Tamil Nadu infant keeps catching fire

Et bål

Et bål (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Horrific.  What I thought was only an X-files fantasy appears to be real.


I fear the flames,
infernal flames,
fry-fanning over my fragile flesh.
They drift, they lick, they crisp, they blacken-burn.
I fear the flames.
I’m only human,
yet I know I will combust,
I fear the whiff of acetone.
I fear the electrostatic spark.
I fear the knowing.
I fear not knowing when.
I am afraid.
I’m terrified
of flames that drift and lick and crisp and blacken-burn,
fry-fanning over my fragile flesh.
Infernal flames.
I fear the flames
of fire.


10th August 2013 – headline from the Times of India

Notes:  “In rare condition, Tamil Nadu infant keeps catching fire.”  Rahul has been virtually in flames four times since he was born two-and-a-half months ago. Doctors say it’s due to a rare condition called spontaneous human combustion (SHC).  Afflicted with the disorder, seen only in 200 people across the world in the past 300 years, the child is undergoing treatment at Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) Hospital.  The case has stunned doctors in the city. There are many theories about the poorly understood condition, ranging from high acetone content in the body to the paranormal. Some doctors say everyone has certain amount of alcohol present in their blood and when its content is high, it combines with the gases in the body; resulting in burns.  A plausible hypothesis for SHC is that some bacteria, such as the methanogenic micro-organism-archaebacteria, in the intestine convert the food into methane, which is a combustible substance.  A small spark, which need not be an obvious one, anywhere nearby, can trigger the fire, for example if the child is covered with a silk cloth which can generate static electricity

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