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Joota Chupai – Shoe Stealing

ZN describes a prank/game that is commonly played at weddings in their culture. They are a second generation immigrant from Pakistan who lives in the Bay Area. Their family is Muslim.

ZN.) So, when a couple gets married – a bride and groom – the bride’s family, usually like the younger siblings or cousins of the bride, will steal the groom’s shoes and then they’ll go hide them somewhere and the groom’s family has to try and get the shoes, but they never do. And then the groom has to buy the shoes back from the bride’s family because they’re like, ‘oh you’re taking away or our sister or cousin,’ or whatever. It’s like, ‘we’re taking your shoes’ and then the groom is like, ‘I’ll pay you a lot of money for the shoes.’ So, then It’s like a huge, like, bargaining thing and the groom will be like, ‘Oh how about like $200’ and then the bride’s family will go like, ‘No we want $1000.’ The groom will be like, ‘No, but I’m broke. I won’t have any money to pay for my new wife’s food,’ and they’re like, ‘no give us more money.’ Anyway, so then they usually settle on, like, $500 or something, and then with our family, the entire family the of the bride will go to like Ihop after the wedding and we’ll spend it all on Ihop, like, pancakes and hot chocolate

Me.) Where do you usually see this? Is it your family specifically or have you seen any version of this at other weddings for the shoe stealing?

ZN.) I don’t know if it’s a South Asian, or maybe just Muslim Pakistani, thing but the shoe stealing is like a common thing.

This seems to be a practice of the game Joota Chupai, literally translating to ‘Shoe Hiding’. This wedding tradition is most often observed by Desi groups (south Asians) in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other surrounding countries. In this game the bride’s family will steal the groom’s shoes, which in Hindu culture, they must have to leave or enter the wedding venue. The groom’s family will try to find the shoes to get them back to the groom, usually to no avail, and then the bride’s family will demand money to return the shoes to the groom. This tradition allows the two families to have some fun during long wedding ceremonies and brings them closer together through competition. Even though the tradition seems to stem from Hinduism, it seems that Muslims from the surrounding regions picked up the tradition as well, showing cultural mixing within the area despite religious tensions. JK, another South Asian individual hailing from Gujarat, India had this to say about the game:

JK.) It’s played all over India. Everyone does it at weddings, so it’s not a Hindu or Muslim thing, it’s everyone.