Five Tuesdays and an almost-funeral.

We hadn’t been married long, when a month with five Tuesdays came along. Huz and I were both in our twenties then (sigh), and getting ready to go out somewhere sometime in the afternoon.

Sis in law asked us to look at our reflections in a steel bowl full of cooking oil (as everyone had already done), and to dip our fingertips into a bag of wheat flour.

‘Beware,’ she said. ‘it’s a paanch mangal ka maheena’, (a month with five Tuesdays)

Huz and I looked at each other and back at her with expressions that said, ‘So??’

‘It’s a terrible month, didn’t you know? Awful things may happen to us, and we must ward them off by doing ‘sadqa’ every Tuesday,’ said she.

Hence the ritual of touching the flour and oil-gazing, offerings to be given away to the truly needy, thereby diverting all manner of bad cosmic vibes, not to mention attracting Divine Blessings.

I was all for helping the poor, but wait a minute. Why must I gaze at my reflection in the oil before giving it away, and why must I touch the flour? Did all that potential negative energy directed towards me by the cosmos get deflected into the edibles? And if so, how could I then pass it on to some poor hapless soul?

Instead of debating the issue, we just dipped our skeptic fingers into the flour, looked at our reflections and crossed our mental fingers that the skepticism didn’t count against us in the giant scheme of things. Anyways, as far as superstition goes, I have always had a lurking suspicion that the ‘evil eye’ can only affect you if you believe in it. Same goes for djinns. If you believe in them, you’ll give them the power to possess you when you walk under trees at dusk, or worse, give you the heebie-jeebies when you’re alone at home and there are dark rooms with open doors all around and ominous noises. Denial has great benefits, imho. Having said that, small me always made sure to mutter a little prayer if perchance walking under a tree at dusk, scanning the branches furtively for any signs of an invisible djinn. Nothing wrong in saying the salwaat once in a while. I do believe that’s what’s saved me from being possessed all these years…..

To my recollection, in all the 23 years of living with my parents, I had never ever heard them mention or even be aware of a month with 5 Tuesdays, so we four daughters blithely went about our young lives unmindful of the reason for the horrible things that happened to us once every so often, shrugging them off as bad luck or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Y’know, things like school still being open on a rainy day. I don’t even remember Mom putting a black dot with kajal on the side of any of our heads, or made us wear a nazar ki taaveez or any other special amulets on a black thread around our necks. No special voodoo involving twenty one green chillies either. I have ambivalent thoughts about that. On one hand I think Mom was very cool to not have subscribed to a superstitious mindset. On the other hand I wonder, didn’t she worry?? Then again, I was hardly the kind of child that could possibly fall prey to the inadvertent effects of a jealous gaze. I was scrawny and dark-skinned, hence perfectly protected.

Anyways, not giving paanch mangals any further thought apart from giggling at the ludicrousness of it, young Huz and I got into our little Suzuki Khyber (what a lovely combination of Japanese and Pathan), and drove off towards the main road that was much used by huge trucks and trailers. As we entered the main road from the service lane, we saw a sad sight. There in the middle of the road was a dog that looked like it had been run over and was now very much dead. I wiped away some involuntary tears, while Huz slowed down to give the poor dog a wide berth and go around it to make a U-turn.

What happened next is something that still makes my heart skip a beat and my arm-hair stand on end, even after 14 years. Huz was still maneouvring around the dog when all of a sudden his side of the window was spattered with blood, and a huge truck at high speed went over the island between the two sides of the road and crossed over to the other side with an awful clankety racket. It all happened so fast it took us some time to register what happened.

Distracted by the dog, Huz didn’t notice the truck coming towards us in the rear-view mirror. The truck driver didn’t anticipate the fact that the car in front intended to make a U-turn. Huz had forgotten in his distraction to turn on the indicator. As a result, the truck went over the dead dog, spattering our car, and to avoid the almost-inevitable collision the truck driver trundled OVER the middle island strip…..without hitting us.

Dead dog, Blood on our car. An almost-accident. A shaken Huz and me. There was something portentously ominous in all this….if it hadn’t been for some amazing reflexes on the truck drivers’ part, we might have been really badly hurt. We could even have DIED, for heavens’ sake!

So….did we just hoodwink the universe and succeed in thwarting some seriously malevolent forces?

Bring on the lentils and the rice and the flour I say!! I’ll dip my fingers into anything. 🙂

(Feel free to comment and share your thoughts below people! Anything creepy ever happen to you, on a Tuesday or any other day?)


39 thoughts on “Five Tuesdays and an almost-funeral.

