‘People who talk to themselves aloud are brainy people’

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
I didn’t realise I am definitely intelligent, though I thought I was, until today, when I read an article in The daily Telegraph, titled ‘It may sound silly, but talking to yourself is a sign of high intelligence,’ quoting a study by psychologists led by Dr Paloma Mari-Beffa, senior lecturer in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology at Bangor University, Wales, UK.
Not a single day passes without encountering in the daily news, one or more research discoveries of the brain or the mind that make headlines. I often wonder how our brain weighing 1.4 kg, can do such complicated processes and how does it know what it’s doing!
Mari-Beffa (Mari for Mary) is a Welsh surname. Welsh surnames are English first names eg Thomas, Williams, Davies, Evans, Roberts, Lewis, Hughes. I found many Keralite Christians in India have similar surnames, such as Father Williams. The Welsh adopted the English forenames as surnames in the 15th century. They speak Celtic language, and English with an accent. Originally, Welsh speakers occupied most of Britain until they had been pushed into what is now Wales by the Anglo-Saxons.
Bangor University has the most beautiful setting in the whole of the UK. It’s located in North Wales between the snow-capped Snowdon Mountains and shallow Menai Strait (Welsh: Afon Menai) that separates the Anglesey Island.
Dr Mari-Beffa said: “Those who speak to themselves out loud while focussing on a task do better than those who stay quiet. Our ability to generate explicit self-instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it works simply better when said loud.” She continued, “And when people read instructions out loud, their brains absorb more information than if they only use their inner dialogue. It may explain why tennis stars including Maria Sharapova (30), and Serena Williams (35) talk to themselves during high stress matches.
Tthe stereotype of the mad scientist talking to themselves, lost in their own, might reflect the reality of a genius who uses all the means at their disposal to increase their brain power.” She and her colleagues gave 28 people a set of written instructions, and asked them to read them either silently or out loud before measuring their concentration and performance. Both improved when the instructions had been read out.”
She concluded: “Our ability to generate explicit self instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it simply works better when said aloud. The inner dialogue we keep with ourselves has long been known to be healthy, keeping our minds fit. It helps us organise our thoughts, plan actions, consolidate memory and modulate emotions.”
In another study, psychologist-researchers Gary Lupyan (University of Wisconsin- Madison) and Daniel Swigley (University of Pennsylvania) conducted series of experiments to discover whether talking to oneself can help when searching for particular objects. 20 volunteers were shown objects, in a supermarket, and were asked to remember them. Half of them were told to repeat the objects eg banana, and the other half remained silent. The end result was that self-directed speech-aided people can find the objects faster, by 50 to 1000 milliseconds, compared to the silent ones.
They have given the reasons: (1) when you are talking to yourselves, your sensory mechanism get activated. It stimulates your memory since you can visualise the word, and you can act accordingly; (2) when you are saying it loud, you stay focused on your task, and it helps you to recognise the stuff immediately, provided you know what the object you are searching for looks like, eg you know a banana is yellow in colour and its shape. So when you are saying it loud, your brain immediately pictures the image on your mind. But if you don’t know how a banana looks like there is no effect of saying it loud; and (3) it helps you clarify your thoughts and firm up any decisions you are contemplating.
Most of us talk silently. This has been a human mind activity noticed since the dawn of psychology as a scientific discipline. Languages are the hallmark of modern humans. How much of the mind we can actually speak out relates to the mind of the individual itself.
I’ve been in the habit of reading books aloud all my life, and speaking to myself just audibly, later in my life. My wife thought I am odd, a polished word for being crazy, which I countered saying “sometimes I want to talk to someone who is as intelligent as me”. Now, scientists say, “Don’t get embarrassed admitting it because those who talk to themselves are actually geniuses.”
Talking out loud, is more common than you and I care to admit. There is no shame to it. Psychologists call it “self talk”. It’s quite beneficial to the talker as you will see later. Talking to yourself for moments is opening up the whole of your mind communicating your experience inside with outside. You know what you are thinking and so you know what you are. “I think, therefore I am” (cognito ergo sum) – Rene Descartes. While talking to myself I can hear my thoughts loud and clear. I know exactly what I am doing.
I talk to myself a lot at home since I started writing columns for The Sangai Express. Sometimes, at supermarkets, I often find I am talking to myself. Then I look around to see if anybody is in hearing distance. Rarely none. Good relief. My wife knows I’m not loopy but others don’t. While my wife is searching for items she wants to buy from the shelves I think out loud about my article back home on the computer.
When I type on my computer I mutter to myself. This keeps my mind focussed on the job I am doing, filtering stray thoughts like, when was the last time I was Timbuktu. The result inevitably, is a better finish. Please don’t take my word for it. I’m going to cite specialists for whatever they are worth.
I used to read in my boyhood days about the difference between a mad man and a genius, which is a hairbreadth. Now, scientists in Hungary, have found out a gene called neuregulin 1 that plays a role in developing a bright brain, while its variant is associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As a doctor I know schizophrenics (mad men) talk aloud, answering to their inner voices.
On the need for more refined approach to its argument-adjunct distinction, I believe poetry is an open expression of the thoughts and emotions of poets – a literary expression of the human mind.
Rabindranath Tagore (1961-1941), a Pirali Bengali Brahmin, one of the greatest Indians, burst his mind aloud in Gitanjali (song of offerings), for which he was awarded Nobel Prize in literature in 1913.
His citation reads: “The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.” Tagore wrote the poem originally as “Pratharna” (prayer) to free his country from British rule.
Like Tagore, Virginal Woolf (1882-1941), the greatest English feminist and an avant-garde intellectual, spoke her “feminine mind” out loud at lectures she gave to undergraduate female students in English literature, at two women’s colleges at Cambridge in 1928. In her ‘A Room of One’s Own’ about ‘Women and Fiction’, she let the world know what she really felt about the fiction men write about women.
In my experience, male and female minds don’t function equally. It was true at the time when Woolf wrote her novels. It’s still true. Many women, some of them more intelligent than me, often have difficulty in sorting out logical problems in an argument. I now know why. Though a new study finds that human brains do not fit neatly into male and female categories, there are a number of structural differences between them. To begin with, men have slightly bigger brains (8%) than women.
A recent study, completed in December 2013 on nearly 1,000 brain scans, has confirmed that male and female brains differ in structure. Male brains are connected more within the hemisphere, while female brains are more connected across the left and the right hemispheres. The Corpus callosum that connect the two hemispheres is larger in women, and they are thus, easily able to transfer data from right to left. Females have larger and deeper limbic system than males, and so they are more in touch with their feelings, and can express them better.
Men’s brains perform tasks predominantly on the left hemisphere that is the seat of logical thinking. Men thus, do better on more specific spatial thinking ie problem solving, and pattern processing. By the latter, I mean men have more advantage with “conceptual thinking”, which is an act of reasoning in decision-making, while women perform better at situational thinking ie arriving at judgments that deal with situations.
I wondered if Einstein talked out loud! Yes he did, though famously, he didn’t talk until about four years of age. Once he started talking, he often muttered sentences to himself.
(The writer is based in the UK. Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com. Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Bringing woolly mammoth back to life in 2 yrs: Human age-reversal within 10 yrs

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh  
The Child is Father of the Man (Wordsworth, My heart Leaps Up). Whatever Wordsworth meant, I take it to mean that the true nature of a person does not change with time. True, but the clever child will grow smarter. Modern children are definitely smarter than their parents. I don’t mean more genetically intelligent, but having better ability to do creative work, to make and invent things. They can adapt to a far more complicated world.
I may be smarter than my father. I can work on computer. But, I may not be more intelligent than my father. My father could cope with the world as it existed then. The ever-increasing scientific spectacle with visual imagery all around us has made children smarter than when I was at their age.
It’s also because of better nutrition in their formative years while the brain is growing and better nurturing of children by their parents. Intelligence differences between generations are largely gaps in different abilities.
According to IQ researcher and political scientist James Flynn (New Zealand), children’s IQ scores throughout the developed world have been creeping up for the past 70 years at about 3 IQ points every decade, known as “Flynn effect”(1994) after him.  And that, American’s mean IQ score that was slowly rising over the past 100 years might well have stopped now. For the developing world, he says:  “It’s a different kettle of fish. They are taking off in the way Europeans did 100 years ago when Americans and Britons had a mean IQ of 70 in 1900.”
‘Flynn effect’ is substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid [ability to solve new problems] and crystallised [ability to use learned knowledge and experience] intelligence test scores. This is a hot topic. He might be right though controversial. His study of African IQ levels is “deeply flawed” (University van Amsterdam, 2010).
