Though I find superstitions quite funny, I must concede that some have their uses. Some were created to scare people into a good habit, because we all know that you can’t get a person to do anything by just saying it’s the ‘right thing to do’. Tell him he’ll lose his life savings if he lets his nail cuttings fall to the floor and you’ll see him conscientiously cutting his nails over a waste paper basket or into a spread newspaper. Tell a typical Indian family that a woman is unclean at a particular time of the month and she gets to spend some time resting in bed and not as a glorified chambermaid.
There’s a charming superstition about a ‘Nishi’in Bengal -- a creature that prowls about at night calling people by their name. Once she lures you out she does all sorts of unpleasant things to you, which is probably why children are told to wait for a third call before even considering a suitably worded response. Because you see, the Nishi calls only once, and if you hear your name being called two times more in your Mum’s voice it probably is your mother after all (Who’s probably hopping mad by this time.
Mother to child: What happened? I called you downstairs a 100 times to eat your dinner!
Child: Really? I thought you were the Nishi.)
My own mother told me this story but also explained that this was how people in Bengali villages discouraged sleepwalkers from wandering out at night and walking into swamps or other sorts of very nasty trouble. I suppose if your subconscious has internalized the whole Nishi-r daak story – warning bells will ring even if you are asleep and dreaming that someone you love is calling out to you. Now don’t ask me what happened if your sleeping mind tricked you into hearing a third call. I suppose if your subconscious so wanted you to fall into a tiger pit then you just gotta.
I would like to propose a few more superstitions. (How do you institute superstitions? Does it get passed by Parliament before they’re followed by people? Those clowns who represent us would probably not be averse to a few more of those: the more wrapped up in ignorance we are the better for them.)
I suggest a few; maybe my readers can start up a petition to get these passed in Delhi.
1) If a man pees in public his equipment withers and falls off.
2) People who shout along to songs at concerts get kicked in the groin (accidentally on purpose). Oh wait, that’s not a superstition – that actually happens to people at Scorpion concerts standing to the left of the stage. My bad.
3) If people spit (especially in close proximity of another person’s feet) the evil spit fairy sucks you dry of all liquid (because she believes, quite rightly, that since you’re chucking your saliva about you have no need of it) and you die all shrivelled up and crying out for moisture
4) Diabolical politicians who kill people for sport and for the majority vote don’t get re-elected.
And so on… you get the drift. Draft some of your own, why should I do all the work?
And maybe we can collate all of it and send it along for The SOBs (Superstition Observation Board) to have a look at. With the assurance that it’s common knowledge the Nishi will be spitting mad if they don’t.