I don’t know how many of you remember Ramar Pillai. In 1996, Ramar Pillai became one of the most widely recognized Indians when he converted ordinary herbs soaked in water into petrol. It looked like he solved the problem of energy for India forever. It was a story too good to be true but Indians lapped it up without scrutiny. Ramar Pillai created a mega sensation amongst Indians and Non-Resident Indians. He was hailed as an Indian genius, a product of India without trace of western education or influence, someone who solved a mega problem with tools that were easily available to a village boy in India.
When I wrote a small note of criticism on Ramar Pillai and his claims, when he was at the zenith of his popularity being feted by the Chief Ministers of India including renowned scientists, many Indian readers berated me for being a party pooper. I was told to shut up. ‘Why could you not just celebrate when Indians do well? Are you only looking for bad things about India? Why can’t you recognize our achievements when they actually happen?’ they asked me.
After few years, in 2000, it became clear that herbal petrol of Ramar Pillai is a hoax. He turned out to be a charlatan, a cheap magician who conned an entire nation because it was hungry for hard-to-find achievements. Ramar Pillai turned out to be a reprieve for a civilization that was bereft of any greatness in the recent past. Indians were hungry for achievements and Ramar Pillai came into cash in on that popular sentiment.
A 10th grade student without any formal education creates petrol out of few herbs, while the rest of the world was spending billions of dollars to create the same fuels. It fit exactly with the Indian idea of their own country and own greatness – we can do wonders without toil, just by sitting under a banyan tree meditating upon our philosophies, reusing our herbs and reinterpreting ancient texts. We don’t need a formal education because it is a Western imposition onto us; we have our own set of knowledge which comes from our villages, from our ancient traditions, our gurus, our godmen, our shastras and our mantras. We don’t work with our hands because that’s menial, relegated to lower castes. Instead we ideate. We think of an idea and behold it becomes reality – that’s the Indian way of doing quantum physics, meditating and conceptualizing, using only our brain, while these Westerners have to build Large Hadron Collider spending billions of dollars.
The hoax of Herbal petrol should have served a lesson to Indians who are quick to celebrate, but ten years later, looks like we have another Ramar Pillai. He comes in the form of the “world’s youngest postgraduate” Tathagat Avatar Tulsi. He finished high school at age of 9, did BSc at age of 10, and MSc at age of 12 for which he holds the Guinness World Record. He got his PhD from Indian Institute of Science at 21. He is now being paraded as the Indian answer to the geniuses of the world, a pure product of Indian methods, which involves astrology, and other Indian pseudo-sciences.
Tathagat’s father, Tulsi Narayan Prasad, is now credited with creating a ‘programmed child’ to create a genius son using astrology and eugenics. Tulsi Narayan is a practitioner of ‘astro-genetics’ and claims he has manipulated his timing of sex to determine the sex of the ‘to-be-born’ child. He proudly says that he was keen on “producing a genius child”.
Tulsi Narayan and his kid Tathagat is lapped up by Indians the same way Ramar Pillai was coveted by them. The term Astro-genetics looks sophisticated to the less sophisticated Indian middle class. His theories on ‘programming and producing a child genius’ have many takers in the rapidly growing middle class Indians who are keen on producing child CEOs, child Doctors, and spelling bee winners. His astrological calculations on producing male-children will be a mega hit for those Indians who don’t want female children.
Tathagat, according to a dictionary on Hindu names, means a child who has a quick mind with the ability to accomplish a great deal in a short period of time.
The modern Indian parents want their kids to succeed fast and quick. They want to ‘program’ their kids so that they accomplish everything before they turn 16. They want their kids to achieve superdom with lessdom.
"It's a science called eugenics," Tulsi Prasad said, explaining the way his genius child was conceived. "By employing it, we can ensure that the child achieves the desired traits. As I knew what we wanted, we followed the prescription for a genius mind..."
Tulsi Narayan claims he practices eugenics. Eugenics is a discredited practise, used by Nazis attempting to produce the best race by ensuring copulation between healthy adults. Those theories resulted in murdering six million Jews and few million Slavs, gypsies, old, cripple, handicapped, and mentally ill people. Only Indians, who subscribe to supremacy theories can actually celebrate and embrace Tulsi’s theories.
Wrong story for Indians
This story sends out all the wrong signals. It will tell Indians parents that astrology works, and that one can conceive a male child relying on the position of planets. It will tell Indian parents that they can actually ‘program a child’, that they can ‘produce a genius’.
There are many kids out there who are capable of finishing MSc by age of 12. The only reason they don’t do MSc is because not every parent is a Supreme Court advocate like Tulsi Prasad who can coerce the institutions to give out degrees. Tathagat is more a product of greed and avarice of a deluded parent and not a product of good position of stars and planets. He may or may not be genius – only time will tell. But the mere fact that he has finished his PhD at an early stage doesn’t qualify for the title of genius.
I am afraid that this story will unnecessarily encourage achievement-hungry parents to force and compel their kids into a life that will steal away their childhood. I am afraid that some parents will set lofty targets for their kids to become geniuses, to get recognition, and thereby put undue pressure on the kids.