Preschool children in private nurseries in Imphal, must now be as familiar with dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, as my 4-year old granddaughter, who goes to a day private nursery in London since the age of one and knows about them. Not only does she know the English alphabet, but can write phonetic words. She won’t have done in a state nursery with the same IQ. I began to struggle with my vernacular alphabet when I was 5, “encouraged” with my father’s sporadic clouts, for being gormless.
I knew about dinosaurs when I was 30, after I saw a huge skeleton, 26m long, of a dinosaur diplodocus , unearthed in the US in 1898, in the entrance hall of Natural History Museum in    London. It has now been replaced in 2015 by the skeleton of a blue whale, found dead in 1891 on an Irish beach.
Scientists are now trying to bring an extinct mammoth that lived alongside dinosaurs, alive and kicking, after the discovery of a well preserved adult female mammoth, code-named “BUTTERCUP” in May 2013, in the Arctic permafrost (frozen earth under the snow) of Siberia. It was 2.4 m tall, about the same size as a modern elephant, and died at the age of 50 (normal life span of 80-90 years like an elephant). Palaeontologists think this female creature died around 40,000 years ago. As it is in such a good condition they believe they may be able to clone the creature.
Scientists believe “de-extinction”(bringing extinct creatures to life) has become a realistic prospect as they have the technique to ‘edit’ genes that allows precise selection and insertion of DNA taken from extinct specimens. Prof George Church, a world-renowned geneticist, who helped develop the most widely known technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, that has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012, has made the project possible. The technique derives from a defence system bacteria, used to fend off viruses and allow precise “cut and paste” manipulation of strands of DNA.
Scientists at Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival Team, led by Prof Church, have been working to create a DNA blueprint of the mammoth for the past two years, using materials from carcases preserved in the Arctic permafrost. They hope they will eventually be able to reintroduce the huge creatures back in the wild, tens of thousands of years after they became extinct, by cloning them with an Asian elephant surrogate mum at some point.
The woolly mammoth is closely related to Manipuri elephants like those at Kaziranga National Park, Assam (Asian). I used to see them in my childhood, often taking brides to their grooms’ houses. They have smaller ears shaped like India and thus different from African elephants. They roamed Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the Last Ice Age. They vanished about 10,000 years ago, presumably due to climate change and being hunted for food by our human ancestors.
The autopsy (November 23 2016) of most of Buttercup’s body with her three legs, head and trunk, still intact (the rest was probably eaten by predators after becoming stuck in a bog), has given scientists serious ideas about bringing them back to life. Church and his team that started the project in 2015, hope to isolate the genes that differentiate mammoths from modern elephants, such as those responsible for its woolly coat, and then slice mammoth genes with the genomes of the elephant embryo to create a hybrid with recognisable features of a mammoth like its woolliness. They are now trying to grow a mammoth embryo in artificial womb, rather than use a female elephant as a surrogate mother.
Prof Church, speaking at the meeting of the Annual American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Massachusetts in February 2016, said: “We are working on ways to evaluate the impact of gene editing and trying to establish embryogenesis [to develop into an embryo].” He said: “The list of edits affects things that contribute to the success of elephants in cold environments, and we already know about those to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and cold-adapted blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected. These modifications could help preserve the Asian elephant, which is endangered, in an altered form.”
“Further, our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo that will be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits [elephant at heart, mammoth in body]. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years. The mammoth project has two goals: to secure an alternative future for the Asian elephant and to combat global warming. They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in. In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”
The Harvard team intends to engineer elephant skin cells to produce the embryo, or multiple embryos, using cloning techniques. Nuclei from the reprogrammed cells would be placed into elephant egg cells whose own genetic materials have been removed. The eggs would then be artificially stimulated to develop into embryos. Prof Church said: “We hope to do the entire procedure ex-vivo (outside a living body). It would be unreasonable to put female reproduction at risk in an endangered species. We are testing the growth of mice ex-vivo with a new set of technology and we’re taking a fresh look at it.”
More invigoratingly, Prof Church also said, “Age-reversal [altering old to new cells] will become a reality within 10 years as a result of developments in genetic engineering.” He didn’t elaborate on it. But we know in July 2016, he and others of the Life Extension Foundation at Harvard School of
Medicine, have envisioned a time when human longevity would not be constrained to a finite  number of years. He has already been able to ‘reverse ageing’ in human cells by using the emergent technique of ‘gene editing’.
He expects the clinical trials of this technology to rejuvenate old folks to lively youthfulness, to begin within as little as one year. Whilst, Japanese scientists, the only nation with superb IQ in Asia, led by Jun-Ichi Hayashi at the University of Tsukuba, independently, reversed ageing in human “Cell Lines” in May 2015. They made a 97-year old cell line behave as good as new.
Mammoths were thought to be legendary creatures like Himalayan snowman, often found in prehistoric cave paintings, until many of them were found frozen as carcasses, skeletons, stomach content and dung in Siberia and Alaska. The woolly mammoth lived during the Pleistocene epoch or the Last Ice Age. They diverged from ‘steppe mammoth’ about 400,000 years ago. Its present relative is the Asian elephant.
Mammoths were vegetarians. Early humans used to build houses of mammoth bones and used their bones and tusks for making tools and dwellings. They also ate mammoth flesh. There are mountain caves used by mammoths such as, Mammoth Cave Natural Park in Kentucky and one particular cave in Utah, US, had mammoth dung of 45cm thick, with a total volume of 226 cubic metre.
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), French founder of vertebrate palaeontology, astonished the world by saying that some species of animals had actually vanished from the face of the Earth, which we now believe without a thought. He was able to identify mammoth as an extinct species of elephant in 1796.
(The writer is based in the UK. Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com; Website:www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Professional footballers risk dementia & early death

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
The origin of the game of football was shrouded in mystery, as was of Polo. It’s now agreed it began in England in 1581, codified in 1863. It was introduced to Manipur by James Johnstone in his Johnstone  School. Before WWII my eldest brother Gokulchandra (ex-Johnstonian) played football barefooted, for Ashutosh Engineering College in Dhaka, now in Bangladesh, against a visiting English team.
Football was popular in Imphal in the post-war period, played at Mapal Kangjeibung. A Tangkhul vs Kuki match was always exciting. Among  Tangkhuls, ex-chief minister Yangmasho and his younger brother Lungshim, Bowaray and Ramyo were very good players. Shongkhaou Kipgen was a distinguished player among Kukis. A Kabui boy (my contemporary) called Aboy from Shahebmanai, was so promising that the visiting Mohan Bagan team from Calcutta took him to Calcutta for apprenticeship. There were only three famous Meitei goalkeepers: Sougaijam Dhiren (before my time); my friends:  Sougaijam Lalit and Ngairangbam Jogindro.
Football is a massive industry in the UK, worth 20 billion pounds. It has a global commerce with gambling and trading amounting to £500 billion a year. An average professional premier league football player’s weekly salary in Britain is £65,000 (over 5 lakh rupees) and of top players like Wayne Rooney, £260,000 (over 2 crores of rupees). On top, Rooney earns multi-million pounds from promoting sports products for Nike and Adidas. But, all that glitters is not gold. Doctors are now warning them that they have a grim future lurking in their sport.
Researchers at UCL (University College London), Queen Square Brain Bank, have for the first time (2017), confirmed the occurrence of progressive degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among professional footballers. It’s similar to that some professional boxers suffer, known in medicine as Punch Drunk Syndrome or Dementia pugilistica (DP).
The research was led by Dr Helen Ling from Queens Square, an international leader in neuroscience. She said they have found evidence that years of heading of the ball can cause brain damage that can lead to dementia and Parkinsonism, which may lead to early death. They have discovered a build-up of an abnormal protein “tau” in the brain of these players that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease but with a distinctive pattern. Researchers are also calling for “urgent” research to establish whether repeated sub-concussive impacts caused by heading may also be leading to dementia in the amateur game as well.
Concussion is temporary loss of consciousness with a bang on the head, while sub-concussion is caused by a head bang that is below the threshold force necessary to cause concussion. They are mild head injuries, such as caused by heading a ball. It’s the most common but least serious type of brain injury. Symptoms include, apart from loss of consciousness, loss of memory for some time, ‘seeing stars’ with a period of confusion. In modernity, concussion can only be diagnosed if a brain scan is normal with no bleeding or swelling of the brain.
