Colours of Life
My Tryst with Dentists
Coping with health, tooth and gum
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Dental science practice has quite been a paying profession these days as it is essential to maintain not only our facial look but also the digestive system and the key to good appearance enhanced with pleasing breath and nice appetite. Healthy teeth has many a smile brought not only to the ever-growing number of people becoming aware of this aspect of health but also to complement this trend a matching number of professionals at our service available at a price which could be quite prohibitive. Quite a number of dental colleges and hospitals besides road-side shops have come up to cater in the country and more so in the neighbouring Nepal to cope with the uptrend and demand. It could be due to many more feeling sick after the bad food habits we have turned to with and the eating style in the modern days. Yes, one might bear and withstand anything but with nagging pain that get you rushing to the nearest dentist and I pray God to save from the shooting pain like that experienced of late - might be due to some problem unknown, could be with RCT (root canal treatment) I had in the recent past.
It reminds of the alarming news report related to the dental science that has gone viral in the social media recently that the readers must have come across and I would like to share on the onset. It was about the man who lost all his memory after a visit to the dentist for RCT where he had been given local anesthesia. Every day he now thinks it is the day of dental appointment. He remembers only about this 90-minute appointment he had in March 2005 and nothing else. He uses GPS for getting around the neighbourhood and to stay updated, he keeps a meticulously updated electronic journal and his wife tells him every morning to look at a computer with important events from the last decade. It is quite an unwanted situation that we would like to think twice before visiting the dentist. The whole science fraternity is on it to find out the reason of this rarest of the rare cases that quizzed the medical world. When I visited the dentist Dr. Arjun Kumar Pradhan last week, I could not stop myself from bringing this story out so as to ask him about the possible reason. According to him, it could be the needle while inserting the anaesthesia that might have pierced into the nerve to lead to such a unique instance to baffle the modern science.
From the latest news to quiz the dental science to the earliest case from our childhood days, when there was no need to go to the dentist’s chair and we used to have our tooth pulled out at home with ease and our own little effort. My Buba used to tie the weak tooth with a string previous night to try pulling out ourselves by shaking it and most of the time it used to be him helping it out by just a little gentle jerk finally next morning. I do not remember if we ever used the pliers to some of our little stubborn tooth. There used to be a few doctors like Dr. Kazi* and Dr. Bhim Singh Pradhan* in the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial (STNM) Hospital while it was LMP Dr. Ratna Kamal Dewan practising near the Denzong Hotel to think of a dentist even here in the capital was far from remote possibility.
When the Education Department failed to provide me a seat to undergo the MBBS course in 1963 for which I had secured the Government of India Post Matric Merit Scholarship that year, I had been offered to go for the BDS course instead but I refused it and also the BVSc seat. Had I gone for the dental course I would have been the first ever Dental Science Graduate in Sikkim – the crown that went to my friend in the B.Sc. course in the Darjeeling Government College, Dr. Jai Narayan Sharma. He joined the service in 1971 to retire as the principal director and was not as fortunate as the present incumbent Dr. Kumar Bhandari to be the first ever secretary in the department of health from the medical profession here. My school friend Vet Dr. Nima Dorji Lama joined the same year was, however, not to be the first BVSc as the mantle went in 1951 to his namesake Dr. Nima Tsering Lepcha* from Rhenock, a class-friend of my Thulo Mama Bhishma Pratap Pradhan* followed by Dr. M. M. Golay in 1961. The latter is in the bout of old age bedridden that we all dread of and find ourselves at the mercy of the Almighty more than that of the near and dear ones all so helpless in the end. Talking of the early vets here, dear readers must be having in their mind about Dr. Sonam Paljor, who was not a veterinary doctor by qualification as such but a PhD degree holder for the fodder science he studied abroad in Australia. He was the official who helped the first privately started poultry unit after my Buba’s retirement at Rhenock, where the department had started their first poultry unit in 1970s. The other person to have returned from there was Jeevan Kumar Thapa* as a maize expert. While we have these days many going to Australia (and some said in jest that there was another Pradhan Nagar there as well) or some other country abroad, it was a rare feat even a decade or two ago from this country. Thapa then an officer in the Agriculture department in the days of yore headed by director Dr. K. L. Narsingham* (I left the job as the plant protection clerk with D. C. Lucksom* and plant protection officer Atri for a short while in1963) had found my specialization on Entomology in MSc Zoology (1969) of no use here. I was told by the then Education Director S. N. Prasad (?) to be overqualified even for the post of a teacher here that led me to job hunting in Nepal for a year or two but to land in Bhutan finally in 1971before finding a place here. I had been asked in the interview by the Conservator of Forests at Samchi to come with a reference letter while reporting for the job and it was Keshab C. Pradhan then as the divisional forest officer, whom I approached to help and rescue from the jinx of my unemployment. Over two decades later, I succeeded Thapa as the Director of Census Operations, Sikkim 1991 while my good friends back home wanted me continue posted there as long as they could see it possible for the reasons best known to them only – they procrastinated issuing my repatriation order even long after there was no need of my role to head the premier organization of the Government of India on deputation was over.
