The Fall of Shuruppak – the story behind the book.

Harappa : The Series

The city of Shuruppak lies on the banks of one of the tributaries of Euphrates 35 miles south of the city of Nippur at the site of Tell Fara. This was probably found by Shuruppak around 3000 BCE. The city features in the Epic of Gilgamesh and come to a watery end probably around 2000 BCE. Shuruppakmap
Cuneiform texts speak of warfare between cities and particularly the attacks by the Gutians. The number of tablets found in this site has given the city somewhat of a university atmosphere. These tablets feature anything from classroom texts to business deals and itemisation of object including plants and animals. The Sumerian King list puts Shuruppak as the son of Ubara Tutu, “last king before the big deluge”. King Shuruppak is known for the Instructions of Shuruppak, which is probably the oldest surviving Mesopotamian literature. Here, Shuruppak gives instructions to his son. tablet house He emphasises to…

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The Fall of Shuruppak – the story behind the book.

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Surgeon struck off for prioritsing profit

Just when the General Medical Council is considering more serious sanctions against doctors, this hits headlines. Doctors like this (BMJ2014;349:g5236) are the cause for the council to get tougher on rogue doctors. But, they bring not only shame on the rest of the medical fraternity, but also push most of us to practice defensive medicine to the detriment of our patients.

Dr Krishnamurthy Nulliah, a cosmetic surgeon at Harley Street, has been struck off from the register for using his skill to earn money rather than treat people. He has been found guilty of “subordinating his proper responsibilities as a doctor to the pursuit of a commercial enterprise.” He was running his practice as a vendor and corner shop merchant offering discounts to patients. “BOGOF” was an everyday practice for him, according to the MPTS panel. He was found to have offered discounts to one patient if she agreed to treatment in additional areas. Mind boggles at this doctors audacity.

While we cannot comment on the veracity of the claims by both sides, it is difficult to understand how a doctor could completely ignore the Hippocratic oath and deal with patients as commodities. We have seen how such panels work and come to their decisions, often to the detriment of the practitioner. The process starts off with an investigative team statement saying that they are not there to investigate the matter. They never ask the complainant to show evidence or proof of their allegations. Everything is taken as hearsay, and if it is not written down, it did not happen. I suspect, if this doctor had written down that he had taken proper consent and discussed the issues with the patients, he might have got off.

Unfortunately there are rogue doctors in our fraternity who do behave the way the MPTS panels state and they are the cause of increasing threats from the governing body. This will only lead to further inward looking practices and may even cause a stagnation in medical practice. Innovation will not be considered by anyone for the fear of “getting wrong with the GMC.”

If you want to read about how a GMC investigation really takes place read my book – A Kangaroo Court – A triumph of mediocrity.  It is available in print form as well as on Kindle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kangaroo-Court-Triumph-Mediocrity/dp/1468081330/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409059758&sr=1-1&keywords=a+kangaroo+court)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kangaroo-Court-Triumph-Mediocrity/dp/1468081330/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409059758&sr=1-1&keywords=a+kangaroo+court

 

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Black Holes AND Ancient Indians

