Allanjuri: Sailendu Singh, a Catholic Dalit MBBS student, hails from a village called Allanjuri in the Kandhamal district of Odisha.
His father is a retired Upper Primary School teacher and his mother is a homemaker. Both of them are prayerful, God-fearing and lead an exemplary life.
When asked about how they felt as their son is about to complete his studies at St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru, they said in one voice, “It is all due to the blessings of God.”
When Sailendu cleared the eligibility and entrance test, parents had never thought they would afford to pay for it.
“Many generous persons and institutions (like Solidarity for Developing Communities [SFDC], Old Students’ Association of St. John’s, Congregation of Missions and others) offered their support that made it possible. We are thankful to each of them,” the parents said.
Sailendu himself too remains grateful to all the benefactors in the process of making him a physician.
“I am completing MBBS by summer 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it got pushed a bit further. I was an average student in the early years of my college,” he said.
SFDC, an NGO based in Berhampur, Odisha supported him to prepare for the medical entrance examination while pursuing college studies at the same time.
“It was not an easy task to concentrate on both. Besides, the expectations from my family, villagers and the institution were a great deal of pressure on me. I just relied on the power of God and worked as much as I could,” he recalled.
Success did not come so easily on Sailendu’s way. He had to slog and appear repeatedly for the qualifying exams. Nevertheless, he did not give up.
“Even though I did not succeed several times, the encouragement of my family, relatives and well-wishers kept me moving,” he added.
Finally, he cleared the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) exam in 2016. “That was the happiest moment for me. I could see the happiness in family members and relatives,” Sailendu recalled.
After qualifying for the entrance test, the thought of enrolling in an expensive medical college was a staggering undertaking for him and his family and well-wishers.
“It was not easy even to imagine how to get the required funds as the fee was very high. But by God’s grace, there were so many generous people, priests, relatives and institutions who came forward to help me financially and some have been helping me till now. It would not have been possible to reach where I am now without their support,” he explained.
When asked, what enabled him to arrive at this height, his answer was, “I never gave up despite several failures. I kept pushing myself for better, realizing a few students of my community get the opportunities for higher studies, particularly MBBS,” he said. “I studied willingly and cheerfully to gain knowledge and skill. Hope to serve people confidently after completion of studies.”
All the while Sailendu felt indebted to everybody.
“I feel grateful to everyone who has supported me financially, emotionally, and in other ways in my journey. Being a Dalit Christian, I feel fortunate to do MBBS in one of the best medical colleges in India,” he said.
He parted a couple of tips to his juniors and aspirants. “I wish to tell the aspirants of my Dalit community—never to give up and believe in you. We must put in our best effort. There is no substitute for hard work. It is never so easy for us considering various factors, like our socio-economical background. But it is also not impossible.”
Currently, there are eight Dalit students from Odisha, in St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru.
Sailendu and his batchmate Abhijeet Bastaray joined the programme in St. John’s Medical College, an institution owned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, in September 2016.
He (Sailendu) has to do one year of internship, two years of the bond to comply and then follows a Ph.D. program.
“A still long way to go. Hope things work out well so that I would be able to give back everything to society that I have been given,” he said.