The successful implant of a GM Pig’s heart in a human recipient by the surgeons of Maryland took me back to the mid-90s. Dr Dhaniram Baruah, in January 1997, had implanted porcine blood-pump on a 32-year old patient in Sonapur, Assam. The patient had survived for seven days, after which he had developed hyper-acute rejection, and died.
Dr. Barua was a famous cardiac-thoracic surgeon from Glasgow, and was assisted by a Hong Kong-based cardiac surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Ho. Both were arrested by the buffoons of the Asom Gana Parishad-run State government under Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, several months before its actual adoption by the Assam Assembly! Baruah’s procedure was dubbed by the state as ‘unethical’. Dr Baruah, who dwelt on the frontiers of science, argued that his deed didn’t come under the purview of the Human Organs Act, simply because it was xeno-transplantation (animal to human). He was granted bail after 40 days. In the meantime, his hospital was burned down. I remember how he was demonized by the local, as well as national media, as if he was some witch doctor, or a practitioner of black magic. You can’t expect any better from these discards who infest our newsrooms and printing presses.
The irrepressible Doctor was the founder of the first artificial heart valve, Baruah21, and in 2007, also unveiled his ‘magic molecules’, extracted from edible medicinal plants – Baruah Alpha DH2 and Baruah Beta DH2, which could bypass the pain of bypass surgeries. While he received no support from the State or the Centre, the USFDA granted emergency authorization to the University of Maryland for conducting the procedure.
Later, Baruah also claimed to have come up with cure for AIDS, but was not taken seriously. Genius denied screams for attention by propounding bizarre ideas. But the fact remains that the doctors of Maryland did, in fact, build upon Baruah’s research, as is made clear by the gene editing procedures conducted upon the pig, to mitigate the risk of hyper-acute rejection.
Dr. Baruah is still alive, although sick and unable to speak, doing some obscure research. Maryland doctors have not even acknowledged Baruah’s contribution, and why would they, when his own have hounded him for so long, and have considered him as devil reincarnate!
Talking about mid-90s have brought back memories of three surprising news-makers from 1996- Tathagat Avatar Tulsi, P.Ramar Pillai and Leander Paes. I mention the tennis player because his success at the Atlanta Olympics was almost as astounding as Pillai’s claims of manufacturing ‘herbal petrol’. In fact, a singles’ bronze in hand felt way more tangible a prize than ‘liquid gold’ of Ramar’s dreams.
Ramar Pillai claimed to have extracted such herbal extract from Bosewallia ovarifoliolata, which could transmute water to gasoline, if boiled with salt and citric acid for 30 minutes. He called his product as ‘Ramar Tamildevi Mooligai Eriporul’, ‘Ramar Biofuel’, or ‘Ramar Petrol’. Since India was dependent upon the Middle East for oil, and incurred huge expenses to that end that burnt a hole in our budget, Ramar’s biofuel captured wide public imagination.
This school dropout from Virudhnagar, Tamil Nadu was later investigated by the CBI, which accused him of being in cahoots with unknown public servants of oil refineries and distribution companies to procure benzene, toluene and other petro products which were passed off as biofuels after being mixed with additives. Ramar’s biofuel did not match the ISI standards, contained hydrocarbons, and was only a mixture of petroleum products which was prohibited as per clause 3(v) of the Motor Spirit Speed Diesel Order, 1988. Ramar violated the said order, and even cheated the sales outlets by collecting deposits and fuel costs. He and his associates gained over Rs 2 crore through fraudulent claims and means.
Even after CBI arrest, Pillai kept peddling his potion. In fact, in 2010, he came out with another product called ‘Velar Bio-hydrocarbon’, created by mixing water to his herbal extract and boiling at 78 degrees Centigrade. He was finally convicted for three years R.I. in 2016 for committing fraud. India is still waiting for magic gasoline pill, powder or extract that can plug the huge gap in its balance sheet ! Ramar Pillai must now be a free man, desperately mixing his herbs with water to stumble upon a new magic formula.
It was also in 1996 that Tathagat Avatar Tulsi from Bihar had cleared his high school at the age of 9! He went onto complete his B. Sc. at 11, and M.Sc. at 12 from Patna Science College. Lots of fake news, hifalutin masala and fraudulent claims got mixed with some of his tangible achievements. There were news items to the effect that he had discovered a particle, Tulsitron, and later that he had challenged the The0ry of Relativity itself! Tathagat was chosen along with few others to meet Noble laureates from across the world. Apparently, the Nobel laureates were not impressed with him, or his knowledge. Tulsi was accused of cramming up stuff, randomly dropping jargon without understanding their meaning. His father blamed the ‘South Indians’ accompanying him on the trip of sabotaging his prospects.
His father, a Supreme Court advocate, claimed to be an expert in eugenics, who desired to sire a genius male child, and succeeded. Tathagat was brought up to believe that he was a ‘programmed child’, destined to be a genius. Manu Joseph’s Serious Men is based on this father-son duo.
The prodigy was admitted to the doctorate programme at 15 and completed his Ph.D. from IISc, Bangalore at the age of 21. His thesis, which took almost seven years to get finalized, was on Quantum Search Algorithms. Tulsi went on to co-author a research paper with Lov Grover, the man behind the famous Grover Database Search Algorithm, the second major algorithm proposed for Q-computing. The paper remains unpublished. Never one to give up a chance to create a record, Tulsi filed for shortest-ever thesis. His own length was just 33 pages!
He was hired by IIT-Bombay as an Assistant Professor soon after, but did not enjoy smooth sailing. He claimed to suffer from health-related problems because of Mumbai’s climate, frequently proceeded on medical leave, and requested transfer to IIT-Delhi (no such provision exists). His teaching contract was finally terminated in 2019. Nothing has been heard from Tulsi since.
I expected one of these three geniuses- Baruah, Ramar or Tulsi- to come with some magic cure for Covid. If only they could have collaborated! They did disappoint, but not Baba Ramdev, who bestowed the world with Coronil. I was tempted to include the claims and theories around EVM hacking in this piece, but that’s a story for a later date and time.
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