When it did not turn up on the balcony this morning I looked around and found it in front of the window glass, preening itself and appreciating its own image. Has it started developing human qualities? Shortly afterwards I saw the reason for its preening. It had a companion! Once in company, both of them lost their minds –human quality- and flew into the room instead of the kitchen. After searching for their food which was not present there, they decided to get out, but by then the male had lost its way, allowing himself to be ridiculed by the female- human quality? After frantically trying to get out through windowpanes, bars, loft and ceiling –ignoring the open door and two large open windows, they got dejected and sat on the windowsill allowing me to photograph them. By then it occurred to me that in the absence of human proximity, may be they would regain their birdie qualities and so I withdrew myself from their presence closing the door behind me. When I re entered the room after half an hour they were not to be seen. I am sure that they are happy to be out there somewhere.
As I came into the hall trying to confirm that the pictures I clicked are really in my camera, I found to my surprise, a rare visitor - the coppersmith - alight on to the balcony grills only for a few seconds before taking off again, not giving me an opportunity to record its presence in spite of the camera being in my hand. Very much like the VVIPs who alight at our Dabolim airport under tight security and take off in a helicopter immediately. No opportunities for any photos or interviews. It was then that, the crow, sitting on the balcony across and cawing raucously caught my attention. Just like the local politician who blah, blah, blahs out statements and poses for photographs out side the airport after the departure of the VVIP. The media people capture him so that they have something to put on their channels or print on the front pages. Also, who knows when they need him? I took the picture of the crow so that I have one more photograph for my blog. And I did not want to antagonize him. I may need his services someday.
I got the best student award when I passed the final BDS. I believed that I was good if not the best. Then I joined the health department as a dentist and was posted to a godforsaken health centre. I am from the reserved category. I got postings reserved to those who do not have capabilities of their own or the influence of other powers that can assure a good posting. Though it was an unwanted posting for many, I was very happy to get it after being unemployed for four years. I applied myself to the work in right earnest and though all I did was only pulling out teeth, earned a reputation as a good dentist. The appreciation was not really because I was good but because the previous dentist was worse. But my belief that I am a good dentist got firm. Since I pulled out not less than twenty teeth a day I was getting good at it out of sheer practice. Now I was in service for more than ten years. Well experienced. I had almost started believing that I really was good. I was of course. For a very short duration of ten months in my service of twentytwo years the government took me out of the reserved category and posted me to a district hospital. I was in a bigger place. More people coming in for treatment and I was popular. Even people who could afford to visit a private clinic were coming to the govt hospital. This fame again was more due to the fact that in the hospital, now a qualified dentist was pulling out teeth. The earlier dentist, a person indifferent to the profession and one who did not want his hands soiled, or his back broken, had restricted himself to writing out prescriptions for pain killers, while the job of pulling out teeth was allotted to the dental clinic peon- Joseph. Joseph was a self taught dentist. For many, he was doctor joseph. Though joseph resented me snatching the tag of doctor from him, he did treat me with respect and only conveyd his superior knowledge of the profession to me by suggesting that I better use the cowhorn forceps instead of the byonet forceps for a particular tooth removal or by suggesting that I better use the elevator instead of a forceps etc. I ignored his suggestions, relied up on my superior knowledge and judgment and broke the teeth instead of removing them. Ultimately I did manage to remove them after delving deep into the gums using knives, chissels, drills and what not and joseph did appreciate my work. Since he did not have formal training in the profession he was unable to do mining jobs in the gums. He held me in high esteem. Still I learnt that there was no shortage of people asking to have their teeth removed by joseph and many patients were asking ME if they could have their teeth removed by doctor joseph. I took pains to impress up on them that joseph was only the peon in the clinic and I was the doctor. They resigned themselves to their fate and accepted my treatment. But joseph did manage to show his skills in most afternoons when in the true tradition of government service I was not present in the clinic., One fine day joseph absconded from the city. No one knew his whereabouts. I was the doctor and the peon of dental clinic. This gentleman of about 70+ walked in one morning and asked me if I am capable of removing his shaking tooth? Capable? Me? I told the old man that I had removed about forty thousand teeth till then and he could occupy the chair if he intends adding one more to the number. He asked me if I am going to pull out the tooth after giving an injection? I answered that I had known no other way. He asked me if it is going to be painless? I told him to enquire with the dozen or so sitting outside with cotton stuffed in their mouths and come back. He did and sat in the chair. I saw the tooth. It would have fallen if only I had blown strongly over that tooth. But since he was very apprehensive, I injected a small dose of local anaesthetic. He said “ouch” at the touch of the needle. I assured him that that was all the pain he is likely to feel. After a few minutes I inserted the forceps in his mouth and gave a careless pull. He said “ouch” again. I had to inject another dose. I assured him that it happens once in a way and that he need not worry anymore. Another ten minutes and another twist with the forceps- another “ouch!” Now I was forced to give what we call a nerve block which numbs that whole part of the jaw. There was no chance for the tooth to misbehave. I pulled out the tooth quite easily and painlessly and waited for the usual word of thanks. He thanked me and said that he was grateful for a painless extraction and that his other teeth were removed by another doctor called Joseph who had been in the hospital for a long time. He also added that, with out meaning any offence to me, doctor Joseph was a MUCH BETTER doctor than me anyday. lastly, as a consolation, he assured me that with experience i am sure to improve and one day will be as good as doctor Joseph.
