Way back in 1952, when I was 11-years-old, a sensational murder took place in Madras (now Chennai). I remember listening to the news read out from the newspapers by the elders in our village. Even after 61 years, the gruesome details I heard about the murder still lingers in my mind.
The Alavandar murder case and trial became a cause-celebre. It aroused widespread controversy and heated public debate. Now, some details have eroded with time from people’s memory, and controversies crept in at times while recalling the incident.
Madabhushi Rangadorai born on November 8, 1937, a prominent Indian lawyer, columnist and film and legal historian associated with the English language newspaper The Hindu who sports the nom de plumeRandor Guy, has written an excellent detailed account of TheAlavandar Murder Case.
In 1995, a 13-part Tamil TV serial based on this murder written by Randor Guy and produced by the Dina Thanthi newspaper group was telecast by the Doordarshan Kendra in Chepauk, Chennai as a sponsored program. Though the serial wasn’t well made it proved a big hit.
The missing businessman
It all began with a complaint lodged about a missing businessman at a police station in Madras (now Chennai) on behalf of a worried housewife.
On August 29, 1952, a worried Mrs Alavandar, anxious about her husband who did not return home even after daybreak, went to Gem & Company, fountain pen dealers in China Bazaar (now Parry’s corner), Madras, where her husband had a small frontage space to display his plastic wares and conducted his business. There, the staff of the pen company told her that her husband left the shop the previous day around noon for Royapuram with a woman who came to meet him.
Mrs Alavandar immediately deduced that her husband would have gone with Devaki, a woman from Kerala, with whom he had an illicit love affair. Devaki was an attractive young college-educated woman, who involved herself in social service activities. She lived in Madras.
On reaching No. 62, Cemetery Road in Royapuram, Madras, Mrs Alavandar knocked on the door. Devaki’s husband, Prabhakara Menon, opened the door. He told Mrs Alavandar that he had not seen her husband and asserted that her husband never came to his house.
Mrs Alavandar then returned to Gem & Company and requested M.C. Cunnan Chetty, the proprietor of the firm, to go to the police, and on her behalf, he lodged a complaint at the Law College police station in Esplanade, Madras, about the missing Alavandar.
The following day, The Hindu carried a short news item about the incident with a catchy sensational headline: “CITY BUSINESSMAN MISSING!”
The Decapitated Head
A police constable attached to the Esplanade Police station pedalled his bicycle to Devaki’s house at Royapuram and found the door locked. He made enquiries and found from the neighbours that the couple, Prabhakara Menon and his wife Devaki, had left for Bombay (now Mumbai).
While pedalling back to his station, the police constable saw a parcel bobbing up and down on the shallow sea water. Out of curiosity, he went up to the seashore and picked up the package wrapped in a brown shirt. When he unwrapped it, he was shocked. There was a decapitated human head inside. The head had been undoubtedly buried the previous night in a shallow pit at the edge of the sea and the morning tide had dislodged it from the sand and washed it ashore. The shirt was later identified as belonging to Alavandar.
The discovery of the head made headline news in the press the following day.
“When I saw this wonderful man [Thomas Alva Edison], who had had no training at all, no advantages, and who did it all himself, and saw the great results by virtue of his industry and application – you see, I had studied a dozen languages … and had spent the best years of my life ruminating through libraries. I thought to myself what a terrible thing it was to have wasted my life on those useless things, and if I had only come to America right then and there and devoted all of my brain power and inventiveness to my work, what could I not have done?” (Nikola Tesla, in My inventions: My early life. Electrical Experimenter; February 1919)
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American, was born in what is now Croatia on July 10, 1856. He was a physicist, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, an inventor, and futurist. He is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
During his lifetime, Tesla obtained about 300 patents for his inventions. Today, we take many of his inventions for granted today. For example, we owe Tesla for the flip switch when we turn on the light.
Tesla was one of the few inventors who contributed to advances in science and engineering in the early 20th century. As one of the fathers of Electricity, Nikola Tesla did pioneering work on alternating current (AC) power system, electromagnetism, hydroelectric power, radio, radar etc.
Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before he immigrated to the United States in 1884.
