For the average Indian psyche, life in the material world is believed not just to exist but also to have considerable influence over one’s life. The mysticism associated with the power vested within inanimate things encompasses their ability to perceive a human’s voice and to have considerable influence over his or her life. It is for this reason, Vaastu Shastra and Feng Shui are a common sight in Indian workplaces and household, along with astrological stones and other practices to keep the evil away.
On Friday the 13th, while the internet is going berserk with memes on the day, let us take a look at some of the common superstitions Indians engage in, on a daily basis. Even the western concept of the dya has percolated down to the subcontinent or had existed since time immemorial through triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13!
1. One eye- It is believed that if you see someone rubbing one eye or purposely winking at you, you will have a bad day. Thus, it is absolutely justified if you ask a stranger to blink twice before you go about your daily work. You will be doing yourself a favour and also take away agency from creepy flirtatious behaviour from those whose eyes were not itching in the first place!
2. One common myna- See one common myna when you are on your way somewhere is believed to bring bad luck in India. If you have shipped your friends in love, you might want to do the same for these birdies, for a couple of them would bring good luck. Sometimes, people wait for the other one to turn up. Another way to rid yourself of the bad luck one common myna brings is to pass your finger through a hole made with your index finger and thumb on your other hand, thrice. Yeah, this is a thing.
3. Cat crossing the road before a car- People and cars often refuse to move forward if a cat crosses the road right before. When it is a black cat, the panic is worse. Passersby spit to cancel out the bad omen and drivers make short crosses on the right side of the wind shield to undo the damage. Some wait till others walk by so that they are saved while others now bear the brunt of the ‘curse of the road-crossing cat’.
4. Leaving out the13th row in flights and 13th floors in hotels- The number 13 is considered so unlucky that certain airlines often leave out the 13th row in flights and some hotels are built without the 13th floor. The intricacies of such planning needs more study but this happens in several places not just in the subcontinent but also in international airlines. A reason can be triskaidekaphobia, which might stem from the owner or from his desire to doge problems that may arise with tenants or customers who believe in superstitions.
5. Broken glass- Most Indian households have a major problem with broken mirrors as it is considered to be a bad omen. Broken glass goods are not kept for long. A logical explanation can be formed from this. Broken glass creates a hazardous situation and one might cut oneself on shards. Thus, the faster they are disposed of, the better.
6. Adding one rupee to money given as gift- This is especially relevant when it comes to giving money as a wedding gift. The belief behind it is this- a number not divisible by two would mean that the remainder of 1 in the equation would bring the couple together without the divisive aspect of the sum. On the other hand, an even number would leave a remainder of 0 when divided by 2 and would represent a nullifying metaphor of the marriage, which is not an ideal situation among Indians.
7. Itchy left palm- It is believed that if your left palm itches, wealth is on your way. If you were eyeing that vintage purse or the new car, or were planning on a luxurious vacation, it would do you good to hope that your left palm starts itching soon enough!
8. Sweeping in the evening- Sweeping in the dark is considered to be bad luck among Indian households, probably for the simple logic that one might sweep out something important while at it. Thus, the entire activity is avoided when the sun goes down.
9. Consuming curd before going out- Having curd before embarking on a journey or even before leaving home for work every day is considered to be good luck. Again, curd is also a cooling, refreshing agent and its consumption can stop the scorching heat from draining you out easily.
10. Lemon and 7 chillies for protection- This is a common sight in the doorways of Indian shops, houses and offices as well as in vehicles like autorickshaws and trucks. It is believed that Lakshmi’s sister, Alakshmi, considered to be the absolute opposite of Goddess Lakshmi, brings in bad luck to these places. However, as she loves the taste of acidic food, people believe that hanging these vegetables outside their personal spaces would urge her to have them and leave without entering, thereby ensuring that their wealth is not drained by her.