My attention span is that of a fly!: Why Mrinal Kutteri, who got AIR 1 in NEET 2021 in his very first attempt, rocks

Lockdown blues were a minor glitch in the plans of this focused youngster who worked out a schedule that balanced study and play in a recipe that worked best for him 
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

The last thing that Mrinal Kutteri did before he entered the NEET exam hall was request his parents to let him finish listening to the song Forever by Chris Brown. Edgy and nervous on the one-hour journey to his exam centre, Mrinal had taken over the music in the car, playing a medley of songs that would pump him up nice and proper before the exam. "Just before I entered the hall, I told my parents, 'One second, let me just finish listening to this song,' and that helped me get into the zone," says Mrinal, the All India Rank 1 holder in the NEET UG exam.

As his parents, batchmates, and teachers revelled in his success at his very first crack at the national level medical entrance exam, to the tunes of dhol, no less, Mrinal tells Edexlive in an exclusive interview that Physics was the longest part of the paper, which he took the care to attempt first, and apply everything he has learned. "I cannot study for more than 45 minutes at once. Especially in the pandemic situation, you are surrounded by numerous opportunities to just zone out of your books. It was a constant problem for me. I learned to adapt a little bit more," he admits

"Focusing was a huge issue for me. I can admit this now because no one will tell me anything, but I have listened to music in the middle of a class sometimes," he quips. However, the one good thing that the lockdown brought about was time he could save to focus on his interests and hobbies, which include playing video games and watching Netflix. "Giving time to my hobbies helped me stay composed and in a happy state of mind, really. It made me make the most of the time I had," says Mrinal.

Lockdown blues were real for this youngster though. After 11 months of classes at the institute, he was trapped home in March 2020, and his father, Murali Kutteri recognised that for the first couple of months, Mrinal was struggling to focus. "In fact, for two months I sensed that things weren't going the way they were planned. We didn't know if he was like this in college too, but at least we knew that we went to study at 9 am and came 5 pm. With online classes, we weren't feeling that level of comfort. It took a month or two to realise that this is the way forward, and he went about adjusting himself," says Murali, who is an HR Consultant by profession. 

In fact, Murali adds that the importance of hobbies is something he cannot stress enough. "Every child is different, but if there was one suggestion I would give to parents it would be to let them have that hour of freedom to play and pursue their hobbies every day," he says, adding that he helped by not spoiling Mrinal's efforts, calling the student responsible and accountable, self-driven.

Mrinal's strategy for studying revolved around frequent breaks and short periods of intense study. The one tip that this lanky teenager divulged was the art of experimenting. Tinkering with study patterns and methods to attempt the exam, and sticking to your ways once you find what works for you is the topper's suggestion. "At the very least, you have two years to prepare for the exam. That's enough time to experiment. And what your classmates are doing, or what your lecturers originally suggested, simply doesn't matter," he recommends. 

If you're wondering how Murali settled on the choice of the institute for his son, the answer isn't what you'd expect. During his hunt for an institute in Hyderabad, Murali noticed that the ones he visited were quite cramped. "Aakash Institute was the only one that gave me a sense of security in terms of a fire escape. It is really crazy, but I noticed that they had two exits, the stairs were wide enough and at any given time, and four-to-five people could climb up and down," says Murali, who says that he thought Medicine would be the right choice for Mrinal because of his ability to study in-depth, and his eye for detail. Well, like father, like son. 

Aakash Institute remained Mrinal's centre for coaching through the two years. "While I wouldn't know if NEET can be cracked without a coaching centre, it is said that the Biology and Chemistry syllabus in the NCERT books is thorough enough," says Mrinal, who also credits his alma mater Gitanjali Devshala in Hyderabad for playing an integral part in making him who he is today.

And while we jest around and ask him how he would describe himself, a sheepish Mrinal says, "The first thing that always comes to mind is 'easily distracted.' I want to say cool, confident, but it doesn't apply. Dedicated and composed and calm, maybe, I don't know. My attention span is that of a fly. I am not a very focused person."

The celebrations are still ongoing for this veritable prodigy, and he is focused on living in the moment. "Based on whatever minimal knowledge I have from books and TV shows, I have always wanted to do something in surgery," says Mrinal, adding that he will chalk out the details while he is pursuing his MBBS. And if you're still wondering what this topper's playlist is composed of, well, it's a medley of everything from his favourite artist Taylor Swift, to Linkin Park.

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