Indonesians are a superstitious group of people.
“You don’t want to finish your rice? Fine.” Forget about the modern reasoning about starving children in Africa. The threats that Indonesian children receive are far menacing, depending on the gender. If you’re female, then they say you’ll end up with a hairy and bearded husband. If you’re male, the threat is that you’ll marry a pimply wife. If you’re single and you like to stand in the doorway, the punishment is that it’d be difficult for you to find a partner in the future. The consequences tend to be very dramatic and scary. These mundane things could have been resolved in a far less threatening manner. The word in Sundanese, the language spoken in West Java, Indonesia is “pamali”. It means ‘taboo’.
There are many things that are pamali to do, and these are probably the methods that parents taught their children to behave in the old days, by attaching over-the-top consequences to non-compliant actions.
One of the pamali things is about clipping nails after sundown. Pragmatically, I think the reason why we were told not to clip our nails at night was to prevent us from injuring ourselves. We endured a lot of black-outs in Indonesia when I was a small boy – when my parents would light the kerosene lamp that we called “petromaks” for the store in front (now I found out that it’s actually a brand out of Germany called ‘Petromax’) and multiple candles for the living area at the back. It would’ve been dangerous to clip your nails in such poor lighting.
Flash forward to today.
I take two showers a day – just like any good Indonesians would. I noticed my overgrown fingernails before I took my evening shower, so I thought perhaps I should clip them tonight. Then I remembered the pamali – if you clip your fingernails at night, it would be as if you wished your parents to die. See how dramatic and over-the-top the superstitious consequences for trivial things?
Then, I remember. I’m an orphan already.