The Chinese Dentist

When you learn to read, you start reading everything!
 
When in primary school, I would read pamphlets, bill boards, hoardings, ingredients off the back of some random bottle in the store etc. And that’s how my language developed! Ditto when I learnt the Devnagiri script! On the way back from school, I’d go “Yethe matching blouse milel”, “Sakhar 10 rupaiye, Halad 5 rupaiye,” etc.
 
When it turned into a compulsive habit, I really don’t know! Before I knew it, on every route I had a fixed set of boards that I would read when in the bus, as though assuring myself that I was in a familiar place.

One of those boards was “Chinese Dentist: Tseyun Li”. It’s in K Villa, just a further ahead after Holy Cross School.
 
You’ve seen whom the Indians claim to be Chinese, are usually North East Indians or Nepalese. So, since an early age I thought it to be a sham, just like the Chinese fast food stall guy round the corner or the Chinese looking kids on signals!
 
Out of curiosity I once asked my dad, what was so special about a Chinese dentist? And I think he said they don’t use anaesthesia, their treatment is fast, it doesn’t pain, it isn’t very hygienic for the dentist since he uses bare hand and last, it’s expensive.
 
But frankly, never did I see that dentist. The door to his clinic was always shut. When I passed by school bus, by car, by autos and now by TMT, there would be nothing there. Just the small clinic by the corner of a small lane which leads to the main road. It was those small shops that remain somewhere at the back of your mind!
 
This morning, it changed. I was in the bus, passing by. And then, there was an old shrivelled Aunty or Uncle sitting there.
 
First thing I noticed, the person was sitting on a plastic chair with outstretched hands towards the rain. Then, the room was sparsely furnished, just a normal long seat for the patients. And then, as the bus paused for a moment, I saw the eyes. Mongolian eyes. The ones like the Chinese have. And, they looked sad (or was that me looking at them sad).
 
Big surprise you might say, Chinese doctor in a Chinese dentist’s clinic. But frankly, for almost 13 years now, I never believed there would be a REAL Chinese family in my neighbourhood! And there it was.
 
All day, I wondered about him (in retrospect it might have been a man Ok?) Did he have enough patients? Was he happy in India? Did he have a family here? If yes, then which school did the kids go to, since Chinese children in a school would be a topic of conversation! Were those eyes really sad like I thought? Or was he just sleepy?  Would I ever see him again? It took me a decade to know he existed. Was he an Indian citizen after all, migrated generations back? Do the Chinese come to India a lot? Do Indians go to China? Will I be friends with them? Ever? 
 
In short, I thought a lot! Silly me, probably. But it gave me this sense of being a novice, however old or well versed with the area I might be, I would never know all of it! Never know what surprises are lurking just around the corner, for me to discover in the unlikeliest of times.
 
That Chinese dentist bought me back to my senses. I am tiny, and I don’t know everything. One of these days I hope to pluck the courage to walk up to his clinic and speak to him and know him more. One of these days maybe…
 
Silhouettes of the things unknown…just were waiting to be discovered, in the form of a Chinese dentist!
Update 07/01/2014: I met the dentist and his family! At a poetry meet! And he’s so cool! Though I’m not sure it was him I saw. I was a little awkward, but hey! What are the chances?!

Freedom!!

Sometimes even in the worse of situations, things happen that make you wonder, “Hey! There is someone who is having a good laugh at whatever is happening to me now!”
This happened to me yesterday. 9.09am Thane starting, CST bound local. (Wonder if I am always going to blog about trains! :-P) So after a long time, at peak hour office rush, I was travelling in the ladies first class (I usually travel in the general since I have a group of friends, males included, with me always). So, I reached about two minutes before the train was to leave, with not even an iota of hope of getting a place to sit but eternally hoping that I’d at least get place to stand. Imagine my relief when the entire passageway was empty. 
 
Reminded me of a forwarded mail, “Mumbaikar’s idea of privacy: When your leg is not stepped on in the train, and you have enough space to breathe!” By those standards, I was in heaven!
 
