There is a scooter showroom next to my clinic. Everyday dozens of scooters are bought by beaming customers. Every customer is accompanied by happy friends or family. I see them talking excitedly, moving around and checking various models, comparing and exchanging views. When their gleaming new scooter is brought out of the store and parked in the front yard, it is appreciated from various angles, minor dust particles are gently wiped with the hand kerchief, the younger son who is trying to clamber on to the vehicle is admonished and pushed aside, a coconut is broken in front of the vehicle, it is lovingly garlanded and an incense stick is lighted. Packet of sweets is opened and offered to the manager, mechanic, other customers and everyone in sight. The manager and the mechanic’s hands are shook warmly and the proud owners ride the scooter off. Even the representative of the bank who arranges for the loan and charges astronomical interest is offered sweets and a hand shake. I am sure they were beaming even when they made the payment. Doesn’t matter if they are required to repay the loan through the nose for years. I am sure the euphoria lasts many many days.
Change of scene to my clinic. At least half a dozen ‘customers’ (we insist they are ‘patients’) visit my clinic too. Every person is accompanied by a friend or relative who is as apprehensive, if not more, than the patient. I am sure they are either bribed or blackmailed and brought along. All of them walk in silently, sporting a mournful look. Most of them stay near the door, ready to run if required. The ‘patient’ is goaded on to the chair like a sacrificial animal and others form a scared half circle at a distance. Exclamations of pain and anguish are uttered at the sight of the needle or the whine of the drill, by the patient as well as the onlookers. When the person is out of the chair and is still alive( unbelievable!) sighs of relief are given out and prayers are offered. When the fees are quoted, sharp breaths are taken in, faces registering disbelief and feelings of being cheated. Money is taken out slowly and handed over, all the time expecting me to accept that I made a mistake asking for the fees and not to bother. The group moves out without a second look at the chair or the dentist, forget about warm handshakes. Occasional second looks are given only to make sure that the dentist is not following.
I was destined to be a dentist and I have no grouse about it. I accept the ugly sights and smells of the job and also the strained neck and back as part of the profession. I can bear the expressions of anguish and horror on the faces of my cases all through the day. It is difficult to bear the expression of shock and disbelief on hearing the fees and the painful process of separation from the beloved bucks. But it is my livelihood and I have learned to endure it. I don’t mind continuing as a dentist. But at times I feel I were a scooter salesman.
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