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Little womens with big achievements and courage


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These three sisters are in the same class in the same medical college in Ballari. And they also sit together since their names begin with ‘S’
For these three sisters, miracles don’t belong in a fantasy book. Shwetha, Swathi and Shruthi (no, they’re not triplets) have cleared the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) all managed to secure seats at the Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (VIMS) in Ballari in the same batch. In fact, they’re in the same classroom and will sit pretty much next to each other. And this is quite unheard of in the history of this national entrance examination, considering that it’s quite difficult for most students to get admission into a college of their choice. And it’s not just intelligence that worked in their favour, but a lot of hard work too.
The sisters belong to the ‘backward’ community of Savita Samaj, and their father, Shankar B, who’s a practising house-nurse, can be given credit for nurturing their daughters’ dreams of becoming doctors while silently facing criticism from family and friends. “I was always optimistic. Even when my first two daughters secured poor ranks in school and were forced to sit at home, I did not deter. Many family members, relatives and friends began to talk about their failures, but we had our eyes set on success. The only thing that was running in my mind was that why cannot these three study medicine. I am too educated, but the thought of giving my kids something kept me motivated all the time,” says Shankar. Despite clearing second PUC with 82 per cent in 2014, Shwetha was not eligible to be admitted into an MBBS programme. She stayed at home and studied continuously, securing a rank of 11,200 in CET (Common Entrace Test) in 2015, but even so there was little chance of her getting a seat in a medical school. She decided to try again. In 2016, she reappeared for the exam with her sister Swathi (who scored 91 per cent in her second PUC) and got a rank of 5,200. Swathi ranked at 6,800. Even these scores weren’t enough. “Nothing was working in our favour. But we decided to not give up,” says Shwetha, the eldest of the three. In 2016, the government passed a law that all entrance exams have to be conducted under NEET, and Shwetha adds, “We were worried that if we cannot crack NEET, how could we take up Civil Services in the future (which was one of the career options for the sisters).”
In 2017, the youngest of the three – Shruthi – scored 91.3 per cent in her second PUC and all three signed up for training at a private institute in Bengaluru for mock tests that would prepare them for the upcoming NEET examinations. In 2017, the three Shwetha, Swathi and Shruthi scored 1216, 1413 and 750 ranks, respectively, at the NEET. “Since we are from Ballari, we had listed VIMS as our first preference. As NEET is an all-India level exams, we had not even dreamt of getting a seat in the college. When our seats were confirmed, it was almost like a miracle. None of us could believe it. In fact the entire family was dumbfounded,” Swathi explains.
Given that their names all begin with ‘S’, the sisters not only got admitted into the same section, but are seated in the same row. “At the time, no one in the class knew that we were sisters. They used to think that we are probably just cousins. In fact, not many are aware of our relationship even today,” she adds. While Shwetha and Swathi want to pursue higher education in medicine, and hope to become cardiac surgeons one day, Shruthi, who also happens to hold a black belt in karate, wants to later move to the Civil Services, and help at a more grassroots level. Shankar and his wife Nirmala M could not be happier. Financial conditions had prevented Shankar from pursuing medicine and had to settle for being a nurse. “That loss of one seat at medical school has been compensated with three seats. I made it a point to work on my failures so that I may not repeat the same with my kids,” says the proud father.
Private practice doesn’t fetch Shankar much money, but his father was a diligent saver. “I used to attend to completely bedridden patients as that fetches a little more income, along with my regular practice as a nurse. My father who worked at a service station had saved a few lakhs over the years. With the help of that, we could pay off close to Rs2.5 lakh as fees for all the three girls. Right now, they are sharing one set of books,” Shankar adds. Dr Sadananda Adiga, an associate professor at VIMS said, “We have seen twins and/or siblings being attending VIMS. But these sisters’ case, where all three are in the same class in the same year, is special. It is indeed an inspiring story of determination and hard work. As the year passes, competition increases and competence levels of students reach the ebb. But with them, they’ve only been improving.”

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