Bacteria – Friend or Foe?

Many years ago, when we were working in the Middle East, we had a friend of ours who would lug a case of bottled water on his trips to Kerala for holidays. We would pull his legs about this with great mirth telling him how fickle his gut had become and he would counter with a grand argument that the flora and fauna in his NRI stomach could no longer handle the Indian toxins, unhealthy water and the heavy oily food etc and so as an added insurance he was taking these bottles along. Well, we continued to make fun of him and we still remark about this even today. Imagine, a guy who would eat from the roadside eating places with gusto, suddenly becoming sensitive, but then he was quite right, for one does lose the resistance and as you move, start cultivating different families of microbes in your body. Anyway that was the first time somebody brought focus to the flora & fauna in one’s innards.

The next time bacteria came to focus was when I read a fascinating (I think it was in Fortune) account of the miserable way the medical community and the drug industry treated the great Australian doctor Barry Marshall for some 20 years. He kept saying that H Pylori was the main cause for peptic ulcer while the learned medical fraternity and as it appears, the antacid lobby went against him and prevented his rise to fame for a full two decades, before everybody finally accepted his views. Well, that by itself is an interesting story which I will not get into (I had briefly covered it earlier in another blog), as it has been widely covered in press since then. When he first came to speak in US about his ideas, the doctors or their spouses were heard remarking "They were talking about this terrible person that they imported from Australia to speak- How could they put such rubbish in the conference?" Eventually he went on to win the Nobel Prize and he can be seen in PA these days. Marshall, along with his colleague and fellow Nobel winner Robin Warren, proved that up to 90 percent of peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. At a point of time, he had to swallow the bacterial concoction himself to prove the point.

But back to the point, did you know that there are some 300-1600 species of friendly bacteria in ones stomach? Have you thought about where they live actually? In the acid lining, in folds here & there? Or some other place? Or that they are needed to break the food down and keep you healthy? Or that, they help you keep your immune system healthy? But then, what exactly do they do living in your gut? Did you ever consider that when you take antibiotics unnecessarily or even eat antibiotic fed meat or poultry, you end up killing even the friendly bacteria and create even more problems in your own body?

To answer all these questions, let me first take you to the world of home aquariums. Most of them today have an aeration section where the water falls on a bio-wheel spinning it in pleasing fashion. As the Bio-Wheel rotates, beneficial bacteria grow and thrive on its surface. Nourished by oxygen, the bacteria eliminate more ammonia and nitrite with every turn. In addition, when you change the water or clean the gravel and get rid of all the healthy bacteria in there, the stored bacteria in the bio-wheel helps out create new colonies to break down all the waste..

Well, we humans have a similar mechanism, not that it was meant to be that, but over eons it evolved that way, for you will read here, if you don’t know it already, it is the useless appendage called appendix which is the store for large colonies of bacteria. An AP story in msnbc states - The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most of it is good and helps digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery (in old times) would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix’s job is to reboot the digestive system in that case. The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria,” said Duke Surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author. The location of the appendix - just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac - helps support the theory, he said. Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said.

The gut bacteria life story is another of those interesting mysteries that was cleared up recently, for the gut has an effective immune mechanism against unfriendly bacteria, but at the same time tolerates friendly bacteria. The controller gene in this fight is what is known as the ‘pims’ gene. And thus the 100 trillion microbes in our body live happily…They help in many ways by promoting production of various antibodies, hormones, acids, peroxides, nutrients like vitamins B12 and K, food digestion. And interestingly infants acquire their basic colonies from their mothers.

Now that you have a slightly better idea about these bacteria and what they do to you, I have to take you to a radically different word of a particular type of unfriendly bacteria and a brilliant and fascinating individual who worked with them for a cure, fighting fire with fire so to say, using toxins against toxins. Strangely not much of this story can be found in mainstream media and in many ways was a complete surprise to me, as it was discovered over 100 years ago and quickly vanished from limelight. Not much is written about this doctor or his techniques though I found them fascinating to say the least. Let me now go on to tell you a bit about this very interesting gentleman.

Parmenides Greek physician (about 540-480 BC) said: “Give me the power to induce fever, and I cure all diseases.”

