Kolkata/Kota: It has been quite hectic for 18-year-old Shoyeb Aftab ever since the result for National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2020 was declared. Shoyeb, the national topper from Rourkela, Odisha created history by securing the perfect score of 720/720 in the exam.
The second rank holder Akansha Singh, has also scored the perfect 720 score in NEET 2020, the only second person after Shoyeb in history to get perfect score.
eNewsroom caught up with Shoyeb, while he was travelling back from Ajmer to Kota, to engage in candid chat, about his aspirations, role models, challenges and more. Following are excerpts of the interview:
eNewsroom: What has it been like for you, ever since the NEET results were declared?
Shoyeb: It has been both encouraging and hectic for me. We were in a press conference organised by my institute – Allen, when the result was declared. Since then I have traveled to Jaipur and then Ajmer Darga and now am on my way back to Kota. All the travel and meetings have been organised by my institute.
eNewsroom: What made you travel to Kota from Rourkela?
Shoyeb: I dreamt of being a doctor. When I cleared my ICSE in 2018, we decided to move out of Rourkela to Kota, as I was very much determined to prepare for the entrance examination in the best possible way. So we decided to get enrolled with Allen in Kota, as the city has the reputation of providing the best preparation for medical entrance examinations.
eNewsroom: What was it like.. the preparation? How difficult was it for you in Kota?
Shoyeb: Initially it was a bit unsettling. You know the entire process of relocating to a new city in hope of fulfilling your dreams. Initially, it was difficult for me to get accustomed to my new life in Kota. But, thanks to my parents, things were easier for me. When I took the decision to relocate to Kota, in order to prepare for NEET 2020, my mother decided to relocate with me to Kota. Along with her, my sister, a standard five student, also had to relocate to Kota. My mother and sister have sacrificed a lot for me.
eNewsroom: Would you share the details of one day in the life of Shoyeb, while preparing for NEET in Kota?
Shoyeb: Life changed for me the moment I came to Kota and got myself enrolled with the classroom programme for Allen Institute. I also got myself enrolled with a local school here, where I prepared for my plus two examination. But my main focus was on NEET preparation. My schedule was hectic – I used to wake up at six in the morning to make it to my school by 7:00 am. After attending my classes in school, till two in the afternoon, I would rush to the Institute for classroom coaching. Exhausted, I would reach home around six in the evening. After taking some rest, I would start studying again.
eNewsroom: Well, quite hectic, isn’t it. How did you relax during these two years?
Shoyeb: Well, it definitely was hectic for me, but studies was never a burden for me. I enjoyed the effort that I was putting into my studies. When I would feel exhausted, I used to play with my sister or watch something on YouTube or play my favourite android game. But the routine changed a lot for me during the lockdown period. I think that was the turning point for my preparation.
eNewsroom: Speaking about the lockdown, it was a period of uncertainty and a lot of people were saying that it was affecting them mentally. How did you convert it into the most productive period for yourself?
Shoyeb: I knew that a lot was on stake. My parents had sacrificed a lot for me. So, I wanted to put in my best effort. The lockdown gave me ample time to study at home, and I used this period to better my preparation. The lockdown in a way made me realise that all of a sudden all the NEET aspirants had a lot of time to prepare. I dreamt of making it to the top 50 candidates. So, I knew that competition would be immense, hence i started to put in around 13 to 14 hours in the preparation.
eNewsroom: Are you saying that you never dreamt of topping NEET?
Shoyeb: Well, to be honest, I never thought of scoring the perfect score. But yes, I put in a lot of effort. My mother always motivated me during the lockdown. Also, the fear of my fellow classmates efficiently utilising the lockdown period for better preparation pushed me to put my best leg forward. Am glad that I put in such a lot of effort.
eNewsroom: Well, six institutes have been claiming to have prepared you for NEET. Are these claims true?
Shoyeb: Well, as I have told you, I had enrolled myself with Allen’s classroom coaching for NEET preparation. But then, during the lockdown, when the classroom coaching came to a stall, I enrolled myself for several distance learning programmes, which also helped me better my preparation. So, they are not wrong.
eNewsroom: Speaking of lockdown and the pandemic, given the effort that you had been putting in, did the possibility of the exam being called off scare you?
Shoyeb: Well, we all had thought about the possibility of the exam being called off. But that didn’t stop me from preparing. I thought, even if the exam was called off, the effort that I would be putting in would definitely help me later to crack this exam.
eNewsroom: Have you watched Kota Factory? How true is it?
Shoyeb: (laughs) Yes, I did. I could very much identify with many things that they showed in the web-series. Kota has its own life and yes, there is life beyond Kota. The institutes, have really good faculty members who not just motivate us to study but also help us in every possible way.
eNewsroom: Now that you have topped, what’s the next thing to do on your wishlist?
Shoyeb: I want to specialise in Cardiology and take up research work at AIIMS, New Delhi.
eNewsroom: Before we wind up, can you share something about your Bengal connect?
Shoyeb: We are originally from West Bengal. My father who has a construction business chose to settle in Rourkela. But my mother’s family still stays in Tarakeshwar. I still visit my grandparents during my summer breaks. I always look forward to spending time out there.
eNewsroom: Who is your role model?
Shoyeb: My mother. She is the only person who inspires me, motivates me. Also, my teachers in Allen Institute can be considered as a role model for me.