Tuesday 30 August 2016

Monday 29 August 2016

Yet Another Ghost Story From Bunglistan

Once upon a time in Bunglistan, there was a ghost called Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh.

Despite his name, there really was nothing special about Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh. There had been nothing special about him when he’d been alive, except that he’d been very tall, thin, and bony; and when he died and became a ghost, there was still nothing special about him. He was just a ghost. Or, to be more precise, he was a homeless ghost.

Now, as everyone knows, ghosts in Bunglistan live according to their types. Some make do with old temples, where they hang like bats in the shadows crowding the corners and niches. A few, the fisher ghosts, live in holes in the banks of ponds, and come out at night to wade the waters with their legs long as stilts. But the vast majority of ghosts make their homes in trees.

In fact, so many ghosts make their homes in trees that there isn’t a single tree in Bunglistan that doesn’t have ghosts hanging from the branches like swollen fruit. So many ghosts, in fact, infest each tree that there’s a major population problem, with new arrivals threatening to push old residents off the ends of branches to fall, in an undignified heap, on the ground, or on the head of some unwary passer-by. And ghosts, you know, dislike the experience of accidentally touching a human just as much as a human wouldn’t like to be touched by a ghost.

It’s a different thing when a ghost deliberately wrings a human’s neck for fun. Ghosts need happiness, too, and neck-wringing is a nice, soothing exercise. But each neck-wringing produced yet another ghost, and exacerbated the population problem, so the poor ghosts had almost had to give that pleasure up.

There seemed to be no solution to the problem except to forbid humans to die. And if there was any way to do that, even the ghosts of Bunglistan hadn’t discovered it.

Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh became a ghost shortly before dawn one night, which meant that he needed to find a home quickly before dawn came. Ghosts, as you must be aware, find the light of day intensely uncomfortable and need to stay in shelter until the liberating dark of the night. But poor Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh could find no home at all.

It was always the same. Each time Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh went to look for shelter in a tree, the ghosts living on it began shouting at him. “Go away,” they yelled. “We’ve got no space for any new ghost – and especially not for a lanky, spindly, bony ghost like you. Just imagine how you’ll poke us with your elbows and knees! We’d all fall out of the tree.”

“That’s his plan,” the other ghosts added. “He wants us to fall out of the tree, so he can have it all to himself.”

“Go away,” they all shouted in unison. “Push off or we’ll beat you to a pulp.”

So poor Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh wandered from tree to tree, pitifully begging for shelter and finding none, until the sky had lightened in the east and dawn was at hand. It was only then, when he’d resigned himself to looking for a jackal’s den to hide in, that he saw, off in the distance, a hut.

It was an old and totally ruined hut, with a roof that had almost entirely fallen in, and walls which were beginning to crumble. And, of course, ghosts didn’t normally take up residence in huts, ruined or otherwise; the smell of human tends to be too strong in them. But beggars can’t be choosers, and at this point Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh was most certainly a beggar.

So, having no other way out, the poor ghost seeped into the hut just as the sun broke the horizon, and secreted himself in the shadow of the part of the roof that was still left. Fortunately, the hut had been so long abandoned by its humans that their taint had largely evaporated, and the only residents were about a hundred rats and twice as many spiders. They didn’t bother him, and being a ghost of a human he didn’t bother them. It might have been different if he’d been a rat ghost or a spider ghost, of course.

Around midday it began to rain, and Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh found a major disadvantage of the ruined hut – being mostly roofless, it let the rain in. The rain couldn’t wet him, naturally; but he hated the feel of the cold drops slithering through his body to splash on the floor below, to spread in pools of grimy liquid that soon sloshed up to cover his ankles. It was a pretty miserable time for the poor ghost.

The rain let off just after dusk, and Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh might have gone out to have another look for better accommodation. But he was so utterly demoralised that he just rolled himself up into a knot of darkness and sat in the corner, the picture of misery.

And he was still sitting there when, just before dawn, he heard voices. Human voices.

All the country of Bunglistan shivered to the name of Gobardhan Gunda and his gang of bandits. Each of them was tall as a giant from the mythological books, and had arms and legs as thick with muscle as any ordinary man’s torso. And their moustaches! Each of them had a span of moustache the size of a water buffalo’s horns.

Where Gobardhan Gunda and his men went, villages and towns emptied themselves, leaving their treasures for him to loot at leisure. Armies sent to fight him broke and ran at the first sight of his moustache on the horizon. Gobardhan Gunda had so much treasure he could have lived in luxury for a thousand years, but the only thing greater than his riches was his greed. So he kept looting his way through the land, and there was nobody who dared tell him nay.

