How Self-Belief Sparked NEET Success of Kashmiri Barbeque Seller’s Son

What thousands of students despite taking the high-end coaching from the branded institutes could not do, a street vendor’s son did it with his grit and grind.

THE crowd that surrounded Gulistan Khan’s food-cart in Pattan area of Baramulla district on September 8 wasn’t there for his smoky-cum-spicy delicacy, but for the staggering NEET success of his son.

The proud father selling barbecue for living could only respond with his beaming face amid the showering praises.

Away from his marketplace cart, the festive footfall was uplifting the mood of his modest house nested in a small hamlet of Guira, Pattan.

Women arrived, in twos and threes, and showered candies on the boy being celebrated as a difference-maker in Kashmir’s competitive exam. The elders took turns to kiss his feted forehead, while his mother Haseena—watching the celebratory scenes from sidelines—wasn’t able to conceal her gushing emotions.

Mehraj Ud Din Khan, 18, sat in a corner where he recalled the endless hours of his budding life shuttling between his father’s cart and his study room. “It’s hard to strike a balance between the two,” said the boy with a humble sense of achievement. “But then, hardship is another name of life.”

With this resilient bent of mind, Mehraj was able to achieve what thousands of students despite taking the high-end coaching—mostly from the branded coaching centres mushrooming in urban pockets of the valley—could not do.

“Last three years have tested my patience but I can proudly say that I defeated all the hurdles which came my way,” Mehraj said with a shy face. “And hurdles can sometimes come as a financial problem but mostly, a mental fatigue.”

Perhaps, that’s why, Mehraj has become an inspiration—not because of his father’s barbecue pushcart, but because of his grit and grind for success.

“My family has always been very supportive of my education,” Mehraj says while rising up to reciprocate another hug from a relative. “My father has a very nominal earnings and that’s why he wanted me to focus more on my studies and earn a better life for myself and obviously for my family. Except during my Class 11th, I’ve never attended any coaching center.”

Two years back, when the pandemic paralysed the normal education system of the valley, Mehraj used his proactive prowess to prepare for the NEET.

“With over two years of study period and several different subjects to read, the NEET tests the nerves of young aspirants,” he said. “It’s a laborious effort. You can’t find a shortcut and expect to win.”

During Covid curbs, he stumbled upon some YouTube videos to clear his concepts. This rigorous indoor preparation would eventually give this self-coached student an edge over the masses appearing for the competitive exam every year.

“It was very clear to me that if YouTube can clear my doubts in higher secondary level, then there’s absolutely no need to attend a coaching center for NEET preparation,” said Mehraj, the centre of attraction in his happy home.

His percentage in higher secondary level, a prerequisite for pursuing the national exams, was more than eighty percent propelling his preparation for the much-fanfare exam. He eventually qualified the NEET-22 with 591 out of 720 marks.

“It’s not necessary to enroll yourself in a coaching center,” Mehraj reiterated. “It all depends upon your dedication. Self-study can easily help you to excel in these competitive exams. And it may sound childish but a day’s break can also be enjoyed given that you’ve already set your target and maintained your continuity. The common myths around these exams have to end.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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