In 1882, Nikola Tesla started working for two years at the Continental Edison Company in France designing and making improvements to electrical equipment. In June 1884, Tesla relocated to New York City. During his trip across the Atlantic, his ticket, money, and some of his luggage were stolen. Then, mutiny broke out on the ship and he was nearly thrown overboard. When he landed in the United States he had only four cents in his pocket, a letter of recommendation from Charles Batchelor, the English engineer who managed the Continental Edison Company in Europe.
Tesla met Edison. Knowing the famous American inventor had a hearing problem spoke up and introduced himself. He produced the brief message from Batchelor.
Edison snorted after glancing at the brief message. “I know two great men and you are one of them,” Batchelor had written. “The other is this young man!”
A rumpled, weary, and deeply skeptical Edison asked Tesla what he could do.
Tesla humbly described the engineering work he had done in France and spoke of his designs for induction motors that could run smoothly and powerfully on alternating current. Edison, however, knew very little about alternating current and believed it to be the work of the devil. Edison was a bigot, who in the past had waged a propaganda war against the gas companies stating the use of gas as a source of power would endanger humans due to possible explosions.
Eventually, Edison hired Tesla to work at the Edison Machine Works in New York.
One year later after a disagreement over emoluments, Tesla struck out on his own. With financial backers, he set up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices that sparked the long-running, and bitter “War of the Currents.“
George Westinghouse used Tesla’s patented AC induction motor and transformer under license and hired him as a consultant to help develop a power system using alternating current.
Tesla is also known for his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. His patented devices and theoretical work were used in the invention of radio communication, and in his X-ray experiments.
At that time, James S. Warden, a western lawyer and banker had purchased land in Shoreham, Long Island, about 60 miles from Manhattan. Here, he built a resort community known as Wardenclyffe-On-Sound. Warden believed that with the implementation of Nikola Tesla’s “world system” a “Radio City” would arise in the area. He offered Tesla 200 acres (81 ha) of land close to a railway line on which to build his wireless telecommunications tower and laboratory facility. In 1901, Tesla designed the Wardenclyffe Tower also known as the Tesla Tower, an early wireless transmission tower intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of wireless power transmission. It never became fully operational and the tower was demolished in 1917.
Tesla with his achievements and his seemingly miraculous inventions and his abilities as a showman became world-famous. Though he reaped much money from his patents, he also spent a lot on numerous experiments. For most of his life he lived in New York hotels. Finally, the end of his patent income and eventual bankruptcy led him to live in diminished circumstances. Even then, Tesla continued to invite the press to parties he held on his birthday to announce new inventions he was working on. Due to his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years, Tesla gained a reputation as the archetypal “mad scientist”.
Though Nikola Tesla was one of the world’s greatest inventors, as fate would have it, he died penniless and in obscurity on January 7, 1943, in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel.
A century ago, the name Macaulay was often associated with cultural withdrawal of ethnic Indians from their Hindu-based traditions. It began with the incorporation of the Indians into the then expanding English-speaking civilization.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, a British historian and Whig politician held political office as Secretary at War between 1839 and 1841 and Paymaster-General between 1846 and 1848. He was also an essayist and reviewer. His books on British history were hailed as literary masterpieces. Between 1834 and 1838 he lived in Calcutta and served on the British “Supreme Council for India”. His “Minute on Education,” touches on the relation of Western and Indian civilizations.
Today, I saw the following message posted on Facebook:
I felt tempted to share this with my Facebook friends. However, as usual, I delved into the matter and noted a few anomalies in the quote. First, the language is modern. Second, Lord Macaulay was a devil’s advocate of the British empire who considered Indians as an inferior race compared to the British.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of “The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay,” Vol. 4 (of 4), by Thomas Babington Macaulay, is a compilation of speeches of Lord Macaulay from March 2, 1831, to June 1, 1853. I quote from his Preface:
I therefore unwillingly, and in mere self-defence, give this volume to the public. I have selected, to the best of my judgment, from among my speeches, those which are the least unworthy to be preserved. Nine of them were corrected by me while they were still fresh in my memory, and appear almost word for word as they were spoken. They are the speech of the second of March 1831,… The substance of the remaining speeches I have given with perfect ingenuousness. I have not made alterations for the purpose of saving my own reputation either for consistency or for foresight. I have not softened down the strong terms in which I formerly expressed opinions which time and thought may have modified; nor have I retouched my predictions in order to make them correspond with subsequent events. Had I represented myself as speaking in 1831, in 1840, or in 1845, as I should speak in 1853, I should have deprived my book of its chief value. This volume is now at least a strictly honest record of opinions and reasonings which were heard with favour by a large part of the Commons of England at some important conjunctures; and such a record, however low it may stand in the estimation of the literary critic, cannot but be of use to the historian.
