Saturday, March 3, 2007

This Above all
Many shades of unreason

J.N. Srivastava of Ghaziabad has collected data on predictions made by our leading astrologers which turned out to be false. Some of it makes amusing reading. In its annual forecast published by The Times of India in its January issue of 2004, it predicted that Aishwarya Rai would marry Vivek Oberoi by the end of the year. She is still unmarried and is engaged to marry not Oberoi but Abhishek Bachchan some time this year. When Karisma Kapoor married, Bejan Daruwala predicted she would make an ideal wife: "She got Raja Hindustani and he got Biwi Number One," he pronounced. A month later Karisma hauled up her newly wedded husband to court and gave him a tongue-lashing before the Judge. Both are back in happy matrimony. But you have to give it to Daruwala, he lends religious sanction to his predictions by chanting ‘Sri Ganeshaya Namah’. He is a Parsi.

Not to be forgotten are prophecies made about the end of the BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was predicted it would be back in power before the end of 2004. There are as yet no signs of it doing so. Such false prophecies are on the menus of star-gazers’ restaurants every day, but have failed to fill the bellies of our multitudes which continue to hunger for them. Their champion, Murli Manohar Joshi, remains unfazed. When asked after losing his election, if he still believed in astrology, he replied emphatically ‘certainly’ (pronounced in Almora accent ‘suttonly’). The same is true of T.N. Seshan, former head of the Election Commission who failed in his bid to become Rashtrapati, but remains unshaken in his belief in the divine messages sent down by the stars. So all kinds of irrationality thrives: changes of spellings of names (Jayalalitha to Jayalalithaa, Shobha De to Shobhaa De) altering ingresses to homes and offices and turning around furniture etc, according to Vastu. Unreason manifests itself in numerous ways. Even reminding people that most of our great leaders like Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru disdained astrology as superstition, makes no difference. There are other examples of enlightenment which we should keep in mind. When A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was to be sworn in as President and asked to suggest an auspicious day, he replied in his gentle manner: "Days and nights are formed by rotation of earth on its axis. So long as the earth rotates, each day and every moment is auspicious for filing nominations for Supreme Commander of the Indian Army."

Dr J.V. Narliker, equally eminent Indian scientist in the realm of astronomy, blasted astrological forecasts based on eclipses of the sun. He said, "Eclipses are mere shadows and don’t effect human life in any way. The grounds on which the original beliefs were based have long been debunked." It might be worth remembering that on August 15, 2001, while M.M. Joshi was still lauding Vedic astrology and mathematics, 128 scientists signed a declaration in Delhi to the effect that "Vedic maths is neither Vedic or Maths. As such it would be a fraud on children to introduce it in their syllabus."

Has the kind of debunking made any difference to astrologers and people who have horoscopes cast on birth to guide them in choosing careers, life-partners or gauging their spans of life. Reason and logic cannot pierce the skulls of the thick-headed; they remain thick-headed to the last even though they manage to live longer than predicted in their horoscopes.

Ant & Grasshopper

Old version: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grosshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

Modern version: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the aunt in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The world is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other grasshoppers demanding the grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter. Amnesty International and Kofi Annan criticise the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance). Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for "Bharat Bandh" in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. The CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among ants and grasshoppers. Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to grasshoppers on all Indian Railway trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’. Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the Prevention of Terrorism against Grasshoppers Act (POTAGA), with effect from the beginning of the winter. Arjun Singh makes Special Reservation for grasshoppers in educational institutions and in government services.

The ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government and handed over to the grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV. Arundhati Roy calls it "a triumph of Justice", the CPM calls it the ‘revolutionary resurgence of the downtrodden’, Kofi Annan invites the grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly. Many years later ... The ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi billion dollar company in Silicon valley. Hundreds of grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India... As a result losing lot of hard working ants and feeding the grasshoppers, India is still a developing country ......

(Courtesy: Vipin Bucksey, N. Delhi)

Seating problem

Banta, a carpenter, took his four-year-old son to a Convent School. The Principal told him, "Sorry, all the seats are filled." Banta replied, "Don’t worry, Madamji, I’ll make a new chair for my son."

(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal).