Saturday, October 25, 2008

if i were a scooter salesman

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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

GENEROUS reservations.

We made a railway reservation for one of our friends using my IRCTC account. It was a very simple matter. My friend thanked me for being GENEROUS and booking the ticket. Nice of her. But we really have been generous in our reservations and cancellations during the past two months.
My son and his classmate at NIT Durgapur– whose father was known to me much before the children became classmates- were to visit Goa during Durgapuja holidays. Our children, though eager to come home for the holidays, are very complacent in the matter of getting the reservations for the journey. It is a journey of nearly 40 hours. We have to persuade them repeatedly to decide about the dates of journey and reserve tickets well in advance. We can leave them to their fate – they are adults now and are expected to look after themselves -but our hearts do not listen. I can’t understand it. Why am I still ‘looking after’ my children? When will I give up?

For once our children listened to us and booked their tickets Howra to Goa for 29th Sept.(1) Amaravati express.
They intended finishing their test on 29th and catch the 10.30 PM train.
The railways had cancelled that train during mansoons and it was expected to start again by Septemebr. It did not. Till the end of July. What will our children do if the train remains cancelled?
I talked to my friend about it and he made another reservation via Bombay. Bombay mail 29th Sept. (2)
Due to delayed mansoons there were floods in Bihar. Half of Bihar was under water. The news channels showed railway tracks inundated and stations with chest height water. Bombay mail passes through Bihar. What if THIS train is cancelled?
I booked tickets for the children via Pune. Azad Hind exp Howra-pune. Tickets available for 30th. Fine. Bypass Bihar. Booking (3)
Later we learnt that the floods did not affect the route of Bomnay mail and it was running. I casually looked at the time of departure. We had booked for 29th alright, but the train was scheduled to leave at 00.07 on 29th- that is the intervening night of 28th and 29th!
Children would miss the test on 29th! Booking should have been for 30th.
So, I booked another two tickets for Bombay mail for the 30th September.(4) four reservations for one journey.
Ultimately the test was preponed by a day and the children travelled on 29th with the booking that was made by mistake!

After the holidays they need to go back. My friend with his far sight had booked tickets for return journey well in advance. 17th October. Friday. Amaravati express.(1)
When the railways re started their Amaravati express service, they changed the days of service. Now it was on Thursday 16th Oct. By the time we learnt about it all the tickets for 16th were booked.
Again we booked tickets for the travel Via Pune 17th oct.(2)
Later I thought that I could try for ‘Tatkal’ facility – Amaravati express -Goa- Howra, and tried it. I got waitlisted tickets number 1&2. (3) should get confirmed.
Since neither travel via Pune nor waiting for confirmation of waitlisted tickets were appealing, my friend tried all his contacts and found a helpful railways soul, who could arrange release of an emergency quota. Two tickets were obtained (4) and used for travel. So, four reservations for the return journey.
If the majority who travel by railways are like us, the railways will never go under loss. The cancellation charges will keep them afloat.

Friday, October 17, 2008

nice feeling

My son, who had come to Goa for a short holiday, left for NIT Durgapur, by train, yesterday. We received a call from Hubli this morning. It was a lady who had travelled in the same compartment along with her aged parents. She said that she called us to convey her praise about our son’s behaviour and thank us for the help he had rendered to them during the journey!
While it was nice to hear good words about our son, what appealed to me more was the effort by the lady to note down our number and call us from Hubli. Occasionally we do come across praiseworthy behaviour from unknown persons. But do we acknowledge? Courtesy still exists. That is a nice feeling.

