Taking off your shoes in India; the fine art of keeping your shop clean

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It was drizzling and dark when I stepped into my car, on a Friday morning in the European winter of 2015. I had to visit my dentist, which has been a recurring event in my life for years. I had fallen from a bike when I was a little kid, with my teeth in mess as a result. After the incident, I had to wear a big construction of iron wires inside my mouth to bring everything back into its position. Almost everything was healed after a while. However, I had to undergo some severe operations to replace one of my front teeth. I’m not aware of this on a daily basis as the doctors did an amazing job. I’m happy with the outcome operation and I’m pretty sure that the Doctor’s accountant is also very happy; one could easily spend some weeks in the south of Europe with the Euro’s that I had spent on this operation.

Driving from our house in the Netherlands to my Dentist is easy. It will take you there in little more than 15 minutes. I’m not a fan of the Dentist, but the ride is amusing; the backroads between our village and the dentist are full of lush and green fields, with cattle, apple trees and local wildlife. During many of these early morning rides I’ve spotted small deer and even foxes. The drizzle evolved during the ride and I arrived with some heavy rain between the door of my car and the entrance of the dentist. Having no umbrella in the car I had to run inside. Unfortunately, I got wet when I stepped into the welcome area and said ‘hello’ to the assistants. I always try to be the first in the morning, to ensure a short stay. I don’t like to wait!

Going to the Dentist in India isn’t very different when I compare it to my regular visits back home. They almost use the same equipment and they are also annoying, especially when they use some of their tools. I found a reliable doctor in Aundh and she’s very good. The loud honking on the nearby road is the only thing that reminds me of being in India, when I close my eyes during the treatment.

There is one significant difference between my Dutch dentist and the one I found in Aundh, and it’s a positive one: the bill. My regular clean-up appointment in India will cost me only 20% of the fees that I have had to pay for the same treatment in the Netherlands. During my most recent visit to the dentist I discovered another one. In India, it is a very common practice to take off your shoes when you enter a shop, house or a temple and I was aware of this fact long before we moved to Pune. A lot of doctors would kindly ask you to remove your shoes before entering their clinic. My Dentist is also part of the ‘take off your shoes’ movement. At first it feels a bit odd: as you taken a lot of effort to dress yourself in a smart and elegant way, with fine shoes – and a similar belt – as an elegant finisher. And now they’re asking you to take your shoes off?

Nothing unusual happened during my most recent treatment, but I was more aware being in the clinic without shoes on. In fact, I was happy. Being inside the clinic in your socks doesn’t give you any relief of possible pains, but it definitely feels more comfortable and allows me to show my fancy socks. And one other thing: it’s hygienic. If you are aware of the practice, you will notice more surprising occasions where people ask you to remove your shoes.

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