However, I could not find the quote: “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India …” anywhere in this volume or elsewhere other than in social websites such as Facebook, where this quote is widely circulated among Indians, and blindly shared by many self-styled ‘Indian patriots’.
I have reproduced below what Macaulay said on Indian education and his chauvinistic attitude towards Indians and their traditions. This passage also shows clearly that Lord Macaulay said things directly opposite to the quote attributed to him:
On Indian Education
We now come to the gist of the matter. We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it?
All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India, contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are, moreover, so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them. It seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be effected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them.
What then shall that language be? One-half of the Committee maintains that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be, which language is the best worth knowing?
I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic.-But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the Committee who support the oriental plan of education.
It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any Orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded, and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.
How, then, stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the west. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us; with models of every species of eloquence; with historical compositions, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equalled; with just and lively representations of human life and human nature; with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, and trade; with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth, which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said, that the literature now extant in that language is of far greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of Government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; communities which are every year becoming more important, and more closely connected with our Indian empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.
The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound Philosophy and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English farrier [note: a horse shoer] -Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long, and Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.
We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are in modem times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society,-of prejudices overthrown,-of knowledge diffused,-of taste purified,-of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous.
The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but Chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and Romances in Norman-French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham [note: English humanists of the 16th century] our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments,-in History, for example, I am certain that it is much less so.
In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.
Source: Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Minute of 2 February 1835 on Indian Education,” Macaulay, Prose and Poetry, selected by G. M. Young (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), pp-721-24,729.
Apparently, this post looks like a sequel to the article “Total system failure | George Busuttil” by Raphael Vassallo published in maltatoday on February 13, 2012 where, as prisoner’s right NGO Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl approaches its 17th anniversary, its director George Busuttil vents his frustration at an apparent total breakdown of the prison system.
Prisoners Missing from Prison During Minister’s Second Surprise Visit
By Karl Stennienibarra
Home Affairs minister Manwel Mallia returned to Corradino prison for a second surprise visit this morning, only to find that this time it was the prisoners who were missing, as well as the guards.
After yesterday’s unscheduled visit to the prison, Dr Mallia realized that he had forgotten his briefcase. However, upon returning to prison, the only person who was there to greet him was an elderly cleaner.
“I expect the prisoners will be at the band club for early morning tea and pastizzi,” the janitor told the Minister.
The janitor explained to Dr Mallia that after breakfast on Tuesdays, the inmates liked to go unaccompanied to Birgu flea market for a stroll. After that, they liked to go their separate ways and do their own thing, such as loitering outside schools, borrowing cars and saying hello to witnesses who testified against them.
The younger, faster ones tended not to come back.
“I told Dr Mallia that if he was going to wait for them he might as well help himself to some drugs. He looked like he could use a joint.”
During yesterday’s surprise visit, Dr Mallia discovered that prison guards who were meant to be working until 9 pm went home as early as 1 pm.
Before handing in his resignation, prison director Abraham Zammit attempted to explain the situation.
“The prison guards are required by their wives to return home every afternoon to sign the bail book. They are very strict about this and who am I to get in the way of household law?” Mr Zammit said.
According to a recent study, the money we handle every day – notes and coins – are dirtier than the handrail on an escalator or a staircase, or a book you pick up at a library? So, if you do handle money at any time it is advisable to wash your hands afterwards.
In 2002, Southern Medical Journal published a study that found bacteria-laden paper money. Over 80% of cash tested carried germs harmful to people with lowered immunity. According to the study, 7% of bills showed traces of bacteria that cause serious illness, including Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumonia. Only 7% of the banknotes were germ-free.
According to SmartMoney.com, a study conducted in 2008 at Switzerland’s University Hospitals of Geneva found that some flu virus cells could last for up to 17 days on Swiss banknotes.
