Another Kota wonder: Odisha boy tops NEET

JAIPUR: Soyeb Aftab, a native of Rourkela in Odisha, has stood the first rank in National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), results of which were announced on Friday. He has created a new record by scoring 100% marks in Aftab has been living in Kota from the last two-and-a-half years.

Aftab never stepped out of Kota since he first came here in August 2018, with a dream to crack a medical seat in any of the government colleges, which is the only way he can become a doctor. Else, medical education in any of the private colleges is way beyond the reach of his family. The score would give him the privilege to choose any college he likes. “I would certainly go for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which is the Mecca of medical education in the country,” Aftab said.

The success came with several challenges and sacrifices that his family made for him. Aftab was nervous with the idea of moving 1,500km away from the steel city (Rourkela) to the education hub (Kota) in 2018. Realising his situation, his mother Sultana Rajia stepped in and decided to stay with him in Kota along with his younger sister Alisa Sultana.

“Leaving behind my father alone and taking my sister who had to leave her school and friends for me in a different city was a tough call for the family, both personally and financially. It did help me in not feeling alone even for an hour and kept me focussed on my goal. My mother and sister never went back to Rourkela. Even during the lockdown, when the Odisha government ran special buses for Kota students, my father asked us to stay back as he understood well that my aim was clearing NEET,” said an elated Aftab. His father lives in Rourkela and would visit Kota at regular intervals to see his family.

For the topper, Kota has become his second home which he can never forget. “I am a Bengali who cannot live without fish and I was lucky that Kota has Chambal, which provides fresh fish throughout the year. The reason I never felt homesick is because my coaching centre celebrates all the festivals, including Eid or Ramzan,” he added. He prepared from Allen Career Institute, Kota.

He is eyeing a seat in AIIMS which is his childhood dream. “I would like to plunge into research in the cardiovascular field which is fast taking a shape of epidemic in our country. We are at higher risk of heart ailments and there is urgent need to discover new remedies and make treatment affordable,” he said.

An avid reader of medical research journals, Aftab has compared India’s response to Covid-19 vis-à-vis other countries sharing the same socio-economic ladder. “Our response has been better than in several developed countries. I have been following the case trajectory and recoveries and would agree that our mortality rate is going to the minimum in the world. We would surpass everyone in the pace of recovery,” he said.

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