The theory and philosophy of cancer 

The disease was first called cancer by Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC). He is considered the “Father of Medicine.” Hippocrates used the terms carcinos and carcinoma to describe tumours. In Greek this means a crab. The description was named after the crab because the pincer-like spreading projections from a cancer called to mind the shape of a crab.

A tumour is defined as an abnormal growth of cells serving no useful function. These tumours maybe benign or malignant.

Benign tumours do not display any invasion into the surrounding normal tissue nor demonstrate spread via blood or lymphatic. In contrast malignant tumours demonstrate an infiltration into the surrounding normal tissue and can spread to distant sites either via the blood or lymphatics or both.

In normal cells there is a limit to the number of times it can replicate itself. This is supposed to be controlled by a gene which prevents uncontrolled replication. In cancer a mutation occurs and this gene is turned off, resulting in uncontrolled replication. Mutations can occur due to exposure to radiations, carcinogenic  toxins or cancer causing compounds and chronic irritation of an area.

To give you some examples of cancer caused by irritation, in India we have the Kangri Cancer seen in Kashmir where they hang an earthen pot in a wicker basket containing  glowing coal embers around their neck and under a  Phiran, a poncho like coat the Kashmiris wear. The constant exposure to heat on the abdomen where the Kangri is in contact causes irritation and cancer on the abdominal wall. Then there is the Saree Cancer and Dhoti  Cancer also known as waistline cancer. This occurs around the waist where the saree or dhoti is tied exactly at the same spot. The constant irritation causes cancer.

There is the cancer seen on the palate of the mouth seen in ‘chutta smokers’. This practice is seen in coastal parts of Andhra Pradesh where the homemade bidi called a chutta is smoked with the lighted end in the mouth. The lighted end comes in contact with the palate and the heat causes irritation and cancerous changes.

And of course too much exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays could cause skin cancer.

Oral tobacco and slaked lime which is kept in the mouth for gradual continous absorption is another example of an irritant.

The constant irritation of the skin causes cell destruction and regeneration. During these cycles of destruction and regeneration a mutation in a single cell may occur causing unregulated growth. Incidence of cancer are higher in the parts of the body where there is  rapid turnover of cells because where there is a rapid turnover with replication there is a higher chance of mutation.

There is also a genetic basis for malignancy and the most famous being the BRCA 1 gene in breast cancer and RB1 gene implicated in Retinoblastoma. However possessing these genes don’t necessarily guarantee you will develop the malignancy, it just increases the probability. In order to act these genes need to get switched on and the mechanism on how they get switched on is poorly understood.

The cancer cells as mentioned before consist of rapidly replicating cells and originate from a parent cell which has undergone mutation. How closely they resemble the cells of the organ of origin is an indicator of how malignant or aggressive they will behave. This is called differentiation and the tumour could consist of well differentiated, moderately differentiated or poorly differentiated cells. A poorly differentiated malignancy will grow more rapidly because the cells have a very faint resemblance to their parents and are simple in structure and hence take a shorter time to replicate therefore grow rapidly. However a well differentiated malignancy would have a closer resemblance to it’s parent and would take a longer time to replicate.

The surgical principle behind cancer treatment depends on the degree of it’s spread or stage. If it’s localized to one area then removing the tumour along with a safe margin of surrounding tissue and if it spreads via lymphatics then removal of the lymphatics draining that area would offer a cure. The best example is in a cancer of the breast, removal of the entire breast and the draining lymph nodes of the axilla.

However if it has spread beyond it’s parent organ then it’s impossible to detect and remove all of the cancerous cells.

An anecdote to illustrate the point is that of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, rated the most valuable company in the USA. He had a form of pancreatic cancer,  a neuroendocrine tumour of the pancreas which are well differentiated and very amenable to treatment. As a matter of fact 30% of them are so well differentiated that they’re not strictly cancers.

All it required a removal of the tumour with a surrounding margin of the pancreas and it would have cured the disease. However Jobs was famous for his intractability, this was so often his greatest asset but may have been his undoing.

He eschewed any modern or practical treatment instead opted alternative therapies, specifically a Buddhist vegetarian approach and only when the water had risen above the nose did he seek the help of modern medicine. The pancreas was removed but then the tumour had spread to the liver. So he got a liver transplant managing to jump the que for a donor liver. This was classically the case of ‘too little too late’. He finally succumbed to his disease on the 5th of October 2011.

His famous commencement speech delivered in 2005 to the graduating batch of Stanford University, after having the second surgery.  He talked about death and guided the students by these words “Your time on this planet is limited, so stop wasting it living someone else’s life. Stop believing in other’s opinions because it destroys your mental confidence completely. The most important things in life are to follow your heart and intuition. Once you find it out, everything else in your life will become secondary.”

