OPN Charles Dickens-1580031310013
Charles Dickens carried a navigational compass with him at all times and always faced north while he slept — a practice he believed improved his creativity and writing Image Credit:

Chocolates are irresistible, but not before an examination, I am superstitious that way. Each time that I ate a chocolate before a test or evaluation, to save time and yet fill my being with energy, I fared miserably. Once the attached extra sheets mysteriously got detached and decided to get lost and the second time, the questions were out of syllabus. They seemed to take on a queer form of their own, a sorcery that I just couldn’t fathom!

“Have curd instead,” insisted my mother. “It will bring good luck!” My father, the rationalist, quips, “Curd is good for the stomach and for health … hence brings forth the ‘luck’.”

Today in the morning, a black cat crossed my path while driving. It’s almost evening now as I’m eagerly waiting to see what omen shall befall me.

- Navanita Varadpande, writer

A cousin of mine, Priya, renders me into a gobsmacked entity each time I see how charmed her husband is by her. It is as if he is under a spell when she’s around. Priya claims that they haven’t even fought once in the 18 years they’ve been married. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this. She smiles that mysterious smile; it somehow reminds me of Medusa, one of the Gorgon sisters from Greek mythology.

What is the secret recipe for this peaceful conjugal bond. Priya pushes away the curly, Medusa-like strands of hair from her cheeks as she squeaks out the truth, “All I did was to convince him that I was his lucky charm, the astrologers from the holy city of Varanasi further reiterated the belief that I was his lady luck. Hence, the superstitious hubby and his family treasure me.” I sighed as I realised that it was too late for me to attain this level of bewitchery!

Strange beliefs of artists, authors and sports stars

Many authors and artists too relied on strange beliefs. For instance, Charles Dickens carried a navigational compass with him at all times and always faced north while he slept — a practice he believed improved his creativity and writing. The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso would not throw away his old clothes, hair trimmings, or fingernail clippings for fear it would mean losing part of his “essence.” The only superstition that J.K. Rowling adheres to is that she types the title page of a novel only once the book’s finished. It is said that William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is said to be cursed, so actors avoid saying its name when in the theatre (the euphemism “The Scottish Play” is used instead). Actors also avoid even quoting the lines from Macbeth before performances, particularly the Witches’ incantations.

I would observe that at crucial matches my son would always put on his left pad before the right one. According to him it was a superstition that worked wonders for Sachin Tendulkar and probably it does for him too. It is funny how some sportsmen believed in superstitions. Steve Waugh always carried a red handkerchief in his left pocket while batting. The red handkerchief was presented to him by his grandmother and according to Waugh, it brought him luck whenever he carried it while batting.

Federer's eight aces

Roger Federer’s quirk is the number 8. He warms up by firing eight aces on the practice courts before his scheduled match and takes eight towel rubs after each set. He keeps eight bottles of water bottles (Evian only) in his bag and brings in eight racquets to the court.

While we are on this topic how can we forget the Indian politicians? In India, politicians rely more on astrology than on psephology to win elections. This dates back to the day we got our independence. According to La Pierre and Collins, authors of the book Freedom at Midnight, one astrologer in particular, Swamin Madamanand, wrote to Lord Mountbatten, saying, “For the love of God, do not give India independence on August 15. If floods, famine and massacres follow, it will be because free India was born on a day cursed by the stars.”

As a compromise, India was granted independence at the midnight hour between August 14 and 15 because for the west a new day begins at midnight, but according to Hindu calendar, it begins at sunrise.

For me, superstitions are challenges, I love to delve into them and dwell upon their efficacy. Today in the morning, a black cat crossed my path while driving. It’s almost evening now as I’m eagerly waiting to see what omen shall befall me … ‘touch wood’ … I am still alive!

— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai.

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