USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’
general
Legends

Budda Baba: Pakistani Boogie Man

This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend of mine from Pakistan about what is essentially the Pakistani Bogeyman.

About:

E: What can you tell me about the Old Man?

A:  Throughout my childhood I would be frightened by the “Budda Baba”, which translates to “old man” in English. This was an icon in the childhoods of many Pakistani children as their parents would use him as a scare. An example from my life that happened the most was that my mother would say that this “Budda Baba” would come if I didn’t go to bed. I would immediately go to bed and hide under my blanket, trying to hide from this fictional man, and by doing so I would eventually go to sleep.

E: Was there any narrative or tale associated with Budda Baba?

A: None that I know of.

E: Did any of your friends experience similar of instances of being told Budda Baba would appear?

A: Many of them, but most instances were when they were misbehaving.

E: Around what age did you first hear about this and until what age did you believe it?

A: My parents first told me about Budda Baba, in the prior example, when I was around 7 years old. I believe it till around 12 when I figured out what my parents were doing.

E: Is it as relevant today?

A: Yes, my younger sister is ten years old and my parents and extended family still pull the Budda Baba on her.

E: What value does this still hold for you, if any?

A: I was never a very disobedient child but it did overtime reinforce the idea of parental authority. Although it is a pretty good way to get your kid to listen to you.

Reflection/Analysis:

I found the concept of the Budda Baba intriguing. For one the threat of the old man is rather vague, the only information is that he would appear and is visually menacing. I feel as though one of the factors contributing to this fear is how ambiguous it is and the possibility of how morbid it could be. This reminds me of Scandinavian folkloric tales of monsters who would kidnap, torture, or kill misbehaving children, though those stories have more grim endings. I also believe the translation of the monsters name should be noted. Since it’s an old man rather than some horrific beast, I think it reflects a sense of respect for elders and double as a parallel of a patriarchal society.

Musical

Tuntun-Tuntun-Taara

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Billi ne chuhe ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Chawkidaar ne chor ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

 

Translation:

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock (Chorus)

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat killed the mouse

Hai!

(Chorus) x 2

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

The guard killed the thief

Hai!

(Chorus)

Analysis: For some reason, similar to many Western nursery rhymes and lullabies, this song is a particularly violent one. It talks about the elimination of a small threat (a mouse) and then of a much larger, much more serious threat (a thief). But this elimination takes place in a very definitive, violent manner–murder, essentially. Unlike Western lullabies, however (some that come to mind are Rockabye Baby, Rain Rain Go Away, Old Daddy Long Legs, and Sing a Song of Sixpence), the violence is not perpetrated on children or seemingly innocent bystanders, but on entities who do pose a real threat to the health and safety of the child and indeed the whole family and therefore could be said to “deserve what they got”. Mice spread disease and could ruin a family’s crop and thereby cause them to starve. Thieves also could cause financial ruin and would not hesitate to do away with any family member who discovered them robbing the house in the dead of night. In rural areas, or places that didn’t have a very trustworthy law enforcement and protection system, the idea that there were people (or animals) that would be able to protect a child from harm must have been very comforting.

Folk speech

Urdu slang insult/swearing

Context: The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both from Pakistan originally. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. He currently lives in Southern California in a joint family and has also visited Pakistan multiple times since he was very young. He recalls a curse his father would say “when he got really angry”:

___ ko goli maar/ ___ ko maro goli

which means literally “Shoot ___ (with a bullet)” or something close to the English profane phrases “F*ck ___” or “Screw ___”.

Analysis: As a swearword, this phrase is relatively straightforward: the speaker is expressing how little they care about something; so little that if the other person were to shoot it, it wouldn’t bother them. The fact that the informant is male and he learned from an older male family member suggests that it is a phrase that is most commonly used by the adult males of the group in the company of other adult (or sub-adult) males. This suggests a certain respect for the opposite sex, or at least a divide between them. And the fact that the word is a violent one instead of a sexual one (like f*ck or screw) may imply that there are certain taboos around sex that are not present for when dealing with or discussing violence.

Childhood
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor

Urdu childhood rhyme

Context: The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both from Pakistan originally. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. He currently lives in Southern California in a joint family and has also visited Pakistan multiple times since he was very young. His extended family in Pakistan includes many young uncles and cousins who are closer to his age than his parents’. The informant recalls his older cousins would say to him, jokingly, when he was in trouble,

“___ ke bacche

daal daal kacche”

which literally means “___’s child, uncooked lentils”. He elaborates that this was meant as a warning, to scare him into an apology for some misbehavior, because it was always said a precursor to someone “tattling” on him to a parent.