William Bradley Coley

And Dr Coley took notice…but not from his perusal of literature

Sometime around 1888 Dr Coley began his career as a bone surgeon at New York Cancer Hospital (which later became part of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) but became more interested in cancer treatment. Elizabeth Dasheill, a patient was admitted with malignant bone cancer, but even after a forearm amputation, she died, affecting Dr Coley deeply. The girl happened to be a childhood friend of John D Rockefeller who decided to fund in a small way further cancer research by Dr Coley. Coley set to studying old cases and one concerning a patient named Fred Stein, whose tumor disappeared following a high fever from an erysipelas infection (Streptococcus pyogenes) grabbed his attention. Coley searched for the patient trudging through New York and found him finally, living cancer free. This sparked Coley’s interest. Coley thus developed the theory that it was the infections which had helped patients in the past to recover from their cancer. So he began to treat patients by injecting a brew of Streptococcus directly into inoperable tumors. Coley’s first intentional erysipelas infection was performed on a patient named Mr. Zola on May 3, 1891, who had tonsils and throat cancer. Mr. Zola came down with erysipelas and his condition improved tremendously. Mr. Zola lived for another eight and a half years. Coley was convinced that he could effectively use bacteria to treat cancer and created a mixture of killed bacterial infusions called Coley's Toxins. The infusion was administered by injection in increasing doses to induce a fever. Once stimulated, he observed, the immune system could be capable of tackling cancerous cells along with the infection. Coley declared, “Nature often gives us hints to her profoundest secrets and it is possible that she has given us a hint which, if we will but follow, may lead us on to the solution of this difficult problem.”

Parke-Davis, the pharmaceutical company, produced the toxins commercially for many years, but they heated the formula, which reduced its effectiveness. Despite that, even this weakened form of toxins, Parke-Davis formula #IX, showed 37 percent cure rate for inoperable patients. Some 270 people had their cancers cured from a lot of roughly 1000 patients passing through Coley’s toxin care.

But as life goes, the treatment with toxins soon became unfashionable, and Coley’s regimen was too strict for others to emulate. Best results were always evidenced when Dr. Coley or his colleague supervised the production of toxins. There were other problems like frequent fevers being quite trying on the patient. The preparations were of differing potency. This led to much confusion and disappointment for other doctors who ordered them. Some doctors, initially enthusiastic about the treatment, naturally became disillusioned when they used less effective preparations. In many cases, other doctors did not use the toxins aggressively enough. There were some 13 types of mixtures and post treatment follow-up, administration and documentation was never done properly. So new doctors found reasons to criticize the various undocumented methods and unable to replicate Coley’s success took to ridiculing him a charlatan and a quack, even though he was still respected and held big & respectable positions in various institutions until late in his life. By 1894 the JAMA officially criticized the toxin potion and declared it a failure in the face of successes in radiation and chemotherapy which were coming into vogue. On top of all that Dr Ewing a big supporter of radiation, was Coley’s director and boss and his biggest critic. Soon Ewing banned the use of the Coley toxins in the Memorial hospital, thereby denying a place for Coley to practice his development and also ensured that Coley had stiff resistance at the Bone Sarcoma registry.

On April 15, 1936, William B. Coley suffered a recurrent attack of diverticulitis, was operated on by Dr. Eugene H. Pool under local anesthesia, and died the next day.

After his death, the use of Coley's toxins began to decline further. By 1952 Parke Davis stopped manufacturing the toxins and by 1962 the Food and Drug Agency declared that Coley's toxins were ineffective in the treatment of cancer even with the positive statistics. As a result of the FDA's decision it became illegal to use and produce the vaccine in America since then. By the 1940s researchers discovered that a chemical warfare agent, nitrogen mustard, suppressed cancer and then chemotherapy with nitrogen mustard and other agents, along with radiation therapy and surgery, began to supplant Coley’s toxins.

But then, life is life, Coley lived and faced a hostile world during all of his career while enduring to find answers to reduce human suffering and is today considered the father of immunotherapy and even in certain forms of hernia surgeries. As is stated in his eulogy, English literature was his greatest hobby; to him the great masterpieces of the world, apart from their solace and charm, were the master instruments of a solid education.

