Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Evil Eyes

If I ever drop out of life and go back to grad school, I think it will be to study cultural anthropology with a dissertation having something to do with the nearly universal presence of the "evil eye." For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, I wrote a bit about the evil eye and its presence in India.

In Punjab we do things like put little black marks behind our kids ears so "nazar na lug ja ve" (they look doesn`t get them). We have some Greek friends, who will spit (well sort of a fake spit) if anyone says something like "wow what a beautiful child you have." The theory goes, in Punjab and I suppose in Greece as well, that you have to do or mark something ugly to ward off the presence of the eye whenever the temptation of vanity is near. Well interestingly, here in Oaxaca, they seem to have an almost opposite tradition. Instead of protecting a child from the eye, the "looker" has to be protected.

We were lounging at a local cafe on the beach when a nice gentleman from Oaxaca city remarked on how cute our kids were. I was waiting for Ameen to spit, or one of us to grab a black pen. Neither of us moved due to the heat and comfortable positions we were in. I did manage to mutter something in my mind (I don`t realy believe in all this, but I figure the cost of complying is so low, and the even remotely hypothetical cost of not complying is, well, so high). Anyway, this man went on to explain that in the local tradition, if they see a cute child, they have to touch the child, otherwise, they need to go to a local witch doctor, and have him swirl some eggs (I think thats what I heard) around in circles and do something else I couldn`t understand but I think it involved smoke. Of course we granted him permission to touch the kids so as to spare him all the witch doctor effort.

Nayan played along well enough, but Ananya started screaming and ran under the table. We all laughed. Since then, I´ve noticed a lot of roaming beach seller types smile at me and tap the kids non chalantly on the head.

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