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Munna Bhai aur MBBS, and beyond.

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Indian medical aspirants are a cohort of some 15 lakh students who sit for medical entrance examinations each year. They compete for 85000 seats across various government and private medical colleges. As daunting as the competition might sound, this is not surprising for an average Indian who faces similar competition across all exams, engineering, management, civil services, banking, or law.

The Asian stereotype of having their children become doctors exists in India as well. Well, anything that ensures a heavy pay package and the forthcoming status, is welcome in the middle class Indian family. But, being a doctor in India is one step ahead because this profession makes you a relative of the most unrelated person in a family gathering. You are looked upon as someone who is going to cure all their illnesses, and myths about modern medicine over a phone call.

A doctor holding a chart of a patient
Munnabhai aur MBBS and beyond

The Process of Being a Medical Aspirant

The process of being a medical aspirant in this country however is a bit weird. To explain it to a non medical professional I’d like to give the following example. If there was a mission in which earth had to fight against alien invasion and all those who had watched the movie ET/ Koi mil gaya 10 times and remembered every bit of it, or had read hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, were chosen, wouldn’t it be weird? Very much so I guess.

"when Asians ask their kids to become doctors, helping people is at the bottom of the list. It’s like an unnecessary byproduct"

So when one thinks of preparing for a medical entrance exam, the challenges of being a medical professional is something which they have no idea about. And, I am not speaking about when one enters a hospital to work, much before that, during the initial years of college, one has no idea about how to go on with studies, or pursue medical education in India. At least the majority of us, who come from a non medical background, have no idea what we are getting into.

A Typical Venn Diagram of an Indian Medical Aspirant
A Typical Venn Diagram of an Indian Medical Aspirant

The medical aspirants who make it to medical school In India are the ones who qualify the national medical entrance test. They are tested on biology, chemistry, and physics. Basically, in India if you are a science student and you also like Biology, or you are weak in Maths, you are automatically eligible to sit for this exam.

Like Ronny Chieng says, when Asians ask their kids to become doctors, helping people is at the bottom of the list. It’s like an unnecessary byproduct.😂

So when I say that people who choose medicine as their career have no career orientation, this is what I mean. Many students who choose this profession are inherently not very good at listening to people, or helping them. Many people are unaware about the long standing hours of training one has to go through to get the degree. Many people who have chosen this, also aren’t very good at memorizing stuff which forms the background of most of Indian education, medical education included.

Now, it wouldn’t have been much of a problem in other countries where after medical school, people can choose a career in research or become teaching professionals. In India, wherein other careers research isn’t a developing field, when it comes to doctors, people who choose research or other teaching careers are looked down upon. Medical students in India boast about becoming a clinical doctor, which includes, practicing medicine, surgery, obstetricians, pediatricians, orthopedics. On the other hand, fields like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology are looked down upon, and only chosen out of desperation and not for the love of their respective subjects.

So, while the student life of a medical aspirant is wrought with uncertainty about whether he or she would even be chosen for this dream medical seat, the latter half of his youth is equally uncertain if not more, where one has to adjust to the medical curriculum, 80 hours per week of training, and finally having to choose a subject to do post graduation in which one is happy, and which the society finds reasonably acceptable. (Some 2 lakh Doctors sit for post graduate seats of 20,000 each year)

Dealing with Failure & Mediocrity

Being a failure and a mediocre person is the biggest threat of the current Indian education scenario. We have idolized the idea of being a topper so much so that all others are considered pale in comparison, and are consequently failures. If you get into AIIMS, or a top government college, you are a success, otherwise a failure. If one gets Post graduation rank within top 1 percentile, you are a success, simultaneously all other doctors who couldn’t, fail. It’d have worked perfectly well if people who were ‘so called failures’ weren’t unhappy with their lives, but since they are, they don’t do their jobs well, because that’s what society projects on them. Nor are those people happy who get all the degrees, because at every point there is a group of people who have more (degrees) than you.

One can be mediocre and try to improve each day and till the end of his or her life. That being justified only when one is really passionate about it. Not because society considers it as a mark of success.

A quote from Sir Robert Hutchinson
Sir Robert Hutchinson's Quote

If we don’t normalize this idea of mediocrity soon, we’d have the majority of our youth chasing an elusive dream (medicine or otherwise) and leaving the rest of them unsatisfied and unhappy in their lives.

A MBBS doctor treating the majority of minor illnesses in Primary health care clinics is equally important to the society, as is a trained cardiologist who can do an emergency surgery and save a person from myocardial infarction( heart attack).

The degree of unfairness with which one treats the former as a failure, and considers the latter as a success (and God) is incomprehensible.

Like F. Scott Fitzgerald says, “And that taught me you can't have anything, you can't have anything at all. Because desire just cheats you. It's like a sunbeam skipping here and there about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it - but when we do the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you've got the inconsequential part, but the glitter that made you want it is gone.”, I hope everyone who reads this finds their passion and pursues it. Something consequential. Therein lies hope. For you, for the rest of us. 😊

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Darshan Shah
Darshan Shah
Jul 07, 2021

This is so true. I'm an engineer but I can relate with this so much. I love the point where you mentioned that we need to accept mediocrity.

I've always wondered about this - if everyone's a topper then is anyone actually a topper?

Replying to

And the concept of mediocrity is far reaching when it comes to India. Say for people Who pursue a career in theatre are considered failures till they get a daily soap, daily soap artists are also considered mediocre because they aren’t movie stars. Hence, before the movies, theatre and daily soap are considered as stepping stones, and nothing improves in quality as a general rule.

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