August 19, 2009
Zeeshan was touched by sadness while looking at his dear room mate and friend. Thomas was struck by pain in and around the jaw. He was troubled at 4:00 am in the morning and the ordeal had continued since then. The head was rested on the table. The swelling was visible.
“Please drink coffee.” Zeeshan offered the mug.
“Thanks.” Thomas heaved a sigh.
They were living in a sharing accommodation at naïf road in Dubai offered by a Keralite couple. Both Thomas and Zeeshan hailed from the outskirts of Mangalore. Zeeshan’s birth place was Kateel, where as Thomas was born and brought up in Puttur. They became good friends during the course of life in Dubai. Like many others they too had come to Dubai for a better financial future. Thomas had been AC mechanic by profession. Zeeshan worked as a forklift operator in a logistic company. The apartment had two bedrooms. The larger one was occupied by the Keralite couple. The small bedroom facing the wash room was given to Thomas and Zeeshan. They had bonded pertinently during their occupancy since last 2 years.
Their acquaintance began on the day when Thomas had visited Zeeshan’s office to service their air conditioner. The casual talk ended with the topic of accommodation as both were on the hunt for a suitable place to stay. They remained in touch over the phone and jointly decided to visit the apartment on the naif road. A Keralite couple had given an advertisement in the newspaper, offering the sharing accommodation. Their attachment grew stronger and they had hit it off well through the period of living in a common room.
“Why can’t you go to the dentist?” Zeeshan advised him. “Your suffering will continue unless you seek some treatment.”
“I have explained my problem enough number of times. I am scared of doctors.” Thomas covered his left cheek. “They always give me an unpleasant feeling of anxiety. I am afraid this may not be dental problem. The pain could be due to the glitch in the nerves which control the jaw motion. I strongly think you should slap me hard on the face. It might cure the disorder by activating the entangled and slackly connected nerves. You do not know.”
“Do you really believe that your pain could be treated by hitting hard on your jaw?” Zeeshan amusingly laughed. “I am not well educated, but at least not stupid. You are more literate than me. Don’t talk such crap!”
“I am an AC technician by profession.” Thomas moaned. “I have far better knowledge on the mechanical aspects of a system. The faulty AC compressors and evaporators work if you hit hard on the outer box. I have seen it in my experience. The loosely connected cables get connected and the function becomes normal.”
“I am not convinced. You have to consult a doctor.” Zeeshan thoughtfully answered. “You can always seek advice from the doctor to recondition your system. But do you have any solution to my problem?”
“What’s your problem?” Thomas emptied the mug. “Are you talking about the difficulties at your work place? I think your boss should be slapped hard on his face. You just follow my advice and trust me, everything will become normal.”
“What do you mean by slapping the face? Is this the only solution you have for every single problem of life?” Zeeshan was irritated.
“You have misunderstood me.” Thomas gently massaged his cheek. “I am not saying that you have to literally punch the face. You have to tell him boldly on his face that you are ready to quit. That is as good as a slap.”
“How can I quit?” Zeeshan applied his logic. “If my job visa is cancelled what would I do for the livelihood? Back home I have parents, brothers and a sister, they are dependent on me.”
“Don’t worry.” Thomas inhaled lungful of air. “There is an acute shortage of forklift operators and this is your strength. You are being exploited because your manager is aware of your insecurity. You only have to act to show that you are sure of yourself and do not really bother if you lose the job. I bet your life will be back on track.”
“I can’t understand you.” Zeeshan scratched his head. “I do not want to waste my time. If delayed I get a cut in my salary. Are you going to the bathroom?”
“No.” Thomas replied. “You may go. But could you do me a favor?”
“What is it?” Zeeshan picked up his towel.
“Could you at least hit me once on my left jaw?” He seriously pleaded without any hint of humor.
“Your face is not an air-conditioner box to whack and solve the snag. I really do not know how you get such silly and irrational ideas.” Zeeshan shook his head in disbelief and rushed to the bathroom.
**** **** **** ****
Thomas had reached his work shop well in time. The pain did not bother him much during the morning hours. But soon after lunch it progressively intensified. His place of work was in Deira. He walked for few minutes and reached the apartment. The split shift allowed him a break from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The duty hours would come to an end at 7:00 pm and he was paid overtime for additional working hours.
The ache had turned unbearable. He did not bother to go to the washroom or to change his clothes. He reclined and remained on the bed well awake without his normal midday sleep. Thomas prayed for the redemption from the pain. The deterioration continued. Zeeshan had been pressurizing him to consult doctor. The advice was ignored. Thomas had lived with fear of doctor since his childhood. Finally the agonizing ache prompted him to open his eyes. He was in a vulnerable situation and he had no other way. A dentist could be the only savior.
