High Heeled Shoes Were Originally Created For Men

General

History is fascinating. I had no idea!

The origin of high-heels can be traced back to 15th century Persia when soldiers wore them to help secure their feet in stirrups. Persian migrants brought the shoe trend to Europe, where male aristocrats wore them to appear taller and more formidable.

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/heels-history-men
A 17th century Persian riding boot. Image © 2017, Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada.
BATA SHOE MUSEUM

“The heel was an additional tool allowing the rider to steady himself, thus using weaponry better and transforming warfare”. But soon after, women embraced the look — just like boyfriend jeans and button-up shirts, right? — and by the 18th century, high-heeled shoes were largely considered women’s footwear. They slowly began to take the shape we know now, with a thinner heel and pointed toe.

https://www.today.com/style/surprisingly-functional-reason-high-heels-were-invented-t100969
A pair of antique chopines. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Clint Eastwood cowboy
Clint Eastwood playing a gunslinging cowboy in the ’50s.Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A “flux” view of the world

General

It’s important to remember how the world changes and why. It is always changing and it continues to change. Borders, boundaries, peoples, rights, wrongs – a “flux” view is the only optimal way to understand it all.

This is what America was around 1500 AD (yes, that’s only 500 years ago!).

I am an immigrant here and I came less than 20 years ago.
Europeans are immigrants here, and they all came in the last 500 years.
Native Americans are also immigrants here, but they all came in the last 50,000 years (this part is still being actively researched).
We all are about a 300,000 years old species.
The earth is about 5 billion years old.

Who has the “right” to be where and why? Should we ask the glaciers and the mountains and the forests and the animals here if they want any of us here? 😇 What would they say if we could hear them?

Tree of Unity: Republic Day of India

General

The Indian Constitution turns 70 today. It’s unimaginable how 500+ princely states scattered all across the subcontinent, with 30+ major languages (definition of major language: spoken by at least a million people), and spanning almost every religion in the world, was able to come together and form a country that ended up becoming the largest democracy on Earth!

Growing up in India as a kid, we only had 2 TV channels. Channel 1 was National TV that was owned by the central government and broadcast everywhere. And Channel 2 was Metro TV, a terrestrial broadcast local to the city I grew up in and owned by the local government.

Channel 2 only came on a couple of times a day. Rest of the time if we switched to the channel, it would show white noise, or a color calibration screen with a loud continuous beep sound. Channel 1 had a little more programming, but it also went off air a few times a day. So we would go out and play. When it was time, we would all come back home and eagerly sit in front of the tv, and stare at the static screen, waiting for the broadcast to start.

Anyone who grew up in India in the 80s/90s has a lot of common ground because we all watched the same television, no matter where in the country we lived, and what languages we spoke. A lot of the programming was intentionally sanctioned to help educate the population, help everyone learn about each other and the vastness of the country, and the importance of unity. (In the late 90s, cable television became a thing and we started to diverge. And then came the internet and then YouTube and then now WhatsApp and TikTok, we are more fragmented than we have ever been).

Here’s an example of a video we all had to watch, at least once a week, as there was nothing else to switch to or to distract us 😇 (Who remembers this one? 😊)

#HappyRepublicDay

A brief, selective history of India

General

[Just putting together some thoughts. Welcome fact checking / corrections / perspectives.]

28,000 years ago
The oldest definitively identified Homo sapiens fossils yet found in South Asia are Balangoda man. Named for the location in Sri Lanka where they were discovered, they are at least 28,000 years old.

10,000 years ago
Indians who are lactose-tolerant show a genetic pattern regarding this tolerance which is “characteristic of the common European mutation.” This suggests that “the most common lactose tolerance mutation made a two-way migration out of the Middle East less than 10,000 years ago. While the mutation spread across Europe, another explorer must have brought the mutation eastward to India – likely traveling along the coast of the Persian Gulf where other pockets of the same mutation have been found.

4000BC
Most of the first wave of Caucasoids into India were proto-Dravidian who migrated into India around 4,000 BC from a region later known as Elam in modern day Iran. The Dravidian languages were brought to India by immigration into India from Elam. Samples from the Indus periphery population are always mixes of the same two proximal sources of AASI and Iranian agriculturalist-related ancestry.

