Sunday, January 31, 2016

Clinical Records.

I have a bad habit of keeping clinical records of all the patients treated by me. They say that it is a good habit to keep records. May be. But it is bad when it shows a failed case or a missed diagnosis. The patient sitting in the chair would have forgotten what his complaint was when he had visited me four or six years back or that the tooth about which he presently has a complaint had actually been treated by me earlier. It would be very nice to consider it as a new case without bothering about the inconvenient history. But for the record, I would not remember the case, the patient’s memory would be worse and I would treat it as a new case. I may even get to blame the previous dentist (Gleefully. Who doesn’t like other’s mistakes?) for messing up the case and charge a little more for setting things right and doing the patient a favour! But my record does not allow such pleasures. It places my blunder in front of my eyes in black and white. Painful. That is why I sometimes feel that I would be better off without my records.

But it has its uses. Once in a way I get a patient in whose mouth I find some really good job done. I mention it to the patient and he/she says “Oh, that was long back doctor, I do not know who did it”. It would be extremely gratifying when the record shows that it has been done by me. People get different teeth treated by different dentists as per convenience and never remember who treated which tooth, let alone where and when. Sometimes they will have totally forgotten visiting any dentist in their life at all. “No doctor, I swear that I have never been to a dentist before. This is my first visit ever.” I place the card in front of them and hear an excited “Oh, you still have my card! That was when I was in sixth standard. I never had any trouble later and have entirely forgotten about it” and it impresses them a lot.

 Some cards bear cautionary signals like “Very apprehensive patient”, “Never keeps appointments”, “Bargains. Quote more”, “Collect fee in advance” etc etc which are very useful in running a practice.

The popular belief among my patients is that winter is bad time for dental treatment. For that matter, dental treatment is considered bad in any season but worse during winter. Hence the attendance in the clinic is quite low during winter. Yesterday was one such day with just two patients.  I removed few teeth for one of them. Since that was to be followed by making an artificial set, the patient said that she would pay for everything together and walked away. No collection for the day.  Not even the milk and vegetable money.

I was about to close when the second patient walked in. It was quarter past eight. He just wanted an appointment for a filling. An appointment was fixed but I can not charge someone for just fixing an appointment. I am not that bad yet. And they wouldn’t pay even if I do. So pockets remained empty. When he was about to leave, the patient mentioned that he had visited me years back for some fillings and I took out his card just to check. He was right. I had done some filings for him but he had not paid me! That was ten years back and he owed me five hundred. I mentioned it and said that he may pay me when he came for his fillings. “Oh I am so sorry doctor” he said “No, No, I will pay  right now.”  He sheepishly took out the cash from his purse, paid me and left putting me in the black for the day!

Of all the benefits of maintaining records, I feel this is best!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Urban wild Life - Sand Boa

Last night when I stopped the car in front of our house, the head lights picked up a long sluggish creature crawling on the road. I knew that it was a snake but was surprised at the slow movement. Snakes do not come out for a leisurely walk. I went closer. It was a snake alright but a Sand Boa. Since I am much more evolved now as a naturalist than what I was decades back, I did not pick up a stick to beat it’s life out of it but took out my mobile phone to get some pictures.  I hope that I will evolve further and when I find the next snake, will be able to suppress the urge to take pictures, switch off the head lights and leave the snake in peace.

This is how it looked right in the glare of head lights. More shadow, less Sand Boa.  
I  changed the angulation and a helpful passer by focused the light from his mobile on it's head while goading me to go closer assuring me that the snake is harmless. Good intentions but bad results.
This time however I got some pictures while a passerby focused the light from his mobile phone on the snake. while I was dancing around the snake, my wife ran inside to get the camera, did not find it, shouted from the balcony, got my reply, ran down the stairs without tripping and breaking her bones, found the camera in the clinic and brought it. By then the Sand Boa had crossed the road, moved along the border of my neighbour’s compound and was just about to get into a hole. Still, I did get most of it in my camera and so you are able to see how it looked without the shadow play.

Somewhat better picture after the snake moved away from the glare of head lights. 
This is how it really looks. It is headless but since the head and tail look alike in a Sand Boa, you did not miss much.
I do not know if you have a seen a Sand Boa live. It actually looks and behaves like an overgrown earth worm. I understand that it lives by eating rodents, lizards and other snakes. I also understand that coming under the wheels is a major cause of It's death. I fail to understand how it manages to catch a rat or a lizard unless they have suicidal tendencies. But obviously, nature has provided. And till date this Boa has been lucky to cross roads without getting under a wheel. Luck be with you Sand Boa!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Second Childhood

“Go, get a haircut”

That was my wife ordering me. She was not happy with the look of my hair and was insisting that I have a haircut. I am not against haircuts.  I usually go for one on my own accord every two months or so. But it was just about three weeks since my last cut and she was ordering another one. I did not like it.  

