Don’t touch anything with your feet

Context & Background:

The informant is a friend met in college and is Indian. I grew up in a rural town in Wisconsin, USA, where there weren’t many other Indians. Throughout middle and high school, I didn’t have any friends with who I could relate with culturally, so when I came to college, I got to meet people who have the same heritage as me. Here is a conversation with my Indian friend. KR – informant, SD – collector.

Performance: (via FaceTime)

KR: Yea, so I know that whenever your feet touch anything, especially books or a laptop but basically anything, you have to touch it with your hand and put your hand to your head and heart. It’s kind of like apologizing or asking for blessings or something like that.

SD: I do that too! I’ve done this my whole life, so when I do it in public, people sometimes ask what I’m doing and then I tell them this exact same thing.

KR: Yes, I know a lot of my friends do it too. 

SD: So do you know why we have this belief?

KR: I think it has to do with our feet being bad. Like they are the body part taking all the dirt and scraps and so if we touch something with a dirty body part, we have to apologize. 

SD: Yes, I think that might be it. 


In this piece, you can again see the underlying emphasis on knowledge and academics in the Indian culture. KR mentions “especially books or laptops”, which are sources that give you knowledge and wisdom. Another version of the importance of this tradition that I have heard is that if you put your foot on something, you think you are better than them. You don’t want to be arrogant and you don’t want to consider yourself better than anyone, even an inanimate object. So you ask for forgiveness.