The subsequent history of Coley's toxins is rather sad. His son, Bradley Coley, MD, continued to use the vaccine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering into the 1950s, but in an increasingly hostile environment. Coley's daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, founded the Cancer Research Institute of New York to save and promote his work. But although she got her father removed from the American Cancer Society "quack list" in the mid-1970s, she was never able to get his treatment used widely.

In 1975, a protein responsible for the immunity boost was identified and called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). Eventually the cytokine family and TNF were isolated and are finally in use today in the fight against cancer. That was the beginning of immunology and for that reason Coley is considered the father of immunology, though scientists are still working on his theories and creating what is known as MBV’s (mixed bacterial vaccines).

Why did Coley’s toxin fail in the market? Despite outstanding successes, they were opposed by the medical establishment. The (then) new technology of X-Rays and Radium was superior for hierarchical control and profits from cancer patients than the low-tech produced Coley's Toxins. Individuals with Radium mining interests made large donations in return for the promotion of radium in the treatment of cancer….

Have we heard all these arguments before? Somewhat like the antacid story, right??


1. The role of bacteria as anticancer agents was recognized almost a hundred years back. The German physicians W.Busch and F. Fehleisen separately observed that certain types of cancers regressed following accidental erysipelas (Streptococcus pyogenes) infections that occurred whilst patients were hospitalized. Fehleisen, in 1882, identified Streptococcus as the pathogen leading to erysipelas, and he achieved three remissions by injecting cultured living bacteria into seven cancer patients. William Coley (1862-1936) was not the inventor of the treatment of cancer using bacterial infections. However, he was the first to do it systematically on a large number of patients.

2. With the current widespread use of antibiotics to treat infections and antipyretics to ‘‘manage’’ symptoms of an infection, the critical part played by fever in the human body is often overlooked. Fever is frequently suppressed as a matter of routine. Historically, fevers were not only considered beneficial, but were actively encouraged. For example, Native Americans were known to treat acute febrile diseases with sweat baths

3. Both radiotherapy and chemotherapy have an immune-suppressing side-effect. Since both treatments kill the rapidly dividing cells of the immune system along with the rapidly dividing cancer cells, both can be used together if care is taken. On the other hand immune-stimulating Coley’s Toxins work entirely differently, and their effect would be cancelled out if used at the same time as high-dose immunosuppressant chemo- or radiotherapy. It became an either/or situation– and in the end, the fashionable new treatments won out over Coley’s fiddly reworking of an ancient ‘natural’ remedy.


Bacteria in cancer therapy: a novel experimental Strategy -S Patyar1, R Joshi1, DS Prasad Byrav, A Prakash, B Medhiand BK Das

A Medical Application of Matzinger’s Danger Model-Coley’s Cancer Vaccine -Gar Hildenbrand

The toxins of Edward Coley – Edward Mc Carthy

Dr William Coley and tumour regression: a place in history or in the future - S A Hoption Cann, J P van Netten, C van Netten

William Bradley Euology – Carl G Burdick

Time article

The Body Can Beat Terminal Cancer - Sometimes - Jeanne Lenzer (Discover magazine)

Malabar Hill and the Pirates of Malabar

A cursory look at the name of one of the costliest bits of real estate in Bombay (nowadays called Mumbai) signifies its relationship to the South West coastal area of Malabar. There is a reason to that, and I thought I would cover that interesting bit of history for the benefit of all, mainly to erase the typical distorted description provided in many a book and website.

They state thus - Bombay became the target of the sea pirates that also included the ones from Kerala’s Malabar Coast. So, in order to ensure the protection from any type of pirates attack near the hill, a lookout tower was founded. It was meant for keeping an eye on the pirates and the sea as well. Later this hill came to be known as ‘Malabar Hill’, which is very popular today.

The Raj Bhavan site says - In times past, the azure skies would forecast plunder as the sails of marauders appeared, the dreaded pirates of Malabar. They would ascend the pinnacle to plan their pillage. This summit by the shores heralded a view of the emerging city. Prophesying their recurring piracy, the peak came to be known as Malabar Point.