Chance gave me experience of sub-concussion. Some endless years ago, when I was about 15, one afternoon, I was fast cycling down Uripok Road towards Naoremthong when I had a head-on collision with a lorry. I remember having been thrown off on the grassy road side. I saw specks of light and was confused. I got up quickly and ran aimlessly. Luckily, a brother-in-law of mine happened to be there. He got hold of me and brought me home. The lorry driver also came to apologise to my father, who was playing chess with someone. He simply said to him ‘not to worry’ but didn’t ask me if I was alright. Symptoms were mildly similar to what I had when punched sometime, squarely on my face, while learning to box (at Colaba, Bombay).
Researchers at UCL conducted postmortem examinations of the brains of five professional players, and one “committed” amateur, who had all suffered dementia. They found evidence of CTE, which could be caused by repeated blows to the head and is known to lead to dementia like Alzheimer’s. They found the patchy degeneration in the brains of the footballers, whose careers averaged 26 years, to be greater than 12% average found in the general population. These players had developed dementia around their mid-60s, an average of 10 years earlier than most people who suffered dementia. The brain damage in these footballers were similar to the brain damage found in boxers.
There isn’t enough research at the moment to know how many retired footballer are suffering from dementia despite a long list of famous players who have suffered from dementia, such as Danny Blanchflower, Bob Paisley and Astle. Three members of England team that won the 1966 World cup, Nobby Stiles (74), Martin Peters (73) and Ray Wilson (82) have all developed Alzheimer’s.
The British Sport’s Governing Body is now being pressurised to act to prevent brain injury to footballers. Last December (2016) the Professional Footballers’ Association called on the relevant authorities to consider banning children under age of 10 from heading the ball, following research by the University of Stirling, Scotland that found players suffered memory impairment after heading.
As researchers know the nature of brain damage among footballers is the same as among boxers, they understand what could be the long term effects on professional footballers’ brain, by looking at the established research findings among boxers with punch drunk syndrome. The brain injury among boxers was anticipated among amateurs as well. For that reason British Medical Association called for a ban on amateur boxing in the 1950s.
Interested in boxing, I used to subscribe to The Ring Magazine, the Bible of boxing in my school days. I did a bit of boxing in medical College. Here in the UK, I was a member of Bradford professional Sports Club that had one evening function every month. Members and guests in evening dress would dine, and drink under the table, while amateur boxers would try to knock on each other’s head in a ring at the centre, followed by an after-dinner speech by a famous boxer.
I was Club doctor for Bradford Amateur Police Boys Club for 20 years. The  BMA guideline fees were £20 for fitness examination and £150, if I attended an evening tournament at working men’s clubs full of beer and smoke. I soon waived the fees after a couple of months, as the boys were from poor families that could not afford the medical fees, and as the club was established only to keep these boys off the street and from indulging in drugs and burglary.
There were strict guidelines for amateur boxers. They had to wear either red or blue strips or outfits, protective head guards and gloves weighing 10oz (283g). Average 8oz (226g) for professionals. Bouts were decided by three ringside judges and the result was based on the number of punches that landed in a ‘target area’ with the knuckles of a closed glove and with the weight of the body or shoulder behind them. The rounds were limited to 3 of three minutes each (12 rounds for professional boxing). The boxer who knocked the opponent out (rare) or with the most points was the winner, unless the referee stopped the bout before the final bell. There was a timekeeper by the ringside, who used a gong to indicate the end of the round.
Recently, Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) bans headgears for male boxers (not for females) who compete internationally, unlike their professional counterparts. The theory being that opponents apply less force if the head is unprotected, confirmed by research that the move actually reduces the risk of concussion.
The symptoms of brain injury among boxers were not well known until they were first published in the American Medical Association’s article in 1928. The symptoms, such as lapses of memory, dizzy spells, hand tremors, speech slurring and behavioural disorder were thought to be due to dementia or Parkinson’s. In 1973, a group of doctors led by Dr JA Corsellis, first described the findings in the brain of 15 former boxers after postmortem examinations.
In 1983, examination of slices of brain in one group of boxers, showed tangles of nerves but not in the same distribution as usually found in brains of dementia. In another group with signs of dementia, there were evidence of enlarged brain ventricles when examined with CT scans. That included Muhammad Ali and contender Jerry Quarry, who at that time showed no obvious behavioural signs of brain damage. Jerry died of dementia pugilistica at age 53 in 1999.
I’m often impressed by how a professional goalkeeper now, could kick a ball from his post that would go nearly three fourths of the length of the field as if the ball is lighter in weight. The balls are not lighter at all. The average ball weighs 16oz or 450g, same as before. It’s only that they differ in the material from which the balls are made. They are smoother with better aerodynamics and have the ability to avoid weight gain during the game through absorption of water. The damage to the brain from heading them would be no less with modern balls.
At the moment, the sufferers are treated symptomatically, with drugs used for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinsonism as there is no cure.
(The writer is based in the UK; Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com; Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Robots to diagnose british patients at night: Probable cause for Meitei Mangaknaba

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
News is the first rough draft of history. Here’re some news that will be history in the next few years such as, doctors as fortune tellers by doing single blood test that can tell how a person will age, after scientists decoded blood “signature” patterns which predict ill health. Researchers at Boston University, US, have learnt to recognise combinations of specific “biomarkers” or chemicals found in the blood of 5,000 people in a study. The new approach will enable doctors to give a likelihood of their patients’ overall future health, and thus advise lifestyle changes or give preventive treatment to stave off diseases.
Of Mice and Men, researchers at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, US, have found diminished level of a protein molecule (KLF15) in the mouse’s heart cells that is associated with the mouse’s sudden death. Sudden death of young healthy human adults (average age 41) while asleep in bed during the early morning hours (6-10), has been scientifically documented by Framingham heart studies in 1987. This has been known as Mangaknaba in Manipuri for donkey years, Tagaglog (nightmare) in the Philippines and Pokkuric in Japan.
It became known as ‘Sudden adult death syndrome’ (SADS) since 1977 after a Southeast Asian refugee was found dead in the US. It kills more than 300,000 people each year in the US. In the Tokyo district in Japan alone, it was reported that every year, several hundred evidently healthy men are found dead in their beds. It’s more common in men than women and in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world.
Doctors know it’s caused by a sudden burst of very fast and irregular heartbeats (fibrillation) generated from one of the two lower heart chambers (ventricles). It leaves no post mortem findings. Doctors know that this ‘ventricular fibrillation’ occurs when the chemical reaction in heart muscle cells that generates electricity to run the heart becomes faulty. This causes muscle contractions in the ventricular wall go haywire, stopping circulation of blood to the brain. People die within minutes. Few people with SADS have an inherited genetic disorder.
Heart generates its own electricity by ‘action potential’ caused by exchange of ions like sodium, potassium and calcium across the cell membranes of heart muscles. This action potential leads to contraction of heart muscle cells. According to these researchers, the cause of SADS may be due to low levels of a protein (KLF15) that should be normally higher in the morning than at night, following physiological process of living things, known as ‘circadian rhythm’.
When a crow crows at daybreak, it’s because of circadian rhythm or body clock. It will crow if you put it in a very dark room, at about the same time. This body clock causes such things like jet lag while travelling over time zones. Most heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) also occur in the mornings between 6 -12 am, when there is an imbalance between a greater need for oxygen in the heart and a decrease supply of oxygen to the heart, or both.
The latest (3 days old) groundbreaking research at Newcastle University has brightened the future of patients with severe end-stage heart failure, waiting for heart transplant. Surgeons implanted a small robotic pump that assists the heart, known as left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for about 396 days before it was removed after recovery. 16 patients that were fitted with LVAD, recovered as if they never had the heart disease. The average price of a LVAD is £80,000 and the transplant operation costs £69,000. But it’s free in the British National Health Service (NHS).
Another robotic research is by Dr Elena De Milano in Italy, who led an international team that trained a robot to imitate human actions. She says: “In your next hospital trip, your nursing assistant might well be a robot, and robots can effectively coordinate their actions during high stake events like surgery.
In Britain currently, a robotic research is going on with artificial intelligence (AI) for future health care. Robotics challenge AI by forcing it to deal with real objects – human beings in the real world. In London, showcasing the latest robotic technology, there is a Robots’ exhibition in the Science Museum. It began on February 8 2017 and will end on September 3 2017, to explore this very human obsession to recreate ourselves. There are 100 robots and visitors can interact with 12 working robots that will tell us about their desires and ambitions and how they work.
