The village boy who aspires to be a neurosurgeon

The ragpicker’s son who made his tryst with destiny. Let's take a peek into Asharam Choudhary’s extraordinary mind and witness a teaser to his inspiring life story.

The village boy who aspires to be a neurosurgeon

Heroes are not the stuff of myths and legends; they are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Our hero today is Asharam Choudhary, who despite living in a small village and hailing from a humble family background, dared to dream big. And he attained his goal with nothing more than talent and dedication. 

It’s no small feat being selected for an MBBS course in the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and the achievement is even more commendable when one comes from a disenfranchised background. In this conversation, we shall take a peek into Choudhary’s extraordinary mind and witness a teaser to his inspiring life story.

How did you get the inspiration to enter the world of medicine?

I remember when I was very young – I think I was in the sixth standard – I was suffering from some ailment and my parents took me to the local doctor. I was quite taken by the way he effortlessly diagnosed me by simply listening to my breathing and checking my pulse. It seemed very cool to me. And just for that, the doctor charged around Rs 50. The average wages for a full day of labour in my village at that time used to be around Rs 45, and this man was making a similar amount with each consultation! 

That apart, the immense respect the doctor commanded in my village made me feel I wanted to be one too. In my tenth standard, I realised the enormous amount of studying I would have to do if I wished to become a doctor. Not that it deterred me in the least. As I read more about the medical field and biology, I strengthened my resolve to become a doctor, especially since I thoroughly enjoyed the course material.

So was the doctor in your village an MBBS? And did everyone in the village have only that one doctor to go to?

Our village was very small, and a close-knit one. The doctor there was not an MBBS, but all of us used to go to him for our medical needs. He would refer any serious cases to the nearest large hospital, which had more advanced medical facilities.

When you finally decided to pursue a degree in medicine, who was your mentor in telling you how you could achieve it?

I was selected to a large school on merit after the fifth standard. There we had dedicated biology teachers, something my village school did not have. My teachers there, including Mrs Sharma, kept motivating me and telling me of the marvellous career that medicine promised. They knew of my financial handicap and the situation at my home, so they took extra pains in informing me how my life could change if I were to embrace the idea of becoming a doctor.

When you joined your medical course, what was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

My friends and I wanted to pursue academic courses that we wished to eventually become a part of. That meant joining coaching classes, and they were expensive. I could not afford them and I could not crack my examination without their help either. Fortunately, I came to know of a coaching institute called Dakshana Foundation, which also doubled as an NGO. I applied to them and cracked their entrance examination. Thus, I was assured of a coaching institute that could help me realise my dream. My financial situation always did worry me but I had many well-meaning friends who helped and motivated me.

You said you had many anxiety issues to overcome, particularly relating to your financial situation. How exactly did you face up to them?

By studying and getting good marks in all the tests I appeared for! It would be very demotivating when I couldn’t get the marks I hoped for, and my worries would start parading in my mind. Fortunately, I had the support of teachers like Mr Arun and good friends like Mr Anish who would keep motivating me and telling me of the struggles that eminent people have had in their lives. This kept me going and ensured my morale didn’t drop low enough for me to quit.

So how did you prepare yourself to successfully take the final examination?

Simple! I paid attention in class and studied at least 7-8 hours a day. With this much effort, I was able to pass.

What is your opinion on India’s healthcare sector and what would you like to change about it?

I think the most important issue facing the healthcare sector in India is the lack of knowledge the rural sector has when it comes to education about their health. In cities, people are more aware of healthcare and its concerns than those in villages. This must be remedied. Moreover, most doctors do not want to serve in villages as there is no profit to be made there. Personally, all I can do about it is to serve in villages, something I will be doing as soon as I get my degree.

What is your advice to students who wish to ace the examination you did?

From personal experience, all I can say is that worrying about ‘what ifs’ is the biggest hurdle a student will face. Such as – What if I fail? What if I don’t get selected? What if I can’t cope with the hard work required? All of this actually hampers productive time. So my advice is: don’t worry about the results; just do what you are supposed to do.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Well, the first one is to become a competent neurosurgeon. After that, I wish to serve in villages around India and educate locals about healthcare while providing them with quality healthcare. As for higher studies, after my MBBS I do not wish to pursue an MD, but rather an MS.

What advice have your parents given you that have stuck with you?

My mother is a devout lady from the village. Once she had to go to a doctor and she did not have enough money to cover her treatment. The doctor was a good man and he refused to accept whatever meagre amount my mother had. She has often related that incident and told me I should treat patients in a similar manner. If someone cannot pay, I should treat them like they are my own mother and not deny them treatment. This is the single greatest lesson she has given me, and I aim to follow it completely.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the interview are personal and do not reflect the views of TomorrowMakers.

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