Indian weddings are full of little games and traditions that aim to create a lighthearted atmosphere between the families of the bride and the groom, and help them bond over a special occasion.
One of these games is ‘jootachupai’ or shoe-stealing, where the sisters, friends and other female relatives of the bride steal the groom’s shoes as soon as he takes them off for prayers at the mandap. These shoes are then well-hidden under inconspicuous baskets of flowers, behind tables, under the car seats, or even between the folds of someone’s sari. Once the shoes are stolen, the female relatives from the groom’s side have lost the chance to safeguard the shoes, and the mischievous game of hide-and-seek begins. This entire process, right from the moment the groom takes his shoes off to the time the bargaining for the shoes is done, is known as ‘jootachupai’.
The shoes are returned to the groom once the wedding ceremony is complete, but only after a suitable monetary negotiation has been extracted by the bride’s sisters from the groom. The groom’s family in the meanwhile tries to thwart the bargaining by trying to snatch the shoes and by poking jokes at the bride’s family.
Bollywood has made a big deal out of this ritual- the first image that comes to mind when talking about this ritual is MadhuriDixit’s and Salman’s jovial, teasing romance in the song ‘jootay do paise lo’.A whole song based on this simple ritual explains the complexity of emotions that come into play during this game. With their footwear being the focal point, the grooms nowadays opt for stylish shoes that make an impression.
This light-hearted banter and the heady excitement of the game helps create a sense of familiarity and affection between the two families, making this game a meaningful aspect of a Hindu wedding. The bargaining helps lay the foundation of compromise and tact, while the groom’s generosity and willingness to pay up reflects his respect and affection towards his bride’s peers. It reflects the acceptance and open hearts of both sides of the family towards each other along with the willingness to share a lifetime of laughter and fun together.