That evening, Gobardhan Gunda and his gang had attacked a zamindar’s palace on the other side of the forest. The zamindar was as infamous for his greed as for his cruelty – in fact, he rivalled Gobardhan Gunda himself in both – but even he, and his private army of pikemen and spear-carriers, ran for their lives as soon as the bandit appeared outside his walls.

So, having looted the zamindar’s palace to their hearts’ content, Gobardhan Gunda’s gang made their way through the forest, trying to put as much distance between them and any possible pursuit as they could. By morning, they were beginning to tire under the immense weight of all their loot, and they needed a place to rest. But even they knew well enough not to rest under the trees.

“Ghosts,” they said to each other, and even Gobardhan Gunda was forced to nod in agreement. “The trees are full of ghosts, and they’ll wring your neck as soon as look at you.”

This wasn’t true, because of the population problem, but the bandits weren’t to know that. And just then, in the very first light of day, they saw the hut.

“Ghosts never live in huts,” they said happily. “We can spend the day there, resting.”

So they crowded into the hut, and if Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh hadn’t already died and become a ghost, he’d have died then, with fear at the sight of their moustaches and hooked swords and great iron-tipped staves. He crushed himself into the furthest corner and hoped he wouldn’t be discovered.

The bandits weren’t looking for ghosts, of course. They ate the food they had with them, and drank enormous amounts of wine, and then settled down with contented and very foul smelling belches.

“Let’s have a look at the loot we got,” Gobardhan Gunda said. “We didn’t really get a chance earlier.”

“It must be quite a haul,” his second-in-command agreed. “That damned zamindar was famous all through the country for squeezing everything he could out of the peasants, by fair means or foul. I’m sure it’ll be the richest booty we ever gathered.”

So they opened out the bundles of loot, and there on the floor of the hut was the loveliest treasure that any of them had ever seen. Gold chains and silver statuettes jostled for space with sparkling diamonds and sapphires, and mounds of copper coins spilled over pearl necklaces and rolled-up paintings of great value. They ran their fingers through it, exultantly.

“Look at this,” they said to each other. “Just look at it!”

Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh also looked at it. But his attention was fixed on one thing, and one thing only.

Right in the middle of the treasure, lying forgotten on the floor among the celebrating bandits, was a tiny little figurine of dark old ivory. It was that of an elephant with one broken tusk.

Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh knew that figurine very, very well indeed.

Long ago, when he’d been not just alive but young, he’d owned that figurine, and loved it with a tremendous passion. It had been bequeathed to him by his father and his father before him; it was, in fact, the only heirloom of any sort the family had possessed. And then, one day long ago, the figurine had been stolen. Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh had searched for years and years, but never found it or heard of it. And here it was, lying right there in plain sight, after so long.

All else forgotten, Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh rushed forward, scattering rings and coins left and right, and snatched up the ivory elephant with a howl of triumph. Clutching it to his breast, he turned to thank the nice men who’d brought it back to him.

They were nowhere to be seen. There were only terrified yells fading in the distance.

The sudden rush of an enormous ghost, all knees and elbows and spindly limbs, had shocked and terrified the bandits. With wild screams of fear, they’d scattered on all sides, leaving the treasure behind them.

Poor Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh tried to follow, to thank them and assure them that he was totally harmless, that they had nothing to fear from him. But by now it was full daylight outside, and the sunlight beat on him and drove him back into the shadows of the hut.

“Never mind,” he thought. “I’ll look for them tonight. After all, they can’t have got far.”

He was perfectly right. Gobardhan Gunda and his gang hadn’t got far. They had, in fact, found each other, trickled together in ones and twos, until by mid-afternoon they’d all gathered together again. They were all safe and sound; the only thing they didn’t have was their treasure, the greatest treasure they’d ever found.

“There’s only one thing to be done,” Gobardhan Gunda declared, moustache bristling. “We’ll go right back to that hut and get it back again.”

“But...” his second-in-command faltered. “What about the ghost?”

Gobardhan Gunda bent a fiery eye at him. “What about him?” he demanded. “The ghost frightened us because we weren’t expecting him. Now we’re all prepared. Let him turn up now, and he’ll see what we do to him. We’re thirty strong men, and he’s just one ghost.”