2000-1800BC
The Indo-Aryan migrations started in approximately 1,800 BCE, after the invention of the war chariot, and also brought Indo-Aryan languages into the Levant and possibly Inner Asia. It was part of the diffusion of Indo-European languages from the proto-Indo-European homeland at the Pontic steppe, a large area of grasslands in far Eastern Europe, which started in the 5th to 4th millennia BCE, and the Indo-European migrations out of the Eurasian steppes, which started approximately in 2,000 BCE.

1800-1400BC
The Proto-Indo-Iranians, from which the Indo-Aryans developed, are identified with the Sintashta culture (2100–1800 BCE), and the Andronovo culture, which flourished ca. 1800–1400 BCE in the steppes around the Aral sea, present-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The proto-Indo-Iranians were influenced by the Bactria-Margiana Culture, south of the Andronovo culture, from which they borrowed their distinctive religious beliefs and practices. The Indo-Aryans split off around 1800–1600 BCE from the Iranians, whereafter the Indo-Aryans migrated into the Levant and north-western India.

1500BC to 1000 BC
The Aryans established themselves in India by defeating the natives whom they called Dasas or Dasyus. The period when the Aryans first settled in India, is known as Early Vedic Period.

1000BC to 600BC
The Aryans spread to Indo-Gangetic plains in the later Vedic Period and this region came to be known as Aryavarta. The Aryans were the first people in India to know the use of iron and brought horses along with them.

1500BC
The Rigveda was written in Sanskrit, an Indo-European language.
A reasonable date close to that of the composition of the core of the Rigveda is that of the Mitanni documents of northern Syria and Iraq (c. 1450–1350 BC), which also mention the Vedic gods such as Varuna, Mitra and Indra.

400BC
The Mahabharata was written

7BC to 3AD
The Ramayana was written – which mentioned the mythological character Rama. (In 2019 the Indian Supreme Court granted this mythological character legal standing.)

At that time, all the Central Asians, Middle Easterners, Europeans, Dravidians living across the Indus River in Pakistan were called (H)Indus by the Central Asian and Middle Easterners and Europeans who were on the other side of the river

0AD Jesus was born

The Christian faith was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD.

Christian communities were firmly established in India by the 6th century AD

570AD Mohammad was born

623AD the first mosques were built in India by seafaring Arab merchants

So for thousands of years outsiders kept arriving into India and bringing with them whatever was in vogue at the place where they were coming from

1400s the Portuguese traders came to the subcontinent

1600s the British, Dutch, Danish & French came to the subcontinent

1858 – the British established complete rule over all the kingdoms in the subcontinent

1947 – the British left the subcontinent leaving the kingdoms and regions to determine their own future. Some aligned with a redefined territory called India, some aligned with a redefined territory called Pakistan, and some like Kashmir decided to stay independent.

1948 – Pakistan attacked majority-Muslim Kashmir whose Hindu king decided to then join India instead in return for protection. A war was fought. The U.N. stepped in. It was decided to conduct a plebiscite so the people could democratically choose where they want to be. But till date the conditions have never been neutral enough for the vote to take place. (In 2019 India revoked the special status the Kingdom of Kashmir was awarded while the issue was supposed to get sorted and completely annexed it into India.)

1948 – Gandhi was assassinated by a fellow Indian who belonged to a political party called the RSS – a right wing, nationalist, para-military organization.

1949 – Hindu activists broke into a mosque in the city of Ayodhya and placed idols of Rama and Sita inside claiming the mosque sat right on top of the physical place where the mythological character Rama was born. People were led to believe that the idols had ‘miraculously’ appeared inside the mosque. None of the Hindu texts prior to this year mentioned Ayodhya as a place of religious significance and it had no history of Hindu pilgrimage.

1960 – the center of the British India empire, the State of Bombay, was split into two smaller states Gujarat & Maharashtra along linguistic lines. The city of Bombay was given to the newly formed state of Maharashtra. In 1995 a local political party renamed the city to Mumbai and rewrote history claiming that Bombay was part of the Maratha heritage despite absolutely no Maratha presence in Bombay until the British built the first fort on what was otherwise just swampy land. Pune was the seat of the Maratha heritage but it is now relegated to a second tier city. All major landmarks in Bombay are now named after Maratha rulers and icons.

