Monday, November 23, 2009


The envelope looked harmless. It was addressed to Dr. Raghunandan. I brought it in, along with other mail and placed it on the table. My wife opened it.

“SALE !! Garden Sarees and dress materials at 40%-60% discount. Every day 10am to 7 pm. No lunch break. 4th Nov to 24th Nov at Keni’s hotel, 18th June Road, Panaji Goa. Sundays open. Do not miss this golden opportunity!!”

I cursed myself for writing my name and address in the book that was kept next to the cash counter during their last year’s sale. I was under the impression that it was for some lucky draw. But the realization was too late and I could not do anything but drive my wife to the sale.

The hall was full of excited ladies moving along the rows and rows of tempting sarees. They were enjoying themselves, picking up their choices, draping the folded material on their shoulders and seeking opinions of friends, mothers and daughters. There were a few very fortunate ones with enthusiastic and eager husbands (obviously newly married, first timers) helping them in choosing the right dress and a few unfortunate ones trying to force an opinion from bored husbands who whiled away the time looking at other ladies.

We began with the first row. Me and my wife. I am an important adjunct in the process of my wife’s saree selection. Lot of value is attached to my views and opinions and my wife does not buy without my concurrence. She picked up one.
“How is this colour?”
“Very nice”
“Like the design?”
“Very much”
“What about the border?”
“And the pallu?”
“Can’t be better.”
“If you are under the impression that you can fool me into buying this one and be done with today’s shopping, you are mistaken.”
“I know. Just tried my luck.”
“So, now tell me what you really think of this.”
“Thanks for confirming. I had liked this a lot and so, was sure of your opinion.”

She moved along the row slowly, taking out and examining every piece minutely and I followed. Half an hour passed. We had covered half a row.
“Why don’t you take an active part and select some good ones instead of dumbly following me?”
I took an active part and selected one.
“I can rely up on you to pick up the worst amongst the thousands that are here”I put it back and chose another one.
“Look at the colour combination. Will anyone in their senses wear it?”
I proffered up the third.
“This border is exactly like the one I have purchased for my birthday. You never remember any of my sarees.”
I told her not to bother about my opinion and buy whatever she likes.
“Impossible. I can’t buy the saree if you don’t like it.”
I suggested that she continue with her selection while I went out for a breath of fresh air. I asked her to short list three and call me for final selection. I said that it would make things easier for both. This was agreed up on and I went out.

I spent the next one and a half hours amusing myself walking up and down the street looking at people out for an evening.
Crowds in front of the eateries gorging on all sorts of sweets and fried stuff, just looking at which, my cholesterol shoots up.
Foreigners being heckled by hawkers and swindled by shop keepers.
Traffic police locking the wheels of wrongly parked vehicles and the faces of the owners on seeing the wheels locked.
Domestic tourists in their “I love Goa “ T shirts.
So on and so forth.

I was in the middle of the fifth round when I received my wife’s call.

She had selected three as I had suggested. One was cream with orange coloured flower patterns. The second was greenish with geometrical patterns in grey and red, and the third was light yellow and black.
I was supposed to pick one and that was final.
I picked the green one with geometrical patterns.
“Don’t you like the cream with orange flowers? “
“I will. If you promise to buy it this moment and leave this place”
“Then I will buy this cream one and since your first choice was green, I will buy that too!”

Next morning she took them out into the balcony to appreciate their beauty in natural light.
“This green looks different in natural light"
"If you don’t like it. exchange it for the yellow one”
She returned the green and brought yellow.

Her friends came over to look at the sarees. One of them said that both the sarees were indeed very nice but she had heard that there were plenty of new colours in the sale.

“Left to myself, my choice might have been different. These were my husband’s selection!”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happiness is ..............

One of my cases yesterday was a small girl of six years. I had done a bit of minor work on her teeth two weeks back and had asked her mother to bring the child for a checkup. They speak a variety of hindi and do not know any other language. I had tried my best to explain the treatment to the mother in a language which I thought was hindi, and hoped that it was understood. It was not. The mother thought that I would be continuing the treatment and had tried to boost up the child’s morale and prepare her for treatment. The child was very apprehensive nevertheless, walked in dejectedly and sat in the chair with her eyes shut, resigned to her fate.

