The article by Akshay Tiwari, ‘My experiments with words' (the Open Page January 8, 2012), made me recall the “story of my experiments with my tooth.” I am no Gandhi. I have great respect for him. I normally tell the truth and that's all. Why ‘experiment' with it? Actually, my problem is with my tooth.
It all started with a sharp canine protruding from my mouth when I was in my teens. Just like the mischievous boy in school who never ‘falls in line,' it stood out from the row of its brothers. Similar to the rebel who would always break queues in public places. I had two problems. For one thing, it was embarrassingly looking out whenever I smiled, which I did quite often when I was young. And the other, it was also piercing my upper lip. Lion's tooth (‘ Singa pal , as they call it in Tamil), you see.
In all innocence, I was trying to push it back with my fingers expecting it to rearrange itself. But it never happened. Putting the undisciplined tooth behind bars by brazing it was not to my liking. My cousin was already wearing tooth-clip and it looked like the scaffolding around a beautiful building. In fact, my mother used to say the tooth added to my looks, whereas I felt it ‘dented' my image. As time went by and as I was getting used to it, one molar gave up its life, thanks to the home-made candies of our village shops.
“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” said Gandhi. But ‘a tooth for a tooth' was okay with me as long as they were mine, when my dentist offered to remove both of them in one sitting. Like the ‘Buy one Get one free' offers of today. He put me onto his chair and approached me ‘armed to the teeth' with his pliers. Contrary to my belief, the lion's share of my problem, the canine came out painlessly with a single twist. But the dentist had to fight “tooth and nail” to remove my ailing grinder. The aftermath was deadly and I felt like I “just escaped by the skin of my teeth.”
To fill the void created by the removal of tooth and to help me grind my teeth in anger, he offered to “build a bridge” with the support of the neighbouring teeth by connecting them. Maybe, he missed his engineering admission in competition and settled for dentistry, ‘to build' a successful career in his patients' mouths. Like the multiple-choice questions, he offered tooth caps in silver, gold, platinum or titanium. “None of the above,” was not a choice given. It looked like banks offering a variety of credit cards these days, in tandem with your ‘ability to (re)pay'.
Why not diamond-studded tooth, I thought and quickly cancelled the idea as the precious stone was not only unaffordable but just in case I crushed it by mistake and swallowed it while eating the ‘Porul Vilanga Urundai' (stronger-than-stone, ‘un-understand-able' laddu) that my mother makes quite often.
I then settled for gold as it was safer to keep the yellow metal hidden in my mouth than looking for bank lockers which in any case were rare those days. Who knows, my voice could become golden then or I may start uttering ‘golden words of wisdom' after the retrofitting. The dentist swiftly cut my fantasy and clarified that it was only a gold-plated ‘false tooth'. These days you get ‘tooth-colour' false teeth looking better than the original.
A lot of water (saliva) has flowed under ‘that bridge' since the dentist built it and going green (in fact, yellow) with jealousy, many of my other teeth crumbled one by one. They gave me a chance to have a variety of alloy teeth. Now I am rich in metals and minerals. In spite of regular visits to the dentist, there are many unfilled craters and crevices that attract roughage that I eat. The food particles, especially nuts and seeds, ‘reach the most inaccessible corners,' as said by Murphy.
Like you search the nooks and crannies of your brain trying to recall the names of people, places and things, I can't stop the struggle to ‘get the thing' out of my mouth after every meal. Though highly flexible, the tongue fails to reach out and succeed in ‘pulling out' the obstinate particle lodged between teeth. Besides, you look funny while doing so, as can be read from the expressions people around you give, especially in the office. Putting your fingers into the mouth, hiding inside your cabin or cubicle does not help either.
I finally settled for a pack of toothpick, increasing the monthly budget outflow. But this experiment also failed with the low quality of quill or wood it was made of. Have you noticed, guava, otherwise a sweet fruit, has surprisingly seeds of the same size of the cracks in our teeth. Once in its penchant for removing a stuck seed, the toothpick broke and one of the wood pieces got painfully lodged inside, requiring another visit to the dentist. Finally came the Chinese to my rescue, with their environment-friendly, natural bamboo toothpick. With both ends sharp like a pin, I invariably win the battle with bacteria.
This ritual after meal continues even today with so many of the dentures giving away. When there are more ‘false' teeth than original in my mouth, I can only ‘experiment with tooth.'
(The writer's email ID is: firstname.lastname@example.org)