Evil Eyes aka Buri Nazar (Drishti)

When I was a kid, my mom used to apply the most hideous makeup possible on my face. First, she’d apply two or three layers of talcum powder on my face. Then she’d apply kajal on my eyes, not to make me look pretty but to look positively ugly. The kajal would be applied in the most haphazard of ways possible by a human being. At last, came the pièce de résistance; She’d use the kajal to draw a huge circle on my cheek. It looked like a humungous bee sitting permanently on my cheek, and I looked like a doll from a cheap horror movie.

Only when my makeup was complete, my mom allowed me to go out and play with my friends. All the boys used to make fun of me and I used to go back to my home crying. My mom would hear me out, let me finish crying, and then give me a hug followed by either a sweet or a piece of chocolate. The next day, she’d be waiting with the talc and kajal.

I used to ask her why she was so intent on humiliating me. All she said was to ward off our neighbour aunty’s buri nazar. Her answers didn’t satisfy me, so one day when I got out of the house, I went to the street tap and washed my face before running off to play. The next day, I woke up with a very high fever and a nasty stomach ache. Doctor uncle said that I had contracted jaundice and would have to stay inside and follow a strict diet for fourteen days.

My mom went outside and started cursing the neighbour aunty for her buri nazar. I didn’t understand completely because of being delirious due to the jaundice, but I caught the words ‘jealousy,’ ‘barren womb,’ ‘evil eye’ etc. What they meant, I didn’t know. By the time I was cured, neighbour aunty had vacated her house and moved away. I didn’t object when mom started applying talc on my face.

I closed my old diary and started laughing. We Indians are quite the superstitious lot. I was about to sit for dinner when Meetu, my daughter, came in limping. There was a deep gash on her leg that was bleeding profusely.

‘Papa!’ Meetu cried, ‘I was playing near the fence and my leg got caught in the barbed wire. It’s paining a lot.’

‘Rani!’ I called out to my wife. ‘Meetu is hurt pretty bad. I’m taking her to the doctor.’

As we came out of our flat, the door to the opposite flat opened.

‘Manoj bhayya, what happened? Is Meetu hurt?’ It was our neighbour, Shanti. I muttered something about going to the doctor and shuffled away.

Stupid Rani and Meetu! Always hanging out with that witch Shanti. Can’t Rani see the way Shanti looks at Meetu? She’s had three miscarriages, that woman. Guess she has an evil soul to go along with her evil eye. I resolved to get a taweez from the dargah on the way back. I should also ask Rani to rotate some red chillies and rock salt around Meetu before entering the flat.

These evil eyes are bloody real.

Note: The legend or curse of ‘Evil Eye’ is prevalent across many cultures in the world. It is often considered to be someone’s malevolent glare that would bring ill-luck or injury to someone else.

To break the curse of the ‘evil eye,’ a number of talismans or charms that differs from country to country.

Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Lebanon, Malta, Egypt, Albania, Lebanon, India, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Spain, Morocco are some of the countries which have their own legends about and talismans against ‘evil eye.’

Glossary:

Kajal – eye liner

Buri Nazar – evil eye

Bhayya – brother

Taweez – an amulet or locket, usually containing verses from the Qur’an.

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52 Comments

  1. The talcum powder and kajal is part of South Indian upbringing I guess. Me and my siblings have been through this…even though we’re Christian.

    And the tradition continues…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Considering that the belief in Evil Eye is prevalent in almost one third of the world, it’s safe to say that the custom will be around for a little longer.