Monday, October 13, 2008

makes me think

October 13, 2008Poor little Sonu! He did not fall into an open borewell when playing, as is generally being made out by the news media, in Leharkapura village in Uttar Pradesh's [Images] Shamshabad district, near Agra [Images].
His fall was facilitated, yes, facilitated, by an uncaring society including, of course, the UP Jal Nigam which was digging the well. It is as if we just willed him to fall into it.
Please don't look at it as one of those one-off events on which the visual media feasts. Perhaps one has to realise that had the media not feasted on these incidents, no efforts may have ever been made to save them using everything at the disposal of the authorities. Yes, there is a positive side to this as well.
Look at it this way: suppose a person dies at work in a factory, who is held responsible under law? The owner of the factory, in this case the managing director of the company owning the factory.
The worker would have been trained, the minimum being safety even if unskilled, but the onus is on the MD.
Likewise, the onus here is on UP Jal Nigam and the society, including all residents of the Leharkapura along with the panchayat. Heads have to roll, maybe one for every hour the child has been in there -- scared, scarred, not even knowing what has happened.
Simple precautions like a fence, a watchman who is alert, would have been adequate to avoid these so-called accidents which they are not. It would have been cheaper too, compared to the manpower and machinery deployed.
To say anything to the contrary, to say that the boy was playing and accidentally fell in when playing, would be to shift the onus on to the innocent boy. He was, after all, just two-and-a-half-year old innocent.
Of course, then there is the question. Were the parents stupid enough to let a child wander off and play near an open bore well that was 150 feet deep? Yes, Karan Singh and his family have a lot of explaining to do but that does not let off the panchayat and the Jal Nigam from their complicity by neglect. You can't let a child wander off like that, unattended.
This, however, is not the first time that we have had such cases. There was this case recently of Vandana, a girl of the same age, slipping into a well that needed a 26-hour rescue operation including the final move by the army.
Much before that, in July 2006, we had seen Prince spending two days in a borewell in Kurukshektra, Haryana.
In July 2007, a six-year-old boy, Suraj, fell into a 180 ft deep borewell at Mudia Ramsar near Jaipur [Images].
I bet they were not the only children who paid a big price. Before the TV cameras found these by now routine incidents a big eye-ball catcher, several may have suffered worse. We just don't know.
Forty years ago in Hyderabad, my cousin, playing near his home, next to which was a construction site, fell into an open sump. He died of fright even before he hit the water. He was some four years old then.
Now, why do such events come to pass? Because, we are plain stupid and careless. For us, the anxiety, the rush and the prayers come after the incident and not before. Earlier in October I had listed here the ills that plague our society.
It is because we think a tragedy would not befall us and life would be as usual till it strikes.
Here are a few more examples of carelessness. Don't we all allow our children to play in the drive of the buildings we live in, the other residents just rolling in to park their cars without realising that their own children are at grave risk? This, in cities. You can imagine what it would be like in villages.
I have seen polythene bags being handled by infants because after unpacking the groceries, the parent has left it around. Toy-makers make items which have jagged edges and pointed protrusions which just invite the child to get injured.
How many toys have been pulled off the shelves in India because they have high lead content injurious to the child? Even after Americans recalled them and stopped buying from Chinese manufacturers, we Indians did not bat an eyelid. We find them in homes.
Don't we all have switches and plug points just two feet above the ground in homes where children too live and the infants, in their first bout of curiosity, poke anything, including their own fingers into the plug points? Parents keep a watch but how many even bother to at least tape them over?
Haven't we seen children dart across the road to pick up a tennis ball hit far too hard by a boy from a building's drive when playing cricket? That's also because we live in societies which do not provide for proper playgrounds.
Haven't we seen children running along recklessly chasing kites that float down after being cut from its string?
Or, packing school children, ten or more to an auto rickshaw, to be delivered in school and then brought back? Some of them precariously hang on to the sides, some poke their heads out of the window at the rear.
Just look around and we see potential disasters. We can't blame Sonu, Vandana and Prince for this. It is we who say we love children -- don't we produce them by the millions every year? -- are to blame, utterly lacking in safety consciousness.
TV cables and electric wires in towns and villages hang any which way, ready to snap and hurt a person but do we care?
We know wearing seat belts helps save lives in accidents but we ride cars without doing so. Using a mobile phone while driving can endanger our lives but we continue to do so, notwithstanding the fines by the traffic police. The police have to tell us to wear helmets and yet we don't.
At least a thousand people die every year, run over by suburban trains in Mumbai and its suburbs because people cross the tracks and not use the foot over-bridges at stations.
Would we change? I expect not. Because, sab chalega, kya karenge, koi sunta hi nahi.
But we should. Don't you think so?

article by Mahesh vijapurkar- saw this on rediff news. makes me think. ashamed to accept it is just that. dosn't make me act. let us think atleast. one day we may act.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

drilled the wrong tooth?

