Friday, August 24, 2007

Dental rhymes with Mental.

She looked me up and down with the air of a prospective owner eyeing a particularly flea-ridden mongrel. A slight smirk flitted across her face, to be replaced almost instantly by a patent sympathetic mask. I squirmed, wishing I was anywhere else in the world except in this terrible room with the gleaming white floors and the stark white tubelights and the sleek little glass cupboards all around holding pink plaster casts of a hundred unlucky jaws.

“The doctor will see you now”, she trilled, and led me into an ante-chamber. I visualized lightning outside, in accompaniment to eerie organ music. I rose, gulped, and walked in. Ladies and gentlemen, the most defining moment of my life. The Dentist’s Chamber.

The doctor, an exquisite woman with the most perfect haircut in the world, made the mistake of smiling at me. I smiled back and watched her face assume the expression of incredulousness that a pope would accord a heretic. The problem? I was an innocent kid, and one of my milk teeth wouldn’t fall off. It’d shake and quiver and provide me with numerous hours of tooth-wobbling entertainment, but wouldn’t pop out. My parents, both sets of grandparents, and an enthusiastic cousin all tried to pull it out, coming up with ingenious (and, occasionally, unmentionable) ideas, but to no avail. It stayed put, and off I toddled to the doctor. She tugged at it with a torturous pliers-like thing till it came off with a loud scrunch, stuck a wad of cotton into the crater, and told me to go off and eat an ice-cream. She even gave me a kinder smile.

The smile grew wider when I came back a second time. Another little sucker wouldn’t vacate. She pulled it out, and off I went. Then came a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and her smiles grew wider. To put it subtly, I made the dentist rich. Not one of my milk teeth fell off of their own accord, and she pulled them all out till I was convinced I had set a new world record.

A new set of teeth came up, and I thought I’d been given a new lease on life. Turns out I was too optimistic. Back I went to The Woman for a filling. Then another, and another. Fillings were a different kind of pain – not only did they hurt like the dickens, but the noise was like a pneumatic drill, and the moment the sneering assistant stuck a little suction pipe into my mouth to drain out the excess saliva, I knew I’d lost all dignity. Oh, the ignominy.

Finally, Perfect Hair gave up on me, and referred me to another dentist, whose chamber was a lot, lot worse. It had beautifully framed certificates of all the degrees that allowed her to torture humans dentally, and it put me off immediately. This lady I christened Plastic Smile. She fake-smiled her way to my mother’s heart by introducing me to cartoon versions of all my teeth on a candy-coloured chart on her wall (Meet Mr. Molar! And his friend Carrie Canine!). Then she pulled on a pair of snazzy blue gloves, and plunged her hands into my mouth as if it were the most fashionable thing in the world. Then came the dramatic sigh, followed by a revelation: She couldn’t help me either, except by filling up another two cavities (one of them in my right-hand Mr. Molar). What I needed, she stated, starry-eyed, was an orthodontist.

Imagine an equatorial forest. Imagine the trees battling it out for that one patch of sunlight, straining to outgrow each other, shooting up willy-nilly all over the place. Imagine them all crowded together, trying to twist around each other, putting out branches at odd angles, jostling each other for space. And then, try to imagine a mouthful of teeth trying to kid themselves into believing that they are an equatorial forest. That, in short, was my mouth.

What I needed, she chirped, was braces. Then she waved the reference letter at my mother, and deprived us of a lot of money that, if saved, could have bought me a cartload of big-boxed birthday presents.

The orthodontist was a lot nicer than I thought. I took to him immediately because he said “Why, there’s nothing wrong with you! Nothing that we can’t fix, at any rate.” I sighed. I was human after all, and not the victim of an inordinately sinful past life. But as they say, there are different forms of evil. A nurse with two mismatched colours of nail enamel on each hand (hyperventilation alert number one) brought what looked like a box of pink paste along with two kidney-shaped hollow metal thingies (hyperventilation alert number two), and proceeded to spoon the paste into the metal containers, nodding sagely at me all the time (hyperventilation alert number three).

I should have run when I had the chance. The paste-filled metal things were then clapped onto my teeth, and held there for a bleeding five minutes till they solidified. I waited there with little pieces of pink gunk dripping down my throat and trying to get the Benadryl-ish taste out of my mind, till the evil nurse pulled the things off. And I finally realized what I’d been stupid enough not to notice earlier: that this was how they got those jaw impressions in the glass cases.