So, as the sun sank into the west, they made their way towards the ruined hut, arriving from the south side just after dusk...at the very moment when, unknown to them, Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh left the hut on the north side to look for them. And they rejoiced when they found the treasure, just where they’d left it. They searched the hut for the ghost, poking in all the corners, but of course there was no sign of him.

“We might as well spend the night here,” Gobardhan Gunda declared. “We’ll go on in the morning. And keep an eye out for that ghost!”

Meanwhile, Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh had wandered the forest, without finding even one of the kind men who’d brought him his figurine back gain. Not seeing any way out, he finally approached the other ghosts, where they clustered thickly on the trees.

“You again!” they said when they saw him. “We told you already, clear off, or we’ll give you a thrashing you’ll never forget.”

“I’m not here to ask for shelter,” Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh hastened to explain. “I just want your help in a small matter.” And he told them what he wanted.

“And if we find these men for you,” the ghosts said suspiciously, “you’ll go right away and never bother us again?”

“I promise,” Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh assured them. “Just find them for me, and you’ll never have to see my face again in your unlifes.”

So the ghosts spread out, and rushed all over the forest, and searched it from one end to the other. But of course they didn’t find the bandits, not one.

Finally they gathered under the big banyan tree in the very centre of the forest, and began shouting furiously all together. “There never were any men,” some of them shouted. “He just made up the whole tale to get back at us for not giving him space on our branches.”

“Let’s find him and teach him a lesson,” the others agreed. And, in a huge and incensed mob, they set out to hunt Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh down.

That poor ghost saw them coming, baying for his head; and he turned and ran as fast as he could, to look for a place to hide. But each way he went he ran into another mob of ghosts after him, and of course they knew the forest much better than he did.

Having no way out, he ran back to the ruined hut, the only home he now had.

The bandits had only just settled down when Gobardhan Gunda, looking out through the ruined doorway, saw Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh rushing out of the forest towards the hut. “Here he comes,” he said, picking up a staff. “All together now...get him!”

Before poor Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh could even recover from his astonishment at finding the kind men back in the hut, let alone thank them, he found himself beset and belaboured with staves and spears and wicked sharp swords which could have hacked his limbs off if only he’d had limbs that could be hacked off at all. But luckily he didn’t.

“Ouch!” he protested. “Stop! I don’t...” But it wasn’t any use.

And so it was that when the howling mob of vengeful ghosts followed Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh back to the hut, they found him lying on the floor, with the men he’d told them to look for gathered round him, beating him for all they were worth.

Now, blood is thicker than water. Even ghost blood, nonexistent though it might be, is thicker than scummy pond water. And ghosts know perfectly well that when it comes to humans, they’ve got to stick together, no matter what. After all, humans are vile.

And here was a herd of the humans, thrashing one of their very own! If they let it happen, how would they ever get the respect and fear of humans again? And without respect and fear, what worth was a ghost’s unlife anyway?

So, with a great shriek of fury, the ghosts hurled themselves on the bandits from all sides...

It was no contest. There were thirty bandits, but there were more than thirty thousand ghosts. In a blink of an eye, the last of Gobardhan Gunda’s gang was racing away through the forest as fast as he could go.

They never came back again, of course. Good riddance to them.

“Thank you for not wringing their necks,” Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh said, when he’d gathered his breath a bit and picked himself off the floor. “They did bring my figurine back.”

“Who wants to add to the overpopulation?” the ghosts answered. “Besides, even if we’d wanted new ghosts, we wouldn’t want ghosts like them.”

“Anyway,” Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh pointed out, “you have to admit now that I wasn’t lying. And you’ve got to admit that you did me an injustice when you all mobbed me.”

“Yes, well,” the ghosts said, embarrassed. “We’ll make it up to you somehow. Maybe give you a space in one of our trees?”

“But you said there wasn’t any room,” Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh reminded them. “And I wouldn’t want to be the cause of some ghost being evicted on my account.”

“So what is it we can do for you?” the ghosts asked plaintively. “Tell us.”

Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh looked up at the roof for inspiration, and saw stars. “That’s it,” he exclaimed. “Fix up this hut. Repair the walls and the roof, seal up the cracks, and make it a proper home. And then you’ll have done all you need to do for me.”

And so that was what the ghosts did. All that night they fixed the walls, and the next night they repaired the roof with palm fronds, and on the third night they were even contrite and generous enough to improvise a door and windows as well. Then they sighed with relief.

“It’s done,” they told Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh. “Our debt’s discharged. Now don’t bother us again.”

“I won’t,” he told them happily. “I have a home and my figurine. I’ll never want anything else.”

