By Rozi Theohari/
After I found out the dentist’s office was not far from our house, I ran quickly holding a handkerchief to my cheek. Besides feeling fear and uncertainty, I was confused by another thing: How could I explain my symptoms correctly to the doctor in my broken English? Luckily, everything went smoothly because there was a Russian nurse present. “Decide,” she said to me in her language, after I told her that I knew Russian. “There are two doctors here. One is an American doctor, the other, Dr. Raj, is an Indian, and he is very careful.” This name reminded me of Raj Kapour, a famous Indian artist and his movies. I decided. Of course I will be treated by the Indian. I would tell him how people broke down the cinema doors in Albania to watch Indian movies. I will tell him…Bur I didn’t say a word because a harsher person than doctor Raj you have never met. A more serious and more taciturn person you never will see.
I didn’t talk. When he took off his mask and explained the treatment to me, I saw white and regular teeth which shone brighter because of the contrast with his dark-skinned face. I tried to begin a conversation, but his dismal visage dampened my naturally gregarious nature. Only when the appointment ended and he was calling another patient, did I stay before him and spoke unexpectedly: “ We both have in common Mother Teresa!”
“Why?” he asked raising his brows.
“Because Albania is her birthplace,” I insisted.
“Mother Teresa is an Indian. She is our Mother,” he stated and with a nearly contemptuous gesture he gave me to understand that our conversation was over.
I left. It goes without saying that I was offended by him. After two weeks, on another appointment, I went back to the same dentist with issues of the Albanian-American newspaper “Illyria.” I had selected all the English articles about Mother Teresa. After reading some of them, Dr. Raj took off the mask and said: “Alright, she was born in Albania. I had not known this. I have been away from India since I was four.”
“But you should have known it by now,” I was able to say before he filled up my mouth with cotton.
It is difficult to have a dialogue at the dentist’s clinic.
“Mother Teresa could have been born anywhere in the world. This is not important,” he continued with a decisive tone, “She is an Indian; she is ours. This is what matters!”
I was enraged by his answer but I was not able to speak. “My God, why is that people from small countries have so little voice?” I thought at that moment.
I was still angry when I left the clinic. I was glad that my next appointment was after two months, in late autumn.
As time passed, I almost forgot the Indian doctor. However, I remembered him a few days after Mother Teresa’s death. I made up my mind to call him. How much he loved her, and how passionate he was when he spoke about the saintly Mother. I dialed his telephone and introduced myself to the nurse.
“ Do you want an appointment?” she asked.
“ No, I want to speak with Dr. Raj.”
After a while I heard his voice in the receiver.
“ My sympathy for Mother Teresa,” I said in a very controlled voice.
“ Oh, thank you, thank you very much,” he answered in a low and vibrating voice. Then, after a short pause, as if he was just remembering something, he added, “And you, certainly…accept my condolence!”
“Thank you,” I answered and thought how death-pain unites and connects people.
Two months later, at my next appointment, I was sitting in the waiting room, together with other patients.
“How will the discussion go today?” I thought. In earnest, I recollected that I had published a poem in English dedicated to our Mother Teresa. Naturally, I needed this poem today. In a few minutes I hurried back home, took the newspaper and walking over the frozen snow, I whispered, “At last, I wrote a poem for the Mother, and…you doctor, what did you do?” But when I entered, the room’s warmth, the sweet music, and the indifferent glance of fishes from the aquarium melted my grudge little by little. It seemed too small a matter to resume the argument. On the other side of the window, the nurse was watching with attention the belligerence in my face. No, I didn’t want to show him my poem. I left the newspaper on the table and went into the dentist’s room.
Before being attended to, the Russian nurse entered, “ You have forgotten the newspaper…I was touched by your verses!” she said in Russian…Later she spoke in English: “I didn’t know that Mother Teresa was Albanian!”
The doctor, who knew about the Albanian-American newspaper, took it from her hand. Quietly he started to read the poem. It was a short one, but he focused intently on it for some minutes.
He raised his head and our eyes met. Calmness…No need for speech. Only calmness…
Boston, December 1997