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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kerala MLA out to change luck of 13

Ramesh Babu , Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram, July 23, 2007
Most people avoid the number 13 like the plague, considering it to be unlucky. But one man in Kerala is trying to change that.

Anglo-Indian legislator Simon Britto has requested the Assembly Speaker to allot him room 13 at the Legislature Hostel. Britto, a victim of campus violence and confined to a wheelchair, hasn’t had much luck in life but cannot tolerate the superstition around the number.

Interestingly, Britto was allotted room 12B at the hostel. The room should have normally been numbered 13 but was numbered 12B instead and the previous room 12A. “I am a Marxist and an atheist. I am not superstitious and scared of the number 13. It is unbecoming of a legislator to succumb to such baseless fears,” he said.

As in many other countries, buildings in India rarely have a 13th floor, hotels a room 13 or aeroplanes a 13th row. “See, someone has to take an initiative to bust this myth. Now I feel it is the lucky number,” says Britto.

The fear of 13 — called triskaidekaphobia — is not just confined to the lawmakers’ chambers. A year ago, when the new Left ministry assumed office, the housekeeping wing of the tourism department was reluctant to allot an official car bearing the board ‘Kerala State 13’. Finally, state education minister MA Baby came forward to accept it.

Even the courts have fallen victim to this fear. The Kerala High Court did not have a judge’s chamber with the number 13. The Supreme Court intervened and declared that there should be no room for superstition in the judiciary. In reaction, the judges’ chambers (24 of them) were renumbered chamber 1 A to D and so on, so the number 13 could still be avoided. Old-timers say the court once had a chamber 13 till 1990 but many occupants died in harness. It still does not have a court 13.

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