Angelina Jolie famously had a double mastectomy or removal of both breasts because a blood test revealed she had the BRCA 1 gene which gave her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. She had lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer so did not want to take a chance.

So how do you avoid getting cancer? Well the reason why cancer is featuring more commonly as a leading cause of death is because people are living longer. A longer life means a longer exposure to toxins, radiation and pollution, wittingly or unwittingly!

And regarding the treatment of cancer I firmly believe in the dictum, “Don’t add years to life but add life to years”. To illustrate this point I had a friend who was hale and hearty. During a routine health check up a tumour was detected in the adrenal gland and another suspicious lesion was detected in the liver which was thought to be metastases or spread from the main tumour. Since both lesions were deeply placed in the body and not amenable to biopsy, needle biopsies or introduction of a long needle into the tumour under guidance of CT scan or sonography and aspirating the lesion and examining the aspirate for presence of malignant cells. Despite repeated attempts nothing conclusive could be found. But there was a high degree of suspicion and his doctors advised that the test to be repeated.

My friend by then was tired of being treated like a pin cushion and deferred any further investigations.

He lived a normal life for three more years and then had the tests repeated, which showed the lesions had spread to the lungs. Now this was followed by a flurry consultations with various cancer specialists. A famous cancer specialist of Tata Cancer Hospital, Mumbai commented “You look very healthy for a person suffering from disseminated cancer”.

Now the tumour had already spread from the adrenal gland to the liver and the lungs. So if he had to be cured, the adrenal gland along with the liver and lungs would have to be removed and of course transplant a donor lungs and liver. Despite this you cannot guarantee that all the seedlings of the tumour have been removed.

As you can understand that would be a mammoth undertaking and would have stretched an ordinary man both financially and logistically. And I’m not sure whether such operations are  routinely done.

So he was left with the other option of chemotherapy or cancer medication.

One fact which few Oncologists explain about chemotherapy is that the drugs are extremely toxic. They are poisons delivered in controlled doses. They cause a lot of collateral damage along with the damage to the cancer cells. Just to give you an example, Mustard gas was used by the Nazis as a chemical weapon  in the second world war. It caused a lot of death and long term effects in their victims and the environment. Studies done on the victims showed that it had a destructive effect on the bone marrow. This lead to it’s use in Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or blood cancers which originate from the bone marrow.

Now if you are are giving chemotherapy to achieve a cure then the toxic side effects are worth the reward but if you are only giving it to prolong his life by maybe 6 months to a year then is it worth it? Those additional 6 months he will be sick, nauseous, emaciated and hairless. But alive!

You have succeeded in adding years to life but failed to add life to years.

This I explained to his wife but her contention was “if we don’t give him chemotherapy he will feel that all hope is lost and will get depressed but with chemotherapy he will feel there is some hope”.

How could I argue with logic like that!

So he received chemotherapy which made him sick, fluid accumulated in his lungs and abdomen which made it difficult for him to breathe.

Imagine a previously healthy individual who was eating, drinking and enjoying now being periodically confined to hospitals. I talked to him frankly and he himself stopped the chemotherapy. But it was too late, he spent his last days in and out of hospitals with a bloated abdomen and shortness of breath. When he could have lived at least a year normally doing the things he enjoyed.

I guess we all come stamped with an ‘expiry date’ by our Maker. However this stamp is not visible and thankfully so. Our lives would be converted from ‘living’ to ‘dying’ if we knew our date with fate was so many years from hence. We would stop planning for the future.

If you meet anyone with a terminal illness who knows their journey is ending soon. They will tell you that all they chased so far, name, fame and fortune doesn’t matter anymore.

Recently I attended the funeral of a known person in the cremation ground. Simultaneously a lot of cremations were taking place, side by side. Of millionaires and of paupers. One my friends commented, “Doesn’t matter if you are rich or a pauper, in the end you will end up here”!

There was a final year medical student when I was doing MS, who complained of a backache. She was investigated and the CT Scan showed cancerous deposits in the spine. She was subject to further investigations and on passing a scope via the mouth into the stomach revealed a malignant growth in the stomach. The diagnosis was clear, cancer of the stomach with spread to the spine and on it’s journey to the spine it would have traversed the liver and lungs and left seedlings there. Luckily they followed a more pragmatic approach and were not swayed by emotions. The backache would be relieved by radiations and the primary growth left alone. Her symptoms of backache were relieved and she was able to function normally and pain free.

Despite not knowing her I decided to visit her in her hospital room. Though I have handled many terminally ill patients professionally, I have never handled a terminally ill patient socially. So I didn’t know what to expect.

I tried to put myself in her position and imagine what my mood would be like.

I would be definitely depressed and not very social.

I was very surprised to find her very cheerful and we chatted for half an hour discussing everything except her illness.

She passed away a month later but definitely she had a peaceful end.

