Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Assistant

My assistant is working with me for the past five years. She arranges the instruments, Hands me appropriate instruments and materials while working, and clears up after the case. I have taught her the use of dozens of different materials that we handle in our day to day work and she has mastered the techniques. She keeps stock of everything from washing soap and tissue paper to X ray films and anaesthetic solution. She develops and washes the exposed X ray films and will start root canal treatment if I allow her. But I do not want her to get complacent.

So, I keep saying
“You should have put little more zinc oxide powder while mixing the cement”
“Mercury is more in silver amalgam”
“The Xray is very light. You should have put it in the developer, little longer”
“Look at this air bubble in the plaster model. It will make it week. You should be careful while preparing models.”
“See that you place all instruments used for filling in one tray, don’t put them here and there”
“You take hell lot of time to thread the suture needle. You should be fast.”
“Don’t wait till the last syringe is used. Keep an eye on the stock and call the supplier in time” etc etc.

She was not well for about three days and after that her grandmother died. I am forced to do all the work that I had taught her five years ago. It is one week of self help now.

I mixed dental cement for a filling and it was hard by the time I took it near the patient’s mouth. I have not mixed cements for years and have lost touch. I mixed again and managed to load it into the cavity but the cement did not harden even after ten minutes. The patient could not wait any longer and spat out everything. I got the consistency perfect, the fourth time. I don’t think that the patient will keep up the next filling appointment.
I had sent a pair of plaster models (upper and lower jaw) to the lab for making false teeth and got them back with a note saying that the models are full air bubbles and probably belong to two different individuals.
I really do not understand how the extraction forceps always ends up in the in the filling instruments tray.
Since I could not get the suturing thread into the needle at all, I had to call my wife down. Lucky, that my house is just above my clinic.
I am also lucky that the pharmacy is very close. I could run and get hypochlorite in ten minutes for the next root canal. I had not noticed that I had exhausted the stock.

I am waiting for my assistant to return and have decided to keep my mouth shut and work.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy Ganesh

“Happy Ganesh” is a very common greeting that you will come across in Goa, at ‘Ganesha chaturti’ time. It is not ‘Happy Ganesh chaturti’ or ‘Happy Ganesha festival'or any such thing. Just ‘Happy Ganesh’, short and neat, whatever it means.

I do not know how ‘Happy’ lord Ganesh will be this time, finding himself the subject of a controversy between artistic expression and religious sentiments.
One of the well known artists of Goa Dr. Subodh Kerkar drew some pictures, ‘inspired’ by lord Ganesha ‘commemorating’ Ganesha chaturti. They were timed to be on exhibition for eleven days during ‘chaturti’ , but now, the duration is reduced to two days under police protection. Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatana saunstha are protesting the exhibition saying that the pictures hurt religious sentiments.
“I am as religious as any of you and a devotee of Lord Ganesha” Dr. Kerkar claimes, “and painting these pictures, for me, is like performing ‘Arati’ to Lord Ganesh.”
What you see below is one of the many “Aratis”, that was in the news papers today.
Lord Ganapati, in ‘talk no evil’, ‘hear no evil’, ‘see no evil’ postures, for which lord Hanuman holds the copy right.

In my opinion these drawings are things that I may not care to take a second look at. I don’t think that anybody would have guessed that the artist has drawn ‘Ganesha’ if he had not labelled them so. I do not have any religious sentiment worth mentioning, and my knowledge of ‘art’ is restricted to appreciating sign boards, hoardings and number plates. Canvas, for me, is something they used to make shoes with and cover the trucks. But, one need not know the subject to give an opinion is it not?

People from other states, who connect Goa only with 'drinks', carnival (the famous writer from Goa Mr. Mario cabral e sa says that even that word is always spelt wrong. It should be ‘Carnaval’) and new year, may not be aware that “Ganesha chaturti” is the most important festival in Goa. The religious rituals are same as in many other states and enough noise is created by ‘Sarvajanik Ganesha mandals’. One difference in the traditional placement of the idol and accompaniments is the hanging of a canopy called ‘Matoli’ in front of the idol. All the seasonal vegetables and fruits are hung from a square wooden frame positioned horizontally at a height, in front of the ‘mantap’ (makhar-in Konkani) of the lord. Anything and everything goes into it. Cucumber, bittergourd, muskmelon, water melon, pumpkin, apple, arecanut, plantains, lady’s finger, brinjal, snake gourd, apple, custard apple, bread fruit, coconut, sweet corn- you name it, it is there.