Dental treatment and pain are two things that can not be separated from one another. They always go hand in hand just like the other infamous couples such as power -corruption, politics-criminals and of course bomb blasts and terrorists. I have tried my best to convince people, through word and deed, that the first two entities need not always co exist, but have failed miserably.

One of my patients is a young man, well educated and well employed. His job takes him around the world and his teeth make him see dentists all over the world. He was born and brought up in Ponda and consequently majority of the art works in his mouth carry my signature. However, as a result of his globe trotting, and associated compulsions, art works of dentists from other parts of the world are also displayed. One such is an expensive filling done in London. He had paid a fabulous price and naturally expected fantastic results. But dentists are dentists, be it London or Ponda, and a blunder is never far away from a dentist. Some decay remained in the tooth, flourished with nourishment from all over the world, progressed into a robust infection and ended up in an abscess ( A pus filled cavity). After being away from home for months together, he was longing for his fish curry and rice, but leave alone chewing the food lovingly prepared by his mother, the fellow could not even dare closing the mouth. Just the contact of the infected tooth with it’s counterpart in the other jaw caused distress. So he presented himself at my door-mouth half open and hungry. He said he had not eaten anything for the past two days.

He pointed to the tooth and the small swelling on his jaw, and my diagnosis was made. To his luck, I even knew the treatment! The pus around the root of the infected tooth, deep inside his jaw had to be drained out and the best way to achieve it was to drill right through the tooth, up to the root and allow the pus to flow out through the drilled hole.
Unbelievable though it may seem, it is true that, this process which sounds like a fourth degree torture, is ABSOLUTELY PAINLESS – if it is done the way it should be. It is only the tooth with the nerves alive that succeeds in making it’s owner do somersaults in the confined space of a dental chair when a drill is applied. Once the nerves are dead and degenerated, the tooth does make the owner jump on application of pressure but if the tooth is drilled with out applying ANY pressure, there is absolutely no pain.

In any case, had I explained my course of action to him I was sure that,( with his experience in traveling around the world) he would only need a fraction of a second to locate the place farthest from my clinic and make arrangements to reach there at the earliest. He was my only patient for the day and my son had been pestering me to have his mobile recharged. Further delay in recharging the mobile would endanger his (my son’s) life as his SMS supply – more important than oxygen- would be cut off. I had to retain my patient and make him pay for the recharge. I decided to act.

I ordered the young man to the chair, started examining him, stretched my arm in stealth to get hold of the drill and applied it to his tooth. Even though his eyes widened, toes curled and body tensed on hearing the whine of the drill, he remained in the chair. I had treated him earlier and he was sure that I would not kill him in any case. It took me only a few minutes to drill through the tooth, most of which was rotten any way, and reach the root. I could see the pus trickling out through the hole, stopped my work, washed the tooth and placed a small pellet of cotton in the hole that I had drilled. He had not felt any pain all through the procedure.

When he was out of the chair, he was able to close the mouth and the tooth was not hurting as much as it was, earlier. He said that he was feeling much better and paid for my son’s mobile recharge with pleasure. He was about to leave, looking forward for a hearty meal, but before that he wanted to know what I did to his tooth. Now that I was home safely, I explained to him what I had done but he refused to believe me. He said “Doctor, do you say that you drilled through the tooth that was hurting so badly and I did not feel anything? Sure that I have some relief after your treatment and I am sorry to doubt your work. But I think that you have drilled a different tooth that was normal.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ramzaan- and associated memories.

My Ramzan celebrations started with me washing the utensils this morning. It may go on for another two days and may get more and more enjoyable with washing the clothes, wiping the floor and other Ramzan dhamakas. We were eagerly awaiting the appearance of Id ka chaand yesterday. Chaand disappointed us. Our maid Razia had said that starting yesterday, she would remain on leave till two days AFTER sighting of the moon.