For the physicians I would quote the ‘Medical Litany’ of Sir Robert Hutchinson,

‘From the inability to leave well alone;

From too much zeal for what is new and contempt for what is old;

From putting knowledge before wisdom,

science  before art, cleverness before

common sense;

From treating patients as cases; and

From making the cure of a disease more

grievous than its endurance, 

Good Lord, deliver us.

Amen 🙏

The art of stabbing! Back stabbing excluded. 

In my 35 odd years of practice I have treated many cases of stabbing and they seem to follow a certain pattern. I categorize stabbing into two types. 

1. The stabber wishes to frighten the victim and not kill him. 

2.  The stabber has full intentions of finishing off his victim and makes sure he delivers a mortal blow. 

Way back in 1985 I was working in a Mission Hospital and a patient presented in the out patient department with a painful swelling in the right gluteal region. His story was that on Holi day (when most people are inebriated or stoned or both) he got into an altercation with a stranger. This progressed into a fisticuff, he was getting the better of the situation until the opponent pulled out an equalizer, a gupti. A gupti is a traditional Indian dagger, it has a  long and slender blade which tapers to a sharp point. It’s akin to the Italian stiletto and it is normally carried in a wooden sheath disguising it as a swagger stick or a walking stick.  Now the tables were turned and my patient decided to beat a hasty retreat, following the old adage, “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day!” His opponent was chasing him and managed to stick the gupti into his right buttock before giving up the chase. He had a small puncture wound on his buttock which was sutured by a neighborhood GP. The next day he had pain which radiating down on the back of the leg and also a swelling around the sutured area which was growing in size. When the pain became intolerable he decided to visit the Mission Hospital. Now at that time I was a mere MBBS with limited experience, I showed the case to the Surgeon. He noticed that the swelling was pulsating and on listening with his stethoscope over the swelling he could hear the sound of turbulent flow of blood which is called a bruit. The diagnosis was a Pseudo aneurysm as a result bleeding in the depth of the buttock from a punctured large blood vessel.

An aneurysm is an abnormal dilatation of a blood vessel, whereas a pseudo aneurysm mimics an aneurysm, but it’s as a result of injury to the wall of a vessel. Blood flows out into the surrounding tissue and creates a false dilation of the vessel.  In retrospect I have to doff my hat off for the surgeon for being observant and making an accurate diagnosis, in absence of any diagnostic tools. Those were the days when an x-ray was the only diagnostic tool. The case could have been misdiagnosed as an abcess as a result of infection of the puncture wound. In which case the treatment is an incision and drainage. Incising over the pseudo aneurysm would have resulted in a torrential haemorrhage and even death. The surgeon was freshly passed and enthusiastic. He planned exploring and staunching the bleed. We posted the case for surgery made an incision along the iliac crest and divided gluteal muscles. We then encountered whole lot of clots which when cleared we encountered torrential bleeding. The gupti had managed to pierce the three gluteal muscles in the inner and inferior quadrant and injured a vessel emerging from the sciatic notch. Try as we could but we were unable to catch the bleeder as it retracted behind the sciatic notch. Meanwhile the patient went into shock due to loss of blood. The assistance of a senior surgeon was sought, the senior decided to approach the bleed from the abdomen. So the gluteal region was packed and the patient repositioned and the lower abdomen opened.  There the bleeder was caught just near the sciatic nerve and tied, though it was far from an easy job. In the end the patient survived to tell and retell the tale with two surgical scars, one on his posterior and the other anterior. He also had a foot drop, or a weakness in the foot due to some fibres of the sciatic nerve getting caught in the ligature. A small price to pay.  Quoting Bailey and Love, “A living problem is better than a dead cert.” 

Looking back it doesn’t seem like the attacker intended to kill the victim, he chose a well padded area which in most circumstances would have required nothing more then stitches. However he struck just a little lower and that made the difference. 