A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University concludes that paper money in Switzerland is among the dirtiest in Europe, second only to the money used in Sweden and Denmark. “Europeans’ perceptions of dirty cash are not without reason,” Ian Thompson, the professor from Oxford University who tested the cash, said in a news release. “The bank notes we tested harbored an average of 26,000 bacteria, which, for a number of pathogenic organisms, is enough for passing on infection.”
The study shows that Swiss banknotes – with denominations ranging from 10 to 1,000 francs – contain 32,400 bacteria. Even the newest, and therefore cleanest, notes tested contained 2,400 bacteria. The dirtiest currency was the Denmark krone with 40,226 bacteria followed by Swedish krona with 39,600.
According to the result of a survey released by MasterCard on March 25, 2013, almost 60% of the people in Europe believe banknotes and coins are the dirtiest items they can come into contact with daily: dirtier than escalator handrails, buttons on ATMs and payment terminals, and library books.
A credit card company like MasterCard may have its own economic interests in pushing people away from cash. “(The bacteria) comes from multiple hands,” MasterCard’s Hany Fam told CNN’s Richard Quest. “These notes have a long time in circulation, they’re handed, hand to hand, from different people, and it’s inevitable that germs accumulate on them… No, I’m not just advocating credit cards: I’m just saying that consumers are increasingly flocking to other forms of payment – not only for cleanliness, obviously, but for ease, for convenience, for lots of reasons.“
In Saudi Arabia, authorities beheaded a Yemeni man convicted of murdering a Pakistani national. The execution took place on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in the southern city of Jazan, the Arab News reported.
On Wednesday, the state news agency SPA carried a statement of the Saudi Interior Ministry that said: “The Yemeni citizen Mohammed Rashad Khairi Hussein killed a Pakistani, Pashteh Sayed Khan after he committed sodomy with him.”
The Yemeni was also charged and convicted of carrying out several robberies.
The execution took place in the southern city of Jizan followed by crucifixion of the dead body and the corpse put on public display for three days.
Under Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative Sunni Islam, murder, rape, apostasy, drug trafficking and armed robbery are all punishable by death. The grisly ritual of crucifixion is reserved for more serious crimes, including sexual offences.
Beheading with a sword remains the most common method of execution in Saudi Arabia. However, due to a growing shortage of swordsmen throughout the kingdom, the authorities were considering abandoning this traditional method of execution in favour of firing squads.
Sevag Kechichian at Amnesty International said:
“The execution is shocking, no matter how heinous his alleged crime. His beheading and posthumous ‘crucifixion’ were acts of sheer brutality. This comes at a time when the Saudi authorities are saying to the world that they are currently holding responsible discussions about capital punishment and the supposed mercifulness of various methods of execution.”
In India, oil firms use the newly given freedom to increase prices of fuel such as petrol, Diesel oil and cooking gas in small doses.
On February 15, 2013, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) hiked the price of petrol by ₹1.50 per litre and the price of diesel by 45 paise per litre. It was the second price adjustment in February. A statement issued by IOC said that a rise in international oil prices and depreciation in rupee have necessitated the increase in the price of petrol and diesel.
The increase announced excludes local sales tax or VAT and the real hike for consumers would be more after including the duty and other incidences. So, the price in Delhi will go up by almost ₹1.80 per litre after taking into account 19 per cent VAT. Diesel rates would go up by 51 paise.
Yet again, India woke up on March 1, 2013, to face another price hike of petrol. IOC as usual issued a statement that said a rise in international oil prices and depreciation in rupee have necessitated a ₹1.40 per litre increase in the price of petrol. Again, the hike does not include local sales tax or VAT and so the real increase in the rate for consumers will be higher than ₹1.40 per litre.
Following are the revised pricing of petrol at Indian Oil Corporation petrol pumps in four metros with effect from March 1, 2013. By the way, rates at the pumps of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) vary by a few paise.
Current Price ₹
Revised Price ₹
While bulk consumers like Railways have to pay almost a rupee more per litre for the Diesel due to the hike, the price of cooking gas (LPG) has come down by Rs 37.50 per gas cylinder that consumers buy beyond their quota.
