Joota Chupai - The Shoe Stealing Game

2014 Jul 9 - by Nadya
With the interminable series of ceremonies, Desi weddings can get a bit dull.  Perhaps the ancients realized this because they included games between the events.  My favorite one has to be the Joota Chupai, and not only because I stand to gain monetarily from it (though that is a pretty huge part).

{Photo courtesy of Rubina & Rizwaan's Wedding via Straylight Photo Studio}

When the groom enters the mandap for the wedding ceremony, he takes off his shoes, as per South Asian custom.  As soon as they are off his feet, the eldest unmarried girls (sisters, cousins, bridesmaids) from the bride's side of the family run off with them (usually laughing and tripping over their lehngas).

{Photo courtesy of Michelle & Jim's Wedding via Limelight Photography}

The groom's side has to try to rescue the shoes back while the bride's side helps the girls make off with them.  The girls then hide the shoes somewhere they know the groom and his family won't be able to find them.  The groom must leave the mandap in the same shoes he came in with so, after the ceremony, the girls ransom the shoes off to the groom.

As I get older, my hiding spots definitely got more complicated - my best one, by far, was under the groom's car seat.  Even though everything seems to get lost under there, no one seems to check it.  After the shoes are hidden, the girls re-enter the party with the most innocent looks on their faces.

How the shoes get ransomed back to the groom depends entirely on how clever and playful the groom is feeling.  Sometimes there's bargaining.  In the case of my cousin, he put two envelopes before me and the girls and had us choose which one.  If I remember correctly my aunt, the eldest girl in the group, chose the one with less money but after we divided it up it was still enough to go for ice cream, so, it totally worked out anyway.

The bit at the end, where the groom gives the girls money, is his way of welcoming the girls into his family and it signals to them that he will take care of them as they are now his sisters as well.  The whole game of the Joota Chupai is meant to show that both sides of the family are opening their hearts to each other and are ready for a lifetime of laughter and fun together.

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