My name is Ganga Thota.
I grew up in Southeast India, in a very small town close to Hyderabad. I came to America in September 1994 when I was 22. My husband and I immigrated from India together, although he had lived in the US for a while before we got married.
I had just finished my education. In India, the bachelor’s and dental school takes about five years. When we immigrated, I had to go back to school — to Boston University — for two years to get my dental degree. Then, I had to apply to the state to take the licensure exam. My husband also did his education here, and we moved to the Bay Area because of his career.
Immigration policy used to be based on merit and compassion, but right now it is just based on fear and politics. There’s a lot of division in this country, but I hope change will come soon. We’ll go back to our core values. That’s not America. That’s not what we are.
Maybe the division and fear comes from misconceptions about the world, or experiences people have had. I would invite them home. Some people may think everyone from another culture is the same— like everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. That’s not true. I want them to come and see, invite them to my house and show we could be different, but how our values are ultimately the same. They should get a chance to open up and see.
I’m a dentist. Dentistry is not just about the teeth. I heal people. I treat people’s teeth. When it goes to mouth, it’s very personal. They open up, talk to me. Sometimes we are very emotionally connected. Body, mind, and mouth are connected. You heal one area, it will always heal the other areas. I don’t talk about just the teeth; I focus on their overall wellness.
I’m a mother of three kids. For me, I have to boil it down to kids’ level. If my kids are doing something wrong, I have to tell them. People are like kids. I’m not saying they don’t know, but we all need guidance from those in charge sometimes. To me, education is very important. I came here for education. The more you learn, the more open and understanding you are. Everyone should have access to affordable education, not just rich or affluent communities. Kids should have more opportunities through schools to come out of their situations—be that poverty or other hardship. I don’t know how that can be changed, but once we concentrate on that and we put in effort things will change. It’s not easy.