Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lucky - Unlucky! SMSes

I received an SMS on my mobile from a well-known Page 3 celeb of Kolkata - “Baba Jogendra sobka GURU” yeh SMS dil se 11 logoko forward karo mujhe chorke. 3 din me apki MANOKAMNA puri hogi. Inkar karoge to 2 sal tak unlucky rahoge.
I checked the cellphone number from which the message came to be sure that it had actually come from the person himself. And it was so. I am sure most of us have received such SMSes some time or the other.
The text reminded me of my childhood days in my village when we used to get the pamphlets that emotionally blackmailed us by saying, or even commanding, the recipient to print a large number of copies of the same pamphlet and distribute it for better luck, happiness, wealth and fulfillment of life-long desires exemplified. It would name few unknown individuals who had benefited by doing so.
Conversely, the pamphlets would also carry an ominous note of warning that all sorts of ill luck, tragedy and even death may strike those who did not carry out the instructions. Again, some phony names of such unlucky persons would be mentioned.
The handouts would popularly mention the names of Lord Shiva, Hanuman ji, Shani Maharaja, Lord Ganesha, Jesus Christ or Sai Baba and others and how their divine blessings or wrath would be invoked depending upon our earthly act of reproducing or not reproducing those pamphlets.
Much later in my life, I realized that those pamphlets were the periodic handiwork of the owners of local printing press. They would orchestrate such schemes to keep their machines running. It often worked to their plan as many dimwitted people would actually turn up to get hundreds of copies printed and the chain would go on. That was something quite akin to what we now call chain marketing only that it was more discrete and exploited a person’s fears and faith.
Whether the pamphlets did good or bad would always be open to debate but it sure did good to the printing press owners who laughed their way to the banks. These typical chain or luck letters consist of a message that attempts to induce the recipient to make a number of copies of the letter and then pass them on to as many recipients as possible. Emotionally manipulative stories, get-rich-quick schemes and the exploitation of superstition to induce or threaten the recipient if he or she “complies or breaks the chain" are the common methods.
From the luck letters of yester-years, we now have these chain messages coming to us from social networking site, e-mails and SMSes - like the one I received. We also have newer versions like the `chain spider’ - a type of electronic chain letter whereby recipients are encouraged to sign a petition in favor of a particular cause with the list of names contained within the message. We can use our common sense logic to deduce who actually benefits from all this.
I was surprised when I got the chain SMS because there is hardly any need to market a concept that has clicked. Or are these pranks played by idle minds that rope in those who have more faith in superstitions than their common sense and logic.
I never expected this from someone who is educated, intellectual, well-informed and eminent member of our society. Or is it that most of us are chicken-hearted when it comes to matters of faith. The SMS that I received was a clear case of superstition vanquishing common sense.
ess bee

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