The 11th day of the rice and sugar cult

Every day I go to a tree, any tree. Around the base, I scatter a mix of sugar and rice. 

There is no incantation, no prayer, no special method of scattering the rice and sugar. 

I have done this for 11 days in a row.

The ritual is to break my chain of bad luck. 

I have no history with this ritual, no evidence that it will work, no data to support this particular use of time and resources. I’m not particularly superstitious about broken mirrors or walking under ladders, though I do pick up pennies.

So why I am performing the rice and sugar ritual?

My colleague in Pakistan told me I MUST do it.

We’ve worked together for three and a half years. We are kindred spirits, two veteran editors who share a common belief in the importance of quality journalism. We talk on the phone every day. 

Mubasher is far braver than I am, for he works in a country that is extremely dangerous for journalists. They are killed and kidnapped and threatened on a regular basis. As opposed to America, where a journalist might have credentials taken away by the Donald Trump campaign, or go to a white-collar jail to protect their sources.

Mubasher is not afraid to call bullshit when that is what he sees. I value his opinion above anyone else I’ve worked with in Pakistan.

We are protective of one another. We are solicitous of one another’s health. We can tell, each of us, when the other is tired or depressed from the sound of the voice on the phone. “Be safe” and “Take care of yourself” – that’s how we sign off our conversations.

Mubasher was stricken when I had a brain aneurysm – he was ready to fly to the U.S. to help Tom take care of me. When Tom had a stroke, Mubasher felt it as though it were his own brother.

When the tree fell on my house, he got nervous.

We respect each other and rarely tell each other what to do. This time, Mubasher couldn’t help himself. 

“I think maybe you don’t believe in cults,” he said. “But really, you must do this. Every day. For 11 days. Start right away.”

And he told me about sprinkling sugar around the base of a tree. “It’s better if you also add some rice.”

I didn’t ask any probing questions. If Mubasher thinks that I need to do this, that’s enough for me.

So I did it. For 11 days in a row. 

I sprinkled sugar and rice around trees at the condo, at our house, and at the new rental house. I didn’t pick them for any particular reason, really; I just went outside with my bag of rice and sugar, and I was drawn to a tree, and I sprinkled. 

I didn’t even question why I was doing it. Mubasher said to do it. And he wants me to be safe.

Today was the 11th day of the rice and sugar cult. This evening, after a very long day of work, errands, appointments for Tom, making dinner and passionflower tincture, I carried my bag of rice and sugar outside. I knew which tree that I wanted to sprinkle the last of the rice and sugar mix around. 

The tree is clearly in poor health. It has dead branches that fall regularly. It is leaning away from the house, and the owner assures me that her husband is going to cut it down. 

If it doesn’t fall before then, something will have kept it standing.

Maybe faith.

Trees are an act of faith. Rituals are about faith. Maybe I lost faith. Maybe that’s why the tree fell on my house.

Today’s penny is a 2013. That’s the year I met Mubasher. I have faith in him.

2 thoughts on “The 11th day of the rice and sugar cult”

    1. Thanks. I was telling Tom, sometimes I learn what I’m writing about by writing about it, and sometimes those are the best posts. This was one of those.

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