For Whom the Toothbrush Tolls

It’s a family tradition instituted by my mother. Not because she was overly concerned about my dental hygiene, but because my father used to buy Close Up toothpaste by the factory carton every other month, and there would always be several tubes left over even after distributing liberally to neighbors, the Salvation Army and the occasional relative.

And so the habit grew. Every night, irrespective of pending deadlines or tiredness or bloody laziness, I would haul ass to the washroom, pick up my brush, force a small dollop of toothpaste onto the bristles (“across the brush head, mone, not along it”) and set about the good work, knowing all too well that after 7 hours of relative inactivity, I would have to wake up and do this all over again, just in a more terrible mood.

I have never questioned the need nor the good sense of this inherited tradition, not even when I pushed off to college and briefly considered substituting vodka for toothpaste (after all, ethanol is a disinfectant). In my mind, the very act of putting toothpaste to teeth absolved me of the health sins I had committed throughout the day, ranging from cokes to mints to the occasional sweet paan. At least until upon my first visit to the dentist I learnt that I had been carefully nursing 5 cavities in my teeth, in various early stages of development. Immediately upon being released from the chair, I called up my mom and complained that her lifelong habit had not helped me evade the dreadful vacuum.

Upon hearing which, she responded, “Perhaps, but see how white your teeth look in all your photos!”

That’s when the realization struck. It was never about the gums. 
My mother had anticipated the advent of Facebook and Instagram in the early 90s.