Zen And The Temple Of Motorcyle Mania

An Indian shrine built in memory of a dead traveler and his motorbike has attracted prayerful followers who credit the unusual temple for all manner of good tidings.

The Royal Enfield of Om Banna
The Royal Enfield of Om Banna
Jasvinder Sehgal

JODHPUR — Kala Saini is singing a lullaby for her 8-month-old daughter, who was born after the couple had been married for eight years. Kala says the wish for a baby came true after praying at the Om Banna temple near Jodhpur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

But the temple isn’t that kind of temple. Built along a busy highway infamous for fatal accidents, it’s a shrine to a motorcycle and its dead owner, Om Banna. The shrine has the motorbike inside a glass box with a photo of the owner.

Pug Singh has been looking after the shrine for the last two decades. “In 1991, Om Banna was returning home on his motorcyle when he suddenly hit a tree,” Singh says. “He was killed on the spot. After his death, the motorbike was taken to a local police station. But the next day, it was found again back at the accident point.”

Singh explains that the police thought it as a prank, so they took the bike to the police station again. “But on the following day, the same thing happened,” he says. Apparently, Om Banna’s father had a dream in which his dead son asked him to build a temple for his motorcycle.

People who visit the shrine sing folk songs in the name of Om Banna and offer prayers to the bike. Legend has it that paying respects here at the temple will ensure safe travels, says visitor Kala Saini.

“If they don't honk the horn, they will definitely meet an accident and will never reach their destination,” she says of passersby.

Nirbhay Singh Rathod and his wife traveled over 100 miles to pray here. He wants their son to marry soon. “It all depends upon your faith and belief,” he says. “I believe in the Motorcycle god and the holy spirit. I come here to invite the holy spirit to my son’s marriage.”

Near the shrine, there’s a tree covered with some offerings such as coconuts, sweets and flowers. Many visitors tie strings around the tree and put their wishes there with the hope that their dreams will come true.

Rukmani Devi sells the strings to customers. “The motorcycle driver died after hitting this tree,” he says. “So when you tie a wish band on the same tree, your wishes will come true.”

Truck driver Rishpal Singh says he is now a regular visitor to the temple. “One of my friend's vehicles got punctured and his vehicle was jammed,” the truck driver says. “It must be because he didn’t pray here.”

Kala Saini says praying at the motorbike shrine has changed her family’s life. She now plans to bring her baby daughter to the temple someday.

“I will come here again, but this time with my full family. But the Motorcycle god should fulfill my wish. “

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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