A woman wanting more out of life isn’t good for a man’s eco system – My piece for the Taj Colloquium

A woman wanting more out of life isn’t good for a man’s eco system- Shunali Shroff



The curse of the stiletto. Should women be liberating themselves from high heels?


I have written about shoes before. Shoes are important to me. There is nothing exceptional about that, shoes are important to any woman who hasn’t yet undertaken hip or knee replacement surgery.

To me, a beautiful pair of shoes is like poetry or a piece of art that must be acquired once my heart is set on it. I have stayed awake at night more than once, thinking about, amongst other things, maid related issues, teenage behaviour, the Bhakts, Donald Trump, melting glaciers, and that achingly beautiful pair of stilettos that I failed to buy.

Now, as most of you will agree with me, most good-looking shoes come with high heels. I don’t feel the need to appear any taller than I already am but walking away from a beautifully crafted pair of shoes only on account of the height of its heels to me is no different from praising a woman’s beauty but complaining that her nose is too sharp. The latter is something that my mother and my Punjabi aunts do rather well, incidentally. “Very pretty girl but her nose is verrry sharp, like a hawks, makes her look very mean” I have heard them say.

So coming back to the allure of high heels, there is no denying that stilettos can make an ordinary outfit look chic apart from adding elegance to your gait and making you appear slimmer.

When I was younger I could wear stilettos and last an entire evening without looking like I was slowly dying. Yes my calves did feel sore the next morning, but they recovered rather quickly, thanks to the human growth hormone that my endocrines were generously ingesting in my blood stream.

However, today, when those blessed hormones have ebbed, I find that wearing a pair of high heels on an evening out means having to cancel most of my appointments the next day and the day after. The after math of stilettos at 40 means lying in bed like an invalid smelling of Iodex and waiting for the massage lady to show up. It isn’t only the calves that hurt now, the toes, the soles, ankles…every single suffering bone in your foot lets you know just what a fool you have been.

It only recently occurred to me that over the last few years, I have avoided wearing some of these glorious looking but torturous shoes that continue to acquire so fervidly because I know just how sorry I will be an hour into the evening. My stilettos I have come to the unhappy conclusion, are to lie immobile in my closet like some Indians display Swarowski and Lladro collectibles in well-lit glass cabinets in their living rooms.

I have decided that it would have to be very special occasions, like me receiving an Oscar for instance, that will make me step out in my snug high heeled pumps.

And I encountered one such special occasion only last week when the husband and I were invited to a big fat Indian wedding in Austria. Since I am not about to get an Oscar in this lifetime, I decided I would carry my beauties to this wedding and if I could muster the will, I would wear them too.


The wedding celebrations, an elaborate three-day affair, started off with a black tie dinner on the first night. I haven’t completely dispensed with my vanity yet and there was no way that I was going to show up in matronly flats. One had to be well-heeled on a night like that.

So I mustered my will and squeezed my feet into my spiked pumps as I set out in my party threads.

Forbearance, as they say, is a virtue and ever so often, I prove to myself, yet again, just how remarkably virtuous I could be in this regard. There were many virtuous women like me at the venue that night floating about in their floor length gowns. A few hours into the evening though, quite a few of us were seen sitting on the couch, tending to our aching feet with a sense of resignation. Our evening, as we knew, was over long before it was actually over.


By the time I returned to my hotel I was like an injured soldier. My toes throbbed with pain, the kind of pain that even sleep could not manage to dull. I hobbled across the streets of Vienna the next morning and all the mornings thereafter like a cripple.

I wasn’t the only one in shoe-induced purgatory, most women who had shown up in high heels were in agony themselves, barring the wise ones who had blithely kicked off their shoes on the dance floor and chosen to party with absolutely bare feet.

I asked myself if I was utterly mad for inflicting such pain on myself willingly. Are all of us women who wear heels really quite idiotic? Who knows if the clock striking twelve had anything to do with Cinderella fleeing from Charming’s ball? Maybe it was her shoes that were killing her and she could not bear the agony any longer.


I wondered if women would be willing to liberate themselves from these painful contraptions, their aesthetic appeal notwithstanding and look forward to a middle age without bunions and calloused toes?


