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?)