Most folks in the West generally might believe in the superstition of Friday the 13th or knock on wood for luck (touch wood) but if you have been on an Indian street, you come across shops hanging a nimbu-mirchi combo (lemon-chilly, see the left picture) to ward off evil spirits. Or perhaps you have come across Indian trucks and taxis hanging a shoe right from the number plate at the back of a car or something that resembles the end tail of a cow/horse. There is a long list of superstitions followed over the world and India too has its varied list of practices and superstitions.
One thing becomes clear with the recent passing of anti-superstition and magic bill—the legislature needed some form of wakeup call to see the extent of ignorance and exploitation that happens in the name of jadu-tona(witch craft and magic) The recent unfortunate murder of anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar has finally set the tone of movement on rationalism and to reach the law makers.
Given that it is a multi-billion dollar industry ingrained in the Indian culture, I wonder if some of these practices can be used to help the society. How about educating young rural folks i.e. if you do not get through high school then you will get punished by Goddess Saraswati? How about gem stone medals for school students studying till standard 10? Can the superstition that Goddess Durga or Kali will curse a man abusing a woman (and reward a man for treating her with respect) work? For considering the rising number of rape cases in the country (and its insensitive media hype) it looks like the Indian society (and men) need to be reminded of feminine power and Shakti ingrained in its traditions and depicted by its different form of Goddesses.
As far the number 13 goes, I would say skipping the number is what makes it special!
Your thoughts are welcome.
Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee) and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.