Notes on Reaching 70 Not Out – Part 5

A Zest for Writing

by Sachi Sri Kantha, June 25, 2024

Generativity in Three Countries

The word ‘generativity’ is defined as ‘the desire to care for and contribute to further generations; desire to leave a legacy’. [International Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol.1, Frank Magill (ed), 1996]. Normal humans, of both sexes, possess this desire. That’s why we have children and after reaching 60 entertain expectations to meet our grandchildren, before the Big Axe falls on our necks. This is biological generativity.

Childless couples also yearn for generativity of a different type – Intellectual generativity. Those inclined to arts, leave their voice records in the form of songs (e.g.: M.S. Subbulakshmi and Madurai Mani Iyer) or voice-based art forms like cinema (e.g. MGR) or writing (e.g. C.N. Annadurai). Even unmarried individuals (e.g: Mother Teresa and Kamaraj) leave their generativity imprints by some recognized form of social service. Those inclined to sciences, write books and their variants like research papers or formulate eponymous ideas like theorems (e.g: ‘Chandrasekhar limit’ of S. Chandrasekhar in astronomy, Ramanujan theorems of S. Ramanujan in mathematics) or any invented products (Wrights Brothers). In his essay ‘The Functions of a Teacher’ (Harpers Magazine, June 1940), Bertrand Russell observed, “Any man who has the genuine impulse of the teacher will be more anxious to survive in his books than in the flesh.” Here, one should infer that, Russell had used the word ‘man’ as a generic to ‘humans’, according to the usage of those days and did NOT exclude women per se.

Having reached 70, I look back on my path of intellectual generativity in bio-medical sciences. Previously, in the ‘From Sachi’s File’ series, I had provided details about my 8 science articles that appeared in a Tamil science journal Ootru (Peradeniya) from 1979 to 1984 [https://sangam.org/from-sachis-files-chapter-22/], Unfortunately, Tamil language is NOT a lingua franca of science in our times. If reference to any science-related observation in Tamil appears in a science journal, it will be in an English-translated version. For instance, primatologist Alison Jolly (1937-2014) made a reference to Tamil poet Kapilar’s verses of the ancient Sangam period (2,000 years ago!), in her essay ‘Monkeys in the back garden’ [Science, 2001; 291: 1705-1706]. As such, to establish myself as a scientist writer of some recognition internationally, I was determined to publish in English journals. Please do not misconstrue the details mentioned here as braggadocio; I’m simply recording the rewards earned for my perseverance and zest for writing.

Sachi’s Oeuvre of Science Research Publications 1981-2024

My research career that began in Sri Lanka as a graduate student in 1978, at the age of 25, resulted in my first paper in a local peer reviewed journal in 1981. After 43 years of non-stop activity, a bibliography of my research oeuvre in a range of themes covers a cumulative total of 195 items (including 3 hard cover reference books). If interested, kindly check the pdf file, which contains details of these 195 research items which carry my name either as sole author or co-author. I was affiliated to the following nine institutions:

Sri Lanka (1978-1980) – University of Peradeniya

USA (1981-1985 and 1989-1990)– University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Medical College of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

Japan (1986-1988 and 1991- present) – University of Tokyo, , Osaka Bioscience Institute, Nikken Foods Ltd (Fukuroi city), Gifu University, Kyoto University Primate Research Institute (Inuyama), and Gifu Pharmaceutical University.

Apart from these 9 institutions, I also worked part time as an adjunct professor/lecturer at the SOKENDAI (Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Hayama, Japan for 4 years, and simultaneously worked at the Utsunomiya University, Utsunomiya, Japan and Lakeland University of Japan, Tokyo for one semester. It is not an exaggeration to state that all my publications derive from my personal experiences gained in interactions with the faculty members and students at these 12 institutions. Due to this chequered career without tenure, I composed a tag line for my Research Gate profile that simply reads as, ‘I consider myself as the ‘Mohammad Ali’ of tramp scientists in Japan.’ [https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sachi-Sri-Kantha] This is because, from 1976 until 2016, my work station had changed in every Olympic year, for 40 years. Job security and academic tenure were alien concepts for me. Nevertheless I could prove myself as a published scientist.

