As the year winds to a close, I could always sit back and write a post about the “Best Moments in Politics – 2007” or “Hottest six-pack Bollywood moments of 2007” or even “2007 – The year when Indian cricket came into its own by winning a world cup through the cunning use of cliched Mallu humour“. But I will not.
Instead, I will do a retrospective on traditional Tambram superstitions (Well. At least the ones that I am familiar with from my own family) and where they stand at the end of 2007.
ps: As I sat down to write these down, I quickly realized that I had to draw a line between superstition, custom and ritual. I meditated for a few..er..seconds and came to a conclusion that I didn’t quite know how to distinguish between the three with clarity and depth.
So I just had to try.
Ritual is like wearing a school uniform. It comes packaged with religion just like school uniforms are mandatory .Custom is like a Raymonds suit. One just wears them without stopping to think if fine Merino wool makes sense in the not-so-arctic city of Chennai. Superstition is like cotton bermudas sold at street side shops in Pondy Bazaar. People continue to buy them despite their questionable quality. In fact, they can be worn precisely just once after which they tear and then end up getting converted to general purpose pieces of crumpled cloth used to wipe the granite slab in the kitchen. Superstitions are sort of like that.
But superstitions didn’t exactly board the bus at Irrationality Terminus. That just happened to be the destination. So there is some history and in most cases, some logic that made sense at some point in the past.
So here we go, the state of the superstition 2007 (the Tambram edition, Vadoola Gotram flavour)
Note: The describes the history and symbolism behind the belief, as gleaned from family sources.
The number of describes the superstition’s current level of sacredcowness.
Thou shalt not accept pickles, salt, bitter gourd and chillies for free. In fact, the best thing to do is to not accept those things at all.
- One should not give sourness, saltiness and ulcer-causing hotness as gifts.
Thou shalt not accept anything with thine sinistral hand.
- Peechaankai matter.
Thou shalt enter a new house with thine right foot forward.
- Same as the previous. In general, “left” is bad.
Thou shalt not cut thine hair on Fridays.
- It’s Goddess Lakshmi’s day and she loves hair.
The circular movement of a plate of red liquid held by 2 (preferably) elderly ladies shall ward off the evil eye.
- Turmeric, Kumkum powder + water has Boori-Nazar-removal capabilities.
Thou shalt not begin any new activity during a period of the day owned by a fictional celestial body invented to explain eclipses.
- Astrological in origin. Legend has it that Confucius once said “Those who have sight see stars, those are are blind see the future in them”. Legend also has it that Darth Vaadhiar killed Confucius. During his Sani Dasai (Period of Saturn).
Thou shalt not touch the vessel holding milk or curd after touching the vessel holding sambar or rice.
- Cooked matter is patthu, while milk matter is not. If the both meet, they can potentially annihilate each other and release destructive energy according to the famous formula
- E = mc² , where
- m = maamis,
- c = See, I told you to obey patthu rules
- E = mc² , where
The involuntary, high-velocity expulsion of air from one’s nose has the evil ability to sabotage good activities.
- Sneezing spreads diseases. Those planning good activities could contract aforesaid diseases. And therefore be prevented from doing aforementioned good activities.
The movement of black Felix silvestris catus perpendicular to one’s path can cause bad things to happen.
- Witches used to require slaves/assistants to carry out nefarious activities. Witches put up job offer on monster.com. Black cats signed up.
The presence of widows and barren women at auspicious ceremonies can cause the addition of the prefix “in” to the word “auspicious”.
- Men wrote the Vedas. And nobody ever bothered to write a Womanusmriti. That’s why.
Women carry a dangerous, incurable, highly infectious disease for 4-5 days of the month, during which time they must be quarantined.
- Men don’t like blood, except in war and video games.
- Thoppai Maama informs us that there was another specific reason – Women who used to gather firewood were under risk from being attacked by sabre-toothed tigers that could smell blood from a few hundred miles away. Therefore it made for forest-dwelling hunter-gather societies to intern their precious baby incubators during that time of the month.
If a piece of food gets stuck in the windpipe causing a person to choke, Dr. Heimlich is generally not called to the rescue. Because, Dr. Heimlich must be thinking about the choking person from where ever he is. And thinking good thoughts about him. Therefore, a few taps on the head followed by a “Somebody must be thinking of you” is considered the official cure.
- No clue.
Nails clipped after sundown can potentially turn the clipper into Dracula.
- Back in the days of no electricity, clipped nails could hurt somebody walking in the dark.
Houses should not be swept after sundown, because Lakshmi hangs out with dust particles after dark. One might accidentally sweep her out along with the dust.
- Lakshmi = metaphor for valuables. In a pre-electricity era, sweeping in the dark could result in GRT Gold bangles being mistakenly swept out.
The direct ascertaining of the geographical coordinates of a departing person’s destination can cause bad things to happen to the departer.
- No clue.
Gifts should not be black in colour.
- Black is the colour of death and also the name of a famous album by Metallica. Since maamis don’t like sandmen entering their homes and consider it sad but true that nothing else matters except the unforgiven, holier-than-thou attitude of wolf and man, gifts should not absorb all frequencies of light falling on them.
The stove that is heating milk shall be turned off at the precise moment when the milk is just about to overflow, not before, not after.
- The best filter coffee is made with milk boiled just so.