Monday, March 29, 2010

Telephonic blessing

The only piece of magic I had seen (not counting the stage shows where the audience knew they were being fooled but could not figure out how the magician did it) was in the 1986 Football World Cup. Diego Maradona disappeared from one end of the field and materialised at the other end leaving a bunch of Englishmen in a daze in various parts of the ground and kicked the ball into the goal. Maybe it was a camera trick, I don't know. But that was an insignificant prank compared to the promises that many quacks made to me.

We were recommended a person who was reputed to be the healer of last resort, someone who treated patients who had made conventional doctors throw up their hands in despair. He came home with a couple of his acolytes - a nondescript guy who did not look capable of such great things. But looks can be deceptive, I suppose. Jaya explained to him in a few sentences what had happened to me, a routine that she had become familiar with by now. He said that it was nothing to worry about, he knew what had to be done.

He asked Jaya to bring a glass of water over which he muttered some mantras. He then told her to tell me to drink it. (This often happened with quacks. They seemed to mistake me for one of those statues at Madame Tussauds and doubtfully relayed their instructions to me via a third party.) She told him that I could not eat or drink anything. He said that this was not a problem, she just had to place a drop of water from the glass on my tongue. (He had blessed it, you see.) She did as she was told. The great man then gave her his phone number and asked her to call him every day taking care to place a glass of water near the phone. He would bless the water over the phone and she had to place a drop of it on my tongue and I will soon improve.

I read somewhere that you cannot think of anything so fantastic that you cannot make at least one person believe it. I think this is true. Before my stroke, I had not realised how easy it is to fool people. (Just for fun, try answering the question in this video. Then read this.) I am no longer surprised by internet scams. Under the excuse of that catch-all word called faith, you can make claims that one would have thought would make a child skeptical. People will succumb to dysrationalia if they are desperate enough. The other day I saw on T.V. some crazy guy jumping around like a possessed pogo stick pulling women's hair and it was claimed that he was curing devotees! In Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, Donald R. Prothero says:
Ironically, most humans are already equipped with a skeptical filter for such con artists in many parts of life. When we bargain for items, or negotiate a price or a contract, we expect the bargaining to be somewhat adversarial and tricky. We are constantly on the lookout for someone who might cheat or shortchange us. We are bombarded with commercials everywhere we go, yet our skeptical filters tend to screen out most commercial appeals, just like a good spam filter on our computer keeps our email from being overwhelmed by junk. Caveat emptor - "let the buyer beware" - is a slogan we normally live by in such negotiations. Yet when it comes to claims that appeal to our sense of mystery, or to our need to connect with the unknown or with dead loved ones, humans readily suspend these skeptical filters and will believe (and pay for) almost anything, as long as it makes them feel better. That's when we are marks to be swindled. The world is full of con artists who will take your money and violate your trust by appealing to your gullibility - if you let them.


  1. Happy birthday,Suresh....What wish can I make for you??Can only share the pain you have gone through...It's great that you have a partner like Jaya and on your birthday,here's wishing the two of you many many years of togetherness,courage and success..

  2. Leela,

    Thanks a lot for the B'day wishes.

  3. Kesu, happy birthday. Best wishes.

  4. Jyoti, Kailash - Thanks a lot for the birthday wishes.

  5. Happy birthday Kesu - really enjoy reading your blog. Revathi