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 dentist whom worldly success eluded all his life. The fault did not lie in his stars, but in himself. 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.

Mrs. Seymonti Roy’s outlook was the exact opposite of Dr. Roy’s. She was a 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. 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.

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. 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 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.

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  • knot2share  On June 24, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I am wondering if you decided to post this after noticing Kamalji’s old post ” The man with the golden tooth ” , re-emerge from the nearly forgotten land!!…. :-).

    A good humour with a bit of truth too – – “To tell you the truth Mrs. Roy, my wife too doesn’t have much faith in my professional skills. She normally visits other dentists!”…hahaha. I loved this. I would probably be on the same boat as Mrs Roy.

    • dipankardasgupta  On June 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

      Dear k2s:

      This is actually an old piece, which I revised. I was not happy with the way it ended earlier. I might have put it up at IL too, but most probably it was the earlier version. It’s difficult to search for one’s own compositions at IL, but I may need to do it as I collect the ones that are my favourites to put up here.

      Incidentally, most people who have known me personally since my young days, would have no difficulty recognizing the Roys in the story. 🙂


  • kerman  On June 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Dear Kaku
    A trip to a dentist calls for courage and by the time I reach the clinic and cringing in fear of the un-“expected” …. pain….. So I don’t blame Mrs Roy being in a paranoid state all the while due to her husband’s profession which would probably lead her to strengthen her defenses such that she appears to be offensive most of the time…. as they say offense is best form of defense!!! Her failing to understand why Dr. Roy is unable to earn her the pot of gold is because she probably never sat in his patient’s chair and hence doesn’t realise that if patients like me are there they need a good dose of encouragement before they can even open their mouths…..
    Dr. Roy on the other hand curses himself as his reputation of being a good patient dentist with his patients is actually ruining his chances of “minting money” as he had planned to earlier when he started his career as some like me refuse to open their mouths even with a lot of cajoling and land up invariably biting his fingers!!! and the he has to deal with his wife who is never happy with the dough he makes….
    So their relationship is always volatile and this is what binds them together forever!!!
    hope my analysis was correct

    • dipankardasgupta  On June 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Dear Kerman:

      I am sure your analysis is correct. It is not correct because it agrees with what everyone else’s assessment may be. Each one has his or her original point of view and I think a story should be left to the reader’s interpretation. If the reader thinks it’s interesting enough to deserve spending time on for an interpretation, then the writer’s purpose is adequately served. There is nothing right or wrong about creative writings. No unique interpretation either.



  • sarada  On June 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    As soon as I found some time to spare, I logged on to read this, as it had been beckoning me since the day I first visited your site . Well worth the wait.
    Dear me ! What can I say, Dipankar ! You are in your element here .
    LOL !
    LOL !
    LOL !
    LOL !
    LOL !

    All my sympathies to Mrs. Roy.
    Thanks for the great sunday entertainment.

    • dipankardasgupta  On June 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      Dear Sarada:

      Thanks a lot. Your comment means a great deal to me.

      Best regards.


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