A Toothy Tale

In most issues in life, it is ultimately the heart of the matter that counts. Especially so, if the matter pertains to the heart itself. Or at least, to the affinity between a pair of human hearts. This elementary piece of wisdom has little relevance in practice of course. The essence of a human relationship is often so thoroughly obscured by a quagmire of trivialities, that even the involved parties remain ignorant of the bonds that hold them together. 

Nirmalya Roy lived in Kolkata. He was a rather handsome person and a dentist by profession, whom worldly success had eluded all his life.  The fault did not lie in his stars, but in himself. His family had sent him to the University of Pennsylvania, which housed in its campus one of the top dental schools that the US could boast of at the time. He finished his education with flying colours, returning back to India with a DDS degree that few of his contemporaries failed to envy. Yet, as we observed, he was anything but a success in his professional life. His major shortcoming consisted of garrulity which, though apparently innocent, was in fact a deadly addiction. He spent excessively long periods of time with patients. And more than half the time so spent was wasted in idle conversation, frequently causing the ones in the waiting room to leave in anger and disgust. His unprofessional conduct cost him his career, but he was himself least affected by this, given that he never betrayed even a spark of an ambition to rise in life.   

His wife Seymonti, however, had an approach to life that ran in an exactly opposite direction. She was an adorably pretty housewife with a head full of social aspirations, built entirely around her husband; and she was ever impatient to see him dart across her universe like an inter-galactic missile. But her launching mission failed with stubborn regularity. Nirmalya Roy held firmly on to terra firma. 

Persons as diametrically opposed as the Roys are not expected to be model examples of peaceful coexistence. And indeed, they were not. Their lives were marked by recurrent confrontations, war of words that usually degenerated into blood curdling cries, sometimes beyond human comprehension. Disagreement became a way of life with them, a habit as it were, irrespective of the subject they happened to wrangle over. As a result, their disputes varied from the profound to the ridiculous, bordering now and then on the farcical. 

The following tale should elucidate the point. 

One morning, Seymonti Roy woke up with a toothache. There was a visible inflammation  on her right cheek that threatened to destroy the symmetry of the immaculate face that she possessed. The pain having gotten the better of her, she finally decided to have herself examined by her husband. He undertook a thorough examination of the tooth in his chamber, which adjoined their residence, and declared that it had to go. She was visibly shaken by the prospect of a tooth being pulled out. And since they needed only the slightest of pretexts to start up an argument, she responded to his suggestion with cynical disdain. 

“There’s nothing wrong with the tooth,” she observed, “you’re merely after my blood.” 

Normal human beings might dismiss such a remark as a joke, even if unfair. But theirs was not a run of the mill household. Consequently, Nirmalya Roy let out his characteristic howl. 

“Yes, I am after your blood,” yelled he. “Gallons of it rest assured!” 

What followed was bedlam, with Dr. Roy, brandishing a hypodermic syringe in one hand and a pair of forceps in the other, performing around his petrified life’s partner the dance of a cannibal chief preparing to feast on the white man’s flesh. To the casual observer, neither person exhibited at this point of time the slightest trace of the good looks that nature had profusely showered over them. And this even if the bulge on the lady’s cheek were to be ignored. 

He gave up anticlimactically however, and the effect was counterproductive. It transformed his wife’s attitude from one of mild hesitation to an obstinate refusal to part with the tooth of contention. She would rather bear the pain, she declared, than follow his advice. Strangely enough, the pain too subsided somewhat. Or, so at least she claimed. 

A few days later, they went visiting a dentist friend, whom Dr. Roy knew from his student days. They met in the surgeon’s chamber around closing time, planning to move on from there to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Predictably, the vague boundary between a social and a professional get-together faded away, the conversation veering on to such all absorbing subjects as decaying teeth and purulent gums and finally, much to Mrs. Roy’s resentment, to her ailment. 

The friend was up on his feet immediately, probing brutishly into her mouth. She had to yield to the examination, reluctantly no doubt, being caught in a foreign territory. The dentist gasped with disbelief at what he saw and started screaming at Dr. Roy for his gross negligence. The latter too, refusing to be browbeaten, roared back in indignation. And in the emerging commotion, before one knew what was really happening, the tooth had abruptly ended its caries ridden existence, hanging helplessly in the claws of a gleaming pair of forceps, held securely by the beaming surgeon. 

The dinner engagement was cancelled of course. And, as the friend saw the Roys off in a taxi, he addressed Mrs. Roy with an understanding smile. 

“To tell you the truth Mrs. Roy, my wife too doesn’t have much faith in my professional skills. She normally visits other dentists! I was in total sympathy with both of you when your husband called me up with a script for the play we acted today!” 

Mrs. Roy hissed with rage at this piece of intelligence from between her clenched teeth, which held on to the blob of surgical cotton in her mouth. Her husband on his part gloated with satisfaction over his one-upmanship, and made no secret of his merriment all the way back home. What added to his morbid glee was the fact that the lady was in no condition to open her mouth and retort vocally. 

This author has no information on the course of action Mrs. Roy resorted to once she regained control over her vocal chords. She could well have discovered a way of taking her husband to task for causing her embarrassment, but if she did so, she must have been aware at the same time that it was his careful planning after all that had brought her relief from physical pain. It could not have been easy for her to resolve the conflict. 

As for Dr. Roy, his character too was mysterious to say the least. Realizing that his wife’s ego would stand in the way of having him administer the treatment, he did not hesitate to sacrifice his own and employ an intricately woven subterfuge to alleviate her pain! Now, if he cared so much for her, why on earth didn’t he pay more attention to his practice and offer her a decent life style? 

Since we are unlikely though to discover what constituted the heart of the matter, it is best that we allow the curtain to descend on our story without further investigation.


More by :  Dipankar Dasgupta

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