Tag Archives: prank

Indian Wedding Ritual: Sisters Demanding Money

Context: The informant, AV, is an 18 year old student with parents who immigrated from India, specifically Gujarat. She’s been to multiple weddings in India, and observed this at her first cousin’s wedding. She remembers being somewhere around 5th grade-aged, and so she recounted what she remembered, with a general explanation. She doesn’t know if this is an Indian ritual or just a Gujarati one.

Text: AV said “When our cousin got married, he didn’t have any sisters, so me and my sister stood in front of his horse and didn’t let him through until he promised us money and silver chains. We were really young so I don’t remember it as well, but I remember it happening” and explained that essentially, when either your brother or a close cousin who has no sisters is getting married, you’re supposed to stop them from going into the wedding. They usually enter on a horse or in a car and they’re meant to walk into the venue, but before they can, you physically get in front of the horse/car, stop him, and tell him he’s not allowed to pass. He then is supposed to bargain, offering you money or gold or silver to let him pass. When it’s enough, you let him pass — usually now, it’s ritualized in the way that you push back like three times and on the second or third time you let them through.

Analysis: This ritual feels somewhat similar to the pranks traditionally played on couples during weddings, as a way of disrupting that liminality, except it’s specific to the groom and his side of the family. It’s a ritual for the groom to also leave the family; as the groom goes to the bride, the sisters will no longer be the most important women in his life, and they cede that position in a joking ritual that requires the groom to bribe them, proving how much he wants the bride. It’s a wedding ritual that rearranges the structure of the families that will be combining, and visually reorders the groom’s priorities. For the sisters, it’s also a form of letting their brother go, knowing that their relationships will fundamentally change, but disrupting that transition with this joking ritual.

R2D2 “Hack” at MIT

Text: In May 1999, MIT students pulled a prank that involved making a building resemble R2D2.

Minor Genre: Prank, Practical Joke


When the Phantom Menace opened in May of 1999, students on the MIT campus colored fabric panels to make a building resemble R2D2, a beloved droid from the Star Wars universe. According to L, who witnessed the building, “MIT is very proud of its prank culture.” Such pranks were common on campus and encouraged among students. They were dubbed “hacks” among those involved, and “hack culture” was widespread at MIT. Part of hack culture was to “do no damage,” which is a potential reason why the administration allowed for such a mischievous culture to thrive.

When the R2D2 “hack” took place, L described that “campus was buzzing. It was the kind of feeling like ‘it’s cool that I go to a school where people do stuff like this thing.’” The prank made national news because it happened at a time when “everyone was going crazy about the Phantom Menace.”


“Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People: The MIT Gallery of Hacks” is a website created by those involved in “hack culture” intended to document the history of pranks at MIT. The website describes the meaning of the word: “the word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and ‘ethical’ prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!).” (https://hacks.mit.edu/) Although hacks are not officially sanctioned by the university, the culture built on clever practical jokes has had a significant impact on broader MIT student culture.

The R2D2 hack described by my mother is officially catalogued on the MIT Gallery of Hacks as the “Great Droid.” It stood in place from May 17th through the 18th in 1999 on the Great Dome building. The “Great Droid” is a prime example of how pranks can utilize popular culture to inspire excitement and a sense of unity within a community. It also provides insight into the values of MIT as a whole; due to its overall high level of safety, the hack received praise from an MIT security officer and the administration initially declared they would allow it to remain in place for three days. The MIT “hack culture,” therefore, was based on intellectual and thorough planning to create large-scale, harmless pranks.

Secret Finger Jutsu


LP reports that in elementary and middle school it was popular to prank fellow classmates with the “secret finger jutsu,” typically learned from the anime, “Naruto.” This involves folding both hands together with the index and middle finger out, sneaking up behind someone, and stabbing their buttocks with the extended fingers.


LP is a college graduate who grew up in Beverly Hills, CA, attending the public schools in the area.

