“Viagra has changed more lives than any other drug in history”

Posted by Channel 6
May 24, 2012
Dr SKM+Anver Alikhan (1)

Dr Sudhakar Krishnamurti is a world-renowned andrologist, and the first Indian doctor to exclusively practice andrology, the field of medicine that deals with the male reproductive system. I had met him several times socially, but never had the opportunity to talk to him about his profession — a fascinating area. So I invited him to lunch at The Great Kabab Factory, which is known, of course, for its great kababs.

 

The Great Kabab Factory is a brand of the Radisson group of hotels. The restaurant’s first avatar opened at the Radisson in Delhi in the late 90s, and it was so successful that it now has branches not only in various Indian cities, but also in Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat and Saudi Arabia — all of them, presumably, places that know their kababs.

The restaurant is designed in dramatic shades of cobalt blue, with glowing orange ceiling lamps that remind you of the inside of a tandoor. The entire look is somehow reminiscent of Samarkand and the legendary ‘blue domes of Central Asia.’ One entire side is an open kitchen and the other side opens on to a view of the Chiraan Palace grounds, although unfortunately they have to keep the blinds closed during the day.

Kabab Factory serves a set lunch of kababs and rotis, followed by biryani, and ending with a choice of desserts. So we ordered lunch and got down to chatting about — what else — sex.

Tell me about life after Viagra, I asked Dr Krishnmurti. He thought for a moment. “Viagra has changed more lives than any other drug in history,” he replied. “I know many doctors would disagree with me — cardiologists, for example, would talk, instead, of heart drugs and neurologists would talk of epilepsy drugs — but it’s true. Viagra is the biggest selling drug of all time, and that is not including the generic competitors which sell at one-fifth the price, and well-known competitive brands like Cialis and Levitra. It has been responsible for literally transforming millions of lives, marriages and relationships.”

Hasn’t it also been responsible for ending a lot of marriages? Cases where middle-aged husbands have discovered Viagra — and, with it, a new sexual self — and therefore walked out on their wives with a younger, more attractive woman? I don’t think Dr Krishnamurti agreed with me, although he admitted that it has led to a certain amount of philandering among older men.

Our soft drinks arrived. A very refreshing virgin mojito for me and a Red Bull for Dr Krishnamurti. “Please wipe the top of the can before you pour it out,” he insisted to the waiter. Hmmm, useful tip, I guess, especially coming from a doctor.

He then told me a wonderful story about how Viagra was discovered. It was apparently completely serendipitous: the team at Pfizer was actually trying to find a heart drug, and was doing field trials, testing it on men. They found, however, that the men they’d tested it on were — for some reason — refusing to return the unused pills after the trials were over. They then realised the reason: that, while the pill hadn’t really helped their heart condition very much, it had dramatically transformed their sex lives! And thus in 1998, for the very first time in history, a tested, proven cure was found for erectile dysfunction.

So what about good old-fashioned aphrodisiacs? Things like rhino horn? Horny goat weed? Sauerkraut? What’s your take on them? I asked. “Bunkum. Absolute bunkum.” Dr Krishnamurti replied. “They’re nothing more than placebos.” Even yohimbine? “Well, yohimbine had great folk-loric value. And so its myth lasted longer than any of the other so-called aphrodisiacs. But after the coming of Viagra and its clones — even that has finally been put to rest.” By now our lunch had arrived. First, Galauti kabab. Then, in succession, Peshawari murgh, Amritsar machhli and Murgh tikka. The steward also pointed out the restaurant’s range of special chutneys, which they seem to be rather proud of: mint, yoghurt, tomato and tamarind.

“This is really rich stuff,” said Dr Krishnamurti, helping himself to the kababs, “I usually don’t eat red meat, so today, to prepare myself for lunch, I skipped breakfast.” Like all doctors, he’s very careful about his diet and exercise.

The kababs were good, and they seemed to come in unlimited quantities. But, unfortunately, for some reason, the restaurant insists on bringing the kababs by themselves, without the rotis. And then by the time the rotis arrive, the kababs have gotten cold. I tried to explain this to them a couple of times, and then gave up. Why the heck don’t they bring the kababs and rotis together?

So what exactly is andrology, and when did it first develop as a speciality, I asked Dr Krishnamurti. “The word “andro” means ‘man’, and ‘ology’ means ‘the study of’. So it is, literally, the study of men. The field developed as a sub-speciality of urology, just about 20 or 30 years ago. It’s as new as that. And I was one of the very first doctors in India to specialise exclusively in andrology. In fact, my first business card said ‘Surgeon and Andrologist’; my second card, a few months later, said only ‘Andrologist’. And that’s how it has stayed since then.”

What is the main problem patients come to you with? I ask. “There are two, actually. The first is erectile dysfunction — what was once referred to as impotence. Statistics show that 52 percent of all men can expect to face some degree of erectile dysfunction after the age of 40.”

And what’s the second problem?

“Premature ejaculation.”

Well, Viagra must have made your business very easy — in the area of erectile dysfunction, anyway. All you have to do is write a prescription for Viagra and your job is done, I say.

“No, it’s not as simple as that. Oral medication is only the first-line treatment. My patients usually come to me after they’ve crossed that stage, when they’ve tried Viagra and find they need a more permanent solution. And that solution often requires surgery. I’m a micro-surgeon myself — I did my training in a neurological unit, by the way — I operate under a microscope, using sutures that are finer than a human hair.”

Micro-surgery? Ouch! “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.”

The waiter came to offer us the next course, of Chicken biryani. But — like most people who come to The Great Kabab Factory, I’ll bet — that first course of kababs and rotis had stuffed us so fully, we really couldn’t face anything else. But we asked for just a small helping of biryani, just to try it. It was pretty good.

So what advice would you give to a normal, healthy young male, to help him retain his sexual health right through his life? I asked. “Well, the first thing is: choose your genes carefully.”

What’s that supposed to mean?

The major cause of erectile dysfunction is diseases like diabetes, BP, and heart trouble — which happen to be genetic. You’re born with them. And, as you probably know, we Indians are particularly prone to these diseases. So we become sitting ducks for erectile dysfunction by the time we hit middle age — or even earlier.”

And assuming you’re lucky enough not to don’t have any of those genetic problems, what can you do to stay healthy? “All the usual, sensible, logical things: don’t smoke; don’t drink; exercise regularly; stick to a good, healthy diet. It’s as simple as that. Or as difficult.”

The waiter came to offer us a choice of desserts: gulab jamun, ice-cream and kulfi. We chose the latter, but turned down the paan that followed.

So much more to talk about on the subject of sex, but we’d run out of time. But fortunately, Dr Krishnamurti had brought along a copy of his bestseller, Sex is Not a Four-Letter Word, for me, which should answer a lot of questions. I’m looking forward to sitting down and reading it at length.

And what was the verdict on the lunch? Well, the kababs were good (they change the kabab menu every day, by the way). And it was great value for money: all the kababs you can eat — plus biryani and dessert — for just Rs 375 per head (plus taxes etc). Which probably makes Kabab Factory the best-kept secret in town. I really don’t know how they make a profit at these prices.

Anvar Alikhan is Senior VP and Executive Creative Director of JWT. He writes occasionally about food, and other good things in life.

The Great Kabab Factory, 8-2-293, Road No 12, Banjara Hills. 40208282/23302244

Photographs by Syed Alimuddin

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