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About ishkh


Ah, Yes, Procrastination is, in Fact, Bad: A Proverb

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘P’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 48-year-old Punjabi woman, born and raised in North India.

P: So, we say, ‘kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?’ (If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then?), now, this is a Kabir doha. Now, this basically… what it means is, he’s talking about the meaning of time in a person’s life, and how it is about… if there’s anything you need to do, you should do it that very day. In fact, not only that particular day, if you’re doing it that day, you might as well do it right away. Because, you never know — ‘pal mein pralay hoyega’ (Disaster can strike momentarily), what happens if tragedy strikes? Then, all your unfinished work is something that remains unfinished. So the meaning of time is what he talks about, in a person’s life, and the importance of doing things as soon as you can. 

I: Do you have a hypothetical situation in which you would use this?

P: It’s pretty self-explanatory, right, like… if someone is procrastinating too much, or not managing their time well in their workplace, a colleague or a junior. You can tell them this then, and they would understand. 

Original Script: काल करे सो आज कर, आज करे सो अब। पल में प्रलय होएगी, बहुरि करेगा कब ॥

Romanisation: Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?

Word for word: Tomorrow do then do it today, today do it now. In a moment disaster happens, again when will you do it?

Translation: If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then? 

Comparable Proverbs in English: Tomorrow never comes, Time flies, Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.


This proverb is one that is used very commonly in India, one that rhymes and is known by pretty much everyone who grows up speaking Hindi in their family: it is sort of a paremiological minimum for Indians, believed to have been said by, as the informant stated, Kabir, an Indian poet and saint in the fifteenth century, establishing a terminus post quem for this proverb. Time, even though it is something humans gave a weight of meaning to, has always put pressure upon us, to manage it correctly and therefore earn some form of prosperity or success. Procrastination is frowned upon in every modern sphere, especially considering the influence of capitalism on productivity as a concept, but this pronoun is veritably old, from fifteenth-century India, showing that this isn’t an idea that originated with capitalism or modern ideas of productivity. A similar sentiment is echoed in an English proverb, prominent in the United States: never put off until tomorrow what you can do today [For this version, see: Predelli, Stefano. “Never Put off until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.” Analysis, vol. 56, no. 2, 1996, pp. 85–91. JSTOR,]. Both these sayings talk about time and its fleeting nature, specifically with an emphasis on the idea of the ‘tomorrow’ that never comes (another proverb, tomorrow never comes), and the ‘today’ that is fleeting and must be utilized correctly and productively.

An Indian Pre-Cremation

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.

N: At funerals or… wakes, before the cremation, we all wear white. The body is washed and then put on the pyre. Once the body is, is put on the pyre, the two biggest toes are tied together, and all… like the nose, the ears, all orifices are stuffed, and you put haldi (turmeric) on the forehead of a woman, and vibuti (ash) on the forehead if it’s a man, and a garland of flowers (marigold) is put around their neck. Then, the eldest son of that person, as part of the ritual and to signify departure of the soul, what he does is take an earthen pot, fills it up with water. That pot, that water is supposed to signify life. The earthen pot is full of life. He takes one circle around the pyre and then, at the beginning of the second circle, he drops it from his right shoulder where he had held it, to the ground. The earthen pot breaks, the water flows out, and that is supposed to… that is to signify the person is… his life, his spirit has left him. Then only can the pyre be lit. 

I: What if the person does not have a son? 

N: Then the daughter does it if permitted within that, within their family or community’s customs and she wants to, or the next of kin, closest male relative does it. The ritual is to signify departure of life from that body, so it can get reincarnated again. 


As the informant states, this particular ritual with the earthen pot is to signify and aid the departure of life from this body, and I think this is especially important to consider while taking into account the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Therefore, this is not only to help the life out of one body, that in itself helps it into the next. The toes are tied, probably because of rigor mortis and sudden jerks, and the orifices are sealed because bodies have a tendency to bloat up. When it comes to the question about the eldest son, I wanted to ask that because I was aware that oftentimes, women weren’t really allowed to be an active part of funeral processions, and I was curious to know how that has changed as time has passed. There is no one solid answer, because in some families and communities, women are allowed to carry out the rituals, but in others, it is still seriously frowned upon, and in other-others, it is just initially discouraged.

Do Ghosts Moonwalk?

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.

N: Ghosts stay on imli (tamarind) trees. Okay? So, you never walk close to a tamarind tree, late in the night. And, also, if the ghosts follow you, they walk backwards, they don’t walk front-wards. So you have to keep that in mind, and avoid tamarind trees. Or, they stay on… vadh (banyan), what is… banyan trees. They stay on banyan trees, because banyan trees are very old trees, you know how they expand their roots. They spread, so they are large. So, if you have to sleep in the open, especially in the night, never sleep under a banyan tree, or a tamarind tree, because they both have ghosts. 

I: What do you mean by them walking backward? They don’t face you?

N: No, it’s like their feet are… like, like our feet are facing forward, a ghost’s feet are generally supposed to be facing backward. So, a ghost’s face is here [he gestures to his own, where it would face normally, forward], but the feet are the other way around. So, in the night when you go out, if you feel scared of somebody, you have to check. Check, are their feet facing forward or backward. That’s what it means. 


