell will surely point it out when I reach there, for now, the gossiping aunts will enlighten me, for they sure know it even better than the devil about my failings as a nephew.
I sit emptily on the cold black metal chair of the hospital, in the waiting room, in and out of sleep again. I look down at the chappals, the roots to our generations past will not be there anymore when the next generation comes up, their seeds would have to be planted anew. The old wooden rocking chair still moves, is it the breeze or the wish of my grandfather I cannot tell, but it seems tired now, not as smooth as it once used to be. It cracks every time I fit snuggly and moves on it, maybe a new swanky revolving chair will replace it, as the new generation replaces the last one. Generations lost and found, scattered all around, like slivers of time-sliced away from the past, and no thread pulling it towards the future, hanging loose in the thin air. Yet the chair is rocking, and the chappals keep walking, for my life shall be their last respite.
Objects, memories, Aanchal Malhotra: ‘remnants of a separation: a history of partition through material memory’
Nature of memory, remembering of remembering
The Seen and The Unseen #257 - Amit Varma w Annapurna Garimella (art historian)
Japanese belief of how things/objects have their own life:
Mono no aware = things possessing feelings or sentiments
The deep feeling or pathos of things, the powerful emotions that objects can evoke or instill in us.
Kintsugi = Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold
Ayee! Thank you so much for reading and I would be so happy to know what you think about this letter. Do feel free to give me any constructive feedback. I would really appreciate it! If you have a topic in mind that you would like me to write upon, do write below.
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