‘I need to buy more clothes.’

‘My tooth is hurting.’

‘New shoes too, I think i need floaters. It’s so hot in Delhi’

‘I think it’s not hurting, it is just being sensitive.’

‘I am getting out of school uniform, finally!’

‘Should I see a doctor??’

‘How will I commute?’

‘It’s not even a molar, what can be wrong with my canine?’

‘May be, I should take auto or ask papa for the car?’

‘I think it’s going to fall off, I can barely touch it, it’s so sensitive.’

‘Or should I do car pool with somebody.’

‘I need to see a doctor, it needs to be treated.’

I realise I was talking to my self, sitting on the coffee table in front of TV. There was an option to sit on the sofa or on the chair but I chose table. Teenager mind works differently, may be it is a sign of liberation. Not adhering to the rules of the world, doing things their way. My mind was constantly shuttling between college, which was going to start in a week and my tooth, which was not in good health for some reasons i couldn’t fathom.

Just then my cousin walked in, who was visiting her Orthodontist. I chose to accompany her and show my tooth to the doctor. I wanted to settle down the problem before the college started.

College in India is the epitome of freedom. From the age of 3 when you start schooling, you live by rules, designed by others. Your parents choose the school and the school decides rest of your life. Most of your early and teenage years go shuttling between school, tuition and some extra curricular classes like music, sports or dance. You live half of your life till 18 in one uniform, wearing same style of shoes, sporting same kind of hair style, travelling in the same school bus, day after day.

College on the other hand is freedom!

You decide everything yourself, starting from college itself. Everyday is a new day, new friends, new experience, newly found freedom, a restriction and limitation free life.

Since you lived most of your life wearing one uniform to school thus in college you pay extra attention dressing up, clothes and shoes are chosen with care, hair is done in latest style colouring and shading them as per popular trend, accessory adds the required spunk to the personality. You are the babe. You are the dude. All ready to take on the world, armed with your confidence and personality.

At this age, you some how get license to date. Unofficially though. You must have been in a relationship in the past but your parents never accepted,  encouraged or even acknowledged it. Your parents always believed and tried making you believe that you are too young for any other relationship besides being son/daughter or sister/brother. So the wonderful time college is, besides exploring what would you want to do to make your money you would also explore with much eagerness, who would you want to spend all your money with?

I was on the verge of freedom.

Since my tooth was hurting, I visited the doctor with my cousin in Defence Colony. They have a lovely three floor house and half of it is converted in dental clinic, where husband and wife practice. In one of the many visits, I learned that their son is also studying some form of dentistry and will join them as soon as he is done. Why is that important to me??? because later it turned out that he was quite delightful, chocolate looking and the driving force behind our punctuality. I never ever missed any appointment.

I am seated on the dental chair, in not so relaxed position, my wide mouth open with doctor’s apparatus inside my mouth. Light glaring on me from the high volt lamp which is positioned right on top of me my face.

‘Which one is sensitive? This one?’

He hits his tool on my tooth and excruciating pain goes through my jaw and hits my head.

‘Yeah.’

I can barely speak with my mouth wide open.

‘Does it pain now?’

He hits it from a different angle.

‘Yes, it does.’

I want to scream and hit him back. If it is hurting from one angle, it will hurt from another.

‘Ok, looks like you are still a baby.’

‘Humm, what?’

‘You have a milk tooth.’

‘What??????’

‘Yeah, you have a milk tooth, it didn’t fall all this while.’

‘I am 18, how is it possible?’

‘It is, you have a milk tooth. It didn’t fall and your earlier doctor didn’t remove it.’

We are Indians, dental health only appears in our scheme of things when it is utmost necessary. We would avoid seeing the dentist as much as we can. Even when the need arises, we would delay it as much as we can. This is one habit which is common from north to south and east to west. It is also consistent across all religion and cast.

It’s still sinking in. I couldn’t react physically or emotionally as he is still inspecting my teeth.

‘Have you ever been to a dentist earlier?’

He didn’t wait for my reply.

‘Looks like you have cavity. Let’s see, one, two, three Hmm ok, now top, four, five, six.’

‘You have cavity in 6 teeth and your wisdom tooth is tilted,’

I am cursing myself, why did I ever come, I could have lived with the sensitive tooth. Anyway the pain was not permanent.

Finally, his hands out of my mouth. Glaring lights switched off. We are having man to man discussion, or in this case man to woman with baby tooth.

‘So I suggest, we fix your cavities first, remove your wisdom tooth, it’s any way not required and then remove your milk tooth.’

‘ Is there anyway to avoid it.’

‘No, if you want healthy teeth in the future.’

‘Great, since I have no choice, let’s go with it.’

I am novice in this field, so my imagination is limiting me. I can’t imagine what more can happen with my teeth, I am in for a big surprise.

‘But once we remove your milk tooth, it will leave a gap in your lower jaw.’

Boom! I am hit by a rock, obviously it didn’t occur to me.

‘And since it is in the front, it will look quite odd.’

I really want to pinch myself and wake up, it’s not happening to me. My college is going to start in a week’s time. I can’t go to college without my tooth.

‘How will I look?’

‘Everybody will laugh at me?’

‘Who would want to befriend a weird-looking girl? God no!’

‘So, to cover up the gap, we need to pull your teeth together, for that we will put braces.’

Now, I want to die.

Braces in college? They are bad enough when you are in school but in college. I am freaked out beyond my wits.

Since there is no escape and I have to get the milk tooth extracted and wear braces to look decent again, I am hoping it won’t last long. May be in six months braces would come off. I am in for another shocker.

‘Braces are slow process , it will take at least 2.5 yrs to 3 yrs.’

‘That’s all of my college life!’

‘Are you saying I have to wear braces for 3 years to fix my teeth.’

‘Pretty much, but depending upon your progress, it may come out earlier.’

‘When do you want to start.’

After that I had nothing to say. I had to go with it, I wanted my teeth to be in good condition to be able to chew at 60.’

First day of my college, I carefully chose my clothes, wore best of my denim with white top and canvas shoes. I entered college campus, my teeth decorated with glittering braces. I had option, I could have chosen coloured ones, i preferred silver.

Nobody seems to notice my braces. If they did, they didn’t mention it. I was surprised by general kindness of people, they were letting me be and not taking dig at steel in my mouth. Some of them were extra supportive, as they found my braces cute, it’s pointless to mention that they were mostly boys.

For the next three years in the college I was known as cute girl with braces. I thank god for that, it could have been weird girl with braces.

As humans, we tend to exaggerate and blow any situation into a big problem by thinking negatively and giving it an undue importance, it may or may not even be a problem. As it happens most of the time, it may be just any other situation which needs to be dealt with, at times with some care.

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