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.