In this he was quite wrong. The next evening, a beautiful young ghostess came wandering through the forest, looking for a home. All she found was a gibbering mass of ghosts, all fighting each other for her. Terrified, she fled through the darkness until, in the first light, she saw the hut.

“That’s a nice, civilised place,” she thought. “I can find shelter there for a little while.”

Of course, she found more. Much, much more.

And today, if you go into that forest, you might find your way to that hut. The door will be shut, but knock gently, and you may be permitted to enter. Inside, you will find the ghostess, loaded down with all the jewels she can ever wear. She will smile at you, and invite you to sit down and make yourself comfortable.

And, sitting beside her, will be Bhim Bahadur Bojrokinkho Singh. It’s not likely that he’ll even take any notice of you. Half his attention is always on the lovely ghostess by his side.

The other half is on the ivory figurine in his arms. As the ghostess will tell you, shaking her head in exasperation, he never, ever, lets go of it, not even for an instant.

And all three of you will know exactly why.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016

[Image adapted from here]

Sunday 28 August 2016

A Tale of Teeth: The Death of Dentistry

Dentistry is dying. To be more precise, it's been murdered.

This may seem a strange statement to make, but I’ll explain.

Twenty years ago, dentistry was the up and coming profession in India, to the extent that the magazine Outlook even published a puff piece on it in circa 1997 (titled Dentists: The New Buccaneers, if I recall correctly).  The article was full of mistakes and idiotic statements, such as the claim that a root canal treatment is “normally” completed in three sessions (and if it isn’t, your dentist is a “mercenary molar mechanic”, a bit of alliteration that must have warmed the cockles of some sub-editor’s heart). But it did make the very important observation that dentistry, once a profession held in contempt and filled with those who couldn’t make it as physicians, was now an increasingly respected, lucrative, and sought after line of work.

And that is exactly what killed it.

Until the late 1970s, there weren’t that many dentists. Indians, back then, didn’t really give a damn about teeth. The attitude was that as soon as your teeth started giving trouble, you’d get them all taken out and replaced with dentures. Obviously this didn’t exactly require dentists with a lot of expertise in the job. Not surprisingly, the average dentist then was a quack who learnt his “skills” as an apprentice with another quack.

I recall being taken by my father to one of these quacks, one “Dr” Prabhat Bhattacharya, while I was a schoolboy. This Bhattacharya was very popular with the Middle Class of the day, which was stingy to the bone, because he was much cheaper than the two qualified dentists this city boasted at the time. He had an old wooden barber’s chair as a “dental chair”, and used a hanging motor – which is actually used for laboratory work like trimming and polishing dentures – to do his “fillings”.

This Bhattacharya looked lugubriously at my teeth, shaking his head mournfully, and declared “The enamel is spoilt, nothing can be done now”. This, I later found, was his standard response to anything that might even need filling, and the way he escaped having to do the incredibly difficult job of removing decayed tooth tissue and replacing it with filling material. Fortunately, my father took me to one of the two real dentists, who filled it with a simple filling, which is still in place to this day, over 30 years later.

Actually, Bhattacharya was absolutely typical of the kind of quack which infested Indian dentistry at the time, and examples of which can still sometimes be found here and there. They can be fairly easily recognised from their signboards. For one thing, they’ll never have a degree after their name (I’ll mention some qualified dentists these days who add an additional “degree” after their names in a moment). For another, their shingles will always proclaim proudly that they’re “specialists” in something, usually dentures. And in a huge majority of these cases, there’s going to be a large, pastel coloured denture on top of the quack’s name – usually, one of the type prevalent seventy or more years ago, with a suction cup on top holding it to the palate.

Since people, as I said, neither cared about their teeth, nor wanted to spend money on them, there was nothing stopping these mountebanks from making a good living.

Their equipment also followed the same standards. The basic dental electric motor, invented in the late 19th Century, only became available to Indian dentists in the early 1970s. Previous to that they’d been using a kind of sewing machine contraption with a treadle. I saw at least two of these still for sale in a dental showroom in the late 1990s and was assured by the dealer that “unqualified doctors” still bought them. As late as the early 1990s, when I was a student, we read about the light-cure unit, which is used to harden filling material after placing it in teeth, in our textbooks – but never saw one, because our dental college did not have a single light cure unit.

This dental college was one of the top in the country then, and even in 2016 is Number Six in the dental college list. Think about that. One of the very topmost dental colleges in the nation didn’t have a basic piece of equipment.