Two days before the festival, market streets are full of the items used in the ‘Matoli’. Our Bazaar road is closed for vehicular traffic and these items are spread on both sides of the road for sale. I enjoy the sight and like the excitement in the air. The sellers are eager to sell their produce and make enough profit to sail over the festive season and the buyers trying to get the best for their ‘Matoli’ with minimum expense.
By afternoon on ‘chaturti’ there are neither buyers nor sellers on the road and the road is empty. Everyone is busy worshipping the lord and the sound of fire crackers and ‘ghumat’ -the traditional arati accompaniment, fills the air. the unsold matoli items wait to be consumed by stray cattle or to be collected by garbage collectors.
I went there early and managed to take some pictures before the street got crowded.

I feel this scene commemorates ‘Ganesha chaturti’ better. Happy Ganesh.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trip to Bangalore.

We made yet another trip to Bangalore, last week. It was same as dozens of such trips that we have undertaken over the years. The trip begins with the proposal, fights over the dates, getting reservations done, preparations, fights over the quantity of luggage, the journey, running around Bangalore, ‘shopping’ and fights over purchases, the return journey and a big sigh of relief. Everything went as usual.

Myself and my wife are well aware of our roles and things almost always go smooth. Even the fights. Usually they are private affairs but an occaasional one may be a public performance. Most of our family members have witnessed our fights, intervened, and have realized the futility of their well intended efforts. People like the vegetable vendor at 'Gandhi bazaar' or an auto rikshaw driver who sometimes get the privilege, try to be of help.

We were buying vegetables with the intention of bringing them to Goa. There was a very cordial exchange of views regarding the quality and quantity of vegetables to be purchased. At some point of time the decibel level of my wife’s voice and facial contortions made it look like a heated exchange and attracted a very small crowd. This being an era of reality shows where peeping into any aspect of anybody’s life is OK, people did not want to miss out on this very real reality show. It benefitted the vegetable vendor also as some of the spectators who did not want to overtly display their interest, came over to his stall as if they intended buying vegetables, made some purchases and lingered on as customers. But the good fellow was not greedy. Once his quota of business for the day was achieved, he involved himself in our cordial exchange of views and placated my wife. "ಟೆನ್ಶನ್ ಮಾಡ್ಕೋಬೇಡಿ ಅಮ್ಮಾವ್ರೇ. ಯಜಮಾನ್ರಿಗೆ ತರಕಾರಿ ತಿಳಿಯಲ್ಲ ಬಿಡಿ. ಕೆಲವರು ಹಾಗೇನೆ. ನನ್ನ ಹತ್ರ ಇರೋದೆಲ್ಲಾ ಚೆನ್ನಾಗೇ ಇದೆ. ಚೀಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಇರೋದನ್ನ ವಾಪಸ್ ಹಾಕಿಬಿಡಿ. ನಿಮಗೆ ಯಾವುದುಬೇಕೋ ತೊಗೊಳ್ಳಿ." ("Don’t get tensed madam, your husband does not know to select quality vegetables. It is Ok. Some people are like that. Anyway, all my vegetables are fresh and good. If you don’t like what he has selected please put them back and select whatever you want").

The Auto rikshaw driver, equally well meaning no doubt, was actually the cause of trouble. He started the fire and then tried to douse it.

I was wearing a pair of shorts about which my wife had expressed her reservations in very clear terms.“These half pants are Ok in Goa, where you move around in your own circles. All of them are like you. Bangalore people are decent and you need to be decently dressed.” She continued, “More over, we are visiting elderly relatives with conservative views”. I made an offhand statement that half of Bangalore is now American and nobody bothers what the other is wearing. I also pointed out that what I was wearing was a designer half pant from ‘Wills life style’. Not some Bermuda purchased on the streets.

We went to see one of my aunts and as soon as I stepped in, she said “ಇದೇನೋ, ನಿಕ್ಕರ್ ಹಾಕ್ಕೊಂಡು ಬಂದ್ಬಿಟ್ಟಿದೀಯ" ("what is this I say, you are wearing a ‘nikkar’!"- 'nikkar',short for 'knicker' or 'knickerbockers'.) My wife gave me a burning look but did not elaborate vocally as we were in front of an elderly aunt and decorum had to be maintained. Later she had forgotten that. While returning, we got into an auto rikshaw in front of my aunt’s house and after some time the auto driver asked me whether I am coming back in his auto after dropping the lady? (my wife). I was puzzled by his question and asked him what makes him think so? “ಯಾಕೂ ಇಲ್ಲ ಸಾರ್. ನೀವು ಹೀಗೆ ಚಡ್ಡಿ ಹಾಕ್ಕೊಂಡು ಬಂದಿದೀರಲ್ಲಾ ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ನೀವೆಲ್ಲೂ ಇಳೀದೇನೆ ವಾಪಸ್ ಬರ್ತೀರೇನೋ ಅಂದ್ಕೊಂಡೆ".("Nothing sir, since you are wearing a ‘chaddi’ I thought that you may not get down anywhere and return to the house after dropping the lady”.)

