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The Tantric and the Terrible Tempest


Once upon a time, a traveling tantric chanced upon a tranquil tropical town. Looking for ways to trick people, he announced that a terrible tempest is in the offing. He said that the only way to avoid it is to whip the children.

Who would believe such an incredible thing? Normally he would have been branded as a madman. The town had written guidelines on how to handle tropical tempests. So the tantric had to make the tranquil townsfolk shred these guidelines. Thankfully for the tantric, he knew the powers of an opioid called social media, to which the elite townsfolk were addicted.

Through misinformation blitzes, he convinced the people of the tranquil town that the only way to avoid the terrible tempest was by whipping kids. He even established that whipping kids was the humane thing to do, by relating fantastic stories of how another town stopped the tempest in its midst, by starting to whip kids. He said that kids are resilient, they will grow out of their scars. The tempest must be kept out at all costs. He announced: “जान है तो जहान है” (“jaan hai to jahaan hai:” life is more valuable than anything else).

So the tranquil town started whipping its kids on Monday. The tempest did not arrive on Monday. So the people said “Continue whipping the kids, this seems to be effective.”

On Tuesday, the tempest looked like it was coming, but there were showers only for a couple of hours. So the people said, “The tempest would have been terrible had we not whipped the kids,” and continued whipping the kids.

On Wednesday it was all calm. So the people said “We must continue whipping the kids to continue keeping the tempest away.”

On Thursday, the tempest came. But they continued whipping the kids. Some out of habit. Some out of fear of not whipping the kids. Some out of compulsion to be socially compliant, since everyone else was whipping.

Friday was calm again. Strangely, no one asked the tantric as to why the tempest had come even though they had whipped the kids. The tantric now said “See, I foresaw the terrible tempest; it was so terrible that even whipping kids could not keep the tempest away.”

He then said “Kids must be poked in addition to being whipped to keep away future tempests.”

He then started selling needles and whips.

Saturday he said “Kids must be whipped to keep out tornadoes too.”

Sunday, they restarted whipping the kids, to keep out future tempests and tornadoes.

The tranquil tropical town which has restarted whipping kids is Puducherry (India): “H3N2 outbreak: This UT shuts schools from 16-24 March.” In a normal world, people should not ask for evidence to not whip kids to ostensibly prevent future tempests. Regardless, there is a mountain of scientific evidence that whipping kids has no effect on tempests.

(1) “No causal effect of school closures in Japan on the spread of COVID-19 in spring 2020,” Nature Medicine, Oct 2021. (2) “Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses,” Cochrane, Jan 2023. Quote: “Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza‐like illness (ILI)/COVID‐19 like illness.”

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  • Bhaskaran Raman

    Bhaskaran Raman is a faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay. Views expressed here are his personal opinion. He maintains the site: “Understand, Unclog, Unpanic, Unscare, Unlock (U5) India” . He can be reached via twitter, telegram: @br_cse_iitb .

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