Fast forward to 15th August 1990, when I was doing my MS in Ludhiana. We had just finished our ward rounds and were enjoying a post round chai and charcha in the tea shop on the campus. Then suddenly all the hell broke loose! All the surgical residents, super speciality residents and consultants were paged to the casualty. This is normally happens when a mass casualty comes then everyone is paged. When we reached the casualty we discovered it was a ‘Tale of two Technicians’. One technician was a microbiology technician and the other an ECG technician. The microbiology technician was going around with the ECG technician’s sister who coincidentally was a Sister. A nursing staff in the hospital. When it came to tying the knot, the microbiology technician backed out. The Sister attempted suicide unsuccessfully  by overdosing with Diazepam. The ECG technician swore vengeance and chose today as both were on call. He accosted the microbiology technician in the hospital corridor and some verbal altercation took place. Then he produced a knife and stabbed him only once but accurately just below the left nipple at the 4th inter costal space. Being an ECG technician he was aware that the apex of heart was at that point. More accurately the left ventricle of the heart which pumps the blood through the body. Luckily for the microbiology technician there where onlookers who immediately brought him to the casualty which just a stones throw away. Since it was morning most residents and consultants were available as they were conducting their morning rounds. The heart had got punctured the patient had bled profusely internally and was in shock. Providentially the Professor of Cardiothoracic surgery was there in the casualty. He immediately took a scalpel made an incision through the left 4th intercostal space, ask two of us to retract the ribs while he sucked out all the blood and clots. He identified the puncture in the ventricle and took a single stitch with catgut on the puncture. This stopped the bleeding and gave us all a breather.  The patient was then shifted to the operation theatre for definitive surgery. A week and 22 blood transfusions later the patient was back on his feet, being literally snatched from the jaws of death. The ECG technician was obviously absconding when the law finally caught up with him he was let out on bail as the case was of a grievous injury and not homicide. Last heard he was plying his trade as an ECG technician of course not assassin, in a corporate hospital in Delhi. 

This attacker had all the intentions of killing the victim with such a surgical stab.

Fast forward again to 2011, my mother established a residential charitable school for the rehabilitation of street children. There 

were two brothers studying there whose father was a professional burglar. The mother of the boys came to my mother seeking protection against domestic violence. My mother feeling sorry for her allowed her to stay in our house. Suddenly we noticed things beginning to dissappear from the house. The pump of the dessert cooler and other small things around the house. The husband would also intermittently appear at our gate and would meet his wife. She would refuse to return with him. 

We have an old chowkidar or watchman, he has been with us for many years and functions more as a scarecrow rather than a serious deterrent. But as a person he is a good so we forgive the times he comes drunk. Life is difficult for these people after all they hold two jobs one in the day time as a construction worker and night as a watchman. He is also very fond of animals so our Labrador was always at his side. He used to feed all the strays in the locality so they were hanging around the gate. There was a stray couple who he was very fond of and even named them Maruti and Madhuri. They were inseparable one brown and the other black. They could be seen constantly playing with each other. People say that watchmen feed the strays so that they bark and warn them about intrusions.

One July evening at around 9 pm I heard a ruckus at the gate and I stepped out into the verandah to investigate. I was horrified to see our chowkidar getting mercilessly stabbed by the lady’s husband. To escape from the assailant the chowkidar ran to the lawn in front of the the verandah. The assailant chased him. I could not remain a mute spectator and I did a very dangerous thing, I vaulted over the railing of the verandah and landed in between the two. He could have very easily stabbed me but he didn’t, he backed off. Trying to reason as to why I got spared, maybe because of my superior size or because of my superior placement in life. He presumed he could get away by stabbing a humble chowkidar but stabbing me may have had larger repercussions. So he ran to the back of the house and tried to escape by climbing the tree at the back. I followed him to the back and also tried to search for a suitable weapon, even a stick would do. I appreciate the chowkidar who also came behind me and backed me up despite being injured. The husband after climbing the tree discovered it’s a long jump over the wall and descended, he was hissing like an animal and had blood shot eyes. I wisely decided to give him space to run out from the gate rather than trying to tackle him. Now I could concentrate on the Chowkidar’s injuries, surprisingly they were only slashes around the neck which I sutured under local anaesthesia. We then went to the Police station and filed an FIR, the police caught the husband and incarcerated him for a day or two then let him go. The stabbing was intended to scare us which it definitely did. We decided it was wise to tell the lady to return to her village. Her sons finished school and the school helped the  younger boy get trained as an AC technician. He is employed and earning and his mother lives with him. Recently he had kidney stones and I arranged his surgery. As for the father they don’t where he is, he could be dead. The Chowkidar is still with us and immediately after this incident I could hear him scolding the dogs for not coming to his aid or barking and remaining mute spectators. 

Raula na pa! 

​’Raula na pa!’ 

This is a true story.  When I was doing my residency in Ludhiana, Punjab we used to get a lot of emergency in the Casualty. Invariably there would be a lot of confusion with the relatives of the patient all talking together or with each other.  The nursing staff or the attender would admonish them with with, “Raula na pa!”  Meaning don’t create noise or confusion.  
As surgical residents we were entrusted the duty of Casualty Medical Officer by rotation, and our basic job was to give first aid and decide which patient is to be referred to which speciality. 
One day a case of head injury was brought to the casualty accompanying him was a whole lot of noisy relatives. A Sardar was the self appointed spokesman of the group and approached my desk.  I asked him “Daaso!” (tell me!).  His reply was “Daktar Sahabb  assi Malerkotla toh leke aye si, Sar toh saat lagya si.” (We are bringing the patient from Malerkotla and he has had a head injury). 
Referring to Neurosurgery was a no brainer, so I immediately got the Neurosurgery unit paged. When the resident from Neurosurgery arrived he was immediately surrounded by over eager relatives wanting to show their concern. The Neurosurgery resident after examining the patient came to my desk to give some instructions.  The relatives along with the spokesman came behind him and began interjecting and preventing me understanding the resident’s instructions. Mildly annoyed I turned to the spokesman Sardarji and said “Sardarji!  Laura na pa!” (Sardarji don’t show your dick!).  It was a slip of the tongue with an interchanging of syllables. I realized my mistake immediately but words are like arrows from a bow, once shot cannot be retracted. The Neurosurgical resident could barely suppress his mirth and stated the obvious “Looks like a slip of the tongue!” The relatives were stunned speechless, and unwittingly my words had the desired effect. The self appointed spokesman stared at me quizzically and maybe realizing Punjabi is not my forte said “Haanji!”

