Wearing glasses is more of a fashion statement these days than a necessity for those with flawed vision. They come in every shape geometry can conjure, and every tint white light can be split into. In my childhood, though, donning spectacles immediately labeled you a nerd. And considering the unfashionably thick frames big enough to encompass half your face they came in, that tag wasn’t unfitting.
The first hint of the acuity of my vision slipping could have ideally been detected in the boast of my ability to read off the blackboard even from the last bench – a skill that earned me the nickname ‘eagle-eye’ in class. This, of course, was a precursor to hyperopia, aka, long sightedness.
But given the nature of middle-class parents, I had to hold a sessions court to convince my mother of the problem I was facing. She on the other hand countered with the argument that if I could read the fine print in books without any difficulty, the blur in perceiving distant figures was all a part of my imagination. She also used this opportunity to put a ban on television for me.
So, at 13, I felt man enough to rise up to the occasion and venture into a clinic for an eye-checkup all by myself. I stepped into the sterile environment of the place, its pale green-and-white interior awash with a strong odour of disinfectant. I was sucking on a Cadbury éclair to keep the jitters away as I walked up to the poker faced receptionist to ask, “eye-check up?” as if enquiring about the availability of sugar at the neighbourhood grocery store.
With an irritated frown, she pointed to a sign that showed:
‘BY APPOINTMENT ONLY’.
A 360˚ view around me confirmed that I was the only patient present.
“Can I get an appointment now?”
“With which doctor?” she asked cockily, fully aware that I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, attempting to show an unchaperoned oversmart kid his place.
But I wasn’t one to get bullied by a person frustrated with her job.
I walked straight to the list of the names of doctors who were available there, picked one, and threw it right at my challenger.
“Doctor Ganguly.” I said, putting her in place.
She smirked, and passed on a little form to write my name on, beneath the name of the doctor I wanted to see. After being made to wait for twenty minutes, I was instructed to walk down a corridor and enter the third door on the left.
The chamber I entered seemed something of science-fiction with all its fancy gadgets, the quality of even the microscope making the one at my school look like a tool from the stone-age.
A woman’s calm voice asked me to take a seat on a reclined chair for inspection. I did so.
A moment later the most beautiful face I would ever see in my life took form beside me – perfect smile, twinkling eyes, cascading hair, the works.
What a contrast to the gorgon receptionist!
I was proud of my choice of doctor.
“Spit that out” she said, referring to the piece of sticky candy still in my mouth.
I wondered why but didn’t ask.
I gurgled with a small glass of water she handed to me. I was mesmerized by her beauty. I would do anything she told me to.
“Do you eat a lot of sweets?”
“Yes.” I answered, smiling.
“No wonder.” She said.
Ok, then, no wonder, thought I, pleased.
Sometime during my daze she had deftly placed a plastic instrument in my mouth that kept it firmly open, exposing both my jaws. I wasn’t familiar with the process of getting ones vision checked (I hadn’t asked my parents, thinking myself too enlightened), neither did I know of any existing connection between teeth and eyes. Biology was never my favourite subject in school. Who was I to question such intricacies?
She poked around my molars for a bit with a pointed equipment asking me once in a awhile if I felt any pain. I answered in occasional yes and no, waiting for her to ask me read off a board that had those alphabets displayed soon.
I was knocked out of the dreamy haze a momentary crush had put me into with the shrill sound of a drill.
Reality dawned on me.
My overconfidence had taken its toll – while I was smart enough to go look up a doctor from the list in the lobby, I didn’t bother reading the professional’s specialization.
Instead of an ophthalmologist, I had picked a dentist!
No wonder the receptionist was so smug.
Too embarrassed to admit to the mistake, I came back home with two fill-ups that day– one on the right premolar of the upper jaw, and the other on the first left molar on my lower jaw.
Till date, the only thought that keeps my senses from flooding with embarrassment is that so what if my first visit to a doctor’s didn’t go anything as planned – at least two good things came of it: one, I got the cavities in my teeth that I didn’t know were there in the first place, fixed.
Second, I got a chance to meet the most enchanting lady ever!