Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Temptation of St. Thomas

Some of you older Bloggers may remember the fun I had a couple of years ago when I mercilessly took the piss out of Ansuman Biswas, the self-proclaimed 'Manchester Hermit' who had himself locked away in a tower of Manchester Museum with a live webcam trained on himself, 24 hours a day.

I was alerted to his antics by the brother of a director of the museum (who lives in Bath) and - I have to say - encouraged to pay Ansuman a couple of visits just to see how he was getting on. After one glimpse of him, sitting on the floor of the tower pretending to meditate whilst actually falling asleep, I was hooked. The bloke had set himself up as a sitting target, and - far from having a captive audience - had put himself in the situation whereby his audience had captured him, and could go and rattle the bars on his cage as often as they wished, at any time, for 40 days and 40 nights. That particular alloted period gives you a good indication of whose level he was placing himself on.

Sometimes I would come back from the pub somewhat worse for wear from the experience, and tune in to his laptop just to wind him up. Most of the time he bore the torment like the saint in the desert he pretended to be, but once or twice he lost his cool, which was most gratifying.

Most of his observers (and he had hundreds worldwide) were sycophantically polite to him, and a handful were humorlessly hostile, but - after assessing his true motives for the 'project' - I think I managed to find a few chinks in his armour.

Ansuman Biswas had - I soon found out - been responsible for all sorts of activities which were designed to foil any attempts to catagorise them as either 'artistic' or 'spiritual', though they fell somewhere between the two, which - to my mind - meant that his motives were twofold: gain as much attention as possible and get paid for it at the same time. I asked him directly how much money he was being paid to sit around doing bugger all other than threaten to destroy the public property of the citizens of Greater Manchester, but he flatly refused to tell me.

I think it was his obviously under-developed sense of humour which irritated me the most, and that - coupled with the self-righteous 'holier than thou' attitude which accompanies most of the meaningless activities of 'spiritual' people - made him fair game for sniping at will, as I understood the rules.

There are You Tube videos of him, sitting cross-legged in a Russian 'Vomit Comet' and trying to play an Indian flute as the plane descends into a nose-dive, turning everyone weightless as beefy Russian Airforce men spin them around the cabin with one finger. Everyone else is laughing helplessly, but poor old Ansuman - having given up trying to play the flute - just looks terribly ill.

All good things must come to an end, and Ansuman's self enforced exile came to one when his mother-in-law wrote him an email telling him to stop behaving like a silly boy and go back to his wife and children. He had put himself up for adoption at the end of his 40 days and nights but, strangely, nobody liked the idea of having him sit around their house doing nothing but banging a drum all night and eating rice and lentils during the day when not sleeping - not even his wife and children. It took his wife's mother to get him to see which side his bread was buttered, and he quietly left the public arena and went back to the obscurity of life in society. I don't know what has become of him since, but I will have to go on the net and look him up after I have posted this.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to tell you this: Last night I went for a pizza in a little place behind the Guildhall (council chambers) of Bath, and when I went out into the car park for a fag, I looked up to see this little tower in the photo which was looking down invitingly at me...

Oh dear. When I got home (after a nice bottle of Rose wine) I contacted a local Councilor friend of mine and suggested that he arrange for me to spend some time up there this Christmas with a webcam trained on me, so I could continue to take the piss out of Ansuman and make some money for charity at the same time.

Unfortunately, my mate immediately forwarded my suggestion on to the Mayor (who I also know), to get him to organise it, without making any allowances for a 'cooling off' period, having just consumed a bottle of wine himself.

I wonder if it is too late to back out?


  1. I always bring things down to basic level and think of the humiliation of toileting on view to the whole world when I hear about 24 hour webcams. Perhaps men don't bother about these things so much. I don't suppose that Christmas would be too bad if you were holed up with a few cases of something delectable and a specially designed modesty device. Like yesterday's stonework a lot by the way.

  2. Biswas (his name always makes me think of the old children's T.V. show starring Lenny Henry, called 'Tizwaz', which doesn't help) didn't eat, bath of use the toilet in view of the webcam, and neither would I.

    I certainly would insist on a few cases of something, and the right to hang out of the window to smoke as well, lovelygrey - maybe this is what will save me from having to do it at all!

  3. I've just looked up Ansuman on his website and sent him a link to this post for old time's sake - maybe we will hear from him directly?!

  4. I too just had a quick shufty at his site. The only thing he seems NOT to have done, is 'work' at McDonald's.

  5. Wasn't it Chris Tarrant in Tiswas?

  6. Oh dear Tom - some people never learn. If you find yourself there next Christmas I shall send you a card.

  7. now I would pay good money to take the piss out of you while you slept in a small museum