‘Doctors, this is cyanide... the tongue burns, it tastes acrid’

This could be another first of sorts from India's suicides capital — Kerala. A bankrupt jeweller in Palakkad has demolished the legend about people tasting cyanide dying before they could pick up a pen and write down what it really tastes like. This man tasted the poison, addressed a note in some detail to doctors on it, then died.

State Health Secretary Vishwas Mehta says he is contacting experts to see if this note could be of some use to science. Forensic department sources say there is plenty of scientific literature theoretically deducing cyanide's taste from analysing its known chemical properties — but they have yet to see any that says someone had actually tasted the deadly stuff, and then documented it.

Police say 32-year-old Prasad, said to be a reader of crime thrillers, had checked into a seedy lodge in Palakkad last week, deciding to die. A small time gold jewellery trader, Prasad had gone bankrupt after a couple of north Indian conmen sold him spurious ornaments passed off as gold. He carried the cyanide with him — it is commonly used in gold extraction work everywhere.

Prasad mixed the cyanide in a tumbler, stirred it with the bottom of his pen, then sat down to write the suicide note to his kin. The police presume that by the time he was nearly done with it, he would have been absently chewing on the pen's bottom with the cyanide on it. His suicide note abruptly goes off course to address doctors:

''Doctors, (this is) potassium cyanide. I have tasted it. It comes through slowly at the beginning, and then it burns, the whole tongue burns and feels hard. The taste is very acrid...I had read in some novel about killing a man discreetly with cyanide. It was smeared on the pages of a book that he was reading, and when he touched his tongue with his finger to turn the book's pages, he died and no one suspected... I am now convinced how easily someone can kill another using this...''

... contd.

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