When I said in Bukit Ibam there were a couple of shops, houses, 2 schools and a cinema theatre and pretty much nothing else. That wasn’t quite true. There was a market, hospital and dental surgery. I think there was a restaurant as well, but I’m not too sure. I remember eating out once and it was Chinese food i.e., noodles.
We used to have regular dental checkups. These visits were arranged by the school and we were taken there by our teachers. In those days if you had a dental cavity the dentist would drill it and make it bigger and fill it in and then the next time he would take the filling out and drill an even bigger hole. Nowadays they wouldn’t touch it. As a result the dentist pretty much destroyed couple of my teeth and Asha’s as well.
The first time I went to see the doctor I remember waiting with my dad to be called in and we went into this huge room with a small table and chair in the middle with this very important looking man sitting at the desk. I was only 5 or 6. Something just struck me at that moment and that was it. I had made my decision. This is what I wanted to do when I grew up. I did not have a clue how I was going to do it, but I had plenty of time to figure it out.
As I grew older I realised that there were no doctors in the family and that only those with good grades made it. So I worked hard even from a young age.
The crunch time came during the pre degree exams. The theory paper was done and I was fairly confident. Next was the practicals. A small mistake was all it took to lose the marks. For my biology dissection exam I had to dissect a cockroach’s mouth parts ie the maxilla and mandible. I remember that there were 4 parts in total you had to dissect and the parts had to be intact. You could have easily sneaked these in your instrument box in those days, but I was too honest. Just as I pulled the mandible, it split in two pieces. I could see my future evaporate right in front of my eyes. What was I going to do? I had to find a solution. I caught the eye of the attendant and beckoned him over without the teacher noticing. I then told him that I needed another cockroach, which he duly gave me. I then dissected this one more carefully and got my required set of mouth parts. The attendant was not going to do this for free was he. He came and stood close to me for a few minutes while I was busy dissecting. It was a small price to pay. He knew I couldn’t tell the teacher about him. If you’ve travelled in public transport in Kerala during the rush hour, this is what women have to put up with daily. Anyway I actually passed with good marks and got into med school with ease, so I am not sure if the mandible would have made a difference or not.