The Shoe Fits
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India's malls have done only wonderful things for our feet
I confess I do not know anyone who isn't a mall-rat these days. Even those who scream in protest against the retail monstrosities that are created out of nothing in Delhi's far-off dust bowls, or Mumbai's forgotten mills, are unaware fans. If you are a patriot, I say, you cannot loathe a mall.
Malls are the new manna: ever since the country opened up its market for foreign investors and franchises, the hunger for us Indians to consume was truly understood. Department stores gave us new spaces, new jobs, new acquisitions and made the world flatter for us. What's not to adore?
Among the best things we derive from our malls, the most unnoticed and yet the biggest change lies in our footwear.
Indians have never had a penchant for good shoes. We've never had access to a good quality pair. Besides the few ladies who shopped abroad, designer heels like Gucci or even high-street labels like Barratts and Clarks, there was hardly any fuss over what we wore beneath the ankles and two pairs were probably enough. Most of us owned three basic pairs: a black sandal for 'formals', a gold heel for Indian weddings and one everyday pair.
Mumbai gals bought their shoes on a small stretch of tiny shops at Warden Road. These were locally made, by Indian mochis, but were 'western' in design. Many among them—Roots, Fait — are still standing. There was also The Oberoi hotel's shopping arcade, where Rs 400 took you far and trendy. The delightful Remu Zaveri's Joy Shoes, at the swanky The Taj Mahal Palace, was where the shoe snobs shopped. These shoes were pricey, sky-high at Rs 1,000 and over.
If you wore chappals, it meant you lived in Delhi. Delhi bought from good ol' Janpath or customised knock-offs at Karol Bagh.