Bangles Or Snake Oil: What Will You Wear?

By Nakul Shenoy

There I was on Republic Day looking around the internet for something patriotic to wear in addition to the flag pin I sport most of the time. Pitted somewhere on the continuum between a patriot and a zealot by most friends, wearing my patriotism on the arm is clearly second nature.

The launch of a new “Tirangaa” bangle caught my eye, especially since it was a Naveen Jindal initiative. After all, this was the man who famously won us the right to fly our National Flag at our homes and offices! This had to be good and I was going to get some soon as I could!

That was when everything began to fall apart. This “bangle” that was launched by our Minister of State Shashi Tharoor and avidly promoted by Naveen Jindal (also a MP) was not just a tri-coloured band that would foster patriotism and the spirit of one-ness. No! That would be mundane.

This Tirangaa bangle, powered by “Tri-Vortex Technology” and imported from South Africa, claims to cure ailments from acidity to arthritis, purify water and even protect people from harmful cellphone radiation. Further we are assured that it would “prove particularly beneficial for athletes and the elderly”.

Fascinated by the possibilities, I ran a Google search to find that CAMcheck (a South African consumers’ guide to scams, pseudoscience and voodoo science) had a couple of articles on this “technology”. In summary, they call Tri-Vortex related products “pseudoscience baloney, quackery, and scam”.

A second article on the same site speaks about a consumer complaint regarding the products’ advertisement, which was upheld by the South African ASA Directorate as being unsubstantiated and in contravention of the local laws.

Thinking something was amiss I reached out to the two MPs via Twitter, trying to point their attention to these and numerous other articles that suggest this amazing life-saving “technology” is in fact a pseudoscience scam. As of this moment of writing, all efforts to request a rethink on their promotion of these “Tri-Vortex powered bangles” have gone in vain.

India is a country plagued by superstition, “black magic”, quacks, magic cures and remedies. The last thing we need is our esteemed Members of the Parliament peddling or supporting by association the sale of “snake oil” to the gullible.

Having been a performing magician for most part of my life, I have faced numerous situations where people, educated and well-to-do ones at that, associate magic with supernatural powers. I have faced the pain of being approached by people who hoped my “powers” could help their loved one get over a chronic ailment.

These incidents, which leave me feeling utmost helpless, have included a medically-educated doctor calling on me to seek help for his daughter and a lady from the US inquiring if my “powers” could help her overcome her ailments. Nothing can really describe that feeling of not being able to help a person who has reached out to you as his or her only hope.

Ample research exists in India and abroad to show that even among the well-educated, over 43% of the people associate simple magic tricks to being the fruit of yogic or paranormal powers! If this is the case among our more educated and in our cities, one can only fear the worst among the millions that make our villages and the country.

It is in this bleak context that I implore on our two popular, well-meaning MPs to make an example and desist from promoting quackery and pseudoscience. If they are convinced from personal experience that what they have on offer is real, the least they can do is validate it through scientific lab tests.

After all, if the claims are indeed real and can cure everything from arthritis to cancer, we should make it available to every one in the country. A lab-based scientific study will help us do just that — separate snake oil from the truth.

Note: First published in on  January 31, 2013.