Haven’t we watched women all over London and Manhattan walking purposefully to work in killer heels. With my mind constantly on my aching feet, I wondered how these women survived them? Did it not render them irritable and make them unproductive?


While these thoughts were darting across my mind, in a peculiar case of synchronicity, I read about the PWC employee, Nicola Thorp, who was shown the door in London for turning up in flats on her first day at work by her employment agency.

She has since set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels to work.

I am thinking of setting up a petition myself, a petition asking designers to have mercy on us weak-willed women and forbidding them from selling killer heels that belong in hell. Even as I type this, I cannot say with confidence that in a few months I will not succumb to wearing one of my newer purchases to another ‘special occasion’ because wearing heels is like childbirth in some ways. Your brain obliterates the memory of the discomfort and pain your body suffers to enable you to go through it another time in the future.

I can only hope though, that my brain has finally learnt its lesson this time.



Diary of Frankly Anne – The karma of greying

Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey


Dear Diary,

Spotted some stark grey hair strands today. Seriously disturbed. I am not prepared to grow old just yet. Why have these strands turned grey overnight? Is it because of bad karma?

I book at appointment with my hair stylist, ironically called Karma, in the hope that she will have a miracle fix for grey hair that did not involve dying or colouring. Karma always has a solution to my problems. I mean Karma the stylist, not the other one. She inspects my hair and is surprised that between my last visit to her and now some of it has indeed turned grey. But it isn’t premature greying, she consoles me. She tells me that at our age it was bound to start turning grey. This is not very consolatory at all.

Agreed, I will be growing another year older this year. I would tell you my age, but I think that might be a mistake. Honesty is a good policy when age is concerned only after you are eighty. Any time before that a woman should hide her age or at least keep people guessing. Besides, if I told you my age, we would develop trust issues between us because as Oscar Wilde says, ‘One should never trust a woman who tells one herreal age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.’

So there. But let me just tell you that I have always been considered older than my years. It started at school when I was around ten-years-old. I came back after the summer break only to notice that everyone in my class had shrunken in size. Unexpectedly I was asked to take the last bench, a move that I took to most despairingly.  Someone ought to have made me feel good about growing vertically back then but we live in a cruel world.

Over time I got used to being relegated to the backbench, or the last in the queue as it were. This I could deal with but the ignominy of being asked to play a boy’s part during the annual day concert only because the boy who was originally assigned the role had been taken ill with jaundice, was something that was going to stay with me for a long time. Although when I look at my picture albums and notice a faint but definitely there hair growth on my upper lip and my knit brows, I wonder now if it was naivete’ that made me believe it was my height alone that was responsible for landing me the boy’s part.

If this wasn’t a life altering event, there were more that included uncles and aunties in my parents’ circle  fondly asking me to watch over their petite daughters when we went for evening walks or picnics.

Be that as it may, I soon got over such slights because of my mother who made me believe that there was no one lovelier than me this side of the Hindukush. As time passed, these delusions that mom passed on to me found deep roots within my psyche and declared permanent residence.

If I looked older and stronger than others because of my height and frame, it was all right with me.

But now, at my age, this MATTERS. I want to finally be considered younger than my age. It is pay back time world.

I am Googling ‘Ways to reverse premature greying’ and the key remedy according to my research is the one that says ‘Don’t stress as stress causes greying’.

This bit always manages to enrage me. What do you mean don’t stress? What do you want me to do, take long eager strides across mustard fields towards my old age? Embrace it the way Bollywood heroine embraces Bollywood hero just before the end credits roll? Of course I am stressed. Have you ever met anybody who was dying of some illness or had severe health issues and on being told that stress was the main contributing factor towards their disease, decided to suddenly be happy, cheerful and optimistic about it? Probably not.

Au contraire, such a statement only makes matters worse because even if you were stressed earlier you were ignorant of what it was doing to your body. Now not only are you stressed but you are also stressed that you are stressed and that the stress is going to exacerbate your condition.