I came across the following Counter Point cartoons by Subhani in Deccan Chronicle:
I visited Manoj Kureel’s Facebook page, and impressed by the creations of this young cartoonist I give below three examples of his work on the subject of fuel price hike:
‘Child abuse or maltreatment of a child constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in real or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’
Child abuse in the world today exists in a variety of forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect and child labour.
One of the earliest recorded instances of child abuse appears in the story of a poor boy named Sopāka in the Buddhist Jataka Tales.
In Sāvatthi, the capital of Kosala kingdom in India, a poor woman while in labour fell into a coma. Her kinsfolk carried her to the cemetery for cremation. A kind spirit loitering there created a windy storm and prevented the fire from burning the woman’s body.
After the people who brought the woman’s body for cremation ran away fearing the storm, the woman gave birth to a boy. The cemetery watchman took the mother and the child under his wings. They called the child Sopāka meaning the “waif” because he was born in the cemetery.
The watchman was very wicked and unkind. He considered the innocent little boy a burden and often beat and scolded him. When Sopāka was seven years old the watchman decided to get rid of the boy.
One evening Sopāka accompanied the watchman to the far end of the cemetery where there were many half-burned rotting corpses. The watchman tied Sopāka to one of the stinking cadavers and returned home leaving the crying boy to the mercy of the nocturnal preying animals.
When the watchman returned home Sopāka’s mother asked him: “Where is my son?”
“I don’t know,” the watchman replied. “He came home before me.”
The mother worrying about her son was awake whole night.
Around midnight the jackals came. Sopāka paralyzed with fear started wailing.
The Buddha, sensing Sopāka’s destiny for arahantship (“perfected one”), sent a ray of glory towards him that proclaimed: “Sopāka, don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
At that moment, the boy got unbound and found himself standing before the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. The Buddha bathed him, clothed him, gave him food, consoled and comforted him.
Early next day Sopāka’s mother went to the Buddha seeking help.
“Why are you crying, sister?” asked the Buddha.
“O Lord,” replied the mother, “I have only one son and since last night he is missing.”
“Don’t worry, sister. Your son is safe. Here he is,” the Buddha said and showed her Sopāka.
After listening to the Buddha’s teachings she and her son Sopāka became followers of the Buddha.
The Buddhist scriptures also tell the story of a boy named Mattakundali whose miserly father severely neglects him and deprives him of medical care. Although “Sopāka” and “Mattakundali” are based in ancient India, both stories still resonate today in our modern society irrespective of which country we live in..
On February 14, the Valentine’s Day lovers exchange sweets, candy, chocolates, flowers and other gifts all in the name of St. Valentine, a mysterious saint.
Most people in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and a few in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and many countries around the world celebrate the day. However, this centuries-old holiday remains a working day in most of the countries.
February, cherished for centuries as a month for romance contains vestiges of both Christian and pagan Roman traditions. Moreover, no one knows for sure who the real patron saint of the day is. Why? Because the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different martyred saints named Valentinus.
According to the most popular legend, Valentinus was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young soldiers as he reckoned that single men made better soldiers than those married and having wives and children.
Valentinus thought the decree was not just, and he decided to defy the Emperor. He performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Eventually, the Emperor became aware of the marriages performed by the priest, and his ministry among Christians and ordered that Valentinus be put to death.
The legends say that during his imprisonment Valentinus healed the daughter of his jailer named Asterius and converted 46 members of his family to Christianity. He then fell in love with the young girl who visited him during his confinement, and before his execution wrote her a farewell letter and signed it: “From your Valentine.”
Other stories state that Valentinus was condemned to death for attempting to help beaten and tortured Christians escape from Roman prisons.
These murky legends portray Valentinus as a sympathetic, heroic and a romantic person. In the Middle Ages, due to the reputation created as a legendary hero, Valentinus became one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Since 1997, we have seen in circulation hoax emails appealing with phrases such as: “Forward this message to others and help fund medical care for a sick or dying child“.
Invariably, these messages named a large charity as the benefactor that stood ready to direct monies towards the costs of medical care for a child fighting for life. That trend continued into 2010.
Here is a heart-wringing message I came across on Facebook.