Analysis: The informant explains that it is a saying that everyone, including himself now, says to children younger than oneself. He says that he has never thought about the meaning, and only remembered and said it regularly when teasing his younger cousins because it gave him a sense of authority over them (since only people older than you would say it to you, usually) and because it rhymed, so “it was easy to say and easy to remember”. He continues, “It was just, like a fun, teasing thing to say to the little kids, like you would joke with them but you wouldn’t actually get them into trouble.” From his own words, the informant seems to have recast the saying, not as the veiled threat his older relatives would use against him, but as something to relate to younger kids with.

From a more objective perspective, lentils are one of the staples in many Pakistani diets (i would venture to say, in many South Asian diets too). Uncooked lentils, however, are not very useful. So the rhyme could be commenting on the “bad boy”‘s or “bad girl”‘s lack of worth–no one wants you if you’re going to misbehave. Also, it could be a veiled warning that you’re about to be “cooked” or put “in hot water” or “raked over the coals”–that is, punished. The significance of not referring to the child by [his own name], but by “the child of [his own name]“, could be a reference to the fact that South Asian cultures are patriarchal and patrilineal, so knowing who the father is, is very important. Calling a child his/her own father may be a veiled way of saying they have no father and are therefore the object of shame.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Protection

Evil eye sayings

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. She says that a common thing to say when you see someone  in new clothes, or looking particularly beautiful; or when someone has very good fortune in (for instance) an exam or a job; or, especially, with children and new babies; is

“Nazr-bad-door” or “Chashme-bad-door”

 

 

 

 

 

 

which, word-for-word, means “look-bad-far-away” or “eye-bad-far-away”, but translates to, “May the Bad Gaze/Evil Eye stay far away from you.”

Analysis: The purpose of this little saying is basically to keep away the Evil Eye, which the informant says can be put on someone if they are envied or have something that others covet (eg, good grades or good health). When the Evil Eye is put on you, you may fall sick, fail in your job or school, lose your money, etc. Children are especially susceptible because they are often the center of attention, especially in the informant’s Pakistani family, and so if someone merely looks at a child with selfish or ungracious thought in their mind, the child could fall ill or have an accident, etc. It is thus important to remember to praise God when you see something beautiful and not be jealous or ungrateful, and this phrase is a way to remind oneself of that, and also to express the desire to protect someone from others’ ill gazes as well. The informant said all this as what people “used to believe”, implying that the traditional phrase is kept even though the specific belief may have been altered or abandoned altogether.
Foodways
Kinesthetic
Material

how to cut cucumbers

Context: The informant was born in Pakistan (her parents are from Afghanistan originally), and the only variety of cucumber (almost a luxury item) available at the time was a large, hard, bitter kind that had to be prepared a certain way in order to be palatable. In her family, each end of the cucumber (about a half-inch on each side) had to be sliced off, then the two inner surfaces had to be rubbed very hard and fast against each other to “draw out the bitterness”. Sometimes a cut is made into the “body” end of the cucumber before rubbing the end slice against it. A thin film of pale green foamy substance would appear at the edge of the cucumber end, which was then wiped or washed off, and the cucumber was ready to prepare and eat.

Analysis: From a couple different anecdotal and semi-scientific accounts, it appears that this practice is not unique to Pakistan or even the Asian subcontinent, but is practiced by people of Czech and German descent, in the US, in Canada, and in Britain (and probably in many more regions, as it likely that only in the past couple of centuries have we been able to produce consistently non-bitter cukes through genetic modification). The practice is often called “rubbing” or “wicking“, and though it doesn’t seem to have a strong scientific basis (bitterness level is often a result of many growing factors such as temperature, moisture content, etc.), those who use the method (the informant included) have always found it to work. The belief seems to be that the foamy substance that is created from friction between the two ends is what contains the bitterness (in scientific terms, in contains the cucurbitacin compounds which are toxic to some animals and very bitter to humans). So although serious scientific research hasn’t been done on the subject, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular folk food practice has any less validity in the kitchen.

Tales /märchen

Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. This story is a popular one among her grandchildren; here it is transcribed in English, though it was originally told in Urdu.