Was that right? To figure it out let us go back to the 16th century when the Portuguese attempts at colonizing India were at its peak. It was a period signified by systematic attempts at subduing the traders and trade that had been conducted from Malabar. Starting with Vasco Da Gama’s arrival at Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese strengthened their presence in Cochin, Goa, Surat and Bombay on the west coasts. The only resistance they faced initially was the sea based forays from the Kunhali Marakkar and his able seamen of South Malabar. The Marakkars had until then been running the Malabar trade (mainly food grains) with the blessings of the King of Cochin and the Zamorin of Calicut, but once their livelihood was threatened, they rose up in arms. I must hasten to add here that piracy indeed existed on the Malabar Coast and has many a time been attributed to moors, but it was sporadic, and not organized. Details of such old acts of piracy can be found in the accounts of many a travel writer, including Ibn Batuta and others.

Then again it is said that Malabar hill was where they conducted a pilgrimage to the Banaganga tank and Walkeshwar temple. Now that is an oddity by itself, the Moplah pirates praying to a heathen idol? That would not be quite right, isn’t it? A detailed study was needed, though the answer was apparent, that the term Malabar pirates was far-flung and widespread and applied to a wide variety of armed seafarers not quite pleased with the foreign usurpers making merry in the west coast towns, people who conducted much trade over sea routes and plying ships laden to the brim with the riches of India. Indeed the opportunist cum pirate decided to attack these slow moving and lightly armed ships. Who were they? Were they from Malabar-Kerala in the fist place?

While the Zamorin took on the Portuguese armies on land, the Kunhalis and their men engaged in sea based skirmishes with the Portuguese ships. The method of using many organized small boats to attack a flotilla soon became very effective and went on for a period of 70 years 1530 – 1600 till the Dutch came by and the Kunhale family was gone. The ships used by Kunhali’s men, the war-paroe, was a small craft manned by just 30-40 men each, and could be rowed through lagoons and narrow waters. Several of these crafts were deployed at strategic points in the Malabar coast and they would emerge from small creeks and inconspicuous estuaries, attack the Portuguese ships at will, inflict heavy damage and casualties by setting fire to their sails and get back into the safety of shallow waters. And thus people who were traders soon became attackers. So were they pirates, corsairs or privateers?  If you look at history books, the moors of Malabar, the Kunhali led seamen have been called Corsairs and pirates. Check out the definition towards the end of this article, and based on that I would take the direction towards privateers in this case for they had the blessings of the Zamorin in fighting the Portuguese.

So as you can see, they were an armed force at the command of the Zamorin’s admiral and thus were more privateers or corsairs, but not pirates. Now that the first point has been established, they were the earliest form of an Indian ‘regional’ navy fighting against the invading Portuguese, in hindsight. Later there were others involved in the fray notably Tanoji Angre, his son Kanhoji Angre (early 18th century) or Conajee Angria and his ships, which were included collectively in the term Malabar pirates.

What were the Kunhali’s of Malabar doing in the Bombay area? Logically, where they not restricted to the Malabar Coast by language, and the large distance of some 700-800 miles? Consider that the Marakkars used small pattemars or Malabar paros (small boats 10 paces long, rowed with oars of cane and had a mast of cane) for their warfare and sailing them to such distances was not routinely possible. Bigger dhows were indeed used for piracy, but the Marakkar ship would be too far from the home base and would never venture more than 70 miles of their Ponnani towns, from earlier descriptions. So one can safely assume that the Malabar pirates, termed so by the British, were closer in origin to Bombay.

Now with the Marakkar & Malabar seamen mostly out of the equation, let us get back to Bombay to find out who these pirates actually were, starting from the 1600’s. By 1600, the last of the Kunhali Marakkars were gone from Malabar. With it organized navies of Calicut virtually became defunct though some Moplah’s continued on, as locally based pirates sporadically attacking slow merchant ships.

Between 1534 and 1661, Bombay was under Portuguese occupation. By the middle of the 17th century the growing power of the Dutch Empire forced the British to acquire a station in western India. On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in possession of the British Empire, as part of dowry of Catherine to Charles. In 1661, Bombay was finally ceded to the British.

