On 31st of October the CFZ 2010 expedition leaves England. They will be exploring the Garo Hills in Northern India in search of the mande-burung or Indian yeti. The five-man team consists of team leader Adam Davies, Dr Chris Clark, Dave Archer, field naturalist Jonathan McGowan, and cryptozoologist Richard Freeman.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

OLL LEWIS: Living On Air

Not everything unusual that happens in India is cryptozoological in nature; there are a great many Fortean feats claimed by Indian people as well. One man reputed to be able to perform seemingly impossible tasks is Prahlad Jani, a man who claims to live on air alone.

Jani was born Chunriwala Mataji in the Indian state of Gujarat in 1929 and left home at the age of seven to live in the jungle. It was while he was in the jungle when he was eleven years old that he claims to have had a religious experience after which he became a devoted follower of the Hindu goddess Amba. Afterwards he dressed as a female with long hair to show his devotion for the goddess. Jani claims that the goddess blesses him with an elixir called amrit, which flows out of a hole in his pallet, and because of this divine elixir’s powers he does not need to consume food or water, and needs air alone to survive. He has been living as a hermit in a rainforest cave since the 1970s.

Recognising the potential advantages of being able to live without food or water for soldiers and astronauts if the claims were in any way true, Professor Sundhir Shah of the KM school of PG medicine and research, Sheth V. S. General Hospital, Ahmedabad, decided to study Prahlad Jani in both 2003 and 2010.

In the 2003 tests in Sterling Hospital, Ahmedabad, it was established that Jani was physically normal apart from a hole in his pallet (this being the hole through which he claim's the elixir flows), and he was kept under observation. Jani was not observed drinking and the only water he was given by the scientists was 100ml of water to use as a mouthwash each day. Scientists observed urine forming in his bladder but he was not observed passing urine or stool during the ten days he was kept under observation at the hospital.

Although Jani did not engage in strenuous exercise during the ten day trial he did loose weight, which cast doubt on his claims to be able to survive indefinitely on air alone. During the 2010 trial at the same hospital Jani was kept under observation by CCTV and given regular blood tests, again scientists observed fluctuating amounts of water in his bladder but did not see him pass water. Sanal Edamaruku; a sort of Indian version of Richard Dawkins but with a background in political study rather than science; described the experiment as a farce because it had been possible for Jani to move outside of the CCTV's field of view and because he, Edamaruku, had not been given permission to inspect the project during its operation. Quite why a man with no scientific training would expect given access to an expensive experiment when he clearly intended to rubbish it whether the project deserved being rubbished or not, I have no idea.

Jani may well be able to go without food or water for long periods of time as he claims or he may be pulling off a bit of David-Blaine-style trickery. Without further periods of testing it is hard to say for sure but if it is a genuine talent then all humans may be capable of similar feats with the right amount of training or practice. Personally, I am not particularly convinced that anyone could live without food and water indefinitely but you do hear some remarkable stories of survival where a person has performed similar feats, so a few days could be well within the realms of possibility.

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