Though considering myself as a ‘tramp scientist’ (in terms of work-related displacement, and lack of research funding), I was encouraged by the thoughts of the great Linus Pauling (1901-1994), who in summing up his seven decades career as a science activist, prior to his death had stated, “A scientist can be productive in various ways. One is having the ability to plan and carry out experiments, but the other is having the ability to formulate new ideas, which can be about what experiments can be carried out…by making [the] proper calculations. Individual scientists who are successful in their work are successful for different reasons.” [American Scientist, 1994; 82: 522-523]. I would attribute my success in my career to the luck of having appropriate mentors at the specific growth stages between 25 and 46.

Mentors

From 1978 to 1999, I was blessed to have six scientist mentors, among whom two were women; Prof. Navam Hettiarachchy, Prof John W. Erdman Jr., Prof. Kanehisa Hashimoto, Prof. A Catherine Ross, Prof. Osamu Hayaishi (1920-2015) and Dr. Hirotomo Ochi (1934-2005). I’m so grateful to them for the sole reason that they offered me ‘living space’ [lebensraum] in their labs for my mental development, when I badly needed such an arrangement. On the influence, each of these mentors had in my career development, I have to prepare a separate article later.

Sachi Sri Kantha

Sachi, holding an old Bolivian owl monkey, (circa 2004)

Only since 2000, I became an independent researcher and collaborated with Veterinarian Professor Juri Suzuki, in primatology research, from 2002 to 2018. This explains the fact that my publications during the first 20 years of my career (1981-2000) were based on the research interests of my mentors, because I had to work with THEIR research grants. In the second 20 year period of my career (2001 – 2020), I hardly received a research grant, except for a three year period as a Visiting Professor at the Kyoto University, when I was allocated a nominal sum for each year as component of a team grant, for research on the sleep-activity cycle of New world monkeys.

 Publication Strategy

As of now, I had published my research data in 58 academic journals – international, regional and national varieties. Among these, four journals that have published more than 10 of my submissions include International Medical Journal (46), Current Science (19), Medical Hypotheses (16) and Nature (14). My motto in research publishing has been ‘Acceptance without dismemberment by the envy scissors from peer reviewers’.

Towards this aim, my strategy was to write each of my submission on a specific theme of my choice like a ‘love letter’ to the journal editor, after previous readings of the writings and thoughts of such an editor. I have been successful with this strategy in being attracted to editors (in chronological order) such as Sir John Maddox (Nature), Dr David Horrobin (Medical Hypotheses), Dr Padmanabhan Balaram (Current Science) and Dr Tsutomu Sakuta (International Medical Journal). Once these editors had either quit or had died, my submissions to these journals were abandoned reluctantly.

I’m proud of the fact that my research publications cover a wide canvas. The themes covered include, biochemistry, behavior, food chemistry, history of science and medicine, humor, linguistics, monkeys, Nobel prizes, nutrition, plant biochemistry, sexuality, sleep and zoology. For themes indicated in bold font, I had no collaborators.

In his compendia of ‘Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology’ (1982), biochemist cum science popularizer Isaac Asimov wrote, ‘Science is a complex skein, intricately interknotted across the artificial boundaries we draw only that we may the more easily encompass its parts in our mind.’ This particular sentence had remained as my guiding light for my writing career as a scientist, that began in 1981.