as mentioned earlier yesterday i had kept a fruit for the bulbul on the balcony wall and recorded its consumption. i wanted to see if we could photograph the bird in our kitchen and so there was no fruit on the balcony today. the bulbul did not disappoint us. my son could get the picture of the bulbul getting its fill straight from the hanging bunch on the kitchen platform and could put the pictures on this blog too!
The bulbul visited our kitchen again! There is nothing great about a bird entering a kitchen. Many a cat, rat, spider, lizard, cockroach, friends and relatives visit our houses and so did a bulbul. Sparrows used to nestle in the kitchen of our Bangalore house quite often. that was the time when they were also allowed to live in Bangalore. I am excited about this present visitor because these visits are one of the things we thought that we may miss in our new abode. I am talking about my house in Ponda, Goa. It is nearing two years since we shifted to this place. Before this, we used to stay in a block of apartments not very far from here. The apartments were at the border of the municipal limits of Ponda and beyond our apartments there were no more buildings. There was a play ground and then gentle slopes of the hillocks that surround our city. There were three things which fascinated us in our flat.
I had made a small place amongst the kitchen shelves where we kept the few idols of the various gods that we possessed. A box containing the Saligram and other accompaniments of “god’s habitat” or “devara goodu” as we call it. Some months after we occupied that flat, one morning we noticed that the sun light from the kitchen balcony fell directly on the box of Saligram. That was not a miracle or heavenly intervention in our affairs. Sun light does fall on any object in it’s path and our Saligram was in the path of sunlight, for about a week or ten days in a year. But we did feel good about it. There is no reason or logic or any explanation why one should feel good about any astronomical or physical happening or whatever. It was only our feeling.
Let me now shift to our bedroom balcony. I had nailed an old wooden box in the balcony on top of which we piled used, unused and useless pieces of cloth. On many occasions we had noticed a Magpie Robin flying in and out of the balcony with strands of fiber, twigs, pieces of thread etc. Some months later when I looked on top of the shelf hoping to find a suitable piece of cloth for some errand on hand, I was surprised to find that the Robin had built a nest on top of the shelf and laid eggs too. There after we followed the progress eagerly and could see the hatchlings out of the shell, their parents feeding them and witness the young ones fly away. We observed this for two to three seasons till we shifted out.
Coming back to our kitchen in the flat, we used to hang bunch of bananas on a wooden stand meant for the purpose and had placed it on our kitchen platform. There was a tree right next to the kitchen balcony which was liked by squirrels, crows in search of squirrels, as also bulbuls and Robins. We could see into the kitchen from our hall and on one occasion when no one was in the kitchen we heard some noise and looking over, found this bulbul enjoying the bananas in our kitchen. We did like its presence but to prevent indiscriminate destruction of bananas we used to keep one fruit out on the balcony which used to last about two days for the bulbul. Still the bulbul was partial to the fresh ones hanging from the stand and did sneak in, to enjoy it when no one was around. we sort of indulged it.
When we shifted out of the flat to the present house, we thought that we would miss out these things that we had liked. The gods had been given better accommodation and they now occupied what could be termed “devara mane” instead of “goodu”. The “mane” is only a partitioned part of our living room but it is a improvement on what our gods were used to. Every individual deity had his/her own niche and was placed according to protocol and hierarchy with sufficient space to move around and create miracles if she/ he wished to. But this location was at the centre of the house with no chance of any rain or shine coming near the gods. We missed the sunlight falling on our gods. We shifted in October. Some time after “sankranti” One fine evening we were very pleasantly surprised to see the sunlight falling directly on the idol at the centre of devara mane. The light came in through a circular opening near the ceiling made on a wall quite a distance away.the onset of uttaraayana after sankranti must have been responsible for the sunlight passing into our devaramane for few minuts in the evenings for a few days. My son was present at site when the wall was being built, and when only one or two rows of bricks were left to be placed, he had pleaded that an opening be kept to allow any bird to enter our house if it so wished. No bird has ever made use of the opening as there are many better alternatives available for them but the sun light did fall on our God! It made us happy.
