I have never actually met anybody who is looking forward to his next meeting with his dentist. In fact, cancellations of appointments with the man in the white coat are often regarded as occasions for celebration.
In Karachi dentists and their clinics are invariably located on second or third floors of buildings which are best approached by taxi as it is almost impossible to find parking. Once, I did so and discovered my car had been put under a tree which was the leading producer of bird droppings in the city. I walked two hundred yards along a cracked pavement, and finally found the building for which I had been looking.
A discreet inquiry revealed the fact that the clinic was on the third floor and patients would have to take the stairs because the lift hadn’t worked from the day it had been installed. There were four patients including myself.
The waiting room was so small that if it had a dog, fleas on its back wouldn’t have jumped for fear of getting concussion. A few magazines which one usually came across in medical clinics like National Geographic, Readers Digest and a much thumbed Stardust lay on a low table.
The four of us nodded at one another probably wondering who was destined for the needle and who for the scaling. Winding the slow coil of her thoughts the woman on my right asked in all innocence if I had toothache. She was being nice. However, as I had an abscess under my lower left molar I desisted the temptation of coming up with an acerbic comment. Suddenly there was a terrible groan which came from the direction of the surgery and everybody in the room turned white. ‘I think the dentist has touched a nerve,’ a man in a black coat who looked like a lawyer said, as he grabbed a black briefcase and made for the exit.
A few seconds later we heard a loud bang which came from the direction of S M College and wondered if some poor student had lost his notes. A groan, followed by sounds of somebody gargling which come from the direction of the surgery, broke up the free consultation and the patients quietly returned to their seats. Ten minutes later the dental surgeon and his assistant entered the waiting room and asked, who is next. Everybody pointed to the person on his or her right. As I was getting late for a dinner appointment I told one of the patients I have to excuse myself.
I never found out who went in first. Perhaps they are still in the clinic casting lots on who is next. How else can I account for the three boxes of sweetmeats that I received . Years ago there weren’t so many highly qualified dentists some of whom are now fertilising the daffodils. These days one can find dentists in almost every street. At times even two. The location is not always a matter of choice but what is available. In the 1990s the public found it indecent when dentists started to advertise their qualifications. These days it is the norm rather than the exception. Of course recommendations are still the most effective way to help a patient take a decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2017.