In reality, a trial is about to begin in this month (April) for the British NHS, using robots to answer patients’ queries about their illnesses, in some parts of London, involving 1.2 million people for the “out-of-hours” service ie during the night hours. It’s a part of a national drive to modernise NHS with General practitioners.
The trial was announced in January 2017, as hospitals throughout the country struggled to cope with unprecedented demand in the A&E departments during the 2016 Christmas and New year period, when human call handlers of 111 (telephone number) failed to spot signs of seriously ill patients. In Britain, 111 call is for medical advice during the night when patients describe their ailments over the telephone to non-medical human beings who will assess the conditions following guidelines and direct the callers what to do.
For this trial, NHS authorities will give access to an ‘app’ (for computer application) associated with a software that runs on Smartphones or tablets. Just by tapping on this icon, over one million people in London can access healthcare at night. This will replace the current hotline 111.
When patients or relatives dial 111, they will be prompted to go to the app. The caller will type in the symptoms via a series of texts, leaving the “chatbox” (computer) to decide how urgent the situation is, and recommend the right help, such as to make an appointment with their GP the next morning, or go to an A&E in hospital.
Currently, the advisers who answer the NHS 111 helpline, will have little or no medical training. They rely upon a tick-box questionnaire and depending on the resulting template they will decide whether the ‘patient’ can be offered reassurance saying the patient shouldn’t worry and go and see their GP next day or other appropriate advice. They also get tired and sleepy.
Theoretically, this human function can be carried out more efficiently by a robotic computer with better artificial intelligence and a data base of symptoms of every known illness. The good thing about the “chatbox” is that it cannot be fatigued and can tap into medical knowledge that a call handler, or even a doctor for that matter, does not possess. The main reason against it is that everyone will not have means of accessing such an application and old people simply will not be able to use it.
Here’s a little feedback about ‘Out-of-hours’ service in Britain. NHS is the best health service in the world where rich or poor, employed or unemployed, receive the same treatment. Over the years, it has become very expensive. It’s an industry that employs the greatest number of people. It’s a major plank on which every election is fought. The NHS is divided into two parts: (1) Primary carers, manned by GPs and (2) Secondary carers, by hospital doctors. GP is the first contact point for receiving health care – a threshold though which to access health care, such as for referring to specialist care, nursing and midwifery services, social services for such things like rehousing or house extension, chairlift installation for patients unable to walk upstairs, or recommending invalidity benefits, or an invalid car for people who can’t walk.
From the beginning of NHS in 1948 though to 1960s, all GPs were responsible for their registered patients for 7 days and nights a week throughout the year. In the early 1970s, in some regions, groups of GPs formed co-operatives, sharing responsibilities by turn for night calls termed “out of hours service” ie from 6.30 pm to 8 am, at weekends and Bank holidays. In the late 1970s, many commercially organised private companies called “Deputising services” had grown up. Some enterprising GPs , especially Asians, would work a few extra nights or at weekends as they were very well paid.
By 2004, the NHS took the responsibility for organising ‘out-of- hours’ service for GPs who wanted to opt out and lose £6000 a year. Most GPs did. There are some doctors who want to work only during these ‘out-of-hours’ period, as well as a few GPs. The guidelines are: if you urgently need medical help or advice, you can call NHS 111, and if it’s not a life-threatening situation you can also visit an NHS ‘walk-in centre’ or ‘minor injuries unit’ for minor injuries or illnesses. For life-threatening problems any member of the public can simply walk in to be seen.
Throughout the life of this NHS, all that costs a patient is that of a single telephone call to access a GP service either at the surgery or home, during the day and night, and prescription fees for those who can afford. The rest is free, eg heart bypass surgery. Isn’t this marvellous though it’s often misused by visitors?
(The writer is based in the UK; Email:irengbammsingh@onetel.com; Website:www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle)

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and was Fuhrer of Nazi party from 1933 to 1945. He was responsible for WWII. His spouse was Eva Braun. Both committed suicide on April 30 1945 when Germany was losing the War. Hitler’s autographical book, Mein Kampf published in 2016, became a bestseller in Germany again, 92 years after it was first published in 1925. This edition has 2,000 pages and is being sold at £69 like hotdogs.
Mein Kampf was Hitler’s blueprint to consolidate Germany into one great powerful nation with an unadulterated Aryan German race, by establishing a Nazi-Third Reich (Third Empire). He managed it albeit short-lived. Nazi (Na:tsi = Nationalsozialist) is short for National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
Hitler was an outstanding historical person, in light of Stalin and Mao Tse’tung. He would have been a historical great like Napoleon, had he not committed horrible genocide of 3 million Jews at Auschwitz concentration camp. He was a very brave soldier decorated with many medals and also a good orator.
In my childhood, I remember a newspaper cut-out image of Hitler pasted in our mangol (veranda), by my father during WWII. I’ve always wondered why Hitler hated the Jews so much! Many theories  exist. The recently published and heavily annotated Mein Kampf has given me an opportunity to find out exactly for myself.
Hitler was born on April 20 1889 in a small Austrian village of Braunau Am Inn, just across the border from German Bavaria. All Germans regard Hitler as a great man though they refrain from saying so, as it’s not politically correct. I had a German class fellow named  Wolfgang at St Joseph’s, Darjeeling. His father was a professor at the newly established IIT Kharagpur Engineering College, West Bengal. He once told me: “We had to fight the whole world”, meaning that’s why Germany lost the war. Nothing against Hitler.
Hitler wrote the first volume in 1924 while he was in jail for thirteen months for demonstrating against the disintegration of Germany and it was published in 1925. The second volume was published in 1926 after the French had left Ruhr. It became so popular that more than one million copies were sold when he became chancellor in 1933. The first English translation by James Murphy was published in London in 1939. It’s said it was popular in India but was completely forgotten after the war.
While Hitler was in power (1933-1945), three common editions were published: the People’s Edition; the Wedding Edition, given free to marrying couples; and the Knapsack Edition – available to be sent to loved ones fighting at the front (1940). A special deluxe edition was published in 1939 in honour of Hitler’s 50th birthday. By 1939 the book had sold 5.2 million copies in eleven languages.
Mein Kampf bears the imprint of its days. The anthology is a meritoriously readable monument to him. It was an ideological program to change Germany into a powerful pure Aryan land, uncontaminated by Jewish blood and to create a Greater Germanic Reich in Europe, with its unique history by unifying of all German peoples. He promised his people to take back the German land lost in WWI and the revocation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles that brought WWI to an end. He kept his promise.
Hitler wrote at a time when he was emotionally disturbed. In the beginning of 1923 the French invaded Germany and occupied Ruhr district, the centre of Germany’s manufacturing industries. They also seized many districts of Rhineland. Germans could not defend themselves as they had already been disarmed under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. While under the French influence, a separatist movement by some Germans sprang up.
By the autumn of 1923 the Bavarian Catholic Independent movement under its Prime minister Eugen von, was about to proclaim an Independent Bavaria. Hitler staged a counter stroke in the neighbouring Munich on November 9. His Nazi battalions in military formations marched to the town to demonstrate in favour of national union of Germany, led by himself and the WWI general Ludendorff. Sixteen of the marchers were shot dead and Hitler was among  those injured.
During Hitler’s young days in Vienna he formed his political opinions.  He began to feel that Jews were parasites. The Imperial house of Habsburg  in Vienna, was then influenced by the Austrian-Hungary (Slavs) nobles that adopted many Jews, such as very wealthy bankers, entrepreneurs and industrialist as low ranking nobles; many of them holding multiple citizenship. He wrote: “A State has never arisen from commercial causes but States have always arisen from the instinct to maintain the racial group. In the first case we have the Aryan states, based on the principles of work and cultural development. In the second case we have the Jewish parasitic colonies.”
In his secondary school (Realschule), Hitler knew only one Jewish boy, whose reticence and certain mannerisms warned him and his friends to be discreet. It was when he was 13 or 14 he frequently ran against the word  ‘Jew’, partly in connection with political and religious controversies. They simply aroused a slight aversion in him.
His father died when he was thirteen and mother two years later. To earn his own bread he left for Vienna, aged 17, where he lived in hunger for five years, earning his meal, first as a manual labourer, and later as draughtsman and water colour painter of little trifles. He wrote: “And yet during that time I learnt more than I had ever learnt before. I had no other pleasure in life then, except my books for which I had to deny myself food. During those years a view of life and a definite outlook on the world (weltanschauung) took shape in my mind.