Running to remain in the same place! 

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

The Red Queen to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass

Nothing remains still, everything is in constant motion. In physics a still object is referred to as having ‘zero relative motion’, this is in relation to the observer, but both the object and the observer are moving with the rotation of the earth which is in orbit around the sun which  is moving around the galactic core and the galaxy moving towards it’s inevitable collision with the Andromeda Galaxy. So to remain in exactly the same place in time space we would have to run against the rotation of the earth and the orbit around the sun, galactic core and movement of the galaxy.

We can never rest on our laurels and have to constantly work towards remaining in the same position or in other words maintaining status quo. 

 Sport’s person know that very well and have to constantly work to maintain there ranking or position in a team. A company like Apple constantly has to innovate and invent just to maintain its place as a market leader. Nokia which until few years ago was a market leader no longer exists. Research in motion ‘RIM’ the makers of Blackberry are facing a similar fate. Even Apple was in the doldrums in the 90s until Steve Jobs was reinstated and steered it back. In our own fields we are constantly working to remain relevant. As a Doctor I need to keep abreast with new developments or become the innovator of one . This holds true in all professions. We have to work to maintain our physical possession against the ravages of time. It can be our homes or cars or our own physical self which we subject to gruelling exercises and Plastic procedures in hopes that we may negate the effect of time. Juan Ponce de Leon a Spanish Conquistador was believed to be searching for the ‘fountain of youth’, the waters of which would negate all the effects of time. Needless to add, he never found one otherwise our lives would be so simple, just drink and bathe regularly in the waters of the fountain of youth and voila you will appear the same as you did as when you were in your twenties. The question which begs to be asked is, how do you ensure that you will be back to your twenties? It could theoretically make you a neonate or worse back to the fetal stage!

So we are constantly running just to maintain status quo, if we want to rise beyond status quo we need to run twice as fast! However there is the Law of Diminishing returns which “When one input in a production unit is increased while the others remains the same results in a decrease in the output. An example for this is on an assembly line if you increase the number of people without increasing the number of pieces to be assembled you get a decreased production as now these people will get in each others way while waiting for a piece to assemble. All those exercising in a gym regularly realise that soon they reach a plateau where the amount of exercise maintains there weight and fitness at the same level. In order for more gains it would not be a simple case of increased exercise but also diet and variations in the type of exercise.

Don’t we all dream of just vegetating and doing nothing! Alas that is impossible! We can never be still. 

The dog with a ‘gay tail’!

This dates back to the seventies some family friends of ours had adopted a puppy found on the streets. Despite being of questionable parentage the puppy displayed evidence of German Shepherd ancestry, with a black and golden coat. When I went to see the puppy I was puzzled because a weight had been tied to the middle of it’s tail forcing it to remain down. Out of curiosity I asked Aunty who was a dog lover what was the purpose of the weights? She replied “Beta he has a gay tail and weights are to correct that.” In those days the word ‘Gay’ was associated with gaiety, laughter and fun. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how the dog’s tail had anything to do with those qualities. After joining CMC and attending Bob Bullards Physiology lectures, he would sometimes draw a stick figure of a ‘happy dog’ with it’s tail in the air and then a sad dog whose tail pointed downwards. Maybe that was the gay tail indicating a happy and gay dog!

Then came the eighties with the advent of a mysterious disease affecting homosexual men, resulting in a suppression of the immune system was loosely described as Gay Related Immunodeficiency (GRID). The word ‘Gay’ took on a totally different connotation. Using the adjective ‘gay’ had a different meaning now. The Men’s Hostel inmates were given a questionnaire where one of the questions were “Do you enjoy yourself in gay parties?” This brought about a lot of tittering and clarifications were sought from the source of the questionnaire, K.S. Jacob who had just joined Psychiatry as a resident. He just smiled and left it unsaid, but we presumed it was gay as in gaiety.