I first saw a light cure unit in 1996 with a private practitioner, in Calcutta. Today, I have no less than two of my own, and can’t imagine surviving without them.

Now, one of the side effects of the “economic liberalisation” of the early 90s was that suddenly people became rather more appearance-conscious, and willing to spend some money on this. Not health-conscious, just appearance-conscious, but as far as dentistry goes, good appearance pretty much implies you have to have good dental health as well. And this, of course, meant in turn that dentistry suddenly began attracting more money than it used to do.

Suddenly, the dental showrooms turned from dingy little holes in the back passages of decaying commercial buildings into swank establishments with plate glass windows proudly exhibiting the latest model dental chairs, rather like car dealerships. Suddenly, they began sponsoring dental conferences, spending money on making themselves known, and, for instance, dentists who’d never even seen a full range of scaling hand instruments were being invited to buy the latest ultrasonic sets. And, like it or not, they had to, because everyone else was doing it.

In fact, I’d call the Dental Revolution of the late 1990s the equivalent of the modernisation of Japan in the Meiji period of the latter half of the 19th Century. Overnight, the material and equipment we’d had to study about in our textbooks, without ever expecting to see or use them, were at our fingertips. Suddenly, the average person discovered that there was much, much more to be done with their teeth than just extract them if they began to hurt.

And, of course, the market for dentists then exploded. From being a neglected sideline, it became a sought after qualification. Instead of young people settling for dentistry as a consolation prize if they didn’t get to study medicine, they went into dentistry as a first choice. Dental colleges suddenly no longer found it necessary to disguise themselves as annexes to older, more prestigious, medical colleges. And the Dental Council of India (DCI), the governing body of the dental profession, saw a golden opportunity.

I should take a moment to speak of the DCI and its equivalent in the medicine line, the Medical Council of India (MCI). Both organisations, at the top level, are rotten with corruption. A couple of years ago, the MCI’s President was even arrested for massive corruption, but of course nothing ever happened to him.

One of the ways this corruption worked is this: remember the bonanza for the dental companies I mentioned? It’s an open secret that the MCI and DCI take kickbacks from the dental and pharmaceutical companies, and do all they can to ensure these companies become richer. And with the sudden growth of dentistry in the late 90s, the DCI got into the business of private colleges.

It was extremely simple – anyone with the right connections would start a private dental college, and charge enormous fees from students to attend it. Many of these “colleges” had hardly any equipment, or patients, or even teachers. If a “surprise” inspection from the DCI was ever scheduled, the college would be tipped off well in time, and the owner would hire dentists to turn up and pose as “teachers” while random people from the streets would be bribed to pose as patients. Everyone, including the inspectors, knew what was going on, of course, but nobody cared as long as the money kept flowing in.

You can well imagine the standard of the “graduates” turned out of these colleges. Now, as I said, my college was primitive in terms of equipment, and some of the teachers were, let’s say, not particularly interested in teaching...but I’m willing to bet a fair amount that I, and any of my colleagues, are highly competent professionals at least as good or better than the best of the West. This is not a boast. It’s based on my observations of the standard of work I, and my colleagues, are capable of...and what I’ve seen of the handiwork of American and British dentists. But these private college degree-shoppers are nothing like that.

I recall more than one of these worthies turning up at my clinic begging rather pathetically for a job. Hardly any of them had even performed a root canal on a molar tooth in their lives. Not one of them had ever extracted an impacted wisdom tooth. And as for doing such surgeries as an apicoectomy, something I did several times as an intern? They’d have a heart attack if anyone had even suggested it.

Not that the DCI people were ignorant of this. Now, to them, dentistry was a lucrative business, and they were intent on pushing their children into it as well. Most of their children didn’t have the intellectual power to get through the rather tough selection exams of the government dental colleges, though...and the government dental colleges had the only real degrees going.

So they found a solution. They’d pay for their kids to enter a private college, and then transfer to a government college. At the time when they first did this – 1992 – it was still totally illegal. So their further solution was to go to the Supreme Court to get it legalised. With money to pay top lawyers, and nobody opposing them, it was easy.

I remember the first set of these transfers who appeared in our college. In 1992, they entered the class immediately junior to us – the “90 Batch”, which started its course in late 1990. Several of them were teachers’ children, and others were the kids of sundry politicians and other bigshots. By then, they’d all already completed a year or more in various private colleges – but you never saw such an incompetent bunch in your life. I remember one, the daughter of a police chief if memory serves, who was asked to adapt a baseplate (a sheet of hard wax) on a plaster cast of the jaw. A beginner normally breaks several baseplates before first succeeding.

