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Lachu the country dentist


Years back a friend of mine (a diaspora guy) had to travel to Lalibela, a tourist site in Amhara, to visit the famous rock-hewn churches. It was here he happened to bear witness of an occurrence. This happening was captured by him from the verandah of his two-story hotel. It was this way he recounted the incident to us, his friends.
I was watching the scene of Lalibela Town from the verandah of my hotel the very day I arrived. People were moving here and there. Bajajs, the three-legged cabs were roaring monotonously across the roads. I could also observe while carts, pulled by horses, were rumbling sluggishly on cobble-stoned and broken asphalt roads which were dotted with potholes.
Down there, beneath the verandah, at the back yard of the hotel compound, I could see people strolling around. Some of them seemed to be workers of the hotel. There were other peple standing around as well. One of these people was a grownup man. He was standing alone in the middle of the compound with his face turned towards the hotel building. He was wearing a big overcoat with white color changed in to a kind of gray. I could also see his coat spotted with droplets of blood. The guy looked like a butcher. It was so simple to assume that. He was holding a pair of pincers with his right hand.
Suddenly I heard sounds of voices and commotion which were followed by another sounds of footsteps of some people who approached the man carrying a stretcher. It is a kind of stretcher used to carry construction materials like sand, cement, pebbles… Two young ladies who held the stretcher from either side put it cautiously on the ground in front of the big man. The surprising thing was that a little girl was laying on the stretcher. She was crying and mumbling words, wriggling and squirming on the stretcher.
“Emaye! … I don’t need it! Ehhhh …!” Her flaxen hair spread out on the stretcher.
“Do tie her limbs up! Why are you staring at me like that? Do I look like a monkey?! Come on! Tie her up! Hurry up!” He commanded in a loud voice.
One of the ladies untied her waist-band and passed it over to the other lady who tied up fast the limbs of the little girl with. I thought the lady who untied her waist-band could be the mother of the crying girl.
“Emaye!… I don’t need it! Oh… emayiyeeee!”
The big shot bowed down and forcefully opened the mouth of the little kid wide enough to insert that blood-stained pair of pincers. I took an interest in his work and glued my eyes watching what he was doing. The two ladies were holding the head of the little girl firmly so that she could not wiggle and disturb the work of the big man… Now the little girl stopped crying. It looked as if she dozed off. She closed her eyes which were soaked with tears.
The big guy kneeled and started searching for something in his breast pocket. He produced a piece of wooden slab which he inserted in to the mouth of the little girl. I thought he was going to use the slab to keep open the mouth of the little girl. He continued searching and pocking in to the mouth of the kid. He then twisted the pair of pincers sideways trying to grope for something. Then, he bit his lower lips tightly and pulled out a tooth (milk-tooth) of the little girl. The tooth soaked with blood! The poor kid was wriggling and crying. The big shot looked at the pair of pincers which was soiled with fresh blood.
Immediately after, I could see blood gushing out of the mouth of the poor kid. As she was tied fast like a helpless animal, she could not do anything to her capacity to protect herself from the ferocious pair of blood-doused pincers. The only thing she could do was cry and cry.
A couple of minutes later, the guy put up his pair of pincers that clinched the small milk-tooth. He showed it boisterously to the people surrounding him. It seemed he regarded himself as a vet technician who operated on a lion. Then, he shrouded the milk-tooth with a scrap of paper and handed it over to the lady by instructing her to throw it on the roof of her house so that birds could pick it up. This way it is believed commonly that the missing milk-tooth will soon be replaced by a new and strong one. Then, the man cleaned his blood-stained pair of pincers using the inner part of his overcoat. He produced a dirty piece of cloth from his pocket and wiped his hand and face.
“Now you can carry her away. Give her hot beverages… like oat. Don’t forget to let her gurgle her mouth with arakie every morning (home-made strong alcoholic beverage),” so saying, he called the next kid to perform his rustic dental surgery.
I could not believe my eyes. It was too tough for me to see such atrocity. What I could do on the dot was crying, calling over the guy down there to stop doing this cruelty and go away.
No sooner had I done that than walking to a police station which was not very far from the hotel. I reported the incident to the chief police officer. The aged police officer looked at me in a strange manner and said that the tooth pulling activity was practiced by an individual named Lachu.
“What you saw is the work of Lachu. He is our country dentist. He pulls out milk-teeth of little boys and girls in this area.” The chief police officer did not show any concern about the incident I told him about.
“Are you telling me such rustic dental treatment is practiced in this town?” I was surprised by the police man.
“That’s what I am telling you, city boy!”
Then, he summoned a young police officer and commanded him to accompany me back to the hotel where the incident occurred.  Up on our arrival, we saw that Lachu was not in the area. Workers of the hotel confirmed what the police chief had told me that the country dentist walked from door to door giving similar dental treatments. To my surprise the young police man who accompanied me to the hotel shrugged his shoulder in a careless manner and left as if nothing had happened. But what I have been thinking of is what he would have done had he met Lachu then.
The other day I happened to visit a lady acquaintance in the same town. I narrated to her the incident occurred at the hotel thinking that she would prevent her kids from having such rustic dental treatment. But to my surprise she told me that she had her little daughter’s milk-tooth pulled out by the same guy the previous week.
“Are you telling me that you allowed that stupid guy to grope the mouth of your little daughter with his blood-stained dirty pair of pincers?” I burst out furiously.
She nodded her head silently approving

Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw

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