I think this is an especially interesting belief, because I’ve heard it many times — ghosts live under tamarind trees, mango trees, banyan trees, an assortment of trees, depending on who you ask, but their feet always face backwards. I think this could partially come from the fact that sleeping under a tree at night is inadvisable because of the whole taking-oxygen-giving-CO2 thing, because it would make people feel weaker. At the same time, for the feet-facing-backwards thing, I think it is extremely common to imagine ghosts are human-like but still different from us, somehow grotesque, somehow wrong. Their feet facing backward and head facing forward is, in itself, a weird image to have, it feels intrinsically wrong, ‘freaky’, because it has that almost uncanny valley effect about it, close enough to human, human-like, but still different enough in both status (ghost) and appearance (feet), to be weird, uncanny, scary.

Two Families, Both Alike in Dignity…

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.

N: When the baraat (wedding procession to bring the groom in, think loud music, think showy) comes to the girl’s house, then, let’s say opposing side relatives, like the bride’s brother and the groom’s brother, will come close to each other and try to lift each other. It’s part of this tradition called milni (meeting), I think, it has a name, it’s called milni. But, it’s more than that, because milni is just the greeting, this is like… something that’s evolved from it. You have to lift the guy, and everybody gathers around and kind of cheers it. So, first the brothers will go, then the mamas (uncles/mother’s brothers) will go, the cousins will go, so equivalent relatives on both sides. It’s like a friendly contest, a sort of thing where the idea is like… to get to know each other, but it is a big thing. A coming together of the families. But people will do all kinds of things, like some guy will sit on the ground so the other can’t lift him up, some guy will… you get it. It’s like a thing with the younger relatives, especially. It started off as just a milni, where you would just greet each other, the fathers would garland each other, but now it’s become this big thing, friendly competition between the younger guys. Women don’t lift each other, or really have milni at all because they don’t all come out to do the greeting, to receive, they will stay in the home. This happens just before you enter the house.


This part of the wedding process in India has to do primarily with an introduction of the families, so some of the bride’s relatives welcome the groom into their house (and thus, their family), and they do so in both a gracious greeting ceremony, and this fun, loud game. Weddings are a joyous occasion, but inherently a very serious thing because they are all about lifelong commitment of not only two people, but the coming-together of two families. Therefore, along the way, there are many such games, jokes, and customs essentially built to just be fun, along with the other basic purpose, in this case allowing the families to meet, get familiar, understand and welcome each other, in a lighthearted way. North Indian weddings are very expansive, long processes, with many steps and many days, each for a different ritual, custom, or meeting, but each has grown into something more fun as time has passed — the mehndi (henna) ceremony is no longer just carrying out the rituals of beautifying and applying mehndi to the bride and wishing her the best, it has become a time for all the women of both families to bond, give each other advice and their own, simpler mehndi patterns, and have fun and make night-before-your-wedding jokes. It’s like a bachelorette party of sorts, except the bride has to stay in the exact same position for a while because her very elaborate mehndi is drying. Essentially, while Indian weddings are big, serious things with many traditions, rituals, and customs, each has grown with time to become more fun, much like this one!

‘Joota Chori’: Dipping Your Toes Into a New Phase of Life

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India. ‘Joota Chori’ essentially means stealing shoes.

I: So, we have many wedding rituals and games, and practical jokes are part of that. Could you describe one?

S: Yeah, this is during the wedding ceremony, or you could say through and post it, but somewhere during the wedding ceremony, when the — both the groom and the bride have to remove their footwear to get onto the… the podium for the phere (Seven circumambulations performed by the bride and groom during Indian weddings), the sacred… the holy ritual, the seven rounds we take. So, at that point in time, the girl’s sisters and friends, they get together and hide the groom’s shoes. Basically, to seek ransom in return, at some point, and make some money, some cash. And the boy’s brothers and friends are attempting to manage to make sure they don’t manage that, and if they do manage it, they’re attempting to kind of… look for the shoes and find them to save that money. It becomes a major, a big thing, good fun thing, and mostly the girl’s sisters and friends make money. The guy comes practically prepared for it [she laughs], that x amount will mostly have to be given.

I: So, would you say it’s kind of like a rite of passage, in that sense?

S: Rite of passage, introducing each other to the families, the families and friends, yeah. Testing them and joking around, getting familiar.


Weddings are often known to involve the liminal space, the transition period where one person is moving from a certain identity (the family they were born into), to another one (the family they are marrying into). This liminal space is between the stages of departure from the initial and arrival and acceptance into the latter, and therefore, practical jokes and rituals are part of the experience, even in Indian weddings. Here, the practical joke is, as my informant states, a rite of passage, a welcoming of both parties into their counterpart families and communities, and they also have the auxiliary purpose of acquainting both families and friend-groups with each other in a lighthearted, fun way. This wedding game, a practical joke, signifies the introduction of the two families at the wedding, as well as the initiation of the bride and groom into these families, since the people being ‘pranked’ are not exactly entirely moved away from their previous community, and neither are they fully integrated into the new one.