I remember from an early age being brainwashed by my mother into thinking that I had to be a doctor when I grew up. I had no idea what I liked or much less what I had an aptitude for. But I went along blindly with what she advised. As the time to make a choice drew closer, I was convinced that I had to be a doctor no matter what. I was good academically and loved biology , so there was no thinking involved. I hated maths, so going towards engineering the other popular choice, was out of the question. The other options were unthinkable at that time.
So, when despite of getting great marks I missed out on getting admission to medicine by a point something margin, I was devastated. I joined BSc because I had not applied for anything else. I was obsessed with getting into medicine. I studied for all the medical entrance exams like a person possessed.
People asked me why I had not applied for BDS and I ignorantly asked ‘ what is that?’ Well, its dentistry, of course. I was horrified that they could even suggest that. I like so many, hated dentists and dental treatment. I had hated my orthodontist all along. Although he transformed me from an ugly duckling into something more presentable , I absolutely abhorred him .And his assistant. The needles, the nauseous smells, the hair-raising drilling sounds and of course the pain as he uprooted three of my teeth in quick succession made for regular nightmares. The smell of post-lunch oranges on his hairy, bare ungloved hands as he fiddled around in my mouth is still fresh in my mind. Nope, I did not want to be like him.
I would rather do BSc .Yes, I would do chemistry and become a scientist.
Soon, my stubbornness to persist with medicine faded and slowly I accepted that perhaps I needed to give myself a chance and apply for something else. Just being with people doing the BSc course changed my opinion. My peers were mostly unmotivated and disinterested youngsters who were whiling their time away doing BSc. Not all of them of course. But the majority definitely was.
So , when after one year, I could apply again, I applied for dentistry and pharmacy too.
This time around I missed out on getting into medicine by 2 seats. I can still remember vividly going to Grant medical college for the interviews and the person 2 places ahead of me getting in and the admissions stopped right there. The girl who was a place ahead and myself, bawled our eyes out. I was shattered and my dreams of wearing a white coat and brandishing a stethoscope had come to an end. I could not stop crying all the way to Pune. I was inconsolable as my poor father watched sadly in anguish. By the time I was home I could not cry any more and I went back to BSc. But a week later I got another interview call. This time for BDS.
I went along with my father to Mumbai and this time I got in comfortably.
I was on cloud nine, not because I got into dentistry but because I had now found a way to escape BSc and Pune and all the misery that I had put up with in the last one year.
I was elated and enthusiastically joined BDS in Mumbai, not knowing what I was doing.
Once there, I found to my sheer joy that the subjects were the ones taught in medicine. Subjects, that me, with my love for biology had a natural affinity for. Anatomy , physiology fascinated me. Pathology and pharmacology captured my imagination. The dental subjects too enthralled me. The laboratory work captured my fancy. I had always been a creative and artistic person. I loved doing things with my hands and had been very dexterous. Art had never been a career choice as we all knew it was not a sure shot mantra to money making. But now making dentures from scratch in the lab was a fantastic outlet for my creative energies. The intricate waxing , carving, getting messy with plaster, wax , acrylic and all sorts of materials was just the sort of stuff I liked to do. Not always easy, but I loved it.
Without realising it , I had entered a profession that was tailor made for me.
A mix of medicine and art, a challenge to the brain, a test of deftness and manual skills.
Now looking back I know that unknowingly I was pushed into making the right choice.
Oh yes, I did get admission into medicine by passing the All India PMT that year but the results were declared later by which time I was well and truly in love with dentistry and I am both proud and relieved that I stayed put and declined medicine.
Yes, my orthodontist would be shocked if he found out his worst ever patient went on to become a dentist! And yes the same smells, sounds are now reassuringly, part of life.
Sure, no one likes dentists, but ask anybody who has had toothache . Who helped them out of their pain? Their doctor or their dentist?
Getting someone out of pain is the most satisfying thing as a dentist and when ever I do that I know that this calling in life was just meant to be.