“I told you to dress properly while in Bangalore. At least when you are with me. Everybody is commenting on your dress. I feel ashamed. Designer shorts! my foot.” The rikshaw fellow tried to console my wife “ಹೋಗಲೀ ಬಿಡೀ ತಾಯಿ. ಯಾಕೆ ಕೋಪ ಮಾಡ್ಕೋತೀರಿ? ಯಜಮಾನ್ರಿಗೆ ತಿಳೀಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಒಬ್ಬೊಬ್ರಿಗೆ ಹಾಗಾಗುತ್ತೆ. ಇರಲಿಬಿಡಿ." ("It is alright madam. don't get angry. your husband did not know. some people are like that. leave it.")
My wife hissed in my ears “Look at my fate. I have to listen to rikshaw drivers and vegetable vendors because of you.”

Other than these episodes rest of the trip went off well. During our return journey by train, my wife slept and I weaved in and out of sleep. I was thinking about the happenings in Bangalore and the above mentioned episodes overshadowed other things. I was feeling a bit low because the opinion poll in Bangalore had clearly stated that my mental abilities need improvement. It was some time very early in the morning and the train had stopped somewhere probably for a crossing. I wanted to know where we were. I was peeping out of the window, trying unsuccessfully to read the name of the station in the semi darkness without my glasses, when I found my vision blocked. One bearded character was in front of the window directly staring into my face. He had a steaming cup of tea in his hand.

“Want some tea?”
“No thank you.”
“You know who I am?”
“No I don’t. Sorry”
“My father is Venkoba rao ganapat rao desai. Grandfather , Ganapatrao duggoji rao desai.
“I see.”
“Mother, Kamala bai, grand mother, Rukmini bai.”
“Nice to know.”
"My sister, Sudha bai. Another sister Girija bai."
“I am from Kolhapur. Sisters in Belgaum”
“Somebody hit you?” (I had stuck my head on a shelf in my cousin’s place and was sporting a 'Band Aid on my forehead.)
“No, I hit my head on a shelf this morning.”
“Sometimes people hit me. You know who I am?”
“Sorry I don’t.”
“I am Chatrapati Shivaji Mahaaraj. Remember that.”
By then the train was hooting and another gentleman came running.
“You idiot, what are you doing here? The train will leave. Come” then he addressed me,
“He is mentally imbalanced sir. Wherever the train stops he gets down and runs away. It is good that he stopped to talk to you. By the way, did he annoy you?”
“No.” I assured him. “In fact he made me feel much better”

That was truth. Though doubts had been raised about them, my mental faculties were definitely better.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swine flu

Swine flu is everywhere. We are advised to keep a distance of 3-5 mtrs from people affected with swine flu. It spreads through droplet infection and we dentists are always swimming in all sorts of droplets. What do I do if I find a sneezing and coughing fellow in my waiting room with a complaint of unbearable tooth ache?

I hope that the germs causing tooth ache and those causing swine flu are enemies and one does not show it’s face where the other is present.

You can rely up on our politicians to make a farce out of any serious matter. When we are worried about the situation and trying to find ways of dealing with it effectively, one Karnataka politician cursed his opponent that he gets swine flu and our media got a new twist to the situation about which they were getting bored. Now you may forget the infection, sufferings and loss of life. Enjoy the drama.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Guava Fruit

We harvested the guava fruits from our ‘garden’ recently. The ‘harvest’ was five fruits. I mean, five was the total number of guavas that we counted on our tree once. In our eagerness to taste our own fruit, we plucked two, when they were still raw. Having realized our mistake, we allowed the next one to remain on the tree longer. It got over ripe, fell down on it’s own and got partly spoilt. The fourth, we got just right. The fifth one is still on the tree. So, till date our harvest has yielded one proper fruit. This was removed from the tree and brought in to the house in a procession, offered to the gods, (because we were sure that they will not deprive us of our fruit) was ceremoniously cut and eaten. We even thought of sharing it with few of our friends from whom we have received gifts of home grown mangoes, bananas, jack fruit etc, but gave up the thought because we felt that 1/8th of a guava fruit may not be appreciated much. The fruit is of good quality. The seeds are not very hard, they are concentrated at the centre of the fruit and there is a thick layer of pulp next to the skin, devoid of seeds. Compared to my ‘gold standard’ in guava fruits - the fruits from the tree we had in our house at Bangalore- these fruits lack only in size.

