The Blunder That Sethurama Iyer Made In Nerariyan CBI

Tell the words “CBI” to any Malayali and we’ll think “Sethurama Iyer”. It is perhaps Iyer’s logical thinking and attention to detail, coupled with his idiosyncrasy, that won over Malayali hearts. He is our very own Sherlock Holmes. 

Did you know that Sethurama Iyer’s character was actually supposed to be “Ali Imran”? Seems Mammooty insisted on tweaking the name and S. N. Swami obliged.

But to “err is human” and Iyer, like the rest of us, makes mistakes. His errors in the forensic analysis have been pointed out by others. So I thought I’d talk about another error that seems obvious to me. Let’s jump to the 4th edition of Iyer’s adventures, Nerariyan CBI; the one with the famous Kapra-Iyer duel.

The exchange was so captivating that most of us went, “Ho! Bayangaram thanne!” 

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Having outsmarted Kapra, Iyyer enters the ‘haunted room’ of the house. Iyyer seems to get stunned by something in the corner of that room. One of the bystanders (Gopika’s character Anitha) notices this and asks Iyyer what happened.

Here’s Iyer’s reply:

Neuroscience says, “Ayye, Iyyere thettipoy!”

The explanation that our favourite detective provides does not stand the test of science. Why? Let’s start with a look at how this “soul theory” came to be. 

Back in the 16th century, people were losing limbs left and right in wars. One such unfortunate victim of limb loss was Lord Nelson.

The Blunder That Sethurama Iyer Made In Nerariyan CBI

Lord Nelson lost an arm and had to undergo extensive treatment to ease the pain. But even after the pain faded away, he could not help but notice that he could still “feel” his amputated arm. He, quite literally, felt that his hand was still there. When he asked around, he found that many others who had lost limbs felt this too. This led to him declaring that “This feeling of the existence of a phantom hand is evidence that soul exists”.

Read that again. SN Swamy seems to have done some good research. But alas, he missed a book titled Phantoms in the Brain written by V S Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. 

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So why do people still feel their limbs after they’ve been amputated? 

In 1937, Wilder Penfield found that our brain has a “map” of our body parts. This means that the area that would get activated when there is a stimulus applied to one of our hands (or any other part of the body) has been clearly marked in the brain. He verified this by touching his patients at various points in their bodies and observing signals in the brain using an electrode. This came to be known as the Penfield Map or the sensory homunculus. 

In 1991, neuroscientist Timothy Pons took the Penfield Map into account while performing experiments on monkeys who had the nerves connecting their brains to their hands disconnected through surgery. It was assumed that since there was no communication between their hands and brain, the hand area in the brain would not show any activity. But when the monkey’s face was struck, not only was there a response to the face area of the brain but also to the hand area. The hand area in the brain now responded to stimulation on the face due to cross-wiring in the brain! 

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In the following year, V S Ramachandran tried a similar experiment on people who’d lost their hands. He blindfolded his patients and applied pressure to different parts of their bodies. Several subjects reported that when pressure was applied to their face, it felt like it was coming from both their face and their amputated hand (phantom hand). 

The Blunder That Sethurama Iyer Made In Nerariyan CBI

Long story short, Sethurama Iyer’s explanation for the soul and negative energy just got busted. The phantom limb does not indicate the existence of the soul but of cross-wirings in the brain. S.N Swamy somehow missed (omitted) this and put forward an interesting theory about “aathmavu” to us Malayalis through the logical and intelligent Sethurama Iyer. 

Now that CBI 5 is all set for release let us hope that our beloved Sethurama Iyer doesn’t say out such blunders again.

Also Read: Thaniyavarthanam: A Psychological Analysis

Hi! I write about science, society and people. That said, I am a full-time podcast producer at scicle podcast productions. Available on major podcast platforms.


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