The earlier slangs for homosexuals were faggot, homo, Queen, weird and the less known ‘grey cat’. The Men’s Hostel in their initiation programme used to refer to the freshers as fags which of course was an abbreviation of faggot. These obviously were derogatory words may not have been acceptable to the homosexual community. The word gay has it’s origin from old French ‘gai’, which meant joyful, mirth full,  carefree, colourful and showy.  In the 19th century it implied a prostitute in females or a man who had multiple sexual partners, though the original definition was still in vogue. Then in 1920 it implied a homosexual male,  by 1950 the gay community felt that homosexual was too clinical a term implying a disorder and actively pushed for being called gay.  

A lesser known fact that even the Indian Gay community not to be left behind gave themselves the name ‘Khush’ meaning happy, though it never caught on. 

Going back to the dog’s tail, he grew to be huge and his tail now came gracefully down with an upward curve at the tip. You could feel an angulation at segments of the vertebrae at the root where the weight forced it’s direction downwards. This was a Eureka moment for me. Was it called ‘gay tail’ because it pointed upwards exposing the anal orifice? 

However now I am much wiser and a Google search has revealed  that the word ‘gay tail’ used to describe an skyward pointing tail in a dog predates homosexual references. It is because of the resemblance of the tail to a flag being waved gaily and not an exposed anal orifice. 

We all live and learn. So like man’s  best friend I retreat with my tail placed firmly between my legs.

Glossary of Common Terms used in CMC circa 1978-1984

I thought you may find this interesting as it consists of a lot of

Tamil words, of a lot unparliamentary!

Glossary of Common Terms used in CMC circa 1978-1984

Before you read I have to give the customary statutory warning. Some
of you may find the contents offensive, in which case please do not read further. The Words are fairly earthy and not all of you would appreciate it. However to do justice to a glossary all words have to be included.

Dear Friends,
Another memory to be shared with you guys. Every great institution has its own campus language and so does CMC.
These days the superhit song is ‘Why this kolaveri di’ is on every channel and is supposed to be in Tamlish. A mixture of Tamil and English. This song whether good or bad is debatable but definitely unusual and the words gave me a feeling of Déjà vu. We also used a mixture of English mixed with some Tamil and occasionally other words which conveyed our meaning more effectively than any other language did. Some of these words are fairly earthy and readers discretion is advised. These word have a slum origin (Men’s Hostel slums) which may explain their earthiness. The list includes as many as I can remember however all are free to add to this glossary.

Maccha: A very commonly used word which in Tamil means brother-in-law. Similar to the Hindi Saala which means the same. However few realize in Hindi there could be a darker connotation on the lines of ‘I slept with your sister’. However Maccha was used widely it could be before a sentence, “Maccha! Did you hear the new?” or at the end of a sentence,  “Got Muddied! Macchaaa!” It was also sometimes used to describe a Tamil son of the soil. If you notice Alfie still refers to himself as Maccha!

Muddi:- This was used to when one got finished either in an exam or otherwise. I could be a ‘muddi’ scene as apposed to a ‘cool scene’.
Cool Scene:- This was used to indicate that the going was good. So a party could be a ‘cool scene’.

Ocee:- This was used to indicate something was free and without cost. This apparently had it’s origin from the colonial days. The East India Company had it’s mail stamped OCS on company service and were delivered free of cost.

Zap:- When asked a question in an exam which we had no idea of then we would say ‘I was zapped’. There is a lot of regional variations to the term zap, I remember a junior Alok Ranjan who had a thick Bihari accent on being asked how his physio pracs went he replied “Jhak Jhapped me.” For a moment we were uncertain (zapped) about what he meant however later it dawned on us he meant ‘Zak (P. Zachariah our physiology professor) Zapped me.” This word of course is an English word.

Lawda:- A corruption of the Hindi gaali ‘Lourra’ which refers to the phallus. However when used it was more often used to indicate ones dissent, like if someone was asked “lets go to Verghs canteen for coffee” the reply could be “Lawda!” I have a lot of studying to do.”
Once in a while during a Class Meeting or a General Body Meeting there would be a lot of cacophony going on regarding some contentious issue. Someone in the front benches was trying to make a point while the back bencher where shouting what everyone thought was “Louder! Louder!” But actually it was “Lawda! Lawda!” conveying their dissent.

Fart:- This was used to describe anybody stupid or who did not measure up to your personal standards of cool. So when asked “how is that fresher?” The answer could be very short and sweet, “he’s a fart!” or some people got the classification of ‘superfart’ if they were really obnoxious. The usage is far removed from the original English meaning of flatulence.

Kusoo:- I believe this is the Tamil word for flatulence and was used by some of us as an alternative for fart. However was not that popular as fart. In our first year we affectionately called Venky (B. Venkatesh aka Bala) as Mr. K.K.B.J.L. Gopalan, the long initials stood for ‘Kakoose Kusoo Blow Job Lawda Gopalan’ in other word Shitpot Fart Blow Job Dick Gopalan. But realize there was no malice and it was with great affection we used this sobriquet. When I met Venky during Agroos 50th birthday I asked him if he remembered his name and he did.

