Sunday, January 2, 2011

Epidemic musicitis

This is my article appeared on The Hindu 2nd january 2011
 Epidemic musicitis, a serious seasonal infection
         Recently New Delhi was the epicenter of a crisis involving NDM-1 bacteria. In Chennai also there is a seasonal serious infection that is grossly under diagnosed. It is caused by a resistant bacterium, Musicobacter, which has two species Musicobacter carnatica, which is more common and M.Hindustania. The infection peaks in winter season especially December and January.  Though it is epidemic in Chennai sporadic cases can be found in other cities or countries It is probably the only bacterium that spreads through ears. The affected individual has the following symptoms and signs:
              1) Selective amnesia: The person forgets exactly the name of the Raga in which the singer sings and recollects a list of related albeit wrong Ragas (Rathipathi priya or Rashtra pathi priya?). Sometimes long term memory will be hyper active. He may say “I’ve heard GNB singing this on 1948 at Academy on a Sunday evening when it was raining heavily”.
             2) Violent Epileptic fits like movements: These include shaky movements of head associated with uttering of words like “Sabash! Besh Besh!!”etc even though the concert has not yet started and the sound system person is checking the mikes. Sometimes violent jerky, highly irregular movements of hands colliding with each other and also on one’s (sometime the next person’s) own lap. These movements are sometimes erroneously called as Talams.
          2A) Acalculia (Difficulty in calculating) The above said movements  are sometimes associated with chaotic counting of fingers or even toes!!It may occur even during an Aalapana. There is always a perfect mismatch between their counting and the singer's.                
             3) Voracious appetite: The affected individuals have voracious appetite. They visit the canteens soon after a Varnam (usual opening number) is sung .Not visiting the canteen during Thani avarthanam (solo percussion) is considered a sin .This goes to the extent that the singer himself may go out for a snacks break.     
             4) Hypersomnia (Increased sleep): They are found sleeping with a snore that perfectly synchronize with the shruthi box’s ‘SA Pa SA’. This is commonly seen in morning lecture demonstrations like ‘Simmendhra madhyamam and its Sisters’. 
             5) Hearing disturbances The infected guys have severe hearing disturbances. On hearing a music they may ask “Is it Seshagopalan?” while in fact the tape may be a violin recording.
            6)Praecox performances  The individuals develops intense belief of delusional proportion that their offspring is a prodigy .On hearing them sing ‘Baba black sheep’ they immediately identify an  M.S.S lying dormant inside. They arrange for praecox (premature) performances of their children, sometimes known as Arangettram.
            7) Podio philia: This denotes to the intense craving for occupying the podium. This is common among the chief guest who invariably talks at length about the singer to the extent that the audience may not at all get a chance to hear him sing. Some times the podiophilic chief guest sings a few lines to show his knowledge or even make a few choreographic steps in a dance concert.
            8) Hyper logia: This refers to increased speech or loquacity. The persons talk uninhibitedly, over a wide variety of subjects like CAG, CWG, and ECG especially when the singer is at his peak. They share all information about themselves including PIN number of credit cards, to the man sitting nearby of course in a loud voice.

     Treatment: As the disease is self limiting it settles by mid January only to recur next year .Since the severity is inversely related to music knowledge improving good music appreciation is the best prevention.
         Annex One symptom that has not been mentioned is Hypergraphia or increased writing wherein everybody (including psychiatrists) becomes a music critic and start writing about music and concerts.

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