By the time Shivaji came on the scene against the British occupation, Bombay was already in the hands of the British. His navies came into picture by 1670 and were part of the collective called the Malabar pirates. Kanhoji Angre came a little later, towards 1700-1723 and his attacks or forays against British and Portuguese ships were directed all the way South to Cochin as well as Northwards to Bombay. Collectively there two and their navies were the major constituent’s of the so called ‘Malabar pirates’. Both these families are well covered in history texts, so I will let them lie in peace there for the time being, and get back to the high seas, back to when Kunhali the 4th was killed and Dom Pedro a.k.a Ali Marakkar took over until 1620. Thana was infested with pirates according to Marco Polo as early as 1290. In the 15th century it is mentioned in Nikitin’s travels that the pirates were mainly Hindu signifying the Marathas from Junnar. One such pirate chief was Shankar Rao of Vishalgarh. The main lot was a ragtag group of Guajarati corsairs, Moghul Seedees and Dutch sea thieves, until the 1600 period
But between 1600 and 1670, there were a number of attacks around Bombay, so who were these so called pirates? Upon perusing Salvatore’s Indian pirates, one is led to believe that the pirates termed Malabari pirates comprising various sorts (Guajarati – Cambay, Malabar and European) seized rich booty near Diu & Goa as well as Cochin in the 1600-1610 periods. This is perhaps Ali Marakkar’s doing. By this time English pirates had also entered the scene and Chaul in Konkan was their HQ. Pyrard Della Valle was the first to collectively call them Malabar pirates for according to him Malabar encompassed the coast line between Bombay to Cape Comorin. Later accounts by Mandelso also document that the Paroes of Malabar mainly attacked ships around the Cochin area and Cannanore. This signifies that Panthalayani kollam or Calicut port was by now dead. The rest of the period comprised only some rag tag piracy.

Polo, in the 13th century, said however that the pirates were a brotherhood ‘From this kingdom of Malabar, from the kingdom of Thana, and from another near it called Guzerat, there go forth every year more than a hundred corsair vessels on cruise. These pirates take with them their wives and children, and stay out the whole summer. Their method is to join in fleets of twenty or thirty of these pirate vessels together, and they then form what they call a sea cordon - that is, they drop off till there is an interval of five or six miles between ship and ship, so that they cover something like 100 miles of sea, and no merchant ships can escape them. For when any one corsair sights a vessel a signal is made by fire or smoke, and then the whole of them make for this, and seize the merchants and plunder them. But now the merchants are aware of this, and go so well manned and armed, and with such great ships, that they don't fear the corsairs. Still mishaps do befall them at times." "The people of Guzerat," says the same traveller, "are the most desperate pirates in existence, and one of their atrocious practices is this: when they have taken a merchant vessel they force the merchants to swallow a stuff called tamarind, mixed in sea-water, which produces a violent purging. This is done in case the merchants, on seeing their danger, should have swallowed their most valuable stones and pearls, and in this way they secure the whole." The sacred island of Beyt, in the Gulf of Cutch, off the north-west corner of the peninsula of Kattywar, was better known as "the Pirates' Isle," and the inhabitants of the Land's End of the peninsula were noted for their audacity as sea-rovers.

But by 1670 we see the Sajanian pirates of Kathiawar Gujarat followed by the Marathas. The leaders Shivaji and his progeny were organized in their fight against the Portuguese. But to lord them all later came the Maratha commodore of Shivaji’s fleet named Kanhoji Angre. He had a control over the seashore some 240 miles long between Bombay & Vengurla. By 1710-1729 he controlled the shores effectively ad humiliated the British at every given chance. He was succeeded by his son Sambhaji who continued in the same vein until 1734 and then it was Toolaji Angre. The British finally retaliated with might and by 1756; had finally destroyed most of the Angre holdings. It was thus Angre and his seamen who were the so called ‘Malabar pirates’ of the 18th century, while the British ruled Bombay.