“Once in a house near the jungle there lived a goat with her three kids. Their names were Ungus, Bungus, and Tipopi. One day, the mom goat had to go out, maybe to get groceries, but she told her children: lock the doors and don’t let anyone in except me. I will say, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And only when I say that do you let me in. So the kids said, ok Mama, and she walked out and locked the door and she went.

Now in the jungle next to the house there lived a big scary wolf: he had long hair and big eyes and hungry and he saw the mom goat leave, and he heard what she told her babies, and he said to himself, I think I’m going to go eat those delicious goats.

So he went up to the house and he knocked on the door and he said, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And Ungus and Bungus ran to open the door, but Tipopi said to them, wait! This is not out mom! Our mom’s voice is light and sweet, and this voice is heavy and ugly. So Tipopi said to the wolf, You’re not our mother! You’re the wolf that lives in the jungle! Go away and don’t come back!

And the wolf was very mad but he had to leave.

And now when the mother goat came back and she opened the door and her babies rushed to tell her what happened, and she was so relieved that they were all safe.

Then the next day, she had to go out again, but was so worried and scared that she said, now when i come home, I will say to you, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And you ask to see my hand, and i will show you my hand. And only then do you open the door. And her kids said, Ok, Mama. So she went out the door and locked it and went.

Now the wolf had seen the mother go out again, and he wanted to try again to eat the kids; but this time he ate a whole spoonful of honey before he went, to make his voice light and sweet, and went up to the door and said, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids heard a light, sweet voice so they rushed to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And the wolf showed his paw, and it was big and black and hairy and ugly, and Tipopi said, This is not our mother! Our mother’s hand is small and white and pretty. This hand is big and hairy and black! And he said to the wolf, You are not out mother! You are the wolf that lives in the jungle! Go away and don’t come back!

So what could the wolf do? He left.

And again the mother goat came home and the kids rushed to tell her what happened, and again she was so happy they were all safe.

And when she had to go out again the next day, she was very worried and scared so she said, this time when i come home, i will say, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And you will ask me to see my hand, and I will show you my hand. Then you ask me to show you my foot, and I will show you my foot. And only then will you open the door. And the kids said, Ok Mama. So she went out and locked the door and she left.

And the wolf was watching and he saw her leave, this time before he went to their house, he ate a whole spoonful of honey to make his voice sweet and light, and he covered his whole paw in flour to make it look pretty and white, and he went up to the door and said Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids rushed up to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And this time, the wolf showed them only one finger, and his one finger was as big as the Mama goat’s whole hand! And the kids said, Mama, show us your foot! And the wolf showed them his foot, and it was huge, and black, and it had long claws–this long claws! [holding hands about a foot apart] And Tipopi said, this is not out mother! Our mother wears pretty shoes and her feet are small and white. This foot is big and black and hairy. This is the wolf that lives in jungle! Go away, Wolf! Don’t come back!

And the wolf was so angry, and he was so hungry, but what could he do? So he left.

And when the Mama goat got home, her kids rushed to tell her what happened.

And the next day she had to leave again, and she said, now when i come back today, and i say Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! Just do what you did yesterday, and you will be safe.

And the wolf was waiting for her to leave again, and this time he ate a whole spoonful of honey to make his voice sweet and light, and he covered his whole paw in flour to make it look pretty and white, and he covered his feet in flour too, and we put tiny beautiful shoes on his big toes–just one big toe fit into the whole shoe, can you imagine that?

And the wolf went up to the door and said Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids rushed up to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And the wolf showed them only one white finger, and the kids said, Mama, show us your foot! And the wolf showed them his one toe covered in flour in the pretty shoe, and the kids rushed to open the door…

And there he was…standing in the doorway…his big big eyes…and his long long hair…and his drool dripping off his teeth…it was the wolf! And the kids ran screaming into the house, and the wolf came chasing after them, and he swallowed up Ungus and Bungus in one gulp. But Tipopi hid inside the milk jug, and wolf looked everywhere, but he couldn’t find him. So he left.

And when the Mom goat came home, she saw the open door…and she went in and she saw the ripped curtains, and the broken tables and chairs…and she started calling, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, where are you? Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, come out! Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, your mom is home!

And Tipopi heard her and he peeked out of the milk jug and there was his Mom, and he leapt out and hugged his mom and started crying and he said, Mama the wolf came and ate my brother and sister! And the Mom goat was very sad and very scared and angry, but she said, Tipopi, go get my sewing kit. And Tipopi ran and found his mother’s sewing kit and the Mom said, You stay here, and I will go find the wolf.

