A friend of mine, who was a PhD in biochemistry, had an arranged marriage in a very conservative family. She was “allowed” to work (thank God for that) but only after she cooked all meals, and cleaned floors and yes, untied her husband’s shoes after he came home from work and put those away in the shoe rack. It was a job she couldn’t falter at. This was something every woman in the household did for generations, a kind of ritual, which her husband found uncomfortable, but couldn’t stand up against because his mother wouldn’t approve of that.
After 10 years of marriage and taking off shoes every day, when her husband finally got a transfer to Kolkata and set up a separate home, this was the first thing he stopped her from doing. When we would chat at her place over cups of tea, this appalling regressive ritual in her extended family would be discussed often and we would heave a sigh of relief that she didn’t have to do it anymore.
A woman removing her husband’s shoes or carrying those in a public place is seen as a mark of servitude. It is looked at as patriarchy’s triumph over womanhood, but when a husband, a celebrity at that, carries his wife’s uncomfortable heels right in the middle of a wedding, people go, “Aww so cute, what a good husband.” Imagine if Deepika had been carrying Ranveer’s shoes! God help them then.
Sensibilities are getting warped I would say. If something is not right it is not right for either gender. Shoes in the Indian parlance are associated with the dirt and grime of the streets, so in every home we are expected to take them off when we enter. Every mandir, masjid or dargah you visit you are expected to take off your shoes. With time, traditions have changed considerably and there are carpeted homes where you are welcome with your shoes on and instead of the shoe cabinet at the entrance, many stock their shoe collection in their walk-in closets in their bedrooms. But one can’t deny that shoes are something that is not expected to be carried around by others like clothes or handbags. The house help in your home might be cleaning your crockery and laying the table every day but you usually don’t ask her to polish your shoes because that’s disrespecting her.
I am sorry to say instead of going “aww how cute is Ranveer” we should say, “Gosh, how could Deepika let him do this?” Carrying a spouse’s shoes is not about relationship goals; it is about one spouse disrespecting the other.