Everyone with a sympathetic heart wants to help sick children to get better. The message about a little boy or a little girl suffering from some dreaded disease or infirmity certainly tugs the heartstrings of many. Even so, on the internet pranksters play upon the pathos of others for their personal odious amusement.
Search through the archives on the internet failed to turn up any news about the shooting of any young man by his stepfather and his struggle for life in any hospital.
Lamentably, this message is a hoax.
This message does not give the date and the place where this incident occurred nor does it mention the name of the hospital that takes care of the boy.
Similar appeals to save a young life began circulating first through e-mails and later as cell phone text messages and in social websites such as Facebook.
Here are three earlier versions of this hoax message cited by snopes.com:
[Collected via e-mail, February 2010]
Last friday 2-12-10 a 14 yr old boy was shot 6 times by his step dad. The boy was protecting his 2 yr old sister, in whom the step dad was atempting to rape. The young girl was not harmed, bc of that young mans courage & loyalty to his sister. The mom was at work during this time. The 14 yr old boy is now fighting for his life, and the doctors say he will not make it unless he has this life saving surgery in wich the boys mom cant afford. So At&t has agreed to donate $0.45 every time this msg is sent. So fwd & help save a life! (sic)
[Collected via e-mail, February 2010]
Last friday 2/12/10 a 14 y/o boy weas shot 6 times by his step dad. the boy was protecting his 2 y/o sistetr, whom the atep dad was attemping to rape. the young girl was not harmed because of that young mans courage and loyalty to his sister. The Mother was at work when this took place the 14 yr old boy “dominicjamesdaggner” is now fighting for his life, and the doctor says he will not make unless he has life saving surgery in which the mother cant not afford. So, Verizon and AT&T have agree to donate $12.00 everytime this text is sent. (sic)
[Collected via e-mail, May 2012]
14 YEAR OLD BOY WAS SHOT 6 TIMES BY HIS STEPFATHER, THIS BOY WAS PROTECTING HIS LITTLE 2 YEAR OLD SISTER WHO WAS ABOUT TO BE RAPED BY THIS POOR EXCUSE OF A MAN. THE LITTLE GIRL DID NOT GET HURT THANKS TO HER BRAVE OLDER BROTHER. THEIR MOM WAS AT WORK WHEN ALL THIS HAPPENED. NOW THIS BRAVE YOUNG MAN IS FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE, BUT DOCTRS SAY HE WILL NOT SURVIVE UNLESS HE GETS AN OPERATION WHICH IS VERY COSTFUL AND WHICH HIS MOM CANNOT PAY. ALL FACEBOOK COMPANIES HAVE AGREED TO DONATE 45 CENTS FOR EVERY TIME SOMEONE POSTS THIS TO THEIR WALL, SO PLEASE PASTE AND PASS THIS ON SO THAT TOGETHER WE CAN HELP SAVE THIS BOYS LIFE (sic)
The first two versions mention a date (2-12-10) when the shooting supposedly occurred while the third version does not mention a date . The second version even quotes a name for the victim as “dominicjamesdaggner.“
According to the current version of the message, an ante of 45 US cents would be paid by “Facebook Companies” for each forwarded message. In Version #1, cited above AT&T also offered the same amount per forwarded message. Version #2 of the message surpasses these two offers; it states that Verizon would pay a fantastic $12.00 as ante per forwarded message. And the third version says: “ALL FACEBOOK COMPANIES HAVE AGREED TO DONATE 45 CENTS FOR EVERY TIME SOMEONE POSTS THIS TO THEIR WALL…”
The message “shot 14-year-old boy”, circulated on the web similar to the hoaxes that used the name of the American Cancer Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or some other large social or business entity. The pranksters even roped in McDonald’s and Pizza Hut in the Justin Mallory hoax: “… epileptic in need of long-term care … ” and AOL and ZDNet in the Rachel Arlington hoax: “… brain cancer sufferer in need of an operation …“
Please, do not immediately believe that whatever appears on Facebook or any other site on the web as 100% true. First, verify the news. If it is true, and you want to help, then give your money or your time for the cause.
So, from now on, refrain from forwarding worthless messages to others. Well-intentioned forwarding of messages does nothing towards helping a sick child; however, it does make the day of the prankster who initiated the hoax.
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