Sunday, 1 March 2015

How superstitious are we?

One fine evening as I was walking down a road near my home, I saw a huge crowd in front of a gate. Seeing the crowd I thought it might be a raashan shop (Fair Price Shop), but curiosity made my eyes get a closer look. I saw the hand symbol. No, it was not a Congress office (got to be kidding me!!), it was an astrologer's office!! The number of people standing there shocked me. Then I thought may be in few days something "auspicious" might be coming that's why the crowd. But I was wrong. Everytime I pass that gate, I see the same rush if not more. In India, many believe that they can understand what is going to happen in their future with the help of astrology, even the educated ones. Superstitions mar the rationality inside us. This is how I saw that. This begged me to ask myself how superstitious are we?

Lets start with something light hearted, the superstitions of sports persons are well known- Sourav Ganguly did not use to shave while playing a test match, somebody as rational as Rahul Dravid believed in putting on the left batting-pad first. In exams many like to carry the pen that fetched good marks in the last exam etc etc. Apart from these localized ones, unfortunately, there are many superstitions followed across the world that lead to unwarranted consequences and send wrong messages. For instance, in many societies, Friday is an unlucky day and thirteen is an unlucky number. Mind you the ISRO (a premiere science based institution) skipped its PSLV being numbered C13. Continuing with the examples, crossing of black cat on one’s path is bad omen in Western countries and India. But, it is a good omen in Egypt. As the examples themselves show, there is no logical rational backing to any of these practices or beliefs. This itself is the biggest threat of superstition, As I said earlier superstitions mar the rationality inside us.

Superstition is the blind faith in an idea without giving any consideration to reason, logic and evidence. Not just that, they breed ignorance and fear of the unknown and incomprehensible. The impact of superstitions is so alarming that it decimates the reasoning capacity of well educated human, let alone the illiterates. Not just that, these superstitions ruin the material resources (money, time, energy) of the people who believe in them. The made snana  at certain temples or the appearance of Makarjyoti are some of the examples for this.

Looking at another extreme of superstitions, there is the prevalence of black magic or Bhanamathi. Falling of stones on one's house, appearance of fire from nowhere are some of the examples of the black magic tricks. The extent of this degradable practice can be imagined by the fact that even the politicians fall prey to this to get easy victory over their opponents. The politicians of Karnataka are highly notorious for this (apart from watching pornographic content in assembly). Even the local and regional media pry on these fears and try to get mileage out of such activities (remember the ridiculous Heegoo Unte! on TV9 Kannada?!).

I am not telling anything new or anything unknown. Now that's the issue, though the irrationality of superstition is known, very little has been done to counter it. Very few people have taken the bold rationalist stand. It has been a David versus Goliath kind of fight. Unfortunately, people who have been bold enough have been punished for it. Narendra Dabholkar was killed around a year back as he fought against the evil of superstition. Lately, Avijit Roy, a blogger was heckled to death in Bangladesh for his anti-superstitious and secular stands. On the other hand people like Asaram Bapu, Sant Rampal roam around freely and even enjoy popular support.

Now that's the point, superstitions have popular belief base. Why? I feel that is because superstitions dwell on fear, and fear is what keeps most people from being rational or logical. It makes them ignorant. To overcome the fear people take shelter in meaningless rituals or practices. You are not getting married? go and pour milk on the ant's hill- for the snake/nagadevata of course. 

There are talks of bringing in legislation to counter the superstitions. As far fetched to reality it may seem to be actually getting it done, it might not even work. Irony is that we all know what needs to be done to eradicate this evil. We all know that we need to develop a scientific temper (which is by the way a fundamental duty) and motivate ourselves to think rationally, but will that happen? Ever? Elders have always told me to be optimistic but in this case I am not. I am going to end this piece with a quote from an English philosopher Francis Bacon- "superstition dismounts all the outward moral values and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men." 

1 comment:

  1. Superstition is nothing but a practice followed without the rationale of logic behind it.