Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Holy Sidewalk Dentist Baba from Varanasi

You don't get to see this everyday, thank Shiva. My friend Julie had seen a "baba," an ascetic holy man, squatting by the side of the road and fitting people for dentures. Sensing a Kodak moment and relishing all things bizarre, we visited him at his "office," a spot of gravel on the side of the road next to the fetid trough of open sewage we like to call "gutters" here. You think I'm exaggerating.
He was happy to have us visit, and bought us a cup of tea, as we watched him hand-mould a bridge out of some fast-drying resin. We thought it was shocking enough to have his grotty, unwashed hands stuffed into the mouths of his patients. But when we saw a tooth being pulled, also on the side of the road, it made the denture fitting seem tame. But you'll see...
The stories follow below, with the photos.
This is the first patient we saw him working on:
Mr. Dentist-Baba has beautiful green eyes:
We didn't see who he made this full set of dentures for:
These plastic teeth are hand-set into the resin to build the dentures or bridge:
The before:
Forming and fitting the bridge, all in one go, and by hand:
Tools of the trade: a hand-grinder to polish the bridge, bare feet to hold the grinder, an upturned cup where he mixed the resin, the ground whereupon all the tools lay between use, and Julie's foot - witness to it all. The Muslim woman wearing black is the mother of the girl who's about to get a tooth pulled - on the street, squatting by the gutter:
Now that is one happy customer!
Story #2: A young girl gets two scary-looking injections, just next to Mr. Dentist-Baba.
He pulls out the heavy artillery, and the girl isn't even sitting down - she's squatting as Mr. Less-Colorful-Dentist CRANKS on her tooth.We don't know why she didn't faint, because we almost did.
A view of the wider scene, with the baba in the background, and the mother and sister in the foreground:
She used a plastic bucket to rinse out her bloody mouth and spit into the gutter. But she doesn't look any worse for the wear - and she said it didn't hurt. She looks older, but she's only 14.
Mr. Dentist-Baba is happy to show off his, uh, pearly whites, which inexplicably look like mini sushi rolls. The red color on his lips comes from the betelnut that he chews. I really love this place!
Too much love,
(The End)