Helter Skelter: New Writing Vol. 2
Helter Skelter: New Writing Vol. 2


Helter Skelter: New Writing Vol. 2

Mornings began with pricking pain, and the taste of blood in the mouth.

It tasted like iron smelt. Rusty. Sweet. Sick.

They called it Gingivitis. Inflammation of gum tissue. Apparently it was the most common periodontal disease on the planet. Amazing how so many people could live with it.

The smooth plastic handle of the blue toothbrush felt clinical. Not in a curative sense, of course. More ominous. More like an autopsy scalpel. Like cleaning ether before the needle.

But habit said teeth had to be brushed. The day could not begin otherwise. Nobody would step outside. No doors would open. How could they?

One simply does not load society with bad breath.

Brush. Spit. Blood-red toothpaste foam. She couldn't decide if the sight was worse than the pain. Tap water washed the gore away. The pain remained. Oh God, it hurt.

There had to be something to numb it. Cotton? Soft. Comforting. Absorptive. It could suck the pain away.

But it must be washed before. How else can it be put in the mouth? God knows where this ball of cotton has been before. Sanitise. Wash away the dirt.

Cleansing is important. Why would the Ganga exist, otherwise?

The swab shrank in water. It was neither fluffy nor cozy anymore. She placed it over the gum. It did nothing for the pain. Loaded with water, there was no space left for blood.

Think. Sensation is about nerves after all, the dentist had said. Dull the nerves, and there would be no sensation. Numb it.

Cleansing is important. Why would the Ganga exist, otherwise?

She ambled to the refrigerator. Thankfully, the ice tray was not empty this morning. Three cubes of ice fell on to the blue cotton tablecloth. She knew the tablecloth was clean. She could still smell her carefully picked detergent off it.

Floral. Homely. Civil.

And how the ice cubes shone on it. Like oversized diamonds waiting for a rich fat lady's fingers from antiquity. Like rocks from the moon itself.

Cold. Clean. Sterile. Like the Ganga.

She let the cube rest against her gum. Fingers on the cheek, holding the healer in place. First it took the heat away from hurt. Then it took sensation away.

One cube at a time. The first one lasted for a while. The second lasted longer. It didn't hurt anymore.

But the ugly taste of blood lingered in the mouth. In her mind. She knew it was in her head. And it hurt more than her gums did.

Maybe it needed numbing too. There would be no cotton this time, though. The solution was tested and proven. For bleeding gums, there was ice. For the head, there was rum.

Four large ones. Quick. Brutal. It burnt. It cleaned.

It tasted like iron smelt. Rusty. Sick. Sweet.

As warmth wafted from the quarter of Old Monk into her body and her being, her thoughts finally began to flow in legato. As her brain fought to keep motor skills in check, her mind bolted over the fences of conditioning. She didn't care about her dentist, or the brand of toothbrush he certified. She didn't care about the fragrance of the detergent in which she had washed her tablecloth. She didn't care about how stringent the hygiene measures at Mohan Meakin's Ghaziabad brewery were. As her brain began shutting windows of awareness, she realised she was thinking funny.

Our obsession with sanitation came from our lack of sanity.

Cloaked in etiquette, we found ways to tackle an abrasive tribe's hostility.

In social aesthetics, we found our anaesthetics.

All we wanted was to cleanse the pain.

There used to be the Ganga.

Then came rum, and mouthwash.

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