I switched the light on and the child hesitatingly opened her mouth grippig the handle tight. I just looked into the mouth, found whatever I had done previously was in order (by god’s grace) and told the child that she can go. The mother was surprised.

“Doctor, are you not going to do anything”?
“No, I called you only for a checkup today”

There was a happy shout from the chair.
“Hurrah! No treatment today ! I told mummy so. But she wouldn’t listen. No filling! No filling!” and the child ran out dancing all the way.

Colgate had run a Dental health campaign few years back and had coined a slogan for it. “Happiness is healthy teeth”.

“Happiness” as I witness, is “postponed treatment.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being mean?

A lady visited my clinic last week. She wanted a tooth removed. She told her name and while doing so, stressed on her husband’s name and surname. It sounded familiar but nothing flashed in my mind. She waited till I was free, had her tooth removed, paid my fee and left.

She came after two days for another extraction. Again she told her name, stressing on her husband’s name. I did not give it a thought. I asked her to wait till I finished the case on hand and extracted her tooth. Before she paid me, she asked “doctor, you must be knowing my husband, Mr.So&So, don’t you? He was MLA and ex minister.” Flash! I knew why her name sounded familiar.

Her husband had been elected to the assembly three times. To his bad luck, all the three times he happened to be in the wrong party and remained just an MLA. However, during one of the dramas that our elected representatives play for our benefit, his wrong party played the role of a right party and he found himself taking oath as a cabinet minister! Whether his heart got burst with joy or cholesterol, I don’t know, but immediately afterwards he felt a pain in the chest and was flown out of Goa for surgery. Surgery was successful but even as he was regaining consciousness, the next act of the drama was played in the assembly, and his right party was back in its old role as the wrong party. He went into the hospital as a cabinet minister and came out of it just an MLA once again. He was one minister who did not have any scandal against his name while he held office. He was unconscious all the time.

Other than the citizen – representative relation, I did not have anything to do with him and he was not aware that I existed. However I had a very minor grudge against him. I used to travel to my hospital everyday by bus. It was a distance of about thirty kilometers. The road used to be in perfect condition for the first twelve kilometers, up to the point where our MLA had a small industrial unit. The remaining part was in shambles. The inference was obvious. I am not sure whether to say how mean of him to leave the remaining part of the road to its fate or express my gratitude for keeping at least the first part in order. I had forgotten all about it after I retired and stopped travelling on that road. I recollected it when she mentioned her husband’s name.

The lady obviously wanted to be recognized and expected something MORE than what is usually accorded to other patients. These politicians (and their wives) get used to the god like status and the pedestal that we put them up on. I told her that it was an honour to have had the opportunity to treat her, spoke a few flowery words about her husband and charged her MORE than what I usually do.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Winter Strip Tease

Last year, winter went away without entering Goa. After the rains, it was summer and summer. There may be a winter this year. The hill sides near my house are covered with mist, indicating that winter is on its way.

The weather changes overnight. I noticed the change two days back. The morning was suddenly chilly. I hesitated before stepping out for my walk, dressed in shorts and T shirt. I felt like wearing my jacket and cap but had no idea where I had kept them. I made a noiseless search of the probable places but no luck. I had to try the metal cupboard in the bedroom. However gentle I try to be, the latch does make a noise. My wife mumbled half awake “can’t you go for a walk without waking up the whole house?” I retreated quietly, forgot my walk and spent an hour doing yogic exercises and ‘kapalbhati’, taking care not to make too much noise while exhaling.

The next day, I was prepared. I had searched out my cap and jacket and had put them out in the sun to remove the mouldy smell. They felt fresh. I had even located my son’s riding gloves (it was in one of the shoe boxes) and cleaned it. I set out in the chill, covered well, looking like an Eskimo. I knew that I would be feeling uncomfortably warm after walking for some time, but did not have the will power to go into the chilly weather without covering myself.

As expected, I started feeling hot and uncomfortable after a brisk walk and removed the gloves. I walked a little more and my head felt sweaty and started itching inside the cap. I removed the cap. The jacket was out even before I had covered another fifty meters. Now I was burdened with a pair of gloves, a cap and a jacket in my hands apart from the inevitable bamboo stick which is my weapon against stray dogs.

