India – Cut and Dried takes artistic liberty in chronicling real experiences during my life in India between 2002 and 2014.
The Indians invented zero, built the Taj Mahal, threw the towel in and called it a day. Historians were told to take the next several hundred years off. Deep within the Indian psyche once lay an adventurous spirit which sought to understand the best of things. Now it asks, “‘What’s the worst that can happen?”
A couple of years back, I went to see a doctor in Bangalore. As luck would have it, he was one of those wizened, cynical men who have seen it all. The man waved me to a chair as he fiddled with a phone. He made no attempt to establish eye contact. As he fiddled, his sub-conscious voice rang out, “I’ve been in this profession for 40 years. I’ve seen it all. The Hippocratic Oath be damned. It’s not worth saving you people. You can wait until this app finishes downloading on my pathetic 2G connection. Feel free to leave anytime. What’s the worst that can happen?”
I took in the windowless room. The man had shut himself out from the rest of the world. And here I was, an unwelcome intrusion.
I’ve been to doctors in America. The startling thing about them is that they communicate. Rather fluently as a matter of fact. They use sentences with more than two words. They wear clean shirts. And shoes.
“You think I’ll make it, doc? The faint rash on the lower thigh looks fatal, doesn’t it?”
The doctor always resisted the temptation to slap me across the face. Instead he’d put his notepad down, look me in the eyeballs and explain why I wasn’t about to tragically die young.
As my thoughts wandered, the doctor in Bangalore continued to fiddle. After five minutes, he looked up and made fleeting eye contact through a mirror on the wall as though I was Medusa and he was Perseus.
Then I heard him speak. Hallelujah!
“So what’s your problem?”
“Umm.. we met last week.. ”
This caused him to lose any interest he might have had in me at this point. His eyes lowered and he reverted to Neroesque fiddling as I sat likely dying of an incurable ailment.
I waited in uncertainty. Sensing a rapidly losing cause, I spoke again.
“I have a ringing noise in my ears. You told me to get hearing tests done. I have brought the results.”
He looked up.
“Yes, I remember you. Why is it not ringing?”
I stared, wondering which of us had a hearing problem.
“I said that MY ears are ringing.”
“I know. I meant my phone.”
Foxed by his cryptic words, I stayed tuned in for further updates.
“I just bought a new phone. It’s not ringing. What could be wrong?”
He handed me a brand new Samsung Galaxy 2.
“Maybe if my phone rang and your ears didn’t, we could call it a win-win, no?”
He laughed. It was a good one. But it failed to move me. Resentful, I turned the volume of the phone up.
“Here you go.”
I handed the phone to him. His facial expression continued to indicate that interest in my welfare had not made an appearance yet.
“How about I give you my phone number and you call me?”
I like to think of myself as a Zen kind of guy, with an inner Buddha chanting Tat Tvam Asi and the works. I believe that anger resides only in the bosom of fools. I have let go. And I’ve been happy ever since. I even wrote a book on all of this. Yet I felt a rising tide of anger.
“You want me to leave now and call you later?”
He looked at me, his eyes crinkling as though they were staring at the sun.
“No, not like that. Can you call me so I can hear the phone ring?”
My inner Buddha struggled to process this request. Glumly I acceded. It made him distinctly happier.
“Let’s see your results.”
He opened the envelope and began reading. His next question was a wicked doosra.
“Have you ever stood in front of a large speaker?”
“Because you have lost 50% of your hearing at higher frequencies.”
I waited for more. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him continue.
“Your hearing is normal enough to hear humans speak. Isn’t that good enough?”
My inner Buddha fought valiantly to contain my inner Hercules from slaying the man with a machete in one fluid motion. Outwardly calm, I responded.
“You said that I’ve lost half my hearing at a higher frequency. Is this normal? How did this happen?”
“I told you already. You must have stood in front of a large speaker.”
“But I have not stood in front of a large speaker. I once watched Nitin Gadkari speak on TV. That doesn’t count, does it?,” I protested.
“You must have. Unless you are 60 years old. Anyway, how does it matter?”
His inner Buddha had stumped mine. I resorted to another line of attack.
“Can you make the ringing noise go away?”
“Depends on what?”
“Are you willing to wear a hearing aid? Some people think they look weird.”
“If you put it that way, no.”
“Then I can’t make the ringing noise go away.”
“But I got your phone to ring. That was our deal.”
My plea fell on deaf ears. Pun intended.
“Sorry. There is nothing I can do.”
“Wait. Is this a symptom of something else which could be serious?”
“You are the doctor. You tell me. Please.”
“Probably not. I don’t think so. Unlikely.”
“Probably? You don’t think so? You are not sure? Don’t you want to look inside my ears or something?”
“Come on, doc. I say we check for something.”
I was licked. I let go.
“Fine. Let me understand what happened just now. I fixed your phone. And then you told me that you can’t fix my hearing. That I have to live with a ringing noise in my ears. That we should not bother because I am PROBABLY not dying of something serious right now. Is that correct?”
“Correct. Look at it another way. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just lose all your hearing in another 10 or 20 years. Speaking of bad things, do you think I should get a screen protector for my phone?”
At this juncture, I did as any normal Indian would. I threw in the towel and called it a day.