Kannan Somasundaram, DNAIndia.COM, Tuesday, June 06, 2006 01:01 IST
MUMBAI: It is a hex that has vexed rationalists across the world: the unquantifiable dread inspired by the number 666. For those who believe that evil expresses itself in an unambiguous gross value, June 6, 2006, will evoke the Biblical caveat about Satan.
The Book of Revelation (13:18) of the New Testament says: “If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.”
The sextuple Nelson, to which June 6 adds up this year, may have umpire David Shepherd merely hopping before deliveries. But some Mumbai mothers-to-be have put off deliveries to more propitious dates.
India is not as enthusiastic in endorsing the foul-figure theory as some Western societies. Mumbai gynaecologists say, however, that some patients do not want to take any chances with childbirth. “One of my patients cancelled her delivery because she didn’t want the baby to be born on this controversial date,” said Dr Nandita Palshikar of Lilavati Hospital. Dr Palshikar said the delivery could be postponed because it was a planned caesarean.
Anyone who has watched the 1976 cult movie The Omen will remember the significance of 666. The film recounts the story of a man who comes to realise that his adopted son is a reincarnation of Satan. In case the boy’s informal behaviour in mixed company is not enough to alert the father to the dark pedigree, the filmmakers add some subtle signs.
The most subtle being a 666-shaped birthmark on the boy’s skull.
Mumbai film distributors, like mums-to-be, don’t take any chances. That is why the latest edition of The Omen was screened at Fun Republic at 11:55pm on Monday. The release date was advanced from the usual Friday to allow devotees of horror to enjoy the juicy bits in the small hours of June 6. The time of the release – with each digit ‘1’ being complimented by a ‘5’ – summed up the rigour with which exhibitors planned to cash in on the Devil’s Number.
Superstition and pragmatism live happily in India. And local false beliefs cohabit happily with globalised irrationality. “Not a single person has discussed 666 with me,” said Dr Duru Shah, consultant gynaecologist with Jaslok Hospital. “We have more of a Hindu clientele, so they probably don’t know the myth,” she said.
Meanwhile, authorities on evil, such as actor Liev Schreiber, who plays Ambassador Robert Thorn in The Omen, have spoken in favour of the cautious school. “Induce labour or hold out; that’s what I would do. Who wants their kid to be born on 6-6-6? It’s special, but maybe a little too special,” said Schreiber.
Curiously, in the Dutch town of Arnhem, while parents-to-be are apprehensive about 666, couples have been queuing up to have it as their wedding day. Tuesdays are usually less busy for weddings than Saturdays and Sundays, but nine Arnhem couples signed up for 6/6/06, far more than on any other Tuesday. In another town Enschede, 17 couples have applied to marry on June 6. Many aficionados of superstition, however, are dismissive of the Dutch nonchalance. “Ask them to organise a football match on such a date and they will all want to call for a plebiscite to change the government,” said a Hindu priest who has lived in Amsterdam.
With Deepa Suryanarayan & Agencies.