Saturday, August 09, 2008


Literature, regardless of time and clime, is replete with stories of people resisting the stranglehold of age on them.

Take for instance, `The Picture of Dorian Gray', by Oscar Wilde or our own Yayati, whose son Pururavas had to grow old on behalf of his father. What do those who have not been bestowed with such arrangements for ageing through a proxy do?

The filthy rich get their facial skin pulled, in a bid to improve their looks. Others meekly submit to the process rather than valiantly battle on. Though they staunchly believe in Baruch's Rule for Determining Old Age: `Old age is always 15 years older than I am', some of them, however, try to use anti-wrinkle creams and hair dyes. It is only the truly brave who do not seek recourse to these cosmetic aids.

For every person who tries to look younger than s/he actually is, by using herbal creams and other cosmetics, there are some people, who resort to no such methods.

Look at the shock of white hair of Amjad Ali Khan or Leela Naidu. Or Sunil K. Alagh of Britannia Industries or Azim Premji of Wipro. Then we have Medha Patkar, Naseeruddin Shah, Salman Khurshid and many others.

There might be merit in looking natural, but there is a hidden danger in this, for most people seem to believe that like accidents and death, ageing is something that happens only to others. As Anamma found out last Thursday.

Annamma had not yet entered her mid-fifties, but her teeth started troubling her. One of the upper molars had developed a cavity. She was worried because genetically speaking; she was prone to severe toothache. She did not want to go through the misery her father had undergone.
The problem required immediate attention, she decided. Her husband's secretary fixed up an appointment with Dr. P. S. Menon, a dentist of repute, for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

On the appointed day, she reached the clinic by quarter past four. The doctor was attending to another client, the receptionist told Annamma, but it would not take long, please be seated. She scanned the newspaper headlines and leafed though the magazines on the rack. She looked at the diagrams showing the set of teeth, the cross-section of a tooth, a poster with diagrams on root canal treatment etc.

Then her eyes fell on the doctor's professional certificate laminated and hung on the wall. It was about 35 years old. It bore his full name: Panasseri Sukumara Menon. Suddenly, she remembered that a tall, handsome boy with the same name had been in her high school class some 45 years ago.

Quite soon, the patient emerged through the half-opened door. She caught a glimpse of the man in the white coat in profile, Annamma, however, quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, grey-haired and pot-bellied man with double chin and furrowed forehead was too old to have been her classmate. It must be a namesake.

After he had examined her teeth, Annamma asked him if he had done his SSLC from the Kunnamkulam High School.

"Yes," he replied.

"Which batch do you belong to?" she asked.


"Why, you were in my class!" she exclaimed.

Dr. Menon looked at Annamma closely, and then asked, "Madam, what subject did you teach us?"


deer said...

ooops.... NO TOOTHE ACHE...

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

Absolutely great!

wannabe said...


Sorry for the delay in responding (I saw your comment only today) but I could not get what you intended by those words.