1964 – the VHP was formed. An affiliate of the RSS, “to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma.” In 2018 it was classified by the CIA as a militant religious organization.

1965 – Goa, the last remaining European colony in India was won by the government of India in war with the Portuguese.

1980 – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Sangh Parivar affiliates began an agitation to build a temple to Rama in Ayodhya, with the Bharatiya Janata Party lending political support to the movement. In 1990, the government of India decided to implement some of the recommendations of the Mandal commission, and announced that twenty-seven percent of government jobs would be reserved for people from lower-caste backgrounds. This announcement threatened the electoral constituency of the BJP, which decided to use the Ayodhya dispute to unite the Hindu vote by mobilising anti-Muslim sentiment.

1990-1992 – the BJP announced a rath yatra, or “chariot journey” across the country to Ayodhya. The procession was led by L. K. Advani, and involved thousands of kar sevaks, or volunteers, from the Sangh Parivar. The yatra began in Somnath on 25 September 1990, and passed through hundreds of villages and cities. It traveled approximately 300 kilometers a day, and Advani often addressed six public rallies in a single day. The yatra caused an outpouring of both religious and militant sentiments among Hindus, and became one of India’s biggest mass movements.
The yatra also triggered religious violence in its wake, with riots in cities across North India. As a result, Advani was arrested by the government of Bihar as the yatra passed through that state, and 150,000 of his supporters were also arrested by the government of Uttar Pradesh. Tens of thousands of activists nonetheless reached Ayodhya and demolished the 16th-century Babri Mosque, resulting in a pitched battle with security forces which left 20 dead. These events caused further Hindu-Muslim riots to break out across the country, in which hundreds were killed. Muslims were often the victims of these riots. Following these riots, the BJP made significant gains elections, both at the national and the state level, on the back of religious polarisation caused by the yatra.

2014 – a RSS and VHP member, who was personally banned from the U.K. & the US for his human rights violations record, was elected the Prime Minister of India. Narendra Modi. He belongs to the organization that murdered Gandhi.

2019 – the Supreme Court of India upheld the demolition of the mosque and cleared the path for building a Hindu temple there instead. A constitution created in 1950 was used to go back in time to resolve a dispute claimed to be from the 1500s. Under this distorted interpretation, people who arrived to India in 700BC (the Aryans from Central Asia) are allowed to displace / destroy / usurp the people who already lived here (the Dravidians), but people who arrived in 700AD (more central Asians and middle easterners) are selectively and retroactively disallowed from that.

2019 – Kashmir’s special status which protected its Muslim population was revoked, all politicians were placed under house arrest, the military swarmed the state, the internet and cellphones were shut down, and the annexation was complete.

2019 – the constitution of India was amended to require a religious test for Citizenship. If you claim to be Hindu, you have a path to citizenship. If you are not Hindu, you don’t have a path to citizenship.

If we look at history – many Indians today (both Hindus and Muslims) are just a bunch of Europeans and Central Asians fighting with each other in a new place they moved to only since 1500BC!

Why the railway signs in Bombay changed from Gujarati to Marathi, and why it’s now Mumbai

General

Have you wondered whether the city is “Bombay” or “Mumbai”? Here’s the violent, xenophobic history behind the change.

I was rewatching a Bollywood movie shot in Bombay in the 80s. In this scene, the two protagonists are at the train station waiting to go home. Notice the sign behind them. It says “Marine Lines”, which is the name of the station. Above it is the same name written in Marathi/Hindi (can’t tell which because they share the exact same script). Below that is the same name written in Gujarati. The non-English versions aren’t translations – they literally are the English phrases “Marine” and “Lines” spelt in a different script. If you have ever been to London, you will notice the similarity of the design to the ones used on the London Tube stations. This is because it was the British that introduced trains to India and borrowed the platform designs and signage directly from London.