My eyes were open to two perils for the existence of German people: Marxism and Judaism and the relations between them. In Vienna there were two hundred thousand Jews among its population of two millions. Once I settled the confused picture of Jews began to grow clearer and I began to acquire a discriminating view against the Jewish problem. “
The Introduction of Mein Kampf starts as: “On April 1, 1924, because of the sentence handed down by the People’s Court of Munich, I had to begin that day, serving my term in the fortress at Landsberg on the Lech. Thus, after years of uninterrupted work, I was afforded for the first time an opportunity to embark on a task insisted upon by many and felt to be serviceable to the movement by myself. Therefore, I resolved not only to set forth, in two volumes, the object of my movement, but also to draw a picture of its development. . The basic element of a doctrine must be set down in permanent form in order that it may be represented in the same way and unity.
In this connection these two volumes should serve as building stones which I add to our common work.” THE AUTHOR.
Mein Kampf shows Hitler’s strong feelings against the Jews. He became anti-Semitic while he was living in Vienna. There he read many books and was self-educated. He formed his idea that “People who can sneak their way, like parasites, into human body politic and make others work for them, can form a State without possessing any definite delimited territory, prey upon the honest portion of mankind: I mean the Jews.”
Hitler believed that Jewish financiers  and Jewish war profiteers in Germany were responsible for  causing the first world war and Germany’s defeat in which 100,000 German soldiers died and that, Social Democratic Party (banned by Hitler in 1933) and Marxists were connected to Jews and they created the Jewish Bolshevism and Jewish state of Soviet Union. They gave Lenin (part Jew) and his followers passage through Germany to Russia by train so they could rejoin the revolution. Jews were responsible for loss of German Glory and all Germany’s problems.
He wrote: “Racially inferior Jews who were poisoning Germany had to be removed from the German population and the solution of these problems was to banish the Jews from German society altogether so as to make German economically powerful again.”
He argued scientifically: “Just as Nature concentrated its greatest attention, not to the maintenance of what already exists but on selective breeding of offspring in order to carry on the species, so in human life also it is a less of a matter of artificially improving the existing generation but more of a matter of recurring from the very start a better road for future development.”
Equally vehement was his belief that, for the German race to survive as a superior race, Germany needed mastery in Europe, and for the justification for more German living space (Lebensraum) outside Germany. He wrote:  “In conclusion, by using the available soil resources or by restriction of procreative faculty (birth control) it will reach a point beyond which our manpower cannot develop. Therefore any possibility which Germany had of carrying a sound territorial policy into effect was that of acquiring new territory on which surplus population can be settled is in Europe itself. Colonies cannot serve the purpose as long as they are not suited for settlement by Europeans in a large scale.” He tried and failed.
(The writer is based in the UK; Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com; Website:www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Enigma of Mohenjo-daro & Indus Valley Civilisation

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Mohenjo-daro, one of the world’s earliest city civilisations of pure indigenous Indians is now being discovered. It is still driving archaeologists bananas as Mohenjo daro script is indecipherable. The recent Hindi film, Mohenjo Daro (2016), starring Hrithik Roshan and Pooja Hegde, is well researched and evocative of the excavated city, especially the two enormous silt platforms, upper and lower towns, stabilised by facings of mud brick. The larger of the two platforms that is the Lower Town is divided by a grid of wide streets into city blocks with lanes, dwellings with courtyards, and with access to wells for water.
Its most exotic feature is the Great Bath, a rectangular brick-walled and floored tank, measuring 12m by 7m and 2.4m deep, made waterproof by setting brick in ‘bitumen’(amazing for its time), and with two wide staircases to the north and the south leading down to a small ledge with a brick edging running the entire width of the tank so that people could go down without immersing themselves to water. It’s surrounded by colonnaded courtyard. This bath is believed to serve for ritual purification as well as for providing bath water.
Ancient civilisations meant intricate culture. They are now societies with a high level of cultural and technological developments with life style changes. New York that grasps the subtleties of modern technology must be considered more civilised than Kolkata. And that, in the Empire State Building in New York, you press a button in an elevator and it will take you from the ground floor to the 102nd top deck in less than a minute must be classed as an advanced civilisation.
The Indus valley civilisation though very ancient, had advanced culture and technology of the time. Archaeological criteria of ancient civilisation is not clear-cut, as it usually involves a writing system, as defined by archaeologist Gordon Childe (1892 to 1957). Not that everyone agrees with him. The Inca civilisation had no writing system. In this context, Proto-Meiteis in Manipur, who had a writing system must have had a civilisation, whereas the ancient Zeliangrong culture in Manipur, as artfully described by Budha Kamei, superior to any American culture (melting pot), could be deemed an advanced civilisation.
I recall reading about Harappa and Mohenjo-daro though only in a couple of lines in my history class in school. I’m also wrestling with my memory about glancing at Jawaharlal Nehru’s reflection on Mohenjo-daro in his Discovery of India. I’ve found what I’m looking for in a 1989 impression of the book in my library. On page 50, Nehru writes: “I stood on a mound of Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley in the north-west of India, and all around me lay the houses and streets of this ancient city that is said to have existed over five thousand years ago. What is the secret of this strength? Where did it come from, creating not only things of beauty, but also the utilitarian and more typical emblems of modern civilisation – good baths and drainage system?” He describes it all.
A new book, The Indus: Lost Civilisation (2016) by Andrew Robinson (Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society), has provided a succinct portrayal of the riddle of this civilisation. The publisher’s blurb on the dust sheet explains: It is an accessible introduction to every significant aspect of an extraordinary ‘lost’ civilisation, which apparently combined artistic excellence, technological sophistication and economic vigour with social egalitarianism, political freedom and religious moderation.
Indus Valley Civilisation (Indus Civilisation) or Harappan Civilisation still remains an enigma as its ‘Indus script’ is still indecipherable. It flourished about 5,000 years ago, in the lower Bronze Age (2,600 -1900 BCE) in the Indus Valley in ancient India, about the time of the Egyptian and
Mesopotamian civilisations. Nobody knows who these people were and where they came from.
Indus civilisation does not consist of only these two cities of Mohenjo-daro in Sind and Harappa in Punjab, now in Pakistan, but a few towns and many villages along the Indus River basin, now in the present Pakistan and India, scattered over a thousand sites, covering around 800,000 square kilometres.
It had carved steatite stone seals showing a unicorn or bull, drilled gemstone, beads of semi precious stones necklaces, gold and silver ornaments and various stone weights, pottery, bikini or thong-clad statuettes, a religious society, and architectural magnificence with impressive water engineering. It had circular wells built with wedge-shaped bricks, elaborate brick-lined artificial drainage system (a defining feature) and the world’s first toilets. It had bronze knives and spears. Very scanty evidence showed men probably wore dhoti-like cloth and women knee-length skirt. They buried their dead bodies.
The Indus script is now thought to be the world’s oldest readable writing, predating Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, dating back to the mid-fourth millennium BCE. Mohenjo-daro meaning “Mound of the dead” in Sindhi, is a name given by the locals. It’s so named from sites of about 1,500 series of mounds, scattered over 250 acres of land. Nobody knows its real name. It’s located west of the Indus River in the middle of the flood plain of the Indus River Valley, about 28km from Larkana town in Sind, Pakistan.
John Marshall, the author of the book, Mohenjo-daro and Indus Civilisation (1931), was appointed Director-General of Archaeology in 1902 by Lord Curzon, within the Indian Administration. He allowed Indian archaeologists for the first time, to participate in excavations in their own country. He modernised archaeology in India by introducing conservation of ancient monuments, buildings and artefacts, and systematically cataloguing them. He estimated from archaeological findings, dates of Indian civilisations, such as Mauyryan empire (c. 322-185 BCE), Asoka’s reign (c.268-232 BCE) and Indus Valley civilisation (5,000 years ago).
Marshall was responsible for excavations at Harappa (Hereppa in Punjabi). It was discovered purely by chance by James Lewis, an East India Company Army engineer deserter, turned explorer in 1826. Mohenjo-daro was discovered in 1922 by R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, about a year after major excavations had begun at Harappa in 1921. There, he found three seals that were exactly similar to Harappan seals found by Alexander Cunningham, first director general of Archaeological Survey of India. As Harappa was first discovered, Harappans are the name given to any ancient people belonging to the IVC.
Hindu nationalists have been promoting the IVC as the originator of an early form of Hinduism and as the source of a continuous Indian identity for more than five millennia and that, the story of Aryan invasion is a myth. However, to give credit to them, Saraswati, the Vedic River, highly revered in the Rigveda, which though not visible anymore above ground as a single stream, is found to exist from ground surveys as a major river during the Indus civilisation. Surveys on Pakistani side of the Indo-Pakistan border in the 1970s and after, have traced much, though not all, of Saraswati’s former course, part of which flowed in parallel with the Indus River.
