Monday, March 30, 2009

Nice Shoes

Before we left on our trip, I bought new running shoes.  (It was actually the day before.  I like to keep things interesting.)  I bought a relatively modestly priced pair of Asic's; I think they were about $100, which is worth paying for me because I do so much running.  If I try to skimp I end up paying a visit to the doctor, wondering why my leg has a fracture in it.  

On our trip I've worn the shoes every day for both running and walking around, and they've worked out great.  Usually in SF I wear slightly hipper adidas flats, but we packed light so I didn't bring them.  I don't really care about being that stylish, especially when I'm traveling.

One thing we've noticed about India is how well dressed people are.  Even the poorest people often seem to have nicely starched button down shirts and long pants.  Maybe it's because they're too skinny from not enough food, but they usually look lanky and quite nice in their brightly colored clean clothes.  (even as they dodge huge piles of feces on the street)  It makes me feel pretty unpresentable, with my hot-weather REI hiking pants/shorts and my running shoes.  I've taken to wearing long pants, despite the heat, so I don't stick out as much.  (which may be pointless given my other obvious differences in appearance)

Indians tend to wear sandals, but many people do wear nice leather-looking shoes.  Their shoes seem much nicer to me than my running shoes.  I'd wear such shoes with a nice outfit or a suit.

To my surprise, when I walk around, little children in nice looking clothes say to me, "Nice Shoes!"  I've heard that at least 3 or 4 times.  Given my already present concern about feeling underdressed, at first I thought they were making fun of my running shoes.  However, Indian children have this adorably innocent way of smiling at you (perhaps unlike in the US, where children are told not to talk to strangers).  It's hard to think the children are being mean.  Also, when we went on our camel trek, Marisa noticed that the little Indian boy helping her camel spent the entire time, a couple hours, staring at my shoes, which he was fascinated by.  

Why would they be fascinated by my shoes?

It took me awhile to figure it out and was confirmed by queries to our driver.  The explanation is kind of depressing:  The black/brown dress shoes that Indians wear are very cheap to buy, even though they look nice.  My name-brand Asic's, which I consider to be "moderately priced", are quite expensive shoes for any Indian to buy.  To those kids, my running shoes are "nice shoes", probably nicer than the handmade dress shoes most people here wear.

On a side note, the other thing Indian kids say to me is "Ali Baba!  Ali Baba!"  Ali Baba is apparently a figure in a children's story who has a goatee beard, ostensibly similar to mine.  I stay good humored about it.  A 15 year old Indian kid started talking to me at a temple, probably to practice his English.  After going through the usual English lesson repertoir of "What is your name", "Where are you from", he complimented me on my beard, to which I replied knowingly, "Yes!  Like Ali Baba!"  He laughed, "Yes", and repeated,  "Like Ali Baba."

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting how things we hardly notice about ourselves can suddenly become important when we're traveling. I guess you're very stylishly unerdressed.