From selling pens in trains and buses in Kolkata and working at a construction site in Delhi to sitting in a classroom in Burdwan Medical College, Subodh Biswas has come a long way. To become a doctor and heal the poor had always been his dream, albeit a seemingly impossible one. But tenacity and hard work, coupled with some luck, have put this 26-year-old on his way to realising his ambition.
Subodh lost his parents at an early age and was brought up by his brother Sukhlal, a carpenter. Sukhlal supported Subodh’s studies till Class 10. Subodh passed his school leaving exams with 71 per cent aggregate marks in 2003.
“After that, I was on my own,” says Subodh. “My brother got married and couldn’t sponsor my studies any longer with his meagre income. I was determined to continue my studies, but did not know how. Then a neighbour introduced me to a manufacturer of pens and I started selling them in suburban trains and buses in Kolkata. It earned me Rs 100-150 a day. I would leave home at 7 am and return at about 9 pm. Then I would cook dinner, study and sleep.”
Subodh cleared his higher secondary exams in 2005 and took the joint entrance exams that year. He cleared the entrance exams, ranking 77th in the merit list, and was offered a seat in a dental college. But he couldn’t raise the money for admissions and course fees and had to let it go.
“I didn’t let that disappointment get to me,” Subodh says. “I kept selling pens on trains for the next two years, hoping to save money to gain admission to a medical college. I took the joint entrance test again in 2008. I passed and got a seat in North Bengal Medical College. But I hadn’t been able to save enough money and, once again, had to surrender my seat. It was frustrating.”
He went to Delhi in 2009 to work as a construction worker, earning Rs 80 a day. Returning to Kolkata after six months, he motivated himself to take the entrance tests one last time this year. This time, he was lucky. A private hospital that had heard of him offered a scholarship. Udayer Pathey, a scholarship for poor students instituted by the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Kolkata, will take care of Subodh’s expenses for five years.