Of all the bright and beautiful things God has enabled man to create, there can hardly be anything better than anaesthesia. Forget the space rockets, the multitudinous power of the internet, stem-cell therapy, super crops et al. There is nothing even half as amazing as the feeling of unmitigated tranquillity that pervades your being with the simple administration of a spot of anaesthesia.And nowhere is this more apt than when you take your ravaged fangs to the local dentist, for him to get them back in shape for the next phase of hedonistic chomping and guzzling.
My affaire de coeur with dentists started before I had reached even double-digits in age. The culprit then were the ubiquitous chocolates and bubble gums which ensured that ever so often, you woke up to a mouthful of pain. Hot food would agonize, cold food would tingle, even water would sting. The family would offer neither reproach nor remonstration. Their only counsel would be that since you got yourself into it, now it is you who must “man-up” and get yourself out of it.
“Man-up”! What a lovely sham. Delude a boy of 9 to pretend that the brain-numbing pain was tolerable and the accepted order of things was to saunter into the dentist’s and remedy it by yourself. Ironically, it was this very chauvinism that often helped put the pain behind and move on to the next level.
So with a heavy heart, you excused yourself from the weekend cricket match, asked your folks to fix you an appointment, got your little bicycle out and pedalled furiously to the clinic. Walking into the reception was always a glorious feeling, akin to a gladiator entering the Circus Maximus. The feeling that you were taking life head-on and regardless of what came your way, you would not ask for mercy. There would be moments of self-doubt when, as you tried to distract yourself in aged issues of Women’s Era, the swarthy man who had entered the surgery room a moment earlier would let out a bellow of pain. Your insides would churn to think of the horrors that lay behind the door and you would be confronted by the existential question that has intrigued mankind since dentistry was first practised, “why didn’t I brush twice every day?”The mind would race hard to think of ways to keep itself occupied when in the chair. Pleasant thoughts were the best bet and you started refreshing memories of all the good things that you would go over while the dentist did his job. The visuals invariably started with a brand new leather ball with a flawless seam, the prospect of finding a chest of treasure in the ravines behind the cantonment, the possibilities if you were able to fly or even go invisible(the latter is best left unexplained!). But barely had the world started looking tolerable than the nurse would call out your name and suddenly, even the feeble security of Women’s Era seemed adequate.
The six most frightening words in the world are, without doubt, “the dentist will see you now”. The apprehension that grips your very being when you walk towards the dentist’s chair is the stuff that movies are made of. The elements of suspense, anxiety, fear, impending tragedy and above all, courage and honour are not to be mocked at. You know that this man in the white smock can put an end to your suffering, yet it seems that if you just spent the rest of your days brushing hard, you would be fine. And if you ran out of here right now, he really couldn’t do much about it. But by the time this wisdom dawns, you are already seated in the chair and the preliminary probes have begun. You clench the armrests and stiffen yourself for the worst, only to be told to relax and let yourself loose. The prognosis is plain, a filling. Then he picks up the biggest syringe you have laid eyes upon and loads it with the medicine. All thoughts of leather balls and lost cities zoom out of the mind, leaving only the dread of 4 inches of metal being driven into your mouth.
But then comes the miracle of anaesthesia! The tiniest of pricks and then the sweet bliss of not being able to feel anything. Suddenly, you are Hercules and Achilles rolled into one. Your grip softens, your mouth opens wider and you almost have a smile on your face. The excavators, the drills, the forceps-you dare them all to do their best, for you are ready to face the worst. You snigger inwardly at the poor craven souls too cowardly to bear such a simple test of character. Soon, the procedure is over and even with the wad of cotton lodged in your mouth, you manage to give the doctor your charming best smile. And swagger out towards the reception with the disdain of a conquering hero.
And that’s when you hear him say, “This tooth is fine now. But the molar next to it needs to be extracted. So I’ll see you at 10 tommorow?”
"Some tortures are physical
And some are mental,
But the one that is both