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08 April 2007

Sandals for dead soles

Kolhapuri chappals from Maharasthra, IndiaWE ALL know about the hard-selling spirit of Indian entrepreneurship, but this afternoon's comic incident at a handicrafts fair in Bandra (Mumbai suburb) gave a new spin on that spirit.

I visited the fair for Kolhapuri chappals for my brother Allan. Hand-stitched in leather, these traditional Maharashtrian sandals are highly durable, yet Allan still wanted the best. His request was specific. “Paul, ang gusto ko, kahit patay na ang paa, buhay pa rin ang sandals (I want something so durable that even when the feet have died, the sandals are still working).”

There was only one booth selling sandals at the fair. I asked the salesman if his sandals were strong enough.

“Are your chappals good for dead feet?”

It took a few moments for him to comprehend my question, but the response was straight-faced and energetic. “Of course, of course! All my sandals are good for dead feet! What size you want?”

He gave me my size. “But it doesn't seem to fit dead feet,” I countered.

“That size is good for dead feet. Here, I have two designs. Take both. Very good leather and very cheap.” He was still straight-faced.

“So if my feet die, are these sandals going to live?”

Again, the momentary pause. Then came the earnest reply.

“Saab, touch the leather. It feels like dead feet nah. It will stay with you always. Buy now before too late. How many you want?”

He won. This dead-serious businessman with unrelenting confidence made me buy two pairs of Kolhapuri sandals. Allan—and whatever dead feet he had—would be very pleased!


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