When results of the Common Admission Test or CAT were released by IIM-Lucknow on January 8, all media platforms went on a frenzy over those who managed to clinch the perfect 100 percentile.
But let us also shine a spotlight on brave achievers like Broteen Biswas, who despite battling a debilitating skin condition, managed to clinch a decent score of 94 percentile.
Broteen suffers from Atopic Dermatitis, an incurable chronic skin disease that had its first onslaught when he was only three and forever changed the lives of Broteen and his family.
Leaving one’s body painfully inflamed with extreme itching and bleeding, broken skin, the condition is commonly associated with elevated levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) and usually surfaces during infancy and subsides before one reaches adulthood. However in its vilest form, the disease pervasively latches its grip onto the lives of people through uncertain, recurrent bouts and completely deprives one of the chances to go through life painlessly.
And for the last 13 years, Broteen’s life has been a struggle of countless nights of sleeplessness and agony with body folds such as elbows, knees, eyelids and even the head drying and breaking in to itchy scales.
But one does not find Broteen any less optimistic about life, despite all the hardships in his way. “Yes, it has been a long, testing battle. But I would consider myself blessed with a family and a group of friends without whose rock-solid support and encouragement I would have not been the person I am today,” says Broteen to The Better India.
The dermatitis had subsided when Broteen was seven, before it returned again at the age of 13. “Following that, it never really went away completely. While between the months of May and September, the inflammation and itching alleviates to a great extent, it is the period shortly after Diwali and especially winters when the condition aggravates terribly,” he explains.
Broteen recalls the time during his class 10 board exams when his condition first became extremely severe.
“No amount of moisturising or medication was of any use. Forget passing the exams with a good score, at times even preparing for it was a toil with constant itching and skin breaking all the time. My class 10 friends, who still continue to motivate me through every milestone of my life, played a significant role along with my family to help me sail through that phase,” he reminisces.
What Broteen also mentions is the fact that having a fixed syllabus for these exams proved to be helpful for him. He knew what to study and did not have to pore over books relentlessly for hours together. Such was the case for his 12th class exams as well, which he managed to pass with flying colours.
Things changed dramatically for Broteen when he left the safe confines of his home to pursue his undergraduate studies at NIT Durgapur. “That’s when I completely understood how supportive my family and friends had been during the most challenging periods of my life and I value them for that. Four years at college had been a struggle of its own with my condition again taking a bad turn. There weren’t much people whom I could turn to or seek solace from during that time,” Broteen sadly mentions.
Around this time, he met a dermatologist who had prescribed steroid-based treatment for his persistent condition. “Unfortunately, the medicines, which suppressed the dermatitis from resurfacing, eventually started taking a severe toll on my kidneys. By the time I was in my third year, my body clearly started showing alarming signs and I had to quit consuming these for my failing kidneys’ sake,” he says.
Following his graduation, Broteen started working as a software engineer in Kolkata when his dermatitis resurfaced stronger than ever.
What used to occur primarily during winters now began to take a round-the-year turn and refused to die down.
During the final year of his engineering, Broteen had attempted CAT and had scored 85 percentile but he wasn’t really keen on pursuing it at that time. After his three-year stint in the IT industry, he figured that he was ready to pursue MBA and a career in finance or marketing and began his preparations.
“Unlike board exams, where the syllabus was limited, there was no boundary upon what to study. But I didn’t give up hope and tried my level best at a time when my skin condition was at its worst. At a point it went so bad that I had to take two months of leave from my workplace,” he remembers.
Sadly, his performance wasn’t up to the mark as he had hoped and he could only score 65 percentile. Initially heartbroken, his failure began to give him the clarity about what could be done next. “I wasn’t going to give up that easily but to give my 100 per cent, I had to make sure that my health was a little better. And finally I decided to give ayurvedic treatment a try,” he says.
In January 2017, he head to Kerala for a month-long treatment where the healers claimed to cure him of his condition. But the treatment only made it significantly worse. When Broteen returned home, his entire body had become pink and scaly.
He had resumed work at the office and even volunteered at his friend Priyanka Mandal’s non-profit organisation called You N Society during his free time, which works for employability of under-privileged people.
Priyanka, one of his closest friends who would meet him daily after her work, mentioned that his skin had began to not just dry or crack, but also well up with blood.
“This made it impossible for Broteen to even get up and walk properly. Seeing him limp in pain was the saddest it could get in the three years that I had known him. It brought tears to our eyes, but all of us were pretty helpless,” she says.
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A week before CAT, his skin had deteriorated greatly. Stress about the impending exam also ended up making Broteen’s condition much worse and depression had begun to seep in slowly.
Unable to see him in such a state, his family and friends had even advocated of letting the exam go. But Broteen was a fighter and hung on to his resilience until the final day with remarkable resolve.
When the results were announced, Broteen knew that he would not make it to the IIMs or any similar ivy-league institutions but he was proud of how far he had come despite his path being obstructed at every possible occasion.
A hope flickered its way into Broteen’s life when a friend told him that with his percentile, he could find admission at Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, which is one of the premier business schools in the country. He is currently waiting to hear from them.
The strength and resolve showcased by the 25-year-old is something that is unimaginable by most of us.
Though we hope that Broteen makes to MDI and emerges successful in all of his future endeavours, what we wish more is that his condition gets better and that he is able to live life to the fullest.
Anyone who suffers from Atopic dermatitis or knows someone with similar condition can reach out to Broteen at his number: 8335849741.