By choice and circumstances, I framed myself as a polymath. How to present my oeuvre of science publications in English has been a dilemma to me? Routinely used formats, such as chronological, reverse chronological, and journal-based listing will not do favorable justice to my publication range. Disregarding the artificial boundaries of specific subjects such as astronomy, immunology and zoology, oeuvre of my science publications in English are listed alphabetically under 70 distinct keywords and names of elite intellectuals from A to Z. Publications from 1 to 195 are identified within parenthesis following each published item, with a three digit number. The chosen 70 key words which describe my range are as follows:

Assassinations

Books, researched

Brain, Breasts

Cancer, Carnosine, Carotenoids, Centenarians, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, China, Cigarettes, Cinema Stars, Citations, Coprophagy, Francis Crick

Charles Darwin

Edible Invertebrates, Albert Einstein

Fishes/Fish oils, Food sanitation, Sigmund Freud

Genius types, Nikolai Gogol

Hiroshima, History of Science, Honeymoon, Human Nutrition, Humor

Ichthyotoxins/ Marine toxins

Japanese fertility, Japanese Writers

Kissing behavior

Karl Landsteiner, Legumes (including winged bean), Limericks, Leonardo da Vinci, Linguistics, Love

Memoriam, Monkeys (Cotton top tamarin, Macaques, Marmoset, Owl monkey, Squirrel monkey)

Alfred Nobel, Nobel Prizes, Nutrition Survey

Oral contraceptives, Oxidative stress

Paramyosin, Parkinson disease, Pheromones, Prostaglandins

Research Papers and reprints, Retinoids

Scientists – profiles, Scientific Creativity/productivity, Science Policy, Sex workers,

Sexography, Sexual Harassment, William Shakespeare, Sleep, Space travel, Suicide

Tamil Music

University students

Vatsyayana (author of Kama Sutra), Virus HTLV-1

James D Watson, Whaling, Wild boar

Youth culture

Zany ideas [Research Gate-posted Pre-prints]

Why I opted to this ‘key word’ format? In the digital era, searches are made by researchers using key words. And that’s how, quite a number of my papers had reached unprecedented level of readers, despite my base in Japan.

A fan letter to Sir John Maddox

My career in science began two years before the return of Sir John Maddox (1925-2009), to the Nature journal as the editor in chief, following a lapse of 6 years. Thus, from 1980 to 1995, wherever my work station was, I wouldn’t miss reading a single issue of Nature (at the libraries of University of Peradeniya, University of Illinois, University of Tokyo, Medical College of Pennsylvania and Osaka Bioscience Institute) to learn about the thinking of Maddox. One of my goals as a scientist was to see my name appear in the Nature ‘and opted to use ‘Maddox ladder’ to enter into the pages of Nature. I couldn’t send full-fledged research papers, reviews or commentaries, because these would be first passed on to peer reviewers for acceptance or rejection.

Sir John Maddox

What I did cleverly was, to focus on either the ‘Correspondence’ column (only one page – but peer competition for this space was enormous)/ or ‘Scientific Correspondence’ column (at most one or two pages). My strategy was simple. The arbiter on what appears in these Correspondence columns was Maddox himself. These were NOT subjected to the prior screening of peer reviewers. Suppose I contributed a single idea (within 250-300 words), which Maddox felt that it deserves publication in the Nature, my name would appear. Thus between 1986 and 1995, I submitted nearly 30 of my ‘ideas/thoughts’. Obviously, more than half were rejected, but it was a pleasure to receive postal rejection letters, signed by Maddox himself! But, importantly for me, 13 of my short letters were accepted by Maddox, and got published, without alteration of a single word of the submitted text.

My use of what I call ‘Maddox approval scale’ also had another merit. Not infrequently, when non-native speakers of English submits research papers to journals, they receive a formatted form of rejection ‘Please check the English usage with a native speaker of English’. This is a routine ploy adopted by the jealous peer reviewers to delay the acceptance of papers of their rival peers. If such jealous peer reviewers couldn’t find anything drastic to comment on the quality of the methods and results of the submitted manuscripts (having a non-Christian name), jealous peer reviewers (even if they are NOT native speakers of English) use this ploy to delay the acceptance. I could protect my bruised ego from this sort of ‘peer nastiness’, using ‘Maddox approval scale’: ‘If my English is acceptable to Maddox and the Nature, who are you to comment on my English usage?’

