Coincidence – Thoudok Mannaba


By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

I have recently received an Email from PARAS SHARMA from Guwahati. It reads: “Sir, with respect and lots of love … I am a regular reader of Sangai Express, and in this newspaper the best part I enjoy is reading your articles… I find them very knowledgeable and interesting. They are of great help for young generations like me to enhance our knowledge and I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart”.


Sir, today 17 Sept. 2011, I came across a word ‘MAYANG INDIAN’ and as I did not understand the word, I called my friends from Manipur. They said it is used in Manipur for people whose origins are not from Manipur. It’s a bit offensive like paki, chinki, dhoti etc If it is true then it may hurt the sentiments of Indians living in and out of Manipur whose origin is not from Manipur.


Therefore, I request to correct me if I understood the meaning in the wrong way and I shall be obliged for your correction. Lastly, I beg your pardon if I am wrong and please do forgive me thinking me as your son


I have discussed the meaning of the mayang word with Paras in that it is not derogatory. I use it in place of “mainstream” that classifies northeast Indians as “minor stream” Indians. But he still found it uncomfortable and suggested “mainland” Indians. This is inappropriate as northeast is not an island.


I have decided not to use the ‘mayang’ word again. I will use instead, “non-Mongoloid” Indians – NMI and “northeast” Indians – NEI.


The other day I was reading a review in The Sunday Telegraph about a television interview of Alec Guinness by Michael Parkinson. Guinness won the best actor award of his film, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).


Guinness met the late James Dean one evening outside a Hollywood restaurant. Before they entered, Dean showed his rare new Porsche 550 Spyder car (one of 90 such cars at that time). He asked what speed the car could do. Dean replied 150 miles an hour. Some strange thing came over Guinness.


In some almost different voice he said “Look. I must say something. Please do not get into the car because if you do, he looked at his watch, and said to Dean: it is Thursday, 10 o’clock at night. Next Thursday, you will be dead if you get into that car.”   And he was dead the following Thursday afternoon in that car. It was a bit spooky and that led me think about ‘coincidence’.


Just before his death in 1955, Dean appeared in a film, ‘Rebel without a cause’- a hugely popular film among teenagers. The film was a story of teenage angst. I was studying B Sc in Naini-Tal when I saw this film. James Dean starred with Natalie Wood, portraying delinquents in urban slum environments.


Dean died one month before the film was released. Natalie Wood attended his funeral. But by then, she did not have many years to live. She got drowned off a yacht and even now no body knows why and how. Dean made only three films, but his estate still earns $5,000,000 a year.


James Dean is a big legend in the West as a ‘Rebel without Cause’. His early death in a car crash has cemented his legendary status. Over the years, the film has achieved landmark status for showcasing cult figure, James Dean.


In 1999, the film, Rebel without a Cause was added to the preserved films of the United States Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or, aesthetically significant”. There is now a memorial stamp for him.


I have just been to Hollywood. At Sunset Boulevard, there is Roosevelt Hotel whose restaurants and bars were popular with Stars. James Dean was the only one who was allowed to eat at the bar. The stool he used to sit is still preserved.  Hollywood folklore has it that his ghost still haunts the place.


Since Dean’s death a ‘legend’ has arisen that his Porsche car was ‘cursed’ as it supposedly injured or killed several others in the year following his death. Rumours abounded about his car after the accident. The version of the tale goes as follows:


After the crash, when the wreck was towed to a garage, the engine slipped and fell onto a mechanic, breaking both legs. The engine was bought by a doctor, who put it in his racing car and was killed shortly afterwards. In the same race, another driver was killed in a car with the drive shaft from Dean’s car. Dean’s car was later repaired and fire broke out at the garage.


The car was displayed in Sacramento (capital of California), and fell off its mount, breaking a teenager’s hip. Then, in Oregon, the truck on which the car was mounted slipped and smashed into a shop front.


Finally, in 1959, it broke into 11 pieces while sitting on stationary steel supports. The shell of the car has never been recovered. George Barris, the guy who sold the car for parts, was

quoted as saying the last time he saw the shell was when he exhibited it in Florida in 1958.

