A Neuro-Psycho-Mystery: Freak Dream

ku-mediumEverything was normal and routine to start with. My family and friends were as I knew them to be. The neighbourhood I lived in was in order, and I could identify with it completely. I decided to visit my best friend’s home and left.

FLASH!

Something had changed, but I just didn’t know that something had changed. My best friend used to live on the 1st floor of an old building. However, I found myself at the enormous gates of a large, 10 storey building. Everything was grand. Surprisingly the lift lobby on the ground level was flooded and the water level was up to my ankle. Somehow I made it across lift lobby, took the stairs and headed for the 1st floor. As I emerged on the 1st floor, I entered a huge parking lot.

The distance between the floor and the ceiling on the level was equal to that of the vertical span of 2 storeys! As I proceeded exploring the parking lot, I spotted a girl playing with a ball that was hanging from the ceiling. She wore a t-shirt that was familiar to me. She identified herself as my best friend’s sister, but I just did not remember her! She took me to her house on the 10th floor but there was no one at home. She said that her sister did not live there anymore, and had gone to university. So, my best friend did not live where I thought she lived, anymore. I realized that something had changed big time. On the way down, the elevator moved lightning fast.

As it halted, I was surprised to notice that it had brought me to the 3rd floor. The elevator shaft terminated at the 3rd floor itself. Moreover, the floor’s horizontal was at an angle to the horizontal of the ground 3 floors below. This was knocking my senses out of balance. I was forced to walk down the remaining levels and left the area.

FLASH!

I returned back to where my building was located. I was surprised even more to see that an ultra-modern, 70-80 storey residential tower stood there instead of MY building. There were vast play fields around, with structures similar to soccer goal posts, and basketball hoops. Luckily I found my family’s name on the electronic name board at the ground floor. When I reached the floor tagged 75.5, I saw my house’s main door. I rung the bell and was let in by a lady who seemed very happy to see me. As I entered in, I came across more and more people who expressed happiness to see me and spoke to me energetically. But, I didn’t know any of them! I was blank, thinking to myself why these people were treating me like I had just returned from some exile. No prizes for guessing that my house did not look like I always thought it looked like. The floor map, the rooms, the wall paint as well as the bathrooms were all different.

I wildly hunted for my mother. As a saviour from my mental torture, I found her to be exactly the same as I always knew her. What a breather. But I should not have become complacent.

I asked for the phone and happily dialled my best friend’s mobile number: +91 9*6***13*1. I couldn’t get through. My mother asked what the problem was and offered to try once more for me. As soon as I told her the number: +91 9*… she stopped me abruptly. She asked me what our own phone number was. When I said +91 22 23**4**2, she was shocked. She pointed at the list of phone numbers on the wall and they were such as: +456 @#$ 98690 A 38654 %^&. I felt my heart pound against my chest. My world had been upended.

I started running and headed for the ground floor. I made my way to the basketball court where my father and a few others seemed to be playing. But as I neared the area, I seemed to lose motor control and felt dizzy. Something was going wrong with ME now. My dad offered to lift me up so that I could jump and reach out to the hoop. I could not believe that flying all the way to the hoop was even possible had I been normal. He insisted that that’s how the game was played and started running for a jump himself. To my astonishment, he was running super-fast. He leaped forward and flew toward the hoops just as Micheal Jordan did in Space Jam! I was definitely not well.

FLASH!

This is the most bizarre part of the experience. I was being operated on. I was going through live surgery, in full consciousness. All the more surprising was that I could feel no pain whatsoever! The surgeons told me that they were transplanting new organs inside me. I could see the surgeons processing my new organs in some sort of white flame!

I cannot recall any more of this freak show of an experience. And I am glad I cannot.

What do you do when there is a sudden and complete mismatch between your perception of your actual world and the impression of your actual world that you have always had in your mind? The one – one mapping between these two spaces seems to have endured a destructive linear transformation in space and time. Absolutely nothing makes sense. You feel like everything is a big united farce!

If and when you do recover just a little from this theatre of complexity, you will be fired up to find the inverse transformation to set things right. You will try to find reasons that will help you map points in the 2D transform space. Your frustration will lead you to want to join the dots and approximate the devil transformation!

