An Unquiet Mind Over Matter
Regular readers of my blog know that I am a die-hard rationalist. I am a great admirer of James Randi, and greatly appreciate the work being done by Maharashtra’s Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith).
Superstitions and magical tricks have always been used to manipulate the gullible, to gain power over them.
So, when I was invited to an ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) show by HDFC Private Banking in Pune, I thought it was ‘yet-another-magic-show’, and passed it off. However, my investment advisor called me up personally and convinced me to attend, so I and my wife went to see this ‘ESP Show’.
I must say, my rational mind is very unquiet after that. The show was conducted by Mr. Deepak Rao. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page of his own (yet), but he is said to be India’s equivalent of Uri Geller.
So I waited impatiently to apply my rational mind to uncover his secrets in deluding the audience. During and after the show, I failed completely.
Many people suspect that the performer has ‘stooges’ in the audience, who’re actually conniving with the performer. It was not true in this case, as anyone from the audience who raised their hands for a particular act were invited to participate. In fact, Deepak Rao had only one assistant during the entire show. Everyone else was an invitee of HDFC. I can personally attest to this.
There were no objects, gizmos, or equipment brought in for the show. He used material supplied by the audience or by the hotel.
He doesn’t term his feats as “tricks”, rather he terms them as “experiments”. Further, he never guarantees that they will work, he always approaches each ‘experiment’ saying ‘let’s see if this works’.
ESP, Telepathy, & Telekinesis
Mr. Rao showed the following feats in front of our eyes.
1. He asked 3 ladies to come up to the stage and asked one of them to write her birth time on a piece of paper, such that the other two ladies could read it. He himself was turned away during the whole time. Then keeping his hand one by one on each lady’s forehead, while muttering “the birth time is…”, “the birth time is…”, and so on, he finally shook his head and turned away. He then took out his wrist-watch, adjusted it to some time, and then asked the ladies to say out the birth time aloud. He then showed that he had set the watch to that exact time. Note that the three ladies were selected at random from the audience.
2. Telepathy: He asked five random members of the audience to get Rs. 100 notes from their wallets. These notes were then folded and folded such that their serial numbers were permanently hidden, after which they were put in a bowl. A child was asked to pick up one of them randomly from that bowl, and separate random members of the audience were invited on stage to unfold that note privately among themselves. Mr. Rao then proceeded to touch the forehead or engage in a handshake with each of these, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he “transmitted” the alphanumeric characters via “telepathy” to his blindfolded assistant, who read the serial number aloud. It was perfect – E498DC80 – something.
3. He asked a randomly chosen couple on stage to write a name of someone they knew, with his/her corresponding birth date. He then held their hands, touched their foreheads, while muttering, “the name starts with PQRS/MNLP/etc., ” and then, after a few seconds, said, her name is “Sunita”. He then proceeded in the same fashion that declared, correctly, that her birth date was 10th June.
4. He determined a randomly chosen lady’s last name (who’s husband and family were sitting in the audience) by holding her hand and touching her forehead. He then asked her to walk a bit and then accurately guessed her zodiac sign, and her birth date. Yes.
5. Telekinesis: He asked for a key from the audience. A strong key, tied to a key chain. He let us inspect the key. It was strong enough that no one could easily bend it, even using both hands. It was a strong, strong metallic key, and short enough not to be easily bended even using both hands. He then invited a lady to the stage. He kept the key on the lady’s outstretched palm. He asked her to cover it with both her palms. He kept one hand on her palms, one hand behind his back, and concentrated. His hand over the lady’s palms was steady, I watched his other hand behind his back, twisting and twisting something in the air, as he mentally concentrated.
At one point, he gave up, shaking his head as if he as tired after a great mental effort. He said he’s trying, but didn’t know if he’ll succeed. The lady said she could feel something moving in her hand. He did it again for a few minutes. After which, he literally seemed exhausted and shook his head and removed all his hands. The lady uncovered her hands, and viola! The key was bent in an L-shape. It was returned to the owner who confirmed that it was the same key he had given, and now he couldn’t use it to enter his home!
6. He held an ordinary light bulb by the base, uttered sounds of varying frequencies, and shattered it. I can imagine a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, that the frequencies of the sound resonated with the inherent frequency-structure of the light bulb and hence it exploded. But it was ‘magical’ to see it, nonetheless.
7. He said that HDFC was going to be a producer for a Hindi Bollywood film. He placed an envelope on the stage. He then selected audience members to choose from each of the movie’s different aspects. Starting from the theme (murder mystery, comedy, musical, drama), hero (Amitabh Bachhan, Aamir Kan, Shahrukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, etc.), villain (Nana Patekar, etc. I’m sorry, I don’t remember all the names), Music Director (Ismail Darbar, A. R. Rahman, etc.), heroine (you know who), etc. He then selected (based on ‘mind vibrations’) members of the audience, and asked them to choose each of these different entities from among a list. After all the selections were done, an audience member opened the envelope to reveal those same exact choices that Mr. Deepak Rao had predicted the earlier day when he wrote that note.
These are points to note. Mr. Deepak Rao doesn’t seem to encourage superstition of any kind. There is no religious tone to his show. He says there is a scientific explanation to everything he does. It is a different matter altogether that the scientific explanation he talks about is over and above everything we’ve learnt in science!
Mr. Deepak Rao’s web site is here. You are free to draw your own conclusions. It seems he has created different blogger identities every time he needed to post. This is his blogger profile with only one post. This is his definitive post on a defamation attempt by the TOI. And this is his official web site, where you can find his latest thoughts and presentations, along with a lot of marketing collateral.
He doesn’t exploit gullible folks. His presentations are mostly targeted towards intelligent executives from corporate audiences. In fact, I don’t think his shows will work with a generic mediocre public. I don’t seem to have any rational answers to his feats, do you?
Photo Credits: Master Mind – Deepak Rao
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