The Capital Vulture: Top 10 Islamabadi superstitions and wives’ tales

Published: July 6, 2011


Growing up, I’ve had a lot of quaint ‘folk’ wisdom imparted unto me by many a semi-lucid septuagenarian. Islamabad (all of Pakistan really) has a massive repository of the absurd and asinine, these totally bizarre yet still fantastic half-truths, wives’ tales and superstitions known by all citizens in different variations.

Anthropologists, eat your heart out because this is all unchartered land by scholarly standards; and for the sake of discourse I’d like to offer up the greatest hits, this week’s top 10.

10. “If you keep swallowing your gum, a tree will grow out of your stomach!”

The fear, the coma inducing fear when that piece of Juicy Fruit slipped down your gullet; and all because some crazy relative implied that a diabolical gastric process would inevitably grow the chingum into a bamboo shoot. The same applies to swallowed cherry pits.

9. You shouldn’t wear perfume or let your hair down at night.

Because people will think you are a hussy. *Snap*

8. Get rid of spots with spit

Move over Clearasil. A bit of early morning spit (eww) gets rid of pimples and spots. Damn right it does! The saliva is probably so astringent in the morning that it annihilates all zit-causing bacteria.

7. Cutting at the air with scissors makes your parents fight

Accept the fact that the marriage is volatile and on the rocks. Scissors have nothing to do with it.

6. If you’re dark or have a skin disease, your mother spent too much time in the sun during pregnancy.

By this logic, way too many mothers in this country spend their pregnancies in the sun. This explains the complexion of so many Pakistanis. In truth, they are all Caucasian with bad mothers.

5. The darker your shade of mehndi, the better your saas (mother-in-law).

Or, what if your mother-in-law ends up being really dark and horrible?

4. Jinns in trees.

This one’s eerie: fall asleep under a tree and a jinn gets you. This is Paranormal Activity, the Margalla redux. The best ‘rational’ explanation I’ve gotten for this one refers to lethal carbon-dioxide emissions from the tree. Somehow I’m doubtful of this rationale because, otherwise, camping just got really dangerous.

3. Thunder and lightening, very, very frightening.

Our contender at third place involves the risks of wearing all black when you’re out in a thunderstorm- I’ve been told the colour will ensure you get struck by lightening. There’s a gratuitously sci-fi logic behind this superstition, that your noir ensemble will drive charged ions crazy. Either that or God punishes those [Goths] who wear the devil’s colour.

2. “If someone walks over you while you sleep you don’t grow tall”

If someone walks on or over you, chances are you’ll end up with a case of the broken ribs- or worse, crushed spine, internal bleeding, a foot to the ‘nether’ regions and so forth. Also this happens? People walk over you at night or in general? This explains midgets. Or maybe it’s a clever allegory for low self-esteem.

1. Breast enhancement made easy

Tired of always looking down at a sad, non-existent bust? Homeopathic creams and supplements just won’t work? Well then, we have a solution: our pro-achar dietary plan will make your breasts larger, satisfaction guaranteed.

This is our winner: achar makes you go up a cup-size. Alternatively, aloo bukharas (plums) will do the same thing. What remains to be explained is whether this wives’ tale applies to men. Considering the man-flaps I’ve been seeing in Islamabad these days, it totally does.

Rayan Khan

Rayan Khan

A reporter for the Life and Style and City pages of The Express Tribune in Islamabad. He contributes to a column "Culture Vulture".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • shobz

    LOL. This brings back memories of my childhood coz this is what our elders used to tell us when we were kids. We were so naive that we actually believed everything they said. I wonder how they come up with these old wives tales. There was another tale which isn’t so popular but was quoted many times. My granny used to tell us not to walk in front of a person praying because we would be turned into monkeys on the day of Judgement :D.Recommend

  • abhishek

    hehe,i live in mumbai and i can tell u the “scissor” superstition is followed on this side of the border as well.Recommend

  • Feminist

    Variations in Cup size has more to do with hormones than achar and allo bhukara.
    If men have “man boobs” – Estrogen might be to blame.
    Or lack of exercise.
    Or perhaps too much ” self loving”.
    There’s no denying it, boys.

    Interesting read. >.< Recommend

  • AaCHRIBoombs!

    i love achar.. it has done wonders for me, now who needs victorias fake wonders when you can have the real deal right at home. achar tera sukria.Recommend

  • Subuqtageen Chaudry

    Hahhaha I love it! Well written, satiric, and very humurous! Thank you for putting out quality writing! Looking forward to next weeks column.Recommend

  • Safir afkhan.

    some thing good coming out of express tribune.Recommend

  • indian guy

    i can relate with point 2 on this side of the border. But the reverse is supposed to happen. The guy who walks over will be short (maybe i am a culprit or victim is it?)Recommend

  • zabnopabno

    that is shahid afridi salad eating competitionRecommend

  • Kramer

    meh teenagers should stay away from satire?Recommend

  • Nadia

    Oh man, I’ve lived on a staple of #9 and #7 for ages. Love it! Recommend

  • Sara Yasmin

    I live in Bangladesh and most of these superstitions are followed here as well. The breast enhancement one cracked me up! Good one!Recommend

  • lubna khan

    how about if your shoe is lying upside down, your parents will fight, or don’t grow chillies in the house or you will fight all the time. Recommend

  • Mohammed Nabeel Pervez

    Never have been a staunch believer in these superstitions but have found the scissor one to
    be true for me always. sometimes we all do it for fun and it works. :PRecommend

  • Seher

    9 out of 10 are so true i have been hearing of them since my childhood :) nice work done keep it upRecommend

  • HJ

    WHAT!!! Suddenly very interested in aloo bukhara and achar what about imli??? I need help in this department :(Recommend