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Announcing my new line of business

Apr 17, 2011 Humour, Sunday Nation

I wish to announce that I am entering a new line of business.

From tomorrow, I will be opening a whole new kind of advisory service. I will be known as Dr Sunny Day, and will be addressing all the common problems of humanity: love affairs gone wrong; business failures; bedroom mishaps; uncertainty about the future; career setbacks.

My modus operandi will be simplicity itself. I will depend on my heightened understanding of human nature to solve everything. Consider a typical ‘patient’ who walks into my office. First, I will give this person a penetrating stare and look him over from top to toe. Second, I will make some cryptic squiggles on different coloured pieces of paper.

I will then look into my miserable customer’s eyes and say: “Your heart is troubled.” That patient will be thrown by this penetrating insight and will now offer various signals and clues on what is tormenting him. I will be listening acutely and nodding. Once I have understood the problem, I will offer a series of stunning comments. The patient will soon look on in awe as though I have seen into his soul.

Dotted around my office will be testimonials from clients whose lives have been miraculously transformed by my interventions. I will even have a DVD running showcasing some of my more remarkable successes. And I will hint at the voice of divinity that comes only to me in dreams.

We will then get to the heart of the matter: the patient must buy some solutions: a secret elixir made from the lower roots of a rare tree; an amulet that contains ancestral spirits; a group seance session that will purge toxic djinns. These will no doubt require a very serious investment. But when people are troubled, they are usually willing to cough up.

What do I call this business? Oh, the usual: mganga, witchdoctor, therapist, alternative practitioner, guru, elder, consultant, charlatan – whatever.

Now please relax, I am not really going to do this. My point is that many do it exactly this way, and make piles of money deluding all the sad suckers in our midst. Look around you: there are posters on every tree and lamppost extolling the powers of Dr-someone-or-other. This is a big business, and there is a steady supply of gullible customers.

We live in a society where senior politicians visit witchdoctors to get the potions that will help them win elections. Where top businessmen sit with astrologers to know when to make particular investments. Where common folk believe in talking snakes and goats with human faces. And where, in our neighbour to the south, a man sells a single, magical potion to cure AIDS, cancer and heart disease – and the queues are 12 km long.

Why are we so ready to believe this superstitious, supernatural, superficial garbage? First, because education has failed to discipline our minds and dispel belief in mysterious forces and cure-all solutions. Second, because life is full of setbacks, reversals and uncertainties, and we want quick, exogenous answers to these vexations. Third, because so-called scientific practitioners – doctors, psychotherapists, pharmacists – are also failing us daily. Their expensive mis-prescriptions and scattergun cures often fail and send people scurrying across the line of rationality.

I have no doubt that alternative approaches matter, and that there are huge medical discoveries yet to be made in nature. I also know that faith and hope alone can cure many physical ailments. But what is happening all around us is often pure chicanery and exploitation of human fear and uncertainty. We must all learn to look through the cloud of ignorance and seek wisdom. There are no easy answers or overnight solutions to anything in life, and most remedies can only come from within us.

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