And she went out into the jungle and she walked and walked, and then she came to a river, and it was warm and sunny, and there was the wolf, lying against a tree asleep. The mom goat crept up to the wolf and began to cut his belly open, and when she opened it, there was Ungus, and there was Bungus, and they were scared and they started crying, but the Mom goat went, Shh! Shh! [puts finger to her lips and makes a "come on" gesture with one hand] and she got them out of his belly. And then she went down to the river and found two huge stones, one for Ungus and one for Bungus, and she carried them all the way up to the wolf, and she put the stones in his belly, and then she sewed it up, and it was so fine you couldn’t even tell it was there. And then she took her kids home, and then they were safe and together at last.

And when the wolf woke up he felt so thirsty, so went down to the river to drink some water, and he was so heavy the he just tipped [tilts her whole body to the side] over and he fell into the river and drowned.”

Analysis: This story can be examined through multiple facets. It’s a simple fairy-tale, along the lines of the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf here could be symbolic of nature/the wild, and how it is dangerous to people living in villages where the border between the wild and the domestic is very thin. It is notable that it is not just any herbivore that is attacked in this story, but goats, domestic animals which are an important source of sustenance and incomes in some of the more rural areas, as they provide milk, meat, and hides. So in that respect the story is a simple study of the dichotomy of village/jungle and civilization/wild, and how it is dangerous, but nevertheless not uncommon, for the two to meet or mix.

It is also notable that, while in the Western version of Little Red Riding Hood it is a little girl who is sent by herself into the wild and disobeys her mother and therefore gets into trouble; in this version it is three siblings of mixed genders who are attacked in their own home while trying to obey their mother. This would seem to squarely place villainhood on the wolf’s shoulders, and none of the blame on the innocent(s); while Little Red Riding Hood is often blamed for what happens to her by pointing out that she shouldn’t have disobeyed her mother. As such the message  in Little Red Riding Hood seems to be, listen to your parents and if you don’t it’s your fault if something bad happens to you. Whereas  the moral  in this story seems to be that bad things happen even when you’re good and smart and listen to your parents, and it’s nobody’s fault but the bad people who hurt others.

It’s also interesting that, in some versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl and her grandmother are eventually rescued by a father figure, the woodcutter; but in this story, the kids are rescued by their very brave and clever mother. I think this reflects the fact that in the informant’s family and culture, the bond between mothers and their children are usually very strong, whereas the relationship between father and children depends on each individual family: some fathers are strict and distant, others indulgent and doting. The informant’s own father, she reports, was strict but loving, but her relationship with her mother, and especially the relationships between her younger sisters and her mother, were very very close. Contrast this with the heroicizing of the father figure in Western culture, where any time the child is in trouble, it is the big strong dad that comes to the rescue, and perhaps the mother figure comforts the children afterward (for instance, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, the character of Wolverine).

And finally, the reasons it appeals to so many kids of different generations are pretty obvious: especially when there is a good storyteller, who knows her audience and how to get the reactions from them. The description of the wolf is something the informant says she usually embellishes to get the kids really frightened, and then making gestures to go along with the story (for instance, imitating the mother goat’s small, pretty white hand) is always part of the act of storytelling too.The fact that there is a happy ending for the kids (with whom the children usually identify) and that the wolf gets what he deserves also makes it a popular story in the informant’s repertoire.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays

A Pakistani Iftar Staple: Fruit Chaat

Context: Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Healthy adult Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset for thirty days, and it is a time of greater spirituality, awareness, charity, and family. The informant is a Pakistani Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia, England, and Pakistan, and married and settled in Southern California. Here she relates a recipe for a staple of the Iftar (fast-breaking meal) table in her household, fruit chaat.

“It’s…well, ‘chaat‘, the word ‘chaat‘, it just means like a…like a little snack, and there are all sorts of chaat, so like you can have spicy chaat or dahi [yogurt] chaat…so anyway, in our house, that was the one thing we always had to have. Like it was dates, scunj’veen [homemade limeade], pakore [spicy batter-fried potatoes], and fruit chaat. Sometimes my dad would try to introduce new things into the mix, like samose…and they were always left at the end of it, like orphans. Somehow over those thirty days we never got tired off the same menu. And we still don’t.

