I’ve grown up wondering why the cotton-threaded chillies and limes always invaded the top of every doorway. Whenever I would enter any one of the many bazaars decorated with colorful fruits and vegetables in Jackson Heights, I would reconcile with those hanging pierced objects and could never wrap its significance around my head. The arrangement often consists of a bright green/yellow lime or lemon, followed by several crisp green/yellow chili peppers. When I walked into Raja Sweets to conduct my interview that Saturday, I was met with this exact object. I couldn’t stand not knowing why this weird ornament hung around me throughout my neighborhood all my years.
When he finally got off his shift, Raj explained to me that the lemon and green chili tied to a cotton thread became a ‘thing’ because it kept away Alakshmi (or Jyestha), the Hindu goddess of poverty and misery. Alakshmi is known to like things that are sour, hot, and pungent. So, shopkeepers tie lemons and 7 green chilies with a cotton string and attach it to the doorways of their shops so to attract Alakshmi. Once Alakshmi gets to eat her favorite food, her hungry is satisfied and she loses her urge to enter the shop and case her evil eye upon it.
– Afroza Ahmed