Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

135. Shoe-Watch

I realize that I am on ‘Shoe-Watch’ mode once again.
No, I have not changed my occupation. I was never in the ‘shoe’ business; nor do I see it happening in either near or distant future.
Then what am I talking about?
During the last few months, I have been out of Delhi many times. Every time I return and every time I take a Metro to reach office after the gap, I realize that I am engrossed in ‘Shoe- Watch’.
I know: it still does not make any sense.
Why do I watch shoes? Am I obsessed about shoes?
Let me explain.
When in Delhi, I take Metro to reach office and for coming back home. Metro is good: it saves time; it is less crowded; it is clean; it is not very expensive and all that. The most important part is the first coach of Delhi Metro is reserved for women.  That makes travel less irritating, much comfortable.
The Metro line I daily (well almost daily!) use is an underground Metro line. Once I enter into the Metro station, I am completely disconnected from the sky. As the Metro is fully AC, the doors and windows are closed – except that the doors open wide in the station.
So, while traveling by Metro, I get caught in the limited space. No sky, no trees, no buildings, only darkness outside. I feel completely uprooted, empty. I need some activity to fill the vacuum within me. But one cannot do any activity here except watching. When my eyes wander here and there, they certainly fall on some woman’s face. It is disgusting to be noticed when I am watching someone without purpose, without knowledge, without any real interest.
For everyone it is an awkward moment. There are different responses. Some women smile as they are involved in the exactly similar act – they too are watching me without purpose, without knowing, without interest. However, some women feel irritated, which is natural. It is in a way trespassing their privacy. Some women get angry. Some women start listening to music, speaking to someone on mobile. Some talk loudly with their friends, colleagues sitting or standing next to them. Some women become more conscious; some women ignore; some women stare back as if challenging me. Some politely open conversation.
Some women are wise; they look at me and close their eyes without  any expression. They treat me as if I do not exist. I am sure, I too respond in all these different ways in different situations!  Well, that is one of the best option I too have - to close eyes. I can take a nap if I want. If I don’t want that, I always have so many moments to remember, to re-live. I have so many ideas to give more thought to, to plan their expression. I have things to remember and things to forget.
But somehow I close eyes only to open. With every announcement (and there are too many) I open eyes. I close eyes and open them again; I open eyes and close them again. I cannot relax completely. I don’t like to use earphone for listening music. I do not know anyone with whom I can go on talking for half an hour on Metro. I don’t make or receive calls (unless absolutely necessary) when I am amongst strangers – I like to keep my world to myself. So, closing and opening of eyes goes on endlessly – again attracting attention.
What do I see with open eyes? As I said earlier, there is nothing to see outside and I need to avoid watching faces. So, as a last resort I have developed a habit – I watch shoes. Generally women around me don’t understand that I am watching their shoes – because in one glance I can cover a range of shoes.
Let me tell you, that is an amazing world – the world of shoes! They come in different sizes, colors, styles, designs; they are made of different materials and have different personalities. There are sandals, floaters, chappals. There are some with single strap, some with cross straps, some with double strap and so on.  Each one of them expresses something – not about itself but about its owner. I look at the shoes without looking at the face and imagine how this particular woman would be – and funnily when I look at the woman, my guess about her outward personality is almost right. It is certainly fun to imagine about a person wearing pink shoes or zebra stripes or blue bordered red shoes. It is not just imagination but a combination of logic, experience and imagination. Even the shoe lace speaks volumes about the person (how tight it is tied, what is its length etc.) – that is what I have learnt.
The ‘shoe-watch’ is no more an awkward habit for me; I no more feel guilty about it, nor do I get bored by it. Shoe-Watch is a topic of entertainment, and silent learning. It is a world without words. The experience gets synthesized (without words), and makes way for new hypothesis, observations, and inferences! The cycle continues… the challenges provoke and keep me awake and connected.
It is amazing that when we are forced in a certain situation how our mind finds out moments of happiness and creates its own space within the limited space. The mind creates its own world even when the walls are limiting the view. Mind has the capacity to rebuild from what is given, to interpret anew. It has a capacity to find meaning in apparently meaningless life.
Every time we fear that there is no alternative, we just need to change our intent and the whole new world emerges – even when all the external aspects remain the same! The same ‘shoes’ will not interest us forever, the purpose will of course change from time to time- but does not matter until we enjoy and grow.


  1. Well, I (confess)admit, I share & enjoy this habit.

    and Its FUN...!

  2. What a perceptive post ! Loved it.

    Just wanted to point out something from my experience. Many times, , when one is travelling, say in Mumbai locals, the mind/head, possibly swaying imperceptibly, in resonance with the rhythm of the train, kind of numbs the thinking and makes it more of a pure visual process. You see things, but there isnt much reasoning/speculating happening in the mind. A kind of "idling". This leads me to think that in the technology used in the metro, things are uninterestingly smooth leaving the mind open , as you describe ....is that true ?

  3. Amazing narration of the process 'how our mind finds out moments of happiness and creates its own space within the limited space'

  4. donnow why....bit i did enjoy reading it. :)

  5. Well, Makk, I suppose men do not have such a variety of shoes ..or do they too have? :-)

    Surangatai, I am still thinking a lot about technology used by Metro .. I don't think it makes one creative, it actually corners people into a limited space .. It is the trick 'when pushed to wall, innovate' that I use. But I am going to think more about sociological and psychological aspects of space contstraints!

    Thanks Preeti.

    Mahesh, it seems that something in the process that I elaborated attracted you. Or are you fan of shoes? Just joking :-)

  6. though there is variety too, of course not as much as women's.

  7. love the way you have concluded!

  8. shoe watch is fun ! Have done it many times. At other times though, it is just possible to tilt the head and stare at an inanimate ceiling of the lift or train or wherever !

    Somehow, looking down for a long time doesnt go well with me !

    You capture it well !!! :)

  9. Kavi, if you ever start a 'Shoe-Watch' club, I would certainly join :-)

  10. I used to do it as a child and sure it was fun! After reading this wonderful post, I think I should get back to it :-)

  11. Well, JP, I am thinking of launching Shoe-Watch club :-)

  12. Your shoe watch was fantastic. Shoes reflect the personality of the wearer (women).When it comes to men, it would not be that easy.

  13. Subramanianjee, is it because men have less variety in shoes that the shoes do not reflect personality? Next time I travel in General compartment, I am going to try 'shoe-watch' and find out!


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