Indian Women Shoe Stealers

Ruchika Tanna

Los Angeles, California

April 25, 2012

Folklore Type: Ritual

Informant Bio: Ruchika is my friend and fellow Archaeology major. Ruchika is a Sophomore at the University of Southern California. She has moved around her whole life. She is Indian.

Context: We were both in Intro to Folklore and decided to meet before Maya Civilization, the other class we have together, and discuss some. She specifically mentioned the shoe stealing at weddings in a study session we were at for the Folklore midterm.

Item: Ok, um so I guess you would call this an initiation ritual of sorts. Not all parts of India do this. My family does it, but I know people in Gujarat do this too. That’s where my family’s from. Basically friends of the bride, like her cousins, sisters, those people try to get the groom’s shoes. Friends of the groom, on guys on that side are protective of them. This happens on the day of the wedding. Oh, and if the girls get the shoes then they (guys) have to pay all of them (girls). I don’t know why this only happens on the marriage day because Indian weddings are like super long. But if the girls aren’t able to get the shoes then the guys will make it easier. Like they put up a good fight and eventually give them over just to be nice and have a good relationship. It can get kinda crazy, like my female cousin got blacked once ‘cause she got tackled by a former football player. She fell and got hit on the head. I’ve heard horror stories of clothes getting torn. The last wedding we had a fight almost broke out. These things get pretty intense man. Oh, the guys don’t just give the girls the shoes. Like they will hide it in an easier spot. But if my side gets the shoes then we give it to the old ladies. ‘Cause you can’t tackle old ladies. It’s not just us. I’ve seen it in movies too. I kind of stay out of it on the sidelines.

Informant Analysis: I think it’s an exciting ritual. And it lets both sides interact. ‘Cause you know mostly they just stay on their own sides. It’s also exciting for the kids because it gives them something to do during. I’ve definitely seen cases though, where it does go too far.

Analysis: Ruchika is definitely onto something as far as it is something to distract the children. This ritual also has a lot to do with having a good relationship between the two families coming together. In Indian culture a marriage is also a partnership, particularly since arranged marriages are still fairly common. This ritual does not include the bride and groom in the camaraderie. They are just a means for the other people on both sides to meet and interact. The groom’s shoes are also pretty essential to walking and dancing, so it is important that they get back to him which forces his side to pay the girls and reach a truce between families.

 Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012