“I just burnt my sari on the iron, someone must have put nazar on it!”
“You can’t wash your hair today, it’s a Tuesday!’
“You’ve just sneezed before we left the house, go and get the sugar”
Any of these sound familiar? Yes, we’re talking about superstition in the Asian culture.
From removing the evil eye with burnt chillies dangled in front of our face, to not washing your hair on certain days because each day has a specific impact, the Indian subcontinent is a place of diverse culture and tradition. Superstition is a big part of daily life and a big part of that tradition.
It comes in many forms, but there are clearly a handful of the most common ones. One of them is adding an extra pound to any gift that involves money. For example, if you put money in a card, instead of putting £20 or £50 on its own, you put in £21 or £51. Adding an extra £1 to an entire sum is considered a blessing, by making the entire sum an odd number; otherwise it is thought that if the sum ends in zero, it means the end.
Another one that is really popular is the concept of nazar (the evil eye). A gaze or a stare that is superstitiously believed to cause harm. People put kohl in children’s eyes, brides put a block dot somewhere on their face, both of which are thought to protect them from the effect of evil eyes. Parents or grandparents often using lemons and chillies to revert ‘buri nazar’. Who believes in this practice?
Other examples include sneezing before going out, a black cat crossing your path, not washing your hair on certain days, bathing after attending a funeral etc. The list goes on. These are just some examples we have been led to believe and practice perhaps without ever questioning. It all stems from India and is evident amongst most religions, including Sikhs who aren’t even supposed to believe in superstition. Are you perhaps made to follow these practices from family? Do you need advice on things you are not sure about?
The formal definition of superstition refers to any belief or practice which is explained by supernatural causality and is contradictory to modern science. So, why do us second generation born British Asians continue to practice the same thing?
If so, which ones? Or maybe you don’t believe in any of it anymore now that you are a grown adult, but used to have to follow blindly when you were a child? Or do you find yourself passing on the same superstition to your children? What do they think of it? In light humour lets share our stories even if we know no meaning behind them!