Teaching superstitions


This Sunday evening I was helping my son with his lessons. In his Malayalam language textbook there was a portion from the autobiography of the former Indian President, Late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Dr Kalam, before assuming the rather ceremonial post of Indian President, was a scientist and a science administrator at Defense Research and Development Organisation and Indian Space Research Organisation. He was closely involved in India’s space programme, development of missile technology and nuclear weapons.

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Dr Kalam wrote:

 There was a very old mosque in our locality where my father would take me for evening prayers. I had not the faintest idea of the meaning of the Arabic prayers chanted, but I was totally convinced that they reached God. When my father came out of the mosque after the prayers, people of different religions would be sitting outside, waiting for him. Many of them offered bowls of water to my father who would dip his fingertips in them and say a prayer. This water was then carried home for invalids. I also remember people visiting our home to offer thanks after being cured. My father always smiled and asked them to thank Allah, the benevolent and merciful…..

I have throughout my life tried to emulate my father in my own world of science and technology. I have endeavoured to understand the fundamental truths revealed to me by my father, and feel convinced that there exists a divine power that can lift one up from confusion, misery, melancholy and failure, and guide one to one’s true place. And once an individual severs his emotional and physical bondage, he is on the road to freedom, happiness and peace of mind.

I used the opportunity to teach my son about placebo effect and told him there is no fundamental truths known to wise fathers. I also told him not to wait for any imaginary powers to help him in difficulties.

With textbooks and leaders like this, no wonder India is a deeply superstitious country with utter lack of scientific temper, where fraud god men and fake healers rule the roost.

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