Daughter of a CPM activist who repairs gas ovens for a living, Saraswati Rajak, 22, of Durgapur in West Burdwan, has made her family and state proud.
Armed with a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) rank of 6,000, Saraswati cleared the AIIMS exam process at the top with a score of 100 percentile in the reserved category.
She took admission to the premier institute in New Delhi on Friday.
Coming from a humble background, the topper tag helped Saraswati win a scholarship that made her eligible to study at AIIMS for free.
Saraswati’s journey to Delhi, which is 1383km away from Durgapur, was not easy.
Her father Nitai Rajak doesn’t earn much to support a family of four.
Nitai, who is the sole earning member of the family, and a CPM activist, goes around town repairing gas ovens when he is not busy with the political events of his party.
On a good day, Nitai returns home with Rs 300. The family’s monthly income hovers around Rs 12,000.
Saraswati, her brother Mithun and their mother Meena depend on the income. The family lives in a small two-room home in Durgapur’s Deshbandhu Nagar.
Despite the financial constraints, Saraswati wanted to be a doctor since her childhood.
A bright student, she was aware of the family’s financial difficulties. Unlike most medical college aspirants, she struggled on her own to fulfill her dream as her parents were unable to provide her with private tutors.
“Yes my struggle was hard but I never gave up,” said Saraswati, who admitted that she did not fare well in NEET-2021 and couldn’t get admission to any government institute.
Her rank in 2021 made her eligible to study in a private college in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur. Saraswati had to give up the chance as her parents couldn’t afford the Rs 12 lakh admission fee.
“Initially, I broke down but later realised that only a good NEET rank will help fulfill my dream. I started to study harder. As my father could not afford expensive books and tuition, I took the help of Internet and online coaching,” she said.
After clearing the Class XII exam in 2017, Saraswati enrolled at the TDB College in Raniganj to study botany honours which she completed in 2020.
All along, Saraswati did not withdraw herself from her social and political commitments.
Coming from a family of Left activists, DYFI member Saraswati taught underprivileged children at study camps run by the CPM’s youth wing.
The success of their daughter who fought against all odds to secure a berth in AIIMS has left her parents teary-eyed.
“I felt helpless to see my daughter trying hard to become a doctor. I couldn’t afford to provide her with good tuition and books. I am happy that she has achieved what she wanted to on her own,” said father Nitai, 54, as tears rolled down his cheeks.
However, his worries are yet to end fully.
“My daughter needs at least Rs 80,000 every year to meet her hostel fees and other expenses. It is a heavy amount for us. I don’t know how to meet that,” said Nitai and added that this money would have to be arranged by April.
Nitai, however, is grateful to his party comrades for promising every support they can give the bright girl.
“Our party members and youth wing leaders are trying to arrange funds for Saraswati,” said CPM leader Pankaj Roy Sarkar.
“We will all try to ensure that the girl can study without any hurdles,” he added.