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18 August 2019

Living with superstitious beliefs!

Emam Dad
The writer is language and cultural activist hailing from Yasin Valley of Gilgit Baltistan

The number 13 is disliked globally, because it is considered unlucky by many people around the world. People, in the West specially, dread anything related to number 13.

The bearer of this number is believed to be a sure victim of misfortune and disaster. That is why most f the hotels, in the West mostly do not have a room number13, for some guests do not like to stay in a room that bears the vile effects of number 13.

Fearing number 13 and giving it an unlucky aura is a common western superstition. Superstitions are not exclusive to the West, or any particular culture or society, they rather, exist everywhere, be it the rich, industrialized and hi-tech western world or the poor, less-developed eastern world. These beliefs have been part of man’s journey throughout from the Stone Age to the super-developed scientific age of today, when science has unveiled the hitherto unknown secrets of universe and exposed the truth of myths and superstitions already. But despite all the scientific knowledge and progress today’s man is as superstitious as was the man of cave.

Most people would disagree and would say that they at least do not believe in this entire superstitious thing. For such a lot it can be said that they take after Newton.

Newton, the renowned scientist, who is said to have a horseshoe hung over his front door. It was a wide-spread belief at that time, that horseshoe brings good luck to the house. When someone asked Newton if he really believed in that kind of thing, he said, “No I don’t. But I am told it works anyway.”

So exist superstitions, in almost every society even today, because they work anyway for so many people, and also because, they are edifying and didactic, despite being simple and naive.

The Burushoo society is one such example where simple superstitions can still be found. Though it is not possible to bring them all in black and white in a single article, yet a few important and interesting superstitions, still prevalent, are listed below for the knowledge and curiosity of the readers.

Whenever a person sets out on a journey, the family members make sure the traveler avoids contact with any ill-omened or inauspicious person. It is believed such a jinxed fellow can bring bad luck and a contact with the traveler would bring harm or calamity to him during his travel. Therefore the families instead arrange a meeting with an auspicious fellow before hand— a man with a lucky aura on the gate is ensured. They believe that a first contact with this person would ensure the safety of the traveler.

Another interesting superstition is associated with the harvest yield especially wheat. When a household brings their first yield of wheat home, they make a small bread of it and give it to a person who has a slack and sluggish disposition. It is believed that his priority first bite will elongate the provision of their yield-stack.

Similarly a very amusing superstitious belief, usually popular among mothers, is related to the chicken-gizzard which is called ‘Phutt’ in Burüshâski language. The literal meaning of ‘Phutt’ is blunt and it is believed that if a child is allowed to eat the chicken-gizzard the ominous effects of the gizzard will render the child blun,t striping him of all his mental shrewdness. Therefore, mothers take special care to keep their kids away from eating ‘phutt’ lest it should blunt the child’s mental faculties .My mother used to admonish me whenever my mouth slobbered at the sight of chicken-gizzard, in my child-hood of course. She would say: “Son, you will become blunt like this Phutt. You better spare it for your most competent class fellow.”

Another belief widespread among student circles is about the class teacher’s chair. Students believe (at least we believed and hope the younger lot follows suit) that sitting on the teacher’s chair is tantamount to sin. The sinner is sure to fail exams. Therefore students avoid sitting on their teacher’s chair fearing failure in exams.

An amusing superstition, among Burushoos, is related to toddlers. It is believed that if, all of a sudden a toddler started peeping through his legs— as kids often do by stooping down and pushing their head between their legs .It is a sign that some unwanted guests are about to turn up. Kids, therefore, face a strict vigilance so that they could be stopped from inviting some unwelcome guests.

These few interesting superstitious beliefs of the Burushoos; though funny, simple and often devoid of logic, are very important to understand the collective thought-process and cultural orientation of the society.

More importantly these superstitious beliefs and explanations are needled with the answers, although primitive and naive, to man’s important questions about the complex phenomena of cause and effect.