A few weeks ago, my dentist sent me to an endodontist. During the consultation, after I was informed that a Root canal was necessary, I inquired about the procedure, the duration of the surgery, the recovery period, medicines, and dos-and-don’ts. The doctor was very dismissive of my queries and referred me to his receptionist, who was downright rude and said, “I don’t know . . . this is when you need to come again.” Her eyes screamed, “You crazy person . . . you ask too many questions.” I felt ashamed and promised myself that I will not ask any more questions.
Last Monday, as my endodontist shoved three needles of local anesthesia around my left jaw, he said, “Oh! I remember . . . you’re the nervous Nellie.” I knew that at that particular moment he had power over my future pain, but I couldn’t stop myself and said, “You have done this many times, but this is my first time, so I am anxious.” Thankfully, he didn’t take his revenge, instead, he was very gentle.
Of course, after the Root canal session-one (I have to repeat this thing in two weeks), when my mouth felt like a frozen brick, I again asked questions; again my doctor dismissed and referred me to his receptionist. It was, as if, I was disciplined by my high-school principal twice for the same offense. For the first time in my life, I hung my head in shame and stood quietly. Surprisingly, my usually reserved husband picked-up my mantle and questioned the receptionist about when and what I can eat. I was very surprised, as I am the vocal one in our relationship.
Afterward, as I nibbled at the fries and guzzled down a milkshake from In-N-Out Burger, my husband and I marveled at our weird interaction at the endodontist. And our discussion made me think.
I admit that I am the person who goes to the doctor with my list of questions, who double checks before taking any prescription medication, and who ask if there are any alternative remedies. I ask a question in stores when I don’t understand things. I openly question the motives of the people in my voluntary groups. I question acquaintance-friends who are duplicitous. I question my teachers when I don’t understand their questions.
As I look back at my childhood, I realize that my younger sister rarely questioned anything. She studied all the time—morning, afternoon, evening, and night. I wanted to know why the moon doesn’t shine in the day and the number of stars in the sky. My mother was too uninformed to answer me. My father happily showed off his knowledge about the planetary system and mathematics. But he abhorred when I questioned his parenting method.
In India, I was hated by my high-school teachers and classmates, as I raised my hand and asked questions. But then there were six sections in each grade and each section had forty-five students to a teacher. I was equally disliked at my undergraduate college as I questioned the ancient construction techniques taught. At my job, I questioned the civil and electric engineers’ knowledge as they were too lazy to be innovative. Interestingly, that inquisitiveness helped me become a better architect and get quick promotions.
The teachers at TAMU were a mixed bag. Some generalized me into the racial category—the Indian student who would never be at par to us. Some looked at me as a hard worker and helped. One of them made it his personal mission to ruin my life. Someday, not today, I will get over my hurt and write about him.
But mostly in America, people—store attendants, receptionist, DMV woman, teachers, doctors, auto mechanics, etc.—are receptive to answering questions. Once, years ago, I was buying comforters at IKEA. I couldn’t understand their label marking. Which one was cold and which one was warm. Of course, I asked a sales associate. For ten minutes, he explained how to read the degree-of-warmth marking on IKEA comforters. Since then, I have changed our comforters a few times and I never had to inquire again. In fact, I have helped others, random strangers, buy their comforters.
Last year, I took an Opera History Classes at San Jose Opera. So many times, someone or the other would ask what I wanted to know. I find that in America, most teachers like when students are curious. (Heck, in America, there is Q&A after everything.) But then there are some who mark me as “that student.” In my sewing class, I am THAT student. Hey, try learning a new thing without asking any questions. I am pretty sure I don’t ask dumb questions. But even if I do, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
I question when I have a question. I don’t analyze if I should or I shouldn’t. If I start wondering if people will like me or not, I will become the dullest person. And I will stop liking myself.