After I left Bangalore I have been missing the excitement of ramzan. When I was in service I would at least look forward for the holiday. We have a standing invitation from Razia to visit her house on id day and sometimes we do. Other than that, Ramzan here is just another day.

Shanti nagar, where we had our house in Bangalore, also housed plenty of muslim families. We knew many of them by name and were on smiling and nodding terms with most of them. There, Ramzan was visible. Sitting in our veranda we could see groups of people dressed in pure white, with skull caps on their heads and mats or carpets in their hands, proceeding towards the prayer ground located behind our house. They would walk past our house exchanging greetings with each other and hugging the friends whom they met on the way. Even though we had nothing to do with their celebrations we used to feel the excitement and happiness around. Two of the muslim families were quite close to us. To our right was Mr.Jabbar khan and to our left was Dr. Sheriff. We used to get bowls of kheer, fruits and packets of sweets from both the houses. I have fond memories of both of them but will restrict myself to an anecdote involving each of the families which I always remember.

Mr Khan had a large family. His first wife was dead and he had re-married. There were his wife, two children from his first wife and four or five from his second. His house was already there when our house was built in 1962. He owned a timber shop in the market and was a very good friend of my father. He used to come to our place occasionally and spend quite a lot of time talking to my father. He was very affectionate towards us and always used to express his happiness about our advancement in studies. Unfortunately, none of his children did well in studies and the two, who were older than me, dropped out by the time they reached high school and he had to accommodate them in his business. When the results of my SSLC exam were declared, he was so overcome with joy that I had passed in first class, I believe he had purchased a big garland and a packet of sweets and come to our house to felicitate me! I was at my uncle’s place in Mysore that day and missed being a part of the genuine display of heartfelt joy and affection. I heard that he was very disappointed that I was not present to accept his felicitations. The garland and sweets were on my table when I returned the next day. I met him in his house immediately and he hugged me and wished me the best. I was very much touched by his gesture. Over the years we have lost contact. I hear that some members of his family, continue to live in the same house. I do not know if he is alive. I am ashamed by the fact that I did not even go into his house and enquire about them during my latest visit to Shantinagar.

The family as a whole, we had closer ties with the Sheriffs. Dr. Sheriff was a retired physician. His family consisted of his wife, a daughter who was a graduate and a son who was an electrical engineer. His house was built a few years after we had started staying in shantinagar and they came to reside there much later, after his retirement. Mrs Sheriff and her daughter used to come to our house very often and used to be the first invitees during the female gatherings in our house on various occasions like gauri pooja, tulasi pooja etc. Dr. Sheriffs daughter was married in the shamiana erected in the ground opposite our house for the purpose. Even after that, a visit to our house was a must when ever she visited her parents.
On the day of Krishna janmaashtami, my mother used to perform the pooja in the evening, and offer all the goodies prepared to the youngest child around, before we were allowed to lay our hands on them. One year, Dr. Sheriff’s grandson Arshad happened to be the youngest child around and his mother was asked to bring him. She brought him to our house after the pooja saying "ನೋಡಿ ಅಮ್ಮ , ಗೋಕುಲಾಷ್ಟಮಿಗೂ ಇಮಾಂ ಸಾಬಿಗೂ ಏನು ಸಂಭಂಧ ಅಂತಾರಲ್ಲಾ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ನೋಡಿ ಇಮಾಂ ಸಾಬಿ ಬಂದ ಗೊಕುಲಾಷ್ಟಮಿಗೆ." meaning, "look amma, imaam saabi has come to participate in gokulaashtami"
There is a very common proverb in kannada which is used while describing two absolutely un related incidents or two things which have nothing whatsoever in common. The literal meaning would be, what has Imaamsaabi (imaam is a very common muslim name and 'saabi' a colloquial suffix attached to the name of a muslim male denoting his relegion) got to do with Krishnajanmaashtami?
That year, in our house, Arshad ali khan was absolutely relevant during janmaashtami.