Meet Dang’s barefoot DungliDungli Chaudhary says she vowed never to wear slippers when her request for one was turned down by her in-laws decades ago.
Dungli Chaudhary from Ghorahi has never worn a pair of slippers—or shoes, for that matter—in her entire life. Neither does she want to, she says.
Chaudhary says she wanted to wear new clothes when she got married and wanted to walk around decked up in colourful attire. But never got the chance. Her husband, Kali Prasad Chaudhary, had been a bonded labour for 18 years and she too spent her childhood as one. And soon after they got married, her husband went back to being a bonded labourer.
She stayed back without her husband, tending cattle and doing household chores. She used to wake up at 3 am and would have to prepare 320 rotis by 6 am for her new joint family, which was made of 18 members. The family had 35 goats and as many cows and pigs. Her life was in disarray back then, she remembers wistfully. She had asked her in-laws to buy her a pair of slippers and chura, but her request went unheeded. It was around that time she decided to stop wearing slippers.
“I used to go to the jungle barefoot,” she said. “I was used to walking barefoot everywhere. My maternal family was so poor they couldn’t afford a pair of slippers. Same was the case when I got married. I promised myself that I would never ever wear slippers of churapote or ornaments.” She has since then never gone back on her promise to herself.
Chaudhary is 49 now. Her husband 57. This is the age that’s marked in their citizenship certificates but she believes she is older than that now. She is the mother of two sons and two daughters, who occasionally bring her slippers but she never wears them. Not being able to deny outright, she carries the slippers in her hand and once she reaches her home, she throws them away.
Chaudhary’s family currently lives in Parsa village in Ghorahi, 7km from the district headquarters. She walks to Ghorahi barefoot. “I travel barefoot even when I have to go to the bazaar,” said Chaudhary. “I even went to Swargadwari temple in Pyuthan barefoot. My friends would ask me to wear slippers and would offer money but I didn’t want to wear them.”
When asked why she refuses to wear one even today when she has no financial problem to speak of, she says that her feet have become acclimated to the ground. “I didn’t get to wear them when I wanted to, and I haven’t worn them so far, why should I start wearing them now when death is so near?” she said.
But walking barefoot comes with its difficulties. Chaudhary has many times broken her toenails. While earlier she used to feel pain when pebbles and thrones would pierce her feet, she says she has now become inured to it.
During winter, however, she has devised a method to keep her feet warm: She drinks a glass of local alcohol. “Doctors have asked me to cut down on alcohol. The enmity with slippers has lessened my life expectancy,” she says. “But at this age, I don’t have to go back to wearing slippers.”