So we saw the various types of Guajarati and Maratha privateers or pirates, whatever one may term them were harassing the British on the seas. But why did they venture onto the land? What is the connection with Malabar hill? It is said that they came to that side of the rocks, sheltered from the winds, waiting for commercial shipping to pass by after ascending the pinnacle to scan, watch the skyline and plan their pillage. This peak came to be known as Malabar Point and the hillock, Malabar hill. William hunter was another one to generalize the Malabar pirates into one group holding the sea coast from Bombay to Cape Comorin. He mentions about their plunders on shore while Pyrard mentions they would never attack anybody on shore.

As legends go, both Shivaji and Angre used to visit Banaganga for a holy dip and Walkeshwar for the festivals and prayers. But there were also Europeans amongst the Malabar pirates. As it is written “If the pirates were but Arabs or Malabars, matters had not been so bad; but European pirates were abroad, indulging in unheard-of excesses, seizing Mughal pilgrim ships (the Gunsway or Ganjasawai), and leading to the incarceration of our leaders and servants at Surat.”

The original name of the Malabar hill, point area was Shrigundi. The story is described thus: Shri-Gundi is called Malabar Point after the pirates of Dharmapatan (That is near Tellichery – Curious!), Kotta, and Porka on the Malabar Coast, who, at the beginning of British rule in Bombay, used to lie in wait for the northern fleet in the still water in the sea of the north end of Back Bay. The name Shri-Gundi apparently means the Lucky Stone. At the very extremity of Malabar Point is a cleft rock, a fancied yoni, to which numerous pilgrims resort for the purpose of regeneration by the efficacy of a passage through this sacred emblem. The yoni or hole is of considerable elevation among rocks of no easy access in the stormy season incessantly surf-buffeted. Women as well as men pass through the opening. You descend some steps on rugged rocks. Then thrusting your hands in front you ascend head first up the hole.

The Banaganga tank story has Lord Rama, after a long and thirsty trek in search of Sita, stopped at Sri Gundi and supposedly fired an arrow into ground to get water (somehow connected to Ganaga as well) , and so it ended up a sacred tank, after which he built a sand idol (Walk eashwar) to worship. The original temple built around this idol was destroyed by the Portuguese, but the temple was rebuilt again in 1715 by Rama Kamath.

Shivaji Maharaj when close to death is said to have landed at Malabar Point and passed through the rock, probably to free him from the haunting presence of the murdered Afzulkhan. Kanhoji Angria (1690-1730) is said to have visited Bombay by stealth to go through the hole at the Malabar Point. By 1670, the English built a government house in Malabar point, but the place was so poorly fortified that (it is said) the Malabar pirates often plundered the native villages and carried off the inhabitants as slaves. The English soon loaded the terraces with cannon and built ramparts over the bowers. There they housed two great guns to get the pirate ships.

As James Douglas rambles about the pilgrimage of the pirates

In the pre-Portuguese days the pilgrims, i.e., "the Malabars," would land at Mazagon, or at a small haven near our Castle which the English on their arrival called Sandy Bay, or, in the fair season, at what is our present Wood Wharf in Back Bay, convenient enough and right opposite the steep ascent.
Here buggalow and pattamar would discharge their cargo of "live lumber" or faithful devotees, as you are disposed to view them. Now they proceed to breast the “ Siri," halting, no doubt, at the Halfway House, where the Jogi would give them a drink from his holy well. Here they would have time to draw their breath, chew betelnut, or say their prayers. Thence, refreshed, to the summit, and now along a footpath studded with palmyra palms, sentinels by sea and land on the ridge, and very much on the track of the present carriage road, they make their way to those old pipal trees at our "Reversing Station," old enough in all conscience to have sheltered Gerald Aungier and the conscript fathers of the city from the heat of the noonday sun, and how much older we know not.
And now they descend the brow of the hill, pass the site of the present Walkeshwar temple, past the twisted trees in the Government House compound,—of the existence of which we have indubitable evidence as far back at least as 1750.