On Oct 14, 1995, I wrote a fan letter to Maddox. Excerpts, I reproduce below.

‘Dear Dr. Maddox,

From what I read in the Nature sometime back, you will be completing your tenure as the editor next month. Kindly accept my thanks and wishes. To felicitate your accomplishment, I have written a limerick, which is as follows:

 There was an editor named John Maddox

Whose pedigree derives from Sir Norman Lock

The Nature he coded

Became internationally moulded

To eliminate scientific parochial pox

You have my permission to use this limerick in whatever appropriate manner.

Since 1986, I have seen 13 of my short letters published in the Nature on diverse topics such as Japanese whaling, Nobel prizes, insect eating, Raman, Eskimos, scientific productivity and the most recent one on Einstein and Lorentz. It gave me some respect and self confidence that I can even get something published in the Nature.

One of the reasons I write this letter to you is that I gained immensely from your one page commentaries on recent developments in physics, especially on gravitation and quantum mechanics…

I wonder whether you have thought of compiling all your one-page commentaries in Nature into a book format. It may have a good audience. I, for one, would like to have a collection of your commentaries down the years, in an easily accessible form.

With best wishes.

Sachi Sri Kantha’

To my delight, I did receive an acknowledgment from Dr. Maddox, dated December 12, 1995. He had written only one sentence: ‘Dear Sachi Sri Kantha, Thank you for your good wishes and for your amusing limerick which I shall try to memorize.’ For record, I attach a scan of this courteous letter.

Ah! Those were the pre-digital days, when journal editors of Maddox’s caliber had some class in sending an acknowledgment postal letter like this! Eventually, following his death in 2009, I forwarded a brief memoriam to Maddox including the limerick I had written to Dr. Balaram (Current Science), and he promptly published it as a tribute to Maddox. [Current Science, July 25, 2009; 97: 131]. This itself elevated me into a published limerick poet in a science journal!

Establishing a Science Career in Japan

Being a non-Japanese by birth, and also being a melanin-pigmented Asian guy with a non-Christian name, establishing a science career in Japan, was a difficult task. But, I have the satisfaction that due to a handful of kind-hearted souls (including my three mentors, mentioned above) I was able to succeed beyond my expectations.

If there is one demerit in the Japanese society, I’d indicate that Japanese suffer seriously from ‘credentialism’ disease. Penguin Dictionary of Sociology (1994, 3rd ed., edited by Nicholas Abercrombie et al.) provides a brief description of what credentialism is.

“a modern tendency in society to allocate positions, particularly occupation positions, on the basis of educational qualifications or credentials. The pursuit of such credentials then becomes an end in itself, a process sometimes known as the ‘Diploma Disease’. As a result, not only is the educational process distorted but the qualifications demanded and gained may have very little to do with the skills actually used in a job…

As such, the available job opportunities for an aspiring polymath (in the mold of a Bertrand Russell) like me was literally like that of ‘a round peg placed into square holes’. Quite a number of my published items were reflections of these endeavors.

Apart from the credentialism disease that hinders the career prospects of non-Japanese scientists in Japan, they also have to survive the ordeal of ‘academic apartheid’, well characterized by historian academic Ivan P. Hall (1932-2023), in his analytical book ‘Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop’ (1998). The phrase ‘Academic Apartheid’ is a title chapter in this book. But, Ivan Hall was NOT a scientist, but I was one. Non-Japanese scientists in Japan have to jump over subtle hurdles in front of them like allocation of research grants, research labs and mentee students.

Informal Communication with fellow scientist peers

Though I consider myself as a ‘digital immigrant’ rather than being a ‘digital native’, one merit of the digital world for me was instant communication with fellow scientists via email. This is an advantage for me while living in Japan. In my life time experience, communicating with a Japanese scientist (while living in Japan) in English is tedious. First, majority hardly respond unless you have some ‘business’ or ‘some connection’. Secondly, majority have difficulty in communicating in English, for fear of exposing their weakness in English. But, there are few exceptions too; Those Japanese who are confident in their English proficiency, do respond promptly. As such, for ‘scientific sparing’ I prefer American scientists; they do reply to thoughtful queries.

