After a filling fell out several months back I resolved to get the problem taken care of lest it develop into a bigger problem. As with many of my resolutions, this one lacked, well, resolve. On my last visit to India I left it till the last day before visiting the dentist’s office, only to find that I was the victim not only of procrastination but the unfathomable Indian system of different markets closing on different days. This visit I made good and had myself sitting within the dentist’s chair a couple of days after arriving. Perhaps sensing my history of procrastination, the dentist also had his drill reaching into the depths of my being within moments of walking into his office. That’s something else you encounter a lot in India—medical professionals don’t feel any need to explain or forewarn. I’d no sooner finished telling this chap how a filling had fallen out than he had my mouth open and was drilling intently in the space where it had once lived. Somehow I’d expected that he would make a diagnosis and tell me the condition. Nope. He let his drill do the talking.
I have to say though, that it was a very modern drill. All his equipment was first class, including some kind of light gun that sets the material in the filling within seconds. Given a choice between a good bed-side manner and good equipment, I’d favor the latter when dealing with teeth. And after sending bone and the remainder of my filling to smithereens, he did stop and tell me what he’d done and what needed to be done next. I’d have to return in a couple of days and report on whether the tooth was giving me any trouble; if so, I’d need a root canal.
I did return, armed with a background from Google on what a root canal actually is and also quite confident that I didn’t need one as the tooth seemed OK, just sensitive to heat and cold. (Ha, just remembered a verse from the Gita that I hadn’t thought of in a long time—matra-sparsas tu kaunteya. The children’s song version is catchier still. “Happiness and sadness come and go, just like the summer heat and the winter snow.”)
Dr Mohindra then let me know that he’d crown the tooth, which sounded like a harmless thing, a simple task of putting some kind of lid on the thing. But alas, Mohindriller set about grinding the poor tooth into a stump! The pain was so intense that I thought I’d pass out. I gripped my hands together, sometimes thrashed my feet and kept thinking that he was going to be done any minute now. Three quarters of the way through, he asked if I wanted a shot. A shot? Yeah, a triple on the rocks. And then another. Maybe I can blot out this whole experience. Anyways, if you go to a dentist in India, it seems that they’re not in the habit of giving Novocain unless you ask for it.
After drilling the tooth right down, he put a temporary cover on it and gave me three choices for a crown. As much as the stainless steel one was tempting—ala that bad guy in the James Bond movie—I went for the most expensive ceramic option, hoping that throwing money at it would somehow give me more chance of staying away from these drill maesters in future. I rode home in an auto with a gamsha wrapped around my jaw, trying to prevent the cool evening air from getting a direct route into my nerves.
The next day I returned for my coronation and a cleaning. Mohendrilla-ji had warned me that I had two more cavities but after the cleaning, he found another four. Thankfully—and this is why I can believe in God—none of them required drilling. He pasted his magic mix and then used his ray gun on them. After the cleaning and cavities, I was ready to ascend my throne. The crown was readied and my mouth prepared. All it needed now was a blast of air from Mohendrilla’s modern apparatus and we’d be done. The only problem is that a blast of industrial air on the bare stem of a decapitated tooth is incredibly painful. The pain stayed around constantly for days, with four-hourly doses of Tylenol giving the only respite. Strangely the tooth soon started a habit of only hurting at night. Each night, shortly after laying my weary head upon the lacking-in-the-spirit-of-comfort pillows you find in India, it would awaken and howl at the memory of Mohendrilla’s infernal wind machine.
However I later put this nightly pain to good use.
On previous visits to Sri Radhakunda I had tried to summon the crows and parrots as prognosticators of my future. They were quite unreliable however, giving decidedly mixed indications. On this visit I decided that my howling stump and its crown would provide the omens. If the nightly pain stopped while staying at Radhakunda, I would take shelter there. And you know what? It did stop. For a single night as I bedded down at the Manoranjan Dharmashala (where every member of staff must belong to an ancient family of singers from Bengal—the bathrooms are horrible but the sounds are sweet) my toothy stump was peaceful. The bag of Tylenol sat next to me all night, untouched. He started up when I returned to Vrindavan but by then my decision had been made. I took diksha soon after and then, remarkably, stumpie stopped crying, for good.
And the details on all this: Mohindra-ji is located near the Delhi university/Kamla Nagar area. As an antidote to the possibility of incurring suffering there, the Motilal Banarsidas showroom is only a few doors away, as is a great cyber-cafe. PM me if you need the address or phone number. The treatment cost me around Rs. 5000/-, say, US$120. And diksha: priceless.