Saturday, 9 August 2014

Of Tooth Fairies and Sparrows

“They travel at night and collect teeth. In the morning they set to work and fashion those teeth into gleaming white pearls and make necklaces. In the evening they get dressed, wear tooth pearl necklaces, and dance. And they sing, ‘we are happy, we are pretty’,” I tell Omar when he asks me about tooth fairies.

“And they give gifts to children?” he asks.

“Yes, they like to do honest business. So they barter gifts for teeth.”

Omar seems indecisive about something. But after a while he shows me his key ring and a wallet with brand new notes. “Look, what the tooth fairy gave me last night.”

I am excited about Omar’s new found riches and tell him so. After all, this comes as a replacement of his seven year old tooth. A long held treasure.

Something is still bothering Omar. And he asks me, “Do you actually believe in tooth fairies? I think, Amma put these gifts under my pillow when I was sleeping.”

Omar is facing an existential moment.

“Of course, I believe in fairies, all kind of fairies. Why would Amma wake up in the middle of the night to do so, she could have given you these gifts in the morning,” I am in my defense- counsel-for-fairies mode.

Now Roshan joins the conversation. He is also a beneficiary of tooth fairies’ largesse. “I got a big teddy bear. Shops are closed at midnight, and I didn’t see my mother going to the market in the morning to buy a teddy bear.  I think there are tooth fairies,” Roshan seems to be reassuring himself.

Omar is not entirely convinced. “Dado, were there tooth fairies when you lost your teeth at seven,” Omar asks grandma. He is now looking for historical, empirical evidence for tooth fairies’ existence.  

“We used to give our teeth to sparrows. We would chant ‘Sparrow, sparrow, take our old tooth and give us a brand new one’,” Dado reminisces.

“At that time in history, tooth fairies weren’t mobile. So they asked sparrows to collect teeth for them. I believe, the fairies paid those sparrows handsomely,” I am a loyal counsel.

If I want my tooth back, will the fairy give it back?” Omar asks.

“No, I don’t think so. It has already been turned into a pearl,” my loyalty knows no bounds.

“What kind of a fairy is she if she can’t return my tooth?”

Omar and Roshan look at each other meaningfully.


 Ah! The real world. The world where tooth fairies don’t exist but dentists do. The world of skepticism, doubts, disillusionment, and questions with no answers. What a momentous transition. We do need tooth fairies to mark the moment, to make it easier. Maybe, a dollop of enchantment with stay on. 

Yes, I believe in tooth fairies; and I  believe there were sparrows who used to run errands for fairies.

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