I Want Heels!

Himanshi Upadhyay (+Video)


A young woman always knew that she wanted to be an actor. But being born into a conservative Indian family meant following a predetermined career path. And she did so—until the night she decided to choose for herself.


A ten-year-old me was crying and yelling for red-soled high heels, and my mom was telling me that they were out of reach, saying, “Look how comfortable and sturdy these flat brown sandal are.” I kept crying and telling her I wanted the heels until she left me in the darkness.

Suddenly, my eyes opened. It was the same dream I’d been having for the last two decades, still so real. I touched my cheeks. They were wet with the tears.

Beside me, my husband sighed. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

I’d never told my husband that I always wanted to be an actor. All of a sudden, my courage came back to me from where I’d left it twenty years earlier.

I said, “I can’t see myself. It’s like I am not in this body. I’m hiding behind this body waiting for her to die so I can be free. I want….”

He hugged me tightly, and silence covered us for the whole night.

At the breakfast table the next morning, with my swollen red eyes, I stared at the cup of tea in front of me. My husband came back after dropping our son at day care. I knew it was time to get up and pack our lunches and rush to my soul-shrivelling job at the bank, a job that I had been doing for eight years and that everyone said I was so lucky to have. But I didn’t get up.

He said, “I’m calling both our offices to tell them that we aren’t going in today.”

I didn’t even object. He made the calls and came back. Again, just silence. My body and brain gave up responding.

Finally, he said, “Something happened to you last night.”

“I want to be an actress,” I murmured.

“Sorry? What?”

I took a deep breath and told him about my recurring dream. “When I was twelve, I was so good in dramatics. I used to write plays, and act in them. It was like an adrenaline rush to me. Then one day my parents said, ‘Your studies are suffering because of your involvement in the drama club. Just leave it and focus on your studies.’ I was so cowardly that I said okay. I knew that day I killed a part of myself, and I didn’t even flinch. I was supposed to be a good obedient daughter, wife, mother, and I kept doing it. But now I want to live again. Every day I feel like I haven’t started my journey.”

“Hey! Do you want to go for a walk?”

My husband set my runners in front of me. I felt like he hadn’t even heard me. I looked at those shoes, again. Comfortable and functional, perfect for running into limbo from home to office, from office to son, to home again, to run and finish errands, to run till I die.

“What I really want,” I told him, “is high heels with red soles.”

“Let’s buy those on your birthday,” he said.

“I dream about those shoes. They’re like a symbol to me that I need to reach elsewhere to satisfy my soul. I can’t just buy them. I have to reach for them.”

He replied, “Look, you can’t do that kind of thing here. Our families are just too conservative. Let’s move to Canada. I can find work there. and you can do whatever you want to do. In the meantime, put on those sneakers.”

We set out walking right away and began making a perfect escape plan.

And here I am, starting my journey towards my shoes—unconventional, impractical but wonderful to me.

Himanshi worked for a government bank in India for eleven years before coming to Canada two years ago with her husband and son. While everybody around her thought moving to Canada was a bad decision, she knew she had taken a step closer to her life-long dream. She is now taking acting classes to make her dream come true.

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