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By Sabrina F Ahmad

Superstitions…everyone has them, even the hard-core cynics and skeptics, whether they admit it or not. Ask even the most rational-minded person, and if he's truthful, he'll admit to being superstitious about at least one aspect of his life. It's human nature.

Each society has its own superstitions. Like the old English custom of throwing a shoe after a departing person for good luck. Some of them have given birth to rituals that gradually incorporated themselves in the culture and religion of that society like the Hindu custom of breaking a coconut during inauguration ceremonies, for example. Or the rituals of Halloween. Similarly, we Bengalis also have our fair share of superstitions.

Many of these superstitions have been explained and incorporated into religious practices, and most of them have found their places in our folklore and literature. Now, the folklore of Bangladesh is heavily influenced by the different races, which were present years ago. The abundant folklore of present-day Bangladesh, therefore, contains a variety of elements, which is partly to be explained by the historical forces. From the Mauryas, Guptas and Senas in the 3rd century, to the Mughals in the 12th century, till the British Raj, which lasted till the mid-20th century, we've had quite a lot of long-term houseguests, whose cultures and beliefs became intertwined with our own. In other words, we've got a rich variety of superstitions with interesting histories of their own. Let's look at a couple of funny ones:

The dropped spoon: A dropped spoon is a sign of visitors on the way. Hmm…I wonder if restaurants could increase their business by dropping more spoons to bring the customers running in?

Jangling house-keys: I think this is a superstition borrowed from the Hindu culture…it is said that the 'laxmi' of the house leaves if you jangle the house keys…meaning that bad luck follows whoever shakes the house keys.

The overturned shoe: This is said to invite disputes within the house. This is a development from the joint families of the past. A young boy left a sandal lying overturned near the threshold of the house. His boro chachi, coming in, tripped over it. Spying the shoe, she gave the kid a sound thrashing, which angered the boy's mother, who took up the matter with her husband. Hubby dearest applied to his elder brother, and the whole thing blew up into a huge family hungama that almost led to a division in the family. Sheesh! Let's just stick to the safe side and put our shoes away in the proper place, shall we?

Joined fruits: You know how you sometimes have fruits like grapes, and oranges, which are sometimes joined together, quite in the manner of Siamese twins. Well, there is a superstition amongst women that if a fertile young woman eats them, she will give birth to Siamese twins.

Don't leave the table in the middle of a meal. As well as being bad manners, it is said to be unlucky as it leads to marital disputes. Considering how many times I've had to leave the table in order to answer the phone or fetch something, I'd have been very paranoid were I a believer of this superstition.

A trip and tumble is never really just a trip and tumble. If you believe in this superstition, then you'll know it is a warning of some kind. The correct procedure to follow is to sit down for a few minutes before getting up. That makes sense, especially since that should give you enough time to determine whether you've been hurt in the fall.

Ask not for whom the jackdaw crows: A jackdaw is a large black bird, akin to the raven, bigger brother to the crow. It is said that a crowing jackdaw is the sign of impending death in the family.

Don't skip…over someone's outstretched legs. Common sense tells you you're risking an injury, but superstition has bad news for both parties. It is said that the 'jumper' will get boils on his bottom, and the 'jumpee' will suffer stunted growth.

There are many others that have profound effect on the lives of traditional people. These are just a few of the harmless, funny ones. While you ponder on them, I'm off to check to see if I left any upturned shoes lying around.

Resolutions: How To Keep Them

By Farzana Yasmeen

IT'S New Year, the dawn of another fresh start. What better way to mark the occasion than by making bold promises to yourself? Because it's a major transitional time, New Year's provides a convenient occasion to take stock of your life. Millions of people make resolutions. How many of us truly possess the will and determination to stick to them? For what is the use of resolutions if they are only made, but not kept. Here are ten serious ways to help to make and keep resolutions:

1) Write down both your resolution and your plan. Use clear and concise language. A well laid-out plan will help to ensure success.

2) Use positive language. The way you talk to yourself really affects your ability to attain your goals. Try to develop a "can-do" attitude.

3) Set resolutions that are realistic and based on your personal history. Learn from your failures. If you want to exercise five days a week and you haven't done it in the past, vow to work out twice a week.

4) Set interim goals. You can't lose 100 pounds or get a Ph.D. overnight. Evaluate whether or not you have the skills to attain the goal of your resolution. If they seem wary, drop it and think of a more achievable one.

5) Keep track of your progress periodically.

6) Lose the excuses. Don't say: "It's too late in the year to boost my grades." Instead, affirm: "Late is better than never. I'll beat the crap out of the first boy."

7) Get support. Reach out to your family, friends or a group of people who can encourage you if your resolve weakens.

8) Develop coping strategies. Learn how to deal with problems that come up. Make minor adjustments in your list if it helps from dropping most resolutions all together.

9) Celebrate your "successes" and rebound from your "failures." Take credit for success when you achieve a resolution. If you fail don't blame yourself; just see how you can do better next time.

10) Remember to keep a special point in your resolution to do the thing you like best, if not once a week, than once a month. Happiness is the viaduct to all success.

Hope you all make a success out of the coming year. This time before making a resolution, think twice.

By Marwa

Whenever a New Year draws near (rhyme not intended), people turn berserk about how they would spend the 31st night, and what new resolutions they will make. (Ok fine! No one goes berserk about his or her resolutions. It is just that, well, they give some thought to them). Some resolve to be better persons, some better students, while some want to be better Muslims saying their prayers five times every day. These resolutions are meant for the rest of the year, or even for the rest of one's life. But it mostly turns out that they are kept for the first day only.

When someone makes a New Year's resolution and proudly announces it to a friend or anyone of the sort, that friend usually bothers to ask if the resolution has been kept on the 1st of January only. Almost everyone does keep his or her resolution on the 1st. The next day, everything is forgotten… the resolution, the determination, the willingness to change oneself.

There were two sisters I heard of, who used to quarrel with each other over petty issues day and night. At the beginning of one such New Year, they resolved to stop arguing and fighting and live a nice, quarrel-free life. On the 1st of January, they controlled themselves and refrained from having a single fight throughout the day, their comfort being that they would pour out all that they refrained from saying (that day) on the next day. Sure enough, they were back to their old selves from the very next day, shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs at each other. It is certainly difficult, if not impossible, to change one's old habits!

Another friend of mine resolved to say her Magrib prayers everyday. (Saying five prayers daily, all of a sudden, would definitely be difficult. It is easier to get started like this, with a single prayer, and then slowly moving on with a second, third, fourth, and lastly the fifth prayer). After a week, all was forgotten, and prayers, once again, became occasional.

This 'making of a resolution' must have started from some culture, and it soon expanded and now, in almost all countries, people make resolutions on New Year's eve, only to break it a few days later. It is sort of a fad… or so it seems. If a person knows that there is something he or she needs to change about himself or herself, they should try to do it right away, and not wait for a New Year's eve to make that resolution. (Yes, there are people who do this).

Making of resolutions is, of course, not a bad thing. It is just that resolutions should not be kept to be broken. Breaking a resolution is like breaking a promise to oneself, which means that you are not being true to yourself (!). So make resolutions to keep them, not just for the sake of making them. Anyway, a Happy New Year to everyone!




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