I’m standing in Mysore palace in what I imagine was once an extravagant ballroom. Intricate paintings of flowers, birds, and paisley shapes fill every available space on the massive pillars spanning the hall, and the walls are almost as tightly packed with details and designs as the palace is with fellow sightseers on this busy Saturday afternoon. I’m once again in a state of sensory overload. The midday sun is blasting down relentlessly on the crowded palace, and a shrill whistle blown by an overzealous guard echoes through the marble rooms. I’m being touched, pushed, and squeezed past on all sides by eager tourists, but despite the noise and chaos I’m preoccupied by only one thing: my feet. As my mind wanders to the thought of my sandals, checked and stowed away at a stand near the entrance, the deep gold and blue walls that once housed royalty seem sharply juxtaposed by my bare feet, now dirty and black on the bottom from wandering without shoes.
I should establish that I’m not the hugest fan of feet. This is not the first instance I’ve been asked to remove my shoes while exploring, whether it be to enter a temple, classroom, or home of a new friend. Shoe removal has become routine and expected, however each instance has brought on a new wave of worry about the state of my toes. The winter months in Seattle bring a monotonous rhythm of thick socks and rain boots, and thinking back I could probably go months without ever really having to look at my feet. I get up close and personal with my toes almost daily to remove my shoes, and as much as I try not to notice, I can’t help but observe how grubby, calloused, and even sunburned they’ve become. Never in my life have I spent this much time thinking about my feet, and never did I imagine I’d be posting about how gross they are on a public forum.
Before leaving, I put a lot of thought into appropriate footwear for this trip. Should I buy new Birkenstock’s? What if I ruined them? Would it be silly to bring nicer sandals? How was I going to squeeze my running shoes into my tightly packed luggage? I checked travel blogs and even asked past GCIL students what they found most useful. I fixated on shoes as a way to deal with pre departure jitters, wanting to be prepared for wherever I might find myself. With sandals, sneakers, and something more stylish in tow, I arrived to find that the best pair of shoes is, more often than not, no shoes at all.
So now what?
Despite dirt and dead skin, my feet have carried me so many amazing places the past few weeks. I’ve walked through incredible temples in and around Bangalore, chased giggly first graders at Parikrma foundation, jumped up and down for victory at a BFC match, and dorky danced at almost every stop we’ve taken. Dusty feet have never stopped my fun.
So, to my feet, you may not be pretty, but I appreciate you. Once again I’m learning to be flexible and adaptable, I just never thought this lesson would come attached with ten toes. While you’ll never be my favorite body part, step by step you’ve brought me experiences I would never think of trading for a pedicure.