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The shoe fits

September 21, 2014

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An old favourite of bridegrooms.
An old favourite of bridegrooms.

KARACHI: Maybe not Cinderella’s glass slippers, but the — unique, beautiful and durable — Saleem Shahis, or khussas, as they are commonly known, are also not your usual variety of footwear. In fact, those who are used to wearing them refuse to wear anything else.

“They are unique in the sense that they don’t have a left or right to begin with. After the passage of time and constant usage, the lefts and rights do get defined though,” says Mohammad Nadeem of Pazeb Mahal on M.A. Jinnah Road.

Different style khussas for ladies.
Different style khussas for ladies.

“Well the Saleem Shahis, named after the Mughal King Jahangir, are specially designed for royalty. You must have heard the saying ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’. As for their feet, kings with so much to worry about just didn’t have the luxury of time to see if they were wearing the right shoe on the right foot, so the cobblers of those days invented the khussa for them,” laughs Mr Nadeem.

Most are made of just leather while others also include silk, satin or velvet material with zari, beads or embroidery work.
Most are made of just leather while others also include silk, satin or velvet material with zari, beads or embroidery work.

Today, with the mughals gone, the footwear is preferred for festive occasions such as weddings, Eid, children’s birthdays, aquiqah, etc, though the simpler ones are also worn at home. “As they usually don’t come with high heels, they are preferred by tall brides but the grooms, no matter how tall or short they may be, prefer to wear them with their sherwani. Also, there is this tradition of stealing the groom’s shoe for which the beautiful khussa is ideal,” the shop owner says.

Satin khussa slippers.
Satin khussa slippers.

They may cost from Rs300 to Rs500, Rs700 and even Rs10,000. Most are made of just leather while others also have satin, silk or velvet material with zari, beads or embroidery work. Saleem Shahis or khussas in Pakistan are manufactured in the Punjab. “It is a cottage industry where the women make the footwear by hand, at home. Meanwhile, in neighbouring India, the footwear or what looks similar to it, is made in their Sindhi side or Rajasthan,” Mr Nadeem points out.

Since they usually don’t come with heels, they are preferred by girls who are tall.
Since they usually don’t come with heels, they are preferred by girls who are tall.

Many new to the khussa may complain about it biting into their flesh, especially the tender skin above the heel. Mr Nadeem explains: “People who buy a size bigger hoping to prevent this, are the ones who complain most about their biting into the skin. The trick is to buy your correct size. A correct fit would bite for a few days but then will open up a bit and adjust to the shape of the foot and its movements to become rather comfortable.”

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2014