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Ward off the omens

In this day and age do we still hang on to superstitions?

As the world shrinks and becomes global, cultural practices merge – a notable example of which are superstitions. Superstitions have a way of coming back to us and our thought-processes – not in old wives’ tales – but rather in international, western trends and lifestyles. Something like the inauspiciousness of Friday the 13th.

“I read about Friday the 13th being the worst calendar day but my grandmother tells us about other things that I haven’t even heard of!” says Pooja A., a college student.

So is superstition an archaic tradition? Or has the Western influence penetrated India even here? The new generation seems to have lost touch with old India and consequently all its superstitious values. “Today children don’t care if a black cat crosses their path but pay more attention to a black crow!” says Kamala S., a grandmother of four.

She’s not alone as most youngsters today prefer to leave their Indian myths and legends, while embracing everything new. And that includes all the superstitions that hold good in western literature, television and more. So have we really rid our minds of the influence of mindless superstitions, or has it just taken a new form?

It isn’t archaic anymore; it comes well-packaged in forms like comics, books, television soaps and more. Kissing under the mistletoe during Christmas in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, to burning articles that belonged to ex-lovers in the popular series, “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.”.

New generation superstitions have taken-over the Indian psyche. So do we grieve the departure of oldies like never trimming nails after dark or getting a haircut only on Tuesdays? Eighty-year-old Janaki R. says: “Superstition gave us a purpose to life. We were too scared to venture out after dark because of our parents warning us of spirits looming around every corner. It sounds quite ridiculous now, especially since life seems to start after six!”

These traditions were made with youngsters in mind, but today they hold very little meaning to them. It is like the Hindi saying which goes, “Ghar ki murgi dal barabar” (what is readily available is of no value). “I don’t believe in superstitions whether they are western or Indian. They are lame and make us dysfunctional human beings,” says Preeti R., a student of history.

But people like her form a small community that are largely out-numbered. For, no matter how we choose to delude ourselves, we all follow some superstition at some points of our lives. The only catch is that we don’t listen to the older generation but hang on to every word that western beliefs which have influenced our pop-culture.

“It is not that most youngsters want to follow only western superstitions, it’s all largely due to the hype created by the electronic media. The superstitions that have been handed down to us by our forefathers are dying away simply because they do not get the same exposure as their western counterparts.” She adds: “There are also occasions where people believe in superstitions due to a strong and influential family and social upbringing. But most youth today are neutral to superstitions,” says Dr. Vijayshree R., a psychologist.

Western superstitions which have taken over are just a small sign of how much young India is influenced by the West. It is a sad turn as this shows that though the Indian context is forgotten and that western awe and popularity is taking over.

AISHWARYA MANI

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