The ancient Saraswati River that originated in the Aravalli Mountain Ranges in Rajasthan, was bordered by the Thar desert that forms part of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, all of which contain many Indus civilisation settlements, such as Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banawali and Rakhighani (Haryana), Dholavria and Lothal (Gujarat) along Saraswati’s course before it submerged in the Rann of Kutch.
Various artefacts from many excavations, which are as old as the vanishing Saraswati River, now reveal the self-justifying continuum of Indian civilisation with the IVC. Among them a small terracotta “Shiva lingam with its base” found in Kalibangan and cross-legged Shiva-like figurine (Dravidian god) draw their association with Dravidian people, while those with Hindu feminine custom of applying vermilion on their foreheads, swastika symbols, and even the small water jars (lota) used for washing after toileting, find an essential similarity to the Vedic people.
Deciphering the Indus Script has so been unsuccessful. The fourth and the last was at Allahdino near Karachi by Fairservis from Harvard, sponsored by the America Museum of Natural History, It was published in 1983 and in book form in 1992. The findings rejected early Sanskrit as the Indus language and favoured an early form of proto-Dravidian, about 2,000 years older than the oldest Tamil inscriptions.
The IVC is now recognised as the beginning of Indian civilisation. Researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India, based in Pune and Kharagpur, have recently estimated the age of IVC from the discovery of four skeletons, two men, a woman and a child from an Indus site at Rakhighani in Haryana, dating 4,000 to 4,500 years BCE. Indus civilisation, according to them, is about 2,500 years older than previously thought and thus older than the Mesopotamian civilisation. It’s still not clear how the Indus Civilisation ended about 1,900 BCE. Perhaps, a massive flood from the Indus River might have washed them away.
From the available evidence it seems that, the Aryan people who had only oral literature, did immigrate to India, and the ‘classical’ Hindu culture was a fusion of Aryan and indigenous Harappan culture. In the Vedic Sanatan dharma period, because of their worship of sacred fire they might have started cremating their dead bodies. Many Hindus in South and some in North India are still buried in the lotus position.
(The writer is based in the UK. Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com. Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Jane Austen will be on the face of £10 bank note & £2 coin

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
English language has become international language. In Manipur also, children are now taught in English, especially in private schools from the Kindergarten stage with English nursery rhymes that are global. The good thing about studying English language is that students are exposed to a range of knowledge, especially on the net whose language is English. The study of English literature provides them with creativity to approach their lives and helps them to build experience while enjoying as a recreational activity. Because, English-language writers explore human experience and imagination in their prose, poetry, short stories and dramas.
While studying English literature, it’s helpful for students to learn the life stories of such writers like Shakespeare, Jane Austen, TS Eliot, Wordsworth and others to lend authenticity to the character of the story and settings of their writers. It’s good to read, for example, that William Wordsworth lived in the English Lake District. It thus gives a sense of genuineness to his most popular and loved lyrical poem “Daffodils”: I wandered lonely as a cloud […] Besides the lake, beneath the trees[…] Fluttering and dancing in the breeze… .It was more reassuring when I went to see daffodils on the bank of Lake Ullswater where he wandered.
The English language has developed over more than 1,400 years. It has spread around the world since the 17th century. Jane Austen wrote novels in the early 19th century when English literature was only of the United Kingdom and Ireland. English-language literature now includes literature in English from countries of the former British Empire and the United States, eg Indian Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children, The Satanic verses and Chinese Jung Chang’s Wild Swans’
The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday January 1 2017, announced that Jane Austen, long revered as the greatest of female novelists, was about to break new ground, 200 years after her death, by appearing simultaneously on a coin and banknote. Most people in Manipur will be familiar with the phrase “PRIDE and PREJUDICE”, though many might not have read her famous novel Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, from which the phrase became popular in English language.
In my English literature class at college in Bombay, I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emile Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and George Eliot’s Silas Marner as ‘rapid readers’. The professor advised us to refer to a book, History of English Literature by Compton & Rickett. That was where I found Byron’s incestuous relationship with his half-sister. Until then, I didn’t know what incest meant.
In the novel Pride and Prejudice, the character of the hero, an upper class Mr Darcy, prides himself as an aloof romantic hero, good looking and very rich, who is not ready to marry anyone, especially of the lower class, calling Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine, ‘tolerable’ and not handsome enough for him. Elizabeth, who Austen called ‘as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print’, has an intense dislike of Mr Darcy who, she believes firmly, to be the last man in the world she would marry (prejudice), because of his decision not to ask her to dance at their first meeting until she was proven wrong. Pride and Prejudice got its name from Dr Lyster’s speech: “The whole of the unfortunate business has been the result of pride and prejudice …”
Jane Austen (1775-1817), was aware of social class distinction, pride and prejudice, as we have today including in Manipur, which is always difficult to do away, especially between different cultures and religions. Nobody is free from pride and prejudice. Only that, some are more diplomatic than others not to state their beliefs aloud, and to let their pride and prejudice out of control.
Jane Austen is the most famous English novelist after Shakespeare. She was born in a quiet rural village in Hampshire, whose county town is Winchester, the former capital city of England, 103 km in the southwest of London. Younger people will know the song, “Winchester Cathedral” by Frank Sinatra and others. This is a stunningly beautiful Cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, which I was fortunate to see once, as a BMA delegate when the annual BMA conference was held in Winchester and had its church service in it.
Apart from Jane Austen nobody has managed such an honour in a generation except the Queen, who, as head of the state must be depicted simultaneously on British currency. The Royal Mint, in a New year’s statement, announced that Austen has been chosen as the new image for its commemorative £2 coins (about 5 million). The Bank of England has also chosen to put Austen on the new £10 note.
The coins and notes will be released in the Spring of 2017 to celebrate Austen’s death in 1817 at the age of 41. The coins will feature her silhouette. The new plastic, unrippable £10 note, released about the same time, will have Austen’s portrait, replacing the current Charles Darwin. Further, as a collector’s item, only just FOUR £5 notes will be surreptitiously engraved by the artist Graham Short and released. Anyone lucky enough to possess one of these is worth £50,000.
The decision to put Austen on the new £10 note followed an online petition signed by more than 35,000 people, demanding a female figure be placed upon it. That was prompted by the announcement that Sir Winston Churchill was replacing Elizabeth Fry (prison reformer, 1780-1845) on the £5 note. The movement was not without casualty. Two people were jailed for Twitter abuse directed against Caroline Criado-Perez, the feminist who began the campaign, and Stella Creasy, the Labour MP who backed it.
Only Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse, preceded Jane Austen by appearing though not simultaneously, in both £10 notes in 1975 (withdrawn in 1994), and £2 coin in 2010. The Royal Mint has also announced two further commemorative coins: a First World War aviation £2 coin, “in memory of the defenders of the British skies”, and a Sir Issac Newton 50p coin, in celebration of Newton’s pioneering work and achievements in the field of physics and astronomy.
Jane Austen in her short lifespan and in the space of just four years, published four books: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Two more novels: Persuasion and Northhanger Abbey were published in the year after her death. Jane Austen herself considered Pride and Prejudice (1813), her best work and much labour of love went into it.
Jane Austen, the most loved English novelists all over the world, was a voracious reader and letter- writer, a fashionable form of literary writing in those days. She wrote in inimitable English. She is well-known for starting a new fashion in English language, such as Pride and Prejudice’, Patience and Perseverance, Pride and Ignorance, Truth and Fiction etc. She wrote at a time when letter writing was considered a serious art. She has left several hundred letters that are amusingly and entertainingly written as her ‘novels’.
Austen also used unique terms whose meanings are now altered or nonexistent , such as Address = manner, Backwards = in the back, Candid = free from malice, Connection = relation by marriage, Countenance = expression (not face), Country = county, Develop = discover, at all events = at all costs, Improved = cultivated, Intelligible = audible, Intelligence = news. Person = body as opposed to mind, Position = contention and so forth.
Jane Austen was an extraordinarily intelligent girl with an innate literary gift. She was born as one of the eight children of a clergyman, and brought up in a close-knit community in a village, where many girls of her age would have fretted in boredom. It was at about the time of the French Revolution. Young Austen in solitude, in her vicarage, dedicated herself to writing, and produced six novels of unusual style but as perfect in imagination and implementation as anything written before or since (The works of Jane Austen by John Gilbert). She never married and died at the height of her fame in the summer of 1817 in Winchester. Pity she didn’t live long.
