– Puja Rai
In a world where we brand ourselves as the modern people, where the gifts of science and technology lightens our daily work, still do we carry the very old and heavy load of Superstitions from the past.The hereditary chain of superstition never ceases to end and it is superb in its performance from the day it was born. The roots of this tree has buried deep into the soil and its branches are spread far and wide, the only difference is that it does not produce oxygen that would help and benefit the entire living beings on Earth. But sadly the seeds were sown by no other than the human hands.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines superstition as a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. In our country and in all the corners of the world we encounter a variety of superstitions; some are minor like we think a cat crossing our path might bring bad luck, so we usually stop until and unless another person walks before us. So, it kind of ignites the selfish nature within you and sometimes it is major, a super societal issue, like a woman , accused of being a witch and so she is burnt with the unanimous approval of the whole village or the sacrifice, be it of animals or babies and children for what a superstitious believer would call “for a good purpose”. Actually it is the fear within us that drives the superstitious impulse of men. As far as we are alive, we do not want evil of any kind to befall upon us or our family. And so we believe in superstitious manuals or the magical remedies of what we call in our vernacular, the Dhongi Baba’s and other people who are skilled in manipulating the uneducated lot. Sometimes even the educated lot fall prey to their art. We can get pages of information about the consequences of superstition in the Internet. Until and unless people uproot the tree of superstition (whose fruits we have been eating and drinking down the ages) and think in a more rational way, it will continue to stirr the fear within and stay as a social stigma, a scar in a civilised society.
In my home town in the hills of Darjeeling, superstitious beliefs are still in vogue but it is not of a major kind. Many stories are told by our parents hinting us not to be superstitious and I remember them, the most touching one was the story of a very old woman in a village who because of being very old with a shaggy wrinkled face was accused of being a witch; she lived alone in a small hut. She had a son who after being married had left her. Children in the village were scared with her but sometimes they would go and peek through the door. One day to her surprise, her son returned home with his wife and her grandchild. How happy she was to receive her family, more happy to see her grandson. But happiness did not stay long in her home because when the child caught fever, her daughter in law thought that it was her witch mother in law who was ruining their life. So the next morning they left her once again alone and empty. No body cared, except few who sympathised with her grief. That night the sky poured down heavily accompanied by thunder and lightening. The next morning, the weather was calm and quiet and the whole day there was not a single sound from the old woman’s house. In the evening few children curiously ran towards her house to peek in through the window and saw her pathetic old body lying on the floor, cold and lifeless, only lices in her hair seemed alive. She had tried to warm herself with few clothes and sacks she had. All the villagers saw what was before them but it was too late for them to realise that they had ignored a living flesh for some kind of superstitious beliefs.
This story filled my eyes with tears. And we would think the son must have regretted too.
The most common form of Superstitions in most of the families is that when a girl is healthy and bleeds each month, she is considered impure to participate in any kind of prayer service and she is prohibited to touch the alter or visit any holy temples, unless her menstruation is over. I was somewhat shocked when a friend of mine once told me that during such time, she is not allowed to go to the kitchen or touch any other utensils except hers. Furthermore, she is not allowed to serve the meal to any of the male members in her family. This was surprising and new to me because our family is very liberal regarding such beliefs. Did God prescribe such rules? What is a healthy menstural bleeding to do with prayers? Later I came to know that this happens all over the country.
Superstitions in our vernacular is called ‘Andhabishwas’ or simply ‘blind-faith’. We would ask our Thulobaba (Grandpa ), “ठुलोबाबा , तपाईलाई अँधोबिस्वास् मन्पर्छ ? ”
(Grandpa, do you admire superstitious beliefs?) And he would narrate one anecdote from his life. He said , ” it was our tradition to organise sacrifical ceremony in memory of our ancestors whom we believe would look after us after their deaths. I still remember how our baba and your great grandpa sacrificed animals like goats and hens and the blood offered to the ancestral spirits upon a rock, impersonated as our ancestors in order to please them. There would be blood everywhere and the sight was not so pleasing to the eyes. I did not belive in such superstitions so I had made up mind not to follow it and so you all never got to see it.”
Unlike others, grandpa never did believe in dhami jhagris or local priests so he never took any children to them, instead he chose doctors. But my grandma would secretly take us for the local check up when we fell ill. But without superstitious beliefs, some fraud people would lose their share of profit. When I was about fourteen years of age, my Ama had shown my birth horscope paper to a local pundit who planted in my Ama’s mind that her daughter would get married at an early age of sixteen and to avoid such ill circumstance, he had prescribed her some remedies and in return had received some good number of cash. My poor anxious mother, she did all the remedies. By now I would have become a mother if only the so called future prediction was true. Thus, I believe that the Fear sometimes of future provides fuel to superstitious beliefs.
Now in the present scenario , it is the hot time of Elections and not Superstitions. But the branches of superstitions have stretched towards the political arena and it is able to showcase a magical mirage before the majority that is similar to the works of the fraud priests and babas , manipulating the minds, earning maximum Votes and laughing out loud after they have succeeded in fooling the public. But it is in the power of the public to see through the knitted hole what has long been knitted by the political parties and polticians by shedding off their long old veil of Superstitions and ‘Andhabishvas’ or blind faith we have in political parties and their sentimental speeches. In a world where trust is hard to find , we must be rational , careful , smart and witty enough to judge what is right and wrong because our precious votes voices our hopes and aspiration.