Warning: Reading this will rob you of some surprises in 2017
S.B. Easwaran | December 30, 2016
Prediction is risky: go wrong, and you lose credibility; get it right, and your worst dreams come true. While other bold and learned haruspices of journalism inspect the entrails of 2016 to project trends for the year ahead, this timid practitioner chooses to stick to fake news, so much in currency in the year that went by. Here then, in lighter vein, are the Top 5 fake news items you will encounter in 2017. And if you don’t, remember, you can always come back here and tweet or ‘forward’ them to validate my claims of clairvoyance.
Modi visage appears on pumpkin
Khotapur, Uttar Pradesh: Thousands are thronging this village on the banks of the Yamuna, and some 20 km from Agra, to get a glimpse of a pumpkin bearing markings that strongly resemble the bearded visage of prime minister Narendra Modi. “I was getting my crop loaded on a truck when one of the workers pulled out a his smartphone and clicked photos of this pumpkin. He then asked me to take a look. Mujhe bhi sakshaat Modiji ka hi chehra dikha,” says Jhootey Ram, on whose patch the pumpkin grew.
Word spread and people from nearby villages started arriving to take a look. Now, men, women and children from neighbouring states are arriving too. They queue up near the peepal tree beneath which the pumpkin has been set atop a stool. Most of them take photos on their cellphone. Some go for selfies, holding the 20 kg kaddu on one shoulder so that it seems they are cheek-to-cheek with the PM.
Jhootey Ram charges them Rs 100 (in cash) for each selfie and the arm-strengthening exercise. “I’ve not had to visit the ATM for the last two weeks,” he says. He knows this income is short-lived, for the pumpkin is likely to rot soon. “Before that, I’ll have it made into petha (a sugary local sweet) and sell the whole lot to the highest bidder,” he says.
Cure found for political noise
New Delhi: An antidote to all the political wrangling on the airwaves and social media has come from an unlikely source. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, taking a cue from a TV anchor whose staged a blank-screen protest against uncouth debate, has started a weekly podcast called Maun Ki Baat.
Each monthly podcast is 20 minutes of complete silence, and is available on the Congress website immediately after the prime minister’s monthly Mann Ki Baat. Only a few hundred tuned in to the first podcast, but the second was heard or downloaded more than 300 million times. Later podcasts saw the figure rising. There is no count of the number of times these audio files are forwarded, but it estimated at a billion-plus.
“It’s an island of peace in the midst of all this political ranting, so naturally, it had to become popular,” says Dr Saiko Parth, a psychologist who has studied the healing power of silence. “People from across the world, tired of the bunkum their politicians dish out, their mindspace littered with the detritus of the arguments and raillery on social media, are tuning in to tune out.”
“It’s so meditative,” says 45-year-old Khamosh Rai, a fan. “Let me tell you, till recently, I was a right-wing troll, abusing all those who spoke against Modi. No longer. I listened to the first Maun Ki Baat only to find material to troll the Congress about, but the experience changed me. I really have found true peace. I forward every Maun Ki Baat podcast to as many people I can, especially the trolls. Hopefully, the silence will speak to them.”
A Congress spokesman was nonplussed. “Dr Manmohan Singh? Well, he was always a quiet fellow,” he said. “It’s good if people are listening to him now.”
New currency evaporates if stored in bed-boxes
Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced that new batches of Rs 500, Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 notes will evaporate if they are kept together in large numbers - whether in bank lockers or in bed-boxes, a note-stashing place of choice with realtors.
Each note has a light sensor implanted in it, and when notes remain in darkness for more than a month, the sensors activate a chemical reaction that causes the notes to vapourise.
“This is among a series of security measures to counter black money,” says a highly placed source in the RBI. “And it makes it so much easier to detect counterfeit notes. To check if a note is genuine, leave it in a dark place for more than a month. If it’s still there after that, it’s counterfeit.”
Erotic temple art is the work of aliens, say experts
GANDHINAGAR: A group of scholars researching ancient art has concluded that the erotic sculptures adorning the Khajuraho, Konark and many other temples across India are the work of aliens who came nightly to sculpt these figures and disappear before the sun was up.
“These immoral sculptures depicting depravity cannot have been the work of the Hindu imagination,” says Dr Bhoganand Shashtri of the Adarsh Hindu Research Foundation, who led the group. “Aliens who marvelled at the beauty of our temples and the deeply moral and spiritual lives Indians lived in those times must have done it disturb the equilibrium that prevailed in our land in those times.”
In evidence, he cited several texts mentioning the overnight appearance of these figures on the stone temples. Asked why the people allowed the overtly sexual images to remain, he says, “We are a peaceful, accommodative people. Then and now. Besides, people then were too strong-minded to be led astray by such distractions. Now, of course, it is a different story.”
PM's speeches best antidote to drunkenness
NEW DELHI: Bars and pubs across India are playing prime minister Narendra Modi's speeches as they have been found highly effective in sobering up drunk patrons.
“The number of brawls that take place in my bar have come down drastically after I started playing Modiji’s speeches on a widescreen television,” says Rajbir Singh, owner of the Smash & Grab, a well-known watering hole in the capital.
Many others have reported similar results. “Even those who have had a peg too many start remain well-behaved and walk steady after hearing these speeches,” says Bhaichand Bhangar, owner of the Johnnie Runner bar chain. “In fact, all it takes is for them to hear ‘Mitron, bhaiyon or behnon’, Modiji’s trademark opening words.”
Psychologists explain the phenomenon as an instance of behavioural conditioning. “It all began with his November 8 demonetisation speech, delivered at a time many were nursing a drink,” says Dr Napiyo Napeenedo, a behaviour specialist. “His voice has come to be represent a shock that jolts you into your senses.”
Other experts say it seems to be working for now, but the phenomenon needs to be explored fully through further research.
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