It is election time in Goa again. Election fever is running high. Any topic of discussion, anywhere, ends up with election. News papers are full of candidates and their prospects. Candidates are busy thinking of ways to hoodwink the election commission and bribe the voter when they are not able to find ways to hoodwink the voters and get their votes. Manifestos are promising roads, bridges, jobs and lokayuktas as well as free power, water and petrol. If free lunch is added to the list, I can close down my clinic and relax.
I have heard that money flows freely during election time. But I haven’t seen any of it flow in my direction. I do not run an election related business. I am not approached by any party or candidate with ‘goodies for vote’ or ‘cash for vote’ offers. When everyone is busy making money while the election sun shines, Raghunandan is in the shade depending only on extractions and fillings.
I had just one case last Saturday morning and even that fellow had got wise and missed the appointment. I was just sitting there brooding over the matter, reading election news in the newspaper and feeling left out when Shirodkar appeared in the door.
Shirodkar’s wife and daughter are my patients. He has accompanied them to the clinic many times but has managed to evade the chair himself till now. He is addicted to chewing tobacco and the signs of his addiction are all over his mouth. His teeth are almost black. I have suggested many times that he give up chewing tobacco and have his teeth cleaned. “Yes doctor, I know that it is a very bad habit. I will definitely come sometime next week. I will have my teeth cleaned and then give up tobacco once and for all”. I have threatened him with everything from gingivitis to cancer but have not been able to locate that next week on the calendar.
He was a middle level employee in a mining company and started some mining related business by the side in a small way. Just as he entered the business, iron ore turned into gold and since then he has had no time for anything else other than counting money, leave alone getting his teeth cleaned. I had heard that he paid about two crores as income tax last year. I was surprised to see him in the clinic and enquired what the matter was.
“I want my teeth cleaned urgently, doctor. You see, I have decided to contest in this election and have been promised the party ticket. The news is likely to be out this evening and once that happens I will have no time even to breathe. I will have to start campaigning immediately. I cannot approach my voters with these black teeth. At least clean the front teeth today and I will come later for the other teeth.”
I brightened a bit. The election, which I thought was of no use to me had at least brought a case on an otherwise lean day. People have come to my clinic for having their teeth cleaned just before marriage, before important interviews and before going abroad. This was the first time that an election brought me a patient. Who knows? If I look around carefully in Shirodkar’s mouth I may find some more ways leading to his deep pocket! I adjusted the chair and grabbed my cleaning instruments with enthusiasm.