Then came a most interesting operation to pull down the hidden Carrie Canine that never quite poked its way through my gums. It is strange to see a surgeon putting a hooked needle into your mouth and pulling it out, drawing out a pattern of black thread going in and out, in and out, and to know that it is technically your flesh that he is cutting open and sewing up like a neat little seamstress, and yet not to be able to feel the pain. The wonders of local anaesthesia. My face for a week afterwards resembled that of a troll with mumps, but we’ll pass over that.

To cut an epic story short (and to refrain from grossing a lot of people out) I shall pass over the fitting of the metal wires, the glueing of the bases, the little rubber bands that held the braces together, the pain and the numbness and the standard diet of soup and ice-cream (I had the teeth, mind you, but couldn’t use them. Humph.) that followed. I stuck to it. I came to view the clinic as a monthly pilgrimage site. I learnt the various dental departments on the signboards off by heart (although I can’t remember them now, so don’t bother) and learnt to speak coherently with two hands and a metal instrument inside my mouth. I also learnt the ecstasy of having the braces taken off, and the delirious relief of smiling and watching a smile composed mostly of the colour white, as opposed to the earlier combinations of yellow, green, blue and grey. I learnt to wear my retainer religiously for a month, and then to bury it in a place where it would never be found.

It’s a pity that a smile got me into so much trouble, but it’s a little better to live with now that I know I look passably decent when I grin. The equatorial jungle is straightened out, and I have all twenty-eight teeth intact - four were removed to allow for the Great Purge. I still have a line of dental cement holding four of my front teeth together (someone must have forgotten about it, conveniently), but lets not tell anyone that. To remove it would mean another visit to another clinic, and I’m willing to take a chance that the cement will remain where it is for the rest of my life, or at least until all four teeth fall out together, whichever comes first.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I haven't decided what this blog is about.

I know it serves as a random place to air my empty-headed and increasingly frivolous thoughts in. I get a colourful web page that gives me an immense sense of accomplishment (I got technology to work in my favour!! Oh frabjous day, Callooh! Callay!) I get wonderful, silently-suffering people who comment on what I cough up - bless you all. I get people to read what I write, when the strangest part is that the writing here is anything but writing. It's - for lack of a better word - spewing. I'm comfortable with the number of bloggers I'm annoying, and with the number of pictures I'm uploading, and with who I'm quoting and misquoting. But I still get this feeling of in-betweenness at times, as if I don't quite know what I'm doing here. I've been learning to be friends with this feeling for a while now (since when I was three, to be precise), so I don't mind. I shall not complain. Besides, I may not know what this blog is about, but at least I know what it is NOT about.

1) It is definitely not about deepdarkmorbidpoetry. Can't do it, never will be able to.

2) Not about my ever-enduring singledom, the lack of eligible men (although certain snide comments may be passed about this phenomenon.. sometimes), or the incorrigibility of the male species. Men are fun as long as they are not taken seriously. And yes, I think that sounded like Marilyn Monroe too. But I'm not blonde, more' s the pity.

3) No political analysing, and no homework help-appeals, since I am very uninterested, and therefore very insincere, about both.

4) No girlie stuff. Not possible. Especially since I've started saying "Gah" to a lot of things lately, much like Mr. Goon. Not at all ladylike.

5) No highbrow stuff (Have you noticed how a beetle on a leaf symbolises the cosmos? *Broods till coffee mug grows another cobweb*). We have enough of that already. And I've always been one for living life first, and then analysing it.

So there. Five points. Genuine ones, too. And that amounts to my blog being about a lot of other things, only I can't really pinpoint them. I think this shall be a Seinfeld kind of blog. A Blog About Nothing. And I shall be George Costanza - not because I am like him in any way, except for the premature balding - but merely because he was always my favourite, and I think I need a little more excitement in my life. And if it comes my way due to my hot-headed outbursts, so be it. I'd like to get worked up about things once in a while. It makes people more entertaining.

P.S. I should have added another point, an anti-whining one, but that is just not possible. Whining makes up the essence of my life nowadays, and if you can't stand it, Gah.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chromatophobic? You Wish.

I walked down the whole length of Gariahat last evening to the one shop that ensures I spend whatever I have in my wallet at the moment. It’s a dingy, musty little shop that looks woefully out of place in technicolour Gariahat. You might miss it if you don’t know you’re looking for it – the signboard is, ironically, a sorry piece of peeling paint and metal. I always wonder if this is what Ollivander’s in Diagon Alley looks like, because the whole shop gives out an air of neglected colourlessness. But oh, the things it stocks. They’re all packed away in cardboard boxes, but you only have to say the word and out come little bottles of paint and fine-haired brushes, iridescent sticks of colour and fine-smelling sheets of paper. This shop is called Kumar’s Concern, and it’s the one place I go if I have money to spend. Apart from a bookstore, that is.