There was dearth of dentists as already said and the void was filled by a retired army doctor Prithwani, who had a roaring practice in Kalimpong, visited every weekend to practise from his chamber below SNT. Those days Dr. Dilli Prasad Sharma* too used to have his chamber there to practise quitting the government job to jump into the election fray but unsuccessful. The other person I used to see there practising was once my class-friend gynaecologist Dr. Sonam Tsering Lepcha*. Those days Thulo Mama used to go to Kalimpong for dental check-up and treatment from Dr. Prithwani and to get the denture made by Mrs. G. B. Khati before she also moved to Gangtok near the Star cinema. Deft in making denture I too had got my first artificial tooth made from her as late as 2004 for just Rs.100/- but that helped greatly to enhance my aesthetic look with a cosmetic touch and saved me from looking thotay when I lost one of the front teeth for the first time ever to seek such a help. Recently when our Jwain Saheb Badri Prasad Shrestha from Nepal visited us, I found him in similar condition and narrated about my own experience though it gives some people attractive look very much like our film star Devanand* with familiar bewitching smile whom my Buba too liked. I may not be wrong if I share with my readers here that Devanand fitted the bill in role of a romantic hero that later Rajesh Khanna wore the mantle to be the first ever Super Star in the Bollywood when his innumerable fans liked his head tilting style the best. We remember him for coming here to shoot a film first time ever in Sikkim for his Jewel Thief (1967) with Vyjayantimala as his co-star while it was Rajesh Khanna with Sharmila Tagore in Darjeeling for Aradhana (1969) much after Devanand’s Jab Pyar Kisi se Hota Hai with Asha Parekh (1961), Manoj Kumar with Mala Sinha for Hariyali aur Rasta and Shammi Kapoor* with Kalpana for Professor (both 1962). People remember Madan Kumar Pradhan* of Tadong, who had a small role to play in Jewel Thief to be the first ever actor to appear on screen, while Shyam Pradhan of Deorali too acted in the lead role for his home production Romeo in Sikkim around the same time. They are perhaps the pioneers in this field of acting here in Sikkim and friends may be asking me what about Danny Denzongpa. He was then Tsering Pintso Bhutia studying then in the Darjeeling Government College quite smart in NCC dress, who appeared in his first movie B. R. Chopra*’s Dhund (1973) with Sanjay Khan, Zeenat Aman and Navin Nischal*. However, the film unseen for 39 years Sikkim was filmed in 1971 by veteran film-maker Satyajit Ray* in tribute to the then Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal* that was banned following the Himalayan Kingdom being part of the Nation, is now available on YouTube as well uploaded some three years ago.
(To be concluded next with Coping with)
This is author’s personal account just in praise of the dental profession I am acquainted with and of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. No wonder if some narratives are found read earlier also. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9434022677 / 03592-202677 and at Rachna, opposite Manan Bhavan, Development Area, Gangtok 737 101 Sikkim India.