I do not know why they (stray dogs) are hostile towards me. I never threw stones at them. (At least, not after I crossed twelve. The last stone I threw, must have been forty years back. And it did not hit the dog. None of my stones did. They only hit the neighbour’s flowerpots, scooters and children. There is no scope for animosity on that ground.) I notice the dog at a distance, sleeping under the street lamp. I see many walkers - frail ladies, tottering old men, fat people, moving with difficulty – none of them can run for their life and none of them armed - bravely walking past the dog as if it does not exist. I feel that there was no need for the stick. But, just as I pass in front of it (I do not like to wake it up and actually try to glide past) the dog comes alive and pounces on me barking madly. I start a sort of dance shouting and waving the stick frantically. (The stick, again, has never hit a dog. It is only a psychological weapon.) Once I start dancing and looking silly, the dog thinks that I am not worth fighting with, retreats, and goes back to sleep. Canine psychologists say that the dog feels threatened with my stick and so, attacks me. But I haven’t had the guts to experiment facing dogs without my stick. Anyway, that is apart from the winter story.

Now, walking with the bundle of cap, jacket, gloves and the stick in hand was cumbersome. But there was no other go. The weather was good and so, I ignored my load and moved on. The morning was so pleasant and I was feeling so energetic, I felt an urge to jog. Holding the cumbersome bundle and walking is OK, but you can’t jog with that luggage in your hands. It feels and looks awkward. I felt like throwing away the bundle but I would need it again next morning. So, I decided to keep it someplace by the road side and collect it on my way back. I do so, many times during winter walks. Sometimes I find a convenient rock by the side of the road and sometimes a willing branch of a small tree. That day, it was the tree. I hung my things on the branch and started jogging. I felt light and nice. I felt free. Atmosphere was cooI and exhilarating. There was no body within hearing distance and I even sang two songs as I jogged. After a while some thought got in to my mind and I lost myself in my thought and jogged along.

The blaring horn and the accusing hand of a tempo driver made me find myself once again and I noticed that I had gone farther than I intended. My son had given me strict instructions to wake him up exactly at 6.00. Giving ME strict instruction to wake HIM up. Right thing to do would have been to tick him off and tell him to set his mobile for a wakeup call or remain in bed till evening. But I can’t do that. I hurry up to wake him up on time. It is called ‘maaya’ (attachment). Wise people advise us to kick it out. I hope to, one day. But right then,I turned back and returned home running.

It was the same weather the following morning. I was eager to go out. Just as I started getting ready for the walk, I realized that I had left my jacket, cap and gloves hanging on the tree and the stick, resting on its trunk. I kicked myself for forgetting them and hurt my shin. I hoped nobody had noticed them. I had to get to the tree as early as possible and collect them. Assuming, that they were still there. Then it dawned on me that I will have to walk into the chill without my jacket and face the dog without my stick. I felt miserable. But I had to act. I braced myself up and got out. I hoped that the dog would not be there. I started running to keep myself warm but stopped the moment I saw the dog. Even with the stick in my hand I feel inadequate in front of that dog. I just could not risk facing it without the stick. I thought of returning home and taking my car. It was a shame but safe. I turned back and saw the frail lady and the old man coming at a distance. I waited by the road side, joined them and silently walked with them taking care to keep them between me and the dog. Shamefully but successfully I passed the hurdle. I thanked my protectors in my mind, went to the tree and was relieved and happy that my things were still hanging on the branch. I collected them and returned.

This strip tease on the road is a daily affair during winter. Usually I manage to carry my things with me, but once in a way they do remain by the road side. I do not want to lose my cap and jacket. Apart from being very useful, they have sentimental value. My brother-in-law had brought them from Germany twenty years back. I use them every winter and they have been with me on every journey that I have made. (Every train and bus in our country is built with at least one window that does not close properly and all booking clerks and computers have been instructed/programmed to allot the seat/ berth by the side of that window, to me. While all my co-passengers sleep and snore, I spend the night pulling the window closed as it keeps opening up again,on its own. My jacket and cap help reduce my distress.)

My wife suggests that I carry a shoulder bag on my walks to put my things in, but my children say that I will find the bag even more convenient and handy for hanging them on the branch! I do not know what to do. I believe Anil Ambani’s Mercedes follows him when he goes on his daily marathon run. Is it sensible to engage someone to follow me in my Maruti?