From Goa I take a flight to Rajasthan, not to see the desert, or the lakes or the tigers, or to see temples or the Aravali Hills, nope, I am here to go to the Dentist.
As I stand in the queue at Goa airport an extremely miserable customer is at the check in desk in front of me, arguing with the airline rep. It all seems a little pointless, getting bad tempered, and when my turn comes I smile at the woman behind the counter and say good morning to her, she smiles back, I hand over my luggage and she passes me my boarding card, I check the flight and departure time and put it in my pocket. Then she hands me a ticket for the Restaurant, with your ticket you can eat before your flight for free she explains, I am a little surprised, I bought the cheapest ticket I could find, but there you go, a free meal. Perfect.
An hour late my flight is called, I go the departure gate, it’s, hot, sticky & the queue rather long, we wait an age, irritatingly as the flight is called a small group of Americans, distinctly banker looking in their pinstripe suits are ushered straight to the front of the queue and on to the plane. The word C*NTS springs into my mind. I have never flown first class, people with too much money fly first class, eventually me and the other economy travellers are herded onto the plane, then I realise I havent checked my seat number, I pull out my boarding pass, Seat 1A, I look at it again, no it must be a mistake, I bought an economy seat, not a first class seat. I walk straight past seat 1A in first class, it looks rather comfortable, but it can’t be mine, there must be another 1A in Economy, I walk the length of the plane, there is no other 1A, i walk all the way back again, I store my bag in the locker above and take my seat next to an American in pinstripes. I do my best to look as though I always travel first class, or at least what I think people that travel first class do.
The flight takes off and no sooner are we in the air than a waitress asks me if I would like a drink, she returns with a glass, a tablecloth on which to rest it and a bowl of munchies. I figure that if the airline has screwed up then I might as well enjoy the ride.
I’ve already had one lunch, but now for the first time I’m in first class, I have to eat a second lunch, I can’t turn it down. It is served on porcelain plates, the cutlery is metal, not a sign of plastic anywhere. After eating I stretch out, i need to, I think I am going to explode, there is legroom to spare. An hour later I realise I need a pee, do they have first class toilets I wonder, they must have, but I think if I ask if there is a first class forward toilet it will give the game away, those that travel first class would know. I decide it’s better not to ask, if I do they will rumble me and I will be chucked back to economy. My bladder will just have to deal with it until we land in Udaipur.
Standing outside Dr.Bansals Dental practice in the suburbs of Udaipur I pause for a moment, it’s 40 degrees and the sun is blazing, I take a big breath and open the large plate glass door and step into air conditioned coolness. As I walk towards the reception desk I am conscious that all of the eyes in the room are following my progression, I realise I am the alien in the room. The receptionist says something to me in Hindi, I look back at her with my best blank expression, she points at my feet, I look at my feet, I look back at her, slowly I grasp the fact that I am in my birkenstocks, everyone else is bare footed. I go back the way I came, deposit my birkies on the step and return to reception as the eyes follow me once again. I am ushered into Dr.Bansuls office and sit and wait for the man himself. I look at a large class cabinet that stretches from floor to ceiling, each shelf filled with certificates & awards, this guy knows what he is doing and I’ve been recommended to see him. We discuss what implants I am to have, the options are Australian or Swiss. The Swiss ones are twice the price, but better quality he tells me. I think for a moment, Switzerland, Alps, Clockwork. i go for the Swiss implants.
After X rays I am moved to the dentists chair. I am then covered from head to foot in a kind of Burka, just a small section for my mouth and eyes is left open, it is I am told an infection barrier, I feel faintly ridiculous peering out from the hole, I hear the clatter of metal tools close by and in my small square of vision a hand holding a large pair of pliers comes towards me. I think of Dustin Hofman and Marathon Man, and thank the person who invented anaesthetic.
Four hours later Doctor Bansal decides its enough for my first day, there are after all two more weeks of treatment to go. As my covers are removed he asks me if I feel comfortable, this strikes me as rather absurd, he has just removed two teeth, one of which required his assistant holding my head still whilst he levered it out, screwed in two metal rods, gave me three fillings and then stitched me up not once but twice. Now I am not quite sure how anyone would describe themselves as comfortable after this and so I reply – Am I comfortable? Comfortable compared to what exactly? He laughs and says he will see me again on monday.
I leave the surgery feeling like I have been in a fight, and that I came second. Going to the Dentist whether in Harley street or Harayana I decide is not so different, except in the former you get to keep your shoes on and pay ten times as much for the privilege