Poondax:- Where this term originated from I have no idea and leave it to the rest of you to enlighten me however it was used to indicate the gate crasher or the odd man out. So if a couple was going out for a romantic dinner someone would ‘poondax’ by inviting himself as the third person. It was what is known as in Hindi as ‘Kabab mein Haddi’.

Checks:- If you have been following my posts you will recollect the one how the word checks gets pronounced as sex by the native Tamil speaker. Well after that incident a lot of the girls began using the word ‘checks‘ for sexy. So if you asked how your shirt looked you could get a response like ‘checks’ and so on.

Sexy:- Those day every Malayalam film had an English translation of their titles like ‘Sexy Dreams’ or ‘Her Nights’ and screened in theatres with suggestive names like ‘Blue’, though our hard core
Malayalees would vehemently clarify that the title in the original Malayalam had no reference whatsoever to either the ‘sex in her dreams’ or the ‘nights in her days’. But in CMC the word sexy was used to describe anything good or attractive. A dinner could also be sexy as well as a podima (request reader to refer to earlier posts) and had no relation whatsoever to the act.

Galata:- This is a Tamil word which means festival, carnival or dhammal but we used it for a noisy gathering, “there was a galata in the slums and the buggers got ducked”.
Ducked:- This could mean throwing a bucket of water on the juniors when they are making to much of noise or even otherwise or throwing someone into the Mens Hostel pond to celebrate his birthday or any other day.

Gumbal:- Literally meaning “crowd” in Tamil, the term is variously used to signify any gathering of people such as a group, a gang or a class. However in CMC it meant a group song where all and sundry sang in sweet cacophony.

Kai thook:- Literal meaning in Tamil is to raise your hand but it was used by our class to indicate a bad joke. I remember around that time the ‘Kumbh Mela’ was going on in Allahabad and a variety of weird Sadhus were assembling over there and one in particular had kept his hand permanently raised for the past 11 years. On reading this in the paper one of the wags in our class remarked he must have really cracked one bad PJ. This term originated when Priyo Sada made a speech in which he told the crowd they will know when to laugh when he raises his hand.

Kai Pottach:- Another use for the ‘kai’ as paws to ‘cop a feel’ and the word was used precisely for that action.

Soot:- Referred to the posterior end or more precisely an arse. So if someone thought you were an arse he would call you a soot. This I also believe was of Tamil origin.

Kottais:- In Tamil I believe this means a seed but this was used along with an ‘s’ to indicate plural to say ‘balls’. It was also said along with a hand gesture, like a spinnner turning a ball in his hand to indicate torsion thereby causing injury on insult. It was also used as a negation, for example someone requests you to do something you simply say ‘kottai’ or don’t say anything at all just make the gesture.

Ingay okaar:- This was a unique way of giving someone the finger. You just raise your middle finger and say ‘Ingay Okaar’. I believe that means sit here in Tamil.

Chumma:- This was an all time favourite term used whenever you did not want to give an answer or elaborate.
Question: Why are you going to town? Answer: Chumma! There is also the
famous ‘kaithook’ joke popular then, Why did the Tamilian cross the road? Answer: Chumma! and why did the Malayalee cross the road?
Answer: Simbally!
This also reminded me that Sunil Agarwal was in Ludhiana for a stint and was taking clinics for the students. He forgot that he was in Punjab and used the word ‘Chumma’, which means ‘kiss’ in Hindi. I could see the students smiling though Sunil was oblivious.

Gundale gud guddu:- This is a Telgu colloquialism for palpitations but it became viral because the lets say the ‘alliteration’? So it was used to ride the
Goltis. I remember a lecturer in ophthalmology trying to communicate with a Telgu patient. The Telgu speaking patients were notoriously dumb (maybe because most of them were from the villages across the border). Finally this lecturer in frustration slams his torch down hard on the table brings his face inches away from the patient’s face and says loudly in frustration ‘Gundale gud guddu!’ The patient totally unperturbed says “Aim chepistanaru Doktor garu?”

Broads:- This referred to the residents of ‘other side of the road’. Possibly referring to the breadth of their behinds brought to notice by the waddle of their gaits.

Other side of the road:- This was the euphemism for the women’s hostel, commonly heard was, “He’s gone to the other side of the road to gonad with the broads”.

Gonad:- A medical term referring to the human reproductive system however used in CMC in the context of making out. Possibly the origin of this term in this context is as result of one of the traditional activities the freshers were subjected to, going to town and collecting ‘ads’ from the shopkeeper in town along with our immediate seniors. Not a very pleasant job as the shopkeeper were not willing to part with their money. But a good opportunity for the seniors to gonadotropin with the junior girls.