Thomas called and informed the office on his inability to attend the shift after the break. He had seen a dentist name plate very close to naif round about. The entry to the clinic was made at 4:15 pm. His heart had pulsated in apprehension while filling the form, the prerequisite for any new patient. The anxiety provoked him to walk out from the clinic without seeing the doctor. He closed his eyes, folded his hands and prayed earnestly for God’s help to relieve from the tight spot. The consent to enter the doctor’s cabin was given after fifteen minutes.
Thomas switched off the cell phone and pushed the door. He was greeted by the doctor. The extreme apprehension was visible on his face. Throttled by the anxiety he remained tacit.
“You may sit down.” The doctor advised him. “What’s your problem?”
“I am suffering from severe pain.” Thomas murmured and covered his left jawbone.
“Why are you standing? Please sit down.” Doctor showed him the examination chair.
Thomas felt dizzy and weak while sitting on the chair.
“Why are you shivering?” The doctor sounded pleasant and affable.
“Doctors make me rather nervous.” He felt dry in his throat.
“Oh…. I see.” The doctor gesticulated. “This could be a case of latrophobia.”
“What is that?” Thomas inquired in panic.
“A phobia is essentially a human being’s irrational fear. Latrophobia is a mental state in which the patient is frightened to meet or visit doctor.” The doctor explained. “Could you recall any such incident from your childhood which must have caused some kind of tragedy where the doctor was involved?”
“I had lost my father when I was seven.” Thomas harked back to his past. “A wrong diagnosis by a physician cost his life.”
The doctor did not reply. He washed and wiped his hands and then pulled the surgical gloves.
“Could you open your mouth?” The doctor covered a mask and picked up the mouth mirror.
Thomas widely opened his mouth with the hope of relief. The light of the mouth mirror was made to reflect on the anterior and posterior surface. He was knocked by pain and discomfort when the retractors were used as a process of dentistry. The check up went on for seven minutes.
“You are suffering from bony impaction.” The doctor pulled the mask down. “Your wisdom tooth has failed to erupt from the gum line and it is encased in the jaw bone. The obstruction for the growth is causing pain. You need not worry. You are not the first one in the history of mankind to face such problem. It is most common in dental history. In this condition the wisdom tooth could potentially become more problematic if not extracted.”
“Is extraction the only solution? There should be some other way out.” Thomas felt very weak in his heart.
“There is no other way out. It is a very simple oral surgery and would get over within an hour.” The doctor exhibited a friendly smile. “Local anesthesia would be given to inflict numbness.”
“Could I know the cost?”
“It’s only 400 dirham.”
“That’s expensive.” Thomas carped.
“You should decide between the pain and the relief.” The doctor clarified. “If you are running short of cash, you may use the credit card. What are you waiting for? I can arrange the extraction right now.”
“I do not know what to do.” Thomas was unnerved.
His neck involuntarily wobbled. The doctor called for his assistant. The arrangement for the surgical extraction was quickly done. Thomas was directed to recline on the hydraulic chair. Local anesthesia was injected to block the nerve and sensitivity of the area. He did not feel the incision. The osteotome was used to remove the overlying and surrounding bone tissue. During the process he was repeatedly given water to rinse his mouth. He was traumatized to look at the disposal from his mouth which contained the mix of saliva and blood.
The tooth was split into multiple pieces to facilitate the removal. The process of extraction was completed in forty minutes. It was his worst nightmare. The trial and tribulation left him physically and mentally exhausted.
“The stitches are put which are self dissolving.” The doctor wrote the prescription. “You may have to take this medicine for five days. Please stay away from smoke and liquor. Rubbing the area with your tongue should be avoided. These things will interfere in your healing. Bleeding and swelling is inevitable which will subside. You have to drink large volume of water and fruit juices, avoid the straw and excessive chewing, follow a soft diet and you may slowly shift to normal diet after a day or two. If any complications you may consult me……”
The doctor presented a complete list on what to do and what not to do. Thomas simply nodded without realizing how much he comprehended. He offered his credit card at the counter to settle the bill. The visit to the pharmacy was made to collect the medicine. By the time he reached home he was totally drained out. He did not feel any sensation on his left jaw and the surrounding area as if paralyzed. The part had become thick and numb. The exertion had taken its toll. He was too tired to think any further. The body demanded the much needed rest. Zeeshan did not follow any specific time to return back from duty. Hence there was point in waiting for his friend. Thomas dropped himself on the bed and within no time dozed off.