Here is an example of a stimulus I received for a paper, from Prof. J. Regal (Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota). I sent him an email on April 3, 2015, as follows:

“Dear Prof. Regal,

Greetings from Japan. I have in my files on interesting papers in evolution, your 1977 paper published in the American Naturalist (1977; 111: 123-133), entitled, ‘Evolutionary loss of useless features: is it molecular noise suppression?’

I have considered this paper somewhat interesting, unusual and thought-stimulating, and have returned to it again and again. Now that I could locate your email by googling your name, I thought of writing to you. I’m interested in knowing, whether you had followed up this paper, with any subsequent publications on the same theme. If so, I’m interested in receiving any PDF material. Thanks in advance for the courtesy.

Sachi Sri Kantha”

To this query, I received a response on April 24, 2015. Excerpts:

“Dear Sachi Sri Kantha,

Thank you for your mail, and I am sorry to take so long to answer. I have been very busy with too many things though I am retired.

I have not followed up this topic with regard to noise or equivocation and evolution. It still seems like a good idea to me, after many years of reflection and talking with colleagues.

The more we learn about molecular evolution the more it seems to me there are opportunities for noise reduction if features of the system cease to serve adaptive functions In fact the flow of findings seem exciting when looked at from this perspective….

Perhaps someday I will return to the evolutionary issue, but at 75 years old I am still busy with various other large projects that I still hope to finish before my life cycle has been completed….

I am curious why you are interested in this topic and what your background might be. Are you conducting or contemplating work in this area? Please feel free to stay in touch.

Philip Regal.”

I did respond to Regal, on the same day, as follows:

“Dear Prof. Regal,

Thanks a lot for your informative response to my query.

To answer your query, currently I consider myself as interdisciplinary biologist. I’ll be 62 in two weeks time, on May 8. My degrees are, B.Sc (Zoology), MS Biochemistry), PhD (Food Chemistry, U. of Illinois, 1986), and a second PhD (Marine Biochemistry, Univ.of Tokyo, 1989). Currently I teach Scientific English to undergrads and graduate students at the Gifu University. For the past 13 years, I have returned to Zoology – Primatology for hands-on research on activity and sleep. But, I’m also interested in evolutionary theory. That’s why your paper on Evolutionary loss of Useless features (1977), and the ‘noice squelch theory’ which you had mentioned is of fascination to me.

Currently I’m interested in the retention of male nipples in humans. Does it serve any vital function now? If it doesn’t serve any such function, why it failed to get lost (like tails) during the course of evolution in the past 5 million years? In your paper, you passingly mention it as ‘supernumerary mammary glands’. As you know well, this is an interesting topic for laughter among students in the class.

Best regards.

Sachi Sri Kantha”

 This correspondence with Philip Regal led me to formulate a hypothesis on the primary function of nipple in humans. In collaboration with my graduate student Ayumi Hibino, we published a paper in the International Medical Journal in 2017. It was titled, ‘Is serum testosterone/estradiol ratio, an indicator of nipple’s primary function in humans?’ We collected published literature on nipple and areola in men and women related to physical dimensions, histology, functional roles, total serum testosterone and serum estradiol levels and studied. Without proper credentials, we couldn’t collect such primary data on our own, but we could sip the essence of the findings of other peers in many countries who had reported their measured data in the medical journals and in the words of Pauling, ‘formulate new ideas, which can be about what experiments can be carried out’ (see above, the section on generativity).

