In vernacular, heavily influenced by Sanskrit, this means feet worship when literally translated. Paad means feet and pooja means worship. We Indians especially Hindus see the presence of divine in everything around us and worship trees, sun, rain, birds, animals, idols and going by the newspaper reports even cinema stars. So worshipping the feet should be no surprise to those who know our ways! Still one is at liberty to wonder whose feet or we worshipping?
It is a common custom to show our respect to our elders, close friends, relatives, those who know more than we do, and those who are in power [e.g. politicians], by folding our hands. In extreme cases this respect takes the form of bending low and touching the feet. Occasionally it will be go even further when the exhibitor of the respect will fall flat on the ground and touch or hold on to the feet of the receiver of the respect [ temple deities, swamijis and gurujis fall in this category].
I routinely touch the feet of my patients. This is part of my examination routine. I look at the colour, texture, feel the pulses, and look for presence or absence of infection and sensations. I get a wealth of information by this close inspection. I spend some times more time looking at their feet than their faces. Many of my patients often the ones whom I see for the first time are uncomfortable and feel that I, [according to them] more educated and informed, should not be touching their feet. They show their discomfort by a quick withdrawal of the feet away from my probing hands. I had to, on occasions, use gentle force to keep their feet under my control. One elderly gentleman had tears in his eyes and expressed that what I did was very wrong. The conversation went as follows.
‘Doctor, you should not be touching my feet’
I asked, ‘why not?’
‘It is wrong, that is why’ he said.
‘Don’t you visit temples?’ I asked him.
He said yes he did go to the temples.
‘Don’t you bend down and touch the feet of the deity?’
He said, yes, when permitted he does.
This established, I asked him,
‘Don’t you give me my fee before you go?’
He said yes and I could see some confusion on his face.
Then I explained to him what all information I get when I touch his feet.
So by touching his feet, I said, I get knowledge and also money. In a way it is better than going to a temple and worshipping a deity and not be sure of getting what you desire.
He was quiet for a while and the truth of what I said finally sank in.
But the tears kept flowing.