So not stressing about this matter is clearly not an option. There are some Chinese acupressure options that have shown up on my screen which are looking good. What is also looking good are some options that suggest that if I chew ginkgo biloba leaves daily, apply curry leaf oil every night for ninety nights in a row, spend the better part of my day doing head stands, do positive affirmations of the nature of ‘My hair is slowly turning black, my hair is slowly turning black’ by not merely saying them out aloud but also feeling them, there is a good chance that I will reverse the greying.

I will not be writing for a while hereafter as you can see, there is so much to be done.

Now please excuse me while I get to work.

Yours etc,

Frankly Anne



Gentlemen are an endangered species


Call me old fashioned if you will, but I am deeply concerned about a less talked about species that is on the brink of extinction. It goes by the name of ‘gentlemen’.

The number of this sub-species of men in our world is dwindling at a frightening speed and all we are obsessed with is saving the Bengal tiger? Save the tiger by all means,  but humanity also needs to spare a thought for some of us impacted by the loss of gentlemen. Before we know it, they would have become extinct and the world will be poorer for it.

The world I grew up in was a world of men in uniforms. In the army, it was naturally expected of men to be gentlemanly in behaviour, why else would the young boys graduating from the Military Academy be called Gentlemen Cadets? The men I grew around were lacking in neither charm nor chivalry and their stature as men did not diminish by offering women common courtesies, if anything, it only grew.

And so it was, that the men one met stood up and greeted you politely, got the door for you, pulled out the chair for you, spoke gracefully and offered to help you put your coat on.

You could accuse me of making facile generalizations, but I would like to mention that outside of the army, one encountered courteous and chivalrous men too, although they mostly belonged among the educated elite and rarely lived within the geographical boundaries of the UP, Punjab and Haryana.

A lot has changed since then. Lately I look around me and notice men sorely lacking in etiquette and manners. When women began to aspire for liberation, they asked to be liberated from male dominance and oppression. We did not ask to be liberated from classy, considerate behaviour and civilized men of good breeding.

Women find urbane men attractive, and we do not feel offended if a man offers to help us with our coat or our luggage. I’m not saying that women should be doted on and treated like goddesses, but I think we need to be bring some class back to men in general.

Just the other day I watched an elderly lady struggling to stow her luggage in the overhead cabin on a flight to Delhi and offered to lend her a hand even as a healthy, well built man standing right behind her decided to look the other way. I see it all around me. There is an epidemic of ungentlemanly chaps out there.

Then there is this stellar example of a man that my dear friend K in Manhattan was dating until recently. Over cold sake in a small Japanese restaurant in the East Village she told me that every time they went on a date, her boyfriend of two years waited for her to pick the tab and asked the taxi to drop him home before her on the way back. I found his behaviour odious and my friend’s tolerance alarming.  I had a little chat with her about it and now he is her ex-boyfriend.

I only wish I was this effective in weeding out uncivilized men from the rest of the planet as well. I recently had to put up with one such specimen myself. Just last week, my friend P was visiting from Bangalore and we decided to meet for a drink at this new swanky lounge in town. P is loquacious to a degree that can only elicit admiration even from someone as voluble as myself and she has “close” friends in almost every major city of the world. I was informed that one such “close” friend was to join us at the lounge for a quick drink or two.

I am a borderline misanthrope and tried to remind her in my usual subtle ways that three was a crowd but P would not let my misgivings stand in the way of her social multitasking. Her friend AK, who is somewhat of a corporate highflier arrived even before we had ordered our first round of drinks and spent the rest of the evening telling us about his childhood and youth (both of which happened a long time ago, incidentally). Over his single malt and our vodka sodas he managed to impress upon us the fact that he owned a large estate in Kunoor, that had a pool, a mini golf course, a battery of handpicked servants and some such.

He also casually brought up the fact he was one of the highest paid corporate honchos in his peer group.

On a more modest note he recalled his days as the son of the then governor of Punjab and his father’s close ties with the Nehru-Gandhi family. The alcohol in his blood stream had perhaps created the illusion in his mind that we wanted to sacrifice an entire evening listening to every tiny detail of his b&w life. (I say black and white because whenever someone who is a few generations older than me talks about their youth, for some reason my mind’s eye adopts a black and white palette.)

