Pepper Lights as Possible Apotropaions
in Indian Restaurants

We have seen plastic peppers, lemons and garlic strung up as apotropaions in an Indian grocery store, see file ind005, so upon seeing pepper lights in Indian restaurants in New York City, I speculated that they might perform a similar apotropaic function to the plastic peppers, but since they could also be purely decorative, I decided at first to ignore them even though they could be seen prominently in at least four of the restaurants lined up along sixth street on Indian Restaurant Row.

Walking around the corner, I was struck by a small enclave of Indian restaurants all filled to the brim with pepper lights.

Eating on Indian Restaurant Row, or at least choosing where to eat, can be an experience. The restaurants... and there are quite a few of them... all have people employed who come out and try to lure you in, often arguing or talking over the employees of the neighboring restaurants who are also trying to lure you in. They are all competitively priced, cheaper than you will find in Philly for sure. The turnover rate for restaurants there is pretty high.

After discovering the small mass of pepper-light-infested restaurants, we stopped to look at the menus and decide if we would eat at one of them and, of course, snap some pictures. We soon had four different restaurant employees trying to lure us in to their restaurants. I chose one on the upper level.

From what I am told, there are no words in Hindi or Sanskrit to translate our concepts of "cheesy" or "gaudy." Indian restaurants are notorious for their gaudy decorations. These ones competed for gaudiness, with red holographic wrapping paper lining the walls and as many lights and plastic flowers as they could muster. Despite the gaudiness, it created a nice effect.

The pictures below show some of the pepper lights along 6th st. These are all on the same block. I only photographed the more glaring examples.

The Indian Collection


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