| SUBAL SINHA
They call him doctor saab. But unlike with most doctors, this specialist’s patients all leave with smiles on their faces. After all, Subal Sinha can, quite literally, sweep you off your feet.
Mister Sinha is no doctor. He is a pedicurist. For 18 years, he has attended up to 24 feet a day. He sees his “patients” in a small chamber at the corner of the ladies and children’s section of the Lindsay Street Bata store.
His schedule is packed for at least a couple of days, so prior appointments are a must. Over the years, Sinha has built a loyal clientele, including the Soumitra Chatterjees and Siddhartha Shankar Rays, for whom putting their feet in doctor saab’s hands is something of a habit.
The initial manner is gruff, as he tells you to soak your feet in a ceramic tub filled with hot, soapy water. As you begin to feel your skin wrinkle, he leans your chair back and puts your feet on a small towel sitting atop a small footstool. Slowly, carefully, patiently, he scrapes away the dead skin, unlike the “pretty” pedicures of most salons. He caps off the painless exercise with a massage. Forty-five minutes later, you walk out with newborn feet.
The 56-year-old Sinha started out as a cashier at one of the stores. Then, the old pedicurist retired and there was an opening. “I would watch customers leave happy and satisfied, and I really liked that,” he recalls. So he received training at a Bata centre, in both theory and practice of foot care. Starting with how many bones there are in a foot to problems like corns and in-growing nails, Sinha learnt it all before apprenticing at The Oberoi Grand Arcade branch.
He does not see this task as a beauty treatment. “When some people come in, they can’t even walk properly,” he explains. After he is through, they heave a sigh of relief. “Even if they aren’t cured for good, the temporary relief is also welcome.”
It is no surprise that for Sinha, much of a person’s beauty lies in the feet. “Sometimes pretty girls come in with such worn and cracked feet, you can’t look at them. It feels good to be able to fix that,” laughs the father of a college-going son. While most of his clients are regulars, some one-timers drop by too. “I call them my winter guests,” he grins.
The foot doctor’s expertise brings in all kinds of people. “Earlier, only the upper-classes would come. But now, pretty much everyone does.” Foreigners — who Sinha feels are far more conscious about the health of their feet — are frequent visitors.
What if someone comes in with a particularly offensive foot demeanour' “I just grit my teeth and tell myself these people come to me for help and I am giving them the treatment they need,” is all he says.