Monday, September 2, 2013



PHOTO Avtar Mota 

" Avtar  joota raakhiye ujdaa huvaa banaaye,
Varnaa mandir masjid mein Chor utha le jaaye .."

(Avtar Mota)


Wherever a person is required to remove his shoes to enter a religious place or sit for food in a gathering or attend some social obligation where a large number of strangers are also present, he runs the risk of his shoes being stolen. Shoe thefts are a worldwide phenomenon. You find shoe thieves in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and America. They are active in hot deserts and also in cool and temperate Mediterranean climates. It is practised in churches, temples and mosques by people of all races and colours.No
caste, colour or religious divide exists for this adventure. In India, a social sanction has been accorded to this practice in marriages when shoes of the bridegroom are stolen by youngsters demanding cash in lieu thereof.


“ ' Tse yuunn vobaah. Tse pyon aata-shaq. Tse gatssienn dast e kassiyaan . Hataa tse draaiyaa Holleijj . Tse goya  phaallij. Guss  tse gatchhinnaya Kaambal. Goya badanuss Nosoor.  Haa  boot tchooro . Goyaa gaadi tal Khor ya boot laagithh…. Pyokhaa  *Ali Jaanus pyaath. Guss tse tchatanyaa karan Nagareik doctor ** Bhanan hedrooniss munz yudd.Tse nyoothha Mohd Sidiquss nov boot. Tse goya garuss loot.  ‘ meaning  ‘Let Cholera visit you. Let you fall prey to deadly syphilis. Let you turn sick with blood dysentery. Let smallpox visit your body. Let a stroke attack you. Let jaundice attack you. Let your body get incurable wounds. O, you shoe thief! Let your feet be crushed under a vehicle when you wear these shoes. Let you become a regular patient of Dr Ali Jan. Let Dr B M Bhan( Surgeon ) of Karan Nagar open your tummy in  Hedroon hospital Srinagar. Did you steal  Mohammad Sidiq’s shoes? Let a gang of thieves loot your household.’ "  This is what Sondher Ded, mother of  Mohammad Sidiq   (  a baker  )  and our neighbour in Rainawari kept crying ( cursing the thief ) while moving in the Mohalla lane for about two hours. Mohammad Sidiq’s shoes had been stolen from a nearby mosque and Sondher Ded suspected that someone from Khadija's family had stolen the new pair of shoes. She had also seen Khadija's husband entering the mosque last of all. Khadija's family was comparatively poor. Khadija's family also lived in the same Mohalla.
 " ‘Kyaah maahra kyaa chhuvaa Tchhaandaan . Me vanniv ‘.   meaning . ‘What are you looking for?  Sir, Tell me. ’ "

" '  Yemiss maahra niyakh nava Bata chappien . Yettien  thhavein 
paanuss paetkin ta beeth batuss. Khabar kuss phoruss. Ye chhanass tchhenimitch nylon chappien thhavameth tamie badalah .’  meaning .. ‘Sir her new Bata sandals have been stolen. She had safely put them outside the shamiana just where she sat for the food. God knows who stole it. See the thief has kept a pair of   old, worn out and abused  cheap rubber sandals in place of her new sandals.' "

