Baba once told me about a man
who he was friends with in the 80s.
He lost all his teeth, Baba said,
in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
They just fell,
the minute gas entered his room
through a half open window.
Just like that, all his teeth, anywhere between 28 and 32,
Were on the floor, Aai kept repeating in disbelief.
My flatmate once fell face down
and chipped his front tooth
because there was someone at the door.
My Baba has a half broken tooth too
A mad buffalo hit him from behind
and he also fell face down.
Now, I don’t remember him
from the time
when his teeth were whole
Aaji who brushed her teeth
behind locked doors
had fake teeth Baba got made on discount.
Each morning she locked the bathroom
removed her teeth, and scrubbed them clean
before wearing them on.
The one time she forgot to lock the door
I walked in and witnessed the purging;
I have to admit, she looked cute toothless.
A lot of my nightmares are teeth centered
The man who I kicked hard at his funeral
had tobacco stained teeth
I dream that he offers me a chocolate
and says I should be late, before eating it.
For a seven year old I am clever,
I know he means the Hindi word late
How could I not be a writer?
I get puns like no one else.
I often dream of his teeth touching
My milk teeth,
and they fall, all at the same time.
Like the uncle who lost his teeth in Bhopal
I lose mine on the first floor of my friend’s house.
The tragedy keeps repeating itself
My teeth have grown back
but they have yellow stains
my dentist blames the chlorine in our water,
he recommends a toothpaste
nine out of ten dentists are sure to recommend.
But here’s the thing:
what Aaji was purging that day was an unwanted sighting
and yes, she really did look cute toothless.