It seems strange that a shop stocking art supplies should be so devoid of colour. But that is the singlemost reason that adds to its air of lazy enchantment. I feel random little sparks hanging in the air as art students, schoolchildren and random experimenters ask for canvas and palettes – sparks that in muted excitement affix themselves to the people who walk in and out, exuding an air of you-never-know. Expressions waiting to be painted. Foliage waiting to be captured. Masterpieces waiting to happen.

I find myself buying something or the other. A stick of charcoal, a tube of paint, a notebook. Everything looks so luxuriously new and alluring - till I read the price label. Art as a hobby is shockingly expensive. But then, I suppose most hobbies are. The one hobby that isn’t expensive, however, is Colours. Its probably the reason I took up art in the first place. I don’t know when I realized that my love of colour bordered on obsession, but there it is. The only part of me that’s even remotely sensitive is sensitive to colour.

Colours are one of the Important Things in my life. When we moved into the new flat, I nearly reduced my mother to tears about the colour of the walls in my room, and how they corresponded to the bedsheets and the table lamp. If I see something wrong with a print or a signboard or a dress in terms of colour, I tend to worry myself silly that I can't correct it. I go watch Karan Johar movies to see Rani Mukherjee’s sari flashing through a beautifully coordinated set. The same can be said about Sanjay Leela Bhansali, although I did fall asleep halfway through Devdas and then woke up just in time to see the last scene (Which was good, because Shah Rukh Khan finally died, and we got to see the burnished leaves and the trees and everything else that was so much more beautiful than his drunken face). I go crazy about the art direction in musicals, and I feel so much better about going to school now that they've repainted it and got the tone of the colours right.

It’s no wonder, then, that I feel like a horse that has lost its side-patches (or whatever they’re called) when I walk down a place like Gariahat. Everything is in motion, and out of the corners of my eyes I catch a dizzying whirl of fuchsia and glitter and gleaming brown leather and clinking golden earrings and plastic flowers and orange jungle-printed skirts and cheerful blue cups and glinting, poisonous-looking bottles of perfume, and it all converges with the sounds and the heckling, and I feel like I’m in one of those psychedelic movies, only it isn’t drugs or alcohol. It’s just the experience of being bombarded with too many colours at the same time, and not being able to do anything about it, and strangely, exulting at how they all seem to fit together. It's the feeling of catching shades I haven't seen before out of the corner of my eye, and finding them vanished when I look properly.

If I do go abroad for higher studies, I don’t know what I'll do without the colour. It’s not like India’s the most colourful place on earth, but it’s a different kind of colourful. A kind of hectic, maddening vividness that bowls me over every single second of looking around. I don’t think I’ll find people wearing such garish clothes with such √©lan anywhere else. And strangely, the mismatched colours don’t seem to matter when I see a whole stall of rainbow sunglasses, the hawker wearing a pair of oversize purple goggles. Here is Colour. I smile. Bring on the eccentricity; this is a place where I fit right in.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nash My Teeth and Hope For A Dry Answer Sheet.

There are times when life socks me in the solar plexus and expects me to handle it. Like now, when I have exams coming up and feel supremely unprepared. To top it all, our school honchos have suddenly come up with a brainwave to ensure that all students submit copperplate answer scripts of impossible neatness – they've made it mandatory to use fountain pens.

Up, up my soul! This inaction is abominable.
Perhaps it is the result of disturbances abdominable.

-Ogden Nash, Spring Comes To Murray Hill.

Only, this isn't inaction. It's a positive death sentence. What beats me is how we’re supposed to submit neat answer scripts when none of us can afford a Mont Blanc, and the old-timers stocked in my stationary shop have very leaky bladders. I’ve already managed to Jackson Pollock my hand, and I’m still worrying about how I’m going to finish my answer script, when writing with a ball pen just gives us a minute to check our papers before the final bell rings. And my first exam is Hindi. And this is the BOARD YEAR (I always visualize it like that – big capitals flying all around, with ominous music playing in the background), and each and every exam will matter. AND I know I can’t take a risk with my first terminal papers because the colleges I want to go to will take them into account, but try telling that to my school management. Education is a futile thing.

As you can see, I have taken to reading Nash compulsively to cheer myself up. And that doesn’t help either, because I don’t think my Hindi teacher will appreciate it if I cough up a quirky essay in place of a shuddh sanskaar/ mera desh concoction. I don't suppose it matters, Hindi was always a sea of bewilderment for me. Especially with the soul-searching poems that the CBSE textbooks always seem to have. The things you have to do to have a Career.

Introspective Reflection
I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

What a genius. And people wax lyrical about Sylvia Plath.