Here, LP was describing what pranks he would witness in elementary and middle school. He recalls that after one boy, who had watched “Naruto” and learned the behavior from the show, started doing it, the prank was adapted several other members of the group, even those who had not watched the show and did not know its origin. This was practiced exclusively by boys to other boys, LP reports. While he did not take part in the prank itself, he says that he was wary of situations where he might be vulnerable to those who do, especially climbing stairways.


The “secret finger jutsu” is directly linked to the influence of the anime, “Naruto,” meaning it comes from an official source. However, its implementation into the social dynamic of American school children was largely unstructured. Its spread and adoption by other members of the group underscores the rapid transmission of folk behaviors within a peer group and the pressure to be aware of these fluid changes. The gender specificity of this prank suggests certain expectations within this community about which behaviors are acceptable among boys and which may cross the line when it comes to girls. In accordance to Freud’s theory of repression and sublimation, boys in this peer group were using the shared humor learned by this TV program to act on aggressive urges in a way that simultaneously relieved them of said urges and affirmed their standing in the social order.

Joota Chupai – Shoe Stealing

ZN describes a prank/game that is commonly played at weddings in their culture. They are a second generation immigrant from Pakistan who lives in the Bay Area. Their family is Muslim.

ZN.) So, when a couple gets married – a bride and groom – the bride’s family, usually like the younger siblings or cousins of the bride, will steal the groom’s shoes and then they’ll go hide them somewhere and the groom’s family has to try and get the shoes, but they never do. And then the groom has to buy the shoes back from the bride’s family because they’re like, ‘oh you’re taking away or our sister or cousin,’ or whatever. It’s like, ‘we’re taking your shoes’ and then the groom is like, ‘I’ll pay you a lot of money for the shoes.’ So, then It’s like a huge, like, bargaining thing and the groom will be like, ‘Oh how about like $200’ and then the bride’s family will go like, ‘No we want $1000.’ The groom will be like, ‘No, but I’m broke. I won’t have any money to pay for my new wife’s food,’ and they’re like, ‘no give us more money.’ Anyway, so then they usually settle on, like, $500 or something, and then with our family, the entire family the of the bride will go to like Ihop after the wedding and we’ll spend it all on Ihop, like, pancakes and hot chocolate

Me.) Where do you usually see this? Is it your family specifically or have you seen any version of this at other weddings for the shoe stealing?

ZN.) I don’t know if it’s a South Asian, or maybe just Muslim Pakistani, thing but the shoe stealing is like a common thing.

This seems to be a practice of the game Joota Chupai, literally translating to ‘Shoe Hiding’. This wedding tradition is most often observed by Desi groups (south Asians) in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other surrounding countries. In this game the bride’s family will steal the groom’s shoes, which in Hindu culture, they must have to leave or enter the wedding venue. The groom’s family will try to find the shoes to get them back to the groom, usually to no avail, and then the bride’s family will demand money to return the shoes to the groom. This tradition allows the two families to have some fun during long wedding ceremonies and brings them closer together through competition. Even though the tradition seems to stem from Hinduism, it seems that Muslims from the surrounding regions picked up the tradition as well, showing cultural mixing within the area despite religious tensions. JK, another South Asian individual hailing from Gujarat, India had this to say about the game:

JK.) It’s played all over India. Everyone does it at weddings, so it’s not a Hindu or Muslim thing, it’s everyone.

Kangaroo Court

NM was a Boy Scout throughout their childhood, and this game came from their trips.

NM.) On our Catalina hike, because it was a 3-day weekend, we would do this game called kangaroo court where you would accuse other scouts of, like, some ridiculous thing like, “This dude is a capybara in disguise and is secretly plotting to take over the world!” Then, if you were accused, you’d have to get someone to be your lawyer and they would have to defend you. They would bring up different things you did during the day. People would set this up during the hike and make people say things that they would bring up during kangaroo court.

The boy scouts have many games, pranks, and traditions, and this seems to be one of them. This sits somewhere between a prank and a game because people would set up verbal traps that they would later spring on their defendant. By having a ‘lawyer’ defend the defendant, this game becomes community fun instead of direct opposition because that ‘lawyer’ would have to remember their experiences with the ‘defendant’