Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zoology Practical Dissection

Yesterday's newspaper carried a write-up of my friend Niranjan about his experience in 'specimen dissection' at Sarada Vilas College.  I thought I would reminisce about mine too, from 1975 at the same college.

In the two-year Pre-University Course (equivalent to 11 and 12), Zoology Practicals was part of the curriculum.  Dissection was only in the second year and not in the first year, if my memory is not failing me.  As soon as our first Zoology classes began, we were told to buy a 'dissection set'. A pair of small surgical scissors, a scalpel and two types of tweezers were basic implements that were needed to start with.  I think I bought the tweezers from Anand Bhavan Stores and the rest were bought from a stationery store. Those students who had great plans to join the medical course later had bought better sets!

The same tweezers from 1975.

For our syllabus, there was the Earthworm, Cockroach and Frog/Toad to be dissected during the course.  The Practical Record Book was another important part and neater illustrations drawn by us attracted more marks. The entire Practicals carried 25 marks out of 100.  

This fellow lived in my pond last year. 

I have always been one - not one in a million, but among millions! -  to nauseate and run miles at the sight of a cockroach, leave alone slap at it with a broom when they were sighted in our house in their nocturnal outings.  The roach is a horrible little blooming pest. Earthworms were found when we dug the earth in our garden and this slimy creamy creature always reminded of the worms that infested our intestines and since we had seen a few pass out, this was also absolutely awful.  The toads were making their appearances with their croaks before the rains and they were not that repulsive. 

Well before our practical classes started, my classmate-friend Gopi on Bajjanna Lane had a neighbour in Srinivas, our senior (happens to be Niranjan's classmate).  Srinivas arranged to demonstrate the dissection of a cockroach in his home, at the behest of Gopi who invited me also.  It was such an awful sight to see the dead roach kept on its back and pinned to the board, ready.  I am feeling awful as the mental video is playing now and so I will not elaborate further!  With great reluctance I watched Srinivas' demonstration from a distance and he touching it with his hand itself was nauseating to me.  That I was to do it later, esp. the horrible roach, was the greatest fear and already I was contemplating ways of my skipping the class at all costs.  What if it came in the final exam?

If I remember right, the staff put off dissections of earthworm and the 'wretched roach' for reasons best known to them.  Perhaps it was their scarcity or trouble to catch so many to supply to students, I will never know.  Whatever, it was sweet news to me. But the news always used to come out after great suspense and at the 9th or 10th hour, if not the 11th!  Anyway, I was prepared to escape these two 'subjects' but had to manage 'doing' the toad because minimum attendance was an absolute requirement to qualify for appearing in the exam.  

Luckily for me, there was only one Practical that I attended which featured toad dissection.  That toad given to all of us were still alive inside and even as we cut open its skin, the heart was still pumping. Awful sight for me and we had to kill it to get marks. The brain was removed, the digestive and reproductive systems had to be neatly separated and 'shown'. That I did manage to do all this without touching it with my fingers at any stage is a great achievement for me, though I had to tolerate the sight and that typically bad smell of formalin. With the help of the tweezer, I held the nails and hammered its legs to the wooden board to start with.  Some students wanted to show how brave they were by holding the toad by its legs and did the dissection as if it was only a vegetable!

The dissection ended satisfactorily and the next one many weeks later was the final practical exam. We knew that only the toad would be given for the exam.  Again, I did it without touching the specimen and did the 'separation of the reproductive system' okay, much to my great relief.  

The two tweezers I had bought for that purpose continued to serve me in my watch-repair hobby that got stuck to me soon after and they still come in handy when I find the need to remove some small wood splinters that get into my skin at times. They always remind me of the awful feeling from 1975 and for the way I went through it that time. The small scissors and scalpel have disappeared.

Kemar Roach!  What a name!  Roach!  He is now playing for the West Indies Cricket team in the World Cup that is going on in India.

1 comment:

Sandhya said...

For us frog dissection was just for demo..but we had to dissect cockroach....and we had to catch it alive and take it from home :) ...My dad had caught two big ones for me...though they mixed up in lab and I had dissect a small one...!..big or smalll....yakk I dont know how i did it!