P had obviously heard all these stories before because AK had been availing of her husband’s generous hospitality in Bangalore ever since they became friends two years ago.

Several rounds of drinks later I asked for the cheque because I had enough material to write his biography by now and I thought I could only handle so much information about his “amazing life” in one sitting. The cheque arrived inside a coffee mug and what ensued was a silly tug-of-war between P and myself about who would settle it. And while we fought over the cheque , Mr Highest Paid Head Honcho sat there poker faced, not making as much as a feeble attempt to reach for his wallet. Finally P and I agreed to split the bill while our friend insouciantly continued to stare at the ice cubes in his malt.

I found his behaviour odd. It wasn’t that we wanted someone else to pay for our drinks, but it was odd that a man twice our age, who wasn’t a buddy or an old pal, calmly watched us pay for his drinks instead.

If this wasn’t bad enough AK then offered to call for a cab for P, who was more or less headed in the same direction as him. He had his own car and driver but clearly this man did not want to put himself through the inconvenience of taking a little detour to drop the lady off, long after midnight.

P was feeling equally aghast and kicked me from under the table to acknowledge our mutual horror, but since she had more vodka and compassion in her veins than me, she continued to smile benevolently. I, on the other hand, was only trying to rein in my homicidal impulses.

“Did he think he was honouring us by gracing us with his presence at our table? Did he think it was our good fortune to pay for him?” she asked me over the phone later that night.

Whatever his reasons, I think the sooner we accept that chivalry is dead, the better it will be for us.

We may as well contend with living in a world where men listen to Yo Yo Honey Singh and Eminem and think that “Yo B****, whattup?” is a form of greeting. Or we can prevent gentlemen from becoming folklore like dragons and the yeti by urging the men we know to sign up for a class in civility and etiquette.


gentleman 1




A man, a woman and a credit card statement


‘Follow your Bliss and the bills will follow’

It is that time of the month. My credit card statements have found their way into the husband’s inbox.

Any man who is expecting a credit card outstanding that is pleasing on the eye after a six week long vacation  is a man estranged from reality, a man with a utopian bent of mind.

More so if those six weeks made allowance for a side trip to America, truly the land of the (guilt) free (shoppers).

His body language gave it away as soon as he walked into the house. But he will not make it easier for me by just stating the cause of his anguish. He will leave it out there for me to wonder, like any good FBI agent would do before he begins with his inquisitions.

He broke it to me just as I sat down to break bread. Here’s your credit card statement, he said with a mien that was far from casual.

“What do you have to say about it?” he questions.

“Well I think this isn’t bad at all. It includes my shopping as well as the kids. “Our” kids.”

“Right. And you don’t think this is extravagant?”

I replied in the negative. “Buying necessities is not extravagance. I don’t think this credit statement is very bad at all because I could have bought a croc Birkin.  And since I did not I have saved you  us a fortune.” Notice the clever use of  “us”.

“Birkin? Why would you buy a Birkin? You have yourself told me you don’t care much for it. How does the Birkin even figure in this conversation?” Now he is looking all puzzled.

“Yes I agree with you on that I was not even considering buying a Birkin. But am just saying.”

“Saying what?”

“That this credit card statement could’ve been a lot worse had I been into Birkins and even more so if I had been into exotic skin Birkins.”

“This is truly the worst logic ever.” He is looking at me incredulously now.

“Maybe sometimes, just sometimes you can find it in you to praise my endeavours to save you money.

Instead you red flag this modest credit card statement!!!! I am hurt.”

“Modest? How is this modest? I don’t know what to say to you!” He is about to throw in the towel any minute now.

“There is no pleasing you. This is it. I think I should have never given up my career to raise our kids. Then I would not have to explain my credit card statement to anyone.”

“Where is that coming from now for god’s sake?”

“It is coming from a place that has opportunity cost written all over it. Had I not chosen to be a stay at home mother…,

“Oh ok ok I get it. Fine baba. I ll say nothing now. At least just go over the bill calmly and confirm that these are your expenses.”

And so it is that what could’ve been an acrimonious exchange between man and wife turned into a mature conversation between two adults.

Maturity always wins.

And a woman’s logic.