The abstract of our paper had the following details: [A pdf copy is presented nearby] ‘Retention of nipples in men has been a biological curiosity. We were intrigued by the fact that if nipples do not serve any function, why it failed to get lost (like tails) during the course of evolution in the past 5 million years. Nipples have two recognized functions in humans. The primary function is nutritional (i.e., suckling the young) and present only in women. The secondary function of nipple is becoming an erogenous zone during sexual arousal. This function has been positively reported in both sexes, albeit in lower percentage among men (50-60%) in comparison to women (over 80%).

Calculated serum testosterone/estradiol ratio for men varies from 142-189 among men, within an age range 29-72 years. In pre-menopausal women (mean age 39.9 years), testosterone/estradiol ratio is 2. But it rises to almost 13 fold to 25.9 in post-menopausal women (mean age 56.4 years). As is known, post-menopausal women lose the primary function of nipple during menopause. Related to nipple development and sex spectrum in humans, we propose a hypothesis that total testosterone/estradiol ratio in an individual influences the nipple development during pubertal onset and the position of that individual among the 9 stages of sex spectrum. This hypothesis is testable in humans, if individuals who exhibit intermediate genetic pattern of sexes can be identified and tested.’

Among the 195 papers which I have authored/co-authored, only about ten gave me a satisfaction of contributing to multiple disciplines; and this 2017 paper was one of them.

The journal had categorized this paper less appreciably under the ‘gynecology’ theme.

A simple appreciation about one’s published work decades ago, gives me (living in another region of the globe) a delight that money cannot provide. An year ago via Research Gate site, I received such an appreciation, which I share here. Paul Smith, a fellow primatologist wrote to me (dated May 11, 2023)

“Dr Kantha I was very interested to read your Neotropical Primates [journal] paper on the vocalizations of Aotus azarae. I work in the Paraguayan Chaco where the species occurs. I wonder would you be willing to share your recordings for potential use in field work here?

Best wishes

Paul”

Aotus azare is the Bolivian owl monkey. For want of research funding, I couldn’t travel to South America, when I researched on monkeys. Therefore, observations for all our papers on owl monkeys were made under laboratory conditions, in Inuyama, Japan.

Even in it’s natural habit, this night-active monkey is very elusive to observe and study, because it lives in 20-30 meter long tall trees and hardly comes down to the ground level. Thus, vocalization of owl monkeys have rarely been recorded with audiographic instruments. between 2002 and 2005, I took this as an unusual, challenging problem to tackle. My response to Paul Smith’s request, sent on the same day was as follows:

“Hello Paul,

Greetings. Thanks a lot for your request, and appreciation of our Aotus azarae vocalization study, published in the Neotropical Primates journal. Unfortunately, I don’t have the recording with me, now. I’m now retired, and moved from Inuyama to Tokyo, four years ago. The second author of the paper, Hiroki Koda (who was then a graduate student) primarily conducted the recording with me, and now I had lost contact with him. Those recordings were done around 2003 almost 20 years ago. After that, when we submitted the data, to at least three primatology journals and got rejections. Finally, it was published as a short note, in Neotropical Primates. Wish you best of luck in your field studies on owl monkey.”

On the Research Gate site and the ‘Read’ Counts

For fun, I like to explore the popularity of my published papers from the altmetric ‘Read’ counts or hits available in the Research Gate site. ‘Altmetric’ is a portmanteau word from ‘alternative metrics’ coined in 2010, referring to the online attention received for a research paper. Two of my sole-authored popular papers published in 2016 were,

‘Love bites or monkey bites: A medical trauma of a kind’. International Medical Journal, Feb 2016. This paper had accumulated 11,305 reads, as of June 24, 2024. Why this paper became a ‘hot item’? My guesses are, (1) for the first time, I had made an attempt to classify love bites into four categories, depending on the trauma grade. These are, type 1 (consensual sex play), type 2 (consensual sex play sliding into sexual aggression), type 3 (sexual aggression of hetero variety) and type 4 (self-biting of auto variety). While type 1 is the most discussed occurrence among willing partners, other three types may become serious and need medical attention. (2) I have no doubt that majority of the readers were teenage students of junior high school and high school who indulge in courtship behavior.

