Now ‘Wishing Machine’ takes up Sobhraj’s cause

November 23rd, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 23 (IANS) As his army of lawyers moves Nepal’s top court and global rights agencies for his release from a Kathmandu prison where he is serving a life term for murder, Charles Sobhraj has got an unexpected ally.It is a ‘Wishing Machine’ where people who have never even set their eyes on him are wishing for his freedom.

Like his high-profile life during his career in crime in the 1970s, Sobhraj continues to hit the headlines in Nepal and abroad.

After the furore over the news of his engagement to a Nepali woman 44 years his junior and their subsequent “marriage” inside the well-guarded prison, Sobhraj’s name has now surfaced in Germany during an art exhibition.

This month, the “Moments” exhibition at Berlin’s Mehringdamm 2 displayed the Wishing Machine, an improvisation by American composer David Woodard on the concept propounded by late American science fiction writer and ‘father of rocketry’ G. Harry Stine.

In his book “Beyond the Frontiers of Science”, Stine, who died in 1997, envisioned a magic machine that made wishes come true.

An inspired Woodard built his ‘Wishing Machine’, an audio amplifier with two parallel copper plates. The wisher puts his wish, in the form of text or image, between the plates and the machine is kept on till the wish comes true. Woodard says that usually happens within a week or two.

Most of Woodard’s Wishing Machine clients in the beginning were adolescent males with “some sort of horrendous afflictions”. However, at the Berlin exhibition, Woodard led the wishers.

Woodard, who was in Kathmandu recently and met Sobhraj with the wish of writing a new biography of the master criminal, says he went up to the machine and placed a handwritten entry.

“It is enjoyable that Charles Sobhraj is being safely sprung from Kathmandu central jail,” the wish said.

Woodard says that the wish has to be phrased with the utmost care as otherwise, the machine may take it literally, leading to disastrous consequences.

“If the wish were stated, ‘It is enjoyable that Charles Sobhraj is being released from jail,’ we might have a corpse on our hands,” he explained to IANS.

“Jail could be interpreted as a metaphor representing life, release then signifying the soul’s flight. Safely sprung seems a much safer bet.”

Soon after that, other wishes were also placed in the machine by others, also rooting for Sobhraj’s release from prison.

While Woodard says these include a wish by a PhD student, the owner of the gallery, Alexander Schroeder, however says that being the keeper of wishes is a “delicate matter”.

“It is important for me to point out, that I keep all these wishes very discreet,” Schroeder told IANS.

It remains to be seen how potent the Wishing Machine would be. Sobhraj, found guilty of the murder of an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975, is serving a 20-year sentence in Kathmandu’s Central Jail since 2004.

Though he says he is innocent and has challenged the verdict in Nepal’s Supreme Court, the trial has been long drawn with a series of postponements. Though the top court was to have delivered the final verdict last year, the two judges hearing the case, however, asked for another minor charge against him, that had been dismissed previously, to be reopened.

Despite Sobhraj’s formidable reputation, Woodard says he genuinely wants the “Serpent’s” release as soon as possible.

“Not because of any crime-related belief but because more than any living person he represents beating the system,” says Woodard, whose past feats include writing a requiem for Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.

“Sobhraj’s freedom, however gained, is a powerful symbol benefiting the soul of man.”

Sobhraj himself is not exactly jumping with joy to hear about Woodard and others’ helpful wishes on his behalf.

“It’s a wacky thing to do,” he told IANS disdainfully from prison on the rare day he was allowed to receive visitors. “I will be released because the prosecution has no evidence against me.”

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