I’m going at it all out now. Wish me luck!

Dhruv Chokshi
(I’m sure my name has not changed)

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“Utterly, Butterly, Delicious!”

This slogan has gone miles in reaching out to the psyches of numerous consumers across India, so much so that Amul Butter has made an everlasting brand for itself. Being just a daily bread spread, understandably not a fancy novelty product, it has yet proved itself as being quite the opposite across the mean market. One of the major drivers behind this psychological acquisition is the collective effectiveness of the banner ads campaign that has been deployed over a large portion of the country.

The idea of the flagship cartoon of a young girl (and her avatars), most of the times licking the fingers of one hand and offering you a slice of bread with golden butter generously spread on it, with the other hand has built a strong one – to – one correspondence with the name Amul Butter. It’s like she is beckoning you to “at least taste it”, while teasing you, claiming that it’s the most mouth-watering thing you’ve come across! The entire package that this technique turns out be, is so visually appealing that such an image will always make you think of Amul Butter and vice versa.

With a perfect balance of humourous tag lines and suitably direct references to famous ideas, each banner ad tells a unique story of its own. From spoofs on Hollywood and Bollywood, modified titbits on Indian politics, world affairs, scientific research, terrorism and sports, the Amul cartoon has left no field of general interest untouched. The biggest plus point of this approach is that it enables the campaign to reach out to almost everyone, through their own fields of interest. The ads are made so catchy that it is impossible to miss the joke. In addition they always highlight the butter aspect in the process. This way, an extremely large section of society is made aware of the fact that Amul Butter exists, and that they are waiting to buy it.

Hritik Roshan and Barbara Mori’s romance on screen was being pretty enthusiastically questioned and followed by the masses, anticipating off screen sparks as well, when Kites was released. The ad screaming “Bites”, followed by describing the product as something that your lips can’t resist, became even more effective when superposed on a scene of the cartoons romancing “Kites” style, especially because Barbara is feeding Hritik Amul butter in it! It is well known that former US president had shoes thrown on him while in the middle east some time back. The ad aptly uses the phrase “Attack it”, with reference to hungrily attacking the butter while attraccting attention to the mood of attacking the US President!

Featuring Faceb(h)ook and Twitter(ly) in the ad reaches out to a different ‘slice’ of minds, those to be ‘buttered’ through social media mentions. The next ad questions you if you’d like some Br(e)ad Butter, well if it’s a Joll(ie)y good snack I definitely would love some! How about the Lashkar – e – Tauba spreading butter and not hatred? Or if Jacky Chan chopped a stack of buttered bread (instead of bricks) and yelled out Amul (instead of the classic Karate chop cry – kiai!). I’m off laughing and will keep recollecting these lines for the rest of the day at least, can’t imagine about you.

The point is that these ads tap the interests of its target audience, by behavioural predictions based on pre-learned concepts and make the story of the banner ad come to life in your psyche. You percieve it so closely that to some extent it is like you can see yourself in the same situation as is being portrayed in the ad! Even a confirmed dyspeptic or a lactose intolerant will be well aware of the butter and its propositions, being unable to dodge the flashy sign boards and their stories. They actively (passively for you) engrave Amul Butter in your memory. No matter how much you try to forget it, you just can’t.

This has proved to be an extremely effective marketing technique with a huge hit area. You won’t be surprised if the roadside Sandwichwala offers you a choice between the basic ‘Sandwich’ and an upmarket ‘Amul Sandwich’, and that too for an incremental cost. This shows the extent of success and the strength of the message being passed through the campaign.

Amul Butter (being simply butter by Amul) has built a standing and brand value for itself in your daily market, placing it a notch higher than other bread spreads (even though they are also butter, by XYZ!), just by playing around with the way you think, percieve and remember events. And the best part is, you don’t even know. How cool is that?

