The markets in Delhi are a crowded assault on the senses: the smell of curry and ginger, the taste of pillowy naan, the sight of sari stalls draped in unbelievable color.
But nothing rattles you out of your routine quite like this guy: “Teeth? Teeth, sir? You want some new teeth?”
Part dentist, part carnival barker, the guy squats beside a table showcasing a tidy collection of used dentures, spare teeth, dental molds, crusty jars and various implements that could probably be used for torture. He is fully prepared to replace any or all of your current pearly whites with something better. (“Cheap! For you, I give special discount.”)
It’s an eye-opener for anyone who’s used to seeing dentists do their thing in the quiet of a sterile office. It’s also a surprise to see another table of used dentures right next to this one, and another, and another, all the way down the alley. So here, apparently, 9 out of 10 dentists recommend yanking out your wisdom teeth right in the street.
The Indian government officially abolished the caste system when the British left, back in 1947, but many of the traditions still remain. The first carnie-dentist we met was doing what his dad did and what his grandfather did before that.
We smiled (with the teeth we brought from home) and politely declined his service. Instead, we wandered to another section of the market . . . where a man cleaned out my ears with a mysterious fizzy potion.