As I walked past a shopping mall, my eyes fell on the heavy discounts it offered on various essential products. I immediately called my shopaholic aunt. (Well, who wouldn’t take such benefits, if not her?) And, obviously, she rushed to the shopping mall only to return home midway as if an emergency had prevented her!
Well, her emergency turned out to be a cause of astonishment for me. “I forgot that it’s ‘Shanivaar’ (Saturday).” She said, “So no new items!” Her illogical belief amuses me and provokes me to think: How, in the present era of illuminating scientific developments, the shadow of superstitions still hovers over the minds of modern people?
Superstition - The oxford dictionary describes it as “the belief that particular events bring good luck or bad luck and that cannot be explained by reason or science”. Now, if you think it as a “cause & event” analysis, then a new, practical definition would come up: a particular, seemingly ordinary event that has the immense potential to cause an exaggerated, illogical and comical behavior in a person!
Throwing light on above, consider a group of superstitious interviewees who are anxiously hurrying for an interview, praying that the entire day fares well. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a black cat crosses their path-Alas! Bad luck!
The obvious reaction of interviewees: startling body language changes signalling an inauspicious start like abruptly skidding to a stop, lots of gasps, groans and gesticulations, a sudden increase of anxiety attacks and no matter how late they might be they wouldn’t cross the path until someone other crosses it! By the time they resume, their already tensed mind is peppered with negative thoughts! (Well, as for that ominous black cat, it may feel itself as a feared creature!)
Keeping intact the above situation let me replace the cat with an elephant! Wow! Good luck! The obvious reaction - Body language changes signalling auspicious start like the sudden friendliness and respect towards this creature (the symbol of Lord Ganesh), anxiety evaporates instantly replaced by a sudden upsurge of faith! And, by the time the elephant moves on, one could see the interviewees in a much better mood than they had been minutes before (probably thinking that now no force could stop them to pass an interview!)
Like above there are numerous occurrences of superstitious force playing around us in our everyday life ranging from comical to ridiculous to even unhygienic, all being the products of old traditions, customs and long followed religions. Seeing a peacock (good journey), eating curd with jaggery before a journey, breaking mirrors (bad omen), sneezing before you leave your house (bad day, do watch out!), opening umbrella inside the house (probably you won’t get married!), lizard falling on head (death is looming overhead!), dogs howling in the night (death is stalking nearby!), standing under a peepal or banyan tree (evil spirits may possess you!), hanging lemon and chilli in the entrance of your shop to ward off evil spirits (or even hanging them around your neck in some parts of India!), hiccupping (someone is thinking about you!) not bathing or not changing clothes for days or even months (seriously unhygienic!), deeper the color of bride’s mehandi, deeper the love of the groom (no doubt, today’s brides are using cosmetic products to darken the color of their mehandi!). Foregoing were the few instances of human idiosyncrasies!
From a demographic perspective, one may confidently argue that today’s modern societies or young generations are impervious to the sway of superstitions, owing to growing awareness, education, literacy hike rates, information explosion and rationalized thinking, unlike the socially and economically backward strata of societies. But that remains a debatable issue. On meticulous scrutiny, you may elicit that even the ultra modern section of the society, sometimes, do become the servitudes of superstitious forces.
Oh yes, in simple terms, compare it with a low tide and high tide catalysts - During normal, low tide- uneventful-days, these people do not care so much about good or bad signs greeting them now and then. But during high tide-eventful-days - like a wedding event, inauguration ceremony, exam day or result day, social event, going for an interview or first day at job - the same category of people are, all of a sudden, more prone and receptive to good or bad omens, overacting, overreacting and overdoing things, often resulting in human folly!
You may have found the above instances of superstitions as generally innocuous, harmless and inoffensive. However, on a serious note, one cannot deny the heinous and evil forms of superstitions prevalent in our country. The ancient India witnessed wicked practices of Sati-pratha, witch-hunting, black magic, girl child-abortion-murder, castration, widow-ignominy, animal and human sacrifices to Gods, and many more that have been majorly curbed, thanks to the crusaders and social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Ray and Swami Vivekananda.
But shamefully, headlines of these malevolent practices still crop up in various parts of India resulting in unnecessary killing of innocents and adding to social stigmas and human despondency. The obvious reasons: sheer lack of education, woeful ignorance, false beliefs which are deeply rooted in minds and human bigotry. Serious contemplation by the government, pragmatic methods of disseminating education and awareness is needed to suppress such practices.
Scientifically speaking, superstition is not the causative factor to bring any good luck or bad luck. So what does? Well, it is our thoughts, our disposition and our interpretation of events that really counts. Interestingly, if we think any event to be a good omen then we are right and if we think it as a bad omen, then also we are right! The simple logic, though hard to follow, is - Our way of thinking is the very seed that blossoms into good luck or bad luck! As goes the famous adage - “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”