News about a top Bollywood actor trying to get his mojo back by wearing a black necklace reminded me of the crazy superstitions among my folks.
Ranbir Kapoor is going through a bad patch and has had a major flop at the box office recently even though his co-star in the latest movie is Katrina Kaif, also one of Bollywood’s leading female artistes.
To reverse the trend, Kapoor is seen also wearing a ring with a black stone on his pinkie to get the good vibes back.
Once a celebrity’s popularity slides, the movie industry starts to get the jitters as a lot of money is riding on his or her name and a film bombing at the box office can send everyone to the poor house, from the producers to the spot boys.
One cannot just depend on a good script, great acting, foot-tapping music and songs, tight editing and gorgeous photography for audiences to rave about. There is an element of good luck involved in every venture and one way to ensure that good fortune smiles on you is to ward off any bad luck.
That is why Ranveer Singh wears a black string on his ankle, or why Bipasha Basu hangs a lime and green chillies on her doorstep (more about that later) and why Shah Rukh Khan always drives a car with 555 on the number plate and Aamir Khan always releases a movie at the end of the year, in December.
My folks believed that when a child is born it is imperative to keep her safe from the evil eye. They would make a black spot with an eyeliner or mascara, either on the chin or the cheek, so that before the evil glance can fall on the baby it looks at the black spot and goes, “ugh”, or something like that. Next time you see a picture of an Indian baby, you know what the black spot means.
When I got my first motorbike, a relative insisted that we ensure that I do not have any accidents. He did that by saying prayers and blowing on packages of mutton and placing them on the crossroads. Strangely enough I never had an accident but only the one time when I was riding pillion on my friend’s bike and he could not stop in time when a dog ran across the road.
This reminds me of the story about a student from one African country buying a new car while studying in a western university. The tradition back home was to cut a chicken to ward off bad luck. He could not do that without attracting adverse comments from his class mates, so he just drove his car over an egg.
People of various beliefs practice their own superstitions as can be seen in Dubai’s multi-cultural population and the things they hang on to the rear-view mirror of their new cars to keep their journeys safe, to and from office.
Muslims always say, “Masha-Allah” (Praise be to God) when admiring a new baby, congratulating a friend on a promotion or when he wins the million-dollar Dubai Duty Free prize.
Back to Bipasha and the lime and green chilies and why some shop owners also hang it at the door. It is believed that ‘Alakshmi’, deity of misfortune, likes sour, pungent and hot things. She will eat the lime and chillies and leave.
But she will enter homes where there is a lot of screaming and shouting, homes where there are legal disputes, financial irregularities happening and if it is kept unclean.
Watching Hollywood movies while in my teens I always believed that garlic helps ward off vampires. Now I chew on garlic cloves to control my bad cholesterol and whenever I am walking under a Pipal (Bo) tree.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. You can follow him on Twitter @mahmood_saberi.