Turn of the screw


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Turn of the screw
Bachi Karkaria Wednesday July 15, 2009

Adam could end up losing more than a rib. Much, much more. Britain's Prof Karim Nayernia has claimed that he has created human sperm in his stem-cell lab. It could be the ultimate game changer, the total rout of sexual politics. Will it mean 'Goodbye testes, Hello test-tube'? Or will nature's delivery boys stand up and be sperm counted?

The devastating announcement was predictably greeted with shock and awe. In one flick of a petri dish, the human male could change from storm to desert. Truly, he has been cell-shocked, bedsheet-bombed. Will he, can he, rise again from the debris of his blitzed ego?

Relax, man. The question is still academic. Even if Karim's lab ishtew is as mind-blowing as he claims, the bio-ethics brigade will be sure to halt his experiment in mid-spermicide. Even his peers have pooh-poohed. Noted sperm biologist Allen Pacey was "unconvinced". And Cambridge luminary Azim Surani dismissed the cells as merely "sperm-like", almost adding, "You'll have to come a long way to make a baby."

The Chronicle of Nayernia is no airy-fairy adventure. These very lab lords had hailed the Karim team's earlier success with mouse sperm it was not only produced from embryonic cells, but had actually resulted in living, wriggling, squealing, baby chuhas. The recent bombshell, however, is quite different. There could be a dissenting view, but most people will emphatically state that a man is not a mouse.

Whether you are male, female, both or neither, you are sure to have mixed feelings about this seminal development. It is also a reminder that coldly clinical science is as prey to mixed emotions as the mortals who take it forward, backward or into an ethical no-fly zone. This is why we readily spend millions on research to remove the heartbreak of infertility, but balk at a breakthrough that could pull this very solution out of a test tube.

If babies are okay, why is sperm nokay? Is it because it's a man thing? The male ego is notoriously more fragile than the zillions of spermatozoa which self-destruct at every outing.

Even though it is unlikely that this doomsday scenario will move from lab to labour room, men have jumped the gun. And women have gunned for this jump in sweet revenge. Males have brought out their heavy weapons and drilled holes in Prof Nayernia's claim when they would be better off conserving their ammo while they still have it. Men have gone to great lengths to show how much they have contributed to 'mankind'. "That's precisely our grouse," says womankind, and sadistically salivates over the prospect of not just an ex-lover or husband, but the entire lot of XY louts skulking into extinction.

Not to worry, though. The whip side of sadism may be masochism but women are in no hurry to inflict a man-less world on themselves. They know that if there's anything more maddening than a man hanging around and getting in the way, it's NOT having a man hanging around and getting in the way so you can bite his head off. What's the point of being the superior sex, if there isn't anyone to feel superior over?

There's even less cause for panic, guys. This is only a limited over. Just because you might be laid off the reproduction line doesn't mean you have no role in the grand production called life. You can continue to build corporate empires and beer bellies, create the perfect BT brinjal or couch potato. To think otherwise would be absolutely illogical. And just like a woman, no?

Turn of the screw:Erratica:Bachi Karkaria's blog-The Times Of India

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