I got introduced to Meenal on the 19th of April this year after she sent me an e-mail asking me to join her team in writing for her website. To discuss further, she sent me her Whatsapp number and I was like, 'Umm...isn't this supposed to be an Indian website? What's this woman doing in the Czech Republic?' because that girl doesn't come off as a 23-year-old when you first talk to her. Be it in writing or in one-to-one conversations, it's not impossible to believe that Meenal is a 30-year-old established businesswoman who also has a husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat and a medical career.
In July, she asked me if I'd ever thought about starting a podcast and I told her what a coincidence it was that she would ask me this question just a month after I registered a domain for a podcast idea I had. The more she told me her ideas, the more I realised how much they aligned with mine. I guess the following conversations can sum up how our ideas grew.
However, from the time we started talking about the podcast six months ago, Meenal kept mentioning how she had a very important exam in December, for which she'd already started preparing. She told me how she'd need a little bit of down time in the month of December and shared her plans to be disciplined till she was done with it.
She once shared on the podcast that the exams in her university are of an oral nature, where considering how they're training to become doctors who are required to think on their feet, the students are made to answer questions in a viva format. They prepare their topics, sit in front of a panel, and answer their questions. And understandably, they're told whether they passed or failed on the spot.
Another peculiar thing I learned from her was that they have a "question" format of learning, where all the topics are broadly divided into questions, the answers to which could be an average of five pages long. So you can imagine the effort that goes into learning a single question. Now, for most of the exams throughout their student lives, they are made to study about 50 questions each. However, this final exam that Meenal was preparing for required her to go through 300 of them which basically covered everything a doctor ever learned or needed to know. She could easily delay the process and sit for this exam in February but...umm...HAVE YOU MET MEENAL?
So, while Shane and I spent sleepless nights in September working on the release of the podcast while managing a day job and a fully functioning blog, Meenal stayed up long nights to...wait this has to be a list:
run three websites
prepare and record for a podcast
brainstorm ideas with me and come up with social media agendas
run a charity under the AltCricket Foundation to help build an orphanage for 12 kids in Kenya
lead a committee that helps the freshers in her university
finish studying 5 questions a day
For months, I saw this girl work her ass off. For months, she'd tell me about her friends who were out playing video games and hanging out, and she'd tell me how she also wanted to relax, enjoy and do all those things. But now was not the time. Now, while she was young, she was going to work hard, do all the things she wanted to do, get somewhere and then, kick off her shoes and relax with a glass of wine.
December came and I started sensing the tension. I could see how stressed she was getting, I could see her dark circles getting worse by the day, and I could see her sense of urgency in everything. I avoided calling her on the phone because I was scared to intrude while she was preparing. And even if something big did come up and I had to discuss that with her, our conversations were to the point. Two days before her exam, I called to check up on her and the first thing I asked her was if she'd been crying. Her eyes looked red, and without wanting to sound mean, I told her that she looked like a panda and that she needed to stop everything and sleep. She'd not been eating too well and mostly survived on energy drinks. She slept for 2-3 hours per night.
Yesterday was the big day. Yesterday, she went in equipped with all the medical knowledge she could accumulate in all these months and gave her oral exam. She walked into the room oozing confidence and walked out of there in half the time it usually takes. And she walked out of there with the top grade.
If my understanding is correct, there are 4 grades from 1-4, 1 being the highest and 4 being 'fail'. 3 is around 75%, 2 is somewhere in the 80's and 1 is above 95%. And my girl scored a 1.
I have this strange maternal sense of pride and the best way I can explain it is this - I feel like I successfully potty trained my puppy.
Speaking of tatti, which is what Meenal thinks I mostly blog about, while she was preparing, she'd send me all kinds of tatti related trivia. Like, did you know that it was possible to vomit your own poop? Yeah, that happens when you have a condition called Gastrocolic Fistula. And did you know that the "sensation of incomplete evacuation of stools" was called Tenesmus?
I quite like having a doctor friend who can share tatti trivia with me. But my point is, she went into her exam, and most of the questions she got were tatti related. I mean, that, there is a clear sign that my blessings were with her, and that she should join me in the dark side of tatti. If you're still not convinced, listen to this: she was asked to define 'tenesmus'. See what I'm talking about now?
I practically prepared that kid for this exam by getting her interested in tatti. And her new found interest (and success) in my favourite field of medicine is what makes me even more proud of her.
So here's to my girl Meenal. I'm convinced that you're going to have an amazing future, full of triumphs and lots and lots of tatti. Especially the tatti part because neither am I going anywhere, nor is the tatti. To Meenal!