 " ‘ Traath yimunn Chapni tsooran . Meharbaani kariv maahra ,taam kaddiv zudd . Pataa vuchhav kyaah karav.’  meaning …’ Let these thieves get burnt under lightning from the clouds. Please make some temporary arrangement. Let me see what can be done later on. ‘
This is what the host told the sufferer in that marriage. This is an actual incident in a  Kashmiri Pandit marriage lunch. I was joined by my colleague who had come along with his mother. His mother had insisted that she be allowed to take her sandals inside the marriage shamiana. Kashmiri Pandit ladies would generally sit over the sandals or shoes of accompanying children and eat the food.  While eating food, they would also repeatedly ensure that the shoes or sandals were there despite holding them so close. Such was the fear of losing your shoes or sandals in a marriage feast. I felt guilty for suggesting the friend to place the sandals and shoes outside the shamiana .
I know about many incidents wherein shoes or sandals of my relatives or friends were stolen outside some temples in Srinagar.  The shoes of one of my friends were stolen when he went to Nowhatta locality in downtown Srinagar city for offering his condolences to some close relative’s family wherein a   death had taken place. This friend told me that he had to keep quiet and cover the distance barefooted back to his house located in Ali kadal locality.
The practice of stealing shoes from mosques has not come to halt in Kashmir. Many friends keep complaining about this issue privately.  Shoe thieves in other social get-togethers/ events are also on a lookout for a good pair of branded or new shoes or sandals.
I also know of a friend’s son in law who lost his new shoe outside a temple in Janipur. The boy had come to his in-law’s house for a  *** Phirsaal feast. The newlyweds were suggested to visit a temple by his in-law’s family.  And the poor fellow had to come back barefooted.
To a large extent, shoe thefts have vanished from Kashmiri Pandit marriage feasts because shoes are not to be removed any more after the switch over to buffet system. Everybody consumes everything just standing and moving for his turn.
And then I am always surprised to find how some unusual second-hand stuff is sold in Sunday market of Kashmir. In Srinagar’s Sunday market, you find second-hand clothes and, internationally branded jeans, Chinese carpets, old Books,    quilts,  Blankets and strange but true, second-hand shoes of international brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, Vans, and Converse etc. for men and  Rock And Candy, Steve Madden, Saucony, Life Stride, Jelly Pop and Skechers etc.for women.

‘ Aao aao. looto looto.
Bumbai ka maal .
Dekho  apni chaal .
Farangi ne bejaa .
Paaanch sau mein le jaa.
 Idhar Idhar .
Dekhataa kidhar .
O khan ! Joota pehchaan .
Thhuff ha sa thhuff .
Maashee Juff Juff.’

‘ Come ! Come !
Loot it ! Loot It !
This is Mumbai stuff
And see your style .
Europeans have sent it
Grab it just for five hundred rupees.
Here! Here !
Do not look anywhere .
O Khan, select a shoe for yourself.
A  surprise gift . Yes, a surprise gift.
Forget that old awkward gait.’

This is how the hawkers and footpath or charpoy traders in Sunday market cry to attract onlookers and pedestrians for buying the second-hand shoes in Kashmir. I asked a seller as to where from do these second-hand shoes come. To this query, he replied that they buy bundles of this stuff from traders in New Delhi or other places.
Plenty of this stuff is sold in Srinagar's  Sunday market or otherwise on footpaths or in Reddis by the hawkers. You need to select a good pair by putting your hand inside the shoe heap. Pay anything from Rs 500 to Rs700 and carry home a shoe of an international brand.  It could be almost a new pair.

Wherefrom do these shoes come? Could be stolen stuff from Asian countries traded through a well-organized network? I am not sure . It appears so. For sure these shoes have not been donated or given in charity for brothers and sisters living in poor and developing countries by their affluent well-wishers from developed countries. No Red Cross channel brings these shoes as is generally talked about.  some newspaper reports on the subject  may clear
lurking doubts
 I quote some International newspaper reports on the subject

( 1 )Precautions for Tourists on “ Ooty Holidays And Tour packages” brochure

“When you go into a temple, you have to leave your shoes outside. A good security measure is to separate your shoes, so it will be difficult for a thief to find both of them quickly. A shoe thief will not wear one shoe while he is looking for the other. The best thing is not to bring expensive shoes to temples at all, especially a good new pair of sneakers (running shoes) or  Birkenstocks.”

(2)Newspaper report 16.07.2008

“The 48-year-old man was caught by a local man who had seen him loitering outside the Rayyan mosque in Qatar, reported Qatar daily ‘Gulf Times’ on Wednesday.
After making his prayers, the Qatari had discovered his $100 shoes had gone missing and after walking barefoot to his car he again noticed the Egyptian, this time carrying a bag about a kilometre from the scene of the crime. When he was confronted, the thief threw the bag over a wall. Inside were 15 to 20 pairs of shoes valued at about $1400.’ the newspaper said.

