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?!