For years, self-styled ‘dentists’ have been running a successful business from makeshift stalls in KR Market. People from across Karnataka and from other states flock here for cheaper fixes.
BENGALURU: As the sun lays its first rays on KR Market, it is greeted by the fresh fragrance of the local phoolwalahs and the early morning calls of prayers for Ramadan.
The festival has invited several makeshift stalls to the roadside near a mosque in the market. As the day progresses, one sees a group of elderly men accompanied by their younger assistants setting up self-styled dental stalls on the footpaths in the market.
All stalls have banners sporting nationalist chants, pictures of national leaders along with before and after shots of customers who got their teeth fixed with them. For as less as `30, one can get a new tooth fixed here. With dental work at high-end clinics prohibitively expensive, people from across the state (particularly Huballi and Belagavi) and from outside it frequent these stalls for cheaper fixes.
New tooth in minutes
Located right next to the mosque and under the KR Market flyover is Eijaz Pasha’s open-air clinic. Two neatly dressed men, with ironed cotton shirts and well-combed hair occupy the chairs at this ‘clinic’. Ignoring the traffic chaos and the noisy customers bargaining closeby at a fruit juice stall, Eijaz listens to the problems of his patients intently. “We can fix a new tooth in five minutes,” he tells Ramesh Joseph, 45.
Everything Pasha knows about his trade is from Dr Usman. “The doctor died seven years ago. He trained me for three years.
Everything I do here is an imitation of what I saw and learnt at his Tumakuru clinic”.
He claims to use the same solution and materials that he saw at Dr Usman’s clinic. So, if he follows the same dental procedures and uses the same pharmacuetical items as the doctor, how come a session with Pasha comes cheap? Is it because it’s set on a dusty table and a partly rusted iron chair? “Wo paisa kharcha karkey dentist baney degree laakey, toh wo zyada letey. Mai bin paiso ka seekha, to mai kum leta (They spent money on their degree to learn dentistry, so they charge more. I learnt it without money, so I charge less),” he reasons.
Is he teaching his children the skills of his trade? “No... I am earning to educate them, so that they become officers,” he says.
Proudly, Without Degree
Sheikh Eijaz, 55 learnt to make and fix temporary teeth from a Malabari man, who had a dental stall like him at KR Market about 35 years ago. “All these people who tell you that it is a khandani business are lying,” he says.
Eijaz says that he always informs his customers that he is “WD Sheikh Eijaz. Without Degree”, before the consultation. To be fair, his banner too has the ‘WD’ placed prominently in capital letters.
Once he is done taking the customer’s measurement for a tooth, he claims he makes it by the time his client finishes drinking the tea.
He says there are many practitioners like him that he has met in Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur. “Then there are some ten tests they make you do for one tooth at government hospitals. They will say check sugar, stand in queue, so the poor are scared to go there,” says Eijaz.
In his over 40-year-long career of working from the same location in KR Market, Eijaz claims he has never had a customer come back with a complaint. There are around 40 men like him who have set up stalls in the city. “Everything I have today is because of this profession,” he says.