  1. Shoaib Farooqui January 24, 2011 / 12:24 pm

    yikes! March 2011 is ‘paanch mangal ka maheena’ in fact its going to be a ‘paanch peer, mangal, budh and jumeraat ka maheena’; God help us! :p anyhoo, this somehow reminds me of ‘do khutbay waali eid’ (Eid on a friday) which has the potential to topple the incumbent govt. and many a times confusion regarding moon sightings has been attributed to the govt.’s manipulation to avoid such bad omen

    • munira's bubble January 24, 2011 / 12:45 pm

      😀 God help us indeed!! Does this mean we do sadqa every day??

  2. Aziza January 24, 2011 / 12:34 pm

    Me I’m a believer…. LA USA can u think of finding someone to give sadaqah too, Hassan and I did and we just avoided a head on collision with a drunk driver on the highway.

    • munira's bubble January 24, 2011 / 12:48 pm

      OMG!! There’s magic in believing, though I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that! 🙂
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. fatema January 24, 2011 / 12:49 pm

    good one mun… the heading and the chain of thought……:)

    • munira's bubble January 24, 2011 / 12:54 pm

      Thank you Fatu 🙂 I’m sure you have some interesting stories to share….;)

  4. Zahra January 24, 2011 / 1:04 pm

    Yikes!! dreadful. The times were different back then! very much influenced by the west (Woodsto0ck) and all a rage about freedom! Now, even I have started to belief in protecting our souls and body with taweez. And Yes I believe!

  5. Shoaib Farooqui January 24, 2011 / 1:21 pm

    sure! helping the poor will keep the ‘evil eye’ away any way 🙂

  6. huzaifazoom January 24, 2011 / 1:30 pm

    Uncle hozi vs. buddha baba:
    Should those innocent paanch mangal months that passed by incident-free evoke similar awe? And should we doubt the severity of those incidents that transpired in non-paanch mangal months?

  7. fatema January 24, 2011 / 4:56 pm

    hmmm….a point to be noted hozi….but those of us who are superstitiously inclined ,like to believe that there is a cause and effect order to the madness around us………….what happened to you guys could merely be coincidence…..but it is exciting to think ….maybe not……..:)
    …having said that……being superstitious can be very debilitating as well and there is definite sanity in being sceptical…….as far as superstitions are concerned….ignorance is definitely bliss…..:)

    • huzaifazoom January 24, 2011 / 7:11 pm

      Too much gray and then everything is muddled. I would like to go orange on this issue, but I am afraid it is not possible.

      • fatema January 25, 2011 / 8:33 am

        hahaha…orange should definitely be an option i say!!!!….atleast its vibrant!!….even if not conclusive….:D

    • munira's bubble January 25, 2011 / 10:24 am

      coincidences are so exciting and creepy! love them. you make a good point about the debilitating effect though. i know some people who think everything unfortunate that happens to them is a result of black magic and voodoo. it didn’t help that they found ‘proof’ of it too, buried in a plot of land they owned….

  8. sakina hussain January 24, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    You write so well Mun. This time , you held my interest unwaveringly till the end. Maybe coz it was a topic that was my cuppa tea. I believe in all these little nitty gritties of our faith. I love the idea that i have the power to thwart danger and misshaps. A little sadqa here , a little dua there and a bit of the holy verses and lo and behold is that a bird , is that an airplane, no thats super woman…… 😀 …. i’m not scared of bad things happening to me, what turns me on is that I can send those bad things packing….

    • munira's bubble January 25, 2011 / 5:56 am

      thanks Sax! are you saying i don’t ALWAYS hold your interest till the very end?? 😛 tsk.
      and as i said to Aziza apa….there’s powerful magic in believing..
      so go right ahead with your offerings and incantations, i’m all for it! though i can’t keep myself from wondering…how much is real and how much is fairytale?
      ultimately it all boils down to solace, i guess. you do whatever gives you courage and strength and makes you feel better. 🙂

  9. crazygoangirl January 25, 2011 / 9:48 am

    Jeepers Creepers that’s a scary story!! I can’t make up my mind as to whether I believe or not 😛 I’m not very superstitious, actually I’m not too religious either! Thanks for the information on djinns…I always had thought they were these benevolent wish-granters, like in Aladdin or ‘I Love Jeanie’!!

    When it’s to do with Ishaan, however, I just do what’s necessary (as deemed by Mom & Gran), thinking it’s not harming him in anyway is it? So every Wednesday and Sunday (apparently the two days that the ‘nazar utarna’ is most effective), for a while, he sat dutifully amused on the swing in our porch, while my maid circled his head with dry red chillies and salt and mustard seeds (?), three times and then went off to burn the whole shebang at the place where 3 roads meet!! The whole thing used to kind of creep me out frankly and after a while we just stopped.