 As I said, I am not against a haircut but I do not like to go to the barber often. The barber whom I patronise has a shop in the centre of the market. When I go there I will have to first worm my way through the market by lanes, find a place free from garbage to park my scooter,  carefully walk some distance avoiding stepping on heaps of cow dung deposited at strategic points, squeeze myself between a cart selling ‘limbu soda’ and another selling sugarcane juice, and enter the barber’s shop. The barber does not give prior appointments and his services are on first come first serve basis. He is almost always busy and I will have to wait for my turn. I hate to touch the old magazines leafed through by hundreds of licked fingers and can’t bear the bollywood music on the TV. Hence I avoid visiting him frequently.  Some may suggest that I change my barber but it is not easy to change your barber once you get used to him. (Like your dentist for that matter - a sentiment, of which I happen to be a beneficiary)

Now the trouble is, I try to avoid frequent visits to the barber but my hair grows quite fast. “There is lot of manure in the head” is an old joke but my friends stress that it is not a joke in my case. Well whatever it is, I feel very uncomfortable with overgrown hair falling over my ears and neck.  So, I requested my wife to cut it and she was aghast at the suggestion. I told her that it is the wives job in the US and she asked me to shift to US and marry a wife who is ready to cut my hair. I requested my son and he did it once. He made a big fuss over the bits of hair falling all over his clothes and small bits getting entangled with his body and pricking him throughout the day. He refused to cut it the second time saying that he is a dentist and not a barber. I reminded him that barbers were his professional ancestors but he was not prepared to appreciate the fact.  I had to fend for myself.  

I decided that “self help is the best help” and purchased a pair of scissors. Using them I could trim the hair on the right side of my head reasonably well, enough to ward off a visit to the barber by a week or two but the left side was tricky. I could not reach behind the ears and the back of my neck was worse. I did not give up. I persisted, tried to practice cutting with my left hand, nicked my ears, poked my neck, was frustrated and had to give up. (Have you ever tried trimming the hair behind your ears? Try it once- particularly the left side if you are a right hander. It is fun)

During my visits to the barber I had noticed that he used an electric trimmer to start with and then he continued with the scissors and comb. And he effortlessly removed tufts of hair with each swipe of the trimmer. It was so easy! During my last visit I stealthily noted down the make and the model number of his trimmer. I was overjoyed to find the trimmer available on Flipkart and ordered one.  Strangely my wife who had made a lot of noise over me cutting my hair with the scissors (and bits of hair over the wash basin and the floor around it) did not make any fuss and she resigned after saying “You better close down your clinic and start a barber shop”.

During the past two weeks I had practiced running the trimmer over the easily accessible parts of my head and it was time to go further. I got an opportunity recently. We had to attend a wedding reception in the evening and three weeks after the visit to the barber my hair was just right for a trim. Soon after my morning walk - before my wife woke up - I carried the trimmer and a hand mirror to our backyard and trimmed my hair in the peaceful surroundings.  No ‘give away’ bits of hair around the washbasin. I could trim not only the hair over my ears, but also the back of my head and my neck easily. I was ready for the reception.

In the afternoon, I was appreciating my work standing in front of the mirror when my wife exclaimed “What happened to your hair?”

“My hair? Nothing. What happened?”

“It looks moth eaten. Did you try to use the trimmer?”

“Me? No. You know that I am not capable of avoiding your eyes and ears.”

 “But you have done something. It looks like rats have been at it.”

I told her not to imagine things and said that my hair was fine.

“See here.”

 She held her mobile to my face. There it was. A moth eaten patch slightly above my neck on the right.  Not very much visible but visible to my wife. Photographic proof and no scope for further evasion. It was a mistake buying her a smart phone. Now she has photographic evidence for everything.  “See here” she holds it in front of my eyes - “You left your sandals on the door mat”, “you left the wardrobe door open”, “You did not close the jam bottle ” so on and so forth.  And now, it was my hair.  I told her that there is nothing wrong trying to be self reliant and mentioned that even Gandhi had tried cutting his hair himself. “Don’t dare trying everything that Gandhi did” she retorted and continued “Go, have a haircut, or else I will not be coming to that reception with you.”

I tried to tell her that nobody in the reception would be bothered about my hair but just then my phone rang. “Appa,” it was my son “Go have a hair cut”. I was surprised and uttered “Well.....” but he cut me short. “I saw the picture and I don’t want to hear anything. Go have a hair cut”. This lady had not only taken my picture but had ‘whatsapped’ it to my son and had enlisted support. It was another mistake teaching her to send the pictures of her sarees, bangles, handbags and sandals to her sister.