Albert Einstein felt nature would not permit such things to exist, despite his theory of general relativity allowed such a possibility.  It was unthinkable for him to have an enormous star; hundreds of times bigger than our sun could vanish from the universe.  An American journalist first named black holes in 1968 reporting on an American scientific meeting. ImageAmerican physicist, John Wheeler was the first one to describe an area of space which was “empty” and which “swallowed everything” including light.   Pierre-Simon Laplace and John Mitchell considered that such objects existed where the gravitational force was so great that light cannot escape in 18th Century, and were called “black stars” or “cold stars“.  In ancient Indian scripture, Mandukya Upanishad, probably composed around the second millennium BCE, talks about Vishwaruchi, which absorbs everything in the universe – Black Hole. Black holes were considered as scientific curiosities in the first half of the twentiImageeth century and belonged largely in science fiction.  It is only in the last couple of decades that their existence accepted by the scientific community.  It was popularised by movies such as Star Wars and TV programmes like Star Trek, Dr Who, Battle star Gallactica and Star gate.  Authors such as Larry Niven and Frederick Pohl used them as their theme in their novels. Image We now know that gravity does affect the time. If you are climbing a skyscraper, wearing an ultra-sensitive clock you will notice that the clock moves slightly slower as you reach the top, albeit by a billionth of a second.  The difference on a GPS satellite can be quite significant and hence the clocks on these satellites are constantly readjusted.  A black hole has enormous gravitational pull, strong enough to even hold the light in it, and nothing can escape a black hole.  Escape velocity from the weak earth’s gravity is about 7 miles per second.  Light travels at about 186282 miles per second.  Even this velocity is not enough to get light out of the gravitational pull of a black hole.  The only thing we know that is capable of travelling faster than light, is a quantum particle called Tachyon.  Even this has been described in the Mandukya Upanishad as Manojava.  The characteristics of both objects and particles are uncannily similar. Varahamihira described what could only be a gravitational force when he said, that there must be a force that keeps object stuck on the surface of the earth.  Later in the seventh century, Brahmagupta said the same thing about falling objects – “bodies fall towards the earth as it is in the nature of the earth to attract bodies.”  Image Sayana, a fourteenth century mathematician and teacher in Vijayanagara court, commenting on Rigveda, Book one, hymn 50, has described what appears to be the speed of light.  He quotes sunlight travelling 2202 yojanas in half a “nimisha.”  Taking each Yojana to be about 9 miles long and a nimisha is about 16/75th of a second; it works out to around 185794 miles per second.  That is a very close approximation of the speed of light.  He was writing in the fourteenth century AD about a Vedic composition probably dating back to 3000 BCE. Our sun is an average sized star about half way down its life cycle.  In about five billion years from now, the fuel in the sun will burn out, leaving a cold, dark mass the size of a few miles across, smaller than the size of earth.  A star, which is ten times the size of our sun, will have burnt up its fuel in time and collapse on itself into a neutrino star.  A neutrino star has massive gravitational pull.  If you drop a marshmallow on such a neutrino star, it will produce a force equivalent to a nuclear bomb. However, a star, which is twenty times the size of our sun, will collapse into a black hole with unimaginable gravitational pull.  Almost every galaxy in our universe has a black hole in its centre.  They are voracious eaters and swallow anything that comes close.  Some of them are vast, measuring thousands of light years across with a mass equivalent to millions of suns and some of them are miniscule rogue Black Holes wandering the interstellar space.  Despite their reputation of swallowing everything in their path, they do not really go chasing after objects. Ancient Hindu astronomy speaks of stars, other heavenly bodies disappearing, and a star devouring another star.   At a crude level, one could think of Rahu swallowing the sun causing the solar eclipse.  