My secret fear is that one day I will find myself working in Starbucks; the cashier will call out orders - double latte frappuccino, no whip, extra hot, tall; iced caramel macchiato grande; pumpkin spice crème with soy... I will become confused and disoriented, was that extra whip or no whip? Tall or grande? Soy or no soy? What am I doing? People will shuffle their feet impatiently, check their watch and stare at me with disdain as I struggle to keep up. I will start to sweat - now people are frowning. Aaarrgghh - take me back to my quiet office.
I remember watching an amazing performance on Doordarshan in the ‘80s, when it was the sole channel available for love or money. It featured an Ashtavadani who could do 8 things at the same time. The audience would ask him questions in random sequence- like asking him to add up some numbers, to recite Kural no 785 of 1330, to remember a card taken from a deck, etc. He would commit 64 such questions to his memory. At the end of which, he would give out the answers, one at a time, all from memory. I am told that Ashtavadanis were patronised by Telugu kings and they could be seen performing even in the late twentieth century. I am not sure if this tradition exists any more. Does anyone know?
Did they have Yogic powers? Not quite. Actually, the quintessence of yoga or meditation was to rid the mind of multiple thoughts and get it to focus on just one object. Or to avoid multi-tasking as practised by the Ashtavadanis.