Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Man, The Machine,

It was New Year's eve and I was at the Dentist's to sort out some of my teething troubles.
I was in the waiting room expecting to be called anytime then. A lady and a small girl sat on my right, the bigger woman murmuring something to the other, and a guy and girl probably in their late teens sat to my left. The girl was talking to the guy who was toying with his mobile. The place was rather empty inspite of it being a saturday.
This was not my first time there and I looked at the now familiar walls, walls covered with colourful charts describing preventive measures for tooth decay, cavities and other such ailments. There was one particular information board that always caught my fancy. This one displayed a new technique developed by my Dr. for artificial tooth implantation. The technique, to put it simply, was to 'screw' in place the artificial tooth where the old or broken one previously stood. The information board carried end-to-end illustrations of the transformation - toothless gums, gums with the screw in place sans the tooth - boy, that was gory, the final effect after implantation and even the cross section of a jaw showing that strange apparition of 'screw-tooth' - the last one being a model ofcourse.
Pictures of doctors turning screws into the cartilage (or so, I think, is what they call the bony part of the jaw where the screw is locked) flashed through my mind, the images quickly changed to those of humans subjected to experiments during the development of the technique and finally to thousands of blue collar workers going for work feeling the steel under their gums everytime they felt around their mouth - the utility of the experiment outweighed all these I reasoned. My imagination was perhaps emaciated due to lack of knowledge on the subject.
Every now and then the door to the clinic's operating room opened giving me a glimpse of reclining patients and the equipments around them. Inside the drill was on, in more ways than one, and the low sound reminded me of times when in school our teacher wrote with new chalk on black-board creating that creaky sound that ever so often made me bite my teeth hard and grimace with repulsion. A kid suddenly screamed from somewhere inside. I thought of a poem that we studied in school by Ogden Nash about a trip to the Dentist's.
The TV at the center of the room was switched on, serving as a distraction from all that described so far, and was set to a prominent Malayam Channel. The channel was doing a 30 min recap of all it's episodes in the year 2005 - a Mega Serial, one of those emotional drivels that run at primetime, Mon to Fri, year after year. They were probably trying to show users the evident connection between the story at the beginning and end of the year.
Then, something happened.
Prof. P.C.Thomas walked in.
There is a saying in malayalam that goes 'idi vettiyavante kaalil paambu kadichu ennapole' (like someone bitten by a snake soon after he is struck by lightning). Now I don't intend to potray myself in such a light and capture the pity of the knowledgeble reader - he who knows about Prof. P.C. Thomas. For the unitiated, let me introduce you to the Teacher, Preacher and shrewd Businessman that is Prof. P.C. Thomas.
Prof. P.C. Thomas single-handedly runs and has been running for years the largest coaching center for the Engineering & Medical entrance exams in Kerala. Spanning 2-3 decades (Once he told us that one of his first students had approached him with a request to enrol his son under his able tutelage), the Prof's institute continues to churn out the largest number of Engineering and Doctorial candidates - all the top ranks in the state come under his name, always. A strict disciplinarian - a terror actually; stories abound of him abusing, both mentally and physically, pampering parents and their truant children - Thomas 'mashu', expanded his organization from a single room outfit to an enterprise with branches in Dubai and other Middle East countries. PC (that's what his students call him out of fear and respect) also now expanded his classes to cover IIT-JEE & Civil Services Exams with commendable success (the Prof. eventually told me that 2 of his students cleared the Civil exams that year). One can see the employment generation due to his work in my home-town by just looking at the no of PG apartments that have sprouted in and around his coaching center (I noticed around 5-6 notices right outside his gate - from Eve's Garde to Angel Valley). I always consider myself fortunate to have been tutored by him and the rest of the illustrious teachers at his Tution center.

Coming back to where I left off Thomas mashu walked in and briskly made for the Doctor's room. The years had hardly affected his appearance.
I jumped from my seat, more out of respect this time, and called out - "Sir". He turned, saw me, stopped in his tracks and smiled. He put his hand over my shoulder and enquired 'How are you faring?'. I replied 'Good'. Brief inquiries were made about career and well being. Soon he started to move on. I bid adieu.
He seemed to be in a hurry.
As I turned away, the lady sitting next to me slowly stood up and said - 'Mashukku enne manassilayo?' (Sir, did you recognise me?). PC gave a questioning look, but when prompted by the woman recollected her identity and started exchanging pleasantries.
The Lady soon bid farewell and took her seat.
As PC turned to open the door leading to the Dentist's, the guy on my left stood up and blurted, "Eh..Sir".


Mridul said...

As soon as I saw 'dentist' Ogden Nash's poem flashed through my mind ... and later , you mention the same !
I vaguely remember the graphic (and rather cynical ?) detail with which he describes a dentist visit ... might be one of the reasons why I never visited a dentist.
Rather disturbing rumours of pain , suffering , sadistic doctors grinning with various 'weapons' always flash my mind when I think of a potential problem which could lead to a vist !

Nice ending though :-)

NY said...

Ogden Nashs' poem is always the first thing that I correleate with the word Dentist. Somethings you owe to your schools!! :)

All those people you were afraid of as kids.. they somehow become more human in your eyes after some time. :)

Sido said...

Great post!
You misled me to believe you were going to describe a gruelling session at the dentist! When you started about Prof. P.C.Thomas, I was at the edge of my seat - anticipating the unwinding of the plot...nice ending though! u took me for a good ride...

AK said...

Mridul: Thatz explains those pearly teeth of yours! Do you remember the name of the Ogden Nash poem?

NY: Agree with the people-becoming-more-human bit. I used to be scared of my Grand Dad as a kid - his piercing eyes and the sudden outbursts would send me scampering for cover. But as you said, we begin to see the layers as we grow.

Sido: Thanks for your comments. I was beset with the dilemma of splitting the writeup into 2 seperate articles or keeping it as it is after I finished it. Didin't have anything more to add about the Dentist's from that particular incident and didn't want to cook-up anything either.

VKM said...

ditto here...Ogden Nash is the first name that came in my mind and the fact that,that was the first time i had heard the usage "Vicious Circle"..
strange that some small things stay in your heart for a long while..
the PC part was amazing!!