Ancient scriptures tell us about stars swallowing other stars. It has been described as a bottomless pit into which everything disappears.  However, they do have a bottom where the star has condensed into a tiniest mass.  Even though the size is tiny, the mass remains the same.  For example, when our sun collapses into a dark mass the size of a few miles across, our earth will stay in the same place with the same gravitational pull of the sun.  If we set off from the earth in a spacecraft and travel about 26000 light years towards the centre of our Milky Way galaxy we will reach the constellation of Sagittarius.  ImageThere is an area within the constellation where nothing can be seen. This has been termed Sag A*.  As we reach the edge of this area, the time slows down enormously.  Every minute spent in this zone called the ‘event horizon’ is equal to about a thousand years on earth.  If you manage to cross the ‘Event horizon’ the time stops for you.  Image In Hindu mythology, Brahma, the creator of the universe said to have  a life span of billions of years and his one day is equal to thousands of earth years.  Is it possible that the author of this hymn was indicating the event horizon and issues with the time space continuum?  Mandokya Upanishad describes the day of creator as 4.5 billion years of human time as day the same as night.  If we remember the big bang occurred around 13.8 billion years ago and the stars were formed around 9 million years ago, it seems a bit more than coincidence that these numbers match. Black holes do not just exist in the centre of galaxies, but there are rogue ones wandering around the galaxies devouring anything that came in their path. Our own galaxy has at least half a dozen such rogue black holes. What do these black holes have?  In a word, a lot of nothing.   That is not entirely true.  Anything that gets into the clutches of its gravitational pull gets compacted into small objects.  A regular sized black hole can compact a mountain the size of Mount Everest to the size of a grain of sand or less. Our own home planet can be compacted to the size of an eyeball.  Supermassive black holes are another matter altogether.  They would reduce our home planet to atomic size or less. They have masses equivalent to millions or even billions of suns.  Once anything reaches the centre of the Black Hole it will come to the region of ‘Singularity’ and all objects merge into this ‘Singularity’.  We know that the big bang started with the ultimate example of Singularity – a tiny speck 13.8 billion years ago and it is still expanding. Coming to the region of ‘Event horizon’ or the point of no return.  When and if you manage to reach the area just before ‘Event horizon’ area, every minute spent there is equal to thousand years at home on earth.  If you manage to cross the event horizon, someone looking from earth will see you frozen in time. However, nothing is infinite.  Stephen Hawking theorises that there is a “leak” from the black holes at an infinitesimal slow rate. You will have to wait a trillion or two earth years before you can escape.   As you fall through the black hole, you are stretched and shred to pieces and as you reach the centre, you become one with the black hole.  You have reached “Singularity”. This begs the question or several questions.   Did the ancient Indians know about the black holes and the Event horizon five thousand years ago?  Did they know that the time moves slower nearer the centre of gravity than, say a global positioning satellite (GPS)?  Did they know that a minute near the event horizon is equal to thousands of earth years?  When they quoted the creator’s time as millions or billions of years, were they being metaphorical? When one becomes one with the Black Hole in ‘Singularity’, is one merging with the Creator, as Hindu’s believe? So far, no black hole has been imaged. That is until now. The black Hole in Sag A* in the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy, is due to have its dinner within next twelve months or do.  A gas cloud is nearing the event horizon and every capable telescope is being pointed at this spot to catch a once in a millennium occurrence. The entire globe is being converted into a massive telescope to watch this feeding frenzy. We will not be able to see the black hole, but we can see what happens to the Gas cloud G.  We will be able to see left overs at the table.

