Informant: This is one superstition that I always follow, I’ve followed and lived by this my whole life. And it’s – when you see a slipper, and it’s upside-down, I always have to flip it right side up. Because, in my mind, that’s really bad luck, for it to be flipped over.
Interviewer: Why? Why is that bad luck?
Informant: Because … I heard from my grandmother, and my mother, that somebody will die or some – some bad luck will happen if you keep the slipper upside-down.
Interviewer: And this is just any slipper anywhere?
Informant: Any slipper in your house, in your house. But honestly, now I’m so conditioned that it could be anywhere, any time I see a slipper that’s flipped over I have to put it back right.
The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This sample of folklore is something that her mother and grandmother passed down to her. She doesn’t really know what to make of it, she just accepted it as fact and has been living by it her whole life.
I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.
Growing up in an Indian household (in America), I was never told this specific superstition but I can definitely see its influence in a lot of Indian beliefs. There is a lot of emphasis in Indian (or Hindu, I’m not sure) culture in things being the “right” way and the “right” way being cleaner than the “wrong” way.
For example, if you knock over a book on the bookshelf you have to straighten it up as you don’t want it to get scuffed or dust to collect in the “wrong” areas. If you eat you eat with the right hand as that’s considered the “correct” hand (back in the day the left hand was reserved for wiping oneself after going to the bathroom). With all this in mind I can see this superstition as an extension of those beliefs. If a slipper is flipped over, it’s dirtier side is exposed. We want to put it right side up again to maximize cleanliness.