Today on the way to the doctor’s, I was inside the taxi with my Mum. We were travelling in slow moving traffic during the peak hours of the morning when everybody was either going to school or to the office. I was watching the vehicles pass in a hurry and with purpose. As I was staring out the window a mail van caught my eye. For some weird reason, I crossed my fingers. It was this little game I was taught as a kid. I don’t remember where I learnt it, either on the school bus, at school or from my sister, I am not sure. The idea is to cross your fingers when you spot a mail van and keep it crossed till you see a black car, then you make a wish and undo the cross. It’s supposed to bring you luck.
It is a childish practice and I am not somebody who is particularly concerned about superstitions. I have opened umbrellas inside my house and have crossed the street despite spotting a black cat in my way many a time. But the mail van wish is something I have done without fail ever since I was a child. I didn’t get it, I still don’t get it but it’s fun. There have been times I have uncrossed my fingers and have forgotten to make the wish because I couldn’t think of anything in that short span of time. Sometimes I have made a wish for others because I thought it could be of more use to them. There have also been really bad days when I have wished there were more vans than one to give me some comfort.
Concepts like luck are something you can’t depend on. Luck is fickle and uncertain. It can also become an excuse to blame your failures on when you know it wasn’t the luck that was the fault. It’s better than blaming yourself though, isn’t it? And I get that. I do it too. I know there are some things that are completely dependent on luck like the weather and catching a city bus on time when you’re already late.
People have tried to predict these things, Probability is this whole huge chapter in Mathematics. But I never really understood it, you know? I mean it’s only useful when you’re trying to roll the dice in snakes and ladders and sometimes it doesn’t even work there. It’s in our nature to want to know what’s going to happen. Psychics and tarot readers depend on our fear of tomorrow to make their bread and butter. I don’t blame them. I would too if I had the skill. Those professions always excited me.
I for one was somebody who was particularly obsessed with horoscopes. I loved reading various websites where they would write long posts on what a particular star sign’s characteristics are. They go so far as to tell you how your compatibility with other star signs is, they cover everything. I used to read my horoscope before an exam to see if it hinted at anything. I would scroll through five different websites and find the common predictions in all of them and would try to pacify myself. I didn’t take it seriously, but at the same time, I enjoyed the exercise because it was slightly comforting. On some Sundays, my family would have a grand laugh, teasing each other around the dining table at breakfast reading our horoscopes in the morning paper.
I always thought luck was this huge scam that I wanted to steer clear of. It’s hard though, it’s hard not to give in to your insecurities. Stressful situations do push you to question the concept of luck. Where things are a blur it’s better to cross your fingers. It gives you some confidence when you can’t find it in yourself. We tell people we’re rooting for when they’re scared that, “Everything’s going to be fine,” when we are not sure ourselves whether they will be or not. I have been told this line for the past three months by a host of different well-meaning people. Whatever that little sentence is worth, it gives me a tiny bit of hope when they say it to me, knowing that I know that they aren’t sure.
Everything is not fine, I think everything isn’t ever meant to be fine. It’s boring otherwise. No matter how hard things are that one mail van for two minutes in a day that’s 24 hours long and a life that’s at least fifty years long or so, gives you the feeling that someone is listening. There’s some uncertain force that’s rooting for you even when no one is and can make everything alright. It doesn’t matter if it’s childish, that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to make you smile. That’s why I still read character traits of my star sign, that include, ‘extroverted’, ‘confident’, etc. which don’t apply to me but make me for that one moment find those qualities in my unlikely personality.
I don’t believe in a lot of things, love, religion, superstition, luck, myself…..but I keep looking for these things wherever I go. I fall into these traps despite knowing them to be traps. I may not believe in them but I am open to being proved wrong. I want to believe in something, anything. So for now, it shall be the red mail van. But only for now.