Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ironical Superstitions

I have always been a very superstitious person, taking to heart the million or so do's and dont's that I grew up with. Everything from not going out after sneezing, black cat crossing, chappal chadhna, etc. A lot of them revolved around Saturday.

One of the most basic tenets was NEVER NEVER EVER to buy loha (iron) on a Saturday. This would offend Shani and bring his wrath upon you! It was like a patthar ki lakeer for us. My mom would not even buy as much as a spoon (since steel is derived from iron) that day. And I thought that this was something that most of India followed, since Shani is worshipped all over the country.

Quite recently, I was talking to an Indian friend who was buying a car. On Saturday. Me being the superstitious person that I am, told her that she could not possibly even conceive of buying a car (that's a LOT of iron) on Saturday. And she told me that in her state (in South India) one is supposed to buy on a Saturday. That it is good to do so!

That left me flabbergasted. And made me wonder. The superstitions that I grew up by and would swear by, reverted and inverted. IN THE SAME COUNTRY. It was not somebody from another country who was questioning my beliefs (which maybe I could understand). We had exactly the opposite ideas.

Another such incident happened a month ago. I moved into a apartment, and my in-laws told me to boil milk- and let it boil over- as a good omen in the new house. This was so that there is always "plenty" in the house. Now, in North India, milk boiling over is considered a very bad omen (witness the number of Hindi films with mothers-in-law screaming Apshagun, Hai Raaam if the hapless overburdened daughter-in-law was doing something else and the milk boiled over). Again, the same event reinterpreted from top to bottom!

So what did it mean, if anything? Did this not just show that all our superstitions are just that? If people in the same country can have diametrically different perpectives on the same thing, then it really does go to show that maybe we should question these beliefs.

Meanwhile, I'm still keeping my chappals straight and not buying iron on Saturday!


Richa said...

Hahaha..I am exactly opposite of you in that way. If you tell me a superstition, I will do exactly the opposite thing: While growing up I was told not to wash hairs on Thursday so that would be the day I will wash them. I will cut my finger nails on a Saturday and was never bothered about my chappals. :)

But I know what you mean... I lived in TN for 2-1/2 years and was surprised to hear these superstitions the other way round. But then that's what they are: superstitions, aren't they?

Chamaree said...

In Sri Lanka, boiling milk over the pot signifies prosperity, something that we do first day of going to a new house.

This is why people should not generalize cultures and countries and combine parts of the world. If things can be this different within India, you can imagine how I feel when many Indians (most of whom I don't know well) have told me that "Sri Lanka, India.. it's the same".