The car was loaded on a truck afterwards, but eight days later when the truck arrived at its

destination, the shell was not there.


For thousands of years man has been fascinated with the paranormal, and has always sought explanations for the unexplainable. This study relates to “coincidence’, that many people regard as ‘paranormal phenomenon’. Paranormal experience lies outside the range of normal

experience or scientific explanation, such as ghosts, unidentified flying objects.


Coincidence is an occasion when two or more similar things happen at the same time, especially in a way that is unlikely and surprising such as a chance meeting of an old friend or, coincidences of personal habits. Coincidence is an intellectually grey area.


Some people believe that coincidences are simply a product of the laws of probability, but some amazing coincidences completely defy the odds. What makes the phenomenon of coincidences amazing is the mental association which creates the connection. Amazing coincidences have also been linked to synchronicity, an occurrence that means something special to a certain individual.


While writing this article I marvel at a remarkable coincidence of mine. There is a glamorous showbiz girl here, named Cheryl in the UK.. I quite like her and often talk about her to my wife. A few days ago, I found that my computer password in the Surgery was changed to Cheryl by the staffs that were not aware of my disposition.


I also recall an incident during my medical student days. I came home one year. One late morning I went driving in an open jeep down the road towards the Tulihal Airport. I met by chance, an old girl friend who was cycling in the opposite direction. We decided to have a

ride. So I placed her cycle across on the back of the jeep. Just before I left home I read in my

Star signs in the Prajatantra Daily that I was likely to be hit by a blunt instrument that day.

I thought nothing of it. But as I was overtaking a bus, the extended handle of the bicycle hit the side of the bus and rebounded on my chest very hard.


Mathematicians simply say that coincidences are merely random events and they go out to prove it. Randomness means ‘lack of pattern’. Mathematically, it follows that by the “laws of chance” coincidences will definitely occur sooner or later.


Mathematicians give credit to Andrei Kolmogorof for first publishing the “laws of axioms of probability theory” in 1937. Helped by his axioms the probability theory or laws of chance was transformed from a questionable activity of gamblers into a reputable topic of applied mathematics.


The “laws of probability” may be used to answer many questions. For example, how many people are required in order to have a better than evens chance that two or more of them have the same birthday?


Richard Dawkins, in his book, ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’ shows how to calculate the odds. He posits the experiment that you throw a dart at random on to a dark wall and shine a flashlight to see where it went. What is the probability of it hitting where it happened to hit?


In summary, coincidence is a phenomenon that could be proven mathematically and thus it is not a paranormal phenomenon.

On the other hand, eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung found the weapon to defend the paranormal entity of coincidence in the concept of ‘synchronicity’- meaning a prearranged destiny.


Jung pointed out that there are many people who have had some experience in their lives that they recognise as ‘meaningful coincidence’ and feel that there is more to them than mere chance. He explains that natural laws by which we live are based on the principle of causality.


But there are facts that the principle of causality can not explain. Causality is a genetic connection phenomena, the essence of which is the generation and determination of one phenomenon by another.


Jung points out that coincidence may be purely random events but, as soon as they seem to carry some symbolic meaning they cease to be random as far as the person involved is concerned. Therefore the psyche may somehow be operating on external reality to ‘cause’ coincidences.


Jung was aware that science is inclined to dismiss coincidence as superstition, mankind’s ancient and still thriving traditions of divination (existence of God), black magic and the paranormal.


Ruma Falk, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who has done a lot of research on coincidence, says: we forget all the time that nothing happens. Dreams are another example. We dream a lot every night and every morning, but it sometimes happens that the next day something reminds you of the dream. Then you think it was a premonition.


Most often, coincidence is like an archer shooting an arrow and then drawing a target around it. We give it a meaning, because it does mean something to us.

Is coincidence simple accident or paranormal? Well! Though I have had a recent coincidence, I will commit myself that there is no reason to believe anything than simple accident as it is scientifically provable. The number of people in the world is so large that someone is bound to be experiencing an impressive coincidence at any time. Haven’t you had one?


The writer is UK based



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