I read only two of her books, that also as a rapid reader, and as a young student. I cannot quite remember what the English professor said about her distinctive literary style. According to John Gilbert, “Every book of hers has superb construction with sparkling passages of dialogue and a host of beautiful devised character. They are all presented in faithful and rounded detail, and like the characters of Shakespeare and Dickens they seem to possess lives outside the pages of the novels themselves.”
Critics like BC Southam, who wrote ‘Critical Essays on Jane Austen’, have compared
Jane Austen with Shakespeare: “she conducts conversation with a regard to character hardly exceeded even by Shakespeare himself.” Tennyson also spoke of Jane Austen as “next to Shakespeare” in her “realism and life-likeness of her characters.” One appreciation I like best is what Lord Macaulay wrote in 1843, comparing Austen as “prose Shakespeare”, and placing her as “a woman of whom England is justly proud.”
George Henry Lewes, an English critic of literature, thought Austen the greatest novelist in English, who possessed “Shakespearean qualities of “tenderness and passion,” and “marvellous dramatic power.” No wonder she is honoured.
(The writer is based in the UK; Email: irengbamm@gmail.com; Website: www.drimsingh.com)

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Evolutionary explosion of non-gender ie non-binary people

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Lucky are those who have never questioned their birth sex. This year 2017 has seen a public explosion on the uncertainty of gender identity ie people who don’t know if they are male or female. They are known as non-binary people or genderqueer (they prefer to be called non-binary), who have now come out in the open with their own ‘Pride flag’ created in 2014, with horizontal stripes (from top to bottom) – yellow, white, purple and black. The ‘gender community’ LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender) has various flags to represent various identities. Pride flags are symbols used at their Pride parades for self identification.
The term non-binary is fairly new and applies to a person who neither identifies as a man nor a woman. Sometimes he/she feels more masculine while on other days more feminine, and at times genderless. The existence of non-binary people is worldwide, including  Manipur. When I was a boy, there were two NUPIMANBI in my neighbourhood at Uripok. Another NUPAMANBI girl came from a village and studies at Tamphasana Girls’ School, wearing trousers and a shirt. Non-binary people came out of the closet when Asia’s first genderqueer Pride Parade took out a street parade in Madurai on July 29 2012, led by Anjali Gopalan, a lesbian, human rights and animal rights activist.
Anjali was educated in India and America. She was born of a Tamil father (IAF officer) and a Punjabi mother, educated at La Martinier School, the best school In Lucknow (from its boys’ school the British launched the attack to relieve the ‘Siege of Residency’ in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857); and at the best girls’ Shri Ram College, New Delhi, and later at JN University. She has been awarded many honours for her work in helping HIV/AIDS sufferers in India.
These unfortunate nature-freak, genderless people need to be helped and integrated into the mainstream. It’s not their fault. Those who are pious should be singing bhajans and hymns in chorus to propitiate god that his/her white dream vision has faded to dim gray and new horizons of Homo sapiens are falling beneath his feet each day. Howsoever mind-bending  such “anomalies” might seem, they are now categorised in ways that may be legibly understood. Ancient Greeks championed a “one sex” theory on the basis of bodily similarities between man and woman that saw female genitalia as mirroring male genitalia, only inside out.
The nub of my scientific argument concerns the absence of genetic basis for non-gender, in the way it’s lacking for racial differences between say, various tribal communities in Manipur. They are ‘self-fashioned’  by a process of identity formation in childhood  and how a community perceives itself in relation to an array of competing cultural discourses in which they come into contact. Genetic ancestry testing, which tests autosomal DNA (inherited from both parents) can reveal biogeographical lineage for ‘self-fashioning’.
In the concept of ‘gender-fluidity’, which simply means that your gender identity varies over time, there is no genetic basis for homosexuality and the like. No “gay gene” has ever discovered. There is no “death gene” but people die. There must be environmental and cultural factors, having  ‘self-fashioned’ in childhood, and having a culturally specific gender identity that exist within their or their ancestor’s culture.  A nature and nurture’ effect.
The remarkable power of evolutionary process points to environmental factors that caused humans  to evolve as a freak by mutation of an egg of a female ape in Africa, producing a more ape-like human (Hominid). Further chance accidents, by altering the genome (about 23,000 regular normal genes) helped human brain to grow (now stopped) to develop speech and better memories for vocalisation and grammar. Ultimately, modern humans, Homo sapiens, through evolution of 6 million years, became cleverer than their ancestors.
Mutation or alteration in genes are good in evolutionary language. They are for survival, being most fitted in the new environment. Without mutation, an offspring would not have advantage over their parents. There would be no computers with artificial intelligence. Without mutation of digestive genes, such as AMY1 gene that increases the production of the salivary enzyme, amylase, which help digest starch, we would still be eating only fruits and green leaves, rather than the starchy grains we eat now. It must have been because of the invention of agriculture by Homo sapiens sapiens.
Lucky accidents, are lucky incidents. Reproduction is a living machine and like any man-made machine it has its share of mistakes of DNA copying errors during egg and sperm productions. It causes foetus malformations, spontaneous abortions, and multiple pregnancies. And they cause confusion of gender identity.
The world is familiar with gays and lesbians. They are simply the tip of the iceberg. Navigating  the fog of gender crisis, we now have non-binary gender or genderqueer. That is any gender identity which does not fit the male or female binary. This group may feel intergender, transgender and/or transsexual  ie an identity crisis between man and female. They may also be neutral (neither male or female) gender identity, such as agender, neutrois or xenogenders. They may have multiple gender identities, such as bigender or pangender. Those who have a weak or slight connection to a gender identity is known as demigender. An intersex identity (born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male) is amalgagender.
Some of the non-binary people would like to behave as androgynous ie having both masculine and feminine gender identity, adopting unisex names (Charlie), gender-neutral titles such as, Mx, and use gender-neutral pronouns (them, theirs, those). There are some others who prefer a masculine or feminine identity or a mix of the two. They can have any sexual orientation, using gender-terminology, such as androsexual or gynosexual. They seem to be having the best parts of the binary gender.
Non-binary is not as rare as we thought. More and more high profile people are coming out in the open with their gender identity. Jack Monroe, a very good-looking woman, who was a poster girl and a famous food writer, is now among them. Monroe suffered a breakdown, saying she wanted to be treated as a person, not as a woman or a man. She didn’t want her boobs anymore.
To help gender-fluid/gender-creative/gender-nonconforming kids  to feel appreciated and less harassed in school and even expelled, a campaign film was launched in Canada in 2015 with an 11 year old actor Ameko Carroll, who made international headlines after being deemed eligible for an award in the male and female categories at the Leo Awards. She starred in this short film Limina about a non-binary child.
Diane Ehrensaft, Clinical Psychologist/parenting expert in Oakland, California, writes in her book, ‘Gender born, Gender Made’, that a child’s gender identity is developed by age of two or three and for most, birth sex and gender identity match (cisgender). But in some cases, children’s general identity ie how they feel about themselves, differs from their biology. Some know their gender identities and birth sexes don’t match, almost as soon as they begin to talk. For others, their sense of gender exists between male and female, at various points as they grow along what’s known as the ‘gender spectrum’.
The gender neutral title Mx (pronounced MIKS)has now been added to the Oxford English
Dictionary. Facebook has a ‘custom’ option in its gender settings, letting you to choose one among 70 suggested gender choices. Some universities in the UK such as, Manchester and Glasgow, provide gender-neutral toilets, and some schools, such as Brighton College, no longer impose male/female uniforms on pupils. It’s up to the children to choose which they would prefer to wear. Selfridges shop on Oxford Street, London where you can have world’s best brands, pioneered a gender-neutral clothing. Gender neutral public spaces are also becoming common. The Open Barbers Salons at Shoreditch, London, offer non-gender-specific haircuts, and asks for your favoured pronoun when booking an appointment.
The language of gender-fluidity is very important in that it shows society’s acceptance of who they are. Gender-fluidity is a new concept. Official figures of people who identify as gender-fluid aren’t available. Recent research by YouGov showed 41% of people in the UK view gender as a social construct  (environmental).  It has been well-known in India as Hijra since Mahabharata, as transgender Shikhandra. A new film Harikatha Prasanga (2016) shows India’s awareness of gender-fluidity.