Not this young lady. She didn’t break the baseplate. She broke the cast instead.

Now, there was a problem. These transfers, as I said, joined in 1992, about halfway through the academic year as I recall. In order to appear for the year ending examinations, the Second Professional as it’s known (there are four, one at the end of each year), they needed a certain minimum attendance. And of course they didn’t have it. They could not, legally, appear for the exam.

This, of course was not a state of affairs that could be tolerated. The teachers and bigshots hadn’t spent all the money and effort getting their kids into the college to have them balked in this fashion. They tried a trick as transparent as it was guaranteed to succeed.

What they did was claim that the attendance records of most of the class had gone missing. Not all the class – that would have raised questions – but most, something like 75%. So only 25% of the 90 Batch could appear in the Second Professional Examinations unless...

...unless, of course, they were all allowed to appear. And so it was done. And – you’ll be totally astonished to hear – the teachers’ kids all got medals and certificates for their performances.

You’re astonished, right? I thought so.

This was the kind of thing that happened in a government dental college, a good one. In the private colleges, of course, even the minimal checks and balances were dispensed with, and incompetent nincompoops began pouring out by the tens of thousands, with the exact same degree we’d sweated blood to earn.

Can you imagine what this did to the dental profession?

Suddenly, starting in the late 2010s, dentistry was no longer a star-spangled profession. Suddenly, new dental graduates could no longer get a job to save their lives. Suddenly, more than half of them, with a dental degree – even a proper degree, from a government college – found it so impossible to get a job that they ended up looking for work as a call centre operator or a salesperson. And still the number of dental colleges grew, and grew, and grew.

These days, it’s the qualified dentists who, to pretend to be more qualified than they are, have started adding fake “degrees” to their names. One standard one is to call themselves MIDA, which actually stands for Member of the Indian Dental Association. It sounds like some achievement like the British FRCS, but all you need to be an Indian Dental Association member is a dental degree and a couple of thousand rupees annual membership fee. I’m an IDA member myself. There’s nothing special about it. But the shrinking market means qualified dentists now have to pretend to be what they aren’t.

Obviously, nothing of this – nothing at all – was unknown to us dentists. We saw the carnage with our own eyes. But apparently the only ones who didn’t see it, who were wholly oblivious of it, were our masters in the DCI.

Their “reasoning” seemed to go this way: “India has 1300 million people, and x number of dentists. Therefore there are only y dentists per 10000 people, while in other countries there are as many as z dentists for just 1000. Therefore we need more dentists.”

Really? In the first place, and this is something they’d know if they were actual dentists and not simply jacked-up administrators with dental degrees, we need better dentists, not ham-handed incompetents who occupy jobs without the slightest idea of how to do the work. Secondly, almost all Indian dentists are in the cities and towns, and will always remain in the cities and towns, where the market is already saturated. The villages? Well, for one thing, they’re far too poor to afford dental care, and with “economic liberalisation” they’re getting poorer still. Secondly, the villagers of India don’t care about good dental care and never will. To them, a twig is better than a toothbrush, and such newfangled notions as getting your teeth cleaned by a dentist are anathema.

By 2015 the situation had deteriorated to the extent that student composition in dental colleges had changed. Back when I was a student, the law mandated that 50% of the places had to be reserved for women, though the colleges always struggled to make up that number. The average class usually had about 30% females to 70% males. Nowadays, as someone in a position to know assured me, it’s about 80% female to 20% male.

But isn’t that a good thing? Aren’t more women with professional degrees a sign of progress?

Not if you realise that the vast majority of these ladies are never going to land a job in dentistry, and in fact have no intention of landing a job in dentistry. Their only purpose is to add a “Doctor” in front of their names, so as to increase their value in the marriage stakes. That is all it is.

Early this year, one of my former classmates, who’s a teacher in a private college, and is thoroughly disillusioned, informed our alumni WhatsApp group that all private dental colleges in her state have handed the staff a compulsory 40% pay cut. I assume holidays in Hong Kong and Amerikastan are right out in future for her. Quelle horreur.

It was only as late as April 2016 that the DCI finally admitted that something was wrong, and began to take steps. What steps did it take? Did it shut down the useless private degree shops? No. Of course not. All it did was declare that no new dental colleges would be set up.

The golden goose is killed, and they’re still hunting in its beak for teeth. Even though geese don’t have teeth.

But I doubt if private college “graduates” know that anyway.

[Image Source]