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Harappa Series – A Preamble!!

Harappa : The Series

I have been fascinated by ancient history of India since I was taught about the ruins of Harappa and Mohenjodaro in school.  The literature available at that time was scant and extremely difficult to obtain.  Particularly to a school kid!  Since then, work on excavations on the Indus Valley Civilization has gathered pace and it has changed our perception of Indian pre-history enormously.  I still remember our teachers teaching us about the great Indus Valley Civilization and its destruction by the plundering Aryans from the steppes of Russia in 1500 BCE.  Unfortunately, scholars are still propagating that story across the world. Image

As I grew up, I found it difficult to understand how a thriving and advanced civilization ended so suddenly beyond any trace.  There were several inconsistencies in the story.  These brigands were supposed to have ridden horse drawn chariots across mountain passes and valleys. Image The chariots, especially fast two…

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The Book Launch Tour!!

 

iic_cenetThe whole thing was like out of a dream!  From the moment we landed at the sprawling Delhi International Airport the events rolled quickly and merged into one long episode.  The publisher, Mr Bhaskar Roy came to meet us at the Royal Plaza hotel on Janpath, right in the middle of the city jostling with swank colonial buildings of yesteryears.  He took us through the following evening’s timetable and tried to reassure my frayed nerves.

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Dr Kapila Vatsyayan

There were two eminent archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who took an active part in the discussions.  Dr B R Mani, current Additional Director General of ASI shed further light on the subject of Soma.  The discussion went on into the evening and the book was well received.  Most of the books on display were snapped up very quickly and I was kept busy signing the books long after the programme was finished.  It was considered a very successful launch partly because of the presence of the Kapila Vatsyayan who does not normally attend book launches unless the book is of significance and partly because of the excellent audience participation. DSC_0139DSC_0006

We travelled to Varanasi the next morning looking forward to the charity medical camp.  We were rather anxious about the whole thing as the information about the facilities was rather sketchy.  We were in for a pleasant surprise.  It turned out to be a new hospital, reasonably well equipped.  varana

On the first day, we spent some time getting used to the place and the people.  They gave each of us a room to examine patients and the staff went out of their way to accommodate us.  Part of the problem was the language!  I did not realise that a large percentage of the local population, particularly the rural areas, spoke Bhojpuri.  It is closely linked to Hindi, but still not very easy to follow.  It became obvious very quickly that we won’t be able to manage without an interpreter.  It took over 30 minutes to see my first patient!   Even Sushma appeared to enjoy herself despite being extremely apprehensive to start with.  She saw several patients with surgical problems and we saw over 100 patients over two days.  It was tiring but enjoyable at the same time.  The director of the unit, Dr Indu Singh was a revelation to us all.  She was an extremely pleasant and hard working Gyneacolgist with a very keen interest in Telemedicine to bring modern medicine to the rural masses.  She has asked us to return next year to conduct CME programs, interactive workshops with the local orthopedic fraternity and expand the remit of the charity camp itself.  We returned to Delhi tired, yet satisfied with our efforts.

DPS gurgaon Delhi Public School;  I was not sure what to expect in the school.  Mrs Aditi Misra, the principle of the school and a very dear friend had passed my talk earlier on. But I was still wary of facing a bunch of students.  The school building was very impressive.  It must be to host 6000 students from nursery to school leavers.

 DPS dance The programme was started off with an impressive dance performance by the students to a Bengali song sung by Amitabh Bhachan.  The dance was extremely professional and inspiring.  I did not understand the song, but the dancers were so good that it was easy to understand the theme of the dance and the story behind it.   One of the girls from the Editorial Board of the school then introduced me to a packed hall and invited me to start an interactive session.  I was not sure what to expect and started off tentatively to try and see how much the students knew of Harappan history.  I need not have worried.  The kids definitely knew more about it than I did at their stage in career.  As I went on, the questions came thick and fast.  Their desire to know was unstoppable.  Finally, the Principal of the school, Mrs Aditi Misra signalled me to wrap it up and go on to my talk.  The talk again stimulated a lot of discussion.  I was then invited to be interviewed by the Editorial Board of the school.  This was made up mainly of students from across the school, of all ages with one teacher guiding them in the background.  This was a daunting task as their desire for information was enormous.  The session was stopped by the Principal again as the school time had run out.  I was on the floor for over two and  half hours!!!

 century club There was two segments to the Bangalore launch.  First one was a talk to the Rotary Club organised by Srinivas Rajanna at the prestigious Century Club.  The venue was overflowing with standing room only for the talk.  There were a lot of questions and discussions went on into the night.  There was an interesting question to finish the evening – “Are you a Doctor or a Historian now?”.  I was not sure what I am now!  I am a doctor by profession and history is my passion.  I answered it with “I am neither.  I am, but a humble orthopaedic surgeon, a frustrated carpenter!” 

The last stage was a formal book release under the auspices of the prestigious MES College in Malleswaram.  Known for its extremely conservative values, I was rather apprehensive about the evening.  The audience was made up of journalists, authors and historians along with well wishers.  MES college

There was a panel discussion with historians and experts in the scriptures along with a professor of ancient history and an author.  The evening ended well and my talk was extremely well received.  All the books on display at both the venues disappeared very quickly and I ended up spending last hour signing the books.

Has it been a successful launch?  Only time will tell.  It was a success as far as I am concerned as it generated a lot of interest in the people who attended the programmes!!

The book is now available for sale on http://www.amazon.com and http://www.snapdeal.com as well as from the publisher’s website – http://www.palimpsest.co.in

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Great News – Book Launch finally here!!

Harappa : The Series

It gives me a great pleasure to announce the Book Launch of Harappa:The Lure of Soma on 19th October at India International Centre, New Delhi.  Dr Kapila Vatsayan, the noted scholar/historian, author of numerous books and winner of several awards including Sangeeth Natak Academy award and Padma Vibhushan will be the Chief Guest.

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