    Another thing I keep wondering is, do I really and truly have something that another human being would crave to the extent of wishing me ill? Maybe. Don’t know what to think! Fingers crossed 😉 Spit, spit 😛

    • munira's bubble January 25, 2011 / 10:51 am

      a-ha!! now that’s the comment i was waiting for! a cross-cultural one!
      you see, one of the points i was trying to make is that belief in the evil eye and nazar utaarna and giving sadqa isn’t so much religious as it is cultural. look at us. you’re Hindu, i’m Muslim, yet we do the same kinda stuff. i’d say it’s definitely a subcontinental thing.

      p.s..btw, djinns can be good, evil or neutrally benevolent. Muslims believe they are one of the three ‘sentient creations of Allah’, along with angels and humans 🙂

      • crazygoangirl January 25, 2011 / 11:58 am

        Absolutely! It’s a cultural thing although I guess it has it’s roots in religion and yet religions for all their outward differences are intrinsically so similar na?

        Also another point I wanted to make (but resisted for fear my comment would be longer than the post :P), is that when I was younger I was more skeptical, like you. As I live longer and hopefully get wiser, I find myself being more open to a lot of stuff that I pooh-poohed in my twenties and thirties. I wonder why that is? I think it might be because I’m less threatened now by a lot of things…

        I like the idea of djinns…but I must confess I find the spelling irresistible 😀

    • munira's bubble January 25, 2011 / 12:21 pm

      you’re right H, religion and culture are inextricably intertwined, esp in a place like pre-partition India where there was so much intermingling and co-existence, harmony or no harmony, and yes, all religions have a universality to them, something i wish our maulvis would drive home to the average Pakistani 😛
      funnily enough, i was more inclined to believe in ‘evil’ spirits and ghosts and churails when i was a kid. i just loved the idea of the supernatural spilling over into everyday life, though it was tempered by the innate skepticism, which was something that grew as time passed.
      i love what you said about not being threatened anymore. that’s exactly how i feel too. way more accepting of different beliefs…. as long as they don’t interfere with my own….(or lack thereof) 😉
      the word ‘djinn’ definitely sounds very awesome, esp when you don’t keep the ‘d’ silent 😀

      • arwa t January 26, 2011 / 11:46 am

        wow! that was definitely a very interesting story:) u do write well.
        as far as believing it well i am as superstitious as they come so u did get lucky.
        and as for d part of ‘if u believe it it can get u’ d same can be applied to d sadaqa nd offerings if u believe it it can protect u;)
        these believes r definately religious 🙂

  10. munira's bubble January 26, 2011 / 6:33 pm

    Y’know, sis in law says, this whole paanch mangal deal has to do with astrology…..along the lines of ‘sitaray being in gardish’….I guess you can’t really leave religion out of anything, can you? 😉
    what i find intriguing is, NO ONE paid attention to the point raised in bold letters and italics!

  11. Indigo Aarti January 27, 2011 / 8:45 pm

    I was brought up in a household where ANY superstition was not allowed to be spat on, so you can imagine my chagrin at having my mom do the chilies thing H was speaking of. Not sweeping the house at night, not cutting your nails at night (what the?). eesh.
    however, since I live in multicultural Singapore and here we have three times the scares! The Chinese, Malay, Indian have adopted each race’s superstitions and so I grew up fearing a djinn as much as my mom made us fear ‘bad eyes’ and most of all, I feared the 7th Chinese month. the Chinese believe that in the month of Aug in their calendar, the halls of the supernatural are opened up and they roam in our midst for a whole month! The Chinese place offerings of food and many other things by the apartment blocks, shops, outside their homes, under trees and nobody is allowed to touch the food offered to the ghosts or else you may be in danger of being haunted by that ghost it was offered for. Also, the Chinese believe in burning fake paper money and other things so that these things may appease the spirit and bring them comfort wherever they may be.

    So til today, I do not cross over a Chinese offering or step on burnt paper money..and if I accidentally do, I apologise and spit three times. Silly I know, but the stories i have heard have been mighty scary for me to dare play around.

    Ironically, I am an atheist so you see this doesn’t have anything to do with religion in my case 😉
    Love your writing Munira! Looking forward to many posts to come 🙂

    • munira's bubble January 28, 2011 / 5:02 am

      Haha! my Nanima always warned us not to do jharoo at night or cut our nails! There’s a whole sub-category of superstitions here, a veritable can of worms as they say!! I like the look of cactus in little ceramic pots, but can I keep them in my house? No way!! I’ll just be bringing myself bad luck! Now which culture/religion did that spring from I wonder? It doesn’t even matter anyway! We can all merrily adopt each others superstitions and spook ourselves to death.
      Loved the story about the 7th Chinese month. Reminded me of ‘Spirited Away’……
      Something tells me our propensity to be irrational is hard-wired in us, something just egged along by faith and cultural conditioning 😉
      I love that you paid me a visit. Thank you!