And here we may remark that the Malabar Hill of these days was much more wooded than at present. When land is left to itself, everything grows to wood. It is so in Europe, and it is so here, as we can see with our eyes in that magnificent belt of natural jungle which clothes the slopes down to the water's edge of Back Bay (and which reminds one of the Trossachs on an exceedingly small scale), where, among crags and huge boulders, the leafy mango and the feathery palm assert themselves out of a wild luxuriance of thick-set creepers glowing with flowers of many colours. The hare, the jungle fowl, and the monkey were doubtless no strangers to these bosky retreats. At length the temple, ornate with many a frieze and statue, bursts upon the view amid a mass of greenery. Black it is, for the Bombay trap becomes by exposure to innumerable monsoons like the Hindu pagodas among the orange groves of Poona. And now, the journey ended, the white-robed pilgrims, and some forsooth sky-clad in the garb of nature, bow their faces to the earth, amid jessamine flowers, in the old temple of Walkeshwar, on its storm-beaten promontory, with no sound on the ear save the cry of the sea-eagle, or the thud of the waves as they dash eternally on the beach.

Keyi’s and the ownership of Malabar Hill

Wikipedia makes an interesting mention of the Keyi’s of Malabar and connects it to Malabar hill. It is said that the Keyis had to sell Malabar Hill to the EIC to safeguard their business holdings. Quoting the entry - The well known and prominent Keyi family of North Malabar in Kerala was founded by Chovvakkaran Moosa in the early 18th Century. He was a strong force in trade and commerce during that time, having powerful links with rulers, kings and countries. He started off his business with the Portuguese, the French, and the British. He owned a large part of Bombay including the area currently known as Malabar Hill and many parts in Chowpatti Beach area. Even today the family has some old shops and buildings in that area. When the British East India Company started creating problems for their business, they had to call a truce with them in order to survive. The Keyis tried everything from funding Tipu Sultan and Pazhassi Raja in their war with the British at the time. When everything failed, they donated the entire area now known as Malabar Hill to the East India Company to maintain the Keyis' trading rights in the North Malabar area . Hence the name, Malabar Hill for this Western India prime property.

I certainly could not find any corroborating evidence for the above claim even after extensive research and after reading KKN Kurup’s complete work on the Keyi family. While they may have held land space around Malabar hill in the 18th century, the name Malabar hill goes back to 1673 when Fryer wrote first mentioned the place. Aluppi’s nephew Moosa kakka who built a bigger fortune and may have perhaps possessed land in Bombay, came to fame only by the early 18th century. So by conjuncture, Keyi’s do not appear to be the reason for the naming of Malabar Hill after Malabar.

In conclusion one could call this a somewhat indiscriminate use of the term Malabar as we know it today, though another who likes arguments would retort saying that Malabar itself is nebulous, it was first coined in antiquity by some Arab sailor for the coastal area of Western India between Surat and Cape Comorin. But then again we saw how the name of the hill eventually came about, even if by mistake and remained so, for it was finally a locale where the pirates stopped for a lookout or for good luck and to pray obeisance.

Indian Pirates RJ Salvatore
The pirates of Malabar   John Biddulph
Bombay and western India: a series of stray papers, Volume 2  James Douglas
The Great Pioneer in India, Ceylon, Bhutan & Tibet
Stirring stories of peace and war, by sea and land James Macaulay
A handbook for travelers in India, Burma and Ceylon   John Murray
Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Volume 26, Part 3
Guide to Bombay: historical, statistical, and descriptive James Mackenzie Maclean
The Missionary herald, Volume 89 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
Keyis of Malabar – KKN Kurup

Corsaire is the term used by the French for what in English is a privateer. A Privateer was an armed ship under papers to a government or a company to perform specific tasks. The men who sailed on a privateer were also called privateers. Most importantly, the famous "Articles of Piracy" often did not apply to a ship of privateers. Often privateers were simple merchant marines who were engaged in acts of war for profit. Other time they were hired mercenaries. Privateers, unlike pirates were quite open about what they did and were typically considered heroes by their host nations. In the loosest terms, any of the above can be a pirate. If a privateer is fighting for another country, you would probably consider him a pirate. Anyone who robs at sea is and was a pirate. When privateers exceeded the bounds of their commission, they became pirates. By definition, a pirate is any person committing criminal acts against public authority, on the high seas outside the normal jurisdiction and laws of any state (country). By law, they can be arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced by any state that captures them. Also, by definition, the criminal act is of a private nature, that is personal gain, and not for political reasons.