A village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Andaman is km and around a 7. Around families live here, many of whom are agricultural labourers who work in the surrounding paddy fields. I met year-old Mukhan Arumugam just as he was offering his daily prayers under an enormous neem tree at the entrance to the village. Dressed in a white shirt and a checked lungi sarong , his face was tilted to the sky.
Even in late January, the midday sun was blindingly bright. It is under this tree, he said, adjacent to the sparkling waters of an underground reservoir and engulfed by lush green paddy fields and rock-strewn roads, that the story that defines his village begins. For this is the exact spot where villagers take off their sandals or shoes and carry them in their hands when they enter the village.
No-one in the village of Andaman, except the very elderly and the infirm, wears shoes, Arumugam told me.
Lyrics - Eilen Jewell
He was barefoot himself, even though he says he does intend to wear sandals soon, especially in the hot summer months ahead. As I walked through the village in my thick dark socks, I was astounded by the sight of children and teenagers rushing to school and couples strolling to work, all nonchalantly carrying their shoes in one hand. It was almost like they were another accessory, like a purse or a bag.
View image of People entering Andaman usually remove their shoes at the neem tree that marks the entrance to the village Credit: Credit: Kamala Thiagarajan. I stopped year-old Anbu Nithi who whizzed past me on his bicycle in his bare feet. No-one enforces the practice. When someone visits the village wearing shoes, they try to explain the rule, she says. View image of Around families live in Andaman, many of whom work in the surrounding paddy fields Credit: Credit: Kamala Thiagarajan.
Lakshmanan Veerabadra, 62, is a success story of staggering proportions for this little hamlet. Today, he runs a construction company in Dubai, after having travelled overseas as a daily wage labourer nearly four decades ago.
He returns to the village often, sometimes to recruit personnel, but mostly to keep in touch with his roots. Seventy years ago, he said, villagers installed the first clay idol of Goddess Muthyalamma under the neem tree on the outskirts of the village. Just as the priest was adorning the goddess with jewellery and people were immersed in prayer, a young man is believed to have walked past the idol with his shoes on.
That evening, he was struck with a mysterious fever, and it took him many months to recover. Every five to eight years, during March or April, the village hosts a festival during which a clay idol of Muthyalamma is installed under the neem tree. Though warm my welcome everywhere, I shift so frequently, so fast, I cannot now say where I was The evening before last, Unless some singular event Should intervene to save the place, A truly asinine remark, A soul-bewitching face, Or blessed encounter, full of joy, Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.
Since Merit but a dunghill is, I mount the rostrum unafraid: Indeed, 'twere damnable to ask If I am overpaid.
Spirit is willing to repeat Without a qualm the same old talk, But Flesh is homesick for our snug Apartment in New York. A sulky fifty-six, he finds A change of mealtime utter hell, Grown far too crotchety to like A luxury hotel. Nor bear with equanimity The radio in students' cars, Muzak at breakfast, or--dear God! Then, worst of all, the anxious thought, Each time my plane begins to sink And the No Smoking sign comes on: What will there be to drink? Is this a milieu where I must How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig! Snatch from the bottle in my bag An analeptic swig?
Another morning comes: I see, Dwindling below me on the plane, The roofs of one more audience I shall not see again. God bless the lot of them, although I don't remember which was which: God bless the U. Lake on the Hill Often I walk the dog at night. Once around the block, maybe twice, And sometimes we head up to the reservoir. If it's snowing, I put a little coat on the dog, Booties if they've salted the street.
The tiny Indian village that banned shoes
Everything you need is up there. You can see for miles and you've got a lake, Not large, the water black and still. Emptiness where the city ends and farmland begins, Lights of the houses below, and if you're quiet— Sounds you couldn't actually hear.
Clock ticking on the wall, pipes, A nightstand with a lamp, a desk, pencils in a cup— Then it's time for the dog to go home, Have a biscuit, go to bed. Sometimes there's a kid with a skateboard, No cars, they close the gates at dusk. Not really a lake: it's lined with concrete, The opposite of an island But it beckons, as islands do. I like arriving or leaving. Thimble, Block, Brigantine— When I burned my journals some of it caught Immediately, a brown stain Spreading from the center of each page.
Some was stubborn: gray scraps Rising like messages in the air.
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