Published: 20th July 2019
This Odisha non-profit helps underprivileged children crack NEET. Meet the man behind it
Ajay Nahadur Singh always wanted to be a doctor and today, through his many students, he is trying to help the dreams of medical aspirants take off
Tragedies and opportunities maketh a man, methinks. Misfortune tends to pull you in all directions and leave you in a mess which you could use to reshape yourself in the best way possible, but we know it's a rough road. Born in Deogarh, Jharkhand, Ajay Bahadur Singh was subjected to his fair share of tragedies. Coming from a humble background, as a youngster and the eldest child of the family, he had to discontinue his preparation for medical examinations to financially help with his father's kidney transplant. This tragedy led to him toiling long and hard before he could finally really do what he wanted to do, start Zindagi Foundation which offers free coaching to underprivileged children so that it is an opportunity, not a tragedy which shapes their future. And this year, it is the future of 14 aspirants that Singh successfully helped shape as they successfully cracked NEET and even met the Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik recently. "We were really happy as he not only recognised, but even appreciated our efforts," says Singh humbly.
About 13 lakh students appeared for NEET in 2019. They were from 154 cities
"I wanted to be a doctor, but because I couldn't be one, I decided to make doctors," is one of the first things Singh tells us which quite perfectly sums up his intention of starting Zindagi Foundation. Started n 2017, it offers free coaching to crack NEET, free lodging and boarding and even free study material to students who have the smarts to make it but are limited in terms of finance and guidance. Now if this reminds you of Mathematician Anand Kumar's initiative Super 30 then you are probably right, but Singh is quick to point out that he has met the famed educationalist and there is a marked difference between the two. Apart from the obvious that Anand Kumar trains kids for IIT and Singh for NEET, Singh has, over the years, focused on refining his own skills and strengthening his own base, like starting Adyant +2 Science College and taking up the franchise of Aakash Institute (the leading chain of coaching institutes) to eventually become the Director of its Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Nagpur and East Delhi branches. This made sure that the Zindagi Foundation runs self-sufficiently. "If I would have blindly duplicated Anandji's model, I would have no identity," says the 47-year-old, adding that, "Everyone wants to win in life, but winning back life is not everyone's cup of tea. I want my students to win other's life back by becoming doctors." And what are the kind of doctors that he would like to nurture? "You know how nowadays people like to consult one doctor and go for a second opinion to another. I want our students to win the full trust of their patients so much so that they don't feel the need to turn to anyone else," he says wisely.
All happy: Singh with his students | (Pic: Zindagi Foundation)
With them always
Though Singh is caught up with other commitments to coach the children selected to study under the Zindagi Foundation, he is personally involved in the selection and supervises everything. As far as choosing the right people goes, members of his staff visit the homes of prospective students, meet their family and present a report to Singh who then selects the students. And when it comes to classes, "There is truly no substitute for the chalk and blackboard. So we ensure that lecturers maintain good relationships with students." And what would be his role in the classroom? "I visit them and offer advice on what mistakes they can avoid easily, what they should be prepared for and so on," he informs and adds, "I might not have birthed them, but they are all my children." And this is not just a statement he likes to make, he does truly believe in it. Take the case of one of his previous students from Zindagi who cleared NEET, Twinkle Sahu. She used to sell flowers near Jagannath Temple and though her parents were proud of the fact that she cleared NEET, fearing the expenses involved in paying the college fees, her father ran away from their home. When Singh caught wind of this, with the help of his staff, he found her father in four days and offered to pay the fees.
Singh has also sold tea, sherbet and soda-making machines for a living
Singh wants to do much more for the underprivileged. He wants to build hostels and offer students more comfortable facilities amidst which they can concentrate on studies. "Whatever I earn, I want to give back to society as much as I can," Singh shares. "I feel like Odisha understands what I am trying to do for it. They have a belief in me," he says. We wonder about his Odisha connect and ask him about the love he feels for it and he says, "Jharkhand might have been my janmabhoomi (birthplace), but Odisha is my karmabhoomi (a place where you perform deeds)."
The gurudakshina I take from my students is in the form of a promise that they will never see the pocket of the patient before treating them
Ajay Singh Bahadur, Founder, Zindagi Foundation (Pic: Zindagi Foundation)
Two to go
Here are the accounts of two students who, under Zindagi Foundation, cleared NEET this year:
For his own tribe
Though Aniruddha Nayak had attempted NEET before, he was determined to clear it the second time. This determination was further strengthened under the Zindagi Foundation which helped him in all aspects, especially Biology which he was weak in. “It isn’t like last year I did not study. Just that I went through one problem or another, like typhoid, and wasn’t able to give it my all,” says the 20-year-old. He particularly appreciates the staff of Zindagi for painstakingly clearing all his doubts and being available for help at all times. Cuttack-based Aniruddha says that he wants to become a doctor because, “I live in a village where there is no good doctor for about eight km and upon this, someone or the other is always falling ill in my house.”
A dream turned into reality
It has been a childhood dream for Krishna Mohanty to become a doctor and help the needy free of cost. And this was not just Krishna’s dream, her parents wished the same for her. “We had a review every 15 days and the whole month of April was dedicated to continuous exams which really helped us with time management,” informs the 20-year-old. She also commends Zindagi for strengthening her Physics and Chemistry. This was her second attempt and this time, she was fully prepared to crack the exam and she did! “I am grateful to Zindagi Foundation and Ajay sir for making this happen. I would also like to particularly thank my mother,” says the Bhubaneswar-based youngster emotionally.
Some milestone years in the life of Ajay Bahadur Singh
1990: Preparing for medical exams in Patna, which he had to discontinue
1996: Started Kartar Coaching Centre in Patna to help aspirants who wanted to crack competitive exams like railways, navy, bank and more
2007: Started Adyant +2 Science College in Bhubaneswar
2017: Started Zindagi Foundation
For more on him, check out facebook.com/absingh.adyant