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Feedback, across Reality and Randomness

This is about one of the wackiest dreams that I have had till date. I have always wondered what causes dreams and which aspects of our life and consciousness affect the contents of the resulting dreams. More often than not it happens that I remember my dreams, especially in terms of the visual details that form both the backdrop and foreground of the dreams. And even while I say this, I have no idea whatsoever what caused me to Dream thus, or caused this Dream to choose my semi-conscious state to wreak havoc with.

Jumping straight into it, as I did as soon as I fell asleep, the dream consisted of two subsequent nested dreams. I mean, considering the apparent reality we live in as Conscious Wakefulness and the Dream as the subsequent virtual reality, there also existed a further stage of virtual reality, the Devil Dream. I (my semi – consciousness) was dreaming (while it was asleep) in the Dream and I (my semi – consciousness) was indeed aware of it. I will build up the link of events and implications through happenings in the deeper stages of the dreaming process and their resulting consequences on the corresponding states of wakefulness.

The Devil Dream: I had mysteriously turned up at a vast and wild shooting range in the middle of almost nowhere. Tall and green grass populated the land, bound by a fence with barbed wire. Highly encouraging sunshine, an extremely ambient temperature and strong winds characterised the climate. I was equipped with a fancy sniper rifle which boasted of unmatched accuracy over greatly large distances (which was constantly urging me to push it past its limits).

Virtual time passed and there was no more game remaining. Simultaneously I spotted a random Guy in the distance who I did not recognize, most probably beyond the boundaries marked by the fence. He was wearing a hat. I was idle for too long. I thought to myself about challenging the abilities of my sniper rifle by targeting the Guy. His image slowly floated about in the vicinity of the crosshair. The sniper then took up an identity of its own and stung him to an instantaneous death. I had shot the Guy dead with my sniper rifle, in the Devil Dream.

Making a reference to what is mentioned above, I (my semi – consciousness) was aware of the fact that I was dreaming the Devil Dream. This meant that whatever happened in it would remain within the scope of the Devil Dream. Knowing this and the safety it implied, I had decided to pull the trigger. I unloaded myself and returned the sniper at the office building in the range and headed back home. Having enjoyed this dream I (my semi – consciousness) awoke the next morning. The Devil Dream ended.

The Dream: To my absolute surprise I awoke to an extremely absurd and thoroughly alarming piece of news. The Guy (who was wearing the hat) had been found dead outside a nearby farm. It was just another routine killing for the layman but it caused every hair on my body to stand straight up. I was completely terrified. In the days to come, the Police were on the lookout for suspects.

The next thing I found my dad and I walking down a large, glorified corridor, part of a club we were members at, only to be stopped by a group of Policemen who had been walking straight at us. They took me in on the grounds of having found my fingerprints on the walls of a wee building in the farm. Before I knew it, I had become a suspect in a murder case.

I was sure I had nothing to do with it, but recalling his images from my dream (the Devil Dream), I could not let out a natural and spontaneous rebellion in the moment. This helped the police in their task further. In the time to come I attempted the impossible task of trying to convince the Police, my friends, my family and even random people around with my recital of the devil of a dream (hence I called it the Devil Dream) that I had had. Absolutely as I expected, it was taken as bullshit and I, a madman of a murderer. There still was one torch to light the way forward in the form of the great understanding, belief and faith that my dad had in me. We tried, we tried and we tried some more to convince someone and anyone. But all was in vain. We spent the next large periods of time escaping the Police, hiding at the remotest of places, taking disguise in the smartest of ways, favouring those who favoured us and doing everything else one can possibly think of, in order to get away. I also thought of leaving the country for somewhere on the other side of the planet, but was stopped by the fact that the border agencies would have records and I would be easy prey for the officials there. Basically there was no way out. I was going to be punished in reality (the Dream) for something that I had done in my dream (the Devil Dream).

Was it just a freak of nature that the person I shot dead in my dream had actually died in reality, the same night? Or was I just unlucky that I had been framed by my own semi – consciousness? All in all, writing off all the other arguments and possibilities, I still wonder how my finger prints got there.

The Dream ended and I was back to Conscious Wakefulness. I was freed of one of my worst nightmares. I spoke out my mind to a close companion and ended up writing this later that night.

Dhruv Chokshi, June 30th 2011.

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