‘Ekdum 100 % effective – or your money back’ said the thin strip banner below a small stack of few, shining black horseshoes. In this tiny shop in the labyrinth called Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, they had all kinds of nazar battus (objects that ward of the evil eye), including the modern and glistening Turkish evil eye and Feng Shui coins, but the horseshoe looked one of a kind. Since the ‘promise’ piqued my curiosity, I asked the owner, what was so special about it.
We know how our country is full of quirks! With superstitions leading the way for everything good and bad. We take a look at those related to the footwear.
“Arre madam this is not an ordinary horseshoe, it’s from a black horse’s right leg, taken off at an auspicious time. It even protects you from tantric attacks. Also, if you perform puja on it, all your wishes will be granted,” he said animatedly. “Interesting,” I said, adding further, sounding like an NRI (although I am not one) “Do people really buy this kind of stuff even now.”
“Of course,” he said over-convinced but looking at me rather suspiciously. Must be. We’re so used to believing in superstitions blindly that I didn’t feel like questioning him any further. Back home, mum always insists that I wear the right shoe first. When I first asked her why, in my teens, she gave me a puzzled look. “You don’t question such things,” she said. I’ve obliged all these years but I am not sure if I’d be able to thrust this belief on my two-year-old a few years down the line. I bet she wouldn’t even listen to me.
Coming to think of it, this ‘right’ thing is so fed in my sub-conscious mind, I realised, I always put on my toddler’s right shoe first. Hmmm. And then there was this one friend from college who said one must never gift their boyfriend shoes as it can cause a breakup. Not sure where that came from but I’m certain that ‘gifting shoes to your date’ is not appropriate anyway.
Getting back to totems, have you seen trucks in India, hanging a single piece of footwear in the front? It’s a charm they use to keep the evil spirits away. Considering that truck drivers are on the roads, day and night, for long-duration on lonely, unlit highways, it sure is the ‘joota’ that keeps the evil spirits at bay. Then in some rural Andhra household, a garland of old shoes is hung outside the door to keep evil spirits off the limits of a pregnant woman. Whoa!
But then this shoe and evil eye business isn’t just restricted to India. Recently, they found a 300-year-old lucky shoe in the Cambridge University wall building in the UK that was apparently put there to bring luck and ward off evil spirits. One hell-of-a-classy-geeky bhoot it must have been to choose a university of that rank.
But then I think it is all fun and games until it crosses the line of disgust. In the name of curing possession by spirits, women of Bhilwara are subjected to gross, degrading and inhuman rituals of drinking water from shoes to get rid of evil spirits. Some are even expected to walk with shoes on their head, in their hands and in their mouths to do so. We sure know how to humiliate the less-powerful – all in the name of belief.
On that note, I remember this one time when one of my shoes was accidentally left on the other from the same pair and mum said, it means you will travel far. She was right. And this has somehow always happened before any of my big travels. Weird but true, it was a sign. At the risk of being termed superstitious, I admit that these days, I constantly keep an eye on my shoes to go one on another – but it’s not happening! Been long that I have been waiting for my shoes to touch another shore!
Keep blowing the Trumpet! This & many more stories await in the pages!