Da:- Was an affectionate way to refer to a friend or another resident of Men’s Hostel.

Dey:- Was sometimes used as a warning like in, “Dey, Dey”, but generally used to denote less affection.

Whoataa:- Eff you! I think it also means the same in Tamil.

Whoatistanaru:- Adding some Telgu spin to a Tamil word to make it more interesting.

Maadari:-This in Tamil means ‘like’ in a comparative sense so if you wanted to say someone looked like someone or did something like someone you said “He’s muscular Moji maadari.”

Steady:- We were first exposed to this term during our ragging. Sunil Agarwal was the Nazi field whore who carried a toy rifle and wore a tin helmet with a Swastika painted on it. Whenever any senior said “steady Agarwal” he was supposed to stand at attention raise his right hand in the Nazi salute and say “Bugger all! Bugger all!” Thats how
Agroo became Bugaroo. The word steady was ambiguous and could be used in most contexts.

Heavy:- Anything could be described as heavy. If you are going with a girl it could be heavy. If you are wearing good clothes it could also be heavy.

Kudi:- Another term of endearment used in the men’s hostel. Origin is Tamil and I believe it refers to the female reproductive system.

Grub:- Any kind of food was referred to as grub. Our class even had special prayer. After the Grace ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow…’ was sung then in chorus we used to say ‘Rubadubdubdub! Thanks for the Grub.’

Saapaad:- Another Tamil word which means food and used for the same. But it also referred to the procedures we were allowed to do as a reward for hard work during our internship.

Other side of the road:- This referred to the Women’s Hostel and their inmates. When the whereabouts of someone was enquired. The answer would be ‘ Oh! He’s on the other side of the road gonading with his broad’.

Architaan:- This again I believe is a Tamil word but used mainly to indicate a ‘Eureka’ moment.

Mansion of the Gods:- This is where the Gods resides and we all know who they are.

Gujaal:- This is again of Tamil origin and it was used to indicate confusion or trouble brewing.

Baaila:- If I am not mistaken this word originates from Sri Lanka and used by us for a group song.

Golti:- A Telgu was a Golti when reversed.

Oily:- Referred to the Malayalees because of the characteristic way
they pronounced the word Ooyeel (Oil).

Kundi:- We had so many word for the backside and this was one more. The word was of Tamil origin. Funnily the same word in Hindi means a door latch. So in North India if a South Indian was told ‘open the Kundi and come in’, he’d be zapped.

Gooseberry:- This again means the third person who makes company into a crowd.

So folks you are free to add to this Glossary. There maybe new terms

which are used in CMC so updating is necessary. But this is as much as I can remember. Three Cheers For the Silver and Blue !

Wilkinson’s Theory of Relativity of Time

Einstein propagated his theory of special relativity in 1905 and general relativity in 1916. These dealt with space  time. A moving clock ticks slower than a stationary clock. This was the concept of time dilatation. It is an interesting concept and I have also observed variables in the perception of time. This made me propagate my own theory of relativity of time. Mind you this theory is a theory of perception rather than an actual physical phenomenon. I took the liberty of calling of giving it the pompous title of ‘Wilkinson’s Theory of Relativity of Time’.

1.Work expands to fill the available time:- We all have heard about the saying “the maximum is achieved at the eleventh hour”. This is especially true for studies, if we have say x days for preparation for an exam, our preparation in earnest will only begin on x-(x-1) day or in simpler words a day before the exam. We always feel we have plenty of time on day x and even when we attempt studying on that day the adrenalin does not kick in sufficiently and even if we stare at the books are mind maybe miles away. This holds true in almost every task where we have a number of days to complete, invariably the eleventh hour is when the maximum is achieved.

2.Perception of the length of time is inversely proportional to your age:- This is a practical concept which everyone would have experienced.  When you were studying in first standard a year seemed so long. Then as you progressed a year began to shrink. As you age a year doesn’t seem so long. This can be explained by the fact that when you in first standard a year, you would be around 5 years old and a year represents 1/5th of your entire life. As you age this fraction decreases so for me it is now 1/53rd of my life. Therefore my perception of a year has shrunk inversely to my age. If I ever reach the century mark the fraction would have shrunk further.

3.Perception of time either shrinks or dilates related to the task at hand:- Have you ever run on a treadmill and realised how long a second can be? Or waited at a traffic signal for what seemed an interminable long wait but was actually only a minute. In contrast when we are commuting to our work place and are late, how fast the needles of the clock seem to move. Going on your first date is an example of both, time creeps to  the appointed time of meeting and the date finishes off in an instance. Time crawls when you have a distasteful task at hand and flies when you are enjoying yourself. The irony!