**** **** **** ****
Zeeshan’s emotional level had reached the point of inflammation by the time it was 6:00 pm. He had reached the warehousing office at eight in the morning. The work had begun with cleaning the wash room and vacuuming the carpet area of the office. This was not a part of his contractual assignment, but the warehousing manager had included this task as a part of his duty. He had touched the unloading bay at 9:00 am. Being a forklift operator loading and unloading of containers as well as trucks was his delegated responsibility. In addition he was highly competent in pallet grouping and stock piling in the designated area. He always enjoyed his job as a forklift operator, but somehow intensely disliked any other activity which was not a part of core responsibility. The warehouse manager’s children were to be picked up from school at 12:30 pm. The afternoon traffic was at its worst condition and he returned back to the warehouse at 2:30 pm. He was hungry and planning for his lunch. But then the instructions were given to accompany a delivery vehicle to Sharjah. No one had bothered to check if he had his lunch. Somehow he had managed his hunger by consuming a packet of biscuits from the super market. The delivery vehicle left him back at the warehouse at 5:00 pm. Since then he was occupied in the warehouse and his favorite forklift operation kept him engaged until now.
The warehousing manager called him to his cabin.
“I am shifting to a new apartment in Bur Dubai.” The manager explained. “I want you to report to my old flat at 9:00 in the morning on coming Friday. I have loads of articles to pack and move them to new place.”
Zeeshan was thwarted by his manager’s callous attitude….The guy was simply arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. He had no interest in his staff’s welfare. What right the manager had to instruct him to work on a Friday which was rightfully his weekly off? The demand prompted by his manager was in no way connected to his duty obligation. Would he pay for the service and labor? Zeeshan was exasperated by the unfair demeanor.
‘I think your boss should be slapped hard on his face!’ Thomas had advised him. The advice sounded momentous and meaningful at this precarious hour. Zeeshan could not take the maltreatment anymore. The risk factor was impetuously ignored. He was incited as he chucked out his all inhibitions.
“I want to resign…. I don’t want this job!” Zeeshan snapped angrily. It was as bad as a slap on the face.
“What did you say?” The manager was stunned by the unanticipated and unpleasant rejoinder.
“I said I am quitting!” Zeeshan continued his riposte. “I am a forklift operator by profession and as per the labor contract. But you have been exploiting me to the maximum. I am not interested in cleaning the washroom and office floor. My work field is in no way connected with delivery jobs. Picking up your kids from the school is also not my job. Why do you push me to do unrelated work to my job responsibility and profession? No one is bothered to know if I take rest during the break hour or if I ever had my lunch. Overtime is not paid for the extra hours of work. Enough is enough, I want to quit! I can not take this anymore.”
The manager had not planned to tackle this unexpected confrontation. Zeeshan had been always very polite and respectful to his boss. The soft character had turned discourteously harsh.
“Zeeshan, my boy what happened to you?” The manager tried to be kind and compassionate. “Don’t talk about quitting the services. I think your blood pressure is high. You need to go to a doctor, have a check up and take some much needed rest. I will do some other arrangement for Friday. If you have any other grievance let us talk tomorrow. I am ready to listen.”
Zeeshan emerged as a winner from the emotional outburst. It had triggered positive changes in boss’s attitude. Thomas’s prophesy had turned true….. The company would not be keen to lose him as there was shortage for forklift operators. The manager was knocked down by the slap!
“Thank you. I am not feeling well. I will come tomorrow.” He concealed his inner excitement and turned his back.
Zeeshan could not control his jubilation as he walked out from the warehouse office. Thomas’s proposed strategy had worked. The elation was beyond eloquence. He developed the desire to communicate the good news to his friend. The attempt to contact through the cell phone turned futile. Thomas’s mobile was switched off.
He embarked into the bus. He was immersed by the irrepressible thoughts and emotions. The disclosure to Thomas would perhaps give him the much needed relief. The glee on his face indicated the uncontrollable amusement. Zeeshan got off at naïf road bus station and moved at rapid strides. By the time he entered the apartment his breathing had turned laborious. He gasped and looked at his friend. Thomas was lying on the bed with mouth slightly open. The noisy snoring suggested he was in deep slumber. The scene evoked sympathy and compassion in Zeeshan’s heart. He always had cared for his friend.
He had seen Thomas’s pain and distress. He was tormented perhaps by the tooth ache or the jaw pain…. Zeeshan was unsure. Thomas had pleaded for a whack on his jaw. He believed that a hard hit could possibly fix the entangled nerves. Zeeshan lacked the education and knowledge, but always certain that the idea was dim-witted. But today’s episode at the office had lifted him on to high spirits. The enthusiasm was flowing in abundance….. Rooted by Thomas’s motivation he had struck hard at his boss. An illogical and senseless suggestion had changed the state of his life at the workplace. What was the harm in making a similar attempt in resolving the snag in Thomas’s life? The euphoria had engulfed him.
Zeeshan moved closer to Thomas. Propelled by the exuberance, without thinking twice he punched hard at Thomas’s swollen jaw.
“Ouch!” A soft sigh spewed from Thomas’s mouth. Momentarily he opened his eyes in twinge and bemusement. He turned unconscious very next second. The inner wound perhaps was ruptured open. Blood trickled and gushed out from his lips.