Devis Devassy Chiramel has been living in Bahrain for years. His mother has visited him three times. His father? Not even once.
It was only last December that Chiramel found out the reason for his father’s hesitance to visit him in Bahrain: Chiramel hails from a typical rural agricultural family in the south Indian state of Kerala. His dad has never worn any shoes or Western trousers—he has spent his entire life barefoot, and his preferred attire is the traditional south Indian loincloth, the mundu.
“He didn’t want to embarrass me before my friends and others by turning up in a mundu and shirt, and hence avoided visiting me,” Chiramel wrote in a Malayalam-language Facebook post titled “I love my dad barefooted” on March 13.
The post was accompanied by a picture of Chiramel at the airport, traveling back to Bahrain after a visit to India. His mother was with him. And for the first time, so was his father.
This is how Chiramel convinced his father to come to Bahrain: To make his father feel comfortable in his regular garb, Chiramel made a decision to only wear the mundu and give up his own footwear during his father’s visit. Three days on, the post has drawn a large response online, garnering over 45,000 reactions, almost 10,000 comments, and 14,000 shares.
In their traditional ensemble, the father-son duo will look out of place on the streets of Bahrain. Indians are the second-most common ethnicity in Bahrain, behind the country’s citizens, and comprise a quarter of the country’s population. But even for other Indian expatriates, a mundu would likely be a rare sight in Bahrain. And Chiramel admits that walking barefoot may be painful. But, he said, “that pain is joyful when one thinks of the difficulties our parents experienced for our sake.”
“I am what I am today due to the wages of the blood of my father’s naked feet that treaded the stones and thorns along hills, mountains, farmlands, and groves,” he wrote. ”I do not agree with decking up the parents to satisfy the children’s vanity.”
(Chiramel did not respond to Quartz’s request for comment.)
Here’s a full translation of Chiramel’s post, from the Malayalam:
I love my dad barefooted
For a long time, I have been inviting my dad to Bahrain, where I work. Dad always cheerfully refused. In the meantime, my mom visited Bahrain three times.
It was only last December that I discovered the reason for dad’s reluctance.
Ours is a typical rural agricultural family. Dad’s never worn footwear. Neither does he wear trousers. He didn’t want to embarrass me before my friends and others by turning up in a mundu (the traditional south Indian white loincloth) and shirt, and hence avoided visiting me.
Today we are leaving for Bahrain. Till dad returns from the Arab’s land, I, too, shall wear only mundu and shall give up footwear. I am what I am today due to the wages of the blood of my father’s naked feet that treaded the stones and thorns along hills, mountains, farmlands, and groves. I do not agree with decking up the parents to satisfy the children’s vanity.
Walking around without slippers is slightly painful. But that pain is joyful when one thinks of the difficulties our parents experienced for our sake. I realised my parents’ pain only when I myself became a father. Let us hand them flowers when they are alive instead of placing flowers on their graves.
I completely believe that it is every child’s duty and responsibility to respect and care for one’s parents in their old age.
Thank you, god.