      Like

  2. There is something like the evil eye much as you may laugh at it. For the first year of his life, everytime we posted a picture of my grandson on FB, he would get sick. So we stopped.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Positive thoughts and negative thoughts have an energy to them. I’m sure that emotions like envy, anger etc towards someone would send negative vibrations which might affect them. Most probably this would’ve been termed as the evil eye.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved the way the story went from laughing at mom to using the same techniques to ward off the evil eye for the daughter. Parents will go to any lengths to protect their children.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do kind of believe in it because my sister and I often get body pains after a family function or huge gatherings where we dressed up and intermingled with people a lot. Amma or grandma would then rotate camphor around us and then light it outside to remove the evil eye. I don’t know if it’s the placebo effect, but sure enough next day the pain would have vanished.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m ambivalent about the whole thing. Sometimes, I’d be scoffing at it and on other days when the next door aunty says something like ‘wow, your kid has become quite tall’ I end up asking my mom to remove drishti. Better safe than sorry syndrome, I guess.

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  5. Varad, are these true stories or fiction? I don’t want to say whether I believe in them or not, but I think a belief in something generates energy that can make things happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are pieces of fiction rooted in real life occurrences, Jade. I accept your thought that this has to do with energy that comes out of a belief or thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It all depends on belief. I had got an Evil eye charm from Istanbul, which is lost now. I don’t quite believe in it though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even I don’t believe it mostly, but sometimes end up thinking there’s nothing to lose by doing something that might actually be beneficial if it works.

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  7. I guess we start believing in all this once we or our children are affected. I am glad I don’t believe in this so far, but who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nazar has been the bane and pain of my life…after my son was born I suffered from acute depression and it became chronic…every time I took my daughter out she wud fall ill and I know which person affected her too. In my case till date I suffer from it..I am a rationalist but this I am forced to believe in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mom used to say that it has to do with negative vibrations associated with bad thoughts that brings us misfortune. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. But this sentiment about evil eye is prevalent in more than 1/3 of the countries in the world. That does say something.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Approximately 1/3 of the countries have the similar tradition of evil eye. Envy is indeed a powerful negative emotion. Thanks for the comment, Zalka.

      Like

  9. We all grew up with the concept of ‘evil eye’. When my son was an infant, he used to suffer from colic. Every evening he used to start crying and stop at nothing. My neighbor aunty one day started scolding me, that I was a careless mother and too educated to believe in ‘buri nazar’, she got few red chillies from her house and circled it around my son and threw it in the fire. Let me confess, I was surprised because within seconds the boy stopped crying and fell asleep. She then proudly declared that the evil eye was gone. Till date, I do not know how to explain this.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My mother used to put a mall mark of Kajal on my cheek to ward off jealous eyes when I was a baby and I know because I have seen photographs of myself as a baby and saw that mark in almost all of them. They say ‘yaaru kannavathu pattuda porathu’ in Tamil. Not only that, to this day when my daughter falls ill the first thing my wife does is to take bit of crystal salt, make her sit in the pooja room and rotate it around the child’s head and go outside and throw it away. This is called chutthi podrathu in Tamil. Lots of such customs are prevalent all over the world.

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  11. This is the thing we are grown hearing every and now from our parents. We believe in it and our elders always talk about it. It is said that an evil eye an even break a stone.

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  12. Isn’t it amusing that people believe in this stuff, especially the grown-ups and well educated? Maybe it is ingrained in the DNA of most Indians. I hope the gen Y doesn’t carry this further.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not just us Indians, Anagha. Nearly 1/3rd of the countries in the world believe in the concept of Evil Eye. It is something prevalent across Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Jewism, and even Shamanism.

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  13. In a country like ours, there is a belief that “evil eyes” do have an ill effect on us and there’s nothing wrong in its remedies. To spot lemon-chillies in shops, trucks and autos to seeing the face masks in front of houses, or even the black thread or taweez tied to a newborn is not unusual.

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  14. Not sure it’s the same, but my Mother AND my ex had THE LOOK. When they glared that certain way, you knew you were doomed. My kids melted when their mother gave them THE LOOK.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There are so many “treatments” to ward off the evil eye. Dried chillies and lemon to salt to hanging monster-like faces in our homes just to ward off the so-called evil-eye. I really enjoyed your story and it brought back a few memories too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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