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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

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