I had finished the extraction and was writing a prescription. I had removed three teeth. The old man was still in the chair. I heard a gurgling sound and looked up. He was shaking his head and thrusting his hands out. His daughter, who had accompanied him, was bending over him and trying to say something. I was concerned and rushed to the chair.
There was nothing wrong with the gentleman. He was trying to press a few currency notes into the hands of his daughter and she was refusing to accept them. She already had some notes in her hands. I knew what it meant and was relieved that there was nothing wrong with the old man.
His daughter had taken out cash to pay me and he wanted to pay for his treatment himself.
They had first visited my clinic few days back. The gentleman did not have many teeth and what he had, were bad. He was unable to chew the food to satisfaction. His daughter had brought him to the clinic to see if I could do something so that her father could eat better. Since there was nothing that could be done to improve the condition of his teeth, I had suggested removing all of them and preparing a set of dentures.
“How long does it take to remove my teeth and make artificial teeth?”
“Well, it depends. It depends up on how often you can come for removal and how long it takes for your gums to heal. My guess is that it could be anywhere between three to six months.”
“You see doctor I can’t stay here very long. I am just visiting my daughter. I stay in Mumbai.”
His daughter interjected.
No, no, doctor. It is okay. He will stay here as long as it is required to get his teeth removed and new teeth made. Papa, you are going to stay here till you have your teeth done, okay?”
“It will be difficult for me to stay so long here. I will think about it and come back to you doctor” - Old Man.
“Yes. You think about your convenience. It is better that you stay here for sometime even after the teeth are made. Till you are sure that you can use them properly. If you can’t stay here that long, get the teeth made in Mumbai”.
“No doctor. There is no difficulty. He will stay here till he gets his teeth and can eat with them properly. Papa, what is there for you to do in Mumbai?” she turned to me again “You tell me when I should bring him for extractions doctor” she came closer and asked in a whisper “Will it be painful? He will be alright no?”
I assured her that the extractions would be painless and then the old man asked,
“Doctor, tell me what would be the cost of making the dentures? You see I am already seventy. I do not need costly teeth which lost very long. Anything which lasts for five to ten years will do. I have to see what I can afford, with my pension. Is it not?”
“You keep quiet Papa. You make the best dentures possible doctor. Don’t bother about the cost. We will start the extractions tomorrow. By the way, he has a little blood pressure and takes tablets. Is that okay?”
I said it was okay if the pressure was in control and that was settled.
Now, I had started with the extractions and it was the question of paying me. The old man was not happy with his daughter paying for it. He was saying that he can afford it and should be allowed to pay. But the daughter would hear none of it.
She thrust the currency notes in my hand, wiped the drops of water he had spilled on his chin while trying to rinse his mouth and gently lead her father out.
My heart swelled witnessing the affectionate scene and this was not an isolated one. I have witnessed such scenes in my clinic any number of times. An offspring concerned about the wellbeing of a parent.
Many aged people come accompanied by their children who are very concerned, caring and supportive. It is true both with sons and daughters. But still, when a daughter comes accompanying a parent there is a visible difference. The concern is mixed with an additional unexplainable emotion and tenderness. It is visible in the way the parent’s hands are held, in the way their hair and clothes are straightened and in the affectionate admonishing when they try to act against their own ‘good’.
We have two sons. My wife used to say that she wished she had a daughter but I never subscribed to that feeling.
I am very happy with my sons.
But when I witness scenes in the clinic such as the one I described here,
I sometimes wish, I too had a daughter!