Born into humble families, they were reconciling with their fate, but fate had written a different course for them.
Defying all the odds, a select group of aspiring Odisha physicians hailing from humble backgrounds have made it into medical schools after passing a difficult NEET exam in 2020.
Their dream of becoming doctors was given wings due to the noble initiative of an Odisha-based charitable group whose 19 students succeeded in the National Income and Eligibility Test (NEET), the results of which were declared in October.
The winners are the day laborer, vegetable vendor, trucker, fisherman and idli-vada vendor halls.
These deserving students are products of the Zindagi program run by a non-governmental organization of academic Ajay Bahadur Singh, who himself had to experience hunger pains and a shortage of money in childhood that prevented him from becoming a doctor.
Most of them got admission to the state government medical colleges.
The world has come to know about the Super 30 success story of mathematician Anand Kumar, who helped economically disadvantaged children become engineers by scoring on JEE exams, but the similar feat of the Odisha group in the field of medical studies has not it is less romantic.
Aspiring doctors say they hadn’t even thought about this day in their dreams, but thanks to the noble heart Ajay Bahadur Singh, who not only sparked hopes in them, but also monetarily helped keep them going.
The exciting stories of Khirodini Sahoo, Roshan Paik, Satyajit Sahoo and Debashish Biswal from remote parts of Odisha for whose families life begins and ends with the challenge of finding two extremes.
Khirodini Sahoo, a native of Angul district, is the daughter of agricultural worker Kanhu Charan Sahoo.
She used to extend a helping hand to parents in the field to keep the house fire burning. But providence helped her to continue with her studies and today her desire to wear a doctor’s apron is within reach.
“My this life is dedicated to Ajay sir,” he said thanking the founder of the organization.
Roshan Paik, whose parents are also farm workers, is another success story.
Kendrapara’s Debashsi Biswal is under the tutelage of a small grocery store owner for whom organizing two full meals is top priority.
Satyajit Sahoo, the son of a vegetable vendor in a remote town in the Cuttack district, is another lucky group.
“We were born into humble families and we were destined to live a life of misery. It is only thanks to the Zindagi foundation that we are able to keep our dreams alive and we are on our way to becoming doctors, ”enthused Sahoo and Biswal.
Under the program run by the Zindagi foundation, talented underprivileged students are selected from all over Odisha and provided with free training and food to help them break the ninis and become doctors.
“The year 2020 was a difficult challenge for all of us, but steadfast in our determination we did not allow students to feel powerless,” Singh told PTI.
“I got sick during the confinement and came to Bhubaneswar in an ambulance and told Ajay Sir everything.
He kept me at his house and provided me with everything I needed, ”said Khirodini, who has earned All India’s 2,594 rank on NEET, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
Satyajit Sahoo has achieved 619 marks.
Another success story is that of Subhendu Parida, who used to sell “Idli Vada” together with her parents. He scored on the NEET exam with 609 points.
Singh founded the Zindagi Foundation in 2017 in Bhubaneswar.
“I do all of this without receiving any donation from any individual or organization, although many have offered it. I manage everything from my own resources, because I see my childhood in them, ”said Singh.
The man behind these children’s success stories had to drop out of his medical studies and sell tea and sharbat (gourd) in the temple town of Deogarh in Jharkhand to support his struggling family and continue his studies.
Under the project, talented students from poor economic backgrounds screened across the state receive free food, lodging and tuition to help them become doctors.
Twelve out of a batch of 14 who had broken NEET in 2018 were admitted to the Odisha government medical colleges.
They were later received by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to commemorate their achievements.
Impressed by the noble initiative, Super 30 founder mathematician Anand Kumar has made several trips to the Zindagi foundation to inspire aspiring physicians.
The group’s fame has crossed international borders with a US-based foundation that came forward last year to fund MBBS studies of a poor girl without a father, who was trained in the ‘Zindagi’ program.
The scholarship was awarded by the California ‘Saloni Heart Foundation’ to Krishna Mohanty, who had the program last year. It covered the expenses of Mohanty’s studies, food and accommodation in a hostel at MKCG state university in Berhampur.