Kids Corner


The Magic Juttis





My mother and aunt - a pair of elderly Italian-American women - wear new, shiny, silver Punjabi shoes at home.

“I love them,” says my aunt, who is now in the process of breaking them in. Because Punjabi shoes - called jutti - are not left and right differentiated, they conform to individual feet over time and because my aunt doesn’t want to ruin her new shoes, she wears them only around the house.

“I may not get another pair, and I want to keep them looking nice as long as possible,” she says. “They’re so comfortable!”

Perhaps Italian women are genetically predisposed to shoe obsessions. The jutti my aunt and mother wear around the house came from a shoe store in Patiala, Punjab, where I got them, along with two additional pairs for myself.

Like a homing pigeon, it didn’t take long for me to zero in on this fabulous shoe store within my first few hours in the city.

And no wonder. Much to my delight, I discovered that Patiala is one of the major jutti trade centers, known for its style and for exporting them all over the world to the Punjabi diaspora. But what did take long was deciding which pairs to choose for myself, since I wanted to leave with at least a dozen.

Buying shoes in Patiala proved to be an experience like no other.

Not even in Italy where I purchased three pairs before my father reminded me that I, and not he, would be hauling them around for the rest of the trip, did the salesmanship and service compare. In the Patiala shoe store, the juttis sit stacked on shelves and some of the more colorful ones glimmer and shine. For someone as shoe obsessed as I, here’s no such thing as too many shoes. I wanted them all.

Handmade of leather with extensive hand-embroidery in gold and silver thread, the plainer and less fancy styles are used for daily wear, whereas the jutti made from fine, colorful leather, beads, exquisite threads, and fancy decorations are worn at
special occasions.

Juttis that feature the end curling over the toe, colorful beads, fine threads, and fancy decorations are worn at traditional and formal events like weddings. Both men and women wear juttis - the men’s with a sharp extended tip.

The shoe-walla treated me - and every customer - like a princess, or a queen. I sat on the foamy orange bench seats lining one of the store walls, and with a flourish, he grabbed several pairs of the unembellished or daily wear juttis in my size that he thought I’d like and set them on the floor before me, ready for me to step into.

I tried them all on and liked them all. How to decide?

To this shoe lover’s delight, within 10 minutes, at least 20 pairs of juttis materialized before me as my indecision inspired the jutti-walla to pull more pairs from the stacks, and then I faced the ridiculously difficult challenge of narrowing the choices down to a number I could haul around the rest of my stay in India.

My friend, Dr. Amandeep Kaur Shergill, who grew up in Patiala and in whose childhood home I was a guest, helped me narrow the choices down to two pair. Using her keen eye for style, she rated the jutti, judging which ones looked best on my feet and on me, and we settled on a different silver pair from those I chose for my mother and aunt and on a bronze pair with gold thread and a tiny maroon pompoms decorating the outer edges of each shoe.

All four pairs of jutti cost about 4,100 Indian rupees or a little over $100 for handmade, finely crafted shoes, a total bargain considering the cost of machine-made designer shoes on sale, one pair at twice or thrice the cost of four juttis.

And lightweight!

Four pairs of juttis proved far easier to haul around for the rest of the trip, not to mention easier to walk in than my CFM pumps, which remained secure in my suitcase, impractical and unworn for the two weeks on the subcontinent.


December 7, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Rachita (Delhi, India), December 07, 2011, 10:39 PM.

It's so amazing to see an Italian woman in love with everything that is Punjab! Juttis are such an integral part of our culture. I once saw (and I have a photo of that up on my FB) a stack of juttis on the roadside near Portobello Market in Notting Hill, London, United Kingdom. Gorgeous pink, blue, bright green and golden juttis. I was beyond delighted to see British women buy them. Like music, shoes traverse borders ...

2: Manpreet (Ludhiana, Punjab), December 08, 2011, 3:46 AM.

Very nice.

3: Dr. T.J. Singh (Gurgaon, India), December 08, 2011, 4:38 AM.

'Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world" ... Marilyn Monroe. This is simply one of those "women things" that men will never understand and must never question. (Mars and Venus Gender Contrast as well as Women's Mysteries). Women love shoes so much because it's the only thing that stays the same, whether they gain 20 or they lose 20 pounds - their shoes still fit. Their beauty, if taken care of, never waivers. Women are more sensible then men, they can appreciate art and as a result appreciate good shoes, both for comfort and appearance.

4: Lucky (Maryland, U.S.A.), December 08, 2011, 1:12 PM.

OMG! I **L O V E** those pics of the matriarchs in your family wearing Punjabi juttis! So So cute! I love how you appreciate things that I have taken for granted - the fact that they are L R interchangeable, lightweight - and yes - handmade! Though I always cringe at the thought of asian handmade items cuz it's so rare that the artisans are paid a fair price for their craft - BUT - I love that you love them - and thanks for sharing your impressions of something so everyday for a lot of us Punjabis. I love the pom poms - one of my fave embellishments on anything, ever, anytime! I think your friend did a great job advising you :))

5: Inderjit Singh (Patti, Tarn Taran, Punjab), December 09, 2011, 1:40 AM.

Enjoyed reading it!

6: Melanie DuBard (Rhode Island, U.S.A.), December 11, 2011, 4:06 PM.

Leave it to you, Ro, to hone in on the shoes! I love the pics of Eleanor and Nona ... and your tiny feet I recognize, of course :)

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