Being Indian is great. I got to grow up eating properly-seasoned food surrounded by a culture where community came before everything. There are so many values my family has passed down to me that I am so proud I get to carry on. But bagging first place in the list of superstitious countries, I’m still struggling to wrap my head around some of India’s old wives tales. In true Freudian fashion, I would like to place all blame on my mother.
I would also like to preface this very serious and well-researched article by saying I think many of her superstitions are just fear-mongering tactics to stop me doing fun shit. A list of things my mum thinks will drain you of ‘good energy’ includes dying your hair, super hot showers, tattoos, pre-marital sex, and energy drinks (which somehow ranks worse than alcohol). Luckily, many of her superstitions are relatively easy to sidestep. She says sweeping the floors at night is gravely inauspicious—just vacuum bro. She thinks seeing a black cat cross the road is bad luck—run it over. Is the anxious leg bounce draining you of all prosperity? Personally, I think she just liked to tell me this one to get me to stop fidgeting, but hey, what’s the harm in a superstition that gets your kid to stop being fucking annoying?
Unfortunately, the thing about superstitious mums is that some of their pesky superstitions stay with you whether you like it or not. Mum is a big believer in always closing the bathroom door, “lest you are drained of all your wealth”. At 23 years of age, the primary drain of my wealth is decidedly the UberEats app and I still cannot stand to leave that damn bathroom door open.
But I’ll admit some brown superstitions are rooted in age-old practice. They are esoteric traditions that have been passed down for generations. And they’re not all that bad. When I lived at home and I got a little grumpy or stressed, my mum would drag me out to the lawn and make me walk it, barefoot. Her reasoning: if you walk on grass this way, your body will be ‘grounded’ and the ‘bad energy’ will leave through your feet. And you know what, it kind of works. I’m not going to get into what she means by ‘bad energy’ or the research on physical contact with the Earth regulating our autonomic nervous systems. I’m just saying; taking a little walk with a loved one, feeling the grass between your toes? Nothing but good vibes!
For centuries, parents have been reading their kids fairy tales, hoping to impart them with good morals and life lessons. I think Brown superstitions are much the same. Superstitions themselves, like ‘manifestation’ or horoscopes, are completely harmless, so long as you’re not a dick about it. My mum makes me awesome turmeric face masks. They might not ‘keep away negative energies’, but they definitely make me feel loved. She calls me whenever she hears a crow cawing (‘signal of impending danger’) and yeah it’s unhinged, but I always like hearing from her. These are things about her I’d never change. I can’t give up blue V’s during exam season (sorry mum) but I’m definitely a sucker for a quick walk, barefoot on the lawn. Some superstitions just aren’t all that bad.