The other paper was ‘On Shakespeare, syphilis and his naughty synonyms for penis’. International Medical Journal, Sept. 2016. This paper had accumulated 4,896 reads, as of June 24, 2024.

The abstract of this paper reads;

‘Why did Shakespeare use so many naughty synonyms for penis in his plays? Shakespeare’s canon of 38 plays was scanned for his word play for penis. Six broad types of naughty synonyms for penis can be categorized. These include: anatomy, sports, warfare, gardening and farming, domestic items and miscellaneous. 22 examples are offered from 16 plays namely, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Cymbeline, Henry IV (Part 2), Henry V, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Much Ado about Nothing, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Troilus and Cressida. I propose four reasons. (1) raging syphilis disease in Europe during the quarter century (1588-1611) in which these plays were written, (2) sheer dramatic entertainment for the peasant audience, (3) Shakespeare’s linguistic creativity , and (4) Shakespeare’s interest in sex-related metaphors. The Latin word ‘penis’ came to be used in English only 77 years after Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare could have introduced ‘penis’ into his plays, because he did use many Latin words and phrases in his plays. The omission of ‘penis’ word among Shakespeare’s canon cannot be explained by the playwright’s lack of Latin knowledge.’

The ‘Read’ counts altmetric offer me an indirect endorsement of my teaching skill to the international audience of researchers and students. In fact, the second popular paper on Shakespeare is superbly inter-disciplinary in context, covering a range of subjects:

English literature, sexuality, genitourinary system and linguistics. There were two reasons, why I wrote this paper. First, I wanted to write on a theme for the fourth centenary of the Bard’s death, that had NOT been tackled previously by any Shakespearean scholar, excluding lexicographer Eric Partridge (1894-1979). In reality, this was my second paper on Shakespeare. Earlier, I had studied Shakespeare’s treatment of monkeys in his plays. This was titled, ‘Subhuman primates in Shakespeare’s oeuvre’ and published in Current Science (Bangalore) in 2014. That was written to commemorate the 450th birth anniversary of the Bard. Secondly, an unmentioned reason was to demonstrate to the ‘stiff necked jerks’ at my then workplace (Gifu University) who practiced ‘academic apartheid’ with smiling countenance that not a single Japanese national holding the rank of professor in English in any one of the universities in Japan could write an entertaining study on Shakespeare like his treatment of human penis! Subsequently, a Japanese academic holding a Professor rank in English rank at the Gifu University confided to me that ‘none of us Japanese’ can write a paper on Shakespeare like what you had written.

It also amused me that this Shakespeare paper had received one citation last year, in the journal ‘Violence against Women’. Maurice Eisenbruch, from Monash University, Australia, had cited me as follows:

“Scientist–historian Kantha (2016) classified Shakespeare’s use of “naughty” synonyms for the penis, as in “Ensign Pist” in Henry IV, “potent regiment” in Antony and Cleopatra, and “naked weapon” in Romeo and Juliet, where mate attraction is equated to warfare from the man’s perspective, involving the capture of a woman.”

Vow! Eisenbruch’s research paper has a long title, which reads ‘The mole on his penis lassos her’: Cultural understandings of coercive control and emotional abuse of women in Cambodia. Will you care to connect the dots now? From Elizabethan England > Japan > Australia > Cambodia. The web keeps on spreading. Thanks to Shakespeare, and my English teachers in Colombo.

That poignant 20 lines poem of Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’ begins with,

‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both’

and ends with

‘I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference’

My career as a scientist can be summed by these lines as well.

 *****

No Responses to “Notes on Reaching 70 Not Out – Part 5”

  1. Sachi Sri Kantha

    I wish to correct an advertent spelling error in the name of one of my American mentors, in the text. Prof. A. Catharine Ross is correct, and NOT Prof. A. Catherine Ross.

    Reply

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