Tuesday, September 25, 2018

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Posted at: Mar 8, 2018, 2:20 AM; last updated: Mar 8, 2018, 2:20 AM (IST)

Take off the baggage of superstitions

Take off the baggage of superstitions

Jayanti Roy

Some years ago, looking at the map of Chandigarh and counting the sectors in the city, my little daughter was astounded to discover that Sector 13 was missing. She took the map to be flawed, thinking that the cartographer had made the mistake. “Where is the thirteen?” she queried.

Chandigarh was born out of the initiative of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a man of scientific temper. He wanted it to be a modern city, free from old notions and superstitions. He wanted Chandigarh to be progressive in spirit. Is it really so? Among the perfect grid of the astutely planned city lies this hidden clue that despite our facade of modernism we have somewhere remained dogmatic in thought and action. Missing Sector 13 sends a message to the world that this city practises superstitions.

It seems triskaidekaphobia had seized the famous architect Le Corbusier when he designed Chandigarh and decided to give the number a miss, which is considered unlucky because at the last supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples, the thirteenth disciple Judas betrayed him and got him crucified. This notion is largely a western phenomenon and culturally not believed or followed here in India.

It is surprising as to why such a western belief, which is not even connected to the history or culture of Chandigarh, was adopted during the formation of the city. As a man of scientific outlook, how could have Nehru allowed such an irrational belief to be woven into the very fabric of the city. Our constitution is one such unique document, enlisting in the Fundamental Duties of the citizens to develop the scientific temper and the spirit of inquiry, and the missing sector goes against this concept. It also indicates that the city was not designed keeping in view the outlook of its residents but according to the notions practised by its alien maker. It is an open declaration that our city is still embracing those old ideas.

I remember how I struggled to explain this irrationality to my young child. How could you justify it to the new generation that it is alright to have faith in superstitions? Today it is the fear of thirteen, tomorrow it may be the fear of black cats, of a sneeze, blinking eyes, broken mirrors and spilt milk. Neither the state nor the community should encourage such notions. This is in fact unacceptable. As a first step, let us start a drive to correct this wrong. Let us create a symbolic sector and name it sector thirteen!


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