Being a topper helps for a while. But it also comes with added pressure to stay on top.
After that brief, one-day fame, they vanish into anonymity. So what happens to them once the spotlight is gone?
In a world of cut-throat competition, amid the mad race of scoring nothing less than 99 per cent marks, ThePrint explores the importance of being a topper.
The success stories
Delhi’s Dravyansh Sharma, currently working with Google, enjoyed the celebrity status for one day after topping in 2011. However, he believed that what you do in life matters more than marks.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma said, “It’s been seven years since I took my 12th boards. Following 12th I pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering for the next four years at IIT Delhi. After that I joined Google, where I have been working for three years now. In my experience, marks in Class 12 do not have a significant bearing in the long run. Persistence in finding what you want to do and then doing it with focus is the key according to me. It can help you get in good college but that’s just a beginning.”
However, he does agree that he enjoyed making headlines for a day. “It was a pleasure to get a good result in class 12 boards. I was interviewed by a lot of newspapers and was felicitated by my school, and by the government on Republic Day. The recognition of hard work was very encouraging and made me realise it always pays to be dedicated.”
The achievers agree that the topper rank does not have any relevance beyond Class 12 but they also feel the tag of being one puts an additional pressure on them.
Savinay Kapur, another topper, made news in 2007 after he aced almost all the medical entrance exams that year, including AIPMT, PMT and DPMT. He is now pursuing specialisation in Radiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“Marks are important, they give you that initial spark but after that it is all about how you deal with situations in life. Also, the fact is, once you are tagged as a topper, there is always an added pressure on you to do well,” said Kapur.
“I chose radiology as a branch for my specialisation and people consider it as a laidback branch. They ask me why I chose this and not something like paediatrics, surgery or medicine. I sometimes feel that there is always this additional pressure to prove oneself,” he added.
Aruna Kesavan, the CBSE topper for 2004 from Kerala, went on to study engineering in Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani and further pursued a PhD in Physics at Penn State, Pennsylvania. Kesavan is currently a prominent researcher in Physics. She was also declared as the brand ambassador of the union ministry of health and family welfare in 2004. In an interview to a national daily in 2016, she said that at that juncture in life, she didn’t really think of the school rank anymore.
The unconventional stories
Even as some of these toppers are excelling in their respective fields, there are others who have had to struggle. Imphal’s Mohammad Ismat managed to top the exam in 2012 despite a monthly family income of Rs 2,000 with eight members. He went on to study in St. Stephen’s College for graduation. Currently, he is preparing for the civil services examination.
Then, there are some others like Jaipur’s Roman Saini who didn’t top the Class 12 exam but remained an excellent performer throughout. At 24, he had achieved almost everything, from securing a good rank in the AIIMS entrance exam to clearing civil services in his first attempt with an all India rank of 18. Then he left it all in 2016 to start his own venture — an online platform to help candidates prepare for civil services exams through lectures and tutorials.
What the teachers say
School teachers largely believe that the importance of being a topper is only limited to giving an initial boost to the student.
Principal at Delhi’s Springdales School Pusa Road, Ameeta Wattal believes that those who do reasonably well but do not necessarily top are more successful in life.
“I have been working for the last 42 years now and what I have noticed is that young people who have been good public speakers or involved in other co-curricular activities, who may not have topped have done really well in life. They have been in very different kind of work. I found them in area of development, some are in the UN, they have done exceptionally well for themselves,” said Wattal.
“In the last 15 years or so, people are looking at young people to do interdisciplinary things. This is what makes those who have done reasonably well, do better in life. Toppers have mostly gone for fields like medicine or engineering but the other group has done some very interesting things in life,” she added.
Ashok Pandey, principal, Ahlcon International School, said, “All the students who have worked hard and have scored above 95 per cent have the same cognitive ability. It is just a matter of chance and how they perform on the day of the examination which makes them a topper. Just because one student has got one or two marks more does not mean that they have an edge over others.”
“However, the qualities that the students who top are something that can take them ahead in life. Like these students have good study habits, time management, discipline and focus. These qualities will take them where they want to but if they lose them as they grow old in life, their being a topper would not matter at all,” he added.