G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Even A Milder Syphilis उपदंश Played a Roll Shaping Indian history

Pam : Didn’t Ben Franklin have syphilis? (The Office - Season 3, Episode 14, 2 February 2007)

Walter Isaacson: No. Franklin had the gout and kidney stones, and he died at 84 of a ruptured lung artery, but he never had a venereal disease.

Pam’s question could be asked about a few historical personalities from the Indian subcontinent too.

NYT April 29, 2008 has an article on syphilis by MARLENE ZUK:

“…The new research suggested that syphilis originated as a skin ailment in South America, and then spread to Europe, where it became sexually transmitted and was later reintroduced to the New World.

The origin of syphilis has always held an implied accusation: if Europeans brought it to the New World, the disease is one more symbol of Western imperialism run amok, one more grudge to hold against colonialism…

… Detailed records of syphilis infection start appearing in Europe from 1495, and a fearsome disease it was. Smallpox was called smallpox to distinguish it from the great pox, syphilis, which evoked this description from Ulrich von Hutten in 1519:
“Boils that stood out like Acorns, from whence issued such filthy stinking Matter, that whosoever came within the Scent, believed himself infected. The Colour of these was of a dark Green and the very Aspect as shocking as the pain itself, which yet was as if the Sick had laid upon a fire.”…”

Jared Diamond: “…when syphilis was first definitely recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall off people’s faces, and led to death within a few months. By 1546, syphilis had evolved into the disease with the symptoms so well known to us today.” (Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997)

Michael Crichton: “…You can carry tuberculosis for many decades; you can carry syphilis for a lifetime. These last are not minor diseases, but they are much less severe than they once were, because both man and organism have adapted…” (The Andromeda Strain, 1969)

This adapted syphilis might have accosted a few prominent personalities of 18th century India.

T S Shejwalkar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर says in his classic Panipat 1761:

Ahmad Shah Abdali probably had a disease like syphilis and so too was the case of Najib khan”.

Shejwalkar also speculates that some Maratha chieftains (most names he quotes are Brahmins) too might have suffered from the disease. These bigwigs married multiple times and also kept mistresses. One reason, he argues, they married very young girls late in their life because it was believed an intercourse with such a girl would rid them of the disease. The other possible reason was hypothesized increase in virility that came after mating with such a girl.

It is worth noting that all these Maratha bridegrooms left behind very young widows.

Even today that belief exists in parts of India: “… having sex with a ''fresh'' girl can cure syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases, including the virus that causes AIDS.” (The New York Times May 11, 1998)

My caption for picture below would read: "Hey Syphilis, Congrats now you look leaner but stronger.


Artist: Dana Fradon The New Yorker 29 August 1959