  12. Indigo Aarti January 27, 2011 / 8:51 pm

    oh and as for the question in bold & italics – I think oil and flour must be a good omen because even in the hindu culture an infant’s hair is shaved with oil and then collected in flour dough. I don’t get the meaning behind it but I thought it interesting to share with you..

    btw, i was really sad to hear about the dead dog..such a rude shock that must have been for you when the blood splattered! As a pet owner of 2 cats and 3 dogs, i have a vulnerability to such happenings.

    • munira's bubble January 28, 2011 / 5:16 am

      Oil and flour is all very good, but you missed my point too! 😀
      Ah well, it was a silly point anyway 😦
      You’re the only one to latch on to the shock and grief at the way the poor dog got mauled (pet owner explains it) 😦 It was indeed a bit of a trauma in itself, apart from the narrow brush with death, driving to our destination with blood on the window, shaky hands and all. Huz and I drove to the end of that particular road in silence.

  13. Maryam January 29, 2011 / 10:23 am

    Again, love your style! I’m floored! Also, I’m a big believer in Sadaqa… and if i fail to wake up for fajr namaz on time, oh boy! I know things will go wrong for me. Infact, because i leave the house first to go to school, i’ve taken it upon myself to take out the five daals painstakingly in a steel dish and pour the oil carefully in a bowl. Before i walk out the door, I holler to everyone to make sure they touch the daal!

    • munira's bubble February 17, 2011 / 6:43 pm and sis in law be kindred spirits! 😀

      Thanks Maryam!

  14. Shamoon February 9, 2011 / 5:02 am

    chanced upon your blogs after shirin apa told me about them …. think they’re fantastic ….

    • munira's bubble February 17, 2011 / 7:09 pm

      I’m glad you happened along 🙂
      Thanks Shamoon! Do come back sometime 🙂

  15. Bakbakee February 17, 2011 / 5:50 am

    My parents dont believe in it. But I remember my maternal aunt once telling me not to cut my nails at night.
    But the incident you just mentioned was scary. And I can’t stand the sight of blood. I’m now officially scared of panch mangal months (March’011 is). Fingers crossed and nails cut in the morning.

  16. munira's bubble February 17, 2011 / 7:47 pm

    Bakbakeeeeeeee! I just love your name 😀 That’s why I revisited you. And then you revisited me.
    Don’t be too scared! Buss nazar utaar lo. Baaqi sab khair hai 😀

    • Bakbakee February 21, 2011 / 7:06 am

      (Takes a bow) Thank you. Yeah I guess.

  17. Writer's Apprentice December 9, 2011 / 7:16 pm

    Wow, Munira aunty! Maryam bhen from Xeemarmar told me about your blog and i visited it.
    This post is a 10 on 10! apart from the accident and your belief’s i could only think about ur descriptions. i think i could really picture u two! loved ittt!

    • Munira December 9, 2011 / 7:59 pm

      Awwww, what a sweet comment! Thank you Maria 😀 But you didn’t say anything about creepy stuff happening to you in a paanch mangal no maheeno…

  18. Writer's Apprentice December 10, 2011 / 2:29 pm

    Well in my house we believe that if we don’t do sadaqa or look into the oil in a paanch mangal’s month then there will be something horrible coming up like once we had a power-cut and an almost house on fire and once we were robbed on a tuesdayy!! So we believe loadsss into doing sadaqa and keeping ourselves safe from all the vices:)

  19. auntyuta February 17, 2013 / 7:53 pm

    In our family superstition was being ridiculed. My mum’s mum was a little bit superstitious. All the family just made jokes about this. It was said that Friday was an unlucky day, if it was the thirteenth day of a month. People would say these things without really believing that it was true. So I always feel as safe as any other day, even it is Friday, the 13th. Car accidents can happen any time. A few times we were just lucky that nothing happened to us. I am glad that your car wasn’t hit by that truck. I can imagine it must have given you a big fright! Thanks for telling the story. I’m glad I came across it today.

    • Munira February 18, 2013 / 11:47 am

      Oh I had so much fun reading this again today, thanks to your comment Aunty Uta! You know, I think most people are embarrassed to really believe in superstition, but don’t want to take any chances so they do superstitious things just in case! 🙂
      And then there are those (like us) who don’t entertain those thoughts at all. 🙂

  20. auntyuta February 19, 2013 / 2:50 am

    Loved your reply, Munira. Thank you!

  21. tasneem March 11, 2013 / 5:20 pm

    I do believe that sadaqa has the power to thwart misfortune, and ofcourse it never hurts to help needy people! The reason behind touching grains and flour is that one is expected to do sadaqa with his or her own hands, but since that is not possible every time, we touch the flour and grains with our hands. And no, the negative energy does not get deflected in the edibles 🙂

    And by the way, this hijri month also has five tuesdays 🙂

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