Disclaimer: This post does not intend to demean any other profession; it only serves to express the prevalent situation in our country.
I must admit I was quite charged up when I wrote this, so it will in all probability come off as amateurish. Please bear with me.
It is a very harsh truth about our country — among many other harsh truths — that education is not valued. The land of great academicians since time immemorial from Aryabhatta to Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam unfortunately still sees education as a means of getting a job, a ticket to a salaried life. So much so that we talk of education in terms of its viability in getting people jobs.
This impression itself has done little good to the cause of education. A common rhetoric heard all across the country is that there is no real point in studying because one will eventually end up working under someone else; better pursue a trade where one is their own master.
And should someone get a job, it must be a government where one doesn’t have a Damocles’ sword hanging upon one’s head — basically one can guarantee themselves a life of little work and a lot of pay.
It is this social dynamic which has created a class of acceptable and unacceptable jobs and perhaps the worst hit are the students of humanities, sciences and of course dentists.
When I was in class twelve pursuing science the teachers had an interesting sarcastic jibe to motivate us to study hard, “if you don’t study hard you’ll have to become a dentist.” The class would laugh to that heartily.
There was another incident when a teacher mentioned dentistry during a discussion on career choices. The front line students began to laugh to which the teacher replied in a booking tone, “don’t take the dentists lightly. Despite what they are, they earn a lot of money.”
I remember when I had gained admission to a dental college, and had gone to my school to share the news with my teachers. While most of them were happy, there were a few who asked me if I was happy.
It was a similar story with my relatives, some were happy while others asked, “why didn’t he go for MBBS (the degree course for becoming a general physician)?”
Even now my parents justify it by saying I didn’t want to study outside my home town and so I took up dentistry, else I could have also pursued medicine.
It is at these times one despises the idea of society and extended families.
Dentists are indeed in a peculiar position when it comes to in the social hierarchy in India. In a country where a person’s wealth and looks are the sole parameters for judging worth, it is baffling that dentists are still considered objects of mockery considering they earn reasonably well.
Anyway, being in my third year of the dentistry course, I have understood why we are treated like pariahs of the academic world.
The thing is we really don’t receive enough training in general medicine and surgery. It might be a surprise to the uninformed reader but dentists are required to study as much as the doctors, if not more. It is an entirely different matter that most dental colleges do not teach them properly. Naturally, most dentists aren’t capable of tackiling medical emergencies and are comfortable with being perceived as “someone capable of just doing tooth extractions” or “someone having a namesake ‘Dr.’ prefix.”
The other problem is of perception. Most people who opt for dentistry in India were those in the lower rungs of the merit list for entrance exams. While this is just a matter of preference it has cemented the view of dentistry as a “loser’s career.”
I wonder how bad it is for those who become veterinarians in India.
It is sweet revenge when the people who mocked dentists have to visit one! But until then being thick-skinned is the only way out for us.
And the same goes for teachers, veterinarians, writers, … anyone not a businessman, doctor, engineer, army officer, TC (railway ticket checker), CA(chartered accountant), MBA and collector. India is a difficult place to love your job, especially when the society is hell-bent on making you dislike it.