Monday, January 01, 2007

Weird Local Beliefs -made simple

Good times, Bad Times and other Weird Local Beliefs
Made Simple.



well, I'm back: I survived the recent holiday and the astounding sense of boredom and anticipation that Nationally relevant times like this carry with them, and did not actually get hit by the chikun virus ,perhaps because, like in Jurassic Park, I already harbor viruses which are ten times nastier and crunch up the chikuny ones on sight...old Picky, my unfaithful canine friend paid me that bi annual visit he does because he wants to escape from cracker noises by hiding under my bed...and I steadfastly continue to maintain the grinchy theory that compulsory breaks are a pointless waste of time involving loss of focus, something I’m always trying to hang on to.

IN the meantime I got to thinking about so called "auspicious times" .Aren’t we a society totally happy with leaving things to a nakath welawa? Isn’t that why we love being absolutely depraved until around New Years eve and then following it up with a list of goody goody resolutions on New Years day? Waiting for the Correct Time has never been so official as in Sri Lanka, and these strange , mind boggling theories start apparently start with geckoes. Yes, you read me. In Sri Lanka if one of these small sticky pallid house hold pests make a short room -to room call, we humans actually stop whatever we were planning and go back to the drawing board!

You also dont set foot out of the house if its currently a so called "Rahu " Time which is a temporary half hour planetary configuration that occurs, inconsiderately , every day but at slightly different times. I remember from my distant youth , the local newspapers had a page each year featuring these no go time zones and my parents dear would organise to stick the centerfolds conscientiously on the kitchen door, and glance at them before stepping out to work .If the time was wrong they would hang about gossiping and wasting time until it was clear. That a country's respected vehicles of media would stoop to seriously setting out in black and white, timings coughed up by hairy tipsy local soothsayers guiding us on the correct planetary line up to (among other things) have the first bath of the year, rub grease on our heads and set out for work etc.... never fails to amaze me. That a country so obsessed with timing things accurately to ensure prosperity and success, remains so consistently dirt poor, too in food for thought, although I have to admit that , judging from the smiles, we must be way up high on the informal Happiness Index anyway.

Then there were a lot of "bad" times that I was personally warned about during my adolescence. A newly " grown up" teenage girl was supposed to watch out specifically for certain times (and places) where she should never be alone- noon was very bad, and dusk was creepy ,the bottom of the garden was out at these times of the day unless you wanted strange and bad things to happen to you , and I later read that junctions (!?) and bathing spots are strictly no- no places and the times are called the "Four watches " Hence the local legend of poor Tikiri Liya who was molested by another semi domestic reptile-and there's also was a whole rule book about the correct days to bathe and to avoid bathing , which is odd for a race of people who make it a national pastime... Try explaining the rationale to a budding 16 year old writer/artist who just only wants to be left alone to write and paint and day dream about Prince Charming...the ugly truth was only hinted at vaguely to me and involved a rather horny dark local demon who was out to spiritually ravish you and leave you a gibbering white haired wreck. Also remember that if by unfortunate chance , you were out there alone somewhere at a junction , near the well or lost in a jungle (fat chance considering that I was manually so well chaperoned that it almost amounted to house arrest), and you met someone walking about with their head on back to front , you were supposed to look at them "under your arm" (!?) or you would have to be exorcised, perhaps painfully .( Of course in Wellampitiya ,as I explained a few weeks back, we are quite used to a lot of strange and wonderful characters and would probably just shrug if we saw someone running about with his feet on back to front ....)Looking back, it was just not worth the stifling restrictions I had to undergo particularly considering that the end result was a gibbering white haired wreck anyway.

Ikky superstitions were simply rife in our family. Dead pets immediately lost their furry charm faster than body heat and became "kili" (sort of unhygienic ghost magnets) ie, stuff you had to get rid of pretty darn quick unless we wanted to attract evil and greedy spirits. Ok, I guess no one actually wants to keep old Ringo or Poospatty around for days after they have gone into rigor and started making gassy noises, not to mention jettisoning hoards of ticks, but the inference that your furry friend was now just a potential host for malignant forces was kind of hard on a 5th grader apart from the natural depression at having lost a partner in crime...it was plain freaky, if you ask me.

Neither least nor last on my list, I must mention the awful fear of "Pretha Balmas"(lit Hungry Spirit Looks) ...the theory here was that if you ate your food outdoors or with someone hungry watching you or if you walk about at one of those bad times having eaten fried stuff and without washing your mouth, you get visited or boarded if I understand correctly , by stubbornly clingy ghosts who would (perhaps like hookworms?) absorb whatever nutrition was rightfully yours and leave you to wither away and become skinny :a decidedly unfashionable demise.
My dear gentle friends, let me tell you , since gym equipment and membership is so darn expensive these days and I am a couch potato at heart , I have tried this a few times but it just. does. not. work. Eating hot Isso wade and walking slowly past the local cemetery shouting " over here: come and get me: all yours" does NOT make you lose weight...

As you probably noticed by now, the end result of thus being subjected to so many frightful myths and old wives tales during your youth and having to fight your way above them, means society now has a generation of truly hardened cynics in its midst.
This is probably very bad news for soothsayers, insurance reps and horror movie producers among others. The latter have to keep coming up with more unusual stuff to hold our attention. Severed heads (Army of Darkness) or the Walking Dead (Interview with a Vampire) have just become such common ideas that they are almost silly and movie producers are resorting to more subtle-and-creepy ways of turning our stomachs, such as water logged contortionist cadavers (the Ring) or odd pulsating boluses of human hair in the drain (the Grudge) and if all else fails, shaky, motion sickness inducing cameras (Blair Witch Project) (gulp!).
The bad news is that whereas I am a steadfast fan of good old fashioned horror movies, I do compulsively continue to totally spoil it all for everyone else by cracking silly one liners and comic suggestions at what should be critical heart stopping moments.... Guilty as charged I must regretfully admit. Its part of how I grew up...
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From Wellampitiya, with love, al sends her readers best wishes for this New Year 2007.Keep smiling!

6 comments:

Fahim said...

Brilliant!!! almost fell over laughing at the isso vade one :)

al juhara said...

thanks :-) glad people read to the end. My articles are somehow getting so long no matter how I try to trim them...

Fahim said...

the longer the better :)

David Blacker said...

Haha, great stuff, Al. Very entertaining.

al juhara said...

thanks, guys!& Nice to see u around David..I hear you will be at the Galle Fest..sigh...I shall be missing it, unfortunately.I can afford neither the tickets nor the time, to be honest.Hope people blog about it though...

David Blacker said...

Aw, c'mon over for a day. It's a long weekend, too.