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Form filling

By Nickunj Malik - Nov 22,2017 - Last updated at Nov 22,2017

Unlike most people who shy away from it, I love filling out forms. You can hand me any application — complaint, visa, immigration, customs, bank account opening, money transfer, feedback, airline miles, hotel loyalty programme and so on — and I find myself rushing to fill in the blanks. 

Very often, nobody reads my answers or suggestions. I know this because in one departmental store I notice a trash basket positioned right under the wooden box into which the customer grievance letters are supposed to be placed. I tap the bottom of the contraption, which is a bit wobbly, and realise belatedly where those missives are going — straight inside the rubbish bin!

This dampens my enthusiasm for a few days as I ponder over the sheer futility of the entire exercise. I mean there is no point in investing my time and energy on doing something that finds its way to a shredding machine, says the voice in my head. There must be other ways to be gainfully employed.

I manage to will myself to control my compulsion and avoid all sorts of forms. But one evening I get a severe toothache and have to search for emergency dental care. The thing about teeth pain, on an aside, is that it can strike you at any godforsaken hour, and it is only then that you grudgingly value the services of a good dentist. 

Incidentally, in my home country India, dentistry is not taken very seriously. The universal opinion is that any medical student who does not get high enough grades to enrol into a medical college, goes on to become a dentist. Most often, they are not even called dentists but scathingly referred to as teeth doctors. In such a scenario, village barbers also double up as dental surgeons, often pulling out the errant tooth with pieces of string, and oral hygiene remains an alien concept. 

But when circumstances compel me to visit one, I take my husband along for moral support. It is not a good idea because he views dentists with great scepticism. According to him they are all crooks who fix one tooth while simultaneously and accidentally drilling a cavity in the next one. He tells me repeatedly that the best way to retain a set of healthy teeth is to stay away from the whole lot of them. Like any good wife, I hear him out and then ignore his advice.

We walk into the alien dentist’s clinic in complete silence. A receptionist welcomes us, asks if it is our first visit and hands some forms to fill out. I grab them eagerly because this time I know whatever I write would be read by the good doctor. After the initial name, age and address section the real questionnaire unfolds. The queries are thorough and I read them aloud before responding as truthfully as I can. 

“What can we do to make you smile?” is the question. 

“Tell me a joke,” I scribble. 

“Do you grind your teeth?” 

“Write yes, at my spouse!” instructs my husband.

“No,” I reply. 

“Do you feel nervous about visiting a dentist?” is the next question. 

“Of course,” I agree.

“Do you have difficulty in opening or closing your jaw?”

I answer in the negative.

“What is the one thing you hate about a dental visit?” is the last question. 

“I will reply to that,” my husband takes the pen from me. 

“The bill,” he jots down, in large font. 

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