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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mentally straight and Dentally crooked !

           Whenever. I think of NDA (National Defence Academy), it is always with a mixed feeling. On one hand, it is truly a Cradle for Leadership where an unsure youngster is slowly and surely turned into a confident young man. On the other hand one also gets to see some mindless rituals and extreme sadism which pass for training, particularly when practised on unsuspecting teenagers, ironically by other teenagers. If an alumnus says that he enjoyed his first term there, either he is a consanguineous liar or a die hard masochist.

        Be that as it may, every first termer looked forward to an escape route . There were lucky ones who were part of some Squadron sports team and at least for the duration of that sport event , they got a respite from day to day 'ragada.' . Everyone needed a break to maintain a semblance of sanity. For my own mental stability , what came to the rescue was my 'dental instability'. It is this dental escapade that I am writing about.

        I had , and still have a really crooked set of teeth. At NDA, at the very first visit to the Hospital for a routine check up,a dental surgeon from Pune happened to be there. This surgeon was absolutely fascinated by my teeth; well formed ,strong but set in two distinct rows. He must have loved cosmetic dental surgery, and couldn't resist having a shot at putting them all in one line.

          He patiently explained to me that he could align all my teeth in a perfect row and that there would be no gaps whatsoever; it would be like a perfect set of pearls ! Of course , he told me, it would require pulling out three good teeth, to make way for the unruly ones. The full import of his proposal did not hit me then, and all I registered was that 'I would get a chance to get away from the academy and seek refuge in the hospital , at regular intervals.

        So the treatment started. At the Academy, the highest priority was accorded to a call from the medical authorities , and the 2” x  4“ chit bearing the date on which I had to report to Command Military Dental Centre , (CMDC for short) was my passport to a well earned break. On the appointed day, I told my course-mates, that I was 'proceeding to CMDC' and reported to the Military Hospital after breakfast. From there a bus took us to the military Hospitals at Pune and Kirkee. A first termer could sleep anywhere, any time and I slept in the bus and later in the CMDC waiting room. There were times I got to meet my dentist and there were times , he was too busy to meet me and in either case I got my next date. At least on one occasion, no one noticed me in the Waiting room till it was time to leave and I was simply given a chit for the next date.

      The treatment involved , taking x -rays, preparing moulds and all this took a number of visits, unlike the present times. Three months passed and it was soon time for the end of term activities. So one fine day, the dentist realized that my term break would upset his schedule for treatment and he decided to postpone the actual surgery to the next term.

     The next term was a different story altogether. I never again went anywhere near the Dental Centre except for a routine check up by the GD (general Duty) dentist, who was not interested in any fancy surgery, and only the smokers among the batch were dished out 'chits' for scaling.

     So ended my cosmetic surgery , even before it started and into the last year of my service,  I still love my crooked set of teeth. The first line of our daily prayer at NDA went like this ' Oh God, help us to keep ourselves physically fit, mentally alert and morally straight.... “ My own unsaid prayer went, “ ...keep me mentally straight and dentally crooked , so that I may proceed to CMDC, Pune..........