PART 2: Delhi at the Dentist

The test of my expensively arranged tourist package is whether the driver actually arrives to take me to my next fun destination: my Delhi dentist. Medical Tourism is alive and well in India, as they have skilled specialists for every body part you may need replacing or fixing – many every bit as good as what you may find at home – and for a fraction of the price. Many choose to sojourn and get their broken body bits fixed, the savings in the difference in price for the treatment easily covering the cost of flying there and having a grand holiday. I got two pairs of glasses plus a prescription last time I was in Kolkata, for less than $100, and matching in quality what would cost me close to $1000 in Canada.

Naveen dutifully arrives smilingly with a good hour to spare to wrestle the rigours of Delhi traffic to carry me to my dental destination, the Defence Colony. I am not sure to expect some armoured military outpost, but its just another section of Delhi that is mysteriously named. He’s a Delhi Boy through and through, and just shrugs at the suggestion that living in this polluted hell may not be the best destiny for his children. He does point to the new electric auto-rickshaw, a harbinger of some cleaner, greener, Delhi. Not in my lifetime, I speculate, although I don’t share this with Naveen. Indians are (rightfully) proud of their country despite its chaotic limitations and ghastly ecological record. Its no accident that their national logo is “Incredible India!”. Although, truth to say, many would trade everything for a Canadian passport. I discovered this when I had everything stolen in 2001, also in Delhi. It forced me to make frequent trips to the Canadian consulate to get re-instated as a bona-fide Canadian. As I had waltzed into its marble splendour, I couldn’t help but notice the queue snaking its way around several blocks. This was for the less fortunate Indians who were wanna-be Canadians. I discovered that they started to queue at 4am for the slightest chance of a Canadian application during the brief 2-hour window that the consulate deemed to allow them, around the back door, so to speak. I had felt remarkably fortunate to have such a privilege to simply make a few statements to have my Canadian status reestablished. 99% of that desperate queue would never get a look-in, let alone a ticket to the West as I had.

Medanta Medical is an impressive multi-storey glass building. My driver assures me he will wait, even though I don’t know how long my appointment will take. I am here to get my three front teeth restored (I had to get them removed last year), through the magic of implants, or whatever else they have to offer. Needless to say before I get to wait in the official waiting room, there is another waiting room, where I have to register, and pre-pay. Nothing extortionate, although I have to laugh at the battery of forms I need to fill in, with such questions of religion and fathers (not mothers) name. He’s long dead, but I fill it in anyway. Best to not to confuse the army of assistants. Unlike the West, where we are quickly outsourcing every occupation we can to either the Chinese, or robots, there is still a massive amount of manual labour in India for most tasks you can imagine. Yes, I see big excavators, but right alongside, one guy is passing brick by brick to the next guy, who is passing it to someone who places it, accompanied by yet another fellow who is covering it with mortar. Not to forget the bringers of chai, and various and sundry other essential tasks. I acquiesce to multiple form-filling.

My very efficient driver-ji has brought me here a good hour early, so there is time to spare to make my way up to the next floor, where Dr Saima’s assistant is waiting for me. Or maybe it’s her (yes, a good lady doctor here) assistant’s assistant. There is a veritable army of people who seem to be passing various forms to each other in a synchronized dance of bureaucratic bliss. More forms to be filled in, and there she is, right bang on time, all white-coated efficiency, guiding me into her well-appointed clinic. She assesses my gums, teeth, and overall dental health, and suggests three options: plate, bridge or implants. I know one implant in Canada can be $5,000 or more – here its $900. However, she needs to know more, so off I go to the Imaging Center next door, where there are many more forms to be filled. This time I decide my dad was Hindu, and my mother was an elephant. Hell, they will never read it anyway; just to be deposited in some dusty archive under “foreigner forms for filling with deranged details” There is the farcically low fee to be paid for a 3-D image of my molars to see if I have enough bone left for what will be a surgical operation, which if I decide to go though with it, will be in yet another building.

As I bounce back and forth in the Medanta Empire, I make the possibly unwise decision to also get my glasses’ prescription done here. I am dutifully sent up to the next floor where the good lady optician resides, Ms Prasak. I do get whisked into her clinic as quickly as I was assured by the good folks downstairs, but as she quickly runs through various optical tests, I realize that actually I will have to go to another specialist who will write the prescription, who just happens to reside on the next floor up, and then of course return back to her. As I leave I am greeted by more forms, and sense that I may be here for the rest of the day. Although the building was full of staff, initially it seemed to be bereft of actual clients. Now the waiting room is full of a whole bunch more people than the assistants. Real clients, all clutching multiple dossiers on the state of their optical health, perhaps also indicating their favourite food, and whether they are related to Lord Krishna.

The real problem I face is that I have a small case of Delhi Belly, and am assessing whether I should make a dash for the toilet, and possibly lose my place in the queue, although its quite unclear where that place may be, as people seem to be randomly summoned to disappear behind various doors. The other problem its hours since I left driver-ji, and I wonder if he is still waiting, and where? I still haven’t got my damn Indian SIM card, so my smart phone is as dumb as a rhino for contacting anyone. I did take the precaution of getting driver-ji’s phone, and hijack the reception’s one and only land-line to see if I can locate him. No answer. Ahh well, its been 5 hours or perhaps more – I still cant quite figure out Vancouver time displayed on my phone translated to Delhi time-zone. So I do an unusual thing for me: I give in. India has finally sunk in. All my machinations of getting SIM cards, navigating the Medanta maze, locating my transport…what’s the point? I remember this state now. Its called acceptance. Living by Grace. This has become unfamiliar territory to me – too long away from India. Assume control, take charge, are mantras that I generally live by. Lets face it, I am a Project Manager. But India has insidiously crept under my skin, and Her Way is not to be messed with. Give up, surrendering to what is. An entirely different beat. In The West, we assiduously study mindfulness, read books like The Power of Now to discover an alternative to forcing our over-scheduled life to our will and into compliance. Go to India. No special courses required. Surrender or go mad.