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Sunday Special » Kaleidoscope

Posted at: Dec 3, 2017, 12:36 AM; last updated: Dec 3, 2017, 12:36 AM (IST)TAKE MY WORD

Of smelly socks & knocking someone’s socks off

Harvinder Khetal
Of smelly socks & knocking someone’s socks off
IN the stack of stories of stinky politics and sleazy crime, a story of smelly stink caught my eye – and wrinkled my nose -- the other day. A shudder of disgust supplanted the smile as I read the shocking story of smelly shoes and socks. A man had been booked for causing public nuisance following an altercation with fellow bus passengers who had objected to the stink emanating from his shoes and socks that he had taken off. When he refused to put the malodorous items in his bag or throw them out, the enraged passengers and the bus driver and conductor on the Dharamsala-Delhi route took him to the police station. Interestingly, the man also filed a complaint against the fellow passengers, alleging that his socks did not stink and that they had quarreled with him for no reason.

Incidentally, brawls over people putting up smelly feet in flights are not uncommon, with the crew having to intervene in the icky (very unpleasant to touch, look at, smell, or taste) situation. A woman once shared her ordeal on the social media by writing this sarcastic comment about a fellow passenger’s feet: “I did not pay for the in-flight entertainment package, and I was worried that I might get bored. But my concerns were unnecessary. Immediately, my nose was assaulted by a putrid smell of death and decay. The stench was so strong that I turned to check if the old lady seated next to me was still breathing.”

Also, there was a case of the smell of rancid feet causing a scuffle to break out between two women on a train in China a couple of years ago. 

It reminds me of the recent giggly story-reading session I had with my little eight-year-old niece. We were reading Lalita Iyer’s “The Boy who Swallowed the Nail and Other Stories”. They are a humorous collection of the author’s childhood memoirs involving her family and friends. And the delightful story that knocked my niece’s socks off was the one about the man who couldn’t stop farting. The phrase to knock (or blow) someone’s socks off is to surprise or impress someone. 

She could not help laughing throughout the narration. By the way, I also thoroughly enjoyed the book. I still remember a little fact mentioned in the story: that in the Tamil language, the fart is called kushu. We both had a hearty laughter when I asked my niece what it was called in Punjabi. And I added to her vocabulary by telling her the medical term for passing of gas: flatulence. There is something about such smelly stuff that singularly shakes one up. Till it stays, you either make sure that its stay ends or you stay away.

As you sit with your feet up at leisure, you wonder why the feet smell. At times, even after a squeaky clean feeling from the soothing, scrubbing pedicure at a pristine parlour. Why does this happen? Well, the podiatrist (a person qualified to diagnose and treat foot disorders) says that when the bacteria living on our skin decompose sweat coming from the pores, the process causes the typical smell. To avoid being in this embarrassing position and exude a pleasant fragrance, keep your feet, shoes, and socks clean and dry. 

Did you know that Charles Darwin has admitted to his lack of personal hygiene as a boy in one of his numerous letters that he penned before penning the masterwork “The Origin of Species”? The father of the evolutionary theory, when he was 12, wrote to a friend: “I only wash my fett (sic) once a month at school, which I confess is nasty, but I cannot help it, for we have nothing to do it with.”

Then there is this case of a university student of Holland who had to spend 10 years to complete his studies as he was banned from the university following complaints from professors and students that it was impossible to concentrate with the rancid smell emanating from his feet. In 2009, a court ruled that having smelly feet is no excuse to ban a student from a university. To those that had complained, the judge said: “They must hold their noses.”

Well, well! We just have to sometimes put up with the icky ones. Perhaps, one could do with being armed with some insulting one-liners to to counter their olfactory assault. Such as:

“Your feet are so smelly your shoes hid in the closet and refused to come out.”
“Your feet smell so bad even the flies in your house wear gas masks.”
“Your feet smell so bad you have to keep your shoes on to fight pollution.”



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