For the love of a tortoise

Superstitions are degrading to humans

Updated - May 07, 2023 07:53 pm IST

Published - May 07, 2023 12:54 am IST

Slowly and steadily, get rid of superstitions.

Slowly and steadily, get rid of superstitions. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The other day, when I was scrolling through a magazine, one particular article about superstitions and science caught my attention. This article made me reminisce about an incident that had happened during my school days, several years ago.

Once, I visited my grandfather’s village for the holidays. The pond near his house had little animals around it, such as rabbits and tortoises I used to admire. One day, it so happened that a tortoise made its way from the water into the house. This made my grandfather agitated and annoyed. According to a famous proverb in Tamil Nadu, Aamai pugunthaveedu urupudathu, which means a house into which a tortoise enters will never prosper. Now, I think you can understand, why my grandfather was so agitated. As I was the only person around at that point of time, he ordered me to lift the tortoise and give it to the caretaker of the house. I immediately obeyed the first part of the instruction. I lifted it and quickly ran out of the house. Fearing that the caretaker may cause harm to the poor little thing, I took it to the tree near the pond and left it there. I remember covering it with dried leaves so that no one would see it and hurt it.

The next day my grandfather fumed at me, as I had not followed his instructions properly. When he questioned the caretaker as to what he had done with the tortoise, he was totally confused and denied receiving the creature from me. When probed further, I had to show the place where I had last left the cute little thing. When he went to the place I had pointed, fortunately for the poor little tortoise, it had escaped. Maybe it had slowly made its way into the pond.

My grandfather started tutoring me about the age-old superstition. He said that we should not encourage tortoises to enter the house as it might bring bad luck.

As I recollect this incident, I can understand how superstitions can arise out of some realistic ideas. As in the magazine’s article, what we should not actually allow to enter into our house are kallamai, which means illiteracy; illamai, which means lack of necessary things; iyallamai, which means inability; and porramai, which means jealousy. Note the aamai, which, on its own, means tortoise, at the end of each word. Actually, people started taking the Tamil proverb (previously mentioned) in the literal sense. Ultimately, the poor little tortoise fell victim.

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