Frank Browning, an American reporter writes in his book, The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future: one in every 1500 children born in the US and Australia is intersex ie they possess genitalia and a chromosome mutant that admit of ambiguity. One elite college in America, recently cancelled a production of The Vagina Monologues after some students protested that “not all women have vaginas”. The shows are still very popular in Mumbai, both in English and Hindi.
It’s amazing where the evolution is taking us. Evolutionary explanation for binary sexual reproduction is the creation of variations among siblings as natural selection favours parents which can produce a variety of offspring, unlike non-binary reproduction like that of earthworms, producing the same replica, causing inbreeding depression. According to Darwin, the effect of hybrid vigour with increased stature and fertility in the progeny lies in crossing between the genes of two sexes.
(The writer is based in the UK. Email:irengbammsingh@gmail.com. Website:www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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Rasputin, the faith healer with a sexual odyssey that even today would be exotic

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Most youngsters in Manipur, must have heard about Rasputin, as I did during my school years like, he sent ‘a piece of paper on which he scribbled a message’ to Empress Alexandra that stopped her eight year old son Alexei’s nonstoppable bleeding from haemophilia in 1912.
In my undergraduate medicine, hypnosis was written as capable of stopping bleeding (clotting) from haemophilia, a disease in which blood does not clot properly due to the person’s inability to make ‘clotting factors’ like prothrombin. Small cuts, if pressure is applied long enough might clot. It’s inherited by males and carried by females.
Rasputin’s life is a mysterious legend that so many biographers are unable to turn it into fact. I’ve just read a well researched book ‘Rasputin’ by Douglas Smith (October 2016), a Christmas present from my son Neil. It gives an evocative array of Rasputin’s images from his overtly sexy to his idiosyncratic genius as a mysterious faith healer or hypnotist.
Gregori Yefinovich Rasputin was born on Jan 9 1869 and died on Dec 30 1916. Dozens of biographies, movies, documentaries and musicals have been based on his life. There is a Russian beer Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, and a Rasputin Vodka, also Rasputin computer software.
One hit pop song (1978) by Boney M, sums up Rasputin’s infamous or famous life story. The abridged lyrics read: “Ra-ra Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen, Russia’s greatest love machine […]. In the affairs of the state he was the man to please: But he was real; great when he had a girl to squeeze: For the queen he was no wheeler dealer: Though she had heard the things he’d done, she believed he was a holy healer, who would heal her son: The man’s just got to go, declared his enemies: But the ladies begged, don’t you try to do it, please: No doubt Rasputin had lots of hidden charms: Though he was a brute they just fell into his arms: Then one night some men of higher standing set up a trap, they’re not to blame – come to visit us they kept demanding: And he really came: He drank it all [poisoned wine] and said, I feel fine: They didn’t quit, they wanted his head: And so they shot him ‘till he was dead.”
Rasputin was born in a Siberian village of Pokrovskoe by the Tura River. He married Praskovia at the age of 19. They had three surviving children, son Dmitri and daughters Maria and Varvara. He left home and spent some months in a monastery. By 1900, Rasputin wandered around Russia as a religious monk. Though uneducated he was well versed in the interpretation of scriptures. He arrived in St Petersburg in1904 and eventually entered the court of tsar Nicholas II and his pregnant wife Alexandra, because of his alleged healing abilities. He quickly gained Alexandra’s confidence by seemingly ‘curing’ her son Alexei’s bleeding after injuries, by just being by his bedside.
In the spring of 1912, he became the most notorious Russian of the day. He became the focus of many scandals that he belonged to a bizarre religious sect that embraced the most wicked forms of sexual perversion and that, he was a phony man who had duped the emperor and empress into embracing him as their spiritual leader. That shook Nicholas’s reign.
Between 1906 and 1914 (beginning of WW I when Rasputin had become a very influential factor in Russian politics), various politicians and journalists feared that the “mad monk” Rasputin was undermining the Royal family and the country. They tried to push for reforms but strong willed Alexandra as Rasputin’s defender, dismissed ministers, who were against Rasputin. Alexandra herself, was despised by Russians for being a German princess (Queen Victoria was her maternal grandmother). Eventually Rasputin was murdered on December 30 1916 by royalists. The Russian monarchy fell on March 11 1917. Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children including Alexei (14) were executed by Bolshevik troops on July 17 1918.
After four daughters Alexandra had given birth to a son Alexei in 1904. Soon she found small bruises on him that did not heal. Alexandra knew her son had no chance of survival. She had already lost a brother and an uncle to the disease haemophilia. She was devastated. To Alexandra, Rasputin, who could stop her son’s internal bleeding, was a man of God, a truly holy man.
In September 1912, the Royal family went on a holiday to their Royal hunting lodge at Spala, Russian Polish village near Warsaw. One day while travelling in a coach over the bumpy road, the eight year old boy cried out in agony. Dr Eugene Botkin found a severe haemorrhage in the boy’s left upper thigh and groin. The bleeding wouldn’t stop and the abdomen began to swell up as the blood sought its way through the body. Additional medical help could do nothing. The torture went on for ten days.
Alexei whispered one day into his mother’s ear: “When I’m dead, it will not hurt anymore, will it Mama?” And it was at this critical point that Alexandra sent a telegram to Rasputin who was in Siberia, asking to pray for him. The next day on October 10, Rasputin responded in a telegram: “Do not grieve. The Little One will not die. Do not let doctors to bother him too much.” Rasputin had seen the boy in 1907 in Alexander Palace when the boy suffered an injury that caused painful bleeding.
Though Alexandra already had felt relieved there was no change in the boy’s condition until the next morning. During the night Alexandra received another telegram from Rasputin that read, ‘he had prayed, that God had heard and granted them’. And indeed so did it come to pass. The following day the bleeding stopped. Alexei would live. Rasputin could not cure the disease but could stop the bleeding.
To his distracters, Rasputin was said to have had the inborn cunning of the Russian peasant and knew how to play the simple man of God when in front of the tsar and tsarina. He tricked them into believing he could save their son Alexei, and with him the Romanov dynasty itself. They placed themselves, and the empire, in his hands. In the end, his greed and corruption betrayed their trust.
Whether Rasputin used the widely believed hypnotism to influence people and stop Alexei’s bleeding remains uncertain. American Ambassador Francis in a letter to Washington in February 1917, repeated the claim that “he had special ‘sexual hypnotism’ that made him so successful with women, and that the number of his conquests was now given in the thousands”. An English biography published in 1920 claimed that Rasputin ‘certainly suffered from priapism that could prolong a woman’s pleasure indefinitely without any specific satisfaction to himself’.
Now, a century after his death a new generation of Russian historians is reclaiming (history can be rewritten) that Rasputin was a devoted husband and father, a very honest man of God, a devout orthodox Christian and a humble Russian peasant. He was inspired by special divine gifts to help the royal family and his beloved Russia. The stories about his drinking, sexual orgies, corruption and his interference in the affairs of the state are nothing but blatant lies brought about by his enemies, atheist communists. It was a part of a larger war to smear his image and waged against the monarchy, bent on wiping out the Russian orthodoxy. A branch of the Russian Orthodox Church has even recognised him as a saint in 2001.
The modern Russian popular culture has a feverish respect for Rasputin. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, brought out heroes of the old regime as villains, and villains as heroes. Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandria, who were number one enemies under the Soviets, have now, along with their five children, been canonised as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000; their remains having already been interred with great ceremony alongside Russia’s earlier tsarist rulers in St Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Cathedral. The remains of Alexei and his sister Maria, are still kept in a Russian archive at the insistence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which remains unconvinced of their authenticity.
Nobody knows whether Rasputin truly possessed the power to heal. And if so how? Rasputin sometimes appeared at the sick boy’s bed, and soon thereafter he was well again. There were many theories. Some claimed it was a coincidence. Rasputin’s daughter Maria insisted that her father never resorted to hypnotism though it was disputed by others. Alexandra was convinced that it was because of her and Rasputin’s faith that safeguarded her son’s life. The tsarevich’s doctors, both of whom hated Rasputin, stated openly more than once that, they has witnessed incidents in which Rasputin had managed to bring relief to Alexei.
All medical evidence to the contrary, on October 12, Rasputin’s assurances in his telegrams, calmed the anxious mother and she in turn transferred the confidence to her ailing son, literally willing him back to health. This might have been the role of the mind on human health, while Rasputin’s instruction to leave the boy in peace (not messing about his body) was vital to his recovery.
(The writer is based in the UK; Email: irengbammsingh@gmail.com; Website:www.drimsingh.co.uk)

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