The last time I had heard that order was about fifty years back, in my childhood. When my mother could no more bear the look of my over grown and unkempt hair she would say “Look at you.  You look like a shabby sloth bear. Go have a hair cut” and she would press a rupee coin in my hand.

The SMS from HDFC bank said “Sir, we notice from our records that you will be sixty next week. Please contact the nearest branch for changing over to a senior citizen account and getting the senior citizen benefits”.

There is a saying in Kannada which means “Second child hood starts at sixty”.

My second child hood has started with the very familiar childhood order “GO HAVE A HAIR CUT” and me obeying it.


Thursday, December 24, 2015


Walking through the streets of Silva Nagar on Christmas morning you just can't help imbibing some Christmas spirit. I mean the figurative Christmas spirit. You can hear the shouting and laughter of the younger generation who have imbibed the real spirit and celebrating - after the midnight mass, at a distance in the adjoining football ground. It has become an annual ritual for me to change my walking course on 25th Dec to enjoy the festive look of the locality. And I try to capture some of the spirit  in my Sony and post it here. A bit early and it is too dark for the abilities of my camera, a bit late and the lights are switched off.  May be I was at the right time today. Got a bit of both. Here they are.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Before I write anything else, I declare that my knowledge of art is zero or less and that any feelings hurt due to the expression of my opinion here is unintended and deeply regretted. I am only expressing my ignorance  and what is written has nothing to do with the quality of art displayed in the Kala Academy, Panjim - Goa.

My wife had some work in Panaji and I drove her there this morning. It is the year end, a time when people go crazy over Goa for reasons best known to them. To top it Panaji is hosting the 46th IFFI followed by the feast of St Francis Xavier. Needless to say that the city is overflowing. All the roads are jammed and no place even to park your legs. I dropped her on the road in front of the place she intended reaching and drove around Panjim searching for a place to park the car. Found a place two kilometers away from the spot I had dropped my wife - at the Kala Academy, Panaji.  

Other than promoting art and culture the Kala Academy serves the humanity through two very useful ways. It has lot of parking space which is freely available for parking when there are no programmes in the academy and it has very decent toilets. Having parked my car in the parking lot, I walked in. The academy building was being 'done up' to host the forthcoming Film festival. I walked around watching the work going on, used the toilet and was walking towards the canteen  when I came up on some art work in metal which have been installed near the canteen. As mentioned earlier I can’t recognize a piece of art even when it is labeled and placed in front of me. Since these were placed at strategic locations in the Kala Academy building and had a brass plaque in front of them giving the name of the art and the artist I think they are valuable pieces of art. For my untrained eyes they look like random selections from a scrap yard welded together. But the trained eyes in the academy must have chosen them carefully, paid good money and installed them there. Here they are.
This is the first one placed near the entrance to the hall that attracted my attention. According to the plaque it is a 'Dancing girl'. To my eyes it does not look like a girl and if it is one certainly she is not dancing. By stretching whatever imagination I have at my disposal, I may call it a two legged being which has undergone some surgery to set right broken hands and the surgery has gone wrong. 
This is called 'Goat'. I would be happy if someone can explain to me why it is a goat and not a wolf, dog or a deer. I wouldn't suggest a cow because once you call it a cow, you can't dismantle and dispose it off. 
I did not find a plaque before this piece of art. May be I could not make out which was the front and which was the back and was looking for a plaque on the back side. 
I like this. This is called 'Adrift artifact.' Meaning things found adrift in a junk yard (?). I would have made it better by adding 'welded' to the name. A honest piece of art!
There were many  more but since I did not carry my camera and since my mobile phone is just that and not a good camera I did not take more pictures. 
After going through the art exhibition I must have walked in a daze for sometime and when I came to my senses I found myself at the boundary of Kala Academy, looking at this great piece of art. 
 I have a suggestion for the administration of Kala Academy. Sell the pieces as what they are - pieces of scrap, at Rs 20 a kilo.  Use a part of it to paint an arrow with the words “Art - This way” and lead the fluff headed art lovers like me to the boundary of Kala Academy from where we can witness a great art. The art of nature!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Taking one flight, Being twice foolish and passing through three security checks!

