A beacon of hope in the year of pandemic: Clearing NEET at age of 64

Odisha’s Jaya Kishor Pradhan, a retired banker, has joined the MBBS course – an ambition he nursed since childhood

Jaya Kishor Pradhan, 64, is determined that he'd serve those who lack access or can’t afford basic medical aid. Photo: The Federal

The year has witnessed over a million deaths and caused enormous despair across the globe due to COVID-19. However, the year of the pandemic has also left examples of grit and hope.

A case in point is Jaya Kishor Pradhan, 64, of Attabira in Odisha’s Bargarh district. A retired banker, Pradhan, having successfully cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) with a good rank, has joined the MBBS course at the government-run Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (VIMSAR), Sambalpur in the disability reservation category. Pradhan has proved that age is just a number.

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“I will serve those who lack access or can’t afford basic medical aid. Each life is precious and should be saved,” Pradhan told The Federal.

Pradhan says if one has the will and commitment, success will follow, one day. “Age is never a factor for doing or achieving anything.”

Pradhan didn’t have to make any special effort for the examination as the time he spent with his daughters during their preparation helped him immensely. “Whatever you do, do with interest,” is his mantra.

As he inches towards realizing his dream of becoming a doctor, his voice lacks excitement. Like everybody else in his family, he is still in a state of shock after the death of his elder of the twin daughters, Jai Prabha, a BDS student, in November. The younger of the two, Jyoti Prabha, is pursuing BDS.

Both the sisters, Jai and Jyoti, studied in the same class, same institution and shared the same room. “You can imagine our condition now,” he said, his voice choked.

The tragic incident led him to make up his mind that he would dedicate his life to the service and well-being of others. When the Supreme Court quashed the upper age limit for medical examination, he couldn’t but thank his stars. “I am grateful to the apex court, without the court’s order, my dream would have remained unfulfilled,” says Pradhan.

Incidentally, he is not alone who is passionate about the medical profession; his entire family seems to have a special liking for it.

Apart from the daughters, Pradhan’s house-maker wife, Pratibha had completed a course on pharmacy, while their tenth grader son Jaijeet, the Pradhans believe, will opt for a career in medicine.

However, for now, Pradhan’s focus is on the MBBS degree, as he hasn’t thought anything beyond it. “Let me complete the course, first,” he says.

Pradhan’s has been a fascinating journey. He had failed to crack the medical entrance exam in his earlier attempt after I.Sc. (Intermediate in Science) in 1974. Pradhan didn’t lose heart.

Pradhan moved on, slowly and surely. First, he earned the bachelor’s degree in physics with first division and began teaching at the school he had studied in and then had a four-year stint at BSNL. He worked with Indian Bank for a year. Finally, in 1983, Pradhan joined the State Bank of India and retired as deputy manager in 2016.

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In between, there were rough patches, particularly during 1982-87, when Pradhan rued for not being a doctor. That is the period when his father, Bipin Bihari Pradhan, suffered a lot due to urinal ulcer. After a long treatment and multiple surgeries at VSS Medical College, he had to undergo surgery again at CMC Vellore. He was fine and passed away in 2010. “I had a bitter medical experience,” recalls Pradhan. And then he wished that nobody else should suffer the way he had.

People read Pradhan’s story as inspiration. “It’s a unique achievement…He has proved that if one has the determination, one can win against all odds,” says Sambalpur-based senior journalist Siba Shankar Nanda.

An alumnus of GM College, Sambalpur, where Pradhan had studied, senior BJP leader and Bargarh MP Suresh Pujari believes Pradhan’s story is an indication, as well as, the inspiration for the younger generation not to give up.

“He has set an example. Success has nothing to do with age,” Pujari said, adding, “the coronavirus pandemic has many positive reflections in life, particularly to work in adverse situations and succeed.”