(3)Newspaper  Report DATED 05.05.2013.

“Thieves target  temples all over Thailand and there's big money to be made on second-hand shoes.”

(4)Newspaper report 30.06.2013.

‘Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio ( Titanic star )was sightseeing in the country and joined a group of fellow Americans on a trip to a hilltop temple in Kyoto, Japan. He was tense and upset when his shoes were stolen. The poor guy had to leave the place barefoot.’
(5)Newspaper report 25.02.2010.

‘Shoes are stolen from outside all the popular shrines right across India, including the dargah of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Shirdi, Siddhivinayak and Ganesh temple in Titwala. Tour operators running long-distance luxury buses, work in partnership with the hawkers. The buses are used to transport the stolen shoes across the country.’
(6)Newspaper report 25.02.2010.

‘Across the world, a South Korean man has taken advantage of the custom of leaving shoes outside, like a show of respect, before entering the mourning rooms. Most mourners are dressed up and wear their best shoes. Police recently arrested a  man named Park believed to be a master shoe thief in South Korea park would take off his shoes before entering the mourning rooms, pretending to be one of the mourners. When he left he would step into a more expensive pair of footwear and leave his old shoes behind. The police arrested Park after his warehouse was raided. They found 1200 pairs of shoes, carefully stored in sizes, ready for sale in a second-hand shoe business in southern Seoul’s Sueso district.’

(7)  A   Report
in  "DAILY MONITOR" UK year 2013.
‘A friend once told me of several incidents of theft that had taken place at their church in the city centre. “Last Sunday, while mummy had left our pew for Holy Communion, a man came and picked up her bag claiming she had asked him to keep it for her,” Jane narrated. She went on to say that the man was accosted outside the church by ushers. “He was taken away to Police and luckily, mummy’s bag was recovered.’
So, it is no secret that not everyone in a house of prayer is a genuine worshipper. Let me conclude this post with couplets from Urdu poets Nazir Akbarabaadi and Altaf Hussain Haali ( grandfather of noted filmmaker late K A Abbas ) who were also victims of shoe thefts.

“Apne jooton se rahien sare namazi hoshiar
 Ek buzurgh Aatey hain masjid mein Khizr ki surat”.

( Altaf Hussain Hali )

(Those who come to offer namaz should take care of their shoes.
 An old man with the countenance of  **** Khizr comes and, impliedly, steals them.)

And see what poet Nazir Akbarabaadi has to say on this subject :

“Masjid bhi aadmi Nne banaayi hai yaan miyaan
Banatay hain aadmi hi Iimaam aur Khutb-Khwaan
Padtain hain aadmi hi quran aur nimaaz yaan
Aur aadmi hi unn ki churaatein hain jootiyaan
Jo  unn ko Taadataa  hai so hai woh bhi aadami
khaaliq se ja milaa hai so hai woh bhi aadami
Jo naach Ddkhtaa hai so hai woh bhi aadmi…

( From Aadminaama by Nazir Akbarabaadi )

( Avtar Mota )

* Dr Ali Jan was a widely respected physician of Kashmir with great diagnostic skills.

** Dr Brij Mohan Bhan was a well-known surgeon from Kashmir.
*** Phirsaal is a feast arranged for the bridegroom by the bride’s family immediately after the marriage. Generally, children accompany the boy for this feast. This custom is practised by  Muslims and Pandits of Kashmir.
**** Khizr is believed to be a righteous servant of God who possesses great wisdom or mystic knowledge. This is a couplet by Altaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914). Hali was about 20 years old then and had come from his ancestral village in Panipat to a Delhi. Hali had the good fortune of meeting  Poet Mirza Ghalib before the outbreak of the Mutiny.

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