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antique-spectaclesβ€œTo learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

This is something that I must practise. I happen to be one of those people who jump headfirst into an opinion about a person or a situation. I instantly like or dislike. Very rarely do I have a balanced approach to any given situation.

One person I instantly liked, respected and admired was the ‘Eye Doctor’ in Hyderabad. We were referred to him by my father-in-law who used to know him before he retired. My father-in-law, a man whose world seemed to me to be black or white, right or wrong, definitely saw this man as good, not bad.

We were all worried about my son. My little 19 month old suddenly developed a very itchy and irritated eye. It was red and watery and swollen and painful. As a mother I was frantic and I immediately thought that something must have gotten lodged in it. Eventually I was persuaded to visit the Eye Doctor.

Mamaya, my father-in-law made a call to the doctor who told us to get there by half four. He would see my son, after he closed the clinic to the general public so we would not have to wait. We would be his last patients and he would go home straight after. We got in a cab and made our way to the clinic. At first we were on the main roads but after about half an hour the roads began to narrow. The big shops and the shiny cars were behind us and instead we shared the road with bicycles and auto rickshaws. High-risers and mansions were replaced by much smaller clay fronted buildings crammed into a neighbourhood of ‘not much but just enough.’ There were no longer Telugu or English signs atop the shop fronts, at least none that I spotted. Instead the signs were in Urdu and the men out front wore ‘topis’ or hats traditionally worn by Muslims. We were in a minority Muslim neighbourhood.

In my mind, I was confused and little angry! Where had my father-in-law brought us? How could we even hope to treat my son here? What kind of facilities would this so called ‘Eye Doctor’ have in a dump like this?

We reached the clinic, a building much like the others on the outside, except with a tiny plaque telling us that a doctor indeed practises there and a slightly bigger sign in English telling us there was no appointment system. I imagine the same was written in Urdu underneath. Inside were two rooms, a waiting room and the actual clinic. The waiting room was sparsely furnished with a few rickety wooden chairs and a couple of posters on the wall. The doctor was with someone so we waited. My son, on my lap, was uncomfortable and apprehensive. He looked around and would not let me go. He seemed to mirror my own fears as we were finally called inside.

Once inside Mamaya shook hands with the Eye Doctor and they greeted each other in Telugu. He introduced him to his son and then me. Immediately, as soon as the good doctor knew I was not a Telugu speaking person the conversation turned to English. To my surprise this tall rickety octogenarian with his dark grey hair, oiled and parted to one side, was remarkably eloquent. He put me at ease straight away, making a joke about the state of affairs in India and telling me I had a lot to get used to. I smiled and chuckled in all the right places and he proceeded to examine my son.

My little one seemed very happy suddenly, perhaps it was the vibes I was emitting but he trusted the old man without hesitation. The doctor easily distracted my son as he quickly took a look with that funny looking torch that all opticians have and turned to me very matter of factly. “There is nothing to worry about, Amma. This is simply symptomatic of an allergic reaction. I will give you eye drops and that should clear it up.”

The Eye Doctor, with his loose fitting dentures and milk bottle glasses, went onto explain how and when I should administer the drops and I felt happier than I had done for the last few days. And to top it all off he gave my son a little sweet which the happy little patient wanted to munch on immediately!

Whilst in the waiting area, during the course of the examination and in the car I learnt a little more about the Eye Doctor; he was retired and ran this clinic voluntarily with only a little funding from the government and his own pension. He handed out medication for free and charged nothing for an examination. He was a freedom fighter in his youth, much like my father’s father and was appalled by what the politicians had made of the country he and his comrades had fought so hard for. Judging by where he was practising, he had no hatred for Muslims and possibly was saddened when his beloved Bharat was bargained to pieces.

I left Dr Laxmanaswamy Reddy’s clinic reminded of the old addage, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Things are never quite as they seem at first sight.