The best fruit chaat has to have pomegranate seeds in it and amrood [guava]. ”

Though the end product may vary considerably depending on what fruits are available/in season, a person’s personal preferences, etc., the basic recipe is as follows:

1 large apple, 2 bananas, 1 large pear, 1 large peach/nectarine, 1/2 cup guava, all sliced; 1 cup red grapes, halved; 1/2 cup pomegranate; enough orange juice to “make the fruit float”; and sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Combine in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Analysis: The informant says the main reason this dish was/is such a favorite is because it is “refreshing”; after a a long, sometimes hot day, the sugar in the fruit would  boost a fasting person’s blood sugar and put them in a sweeter mood. The informant says her family almost never ate dinner, just iftaar, so having a good variety of healthy food at the table was important since they would eat so little the whole day.

The informant further relates that because certain fruits, like pomegranates and guavas, are seasonal. expensive, or both, she has taken to incorporating other fruit occasionally: strawberries, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, etc., depending on availability. I think this shows the adaptability of this simple dish: it started out as a bare-bones dish with the most basic, most common and inexpensive  fruit included, and then as she found that her native fruits were harder to come by, she incorporated more “Western” fruit that certainly would not have been available in her native Pakistan at the time she was growing up. And yet it still serves the same purpose: to lighten one’s mood and restore “sugar” levels in the body after a long day without food or water. And the informant insists that she never makes or serves it outside the holy month of Ramadan, even though, since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the time of the month changes every year and what fruits are available each year also changes.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Seven Sisters

Once there were seven sisters and when it came time for marriage, the proposed sister decided to runaway for she did not want to be married. When her sisters saw her escaping, they followed her one-by-one and when the first runaway fell in a well, the other six followed. The constellation therefore shows the seven sisters in the well (cluster)

Indian stories, these were collected from a nomad camel driver named Haleh in the Thar desert in Rajasthan (he was Muslim, his village was near the Pakistani border). Haleh spoke only Marwari and his words were translated and related by Mayuri Bhandari. This story relates the creation of the star constellation known in North America as “the Big Dipper”. In this story, the well is the four star, square cluster (occupied by four of the sisters) and the tail is the line of the remaining three sisters waiting to throw themselves in it.

Contagious
Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Protection

Taaveej (Taaveez)

This is, in Pakistan, one of the worst forms of black magic that a person could wreak on another. It involves writing a spell or something on a piece of paper, then putting it in a leather pouch, before hiding it somewhere until it’s found. The spell would persist on the person until the pouch is recovered and opened, dispelling the curse.  One of the “blackest” or darkest forms of this curse is when the pouch is hidden in the mouth of a dead person because it is nearly impossible to be found by anyone else.  Manifestations of this spell or curse include but are not limited to (in order of seriousness from least to worse):  strange aches and pains, waking up with cuts all over their body, burns appearing spontaneously , blood spots appearing all over their abode, never able to get married or insanity.

My informant says that these spells are relatively common knowledge in Pakistan, but most people try to stay away from these sorts of things. Pakistan is an Islamic country and according to my informant, she states that Islam frowns on all things that involve black magic and that it is “hiram” or impure.  Generally, these items are viewed very seriously by most, if not all Muslims and going against or defying the Qur’an would be going against Allah, which is one of the most heinous crimes in their religion.

Additionally, she informed me of an instance that she had heard about first hand that was related to this phenomenon, when one woman was complaining that she was suffering a stroke of really bad luck and couldn’t figure out what was happening. This woman helped to purify and cleanse the death for burial, and this was a sacred task so, theoretically, she should have been blessed instead of cursed. However, after much deliberation, she revealed that she had collected money for hiding Taaveej in the mouths of the different corpses so they would not be found. This was a big revelation for my informant and all those that were listening to her. Largely because to do so was taboo and explained much of what was happening to her.

While I’m sure that these do exist and work, it can be also seen as an example of how older cultures explained phenomena that they could not explained by normal means. As it can be seen, this might reflect the superstitious nature of most agricultural based societies because, most rural folk are usually uneducated and more superstitious than most. However, regardless of this, these beliefs usually seep through all classes, no matter their wealth, educational status or religious beliefs. Additionally, this is an example of binary opposition in culture as well, because of the religious nature of most Pakistanis. For to have something good and holy, there needs to be something evil to balance things out and the Taaveej is just one of these exam

[geolocation]