This incident happened about two months ago, at Coffee Day Square near UB City in Bangalore. I was there with two of my friends, and on the table next to us was a group which seemed to be having a business meeting. (This is quite common there; in fact every other table seemed to be a meeting-over-laptop affair.) Just a few minutes after we sat down, this happened: the other group linked hands around the table, and bowed their heads – as if in prayer. So I thought, okay, it must be a religious group. But that turned out not to be the case.
It soon became apparent that this was actually a pyramid scheme/multi-level marketing scam in progress. The woman doing the talking was “selling” the scheme to the others. Here are the various things I noticed/heard:
- “I grew up in a lower-middle class family”
- “For years I stayed in a room in a hostel because I didn’t have any money for a good place”
- “Today I own a house and two luxury cars”
- (Draws a graph on a piece of paper) “See, you tell me what your life plan is. When do you want your first car? Your first washing machine? Your first house?”
- She kept switching seamlessly between English and Kannada – a deadly combination for a salesperson here. I would have admired her skill if it wasn’t for this purpose.
- She spoke almost non-stop for the 45 minutes we were there. The others lapped it all up.
- Everything about the meeting was deliberate and meant to impress – from the swish location to her “mod” clothes and hair. From the look and demeanour of the others, it was clear that they belonged to a lower socio-economic class than her (and me), and they would probably never visit a place like this, let alone spend a 100 bucks on a cup of coffee.
I’m guessing the prayer at the beginning was some kind of Secret nonsense – pray to the universe to fulfill your dreams, send out positive energy etc. From what I’ve read about pyramid/MLM schemes, this does happen there – they have a cult-like atmosphere where belief in the supernatural can easily be exploited. Perhaps this is one hidden benefit of atheism? It was for me at least – my de-conversion to atheism was the catalyst for skepticism in other areas too. I really felt sorry for the others that day, and I left hoping that they wouldn’t fall for it.