Dental work and Shiva temples

It seemed a good idea to go to the dentist in Goa. Friends had root canals, implants and bridges, all with success, and the crowns we both needed were an 85% saving. Hard to turn down. But like all coins, there was another side.


Early Sunday morning, we arrived on time for the first appointment of the day and waited in the open balcony that served as a waiting room for over a half an hour. , but the dentist was on Indian time. Meanwhile the two young dentist assistants scurried around preparing for the day. While we waited, the girls would come out and look over the balcony for the dentist. Finally they decided they could risk it and order their breakfast from across the street. Coming back with newspaper parcels, they sat in the surgery eating pav bhaji (a potato stew) and fried puris. We visualised them sitting in the dentist chair enjoying their meal. Five minutes later we heard them washing off their plates and hands with what sounded like the water jet.

Finally the white-jacketed dentist and his assistant arrived and with an air of professional confidence, dare I say arrogance. Wasting no time, they fitted first Gerard for a mold and slapped on a temporary, and then did the same for me. I was told to get up. Waiting for the back of the chair to lift, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. With the blood all running to my head and dizzy, I managed to swing myself up out of the chair. As the world came back into focus, I realized the dentist had made no attempt to clean off the excess cement around the temporary. For the next half hour I was spitting out bits of cement. And in Gerard’s case, the temporary was too large and for the next week he continued to chomp into his cheek.

We went back the following week and an even quicker procedure was fitting the permanent. Mine seemed to fit perfectly but for some reason, the dentist whipped it off again and told me to come the following week for the final fitting. Gerard had a less satisfactory experience. The crown was so tight that the dentist had great difficulty getting it off, finally resorting to a pair of pliers.

During the following week, the conversation of dentists came up with a few of our acquaintances. Even though everyone was satisfied with the work in the end, we all had bones to pick. Gerard noticed the instrument tray had stains and was pitted by who knows what? But from out of the corner of his eye it looked even worse. As the dentist drilled away his mind drifted to what exactly is that on the instrument tray? Couldn’t they have at least covered it with a clean cloth?  (My eyes are not as fine tuned as Gerard’s, the more so without my glasses). Then we got laughing about the plastic cup for rinsing your mouth. Did they really change it after each patient? Even though we had a good laugh, everyone agreed in the end it all worked out.

On our last appointment, our crowns were fitted, and fine-tuned. Gerard would not leave until he was 100% satisfied with the bite, insisting on having it polished yet again after adjusting. In my case, I was content on the first fitting. Out of a five star rating, they get three stars. But I’ll still come back for teeth cleaning and examination next year.

Yesterday we took time out from our busy schedule in Agonda, to visit Gokarna. It’s surprising how much time it takes to get from our room to the balcony for breakfast…then to the beach shack for chai and then down to the water for a swim etc. etc.


Gokarna has been long known as a place of pilgrimage for Shiva followers


and in more recent years, it’s become one of the “destinations” for Gunja smoking hippies, living in shacks on remote beaches.


Just over the border in the Karnataka, you’re most definitely back in India again. Goa of course is in India, but it’s Goa. We went for two reasons; one to see if it might be an alternative to Agonda, and two because our friend Oliver is staying there and we wanted to see him again.

In Orchha, two years ago on a cold rainy late December day, we were looking for a guesthouse as an eccentric looking man dressed in homespun was stepping around the puddles approached us. Gerard asked where he was staying and he led us to his guesthouse. Over the next few days, we slowly built up a friendship with this unusual Englishman from Devon. He’s an artist who’s been all over India capturing street scenes of every day life. The town was small so inevitably our paths crossed – Oliver would be sitting in a shadowy spot beside the temple sketching figures that he would later assemble in pen and ink. We were both drawn to his company and the cold damp days passed quickly. Agreeing to stay in touch, the fact that he had no email or cellphone meant that was not possible in India. Three months after we got home, a folder came in the mail of five prints of his recent work, including the one he’d been developing in Orchha. We’ve stayed in contact ever since through ‘snail mail’. This past fall he told us he would be spending a couple of months in Gokarna and included a very precise map of the three places where he would likely be loitering.


So along with our friend Tatiana and two Russian friends of hers, we rented a car and driver and traveled the two hours to Gokarna in style. We left at 6.30 am and were there in time for breakfast. But first we went to Oliver’s hotel – he was out. So we wandered down the long main street to the beach, all the time with our eyes peeled for Oliver. Tatiana had been there a few times before and took us around.


Gokarna is an interesting town because it still has a sense of authenticity and character that the beach towns of Goa don’t have. On the other hand, the beach is nowhere near as nice as Agonda


We visited a hillside temple overlooking the ocean


where we photographed what we thought was an old Sadhu, but when someone engaged him in conversation it turned out that he was an American — still an old Sadhu. Who know how long he’s been there.


Tatiana took us to a peaceful water tank, we did some shopping and had lunch. Still no sign of Oliver.

DSC_0198Gerard walked back towards the car, while I did one final sweep of the designated spots – with no luck. It looked like I was not going to see Oliver again. But on the way back to the car, I heard a voice call out from a small chai shop – and there was Gerard sitting with Oliver. He’d found him!

There was hardly time to catch up. The Russians were anxious to get going. But we were still so glad to see each other. He promised to stay in touch by letter, of course, and would send prints of his new work. Oliver encouraged us to spend time in Gokarna. He’s been there for nearly two months and likes it. We’re now seriously considering it, not as an alternative to Agonda, but definitely an addition.







2 thoughts on “Dental work and Shiva temples

  1. I LOVE reading your stories. It sounds like you’re doing well, enjoying the trip AND getting your teeth taken care off. If I hadn’t experienced India myself I would we somewhat horrified at some situations BUT now I sympathize and giggle when reading. My husband went to a dentist in Palolum (Goa) for a cleaning only. But Dental Tourism is huge, we talked to a guy from Holland who goes there every year to get another implant done during his beach vacation. Palolem Dental Clinic Dr. Rosemond L.D’Souza Happy journey, Didi


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