Back in my naive days, I was the victim of an innocent belief that persisted till the year 2008, that shoes were meant for protective and ornamental purposes of the feet. Sure, I had heard of cases involving the procession of the person disgraced in the public eye, with a blackened face and riding atop a donkey, adorned with a garland of shoes. What I didn’t know, was the excellent alternative use of shoes – as a missile in aggressive protests.
Iraqi journalist, Mutandhar al-Zaidi cured me of this belief, when he shoed then-US President George Bush. And then, the ubiquitous shoes suddenly achieved cult status, almost overnight! Ramadan Baydan, the company that had manufactured the shoes that narrowly missed Bush, received orders for 300,000 shoes in a single week. However, in a delightful irony, the journalist himself was shoed, when talking about his shoeing of Bush and its consequences in 2009, by an exiled Iraqi journalist.
The shoeing frenzy hit the homeland shores when Home Minister, P. Chidambaram found himself the target of a wayward shoe in the same year. Enraged by his equivocal answer and refusal to comment further on the Central Investigation Bureau’s clean chit to the accused of 1984 riots, Jarnail Singh threw his shoe in a fit of fury. Even the Opposition Leader, LK Advani was not spared when one of his own party members shoed him the following week.
In the most recent shoeings of note which occurred this week, one Jitendra Pathak targeted the social activist Arvind Kejriwal, who was on his way to an anti-corruption campaign event. Kejriwal is a core member of ‘Team Anna’, the colloquial name for the group of social activists who led a nation-wide campaign against corruption earlier this year. Kejriwal shook the incident off gracefully. Rather than pointing fingers and making allegations, he issued a statement that forgave the offender and preached veternan Gandhian Anna Hazare’s ideology.
I find myself truly baffled by this rather curious choice of candidates on the receiving end of the shoe. To correct this grave and illogical decision, I am currently engaged in collecting and packing my old shoes to send them to Pathak-ji along with this note:
Though I admire your undemocratic way of protest, I think the choice of Kejriwal was ill advised. I am sending along my old shoes to donate to this worthy cause and hope to see them launched at corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who have milked our country dry.