Well, suggesting that nothing of note would happen for the rest of our stay in Patnem was obviously tempting fate. Back on the beach later on Tuesday we chose fruit, yoghurt and muesli for lunch. Delicious. Healthy. Crunchy. I could see immediately from Mr Vagabond’s expression that something was wrong, most likely something in the area of dental wellbeing. The rest of the filling fell out in the hotel bathroom, and so the rest of the day was devoted to a search for a good English speaking dentist. I suspected that the nearest would be in Margao, and we found addresses for several there, but it would just have been a random choice. The hotel manager recommended his own in Karwar, nearer than Margao, but it was difficult to know whether he spoke English. Posts on Indiamike and Tripadvisor threw up a couple of personal recommendations, one in Candolim, north of Panjim, and one, hallelujah, in Palolem. It had a website in English, and we found a blog as well, which had a reassuring photo of the clinic interior – it didn’t look hugely different from my NHS place in Reading. We phoned for an appointment for this morning, Wednesday being all booked up. I also emailed the British consulate in Panjim for recommendations, and the next morning received a reply saying that they couldn’t recommend anywhere (liability fears, no doubt) but attached a list of hospitals and doctors which included one dentist in Panjim. However a quick google brought up some very negative reviews, so it seemed better to stick with the plan.
We spent Wednesday on the beach, Mr V eating soft food that wouldn’t get stuck in the cavity left by the missing filling. Then in the evening a treat for me – Mr V managed to do something on the laptop that made itv.com think that we were in the UK, so that I could watch the final episode of Downton Abbey online. I suppose they have to try to prevent people watching from overseas if they want to flog a programme to foreign TV companies.
I came down to the beach at 8am to get a coffee, leaving himself to shower and dress. Early morning is the best time here I think. Still cool, with the sunlight bright and clear but plenty of shade. Not a single shopkeeper accosted me on the way to the beach as they were only just opening. A few people were already on the sand – a group of fishermen untangling their nets, a woman sitting lotus style, arms outstretched, eyes closed; a man jogging to and fro along the length of the beach, pursued by half a dozen enthusiastic followers of the canine kind.
There are stray dogs all over India – I don’t know why, or where they came from originally. I’ve never seen one act aggressively towards people, although they have no reason to love us since they receive no kindness. But I’ve never seen cruelty either – they are just ignored, or shooed away when their scavenging brings them too close. People are bitten accidentally when dogs are fighting each other, and India has an estimated 35,000 human deaths a year from rabies, the highest rate in the world, so it’s best to keep a respectful distance (and not just from dogs – monkeys also carry rabies and can be aggressive). Dogs’ injuries and diseases are left to run their course, with no intervention from humans.
It’s the same with the cows – they are sacred to Hindus (not actual ‘gods’ if I understand correctly, but given by god to give man milk, so they are owed gratitude), so to kill one (even accidentally) is a heinous crime, but there appear to be few charities working for their welfare and one limps through Patnem on 3 legs, occasionally chewing at a mangled foot. Karma I suppose – their fate is their fate and it’s not seen as man’s business to interfere. In Patnem the dogs frequent the beach and have no fear of people – at least, no fear of tourists. I expect we smell different, (of sun lotion, DEET and alcohol probably) and the dogs have learned that tourists will sometimes slip them their leftovers – so they nose up to restaurant tables and snooze under occupied loungers, practising an appealing expression whenever anybody looks at them. The beach is swept each morning, so their mess is not an undue hazard.
And so to Palolem, Rs60 by auto rickshaw – our first ride of the trip (they are banned from downtown Mumbai). We were early for the appointment, even after strolling the length of Palolem ‘high street’, but when we went in Mr V was shown straight through, leaving me in reception to wait and wonder. He was in there for over an hour, which I didn’t think was a good sign. Sure enough, he emerged with one less tooth than he had when he went in. It wasn’t just that the filling had fallen out, the tooth itself was irreparably broken – even the root was cracked, so a crown was not an option (crowning a cracked root = severe pain and a root canal job later – I speak from experience on that!). We paid the £18 bill, and set off to in search of chemist to fill the prescription he’d been given for antibiotics and painkillers. We had to walk all the way to the Agonda/Palolem/Chaudi junction to find it, so ended up walking back to Patnem along the road rather than our customary beach route.
Mr V has to eat only cold, soft food today, and start salt water mouth washes tomorrow. He also has to decide whether to go ahead with an implant to replace the missing tooth – without one, there is a risk that the neighbouring tooth will loosen. If an implant is to be done it’s better to do it soon, before the hole heals over, but it will involve a trip to Margao for an x-ray, then a two stage process – a pin will be inserted and the area allowed to heal completely before a crown is applied about 3 months later. At about £450 it’s not cheap, and insurance won’t cover it as it’s not classed as emergency work (the extraction is, but cost less than the excess), but it would cost several thousand in the UK, and the issue would have happened at some point, with or without Indian muesli. We will have to review our travel plans – probably stay here a bit longer to get the first stage of the implant done (the other partner at the Palolem clinic is a professor who specialises in them) and the rest maybe in Chennai. Meanwhile we lounge on Papaya’s beanbags, Mr V sipping mango lassi and holding an ice pack to his face, watching a film on the laptop and feeling justifiably sorry for himself.
So if you find yourself in Goa and needing a dentist, Dr. Rosemond D’Souza at the Palolem clinic can be recommended. He’s well qualified (yes, he, despite the name) and compassionate, and will sing to you while he works – although apparently his dentistry is better than his singing.