(Dermatology and the art of Footwear Management)

Come April / May and newspapers are overflowing with College and University ads offering Diplomas and Degrees to hone ones skills in just any field. A 12th standard pass out or a graduate would really be spoilt of choices available in , say – catering , rural tourism , disaster management and what not . However ,let me share with you my own experience of a new skill ( call it management , what else ) , I acquired in the line of my duty . Apart from the obligations as a Dermatologist – managing Skin , Hair and Nail problems , I’ve come to realize that deft knowledge and tact in handling of footwear related issues ( not one’s own but those of patients ) too is a must .Gujarati’s are sticklers for cleanliness .Majority of Gujarati homes have a footwear stand right outside the main entrance , and occupants and guests by default, take off their footwear there. This tradition has spilt over to a good many shops ( the ubiquitous jewelry shops named after goddesses are most famous for this ! ) , offices and naturally then to clinics / nursing homes. Entrances invariably have a poster with a drawing of a pair of shoes - a forefinger pointing to the floor and written in bold letters - “ Please take off your shoes here “ .A typical scene outside any busy clinic would be an over flowing shoe rack and a whole mish mash of slippers, sandals and shoes , then be they Batas , Woodlands , Liberties , local makes an occasional huge big soled laced one ( NRI patients ) or even the fluorescent colorful mini sandals . Add to these the shining and spit polished ones of Military personnel or the pointy , party ones of medical representatives ( Sherlockian skills ! ) . God forbid , if there is load shedding or lack of light for any reason at the entrance , that’s when the trouble would start. Often in a hurry – as it is the patients already have waited for too long in the waiting room – shoes / sandals get interchanged . Now this , usually is realized when the second / third subsequent patient leaves the consulting room and sees his/her footwear missing by which time the usurper has already by long, left . A double check comes to a naught . The receptionist then steps in , with the standard consoling words “ look carefully “ , “ you sure they are not here “ …. . Disbelief followed by shocked resignation are the natural emotions witnessed , and then, invariably the Doctor is dragged in . Size , colour , texture , brand , - just about everything about the nature of the of the footwear is now discussed . Next , which one of the earlier patients – matching in size and height could have taken the shoes is considered ( often it would be the accompanying person and not the patient himself/ herself ). Calls are then made to all earlier patients ( if the number is available that is ) , appraising them of the predicament . If it’s a lucky day for some ,the patient realizing his or her folly would return – problem solved. If not, a request to come over is an option suggested or better the two patients are given each others numbers to sort out the matter themselves. Believe me , it really takes ingenuity to sort these delicate matters , but then these unintentional breaks indeed do make up ones day – a welcome switch from the day in and day out acne , allergies and eczemas .However , what I am eagerly waiting for is the fireworks on the day when a male – female footwear gets interchanged !