Daily Archives: 18 March 2008

How Indian TV slayed a dangerous superstition

In a moment of pure television, an Indian rationalist has challenged a black magician to kill him on live TV—and survived to tell the tale.

On March 3, Sanal Edamaruku of Rationalist International found himself opposite Pandit Surinder Sharma, a tantrik who claims to be a consultant for top Indian politicians and is a wellknown face on TV.

During a discussion on “Tantrik power versus Science” on the ultra-tabloid India TV run by Rajat Sharma, Sharma claimed he was able to kill any person he wanted within three minutes using black magic.

The rationalist challenged him. The tantrik chanted special mantras, used water, his fingers and a knife, but failed. All this, while the TV station ran the item as “Breaking News” with a super in Hindi that read, “Now Everything Will Happen Live”. Then the tantrik claimed that the technique worked only at night.

The rationalist accepted the challenge again, and the TV show spilled well over its scheduled time. This time, the tantrik used mantras, paper, butter oil, peacock feathers, mustard seed, wheat flour dough, and his finger nails. But he failed again.

Over a couple of hours, a dangerous and widespread Indian superstition had been slayed in the studios, while the channel laughed all the way to the top of the ratings’ chart.

Photographs: courtesy India TV/ Rationalist International

Read the full story: The only place black magic works is in your mind


‘Too many junkets at stake to make enemies’

Kesava Menon, the former Islamabad correspondent of The Hindu, reviewing ‘Anatomy of an Abduction—How the Indian Hostages in Iraq Were Freed‘ by V. Sudarshan, former diplomacy correspondent of Outlook:

“The Indian media has a relationship with the country’s diplomatic corps that is somewhat peculiar when compared with its approach to other arms of the government such as the Administrative and Police Services. There have been a few instances when the press has pounced on ill-considered remarks by officers of the Indian Foreign Service — the rumpus over Ronen Sen’s remarks at the height of the debate over the 123 Agreement being a prime example. But, by and large, journalists in this country, irrespective of their views on different aspects of foreign policy, have seldom criticised the professional performance of IFS officers. That diplomatic activity is shrouded in secrecy is only one of the reasons. A more pertinent reason is that journalists have distaste for being on the wrong side of the diplomatic corps. To put it bluntly, there are too many junkets at stake.”

Read the full review: Pawns in a global chess game