Why I do the things I do

I had a moment of epiphany the other day. In the act of measuring out rice, I paused just as I was about to fling a few grains back into the container. It was a reflex action. I have seen my grandmother and my mom do it in our South Indian household and here I was, absent-mindedly doing the exact same thing. Why was I putting the grains back? I have a dim memory of my granny explaining that this ensures the rice container is never empty! A wish and metaphor for a plentiful larder, and life.

In today’s changed circumstances, when India is a ‘land of milk and honey’, maybe this ritual makes no sense. But I am loath to ‘unfollow’ these. Here are a few more:

  • To ward off the ‘evil eye’ while praising a loved one, look up at the blue sky! 
  • If you want something badly, deprive yourself of something you love (especially in the food category) for the necessary duration.
  • Don’t plant coriander in your home as it’s a bad portent and could force you to leave your place of residence.
  • Don’t make a firm decision about anything important just before you go to sleep. Sleep on the thought and decide the next morning.
  • Never say ‘I am leaving’ when you leave home. Instead, go with ‘I am leaving now and will be back’.
  • The rigorously-enforced childhood ritual of popping the Seven Seas fish oil capsules and Calcium Sandoz tablets every day!
  • Never shampoo without oiling your hair first or you will catch a cold.
  • East or West, Pears soap is the best!
  • Never, ever cut your nails after twilight.
  • You will never get exact cooking measurements from that generation. Everything is – ‘a pinch’ of masala or ‘a small fist’ of rice or ‘throw in’ some pepper.
  • Ward off the evil eye by circling a person’s aura clockwise and anti-clockwise with a fistful of salt and in utter silence.

This list can go on. To me, these are some quaint and harmless traditions, which I am happy to continue as a link to the past. 

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