Whenever I see a guava fruit, or talk about them I can’t help remember the Bangalore tree. That tree is not there anymore and I am trying to get used to the picture of the house without it. We spent a lot of time around it. I used to climb on to the tree for fun and have practiced pull ups and hanging upside down on it’s branches. I have cut and used them for preparing ‘gilli- danda’. We even tried ‘mara –koti’ (a sort of ‘catch me if you can’ played on the tree) but the tree was not very big and the ‘koti’ did not get much space to move around.

The tree branched out very low and at very convenient levels and positions and so, we could climb it like a ladder. We plucked many of the fruits when they were very tender. We spat out the outer skin which used to be tasteless and ate the inner core. The young seeds were still very soft and the pulp, sour. The tree yielded plenty of fruits and in spite of our indiscriminate harvesting, many of them grew to full size and ripened.

Our house was on a busy street and the tree was very next to the compound wall. Almost all the school boys who passed in front of our house and the urchins from the shanties behind our house, had our tree in focus and were our competitors. We tried to guard it as much as possible from these predators but were not always successful. They were experts in climbing the tree noiselessly but our ears were also tuned to the faintest rustle of the leaves and branches. The moment we heard the sound we ran into our veranda shouting “hey, who’s that”? If the boy on the tree was much younger than us, we continued our run into the compound shouting “wait, I will break your legs” or some such expletive. If we found someone our size, we halted and shouted from within the door “hey, what are you doing there?” Since most of them had a feeling of guilt about the theft, they usually jumped down on hearing our voice and ran away. But some tough boys stayed put on the branches and some even challenged us saying “come out of the house and see”. They were all street fighters and we had seen them fight amongst themselves. We believed in “discretion is the better form of valour “, (that’s the saying is it not?) and ran into the house calling “papa look at these boys “ or some such thing, never to come out again. We peeped through one of the inner windows and ventured out only after the coast was clear. A broken ego healed faster than broken limbs.

As I have said, those fruits were gold standard in guava fruits. I enjoyed them but had a hell of a time taking out the seeds from my cavities. To save myself the unnecessary trouble, I developed the habit of cutting the fruits, removing the core containing the seeds and eating the remaining part. (Getting the teeth filled was not even thought off). Now, even with all my teeth filled and in reasonably good condition, I do the same. If the seeds are dispersed all over the fruit, it is useless for me. The fruit which we get from our tree, suits me and I am very happy about it. I had purchased four fruit trees from the horticulture department. I hope that we have similar luck with chikoo, mango and coconut too.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Only a stray thought

Some of the news items irritate me. I need to express my irritation but not many are interested in them. Hence, I post my thoughts here, get them out of my mind and try to be peaceful. No credence need to be attached to my views.
One such news item was regarding the losses suffered by Air India and the government trying to do something about it. I just cannot understand why the government should do anything about it. If Air India is not making enough money, either it needs to reduce spending or increase air fares to get more income. If not, shut down the company. Why should the government feel compelled to run a loss making, high flying concern?
After Air India, the other private airlines have started demanding “bail out”. All are co called ‘professionally’ managed companies dealing with thousands of crores of rupees. They ordered new planes, bought each other, paid unrealistic salaries and created a glamour profession. On the other hand they reduced airfares. Why can’t they increase the fare? Those who can afford to and have to travel at those prices, will. People like me who occasionally tried our luck with Makemy or will stick to our Jan shatabdis and Garib raths.
Belatedly, the airlines have realized that they cannot sustain and threaten stopping their services if the government does not bail them out. In other words, make up for the loss. Since it affects the so called high fliers and influential people, the government may listen and help them out too. But I don’t like my money being given to jet airways or kingfisher to subsidise Vijay mallya’s spending on ‘glamorous’ calenders.
If the cost of silver amalgam or lignocaine goes up, I have to increase my charges for fillings and extractions. If I cannot manage, I need to close my clinic. I can’t ask the government to ‘bail me out’. My reasoning does not go beyond that.
May be these big industries have a different profit -loss and management system. Or, the issue has other ramifications that I do not understand. Let me see the developments.