It is called the Swiss army officer’s knife or a swiss knife for short. It was a gift to me from my brother in law. He had brought it from Germany, when he went there for training thirty years back.  I had just then read about the knife in Reader’s Digest and was impressed with its quality and the effort that went into its making. If I remember right, every officer of the Swiss Army got one  knife at the time of his commissioning and it was part of his kit. So, when he asked me what I would like to have from Germany, I had asked him to get me a Swiss knife, if available and affordable. Incidentally the same evening he had seen a large scale working model of the knife in the window of a shop and he had purchased it with out looking at the price. I do not remember the price he paid for it but I know that he had to stretch his resources a bit to buy it. It has been with me ever since and has been a part of my luggage almost on every trip. Now, the red knife made by ‘Victorinox India’ is available on Flipkart in different forms to suit different budgets (Rs 250 to 5000) but it was not heard off then. This background is to explain the sentiment  attached to my Swiss knife. 
I make sure that I pack it in the check - in luggage when I take a flight but had made the mistake of  putting  it in my cabin luggage this time. So when the security officer at the Bengaluru air port called out “Sir, do you have a swiss knife in your bag?” I first said “no” and then a sheepish “yes”. My bag was handed over to me and I was asked to take the knife out.  Obviously, it was not allowed on the flight. I did not know what to do. I was in a fix and I was feeling stupid standing there holding the knife in my hand. Then the officer himself suggested that I put it in a bag that I may not need on the flight, go back to the check in counter and check the bag in. We had arrived at the airport early and we had plenty of time. We had about three hand bags with us.  I hastily selected one, took out some snacks that I had kept in it, put the knife in the bag, took it back to the check in counter and checked it in as an extra piece. I collected another boarding pass, came back, went through the security drill a second time, reached the boarding gate and sat there breathing deep.  I am always apprehensive when I go through the security check at the airports and this experience had shaken me.

I did not see my son and wife near the gate and I wanted to call them and find out where they were. Compulsion of carrying a mobile phone. It wouldn’t really matter to me where they were. They would come to the gate at boarding time. But when a phone is handy we call. It was then that I realised that my phone was not handy but was in the bag that I had checked in. And, it was not securely inside but was in the outside pouch! I had put it in the bag before passing through the security gate.  Immediately after that I also realised that I had kept my cash as well as the house keys in the same pouch just before going through the security check. All of them were now in the outer pouch of the bag which I had checked in and would freely flow out when the bag tumbled around on the luggage belt.  By then my son and wife joined me at the gate and I explained to them the foolish situation that I had put myself in. For once my wife remained calm. “Sit here and relax. If you really deserve to have the things that you have put in that bag, you will certainly get them”. My son said that since we now know that we can go back to the check in counter even after the security check, we may try to go back a second time and retrieve the phone, cash and keys.
I went back to the security area and feeling very foolish, explained my predicament to the officer there. He was very helpful. He said that I should go to the information counter, which is located in the boarding area, call the airline from there and see what they suggest. The information counter was unfortunately manned by an arrogant and adamant fellow who just tried to brush me aside saying it was too late to do anything now as the luggage would have been loaded onto the aircraft. I explained that my flight was due only after another hour and a half and that it had probably yet to land at Bangalore. I insisted that he call the airlines and allow me to talk. He grudgingly called Air Asia while I stood wondering what the response of the airlines would be.  When I got my chance, I apologetically explained the situation to the counter staff and was surprised to hear “No issues sir. You please remain wherever you are. Our staff will come and escort you back to check in counter. We will retrieve your luggage and you may take out your phone and keys. By the way, you have checked in three pieces. Which one would you like us to bring back?”  I described my bag and stood waiting.

A pleasant mannered girl arrived after ten minutes, confirmed that I was the fool who needed help and escorted me to the check in counter again. My bag was waiting on the table there. As I took out the phone, keys, loose cash and a cheque from the outer pouch of the bag they stood watching me possibly wondering how stupid one could get. I returned the almost empty bag containing my valuable knife to the counter staff, collected my third boarding pass, passed through the security check for the third time and returned to the gate beaming. 

It was an unusual experience and I wrote this to express my gratitude and appreciate the staff of Air Asia. Even though it was very foolish of me to do what I had done, they just behaved as if it was routine for people to leave their valuables in the check in luggage, unsecured, and return to the counter to retrieve them. This is also to inform anyone else who may be as stupid as I had been, that the check in, security and boarding gates are not one way (as I had thought) and that it is possible to retrace your way if necessary. You may look foolish but you can do it.


Saturday, November 7, 2015


“ I have been speaking to you for the last two minutes and you are not responding at all. You have stopped hearing me’  -  this has been my wife’s complaint for over an year now.

“Oh, is it? I never heard anything. May be I am getting old”  -  My response.

“You are not getting old. You are just trying to be clever and it won’t work with me” -  My wife retorts.

This has been going on for sometime now.

Recently I had a bout of cold and fever and felt that my ear is blocked. I consulted the ENT surgeon. He did not find any block and he suggested that I undergo an audiometry test.  It was done today.

It says that there is some hearing loss but I hear better at low frequencies.

It is official now. I do not hear what my wife says and need not respond to her words. And if she is bent upon getting an answer she will have to stop shouting and speak gently (and lovingly) in a low tone!

I love Audiometry!