Growing up in Bombay, you ended up speaking at least 3 languages, if not more. And you were exposed to a huge subset of the 26 languages and 1000+ dialects spoken across India. Bombay used to be a state. And Bombay city was its capital (Like NY & NYC). It used to be the center of the British Empire in India. It had been a marshy no-land with scattered fishing villages which the British inherited from the Portuguese via a dowry. Over the years they slyly converted this possession into an advantage and basically expanded and took over the Portuguese held regions around (Bandra and further south). They introduced commerce and in came the merchants and businessmen and workers from all over the country and Bombay became a metropolis.

After India became independent in 1947, for 13 years Bombay state existed as a large state which only in 1960 was split into the two current states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. This railway sign in the picture reflects this history of Bombay as a city that was built by the British and had people from both Gujarat and Maharashtra.

When Bombay state was being split, there was a lot of debate on which state should Bombay city now belong to? (Imagine NY being split into two states, how would one decide where NYC would go?). Bombay was unlike anything else in these states. It was very cosmopolitan, had people from all over the world that called it home. It didn’t share much identity with either of those states. A lot of people argued it should become a Union Territory (e.g. like DC). Eventually, given that it is geographically surrounded by Maharashtra, it was decided it would become part of it. In fact, now Bombay is the capital of Maharashtra state.

It was all good for some time. When this movie was shot, you can see evidence that Bombay’s history was intact in the 80s. Things changed in the 90s. There was a political party, the Shiv Sena, that mainly claimed to represent the people of Maharashtra. They started using xenophobia, violence and strong-arming to become important. They created a narrative that people from Gujarat, people from North India and the Muslims had taken over Bombay. They started claiming that Maharashtra and the people born in Maharashtra had the first right to Bombay and if you were Muslim or Gujarati or North Indian, you were second class citizens. They argued against “immigration” into Bombay. I put that word in quotes because India, like all other countries guarantees free movement of its citizens within its boundaries. What they were asking for was unconstitutional.

They stayed a fringe para-militant political party without much power. But the more they wielded their power, the more they physically attacked people, forced shut downs, vandalized business the more they seemed to become popular. They seemed to have touched on some pulse which made enough people of Maharashtra start supporting them. Maharashtra has a very strong culture, a long history and a lot of richness in art and literature. People from Maharashtra are among the kindest, good hearted people one can know. It was shocking when the Shiv Sena, for the first time ever, got control of Maharashtra and Bombay.

Then began the ‘saffronisation’ of Bombay. They decided to re-write history and claim that Bombay always was part of Maharashtra and the former Maratha empires. It wasn’t. Maratha empires were centered around Poona and other major cities like Vasai, Bharuch etc. Bombay was a marsh land with some fishing villages that had been ignored by everyone until the British came along. But it didn’t matter. They renamed it to “Mumbai”, the Marathi word for it. Along with this, they renamed a lot of historical buildings after Maratha rulers. We ended up with the airport and the train station having the exact same new name. They rewrote all signs across the city. Businesses could no longer use English scripts on their signs unless they also used Marathi script.

I was 13 when this happened. It was shocking to everyone. How can a democracy empower an extreme right-wing party with a history of violence? How can democracy stand by as history is being erased and re-written? How can democracy stand by when everything you stand for is slowly being dismantled? The name change is a clearly quantifiable, measurable impact of the Shiv Sena. But think about all the unmeasurable things that changed as a result of this. It changed the city. It changed everyone’s sense of identity. People protested, of course. I remember that we were able to block the proposal that would have changed all the city buses from the color red to the color saffron. There were many such battles. Some were won by the people. But most were lost.

This is why liberals in India still refer to the city as Bombay. It can feel very confusing to foreigners who want to do the right thing. My advice is, don’t worry. Just call it Mumbai and no one will mind. But don’t be surprised if many Indians still call it Bombay. “Bombay” stands for the cosmopolitan, global city that was taken over and stripped of its identity by a regional political party. To this day, if a celebrity uses the word “Bombay”, or if it’s used in say a movie, the Shiv Sena threatens, vandalizes or punishes them. Saying the word “Bombay” is also an act of defiance, of resistance to the violent, xenophobic narrative that doesn’t represent Bombay or its people.

See how that same train station signed changed in the 90s. Now, the largest size text is in Marathi. The text above is in Hindi (they look identical because the script is identical). The English text is now at the bottom. And there is no Gujarati anymore.

Here’s an older post that explains the timeline and history of how these things came to be