The Traveling Teal Kolhapuris

Musings about her romance with Dilli, by guest author Aishvarya Raghavan.

Janpath is a queer place. Maybe because our city is made up of Queer people. Least because most Queerfests/Prides/Marches take place here. Somehow not because you can almost always hear a hawker shouting ‘200 rupaye! 200 rupaye! Haan madame! Dekhlo 200 rupayee!’ and immediately after there’s another hawker, usually opposing our first budding marketer, who comes in to snatch the monopoly away while audaciously stating ‘Madam Zara, Vero Moda, Only 150 rupees Only!”.

No, I’m not talking about an Audi, a Mercedes Benz or two trying to fit into the small lane leading up to D’Paul’s or the famous chicken steamed momos or the fruit seller who only stocks the most exotic fruits. You won’t get Bananas there but ask for English Blueberries and he’ll quickly whip up a kilo of them.

As you walk further towards Connaught Place and stop a bit to soak in the Lutyenian charm, because well, that’s what the architecture of CP does to you, you turn. There’s the NewBookLand every avid reader must have visited at least once and marvelled at how a small, round bookstore could ever stock such delightful volumes. They might have even struck a lovely conversation with the owner who might know about every book ever published.

If you find yourself immune to its literary charm, you might walk onwards to the block which houses footwear. Now it is only with sheer fascination that one enters a footwear store. Not only does it house pieces of leather cut down to the shape of your feet and coloured in your deep tans, whites, noirs, and if you are so inclined, some jazzy silver and shaadi-green, but also a rendezvous with the Cultural trysts Delhi has had.

I had always believed footwear is a sign of your hold on the land. Be it the Mughals who introduced embroidered Mojaris taking inspiration from a somewhat comparatively bland Jutti used by the Rajputs and the plain sandals used by the Brahmins that take the modern day form of chappals to the closed shoes, wedges and Gladiators inspired by the west. A hold on the land means a hold in fashion which will continue on into the future, adapting to modern times.

At first, taking in all of this at one go is not very easy.  So much variety and such bling leaves me dazed after every shopping excursion. My experience at Kala Niketan at Janpath was although of a different kind. I expected to as usual be enamoured by their collection and spend hours to come to a conclusion. The moment I entered, through the corner of my eye I could see  a pair of Kolhapuris, waiting innocently on a stand. They were like all other Kolhapuris, made of Leather, quite thick and comfortable. What sets them apart is their colour. A happy, radiant Teal.

They looked like an absolutely ordinary pair of Kolhapuri chappals. They looked like a totally unique pair of Kolhapuri Chappals.

Now, I was not one to be hushed by my mother’s constant remarks on how it is so bright that it might not go with any of my clothes.

Teal it was. Teal it is.

The pair fit perfectly on my feet- and in my heart.

No. Delhi is not just a hush of frugality hidden underneath the layers of show, of Gucci, Rolex and makeup you assume to be expensive. Or a boiling pot of ‘fake’ inclusiveness and Indian Chinese Noodles you only get here. Our city is a queer one because it takes everything that is thrown at it, everything that ever existed in this subcontinent and adds its own audacious flavour to it, gives it a pushy stir, only my city can give and Voila!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Aishvarya Raghavan is two dozen years worth of indie literature, Urdu poetry, Asian gourmet food, cups of exotic-flavoured tea and alternative insights into popular culture. You can almost always catch her and her now famous teal Kolhapuris at Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place curating some gems for her delightful library. 

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