So I happily put my bag down, plugged in my earplugs, and decided to have a hell of a time till Matunga. Salman was dancing to Shankar’s tunes at that time “Mann gaaye re haay re…” (Yes, it was my Facebook status also!) It was all so peaceful, too perfect to be true actually. Should’ve understood it then that there was going to be something wrong when the next song that played was the theme of Requiem for a Dream-dark and pensive-something bad was bound to happen. And it did.
Mulund station. In came hordes of women, like there was some free for all sale at D-Mart. Okay…I agree this would be the height of exaggeration, but the look on their faces made it seem like it was a war. And here was the first battalion leading the entire force. I stuck on to my place, second from the door, with my bag between my ankles, waiting for the forces to strike!
 
They came, found their space, and now I was a bit wary, but still had some place to stand. And accepted it all with a pinch of salt. It was okay! J At this point, Kareena was maroing thumke on Sunidhi’s sexy voice, “Ha! Chalo ab door yaha se, pahaadon se bhi aage…” How I wished I could!
Nahur. Women got down, more got in, Bhandup, some more got down, even more got in! By the time the train crossed Kanjurmarg, unfortunately, I couldn’t do what Hard Kaur was urging me to- “Rock to the rhythm and rock to the rhyme!” Though, I was “doob ja” oing, in a sea of harrowed women and unfortunately not in someone’s pyaar!
All this while, Facebook updating, mutual commenting was on. It was getting difficult by the minute to see the messages though. You can’t really read messages when your hands are pinned down, with two women leaning on you, pinning you to a corner the way you’d expect some Hollywood couple would make love. Really, absolutely no sense of privacy, physical torture! Which increases when someone’s stilettos come right down on your toes and you don’t even know who the guilty is!

Ugh!
Physical, mental, psychological torture. Vikhroli. Physical, as you obviously get poked at horrible places! Mental, as you hear words you wouldn’t want to hear early in the morning! (To be read as “melya college chya students” roughly translated as “Be gone ye College students”) Psychological? Tough to explain. What else would you call the torture of having your waist, butt touched, unabashedly just because they’re all women. And women breathing down your neck…their hot breath. Leaves a scar on young minds like mine!
Add to this the fact that the next station is Ghatkopar, where a hundred more climb in, along with some human bomb! (Biological warfare) Who didn’t clear her stomach before leaving for work; if you think those aromas are the worse that could happen to you when you are on your way for a big presentation, then think again my dear friends.
Because the worst part is you don’t know who it is. And even more worst is the fact that your hands are tied down. You can’t even cover your nose! Pah! Baba Ramdevji ke anulom vilom ki yaad aa gayi
I did sort of introspection at this point- why was I doing all this? What was the need? And BAAAM! came the answer in the form of Avril Lavigne who screamed in my ears “So much for my happy ending!” No kidding.
Hopes ran high, when Kurla came, I thought most of the women would get down, and I could move closer to the door, some fresh air, but no! More women came in. I wonder how the floor of the matchbox like ladies compartment never caves in. I was pushed in…but I went against the swarming numbers of women against me, egged by Shankar and Hrithik! “Haa yahi rasta hain tera!” Aur maine tab ye jaan liya tha!
I think I didn’t mention, I was wearing a churidar on this fateful day. Which was freshly ironed, and I didn’t want creases on the dress that I would make a presentation in. High hopes! My duppatta got stuck in someone’s hair, caused a huge, shrill scream when I tugged, and all I could hope was that it wouldn’t tear.

Thank god for small mercies…it didn’t!
Finally, after Sion went in a blur…came Matunga! Who got down? Just me! No one else got off from the entire compartment! But well, at that point of time, I would have danced better than Aishwarya for all her money and beauty when Shreya aptly sung in my ears “Re beheke chali main to keheke chali….na na re na na re na na re nana re!” How the faces I left behind in the train looked at me and my newly found freedom!