Out of the three things that we thought that we would miss here, two remained. And yesterday I found that two fruits out of the bunch of bananas that hang on the stand had been pecked. I had almost forgotten about the bulbul. I thought it must have been that rogue of a rat which used to raid our dust bin and had thought me a lesson by biting off a part of the door and frame when I shifted the bin inside at nights. I also thought of the cockroach but had not seen one with such a healthy appetite as to finish off a quarter of a banana at one go. Then the tube got alight. It was the bulbul! This morning I placed one banana on the kitchen balcony and spent half an hour observing the antics of the bulbul around the fruit and i managed to click two snaps inspite of limited knowledge in using the digital camera. That’s the reason for my excitement. even though i used all of my limited mental resources,(the wee little, that was available after using the camera) i could not get the photographs to appear on this blog. i will try again later.
Now I feel I can try placing some old rags in a corner of the other balcony and see if the magpie robin returns too.
I have four signboards in my waiting room. Both in English and local language. Kindly leave your footwear outside. Please do not spit in the premises. Use the wash basin. Kindly be present ten minutes before the appointed time. Kindly switch off your mobile before entering the clinic.
All the requests get the same response that are reserved for “do not walk on grass” or “please stand in queue”. Still the first one is given some regard. May be because it is a tradition to leave the footwear before entering any house and my dental clinic looks like a house from the outside. Not just looks like, it is a part of my house. To enforce the second one it is a bit more difficult because we are used to spitting from windows, Balconies, and doorways of our own homes (leave alone public places) on to any other place not our own and some hardcore spitters do not mind even their own place. (is that also our tradition?) still any one would think twice before spitting on a spotless surface and I try to maintain my surroundings spotlessly clean. And I do not hesitate to give a harsh dressing down when I catch anyone redhanded. My status as the doctor to whom they have come for treatment bails me out from any harsh retaliations they may be inclined to. I try my best to enforce the third by instilling the fear that I may not be able to carry out any treatment if one is late, and they may have to live with the pain for few more days. But once I start the treatment and the pain is less, my trick does not work for subsequent appointments. Still about 40-50% of my cases do turn up on time. I accept defeat gracefully with the rest. The fourth instruction is impossible to enforce. Unless I engage determined security staff and snatch the instruments, it will not work. The following is the usual scene in my clinic. I have a person in my dental chair who is half dead by fear even before I start working. Eyes are screwed shut, fists are tightly closed or the hands are clenching the handle of the chair tightly. Legs are trembling. Mouth is held open with the help of my gags. Body is covered in an apron and secured at the back. I start working. Half way through the treatment his/her mobile rings. Suddenly the person is alive and wriggling. The dentist, the chair, treatment and fear are forgotten. He/she desperately tries to locate the phone and reach it, frantically struggling inside the tied apron and in the limited space allowed by the chair. The person manages to get hold of the phone and manages to take it to the ear-mouth and tries to make some noise which makes sense. I know that it is impossible. Apart from gagging the mouth I will have fixed various little instruments around his/her teeth and have been using the left over space in the mouth to store my remaining instruments. The tongue and lips can only be moved if a portion of my instruments are shifted to the throat or stomach. The person realizes this after sometime and gives up. With a sigh and feeling miserable. I watch and smile sadistically- Ignore my instructions and experience the result- is what I convey. I was invited by a college in my city to deliver a talk on dental health for the benefit of students. I had heard that the college was very strict in enforcing “no mobiles on the campus” rule and had even succeeded. A found a hall full of bubbling youth who would rather give up their eye teeth than their mobile. In spite of the “no mobile” rule, I gave a stern warning to those who might have smuggled a phone inside, to switch the instrument off. My talk went on smoothly. I was nearing the end when there was a loud unmistakable ringing of a mobile phone. The source was located immediately. It was MY POCKET. I can not forget the look on the face of the principal who was on the dais with me and the hundreds of sneering faces mocking from the rows of audience. But they were polite enough not to express their feelings either by words or by action. I have tried to remove the fourth sign from the wall of my waiting room but it is struck fast. I am learning to tolerate it.